For over a decade, journalist Stacey Thunder (Red Lake and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe) has been the host of the PBS news magazine Native Report. She has just launched her next video in her online YouTube series, Indigenous With Stacey Thunder titled Standing Rock Episode - Part 1. The episode, which highlights the spiritual power and unity at Standing Rock, is now premiering on Stacey Thunder’s YouTube Channel April 25th with more episodes to follow.
Indigenous with Stacey Thunder is an online entertainment and educational video series that shares contemporary stories about Indigenous peoples, events, and issues in a positive and high-energy way. According to Stacey Thunder, the goal of her series is “to show the world who Indigenous peoples really are; that we are still here and are many different nations and individuals who do great and interesting things—not the stereotyped representations that have been formed and shaped over the years,” she says.
“I’m hoping that the series will shift negative perceptions to positive and accurate ones, and inspire viewers to be a part of that movement of change.”
In an interview with Stacey Thunder regarding Indigenous with Stacey Thunder, the busy mom and attorney tells us her experiences, and how she hopes to share the importance of the Standing Rock and #NoDAPL movement from an indigenous perspective.
As a mother of four children and busy attorney, how do you find time to focus on such important issues and the Indigenous with Stacey Thunder series?
I just make the time. I am passionate about Indian country and telling our stories, and think it’s incredibly important that we have a voice. I do have an insane schedule and find myself exhausted at times (laughs), but everything I do, I do for my children and for our people. It also helps that I love doing it, and I hope that through it all, my children learn that same work ethic and apply it to theirs passions as well.
This is a great next step in Indigenous with Stacey Thunder, how did you decide to cover the events in Standing Rock?
There was no question that the movement at Standing Rock had to be told. I absolutely felt compelled to be there and support the movement in any way I could. After I followed the events through social media during the summer, I decided to go at the end of August.
I got a few interviews with Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, and the International Indigenous Youth Council, but realized I had to go back again because the story was much bigger than my initially planned one-episode.
I went back a few more times and got more interviews, and the more I experienced Standing Rock and the spiritual power and unity of the water protectors at camp and supporters around the world, and watched the disturbing actions by the Dakota Access Pipeline, private security and officers unfold on social media, I found myself consumed by the movement.
What was your overall impression of the events taking place?
I saw and felt a spiritual power and the power of unity. I saw a beautiful awakening within Native peoples and our allies. I saw our voices connecting to the world through social media. And I saw and felt love…for water and our resources, for each other and our people – especially the youth and future generations, and for all our living relatives and Mother Earth.
Can you tell us what this Indigenous with Stacey Thunder episode is about, and what can viewers expect to learn from your coverage and further exposure to this issue?
The Indigenous series dedicates a three-part episode to the movement at Standing Rock spanning from August to December, told from an Indigenous point of view. I personally went to Standing Rock four times – two times with my oldest daughter, Savanna, who is a junior at Perpich Arts High School in Golden Valley, Minnesota studying media arts, and my father, Bob Thunder, who is a marine veteran and retired Minneapolis police officer.
The first episode follows Savanna and me to Standing Rock while we share what the movement is generally; then we go deeper into the movement and cover the water protectors and people on the frontlines in the second episode; and the third episode follows my father and me in December while the veterans arrived at Standing Rock and the Army Corps of Engineers denied the Dakota Access Pipeline permit.
Later, we plan to share a fourth episode that gives an update on the movement since Trump has been in office, such as including what we covered at the Native Nations March in Washington D.C. on March 10.
What do you hope to accomplish with Indigenous with Stacey Thunder and your continued exposure to important Native topics such as this?
For Standing Rock and other important topics and stories in Indian Country, to get the word out and educate people what truly is happening. For example, the mainstream media rarely covered what was happening in Standing Rock, and if there was a mention, the mention itself only covered a little bit and not the full story and it was typically one-sided. Most often, the story was inaccurate and misrepresented, or there were facts not shared. For example, the Dakota Access Pipeline wasn’t just a “Native” issue – it affected both Native people and non-Native people, and DAPL’s first route was actually near Bismarck but because the Bismarck residents opposed that route due to oil spill concerns near their homes, the route was then moved down the Missouri River close to Standing Rock.
There were a few mainstream media shows that did a good job covering the Standing Rock story, such as The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, and Amy Goodman with Democracy Now!, and we are grateful to them, but those were few are far between. We need more coverage and support, but if there is one thing we learned from Standing Rock, we also need to do it ourselves, and we are working hard at it. Many of our Native sisters and brothers were there to cover the story through social media, and it helped. It’s very important that Native people have a voice in the media so that full and accurate stories can be told.
What great things can we continue to see in the Indigenous with Stacey Thunder video series?
At this point, I will continue to focus on my work with the Indigenous with Stacey Thunder video series. So far, we have content for about 16 episodes such as the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s environmental efforts to improve the lives of their residents and surrounding communities, the genesis and history of the Honor The Earth Homecoming Celebration and Pow Wow in Lac Courte Oreilles, the “Sioux Chef” Sean Sherman, Native Storytellers at the Sundance Film Festival, Indigenous in Los Angeles California, the N7 Fund and Sport Summit at Nike World Headquarters, the Violence Against Women Act and Tribal Law and Order Act with author and law professor Sarah Deer, and Taboo of the “Black Eyed Peas.”
Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
Sharing the experience at Standing Rock with my daughter, father, and friends – from being tear-gassed and stranded in two blizzards to witnessing a monumental Indigenous-led movement – was incredibly special and personal to me. It is something I’ll never forget, and I hope I am able to relay that feeling and the magnitude of the experience in these episodes.
I also loved that I got to work with Savanna on this story, and that we supported one another on our own individual projects. Our mother-daughter media team worked very well! (laughs) Though this experience, I saw her grow personally and artistically, and I love how she became this fearless young warrior media-maker and storyteller for Indian Country. It truly warms my heart and I’m so proud of her.
And last, our people are truly resilient. We have been down this road before and we survived many times. I am proud of Standing Rock, the water protectors, and all Indigenous peoples and allies for standing strong. And as always, I am grateful to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Vision Maker Media because their generous support makes it possible to share these important stories. Our hope is that through these stories, we can help shift the current perception of Indian Country and Indigenous peoples to a positive and accurate one.
Indian country can to connect with Stacey Thunder and support her on social media by navigating to the links below:
Watch Indigenous episodes and subscribe to Stacey Thunder’s YouTube channel:
Follow Stacey Thunder on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) - ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wows and Sports Editor - Follow @VinceSchilling