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ASU Pow Wow makes triumphant return to Sun Devil Stadium after 33 years

April 14, 2019

Annual event draws thousands of spectators representing 100 Native tribes from around US and Canada for 3-day gathering

Thousands of people jammed Sun Devil Stadium this weekend to cheer for their home team, but it wasn’t for a football game or sporting event.

They were cheering for dancers and singing groups from Apache, Hopi, Navajo and other tribes who came from as far away as Canada to participate in the 33rd annual Pow Wow at Arizona State University, held April 12–14.

It was the first time the eventThe word “powwow” — which is spelled as both one and two words — comes from the Algonquin word “pau wau,” which was used to describe medicine men and spiritual leaders. It is a social gathering held by many different Native American communities to meet, dance, sing, socialize and celebrate their culture. had been held at the stadium since its inaugural year in 1986, according to ASU’s Annabell Bowen.

"We're very excited to bring the Pow Wow back to Sun Devil Stadium because over the years we've grown so much and our site has become too small," said Bowen, director for the American Indian Initiatives Office. "The stadium brings a new excitement level to this event."

Bowen credits its new partnership with ASU 365 Community Union for the timely move; the initiative is trying to utilize the venue more than the eight days a year the football team has home games.

“We’re in our pilot year right now, and we’ll end up hosting over 70 events this first year,” said Victor Hamburger, senior director of strategic initiatives for ASU Cultural Affairs. “We should be able to increase stadium utilization by (up to) 500% this year.”

Hamburger added that the university sees the stadium as a cultural hub and will host meetings, farmers markets, conferences, movies, meals, concerts and more. He said the ASU Pow Wow will be the largest ASU 365 Community Union event held this year at the stadium.

That’s music to Tahnee Baker’s ears, an ASU alumna and ASU Pow Wow coordinator.

“We outgrew the space at the ASU Band Practice field several years ago, but we continued to make it work because that’s all that was available,” said Baker, who approached the ASU 365 Community Union committee in December 2018 to host the event at Sun Devil Stadium. “To bring it to the stadium allows more people to celebrate our culture.”

Continuing the ASU Pow Wow is important to Baker, whose father, Lee Williams, started the tradition at the university and served as coordinator for decades until his passing in 2013.

“For him, this was a way to let American Indian students know there was a place for them on campus and to be proud of who they are,” Baker said. "He would be very happy to know this event has not only carried on but has grown in size and stature."

The contemporary Pow Wow is a link to the past that helps maintain her Navajo heritage, said Paige Sandoval, whose 8-year-old daughter, Rae Bighorse, danced several times this weekend.

“We grew up on the powwow circuit, and our entire family danced and sang at these events,” Sandoval said. “I'm now passing that tradition on to my daughter.”

Tempe resident Albert Polk, who is Apache and Quechan, also dances whenever he can.

“I’m always working, but I dance when I have time off,” said Polk, who performed in the Men’s Grass dance, which originated in the warrior societies in the Northern Great Plains. “It’s nice to see family and friends. I also come for the food.”

In addition to approximately 300 dancers and singers wearing traditional regalia and paying homage to their ancestors, the weekend-long event also included the crowning of Mr. and Ms. Indian ASU, as well as vendors selling Native American jewelry, crafts, clothes, rugs and traditional fry bread.

Calandra Etsitty was one of about 50 vendors on hand. She drove six hours on Saturday from Many Farms, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation to sell and promote her Winston Paul line of products, which includes custom jewelry, makeup bags, traditional skirts and reconstructed garments. She liked the venue because of its size and space, and also because it exposed her 2-year-old business to a new demographic.

“It’s an older crowd and I like that,” Etsitty said. “It’s good for our elders to know we’re doing something good and productive with our lives.”

Mekwaike Ojibwe tribe member Lara Lasley was dressed in lavender-colored regalia on Saturday. The 17-year-old said she made the trip from Lake Elsinore, California, to participate in the “Fancy Shawl” with about 20 other tribe members.

Lasley has participated in the ASU Pow Wow in the past but had never seen the inside of Sun Devil Stadium before.

“I didn’t mind being at the old venue,” she said, "but this is a step up.”

Top photo: Participants of the Grand Entry at the Pow Wow at ASU. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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National Native American news outlet moving to Cronkite School

April 5, 2019

Indian Country Today, the largest news site covering tribal communities across Americas, will move to ASU this summer

Indian Country Today, the national news organization devoted to coverage of Native American issues and communities, is moving from Washington to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Phoenix, Arizona State University announced today.

The digitally focused, nonprofit media outlet is the largest news website that covers tribes and Native people across the Americas.

“We are delighted that Indian Country Today, the iconic and influential news site, will be coming to Cronkite,” Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said. “ICT has long been the leading voice for Native American communities across the Americas, and under the inspiring, innovative and digitally focused leadership of Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant, the future is bright. Through this partnership, we will not only be able to provide our students with more opportunities to cover these critically important stories, but also to help better serve our Native communities regionally and nationally and to grow the pipeline of young Native students who may be interested in careers in journalism.”

Callahan said the Cronkite School has been focused on increasing both the quantity and quality of Native American news coverage, which he said is too often ignored or reported in a way that lacks depth and understanding of Native communities.

The Cronkite School also is seeking to create pathways for American Indian high school students to study journalism and enter the field. Callahan pointed to a recent American Society of News Editors survey that found Native Americans represent just 0.37 percent of U.S. journalists, even though Native Americans make up nearly 2 percent of the U.S. population and 6 percent of Arizona residents.

Cronkite News, the student-powered, faculty-led news organization of Arizona PBS, has made Native American coverage a prime area of focus through its news vertical, Indian Country. The school also is in the process of a search for the nation’s first named professorship focused on the intersection of Native Americans and the news media. Cronkite also is working to create one of the first student chapters of the Native American Journalists Association.

