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ASU students celebrate Native American Heritage Month this November.
October 31, 2016

ASU student groups create series of events throughout November for Native American Heritage Month

ASU English lit and public policy major Megan Tom says it can be tough for Native Americans living away from their home communities for the first time.

Underrepresentation and pervasive stereotypes mean that many in mainstream society carry misguided notions of what it means to be an American Indian today, making students such as herself representatives for a population of more than 5 million people from more than 560 distinct tribes across the U.S.

“It’s exhausting giving Native 101 to everyone,” the fourth-year Navajo student from Cameron, Arizona, said.

To ease that individual burden, build connections and break down stereotypes, Tom, president of ASU’s American Indian Council, and other indigenous student groups at Arizona State University have created a series of events for Native American Heritage Month.

November represents an opportunity, Tom said, to share the “perspective from a larger community.”

The Nov. 1 kickoff celebration at the Memorial Union on the Tempe Campus starts at 11:30 a.m. and will include frybread, cultural performances and information on American Indian organizations.

Next week, “Water is Life #NoDAPL” will address the ongoing protest at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Souix tribe and their supporters are lining up to block the 1,000-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. Developers say the pipeline will boost the economy and make the U.S. less beholden to foreign countries. Protesters say it cuts through sovereign territory and could contaminate the area’s drinking water.

The Nov. 8 eventHosted by the American Indian Science Engineering Society, Construction In Indian Country Student Organization, and American Indian Council. will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and feature Native students and pipeline protesters who can explain their perspective to attendees.

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ASU students showing their support for Standing Rock protesters.

Tom said it’s especially important because some young people dressed up as pipeline protesters for Halloween.

“This is a fight for water, a basic human necessity,” she said, adding that it’s “frustrating” that people would make a joke of it. “It shows where we are in the nation’s perspective of Native people.”

“Changing the Way We See Native America: Dismantling Native American Stereotypes,” meanwhile, will feature photography from the Project 562, led by Matika Wilbur, of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribe in Washington state.

The Nov. 22 eventHosted by the Womyn’s Coalition, Rainbow Coalition and American Indian Council. will start at 6 p.m. on ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Wilbur said the project’s name comes from the number of federally recognized tribes in the U.S. when she started. There are now 566 recognized tribes. She is working to photograph everyday, modern Native people on tribal lands to break down longstanding stereotypes.

“It’s quite obvious that the popular understanding of a Native American is that of a noble savage or spiritual being,” Wilbur said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

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Photographer and social documentarian Matika Wilbur.

ASU interdisciplinary studies major Emerald Byakeddy said such work is important because “a lot of people don’t understand that” American Indians “are not one-dimensional.”

Sometimes people “can’t understand until they’ve been in your skin,” the Navajo senior from Tuba City, Arizona, said.

“Deconstructing Stereotypes and Abolishing the R-word: A Discussion on the Use of Sports Masots” will get into the problems many Native people see with the images and names associated with the Cleveland Major League Baseball franchise and the Washington, D.C., professional football team.

The Nov. 28 eventHosted by ASU American Indian Studies Department. will start at 6 p.m. at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.   

“The perception of Native Americans is not even of a vanishing race but a vanished race, even in Arizona where school kids continue to say things like, ‘I thought all Indians were dead,’” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center of Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs. “These perceptions and stereotypes still exist and persist, and it’s complicated.”

More than 2,600 Native American students attend ASU, which recently saw its largest graduating class of over 360 in May.

Brayboy said the mascot conversation “is pretty timely” because of Cleveland’s place in the World Series. “If you look at the caricature of what Chief Wahoo looks like what you see is a caricature — and it’s a pretty hateful one, from where I sit — but it locates us in a past moment.”

“We need to expose our kids,” Brayboy said, “to modern versions of Native people. This is exactly what our students do — they represent the very best of the present and future selves of Native Nations.”

Other events include:

• Zuni Pueblo: Culture, History, Language & Art with Matthew Yatsayte, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Nov. 4, Discovery Hall 313, Tempe campus

• 16th Annual Veterans Day Weekend Traditional Pow Wow, 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Nov. 12, Fletcher Library Lawn, West campus

• Celebrating Native Americans in the Law: Judge Diana Humetewa, 12:15 p.m.–1:15 p.m., Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Downtown Phoenix campus

• One Word Indian Two Communities, 5–8 p.m., Nov. 17, Sparky’s Den, ASU Memorial Union, Tempe campus

• 22nd Annual Josiah N. Moore Memorial Scholarship Benefit Dinner, 6–9 p.m., Nov. 19, Carson Ballroom, Old Main, Tempe campus

For a full listing of scheduled events, go here.

Top image: Chief Bill James of the Lummi Nation at a sacred site in the northwest corner of Washington State. Photo taken by Matika Wilbur for Project 562.

