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Indigenous memes for Uncle Bernie

Dawn Knickerbocker, board president of Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition and language worker Ron Corn, Jr. join the show to tell us how they are using viral memes to connect with their respective nations online. Plus national correspondent Joaqlin Estus tells us more about some federal positions available and how to apply for them.
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The Bernie Sanders meme blew up the internet after the inauguration last week, we've all seen it. Senator Sanders is sitting in his chair, bundled up, wearing mittens immediately. People everywhere took his photo and placed him in different and funny settings. Indian Country had its own spin on the memes. The Senator was placed in scenes from famous movies, powwows, and some even wrapped him in a blanket. One tribe took the opportunity to insert his traditional language in the memes. Today, we are joined by Dawn Knickerbocker, White Earth Ojibwe, president of the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition in Ohio and also joining us is Ron Corn, Jr. He's a member of the Menominee tribe's language program.

As President Joe Biden starts his first full week. His team is busy looking for candidates to fill thousands of federal jobs. He also promised the jobs will reflect America with a diverse workforce. That includes not just people of color, but also people from different faith backgrounds, people with disabilities and people from the LGBTQ community, our national correspondent Joaqlin Estus wrote about this in a recent story New administration seeks diversity in filling jobs. She joins us today to talk about some of the positions and how to go about applying for those jobs.  

A slice of our Indigenous world

COVID 19 is taking a toll on the salmon fishing industry in Oregon which is mostly owned and operated by tribes and tribal citizens. And the National Congress of American Indians is releasing its new case study of the Oneida Nation’s food sovereignty approach. Plus NBC Universal News Group is launching a new journalism training program called NBCU Academy. Also have you ever wondered whose tribal homelands you live on? And Australia honors four women as outstanding citizens and among them is an Aboriginal woman. You can find more details on all these story's at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show

Dawn Knickerbocker:

"Our group put out just three memes that were one of Bernie with smoke signals, kind of sitting in the background and so then we also put out one of him in a black and white picture from around the tribal area. Oh, where he's from. And then we also put out another that said meanwhile at the powwow. So those memes were just us trying to come up with some creative ways to participate in the moment. We didn't know that other Natives were doing it at the same time and we really didn't have a lot of planning or understanding of how this could really blow up. And we didn't apply it to our language programs or anything like Ron did, which is brilliant, clever."

"But we were just kind of having fun with it and thought that it was a great way to be inclusive. Yeah, that's true. I think we reached like 1900 people on the first day with those just on Facebook. We have a lot of followers on Instagram and Facebook and we share a lot of other people's things. And so that's the thing that I felt was so great about this particular meme is that there wasn't anybody's particular name on the creation of these memes, but everybody shared everyone else's so freely. And it just was a good time."

Ron Corn, Jr.:  

"We were actually having a live Zoom session to facilitate our online language group that we sorta, that was sort of born out of the pandemic. We started reaching some different audiences that we wouldn't typically reach. And when we ended the Zoom call, we kind of noticed that there was a little bit of movement going on the Bernie thing. And one of my friends in the program gave me a call after we hung up on zoom and said, Hey, maybe we should kick out a few of these. And so we worked on a few and, and he sent them out."

"And by the time we woke up, we had a little more attraction than we thought we were going to have. Yeah, no kidding. I mean I could not have foreseen this. This is like when networking happens. So, like my friend that I'm talking about, he's also a co-facilitator in Menominee U. This is something I probably wouldn’t have done, but he noticed the trend and he said, let's do this. And so he's the guy that isn't typically involved in language revitalization sort of dragged me into this surfing this tidal wave that's out there and here we are today."

Joaqlin Estus:

"So like you said, the Joe Biden, Kamala Harris administration is looking for diversity. And so the National Congress of American Indians last week held a panel with people who are now in the administration or have worked in the White House or in top levels in federal agencies, people who were appointed to their positions and they had a bunch of tips for people. So one of the first ones was to check out the new administration and see if there are people you want to work for and with. They suggested that you go to the camp website, and you can find their policy papers on all kinds of issues, look up anything of interest or your field of expertise and see if they're the direction that they want to take as one that you can support."

"So that was the first tip. And then the other one was to check out a publication called the Plum book. And that comes from when the book first came out, the President said, can you come out with a book of all the plumbing positions? And so that has a list of thousands of positions, their locations, the pay grade, and other details about the jobs that are available and that the Biden Harris administration wants to get filled. So people who are thinking about going to work for the federal government, maybe what first comes to mind are agencies and departments that provide services to Native Americans. So there's the office of Indian Education, the Indian Health Service, housing, the Indian Gaming commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

Additional information:

- Plum Book:

- Is an appointment right for you:

- Policy paper:

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

Joaqlin Estus, Tlingit, is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, she is a longtime journalist. Follow her on Twitter @estus_m or email her at

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