“We hope through these initiatives we will be able to recruit more young Native American students to journalism programs like ours while helping to provide deeper and richer news coverage,” Callahan said.

Trahant (pictured above) said expansion plans for the news outlet include the creation of the first-ever national television news program by and about Native Americans.

“We all know the stereotypes and narratives that come out of Hollywood and Washington,” Trahant said. “So a news program, one that reaches millions of people via public television stations, has the chance to change the story, showing the beauty, intelligence and aspirations of Native people.”

Trahant said the move to Cronkite is “game-changing” for Indian Country Today. It “builds on so much of the work that ASU is already doing” with its Native and borderlands coverage, the new research professor and the school’s commitment to diversity in news organizations. He added that the “Cronkite School has become a magnet for great journalism with Cronkite News, Arizona PBS and other innovative programs.”

The majority of the Indian Country Today operation will move to ASU this summer. ICT will keep its digital team in Washington, D.C.

Top photo: Indian Country Today, a nonprofit media outlet covering tribes and Native people, is moving its newsroom to the Cronkite School under a new partnership with ASU. ICT editor Mark Trahant says the expansion is "game-changing" for the news organization and will include the first-ever national television news program by and about Native Americans. Photo by Jaynie Parrish

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Native American view of the Grand Canyon's centennial celebration

February 25, 2019

Indigenous peoples historically have been disrupted by the American government and left to fend for themselves where the Grand Canyon is concerned

Editor's note: This story is part of an ASU Now series celebrating the centennial of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Most people view the Grand Canyon as a place of recreation; they go there to sightsee, hike, raft and camp. 

But the people who have lived there for millennia see it differently.

Native Americans view the Grand Canyon through myriad lenses: As a land tied to their place of origin. As a place to be both feared and revered. As a place of opportunity. As an inspiration for cultural expression. As a locale that is their history. As a holy site.

And they view it territorially among themselves.

All these elements run as deep and as wide as the canyon. 

Feb. 26, 2019, marks the centennial celebration of the Grand Canyon as a national park, but the anniversary does not mark the same experience for all peoples affected. 

“It’s the 100th anniversary of the U.S. claiming the Grand Canyon, which for indigenous communities is a moment of displacement, denial of heritage rights and political oppression,” said Theresa Avila, assistant professor of art and curator at California State University Channel Islands and the former manager of ASU’s Simon Burrow Transborder Map Collection. “We’re victims of a limited understanding of our own history as the United States, which has traditionally denied and omitted indigenous communities’ significance in the story of our country and in the process denied their presence, contributions and rights.”

Avila will be a presenter at the Mapping the Grand Canyon Conference on Feb. 28-29 at ASU’s Tempe campus. In her presentation, “Tracing the History of Native American Communities in Relation to the Grand Canyon”, she will address how historical representation of indigenous communities in relation to the Grand Canyon are typically grounded in the colonization of the Americas.

“Historically the narrative of the Grand Canyon has been presented to us through the lens of European explorers and U.S. westward expansion as Manifest Destiny," Avila said. "However, the story of the Grand Canyon is not just about the celebration of nation building; it is also about colonial practices that have historically eradicated indigenous ways of being while also creating mechanisms for the denial of their civic rights and social justice.”

Uranium mine

The Orphan Lode Mine is located on the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, about two miles west of Grand Canyon Village. A former "rich grade" uranium ore mine, productive from 1956 to 1969, and a present-day highly contaminated radioactive waste site, the mine was opened in 1893 by Daniel L. Hogan as a copper claim and converted to the mining of U308

Chaos in the canyon's backyard

Archaeologists generally agree that ancient humans have been living in and around the Grand Canyon for approximately 10,000 years. Native American inhabitance of the Grand Canyon dates roughly to 200 B.C., when the Ancestral Puebloan people (commonly known as the Anasazi) lived within the boundaries of the Four Corners region and migrated toward the Grand Canyon. It was around this time that the Anasazi also migrated from the east and existed within the canyon. The Anasazi Granary, carved in the Redwall Limestone near the foot of the Nankoweap Trail, is an example of ancient seed- and food-storage facilities that can still be seen today. 

Though still murky to historians, it’s believed the Anasazi collapsed as a civilization around A.D. 1110. 

When the Anasazi vanished, other Native American tribes moved into the canyon and began to live there year-round, migrating between the inner canyon and upper plateau. Hardships began to emerge in the mid-1800s. The new frontier brought with it brutal wars, conflicts, murders and forced relocation as settlers moved to the West, put down stakes and mined the land for gold, silver, copper, zinc, asbestos and uranium. 

Treaties and relocation efforts by the U.S. government were not advantageous to American Indians, forcing them to other regions where they had to start over again. Those decisions have caused economic hardships for tribes for centuries.

“Of the 374 total U.S.-Indian treaties, 229 of these agreements involved the Indian nations surrendering tribal lands and 99 treaties promised reservations in exchange,” said Donald L. Fixico, Regents’ and Distinguished Foundation Professor of history. “Today there are 327 reservations and nearly 600 federally recognized tribes, and 22 of them live in Arizona.”

The two most prevalent tribes that reside on reservations at the Grand Canyon today are the Havasupai and the Hualapai. The canyon is also described as the place of emergence for the Navajo, Hopi, Paiute and Zuni. Today, Grand Canyon National Park recognizes 11 affiliated American Indian tribes from Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and UtahThe 11 federally recognized tribes are the Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Paiute Indian Tribes of Utah, Shivwits Band of Paiute, Moapa Paiute, Las Vegas Paiute, San Juan Southern Paiute and Yavapai-Apache..

