Native American Journalists Association Statement on Gannett Layoffs

June 23, 2011


The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) is saddened by the news of the loss of 700 positions within the Gannett newspaper division.

Diversity is a problem at mainstream newsrooms and layoffs compound the problem in coverage of communities of color.  NAJA stands alongside its UNITY alliance partners to help those journalists affected by the layoffs.

We are forwarding job positions to the Asian American Journalists Association’s (AAJA) president Doris Truong where the information will be shared via Facebook, Twitter, and AAJA’s website.  We will post that information for our NAJA members that are affected as well.

In the spirit of UNITY, we are here for all our fellow journalists.


Rhonda LeValdo, President, Native American Journalists Association

OU Gaylord College
395 W Lindsey
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-4201
405 325-9008



NAJA Statement on “Geronimo” Codename for Bin Laden Killing

May 4, 2011

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) is very grateful and proud that the United States government has captured one of the biggest terrorists known to mankind.  However, in doing so, the U.S. government has contributed to the stereotyping of Native Americans by utilizing a historical Native icon such as Geronimo, to set the scene for American ridicule by comparing him to the capturing and killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The information distributed to multiple-media sources across the nation, on the U.S. government’s behalf, has proved to the Native Nations across the board, that the American people in addition to the U.S. government still don’t understand that we, the Native People of this land, are not here for constant public humiliation.

In the New York Time’s article, “Clues Gradually Led to the Location of Osama Bin Laden, Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, narrated “We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said.  A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.”   Enemy Killed In Action.

Since this information hit the news stands through out the nation, NAJA has received numerous call of complaints from our fellow colleagues and tribal members who were upset to find out that again, our Native People are being equated to a terrorist/murderer/enemy number one.  We ask the Federal Government could there not have been another name used in reference to this attack?  Could we not have used another infamous enemy in reference to Bin Laden perhaps, Custer or Columbus? Our Native people have served in this country’s military in the highest numbers per capita of any racial group and this is the way they are repaid for their service given to the U.S.?

Native American soldiers helped the U.S. in World War 2 with their language used as codes.   George Red Elk, Comanche Indian Veterans Association Commander said he was, too, “very upset of the code name that was chosen for the operation of killing Osama Bin Laden.  The Comanche Nation, as well as all Native American Nations, have served this country honorably and many have paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure we can still have the freedoms that are in our U.S. Constitution.”

Since 2001, 61 American Indians and Alaskan Natives have died defending our country in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 400 have been wounded. Native Nations also lost Lori Piestewa, the Hopi woman, believed to be the first Native American woman ever to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military.   All our Native service men and women have served honorably and continue to serve.

This is not a matter of being sensitive, it’s a matter of respect. It’s time the U.S. respect the original people of this land and the Native people who step up to defend our freedoms.

It is unacceptable for the U.S. to equate Geronimo with Osama bin Laden.  Geronimo stood up for his people, their traditions, and the land they lived upon.  Geronimo was no terrorist.  He was a member of North America’s homeland security, and Native North Americans will never forget that.

We ask the federal government to apologize for the use of Geronimo’s name with this operation as many of our Native Nations have been offended.   As every culture, we too have our own concepts of how American history played out and we believe that we can all agree to disagree.

Regardless, the U.S government has a responsibility to the people of this country, Native people are very much a part of and for that reason, utilizing the name Geronimo was an unacceptable choice of words.

Rhonda LeValdo, President

Native American Journalists Association

A Call To Students and Native American/Alaskan Native Journalists

April 23, 2011

The Native American Journalists Association is hosting its annual conference “Storytelling through New Media” in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida July 13-17, 2011.  We invite students to participate in our Project Phoenix workshop (high school) and Native Voice (college) workshop that has students working with Native American journalists in a newsroom to produce a newspaper, audio and video stories.  These projects were often the stepping stone for many of our current Native journalists.

I encourage all students to submit an application, they can be found on our NAJA website.  The deadline is May 1st.

