Thank You Native American Journalists Association

July 21, 2013

As the 2013 Native Media conference comes to a close, so does my term as President of the Native American Journalists Association(NAJA).  As a member of the NAJA board, I had two three year terms and they certainly have gone by fast.  I have nothing but positive things to say that NAJA has given to me throughout these six years.  I appreciated all your comments, feedback and support through my time as President and as NAJA moves forward with a new President, I know our organization will continue to thrive.

I like to thank all our the board members who served with me: Mary Hudetz, Tristan Ahtone, Tetona Dunlap, Mark Dreadfulwater, Jason Begay, Nancy Kelsey, Jolene Schonchin, Christina Goodvoice; our Executive Director Pam Silas and communications manager Rebecca Landsberry, they are what makes NAJA great.

I like to thank UNITY Journalists for Diversity and our NAJA representatives: Suzan Shown Harjo, Margaret Holt, and Tara Gatewood.  The friendships I have gained through our alliance partners is amazing, thank you UNITY.

Last, I want to thank my children Winona and Hepanna and my husband Denny, as they gave up so much time for my board meetings, conferences and various other commitments.  I love you so much!

I am so proud to be a part NAJA, thank you everyone again for your support.  I will continue to contribute to our organization as much as possible. Da wa eh! 

Photo by Brian Bull


Training for Midwest Mayhem Triathlon (taken from

July 13, 2012

The training for my first triathlon has been exhausting. I know I can swim, bike and run, but doing them all on the same day, yeah, it’s going to be tough . But, I am confident that I will finish and hopefully under the two hour mark. The course will be at Lone Star Lake in Lawrence, Kansas and they aren’t kidding with the name “Midwest Mayhem” triathlon. The first time I went out to ride the bike course, I was overwhelmed with the hills. I have never really biked hard or tried to race. But, those hills, I kept looking forward and there would be one more. In my head I was thinking, dang, how many more can they put in, ha ha. I also never shifted gears to accommodate my biking, but I was learning that I would have to do that, especially trying to peddle my way up those steep inclines. Today I took my last ride on the full course and I felt great, well I was tired, but felt great because my biking has really improved.

The only part of the triathlon I am worried about is the swim. I have been doing laps at the local swimming pool. I can tell you all, I am no Michael Phelps and I feel like a fraud to those swimmers who glide so effortlessly in the pool. I struggle to get into a rhythm of breathing and my freestyle motion is like a dog paddling in the pool. But, I can say, since the first time I did start training, I have managed to make a little bit of improvement in my times for the 500 meters and 1000 meters. The swim portion of the triathlon will be 500 meters.


The last leg will be the 5k run. I am constantly doing a bike/run workout to get use to the transition. A couple of days ago, I went did an hour on the bike and then did the full 5k course. Again, there is a bunch of hills! Especially at the very beginning there is a very steep hill, you sneaky course designers! I bet they were laughing when they said, hey, lets have them run up this hill right after they get off the bike! Aside from that hill, we go through a rolling course until we hit a half way point on a levee and turn back around. The great thing about a majority of the course is covered by trees, except for the levee and considering how hot it has been these last few days that is going to be tough. I asked the weather gods to have mercy on us, but lately the temps have been over 100 lately, so I figured oh well, it will make it more interesting right?

The other cool thing that happened when I was running, I looked down and I saw a feather. I didn’t have a good look at it, so I just kept running until I hit the turnaround and came up on it again and it was an eagle feather! Call me crazy, or maybe it was the heat, but I saw it as a sign, sometimes we are meant to do things. Trying this event as I near my 21st birthday, haha, it makes me realize all the things I still can do in the future!

As I near this triathlon, I am getting excited and nervous. I have been pushing myself in the heat to get my training done and I am extremely proud of myself. I will give another update before the triathlon day is here, so stay tuned!

Source: (

Rhonda LeValdo is doing this Triathlon to raise funds for the Native American Journalists Assocation, if you would like to donate, you can donate directly to NAJA offices, Gaylord Hall, 395 W. Lindsey St, Norman, OK, 73019 or Rhonda LeValdo 1600 Haskell #177 Lawrence, KS 66044 Checks can be made to NAJA

Or donate via Paypal at:

Support me as I compete in my first Triathlon and raise money for the Native American Journalists Association

June 25, 2012

Hello Everyone!

I am trying to raise funds for the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), a non-profit that:

“Serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures.

