As the pandemic, racial unrest, and protests against police brutality crisscrossed the country this past summer, many ER&M students did not watch in idle. Some embarked on meaningful summer opportunities such as interning at non-profit social justice organizations, or finding new ways to connect with and advocate for underrepresented and underserved communities in New Haven, their hometowns, and beyond. This series of posts highlights the compelling summer activities that our inspiring students undertook and features the students’ reflections on their work. This week, Meghanlata Gupta ER&M’21 shares with the ER&M community her work with Indigenizing the News, a digital magazine that she founded to “create space for Indigenous peoples to write and share their stories and a space for non-Indigenous peoples to engage with important topics and pursue meaningful forms of allyship.”
What is the mission of Indigenizing the News and what circumstances led you to create this project?
I started my digital magazine Indigenizing the News in June 2019 as a capstone project for a summer fellowship. Originally, I had planned to make my capstone project focused on something policy-related—however, I realized that increasing Native American and Indigenous representation in our news and education systems is essential for raising awareness of our contemporary struggles and actualizing policy recommendations. Thus, I established Indigenizing the News with this mission: “An education in Indigenous nations, histories, and contemporary lives is important for everyone.” By grounding my magazine in the collective nature of education and justice, I aimed to illustrate the multi-faceted and comprehensive nature of Indigenous studies—the field encompasses everything from history to science to linguistics to art to climate justice to education (and more!). In this way, I want Indigenizing the News to be both a space for Indigenous peoples to write and share their stories and a space for non-Indigenous peoples to engage with important topics and pursue meaningful forms of allyship.
Could you describe the work that you did with Indigenizing the News this summer?
Throughout this past summer, my work with Indigenizing the News took on a few different paths. For the monthly issues in June and July, Indigenizing the News focused on the Black Lives Matter movement, sharing multimedia resources to support and raise awareness of BLM as well as discuss the ways in which Indigenous people can join in solidarity with this movement and hold ourselves accountable for anti-Blackness in our own communities. During the first 8 weeks of the summer, as the first tribal affairs journalist for Bridge Michigan, I covered the impact of coronavirus on Michigan’s twelve tribal nations. Starting July 1, Indigenizing the News established The Mishigamiing Project, a news partnership with The Traverse City Record-Eagle that provides 6-month stipends for Native journalists to train and write in Michigan. Supported by this project, I co-wrote a story on Black and Indigenous activist efforts for decolonization in Waawiyaatanong (Detroit, Michigan).
How have your ER&M courses informed your work with Indigenizing the News?
My ERM classes have been fundamental to the way that I think about and engage with Indigenizing the News. Specifically, I have appreciated the ways in which ERM class communities always raise these questions: Who are we writing for? Who are we doing this work for? How can we make this accessible? These questions have guided my own work with the magazine, as I think the most powerful work we can do is community-based and community-led. When we write and work, we must always be thinking about how it can be accessed and enjoyed outside of highly-elite environments. I took ERM 300 this past semester, and I truly loved that we incorporated our own political/cultural organizing efforts and families/communities into our conversations. For so many of us, our academic work is inseparable from our lives and our family histories. Similarly, ERM classes have strengthened my ability to connect academic theory with more tangible, palpable efforts from within my community and news and social media writings. While academic theory is certainly a helpful grounding, my ERM professors and peers encourage me to push the boundaries of what a source looks like—not just theory from academic journals, but art, oral histories, videos, community memory, and more.
What challenges have you faced as you took on this project and how did you overcome them?
I think one of the biggest challenges (or ongoing learning processes) that I have faced in the creation and continuance of the magazine is doing justice to the diversity of Indigenous nations and cultures around the world. Indigenous peoples are not a monolith—there are thousands of distinct Indigenous communities in North America alone. Sovereign Indigenous nations continue to care for their communities and practice their cultures in areas such as South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand (as well as others). This summer, Teodora C. Hasegan, PhD wrote a series for Indigenizing the News about the global impact of coronavirus on Indigenous nations. These efforts are extremely important, as it is essential to build transnational understandings of Indigeneity. In my magazine, I hope to continue increasing the geographic breadth of multimedia resources and topics surrounding Indigeneity, settler-colonialism, imperialism, and anti-colonial resistance.
What important lessons have you learned from the work that you did over the summer?
Drawing from academic work from junior year, I engaged with journalism work that taught me more about how scholars of color can share our ideas and celebrate our communities outside of the academy. In many ways, I feel as though journalism is an outlet for me to tell my community’s traditional stories in an evolving and adapted way. Stories of sovereignty, reclamation, resistance, and intergenerational knowledge and memory can be found in the breaking news stories of this summer. Additionally, as a non-Black person and a Yale student, I am personally complicit in elitism, exclusivity, and anti-Blackness. Unlearning anti-Black racism is a lifelong process, one in which I hold myself and those in my community accountable and continue to fight for a world without policing and all other forms of anti-Black violence.
Miigwetch (thank you) to the ERM community for your support, love, and care during this time. I am so grateful to be a part of our wonderful community.
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