The early bird conference registration is May 1st as well, if you plan on attending the NAJA conference, the tentative schedule is also up, with sessions with: Google, Society of Professional Journalist, Health reporting, The Reynolds School of Business on “Business Reporting”, Investigative Reporting: The Murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash by AIM and much more to announce.   Save $100 on registration and get registered by May 1st!

Native American Journalists Association Statement on NABJ’s Decision to Leave UNITY Journalists of Color

April 11, 2011

NAJA Members and Friends,

The Native American Journalists Association was alerted Sunday April 10th of the decision by the National Association of Black Journalists to pull out of the UNITY Journalists of Color alliance.  NAJA is disappointed but respectful of NABJ’s determination which they called a “business decision.”   NAJA still encourages members of NABJ to participate in the UNITY 2012 conference in Las Vegas next August.  This invitation is also extended to any person who is interested in attending UNITY 2012 and supporting our mission to promote and achieve diversity in the newsroom and in media coverage.  NAJA proudly welcomes anyone who is interested in learning about Journalists of Color and the important responsibility they uphold in today’s society.

The American Society of News Editors recently issued the results from its newsroom census and it showed that the overall number of Journalists of Color in the nation’s newsrooms fell to 12.79%.  The number of Native Americans in these same newsrooms again remains at less than 1%.  NAJA is disheartened by these statistics, especially when the 2010 census count shows an 18.4% increase in the Native American population in the U.S since the 2000 census.  This is unacceptable to NAJA and we will continue to advocate and support our members and their efforts to become more visible and prominent in newsrooms and media coverage across the country.

Rhonda LeValdo, President, Native American Journalists Association


Letter to Editor of Union Weekly at California State U.-Long Beach

March 18, 2011

To the Union Weekly Editor,


The article titled “Pow Wow Wow Yippee Yo Yippy Yay” in your March 14, 2011 edition of the Union Weekly was a horrible choice for a headline as well as being very disrespectful in content towards Native Americans.

Your paper and reporter owe the Native American communities and the student group who held the powwow an apology for this article that shows a complete lack of understanding of the event they were attending. Did the reporter ask what the event was for? What does it mean to the Native People attending?   The use of words to describe Native American attire is not garb; it is regalia, or traditional dress.  Also, again if your reporter had asked about why people were putting down money for the dancers was not to pay them for dancing.  If this article was merely mocking the powwow, again, Native Peoples are not things for your entertainment.  There is a reason they held this event.

This lack of understanding about Native Americans is why there is a need to have diversity courses.   The Native American Journalists Associations is here for journalists if and when they need help covering stories.

We ask again an apology be issued to Native American communities.





Rhonda LeValdo, President, Native American Journalists Association

395 W. Lindsey

Norman, Oklahoma 73019

Membership in the Native American Journalists Association

March 16, 2011

We at the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) are always trying to find people to become members of NAJA.  You don’t have to be a traditional journalist, you can be an educator in journalism, a student, and or any forms of media (online) that are used today to spread the Native American stories we love and enjoy hearing.   And you don’t have to be Native American, we have an associate membership for everyone.

Some might ask, why do you need members?

Well we need the numbers to show how many people we have in the media.  It also helps as a way of showing how disproportionate those numbers are in mainstream media as well.  Tribal media is fast becoming the place our journalists go for jobs.  This is good not only for our working journalists, but those people who rely on the information produced in their tribal newspapers, radio stations and or online sites.

Along that note, we here at NAJA know that not all tribal media’s are members of our association.  We need you as members, we need the numbers, again, to show how strong Native Journalism is!

As an added incentive, NAJA is offering for all people who sign up as NAJA members by March 29th, their name will be put in a drawing for an Apple IPAD to be drawn March 30th.  You can always sign up online as well, just go to for more information.


Call for 2011 Native Media Awards Presented by the Native American Journalists Association

March 7, 2011

Hey Journalists, Editors, Photographers, Videographers, Radio, TV broadcasters and anyone else wanting to submit media, the deadline for the 2011 Native Media Awards is March 15th 2011!

If you have seen a great story, a great video, radio story, and or picture, get the journalist to submit them to our media awards contest that highlights the best Native American Journalism has to offer. We have many categories please check them out at for more information.

