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Reporting from Native America

Wednesday
October 22, 2014
Latest post: March 20 5:07 pm

Mainstream coverage of Indian Country, harsh but necessary

By Santee Ross, University of Montana

War stricken countries have 20 more years of life expectancy; the unemployment rate is estimated at 80 percent and almost half of the high school students’ dropout. These daily realities are nothing new to people on the Wind River reservation—hell any reservation.

Last week the New York Times featured an article about my home community, the Wind River reservation.

I should be saying, “The New York freakin’ Times wrote about my community!” My own community made it to a national newspaper.  This blew my mind but to no surprise the article focused on the darker parts of the reservation.

Those of us in Indian Country know about reservation life. We live there. The article featured run of the mill statistics and issues but of course nobody likes their dirty laundry publicly displayed.

Shortly after the Times ran the story, Facebook erupted with comments reacting to the piece. Back home everyone had something negative to say like it was a biased piece of journalism and the reservation wasn’t a ghetto like the article portrayed.

Despite angry comments the article didn’t fabricate or sensationalize anything; there are some serious issues that need to be addressed.

I understand the shame and frustration people are feeling back home. I mean these were our worst skeletons brought to light. I understand that kind of hurts. Realistically though, this article was only telling the story that most of the reservation has either forgotten or chosen to ignore.

Our struggles as Indian people are equal to that of third world countries. There is a lot of suffering that I think at a certain point we become hardened to it.

We’ve become stationary for so long in this way of life that our dysfunctions feel normal. So that when someone comes along and shows us our faults, we deny it.

At this point our shame is minimal compared to the changes that need to occur and a plan of action needs to be set in place. A bruised ego is easier to heal compared to the hardship we will endure if we continue down this “normal” path we are currently on.

When there is national coverage on our front doors, the time has come to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room.

Santee Ross (Hopi/Lakota) is from Lander, Wyo.

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