MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - A new weekly radio program and Web cast, called ''Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,'' was launched Feb. 5 from Connecticut's Wesleyan University.
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, a Native Hawaiian and assistant professor of anthropology and American Studies at the university, is the producer and host of the program.
The program will air on Mondays from on the university radio station at WESU 88.1 FM, with live streaming on the station's Web site at www.wesufm.org. WESU's transmitter covers two-thirds of the state of Connecticut and reaches as far north as Springfield, Mass., and south to Long Island, N.Y. - a potential listening audience of several million people. WESU recently became an affiliate of Pacifica Radio, with a potential audience of millions more.
''Indigenous Politics'' features interviews with political leaders, community activists and cultural authorities, as well as scholars whose work addresses indigenous politics.
Kaunui's first show featured a long, in-depth interview with Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee and a poet, writer, Indian Country Today columnist, lecturer, curator and policy advocate who has helped Native peoples recover more than 1 million acres of land and numerous sacred places as the president and executive director of the Morning Star Institute, a national Native rights organization.
Harjo discussed a number of important current issues, including the needed reauthorization of the Health Care Improvement Act, lawsuits that would prohibit the Washington football team and others from profiting from the use of ''Indian'' symbols, and ongoing efforts to protect cultural and sacred places.
Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Tuscarora and assistant professor of American Studies and history at Yale University, hailed the program as a new arena for American Native stories and analysis.
''Kauanui's radio show brings important American Indian and indigenous voices to Connecticut's airways, providing crucial commentary rooted in the scholarly research and activism of Native people and their allies. This couldn't be more timely,'' Mt. Pleasant said.
Kauanui said her approach would not be journalistic in the sense of representing all different viewpoints, but rather would focus on an in-depth interview with one person and reporting from an indigenous perspective.
''There are other places that represent all points of view, and I don't think this program has to do that right now. I really want to privilege the voices of Native New England. The show is also Native New England and beyond but, first and foremost, I think we need to educate local listeners of the struggle going on right here,'' Kauanui said.
A scholar who self-describes as technologically challenged, Kauanui was tapped for the radio program by Ken Weiner, the station's public affairs director.
She took a six-week training course along with the students and other DJs, who are all community volunteers, and did two internships and community service hours before taking a practical and written exam.
On Jan. 17, Kauanui did a live music show to mark the 113th anniversary of the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.
''All the music I played affirmed Hawaiian sovereignty, so I've really had a good time,'' she said.
Kauanui said she is motivated by several key issues affecting nations across the country, most notably the fact that many tribes do not have ''basic'' federal recognition.
''Historically, recognition differed between state-recognized tribes from the original 13 colonies and the 'treaty tribes' in the Western states. More recently, the backlash against casino development has been instrumental in the opposition to federal recognition. The conflation of federal recognition with the specter of Indian casinos indicates that most nontribal residents in these states refuse to uncouple questions of tribal economic development - a question of a nation's political economy - and the social justice issue of honoring the U.S. trust doctrine,'' Kauanui said.
The 21st century's ''most notorious cases'' involve two Connecticut tribes - the Eastern Pequot and Schaghticoke tribal nations, Kauanui said.
'''Citizens' rights' groups have bolstered the backlash in Connecticut by state officials, which now implicates the federal process for tribes across the entire U.S. Beyond Connecticut and New England, over 20 state attorney generals across the USA are filing briefs to cut back tribal jurisdiction by arguing that portions of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 are unconstitutional. This new movement is being lead by attorney generals Larry Long of South Dakota and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. In the case of Connecticut, this new role marks a 180-degree turn. Just over 20 years ago, Connecticut played a major part in pressuring Congress to federally recognize the Mashantucket Pequots because the state was set to benefit financially,'' Kauanui said.
Future show will be aired with help from students Kalia Lydgate, Raffi Stern and Amelia Dean Walker. All are volunteers.
Kauanui has lined up several interesting programs. Confirmed guests include Richard Velky, chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation; Brian Wescott, Koyokon Athabascan and Yup'ik, actor and film producer currently working on a docudrama called ''We Are Still Here'' about the life and time of Cahuilla elder Katherine Siva Saubel; and Randolph Lewis, associate professor of American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of ''Alanis Obomsawin: The Vision of a Native Filmmaker.''
Future program topics will include Hawaiians and the politics of federal recognition; Native feminisms; same-sex marriage bans in Indian country; indigenous environmental issues; U.S. militarism and indigenous peoples' service; domestic violence and restorative justice; indigenous language revitalization; sports teams and Indian mascots; the U.S. presidential election and American Indian voters; indigenous peoples and the prison industrial complex; contemporary land rights; Indian gaming and the politics of casinos; and indigenous