The 2011 Native Media Awards will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida at our annual NAJA conference. We will let you know if you are a winner so you can be there in person to pick up the award!

So please pass the information along to your tribal media people and or journalists you might know who might be interested!



Thanksgiving stereotypes

November 29, 2010

Well I certainly received a nice round of Native stereotypes this past weekend.  First, let me just say, I do promote a positive holiday, it is about remembering our people, our survival for 500 years plus, and just remembering what we are all about.  Our Native people have always been generous and hospitable to visitors.  It is that same generosity that should be bestowed upon all people, not just those in the past that made it over to this land before laws could be enacted to keep them out.

So, here I was perusing the latest blogs and threads, when I see a comment about an ad for a bar in St. Paul, Minnesota.  “Drink like an Indian, Party like a Pilgrim” was the slogan, with a woman dressed up in one of those sexy “Pocahontas” type outfits serving a pitcher of beer.

The poster to the thread asked everyone to call the bar and complain. On my Facebook, my friend, Kathy Dickerson  (the same poster) asked for us to repost the link and ask for people to contact Facebook about the ad.  I reposted, I called, I did whatever it took, to get this taken down.  To my surprise by that afternoon, the ad was pulled, and the bar was going to make a comment on the situation regarding the ad.  They later posted an apology and said they would be making a charitable contribution to a Native American charity.  Wow, all in one day, thanks to the internet and social media.

I went into Thanksgiving day feeling good, yeah it was nice for a bit.  I was out the door early to help with a local 5k.  I usually direct people where to run, that’s my job for the race and I go home.  And the 5k was going as planned, many people showing up, one lady had a fake turkey on her head and I remembered the year before a bunch of guys dressed as bananas ran together.  As I am walking out to my station, I notice two ladies dressed as Native Americans.  My heart sank, I didn’t know what to think, I was so very saddened by this site, thinking, “why oh why are you doing this in Lawrence, Kansas.”

I paused as I pondered my next move and I found myself in front of them as they were smiling at me.  I said very calmly, ” I know you are probably just dressing up for fun, but dressing up as Native Americans of all days today, is offensive to me.” All they did was look at me and say, they didn’t mean to offend anyone.  I told them that there were many Native Americans running in the 5k and for them to have to see this would be very awkward.  They just stated again, “that they didn’t mean to offend anyone”.

I continued onto my station, thinking of all the education Native Americans do to get rid of this stereotype why is it not taking seriously.  You don’t see anyone celebrating Martin Luther King day dressing up in blackface.  Why don’t people see the correlation? Are we not serious enough? Are we not human enough?

As the race started, I saw those two ladies run by, and after the race I saw them again.  I walked to where they were and asked again, “why they did this?” I just wanted to know. One replied, “We did it in the spirit of the holiday.  We are sorry, we won’t do it again.”

I smiled at them and said, “thank you.”

I went home thinking about the stereotypes that are still around us: on food packages, on automobiles, and as sports mascots.  We have a long way to go, but as long as we keep pushing, something has to give.

Letter to Fox Nation News

November 18, 2010

November 17, 2010
Re: Fox News: “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Killed U.S. General” (Nov.15, 2010) 

To Fox Nation News Editor:

The headline for your website: is a big miss for your news organization in trying to educate the masses on who killed Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn, not to mention a travesty in trying to praise Custer’s actions and make him look like a victim.

The Native American Journalists Association is here to make sure news organizations are held accountable for their mistakes in reporting and writing the news when involving Native Nations. This headline is totally inaccurate as Chief Sitting Bull was not the person who killed General Custer. If your organization fully researched the selections for President Barack Obama’s book “Of Thee I Sing”, you might have caught this error. One might also point out that Lieutenant Custer was responsible for the slaughter of many Native American men, women and children in the Washita Massacre.

The intent of including Chief Sitting Bull in President Obama’s book appears to be a diversity lesson in the history of North America, one that many people could learn from and not the praising of a killer like your headline reads. We ask you issue an apology to the Native American Nations across this country who consider Sitting Bull a hero and a warrior who stood up for his people.


Rhonda LeValdo
President, Native American Journalists Association