While the Navajo, Havasupai and Hualapai reservations border the Grand Canyon National Park, these ancestral boundaries were overlooked by federal managers who often shortchangedIn the case of the Hopi tribe, they were shortchanged approximately 3.5 million acres of land. these tribes when taking their land.

After nearly a century of government policies aimed at assimilation and diminution of tribal government, the 1970s brought major change. The federal government began to support tribal self-determination, and in 1975 the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act transferred hundreds of thousands of acres back to the tribes.

In the 1990s the government started including tribes in park management decisions. This helped pave the way for the hypertourism — though some would call it hyperexploitation — that we see today at the Grand Canyon.


The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a transparent, horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge and tourist attraction in Arizona near the Colorado River on the edge of a side canyon in the west of the main canyon. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Two sides of tourism

The Grand Canyon we know today might appear to exist just as it did thousands of years ago, but around its periphery a new landscape has emerged: hotels, tourist shops, sightseeing companies and eateries. Helicopters constantly hover overhead, and sightseeing boats cram the water at the western end. River trips are capped at 25,000 individuals a year, and a surge is expected in 2019, with a waiting list of close to 1,000 people

For decades, tourism at the Grand Canyon was relatively stable, with approximately 5 million visitors annually. But with more people travelling from around the world these days, those numbers have increased substantially. In 2017, the National Park Service announced the Grand Canyon drew more than 6.2 million visitors. 

Brian Skeet, a student worker in ASU’s Center for Indian Education who grew up in the Grand Canyon National Park, visited home last summer and noted a big uptick in tourism.

“During the summer it’s nonstop, and tour buses are stacked one right behind the other,” said Skeet, who is Navajo. “They say they want to reduce pollution in the area, but I don’t see how it can be done when those buses are continually running. If you lose respect for nature, you will ultimately pay for it.”

But for now, tribes in the area are looking at various ways to capture some of those tourism dollars. 

Some are better poised than others.

The Hualapai reservation encompasses about 1 million acres along 108 miles of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. Occupying part of three northern Arizona counties — Coconino, Yavapai and Mohave — the reservation’s topography varies from rolling grassland to thick forests to rugged canyons.  

Known as the “People of the Tall Pines,” the Hualapai run two main tourist attractions: Grand Canyon West resortGrand Canyon West resort offers tour and meal packages that includes rafting, boating, horseback riding, helicopter tours and zip-lining. and the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that extends 70 feet out past the rim of the canyon. These two attractions draw close to a million visitors a year. 

In the 1990s, the Hualapai spent $1 million on a casino. However, the site was too remote, and a majority of tourists came to see and experience the Grand Canyon, not gamble. Less than a year after opening the casino, the Hualapai shut it down. 

The Havasupai, also known as the “People of the Blue-Green Water,” live on 3 million acres near the South Rim. The arrival of the Havasupai is set at around A.D. 1300, and they are known to be the only permanent, continuous inhabitants of the Grand Canyon. It's called “Wikatata” in their native tongue.

Cowboys and miners disrupted their way of life in the late 1800s, and in 1866 a three-year war commenced between the Havasupai people and the U.S. Army. 

President Rutherford B. Hayes deeded 38,000 acres to the Havasupai along Havasu Creek in 1880, but two years later reduced their ownership to just 500 acres. When Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919, they were relegated to a reservation at the southwest corner of the park. In 1975, litigation resulted in 185,000 acres being returned to the Havasupai. 

village of Supai

The village of Supai, at the western edge of the Grand Canyon, is at the bottom of 3,000-foot deep Havasu Canyon and accessible only by foot, mule or helicopter.  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today the tribe has about 700 members whose livelihood largely comes from tourism as well as income from selling their gaming rights to other tribes. More than 20,000 people annually visit the village of Supai, either hiking there, riding mules or traveling by helicopter down into the canyon.

The Hopi Tribe, made up of 12 villages on three mesas spread out over 1.5 million acres, currently has a population of 12,000 people. The Hopi reservation is remote and rural and completely contained by the Navajo reservation, which limits its economic development options. It is one of the most underdeveloped and most vulnerable populations in the United States; the tribe's position became even more precarious with the shutdown of the Mohave Generating Station in 2005.

According to a 2016 economic report, the plant accounted for 88 percent of the Hopi Tribe’s General Fund. The tribe’s only constant revenue source today is coal sales to Peabody Energy, but they continue to lag behind other surrounding communities and rely heavily on federal funds for support. To recoup some of the lost income, they are currently looking at harnessing other alternative-energy sources, such as solar and wind development, plus eco- and cultural tourism, gaming, light industrial and manufacturing and traditional Hopi farming. 

Conflicting opinions within tribes

The Navajo Nation, covering 16 million acres spread throughout Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, is land rich and cash poor. Many Navajo suffer from severe poverty, addiction, suicide and crime, and a third of the households have incomes of less than $15,000 a year, according to the Arizona Rural Policy Institute. So when outside developers approached the tribe in 2009 with a proposal for a mega-resort, tramway and RV park located on 420 acres of tribal land on the east rim of the Grand Canyon, some members of the Navajo Nation Council eagerly embraced the idea. But not Russell Begaye, the former Navajo Nation president.

“When my grandchildren come, I want them to see this place the way my ancestors saw it,” he told a journalist. “We don’t want this area developed — we do not want to see Disneyland on the edge of the canyon.”

The Grand Canyon Escalade would have carried 10,000 people a day to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, a site sacred to the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and other Native people of the Grand Canyon region who came there to pray. 

“For the Hopi, the Grand Canyon is where our people emerged,” said Trevor Reed, a Hopi and associate professor of law with ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “It also holds the ruins, the shrines, the petroglyphs and the markings of our tribes and others. It’s a remarkable place, and the Escalade project was so off-putting for many reasons.”

