Patty Talahongva

Indian Country Today

There are a lot of complex stories in Indian Country, everything from decent medical care, housing, running water, and even the lack of grocery stories.

So how should the media report?And what information is required to be complete? 

Three organizations are teaming up to conduct a survey to get a better understanding of what's going on. 

It's called the Indigenous Futures Survey and it's being led by IllumiNative, The Native Organizers Alliance and the Center for Native American Youth.  

On the newscast Monday guests include Stephanie Fryberg, Tulalip, who is a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. Her research centers on how social representation of race, culture and social class influence the development of self, the psychological wellbeing and educational attainment. She is on the research team leading this survey. 

Kendra Bicenti, Navajo, is the interim program manager at the Center for Native American Youth based in Washington, D.C. She is also an undergrad student at Stanford University. Becenti is also a published author. 

A few comments from Bicenti. 

"This survey was kind of a long time coming in Indian country, seeing ourselves represented into the future and seeing ourselves thriving into the future. And I think the Indigenous Futures Survey was a collaboration between these three organizations who really saw that mission and who really wanted to do the work beforehand, do the work to have ourselves represented in a research initiative by Natives for Natives."

"We're experiencing this pandemic where within this time it's really crucial to talk about these issues, these issues that are impacting us. And so I think that's kind of where we kind of saw the questions and even just the topics within the survey is really getting at a larger idea of what Indigenous people are experiencing right now in this moment."

"What has been really jumping out to us is that we do need more men to take the survey. This is something that's super important. It's really important that we represent everyone in our communities. So we need more men."

"We need our elders to take the survey and we also need our relatives in rural, in reservation communities to also take the survey as well. This is something meant for all of Indian country and is supposed to capture all of our experiences, no matter where we're living and really no matter our tribal affiliation."

"Our youth are really stepping up and are taking the survey, are sharing the survey out, which is really awesome. And we really want to see more of that. We just did a push out to tribal communities and Native organizations at colleges and universities."

Here are some comments from Dr. Fryberg. 

"Really, the key word there is perception, it's your perception of how you feel in society. And we actually made a new and novel question, which is, how do you feel about your standing in your tribal community? Because there are many ways to be successful in many ways to define success."

"What we know from the literature is that how one perceives themselves relative to their community matters. And in this case, people have multiple communities. And so we will be able to look at those questions relative to where people live, how important being Native is. So it's really a great way for us to assess overall well-being but also engagement with community and how that connects to things like voting behavior, trust for institutions, your hopes for your community in the future."

"It's really important to us that we get this data and the minute the survey is over, we're ready to turn it into a report that benefits Indian country. And so we already have 2,600 Native people who participated, of course the bigger the voice of Native people, the more impact that data will carry in terms of what's important for our community."

"And we know that Native people are an extremely diverse group of people. And so the concerns in one community is going to be different than concerns in another tribal community, if you're an urban Native versus a reservation Native. So they're really important issues for us to unpack but it truly is an opportunity for us to give voice in areas where Native people often don't get a voice."

"So if you take, for example, the current situation of COVID often Native people are left out of that discussion. We will have data so that we can enter into that discussion. So our leaders, political, like Congresswoman, you know, various, organizations who fight for funding, Native rights will be able to take that data and go out to Congress or to the Senate and say, no, that's not true. Our community's deeply impacted."

"So it is interesting. Some of the early data, we're definitely seeing differences in how people engage but voting behavior is really important and what motivates people to vote. Right? And what motivates people to vote in tribal elections versus national or state elections? How do we understand people's connection to the issues in their community and voting. Do Native people see voting as a means for improving the lives of people in their community? If they don't, we're letting them down."

"I think, as Kendra was pointing out, if we can get youth to go sit with their grandparents, assuming that they have been really safe, you know, to get those voices in. In the future, we will be out in communities doing this but right now what's most important is keeping our elders safe and healthy."

"This has long been a dream of mine to be able to carry out such a survey and hopefully the future will continue. There have been large surveys of different tribal communities, a lot of surveys like epidemiological surveys but in terms of a survey that's about giving Native people a voice and allowing us to say what's important to us, what we prioritize. This is definitely the first."

"The deadline is August 15th and we really had to extend the deadline because of some of the big issues that have come up for Native people. It's really important that we get a diversity of Native people completing the survey so we can represent a diversity of perspectives."

Joaqlin Estus

Joaqlin Estus is Indian Country Today's national correspondent based in Anchorage. She joined us to talk about the development of a copper and gold mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Here are a few of her comments.  

"The Pebble Project actually got its start in 1988 when a company found copper and over the next several years, they discovered there was a huge reserve of copper and there's gold and molybdenum too."

"Some new partners came in and the Obama administration put the project on hold. The application for permits hadn't been made yet. And the Environmental Protection Agency basically said, no don't even apply for a permit because the impact on groundwater, surface water and fisheries, they decided would be too great and it would basically destroy an enormous fishery"

"And then the Trump administration opened it back up again. And a couple of years ago, the Pebble Partnership applied for permits, for federal permits and it went through a couple of stages with different draft environmental impact statements coming out. And what happened on Thursday is the final environmental impact statement was issued. And that lays the foundation for the US Army Corps of Engineers decision on permits under the Clean Water Act. So it's a major milestone."

"And the mine itself is huge. So there would be an open pit mine, they would take a 1.4 billion tons of earth and ore and take it out of the ground and process it.

"Bristol Bay produces about half of the world's sockeye salmon and it's been going on for decades and Alaska Natives have been living off that fish for thousands of years. And the Corps of Engineers pretty much said, all of them are fine, none of them will harm fish."

Estus is also following the outbreak of COVIDk-19 in the fishing industry. 

"The concern before the fishing season started was that COVID would get loose from fishermen crew members or fish processing plant workers and escape into the local communities. There are communities of course, where locals work in the industry and so that's a conduit. Well, there have been these enormous outbreaks."

Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.

The anchor and executive producer of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.