Mark Trahant
Indian Country Today

I was a boy when I first learned about one of Indian Country’s shared values: generosity.

My grandparents made a trip every year to my grandmother’s childhood home in Frazer, Montana, on the lands of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. That particular year, more than 50 years ago, is hazy, but I recall she was looking for a particular type of star quilt. So she went quiltmaker-to-quiltmaker with her list of questions. It seems like at every home there was a protocol, involving food and coffee (water or kool-aid for me). I know now that’s routine. But the lesson to a kid was about the generosity inherent in our cultures.

I have experienced that generosity again and again.

There was at least one occasion where Indigenous generosity conflicted with my journalism values. I arrived at the Lummi Nation to report a story and was asked if I could spare a few moments to meet with the tribal council. Of course, I agreed. Once there the council handed me an eagle feather. The chairman, Stan Jones at that time, said he wanted to thank me for my work and for amplifying his community’s voice. I was working at the Seattle Times — and I told my editor there is no way I was refusing that act of generosity. I was thinking I would get pulled off the story I was working on … but she understood and we worked out a plan for transparency. Generosity won.

That brings me to my most recent encounter with our generous spirit.

When we revived Indian Country Today a little more than two years ago we decided we were going to be public media. We would still sell advertising, and engage in entrepreneurial activities, but we would also ask our readers to contribute (keeping the content itself, free).

I love our readers; our community. Our summer drive just ended and we topped our goal of $50,000. We also hoped to get 100 people to sign up to make monthly contributions. We shot past that goal, 140, some at last count.

One smaller campaign that begins now is to look for larger donors, tribes, businesses, law firms, even individuals who have the resources to contribute $5,000 each year. We call this the Phoenix 100 and our goal is 100 benefactors.

On top of that, two or three times a year, we will continue with our “membership” drives. So if you missed out …expect to hear from us again before the end of the year. (Even though the drive is over, feel free to make a contribution, even a small one, whenever a story touches you.)

I think what’s so important here is that the journey of this news enterprise is just at the beginning. As we continue to grow and expand, we will be in a position to hire more people and tell more stories about all of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island.

I was thinking this morning about little ways that we could change the larger narrative. One cool idea: What if we broadcast footage, perhaps even from drones, of every tribal nation? Just clips of the ordinary: The beautiful places we call home, the smiles of our people, the uniqueness that we all know to be true.

Our daily broadcast now reaches some 75 million households — a number we hope to double in the coming year. The ideal is for everyone to be able to access our daily broadcast on their PBS station. Our news.

Thank you again for your generous support. It’s humbling and inspiring. And it reminds me how powerful, and wonderful, our mission remains.

Chi miigwech

There are a few hundred ways we should say “thank you” to our gracious community.

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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