The project, which was scheduled to break ground in 2015, promised to create 2,000 on-site jobs and 1,500 more indirectly. The tribe was asked to initially invest $65 million for infrastructure for roads and electrification, and were promised between $40 million and $70 million annually. Deswood Tome — special adviser to then-Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, who backed the project at the time — told National Geographic, “If the National Park Service and the Hualapai Tribe and other entities are making a profit off the Grand Canyon, who are they to say the Navajo Nation cannot do that?”

It was a legitimate question, but the answer was far more complex than he could have anticipated.

It didn’t take long for detractors and those opposed to the Escalade project to coalesce. Resolutions objecting to it were passed by the Hopi, Zuni and All Pueblo Council of Governors, and a coalition of local Navajo families who had maintained homes for generations near the confluence collected dozens of resolutions from chapters, tribes and other groups, along with thousands of petition signatures, against the development.

There was infighting among tribe members, and some heated meetings about the project were held. It caused strife and animosity among family and friends, and the Navajo Nation police abruptly ended a September 2012 meeting as tensions spiked among attendees.

“Nobody was hurt and nobody was arrested, or anything like that. It was just out of precaution,” Erny Zah, then spokesman for the president and vice president of the Navajo Nation said to media at the time. 

Farina King, an assistant history professor at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma who received her doctorate at ASU, said Native American tribes have been historically disrupted by the American government and left to fend for themselves where the Grand Canyon is concerned. That has often resulted in infighting among the tribes.

“There isn’t always consensus, and some of these issues have been ongoing for years,” said King, who is from the Navajo Nation. “There’s also internal dynamics that make this a sensitive issue, and people don’t always like to have their dirty laundry out there, too. It’s all a matter of diplomacy and trying to understand all of the different perspectives of history.”

Supporters of Escalade and developers scrambled to find a tribal council person to sponsor their bill, and when they did the Navajo Nation Council voted 16-2 against the project. At least that was the official version.

According to Trevor Reed, the unofficial version is that the Hopi, who view the confluence as a “final spiritual resting place” and have several archaeological sites in and around the Grand Canyon, made a special plea to the Navajo Nation before the vote.

“Hopi Chairman Herman Honanie actually went and spoke to members of the Navajo Nation tribal council in Window Rock about a compact the two tribes have to preserve each other’s sacred sites,” Reed said. “It was an interesting moment because the Hopis and Navajos haven’t always gotten along. In fact, most of our time together in this area has been pretty contentious. But these two tribes came together to preserve our history.” 

Window to Canyon

A picture taken through the window of the iconic Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto

Keeping the canyon grand

The Grand Canyon’s natural structures, ecology, species and waters continue to face new threats. 

In 2016, conservationists and environmental groups pushed back against an Italian developer — the Stilo Group — that wanted to build a resort, commercial space and thousands of new homes in Tusayan, a small town two miles from the park’s main entrance at the South Rim. To get the water the project would require, the Stilo Group wanted to punch through to one of the area’s aquifers. Opposition groups also charged the proposal would disrupt wildlife, snarl traffic and damage sites Native Americans hold sacred. 

The plan was eventually rejected by the U.S. Forest Service for its “untold impacts to the surrounding tribal and National Park lands,” said Heather Provencio, supervisor of the Kaibab National Forest, in a press release at the time. 

Several uranium mines currently operate within the watershed that drains into the Grand Canyon National Park. In October 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a review of a case centered on mining around the Grand Canyon despite a 20-year ban put in place in 2012 by the Obama administration. 

“There are people who want to open up uranium mining, and that seems increasingly possible under this present administration,” Reed said.

Such mining operations, he adds, are a potential threat not just to the Havasupai, whose sole source of drinking water is at risk, but everyone who lives in the Western states and relies on the Colorado River. Uranium mining may disperse chemicals that pose a risk to plants and animals as well, Reed said. 

“The Grand Canyon is still a very fragile place,” he said.

Accordingly, in observing and celebrating the centennial of Grand Canyon National Park perhaps it’s best to end with the stirring words of two people regarding that natural and sacred wonder of the world — one white, the other Native American.

“Leave it as is,” urged President Teddy Roosevelt in 1903. “You cannot improve upon it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

Addressing the National Park Service in 1975, Havasupai Tribal Chairman Lee Marshall was equally direct and eloquent. “I heard all you people talking about the Grand Canyon,” he said. “Well, you’re looking at it. I am the Grand Canyon.”

Top photo: The amazing view of Havasu Falls from above the falls after a long hike through the desert. Photo courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto 

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A Grand moment

February 25, 2019

In honor of the canyon's centennial as a national park, ASU Now looks at the landmark's past and future

The Grand Canyon National Park turns 100 on Feb. 26, but the canyon's history goes back far beyond that.

Its history is layered with discovery, reverence and adventure. It is where we journey to find ourselves, to lose ourselves, to pick up a new trail and continue onward.

The history of the Grand Canyon is tied into the history of our state and its peoples, both ancient and newly arrived. To honor the park's centennial, ASU Now has gathered some of those stories — stories of play, stories of loss, stories of exploration and protecting what is there.

Come to the edge and see. Let us take a fresh look at an ancient wonder.


Stories of the Grand Canyon

Literally and figuratively, the Grand Canyon is Arizona’s biggest attraction. Naturally, it draws the attention of artists, faculty and scientists from Arizona State University, the state’s biggest university. From a university president who took an unexpected plunge to a photographer who travels through time, here are their stories.

The future of visiting the canyon

Grand Canyon National Park draws visitors from all over the world to bask in its beauty, making it not only a precious ecological resource to cherish but also a major economic driver for the state of Arizona. Balancing the twin missions of access and preservation is key to its future, according to experts at ASU.

