Brandon Ecoffey: Evaluating our priorities in the Native media

The following is the opinion of Brandon Ecoffey, Lakota Country Times Editor. For more news and opinion, subscribe to the Lakota Country Times today. All content © Lakota Country Times.

Brandon Ecoffey

A note from the editor’s desk
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

Over the past couple of years the Native news industry has increasingly become separated into two different camps. There are those of us who are working with our communities to find news that is relevant to them and there are other news outlets and writers that are writing to appeal to the larger non-Native world.

Both camps provide an essential service as community papers help educate and celebrate our people and the other group writes to educate the rest of America on who Native people are. In the Native news industry peer critique is largely absent as it would seem many people are afraid of offending others or ruffling feathers. Only a few have stepped up to confront other Native writers and news outlets. Some may remember the old beefs between Chuck Trimble and Tim Giago, and others may have read some of Brenda Norrell’s critiques of Indian Country Today, but for the most part most in this business the majority have chosen to allow for the misgivings of others to go unchecked.

Over the past couple of weeks social media has been going absolutely nuts over an incident involving a group of Native actors walking off a Adam Sandler run movie set due to their objections to the famous actor’s grotesque depictions of Native people and culture. Although I applaud the courage of these Native actors to risk being black balled by Hollywood due to their protest, I do not understand why this particular story gained so much traction when there are real and far more pressing issues on reservations that the Native media has brushed aside.

Where is the outrage over our young people dying weekly? Where is the outrage over the absence of any type of functioning economy on reservations? Where is the outrage over the fact that many many children in Indian Country do not have access to safe drinking water? These are third-world issues that are pushed to the back page in favor of stories about people dressing up like Indians, or acting like us, or doing whatever it is that they do.

Many say that the misappropriation of our culture impacts the self-esteem and self-image of our Native youth. This may be true. But what impacts those aspects of our children even more is waking up to homes filled with mold, or abusive parents, or extreme poverty resulting from decades upon decades of failed federal policies and exploitation at the hands of predatory investors.

Although I agree that cultural appropriation is wrong I would just hope that others in the Native news industry reassess their priorities and react accordingly.

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Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of Lakota Country Times and an award winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

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