NAJA recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and expression. NAJA is committed to increase the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media. NAJA encourages both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.”

NAJA has recently had reductions in financial help, so each of our board members look to find ways to give back to the organization through personal donations.

Last year, I held a food sale, an Indian taco with drink, to raise money.  Considering I just helped launch a website geared toward getting Native people to live healthy lifestyles (, I figured, I probably should do something else.  On July 15th, I will be competing in my first triathlon, the Midwest Mayhem triathlon in Lawrence, Kansas.  I was inspired by my children who recently competed in the Ironkids triathlon, to try this new event.

I am very excited and hope this will encourage others as well to try new things.  I like for people to follow my progress as I train and ultimately finish this event as a way to raise funds for NAJA.

So I am asking any person or media organization to donate any amount they can give, all funds will be used by NAJA for its general operations funds.

If you can help donate for this worthy cause of making sure NAJA continues to its mission of empowering Native Journalists, please do so. All donations will be recognized on my blog at and with any donation over $50, if you send me a logo to use, I will put it on my shirt or shorts while I am competing.  I know other athletes who are sponsored by energy foods, drinks, companies but I  like to show off your organization while I am competing.  I hope that I will get enough support from our communities to help me finish this triathlon (which I plan on finishing!); it truly will be an honor to represent you all as well.


Rhonda LeValdo

President, Native American Journalists Association

Donations can be sent to myself: 1600 Haskell #177 Lawrence, Kansas 66044

Or our NAJA offices at: Univ. of OK, Gaylord College, 395 W.  Lindsey, Norman, OK 73019

I do have PayPal id: RhondaLeValdo

If anyone has any questions do not hesitate to contact me at

Run for Life 10 miler

April 13, 2012

So, I have been extremely busy with work and writing articles for various other sites, but I still wanted to post this story.

Many of you know I have been running and trying to get in shape for a marathon. I have had many injuries, last fall I had a horrible fall that took me a couple weeks to recover.  Here is the picture of my knees, haha, but anyways, I finally feel I am in decent shape to start really puttin in the miles again.

This past weekend, I ran the Run for Life 10 mile run in Topeka, Kansas.  Prior to deciding on doing this run, I was really worried that I couldn’t run fast enough or I run out of energy because the longest run I have done has only been an hour. But I figured if I ran slow enough I would finish, so I figured why the heck not.

I like doing this race as well, because it gives attention to make people more aware of organ donations.  A lady spoke of how her daughter died in an accident and they donated her organs to 6 people. It was sad hearing her story but she was making sure we all knew that, that was what her daughter wanted and she saved peoples lives. 

As I headed to the race with my husband, it was raining hard, but as the start time neared it was only misting and we were ready to go. I tried to tell myself to start slow, I was thinking 10 minute miles, imagine my surprise when I hear 8:46 at the first mile.  I thought maybe I was going as slow as I wanted, oh well, I will go as many miles at this pace as I can. 

We ran through neighborhoods, on the sides of streets and through a park.  I really wanted to listen to my music, but since it was raining, I didnt want to get my phone wet so I went without it. But I am glad I did, it made me more aware of everyone yelling at us, cheering for us, and the sound of our feet hitting the wet ground.  I found myself not realizing how fast I was going and pretty soon, I was at mile 5. Halfway done.

About this time, the rain started to come down hard again. I saw a lady stationed on the end of street under an umbrella, holding her child. I remember thinking, wow, hope she isn’t too cold, and all of the sudden, she starts yelling “your looking good, your half way done, good job”. It made me smile, and I yelled back “thanks”. It is hard to imagine the boost words do to make people feel good.  I felt great, I was enjoying this run so much.

As we neared the end, much of the last part was in a park and I ran along with an older gentleman. For two miles we stuck together until mile eight. I realized my legs were feeling tired and I was starting to slow down.  I kept telling myself I only have two more left, we are almost there. I couldn’t keep up with the runner I was with but I tried my hardest to not slow down too much. As mile 9 came up, I looked at my watch and saw I was at 1:20. I was glad I was still on pace to run under a 1:30, I just had to not slow down any more.  My husband ran with me telling me every minute what my time was.  As we neared Washburn University’s track, I knew we only had a 1/4 mile left and I was hurting. I could hear people cheering and yelling my name. I was pushing myself and that finish line never looked so good. I finished in 1:29:28. I ended up 3rd in my age group, and for once, I felt like that marathon was in my sights, my legs weren’t in pain.