Verses inspired by the vistas

Perhaps the most stunning of natural wonders is the Grand Canyon. ASU Now asked some of the university’s most dynamic wordsmiths to wax poetic about the famous landmark — hear them read their new works.

Mapping the canyon

Without maps, we would not be able to see the Grand Canyon. Only a bird could see the immense gash in the Earth’s crust, almost 300 miles long. At the end of February, ASU will host the first conference exploring the art, science and practice of Grand Canyon cartography.

Native American views of the centennial celebration

Native Americans view the Grand Canyon through myriad lenses: As a land tied to their place of origin. As a place to be both feared and revered. As a place of opportunity. As an inspiration for cultural expression. And they view it territorially among themselves. All these elements run as deep and as wide as the canyon. 

Love and loss in the canyon

This is a story about three people, passion, a place, and triumphing over tragedy. Three passionate backpackers and the Grand Canyon, the place which united them, and separated them. And then elevated them.

Ooh and awe: The science behind our fascination with nature

If you gasped the first time you saw the canyon in person, you aren't alone; many visitors are awestruck. Associate Professor of social psychology Lani Shiota is an expert on the emotion of awe. She's working to uncover the secrets of the emotion, and she has made some interesting discoveries.

A light dusting of Grand history

In river lingo, what's a yard sale? What famous people have rafted through the canyon? What role did the Colorado River play in Barry Goldwater's political career? Find out in our sampler of history and trivia.

FEATURED IN 'THE CONVERSATION': How a place once called 'valueless' became grand  

WATCH: 'Beyond the Rim: The Next 100 Years of Grand Canyon National Park,' a documentary from AZPBS

MORE TO EXPLORE: The 100 Years of Grand Canyon Centennial Project is a collaboration between ASU Library, Northern Arizona University Cline Library, and Grand Canyon National Park.

Top map courtesy of the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub

ASU archaeologist appointed to NAGPRA federal advisory committee

February 21, 2019

Frank McManamon is an archaeologist who has devoted his career to guiding policy in a way that balances concerns about sensitive tribal cultural resources and the public benefits of historical and scientific scholarship and research.

In recognition of this work, he was recently appointed as a member of Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act's federal advisory committee. A photo of ASU research professor Francis P. McManamon Prior to becoming a research professor at ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change and founding director of the university’s Center for Digital Antiquity, Frank McManamon served as chief archaeologist of the National Park Service and in other positions deeply involved in developing guidance for public archaeology at the federal level. Download Full Image

Prior to becoming a research professor at Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change and founding director of the university’s Center for Digital Antiquity, McManamon served as chief archaeologist of the National Park Service and in other positions deeply involved in developing guidance for public archaeology at the federal level.

These efforts included high-profile assignments such as providing technical assistance for the Kennewick Man case; advising on the New York City African Burial Ground project; and participating in a United States UNESCO delegation to address illegal artifact trafficking.

When the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act became federal law in 1990, McManamon was working as departmental consulting archaeologist for the Department of the Interior. He and his office were assigned to implement the new law for the secretary of the Interior.

“This allowed me to be involved in several aspects of the new law’s implementation, including drafting regulations, creating and organizing the new NAGPRA Review Committee, and overseeing the first 18 meetings of the seven-person committee, from 1992 all the way to 2000,” he said.

The law itself established — among other directives — a more comprehensive federal monitoring system for identification and repatriation of any culturally unidentifiable Native American remains (and associated funerary or sacred objects), as well protection for Native American graves and cultural items from archaeological sites on federal and tribal lands.

The secretary of the Interior, who ultimately oversees NAGPRA, is supported by a committee that compiles the ongoing inventory of remains and items, recommends specific actions for their disposition, and helps resolve conflicts that can’t be settled locally.

The group members also submit an annual report to Congress on their progress and on any barriers they encountered in carrying out the law.

“The committee does not bind the federal government, but its view and recommendations will be a very important consideration for any action that the secretary must take,” McManamon said.

The law requires that committee members come from diverse backgrounds, he said, with the secretary choosing three from nominations submitted by Native American, Native Alaskan and Native Hawaiian groups and traditional religious leaders; three from nominations by national museum organizations and scientific organizations (of which McManamon is one); and one from a joint nomination by all other members.

Now, armed with additional insights from a distinguished career in academia and an accomplished record of preserving and sharing archaeological data at the helm of Digital Antiquity, McManamon is once again looking forward to “engaging in important NAGPRA policy matters, this time as a committee member.”

Aaron Pugh

Manager of Marketing and Communications, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


Geoscience Alliance national conference inspires Native American students to pursue careers in the geosciences

February 18, 2019

Earlier this month, Arizona State University hosted the Geoscience Alliance, the nation's leading organization devoted to promoting geoscience studies and careers for Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other indigenous students.

“The Geoscience Alliance has been important for many years for its unique and far-ranging mission of mentoring and supporting Native American and other indigenous students and professionals in the geosciences,” said ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration Professor and geologist Steven Semken, who served as host for the conference. Geology Professor Steven Semken of the School of Earth and Space Exploration leads a geology field trip to the Superstition Mountains with Geoscience Alliance conference participants. Download Full Image

“More recently, it has further grown in importance by catalyzing research and education involving indigenous geoscientific knowledge and its applications — work that is primarily led by indigenous geoscientists themselves.”

The alliance has long had an active presence at annual meetings of much larger professional organizations like the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America, but its own national conference, held every few years, has the greatest impact on the stakeholder community overall. This year’s conference included 160 attendees for the three-day conference, which included workshops, breakout sessions, invited speakers and a poster session. 