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Bizarre presidential campaign leaves the press gobsmacked

Exactly what "the media" is comes into question.
October 31, 2016

Panelists at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication discuss difficulties of covering election

No one saw this coming.

Covering one of the most unusual presidential campaigns in modern history has left the press gobsmacked.

That was the upshot of a roundtable discussion, “How the News Media Covered the 2016 Election Campaign,” with a Washington Post columnist and reporter hosted by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on Monday night.

“It’s been such a bizarre campaign,” said media columnist Margaret Sullivan. “I wouldn’t give the media particularly high grades in covering this campaign. ... I don’t think we’re coming out of this smelling like a rose at all.”

Washington Post political reporter Philip Rucker and Sullivan joined Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of the Post and Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School, to analyze the media’s coverage of the 2016 election.

Covering an unusual campaign in the usual fashion has been a mistake, the trio said. Donald Trump, the reality TV star, drove ratings during the primary season. As a result, the other 15 Republican candidates got relatively little air time by comparison.

“CNN might have been the worst offender in just giving Trump essentially free amounts of advertising,” Sullivan said. “As Trump himself would say, many people think this was a strategic programming decision. ... It worked, but was it fair to the democracy? I would say it wasn’t fair to the other candidates, and certainly gave Trump a huge boost early on.”

Exactly what “the media” is nowadays came into question. Sullivan said she doesn’t use the word to describe newsgathering organizations.

“It’s really hard to say because it includes social media and cable TV,” she said. “It’s certainly much more varied than it used to be. ... It’s certainly been very effected by the digital transition. ... There’s less of a gatekeeping role by the press.”

Social media is also now part of the story, Rucker said, adding that he uses it constantly. It’s also a requirement; if you’re covering either campaign, you’re going to have to monitor what they say on Twitter.

“Social media becomes the news feed in our job,” Rucker said.

The challenge for mainstream outlets like the Post is competing against blogs and other outlets that have no professional oversight. The public treats them all alike.

Fact checking candidate’s statements is more prominent in this cycle.

“The challenge for us as reporters is to not just let it exist in the fact-checking column,” Rucker said. Trump’s challenge of President Barack Obama’s birth origin is one example Rucker cited.

“We put that that was not true in the lede of the story,” Rucker said. “People are living in different worlds this election season.”

The New York Times has used the word “lie” when publishing fact-checking stories.

“I think it was a decision to call something what it was, and to be bold about it,” she said. “The word ‘lie’ is very fraught, and should be used sparingly. ... 'Lie' carries with it intent.”

It’s been a ground-breaking year in many ways for the press. Sullivan referred to the Access Hollywood hot mic recording of Trump boasting about groping women.

“We saw some words on the front page of The New York Times I’ve never seen there before,” she said.

Sometimes there’s no time to do the heavy lifting of fact checking in a fast-paced campaign in a 24/7 news cycles.

“There’s no way to deal with it when you have a candidate who traffics in falsehoods every day,” Rucker said. “He exaggerates the size of his crowds.”

Trump repeats lies over and over, and eventually people believe them, Sullivan said.

“It’s a lot of work to push back against that, and that’s part of our responsibility,” she said.

Hillary Clinton has remained closed-off from the press. How should the media cope with a candidate who won’t talk to them?

“Hillary Clinton is famously opaque,” Sullivan said. “She went for a long time without speaking with reporters in any meaningful way. ... If she wins, it’s something we’re going to be dealing with for a long time. That’s her way.”

The two candidates are wildly different, Sullivan pointed out. Clinton has been in the public eye for decades. Trump has not been subject to the same level of scrutiny.

“Does fair mean equally?” she asked. “Because you’re running investigative stories about Donald Trump, does that mean you have to do the same number and type of stories on Hillary Clinton, when there’s not that much there?”

The echo chamber of social media, where people only get news they agree with, is affecting the public perception of the press as a watchdog.

“They think demanding to see Trump’s tax returns is anti-Trump,” Downie said. “As the public becomes more partisan, they have trouble understanding the media role.”

Rucker described the abuse dished out to the press at Trump rallies. “It’s a toxic environment,” he said. “It can be exhausting to be out there every day.”

Sullivan said it was painful to see people thinking so badly of the press.

“We have to tell our story better to counter this,” she said.

They discussed how the vagaries of campaign coverage tilt towards horse-race color rather than anything of substance. 

“We actually did an 'issue' series,” Downie said of The Washington Post’s campaign coverage one year. “Nobody read it.”

“I think we have to do it in an easy compare and contrast, maybe in graphic form.” Sullivan said. “We have to realize this is the broccoli and spinach of campaigns.”

Photo: Students line up to ask questions of the team from The Washington Post — media columnist Margaret Sullivan, left, former executive editor and current Weil Family Professor of Journalism at Cronkite Leonard Downie Jr., and political reporter Philip Rucker — as they discuss the media's coverage in the 2016 presidential election. Sullivan, Downie and Rucker joined the Cronkite School from ASU's offices in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News