So now I know I can start these long runs again and hopefully won’t be falling down anymore.  I am still gonna hit all my favorite 5k’s this summer though.  But I also wanted to add, if you don’t want to run a race, go out and support the runner’s along the route.  The words of encouragement really help runners and I just wanted to say thank you to those that were out in the rain for the Run for Life.  I truly appreciate your kind words.


The Effect of Diabetes on Our Native Nations

December 12, 2011

I appreciate all the warm wishes for my family, as we grieved the loss of my uncle.  My uncle Wil, was a father figure to me, he was the one I looked to for guidance on many things that went on in my life. We talked all the time, once I waited almost 2 1/2 weeks to call and he called me at work to see if I was okay.  I was shocked he was calling me at work, thinking something was wrong, quickly realizing he was worried about me.  That was the type of person he was, very caring and although on the exterior he might have looked like a grizzly bear, he was a teddy bear at heart.

One time when I was home for the summer, it was my birthday and I wasn’t expecting anything, as we didn’t have much money.  We barely had enough for food, much less any birthday stuff, so I didn’t say anything about my birthday.  I think at one point all we had to eat was tortillas, some cheese, a bag of beans and a can of that commodity chicken in a can.  I remember my uncle opened up the can, put it on a plate and said it was time to eat… ahhhh what you do for a hungry belly.

So, here it was my birthday, I think it was my 19th and he pulls out a cake for me.  A store made cake and I couldn’t believe it.  I started to get teary eyed, wondering how much it cost and my uncle holding that cake saying “happy birthday”.  I know he loved me, he wanted to make sure that I had a good birthday, I will never ever forget that one.

My uncle was a cross-country and track runner in high school, he always talked about running, so when I started to run, he always ask about how I was doing and give me advice. He had all my pictures of me in my uniform, both high school and college and he still asked how I would do at my local races.  But, he was a diabetic now and he was now bigger than when he ran.  He had to inject insulin daily and I know it was taking a toll on him.  When I started my project on looking at American Indian diabetes stories in the mainstream media, I would talk to him about the stuff I was finding out.  I know he was listening, he was reading a book on diabetes, he had started logging exercise he was doing.

My kids loved their Grandpa Wil, I couldn’t wait for my son to spend time with him so he could learn all the Acoma songs they sing at our ceremonies.  That is what is gone now, an elder to pass that information down to the next generation who has left us far too soon.

I feel there is a ticking time bomb silently going on within our tribal communities, that we can stop, we have to stop.  I don’t want our people to lose our elders, people we love, too soon.  We have to support one another to do this.  Recently the Lawrence Journal World newspaper (Lawrence, Kansas) ran a story about the research Dr. Teresa Lamsam and I did this past summer at the Native American Journalists Association conference.  That article written by reporter Aaron Couch has made Dr. Lamsam and myself think about our next phase of our research.  We are planning on launching a site with our information we are finding out from the research we have conducted and will be conducting.  The amount of contacts we are getting from the story is amazing and shows what journalism can do by engaging the audience.   We will keep you all updated on our project and if anyone again, wants to be involved with writing a first hand account of what you are doing to combat diabetes in your community please email us.

I know my uncle is proud of me, I know he is always with me, but, there are days when I wish he was here to tell me one more story, sing one more song, I miss that the most.

The Native American as a Halloween Costume

October 31, 2011

We all seen people dress up at Native American Indians at Halloween.  I thought maybe this year might be different with a recent poster campaign started at Ohio University by Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS).  The campaign shows young people holding up many typical Halloween costumes: a person in blackface, a person dressed up as a Native American, a Geisha type costume, a man in a sombrero on a donkey and a middle eastern type outfit.  The posters all say “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume. This is Not who I am and This is Not Okay.”

So, after all the press these young people have received from their project, all the blogs, Facebook tags, likes, tweets, I thought maybe this year, our mainstream counterparts might understand why these costumes are offensive.  This morning, I was let down.

I was watching NBC’s “Today Show” as they were doing their annual costume contest and they were all in good taste: a Lego man, a perfume bottle, a man dressed up as a new york sub map, so I was thinking alright, no cultural type costumes!  But alas, the show hadn’t ended.  They had a costume contest for pets (about 2:21 is where the offensive piece is at) and that was where it got ridiculous.