Ángel Garcia, who earned his PhD in geosciences from ASU earlier this year and is currently a visiting assistant professor at James Madison University in Virginia, was one of the conference’s returning attendees and is also on the conference planning committee. 

Garcia first attended the Geoscience Alliance in 2015 when he was a graduate student at ASU. He learned about the conference from SemkenSemken is also a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Education through Exploration and the Global Drylands Center at ASU., who suggested that it would be a good way to develop networks in the geosciences with people who were interested in multicultural topics and indigenous cultures. 

“People from tribal lands have a strong connection to places,” said Garcia, who is Puerto Rican and Dominican. “We might first describe what tribe we are from, but then refer to a specific place within our tribal lands where we grew up and have family. Connections to those places go back generations for us.”

For Garcia and other participants, one of the best parts of the conference is making connections, networking with other scientists and meeting other students in the geosciences. 

“These conferences give us an opportunity to learn from people with a similar culture and background,” said Garcia. 

“At the Geoscience Alliance, I felt included right from the start. Now every time I see this group of people at other conferences we identify ourselves as members of the alliance, both as students and professionals.”

Since the first conference, the alliance has adopted the practice of “talking circles” from Native American ceremonies.

“We develop questions, break up into small groups and make sure each person gets a chance to talk,” explained Diana Dalbotten, who is on the alliance conference planning committee and is a diversity director at the University of Minnesota. “We have developed this to make our conference more participatory and to respect the idea that everyone is there to teach and everyone is there to learn.”

Conference attendees were also invited on several diverse field-trip opportunities related to different aspects of the geosciences, including a trip to the Superstition Mountains, the Heard Museum and Biosphere 2.

On the last night of the conference, attendees were asked to participate in a “science pop-up night” where everyone could spend three minutes talking about their projects and research. This event was so popular that even though it was the last day of the conference, it went well into the night. 

“It’s important for ASU to host events that focus on local communities in Arizona and especially indigenous communities in the Southwest,” said Garcia. “Giving teachers, researchers, professors and students the opportunity to share knowledge and connection to the land shows that ASU embraces diversity.” 

The conference organizers, including Semken and Garcia, hope that participants will seek more collaboration with each other in the future as a result of this conference. Garcia, for example, is working with two other researchers he met through the alliance on a National Science Foundation proposal to study the geology of caves in the Caribbean.

They also hope to continue to offer travel awards to the conference.

“Some of us come from places that are not financially stable, making conferences like this out of reach,” said Garcia. “But thanks to sponsors like the National Science Foundation, the alliance is able to provide the opportunity to those who otherwise would not be able to go.”

Previous conferences were held in the northern Midwest, the northern Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest.

“It was an honor for ASU to host this most recent conference in Phoenix and Tempe,” said Semken. “I think that the alliance members enjoyed their visit to our campus and their time in the warm desert sun.”

Semken is grateful for the support given to this endeavor by many colleagues in the School of Earth and Space Exploration; the ASU President's Special Advisor for American Indian Initiatives Bryan Brayboy; ASU Vice President for Tribal Relations Jacob Moore and his staff; and to ASU alumna (and a former graduate student of Semken’s) Nievita Bueno Watts, who is the co-director of the Geoscience Alliance.

The Geoscience Alliance is a national alliance of individuals committed to broadening participation of Native Americans in the geosciences. Its members are tribal colleges, universities, research centers, Native elders and community members, students and educators.

The alliance’s goals include creating new collaborations in support of geoscience education for Native American students, establishing a new research agenda aimed at closing gaps in our knowledge on barriers and best practices related to Native American participation in the geosciences, increasing participation by Native Americans in setting the national research agenda on issues in the geosciences, providing a forum to communicate educational opportunities for Native American students in geoscience programs, and understanding and respecting indigenous traditional knowledge.

The Geoscience Alliance conferences are made possible through the generous and ongoing support of the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


ASU and MacArthur ‘genius' poet Natalie Diaz shows the power of language, humanities

February 14, 2019

“What is the language we need to live right now?”

That’s the question Arizona State University poet Natalie Diaz posed to an audience of some 250 students, faculty and community members during a presentation of her works at Old Main on the Tempe campus this week. ASU poet Natalie Diaz reads a selection of newer works for an audience at Old Main. ASU poet, professor and 2018 MacArthur fellow Natalie Diaz reads newer works to a group of some 250 students, faculty and community members at Old Main. Photo by Bruce Matsunaga Download Full Image

Diaz, who is the current Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry and an associate professor in the Department of English, was one of 25 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” fellows in 2018. Drawing on her experiences growing up on the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, and navigating indigenous, Latinx and queer identities, her work challenges the belief systems of contemporary American culture.

A collaboration between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of English and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, the event marked her first reading at ASU.

Dean of Humanities Jeffrey Cohen said it celebrated Diaz’s work on its own and its influence on the college.

“When the news came of her ‘genius’ award, we felt like the world was catching up with something we at ASU have always known,” he said. “Natalie has been doing important teaching and work here for several years that has enabled our students to thrive along with her.”

Even without last year’s MacArthur award, that impact is evident. Diaz’s work has amassed far-reaching acclaim over the last decade and since the release of her first collection, "When My Brother Was an Aztec," by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. But in that first question at Old Main, she invited audience members to think beyond the written word.

“Poetry for me, the least of it is what is happening on my page,” she said. “That is only where it begins.”

Language as a three-dimensional force is a concept Diaz has explored a lot. As a former professional basketball player, she has compared writing to the physical force of playing the sport. In addition to her own writing, she has worked with ASU’s Center for Indian Education to preserve the Mojave language by documenting stories and transcribing conversations with elders.

It is within that cross-boundary lens that Diaz encouraged people at the reading to think of poetry. As society continues to shift, she said, language is a tool to redefine the world.

