Aliyah Chavez has dreamt of being on a television news program since her childhood. Now her dream is coming true. She is now the anchor for ICT’s newscast, the news organization announced Tuesday at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“When I got the news that I was chosen to be the permanent anchor of Indian Country Today, I was over the moon. So excited,” she said. “As a young girl growing up on the Rez, I never dreamed this would be possible. But I dreamt and worked — and here we are!”
The daily half-hour newscast started in March 2020, the start of the pandemic, and has evolved exponentially since with ICT Editor Mark Trahant and Executive Producer Patty Talahongva, Hopi, co-anchoring.
Naming Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, as anchor of “ICT Newscast with Aliyah Chavez” pushes the platform in the direction of reaching a younger audience and more Indigenous communities.
“Our growth is now a fuel for careers for our youth. Our goal is to create an environment where people can do their best work, telling the stories that change the narrative about our world,” Trahant announced in Nevada. “Our goal is a national news broadcast that covers and serves all of Indian Country.
“One of the cool things about Aliyah as the anchor is that we are reminding our readers and viewers about a long tradition of Indian women as storytellers,” Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, said. "We need young people to see her on TV and think, 'I can do that.' 'I want that job.'"
The newscast runs on a variety of PBS stations nationwide in Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arizona, and that includes urban areas such as Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago. It also reaches an international audience in Canada and Australia.
“The success of ICT is a long-term venture and that means building a platform for the next generation,” Trahant said. “I’m so pleased that Aliyah Chavez is taking up the mantle. She’s a solid journalist who cares about accuracy and getting the story right and bringing into the narrative an authentic Indigenous voice.”
Chavez’s strong work ethic helped her learn and grow, and take on new responsibilities. She said she’s motivated by the company’s mission to serve Indigenous communities with news, entertainment, and opinion. She’s also aware Native people are underrepresented in the media, “which affects how people view us and how much people care about our issues.”
“I will work insanely hard to make sure that the news coming out of our newsroom is stories that are not only accurate but stories that are interesting, stories that are important to tell,” Chavez said.
ICT vice president for broadcasting Shirley Sneve, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said, “ICT is very honored to have Aliyah Chavez as part of the team. She is a true professional journalist and a great rep of the Pueblo people. We look forward to a long relationship with a great journalist.”
She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and comparative studies in race and ethnicity. The reporter started her ICT journey in the fall of 2018 when she emailed Trahant seeking freelancing opportunities in her last year of her graduate program at Stanford University.
She reported election results on the first live Native Election Night broadcast from southern California in 2018.
Just after graduation in the spring of 2019, she told a Stanford news outlet, “I took a class taught by (communication lecturer) Janine Zacharia in my freshman spring. She said something I will never forget: Being a journalist is the best job in the world because you get paid to go around and listen to people’s stories. That hit the nail on the head for me. Journalism combines everything I love and value, especially wanting to give back to my community. So, I decided to co-term (take simultaneous under-grad and graduate-level courses). I really do love reporting.”
Chavez joined ICT as a fellow under the Rowland and Pat Rebele Journalism Internship Program at Stanford in the summer of 2019.
She moved into a full-time reporter-producer position in the fall of 2019. Since then, Chavez has covered the 2018 and 2020 elections, including the presidential race and the Iowa caucus.
She zoned in on politics and got the opportunity of a lifetime: participate in the White House press briefing.
“It was one of those days I went to work pinching myself. I am incredibly honored to have asked a question for Indian Country Today at today’s White House press briefing,” Chavez posted on April 16.
The Kewa Pueblo journalist also covered the nomination and selection of Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, as Interior Secretary.
“To have covered the monumental process of a Pueblo woman becoming the first Native person to serve in a presidential Cabinet position was very meaningful to me. As a Pueblo female reporter I was able to provide the context needed to tell a story as unique as Secretary Haaland’s,” Chavez said. “Every story in Indian Country deserves that context.”
Chavez is poised and well-spoken on camera. She’s able to gather her thoughts and ask questions that bring to light information that matters to Indian Country, all while staying true to journalistic principles.
Arizona PBS recognized her talent and asked her to co-host “Break It Down,” a daily 10-minute segment with conversations on news, politics and pop culture.
She hopes others will see her at work and follow in her footsteps.
“I can’t help but to be reminded of the beauty of our Indigenous knowledge systems and communities for teaching me the core values that have guided me to this role,” she said.
One individual who held a similar role was Harriet Skye, Standing Rock. Skye hosted the TV show from North Dakota called “Indian Country Today with Harriet Skye.” In 2023, it’ll be the 50th anniversary of the show.
Jodi Rave wrote for Buffalo’s Fire: “Skye started hosting ‘Indian Country Today’ in 1973. For more than a decade, she filmed some 250 episodes, most of which were recorded on 2-inch, reel-to-reel videotape. Producers used the same tape for each show, so only a few of the final episodes survived to be archived at the North Dakota State Historical Society.”
Rave added that Skye “made it seem natural for an Indian woman to report and broadcast the news.”
Chavez now hopes to pave the way. “I think one of my career goals is going to be nurturing the next generation of Native journalists.”
She has also worked as an intern or at jobs with NBC’s Today show, TEDx, and Times Digital Media.
“To my Indigenous relatives, I encourage you to look to the field of journalism and media because each of you are experts in your communities,” she said. “Thank you to my family, mentors, friends and loved ones. Your support is invaluable to me.”
Tune in to the ICT newscast on FNX this fall to watch Chavez’s debut.
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