The He Dog School on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: He Dog School

Vi Waln: Lakota people are still subject to poverty porn by media

Vi Waln, a journalist and publisher of Sicangu Scribe, an independent news outlet based on the Rosebud Reservation, discusses a familiar topic to many in Indian Country. What happens when the non-Native media comes to your community?
The conservative Argus Leader newspaper sent a journalist to He Dog school in November to do a story on an initiative established through a grant, to increase Lakota language and culture in the classroom. The article was released last month and upset many people. I viewed the article as another example of poverty porn.

Lakota people have been subject to poverty porn for years. When wasicu reporters try to write authentic Lakota news reports, the result is often poverty porn. A classic example of poverty porn was the Dateline episode that Diane Sawyer did at Pine Ridge a few years back. Wasicu reporters and journalists can’t share a genuine Lakota perspective on any topic. They are not Lakota.

These news stories are the result of wasicu journalists being called upon to write our stories. Personally, I was offended that a wasicu reporter was allowed into my community school to do such a negative report on the work being done there. Those of us who work in the journalism field wonder why Lakota reporters are overlooked when it comes to writing news articles on Lakota students attending schools on Indian reservations.

It’s another example of how we are invisible to mainstream society and oftentimes, our own people who live off the reservation. There are many educated, capable Lakota journalists in South Dakota. I’m sure we’re all wondering why one of us wasn’t commissioned to write this story.

Read More on the Story:
Vi Waln: We Must Write Our Own Stories (Sicangu Scribe February 4, 2018)

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