“Our young people learning languages are now charged with creating new words to describe the things in their life,” she said. “That’s why I think poetry is so important — it is concerned with every single word, and that’s why the humanities are also so important.”

Likewise, Cohen said Diaz’s forward-thinking outlook on language helped usher in a new era of learners.

“One of the many things I admire about Professor Diaz is that she is student-centered,” he said. “Much of what she does here is ensuring that the next generation has every opportunity to flourish.”

In order to stay relevant, Cohen said, humanities studies must resonate with students themselves. Scholars like Diaz exemplify the potential.

“Many of our ASU students are first-generation, and often students of color, and sometimes lacking in models for the various kinds of futures they can make,” he said. “When they look at her, many will see what is possible for themselves.”

That was the case for Laramie Kisto, a Chandler-Gilbert Community College student and member of the Gila River Indian Community, to which Diaz also belongs.

“I’m studying social work, and being able to express my past through poetry is an outlet I’m interested in,” said Kisto, who plans to attend ASU after completing courses at Chandler-Gilbert. “Coming here and seeing someone from my community showed me that there could be an entry for me, too.”

Diaz read a handful of newer works that touched on everything from basketball and family crises to police violence against Native Americans and the very physical sensation of moving one’s hips.

Napoleon Marrietta, a graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program, said the breadth of Diaz’s selection spoke to the power of language in activism.

“My thesis is focused on indigenous activism in the Phoenix area and how we implement different voices to fight for a cause,” he said. “I think poetry can shed some light on a lot of the things we deal with at home.”

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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Study finds lack of mental health interventions for ethnic minority youth in the US

February 12, 2019

Hispanic and Latino youth are more likely to drink alcohol at a younger age than their African-American and non-Hispanic Caucasian peers, but they are less likely to receive treatment for substance abuse.

African-American youth show more symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than their Caucasian peers, but they are less likely to receive appropriate treatment for disruptive behaviors.

The suicide rate among Native Americans has been outpacing the rest of the country since 2003. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Native American adolescents, and there are very few effective interventions.

A research team of experts from Arizona State University, DePaul University and the University of Southern California has evaluated the effectiveness of interventions for mental health problems like substance use, disruptive behaviors and suicide prevention in ethnic minority American youth. The study, which was commissioned by Division 53 of the American Psychological Association, will be published Feb. 12 in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

“This careful study provides a benchmark for evidence-based interventions in minority youth, which is central to providing effective care to the diverse youth population and will be very useful to funders of research, payers of health care and family members,” said Margarita Alegria, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Alegria was not involved in the study. “This evaluation also sets the groundwork for the future, by identifying the need to focus on the development and evaluation of more interventions for minority groups that have not yet been addressed, like Asian-Americans, Native Americans and youth who do not speak English.”

Ten years ago, there were zero evidence-based interventions for American ethnic minority youth that met the strongest criteria and were considered well-established.

Now there are four.

Well-established and evidence-based

To evaluate the effectiveness of mental health interventions for ethnic minority youth, ASU’s Armando Pina, associate professor of psychology, worked with Antonio Polo, associate professor of clinical psychology at DePaul University, and Stanley Huey, associate professor of psychology and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. The trio rated evidence-based interventions designed to target problems like anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior, substance use, trauma and stress reactions and self-harm or suicide. In total, the team evaluated 65 interventions that had either analyzed the impact on ethnic minority participants or been tested on a participant group that was at least 75 percent ethnic minority youth.

The highest rating was “well-established” and included interventions that were tested using randomized controlled experimental designs, had been replicated by more than one research group and demonstrated benefits to the youth that were statistically significant.

The four interventions that met the well-established criteria were designed to treat anxiety, disruptive behaviors and substance use in ethnic minority youth.

The team found cognitive behavioral interventions were effective at helping Hispanic and Latino youths experiencing anxiety. These interventions teach strategies to change problem thinking patterns and behaviors and often include social skills training.

Interventions that involved parents, called family therapy, helped African-American youth struggling with disruptive behaviors and Hispanic and Latino youth with drug- or alcohol-use problems. Including the family, school system or peer networks in therapy to address disruptive behaviors was also effective in helping African-American youth.

“Parents and caregivers need to know that for some of the most common problems children and adolescents face, there are well-established treatments that have been systematically tested,” said Pina, who was the lead author on the study. “They should demand children get these empirically supported treatments and interventions.”

From bench to bedside

On top of the four well-established interventions, the researchers identified other treatment programs that met less-stringent rating criteria and could be considered best practices in the future.

The analysis also determined which mental health problems did not yet have effective interventions for ethnic minority youth and which minority groups were underrepresented. There were no well-established interventions for depression, trauma and stress reactions, self-harm, suicide or the co-occurrence of more than one problem, like anxiety and disruptive behaviors. And, none of the 65 studies analyzed by the research team included enough Asian-American or Native American participants to evaluate whether any of the interventions were robust for these populations.

Related: Book provides a new framework for making sense of mental illness

“Including Native American youth in research studies is important and requires working directly with tribal nations because they regulate research within their communities. Researchers must invest considerable time to build relationships and establish trust to gain tribal approval for a research study,” said Monica Tsethlikai, assistant professor in ASU’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and an affiliate faculty member of the university’s American Indian Studies program. Tsethlikai was not involved in the study. “Native Americans also have a unique worldview that includes a metaphysical perspective of health and well-being that does not fit within Western interventions, so effective interventions would need to originate from a foundation of respect and reciprocity and would have to be congruent with the lived experiences of Native American youth.”

The team advocated for more research that includes underrepresented ethnic minority populations. Because the trajectory of an evidence-based treatment program from a research setting into the real world takes 17 years on average, the researchers also suggested future work should focus on the development of streamlined methods to develop interventions and test how well they work.