Now, I think dressing up dogs in costumes is not fun for a small dog, and here is a woman coming out holding her dog in a headdress,choker, and other gear, while she is also dressed up as a Native American Indian.  Everyone cheered, even Al Roker made his usual jokes “Very cute, and How”.  I just wanted to gag.

I thought how come the producers didn’t think anyone might be offended? What do we have to do to get it across to them that this is detrimental to our children?  I am so glad my kids had already left for school before seeing this.

I would just like to request, please mainstream producers, before you start to mock a culture think about how those people feel.  It is not funny, it is not cute, we are real people.  STARS needs to send some of their posters to “The Today Show” NOW!

Elouise Cobell, Native Warrior

October 19, 2011

In the years I followed the Cobell lawsuit against the Federal government, I was surprised to see it end.  I thought it take longer than the fourteen years it went on. The Cobell Lawsuit stated “the federal government violated its trust duties by not providing a proper historical accounting relating to Individual Indian Monetary (IIM) accounts and other trust assets. IIM accounts primarily contain money collected by the federal government from farming and grazing leases, timber sales, mining, oil and gas production, and other activities on trust land, as well as certain per capita distributions”( The lawsuit was settled and signed into law in December 2010 by President Barack Obama.

All the litigation, press conferences, meetings and explanations that Elouise Cobell went through I wondered how this woman did all that without wearing down.  She had strong medicine that I believe.

There are many Native Leaders in history that have done much to help their people.  Elouise was a modern-day warrior doing the same.  Upon hearing of her death, I was sad for all those around her that gave her up to all of us as she fought for this case.  They didn’t get to spend the time they should have with her, but, I do know that they as well as her tribe are extremely proud of her and what she did for many.    I want to say my condolences to the family, to the Blackfeet Nation, thank you for giving us Elouise so she could take on this task. I know more are inspired by her and will continue the fight for Native rights.  Her work will not be forgotten.

Framing of Diabetes Stories in News Coverage of American Indians and How We Can Improve

October 10, 2011

The “Framing of Diabetes Stories in News Coverage of American Indians and How We Can Improve”  is a pilot study Dr. Teresa Lamsam (KU) and myself did this past summer and presented our small findings at the Native American Journalists Association conference.

First, people might ask why? What is the importance? I think what we found out was that many of our own people are tired of hearing about diabetes and they get “diabetes fatigue”. (yes there is a name for it)  For others,  many of them figure they are going to get it anyway, why bother.  I found myself in this later category as many of my own family have diabetes, and sad as it sounds, I figured it was only a matter of time before I was a diabetic.  But, as journalists, we felt we needed to get some information out on how these stories are being presented and how we as Native journalists can take it into our own hands to do something about our future generations.

In our study, we looked at how the stories were framed either: Episodic or Thematic. Episodic (most news stories): attribute responsibility to individuals or thematic (public health): increasing societal attribution.  And relating background on: societal structure; economic & political context, and the responsibility of government.

This was important because we were looking at who was being blamed for getting diabetes, was it the individual or is it the environment that American Indians live in and should the government help to combat?

We looked at print news coverage of diabetes & American Indians in mainstream papers:
USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Daily Oklahoman, Associated Press Wire, Anchorage Daily News.  The total number of stories from 1997 to 2011 only amounted to 34.  The average word count was about 572  (Range 105 to 1950),
Focus on children was 26% for the story(9), Disparities mentioned 62% (21) Type 2 diabetes was mentioned 26% (9) and  the word “Epidemic” was mentioned 35% (12).  For the news hook  26% grants or funding was the reason the story was written, 12% conference/seminar/workshop and 12% none apparent.
We looked at the causes for diabetes in the stories, for individual responsibility 69 % of the stories said diet was a factor, 63 % Obesity/Weight Gain, 56 % Lack of exercise/sedentary lifestyle.  And 31% for Biological (insulin resistance) or Genetic reasons.  Just 24% cited the community environment and only 15% food availability or affordability was a cause, which I felt was a little low considering many reservations don’t have access to good foods because most don’t even have major grocery stores on their lands.
The stories did mention some sort of prevention measure, these were mentioned:
–Individual changes behavior 30%
–Drugs and medical devices 7%
–Health care programs/approaches 13%
–Disease complications 20%
–Education and counseling 14%
–Multi-sector responsibility 17%
We had other categories we looked at, but we both plan on expanding this research, this was just a pilot study.  The reasons why though I think are two-fold. To make people aware of how diabetes is making Native people look like they can’t take care of their individual behavior.  There are other reasons that contribute to diabetes in Indian Country, like commodities, food deserts and accessibility to healthy foods because of costs, it should not all be blamed on the individual.
The other reason, was to encourage our Native Journalists to write more or even become a sort of leader in changing diets/lifestyles so others will follow.  Someone asked at our presentation “but what is the news hook?” The news hook should be, if our people now don’t change their diets, start community gardens, community fitness programs, our people are not going to survive!  We managed to make it this far through genocide, only to have our people die through a disease we can stop!   We want to see our people survive this, just like we have survived everything else.

Lastly for myself,  in my own small story, I run, I am active, but I did not eat well.  When Dr. Lamsam and I decided to take this on, we also started to look at our diets.  When I started, I ate out at least twice a week.  I first did a food log and saw that my sodium content was outrageous!  You can find these on the net, many have lots of food/restaurants in them, so all you do in put in how much you ate.  It does get a little tiring after doing this for a month but the idea is to see what food  you should be eating and how much to eat.  Pretty soon you can figure it out on your own without having to log it.

We also were eating organic food, more fiber, and cutting down on our sugar.  Since this project, I have lost 13 lbs without dieting, just making sure I am eating the right foods and right portions.  I don’t punish myself either, if I want something fast or bad, I will eat it, I know everyone has their day!  I actually have enjoyed learning more about what to eat, and what not to.  I also had planned to run my first marathon this October but the plans have been put on hold due to my schedule, and an unfortunate accident I had labor day weekend where I fell very hard on my knees while out for a run. Since then, I have healed but my running is not up to the mileage of what I was prior to my fall. I have faith though, I will accomplish this goal within the next 6 months.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine is starting an exhibit on American Indians and Health.  This exhibit will have new stories added to it, if you are writing stories on health and American Indians, make sure to enter them in the Native Media awards that the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) hosts as this is where NIH was looking for material.  Also, both Dr. Lamsam and myself would also love to read them and include them in our next research project. We would like to show that an increase of health stories can lead to healthier tribal nations.    You can e-mail myself at or leave a comment.

NAJA Lifetime Achievement Honoree Tim Giago and Milestone Honoree Bill Dulaney

July 14, 2011

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) will honor two individuals along with the winners of the Native Media awards on Saturday July 16, 2011.

The first honoree is Tim Giago, Oglala Lakota, who retired earlier this year as Editor/Publisher of the Native Sun News.  Giago launched three leading Native newspapers, produced a weekly television show, published five books and was the recipient of many journalism awards.

In 1983 he co-founded the Native American Press Association (NAPA), which later became known as the Native American Journalists Association.  In 1984 when NAPA/NAJA first met, Giago was elected the first President.

NAJA will honor Mr. Giago with the Lifetime Achievement Award for all he has done not only for Native American Journalism, but also, journalism as a whole.

The second honoree, the recipient of the Milestone Award is Dr. Bill Dulaney.  Dulaney help raise funds for the first initial meeting of the Native American Press Association later known as the Native American Journalists Association.  Without the help of Dr. Dulaney NAJA would not exist.

NAJA statement on shutting down of Hoopa Valley tribal newspaper

July 6, 2011

July 6, 2011

To the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council,
The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) is disappointed about the news that your tribal newspaper “The Two Rivers Tribune” has been shut down because of financial situations and story sensitivity issues.  We at NAJA encourage freedom of the press for all reporters/editors, especially for your tribal paper.

According to your own bylaws:  The Hoopa Valley Tribe, in exercising its powers of self-government, shall not:

a. Make or enforce any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances;

The tribal council is illegally violating their rights by shutting down the paper.  All journalists have a right to hold their own opinion without interference from the government.

Tribal newspapers are the main conduit for the flow of information from tribal officials to tribal members.  There are none more dedicated to their own tribal interests than those newspaper staff people. Shutting down your tribal newspaper impacts the whole tribe and those cities around your tribe. Tribal members will not get the valuable tribal information from local or regional newspapers as they would from their own newspaper.
Now your tribal officials and tribal members will receive news from journalists who probably do not understand sovereignty, culture or history.  We ask that you take another look at the importance of your tribal newspaper and let your journalists do their jobs.


Rhonda LeValdo
President, Native American Journalists Association
OU Gaylord College
395 W Lindsey
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-4201
405 325-9008