“Research should move outside of the lab and into the community,” Pina said. “Intervention scientists need to increase collaborations with established systems of care and real-world providers, who are under real-world constraints.”

Spanish Version of Video

Top photo: A research team of experts from Arizona State University, DePaul University and the University of Southern California has evaluated the effectiveness of interventions for mental health problems like substance use, disruptive behaviors and suicide prevention in ethnic minority American youth. Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

Science writer , Psychology Department


American Indian students invest in their future at RECHARGE conference

February 8, 2019

Malachi Boni came to ASU’s RECHARGE conference looking for inspiration. Accordingly, the Globe High School sophomore seemed to find it, saying that the event helped him think about his choices after graduation and how going to college might help him fulfill his dreams of becoming a writer.

That reaction illustrates the aim of the annual RECHARGE conference, which took place in January at Arizona State University's West campus: to provide a platform for American Indian students in grades seven through 12 to invest in their education, future and community. ASU representatives speak with students ASU representatives speak with students at the RECHARGE conference on Jan. 14 at ASU's West campus. Photo by Aaron Gould Download Full Image

Sponsored by Access ASU and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, the college readiness program has served thousands of students since its inception eight years ago.  

Throughout the daylong event, nearly 200 junior high and high school students took part in engaging activities and inspiring presentations on topics like culture and identity, college readiness, financial aid and scholarships and college majors.

Students participated in professional and student panels centered around five learning communities — STEM, arts/design/performance, business/leadership, Native history/languages and public/social services. They also received information on financial aid and attended a resource fair that included Native and ASU resources. The last session of the day was a hands-on activity centered around their learning community.

RECHARGE participant Ashley Lopez is a junior at Desert View High School in Tucson and a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe. She appreciated the amount of detailed information she received at the conference.

“I’ve learned a lot from other peoples’ experience, hearing them talk about how they dealt with things like meeting new people and being away from home,” Lopez said.

Nolan Dayon, an eighth-grader at Greenfield Junior High in Gilbert and member of the Hopi tribe also attended RECHARGE. He hopes to study mathematics and engineering and found the STEM sessions especially interesting. He also felt the information about preparing for college and financial aid were very helpful.

“Financially it will help us out a lot, so I have that knowledge down the road,” Dayon said.

Students at RECHARGE conference participate in group activity

Students participate in a STEM-themed group activity during the RECHARGE conference at ASU's West campus. Photo by Aaron Gould

A second RECHARGE conference is scheduled for Feb. 20 at the West campus.

ASU also offers a summer program geared for American Indian students called Inspire. The no-cost, weeklong, residential college readiness program for high school students focuses on academics, personal development and connecting with the ASU American Indian community.

“The RECHARGE conference and Inspire summer program demonstrate ASU’s commitment to excellence, accessibility and local impact for Native American students, their families and their communities,” said Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services. “We are pleased to offer support and guidance as they pursue their higher education and career goals.”

For questions about the Inspire Summer Program, contact Danyel Chleborad at The application period for the program closes April 1.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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Adding a new perspective to the editor's desk

February 4, 2019

2 Native American students at the helm of ASU-sponsored publications

Journalism, a profession with few minorities — and even fewer Native Americans — is now starting to see change.

Taylor Notah, a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Joseph Perez, a journalism sophomore at Cronkite, are editors of two Arizona State University-sponsored publications this semester.

Both come from indigenous backgrounds.

Notah hails from the Navajo Nation and is the current editor of Turning Points, a first-of-its-kind magazine geared specifically for Native American students written by an all indigenous staff.

Perez is a member of the Quinalt tribe from northwestern Washington and is a community editor for The State Press, which was founded in 1906.

Both love telling stories. And both have their own stories to tell.

ASU Now spoke with Notah and Perez about their struggles in the newsroom, overcoming the cultural challenges of the job and how they picked up leadership skills along the way.

Question: Historically it’s been tough getting minorities into the newsroom, despite initiatives and efforts from schools, universities and newspapers from across the country. What was it like for you at the Cronkite School being the only Native American in the classroom?

Taylor Notah: It was challenging but I loved gaining the experience. Knowing to go out and report, learning how to shoot video, things like that. Gaining those skill sets was fun for me. I think being in the newsroom was a challenge because I was the only Native American in Cronkite News, and I didn’t see myself amid all of these young budding professionals who had these really great stories and great backgrounds. In the beginning I felt disconnected with my peers and I didn’t see myself among them.

Joseph Perez: Sitting in a room full of talented journalists every day is intimidating for me, no matter my lineage or theirs. However, when I do take the time to notice, as I often do, that I am typically the only Native American in that room full of talent, the intimidation I feel is magnified greatly. It’s never comforting to be the only person of your kind — whatever that "kind" may be — and even less comforting during these vastly important years in college, where we’re all doing our best to find ourselves, to define who we’ll be in the world. That’s why I did my best to cover Native American affairs as a reporter, to talk to more indigenous students, to incorporate the culture into my work and ultimately to serve as a voice for a people that I think isn’t loud enough in the media today.

Q: Were there any cultural hurdles you had to get over because of the nature of the profession?

TN: I grew up very shy, and so approaching people was the biggest hurdle. On the Navajo Nation, we often tease each other for being shy, and being off of the Navajo Nation being shy is something different. It’s something I still encounter and struggle with when I initially reach out to people even though I love connecting with people to hear their stories. I think a cultural disconnect can be the person I’m interviewing may not understand where I come from. Being in the newsroom you’re being put under the spotlight because they want to hear your stories and they want to hear your ideas. It was very jarring and in the beginning, it was a completely different experience for me.

JP: It was a bit difficult for me to come out of my shell at first, but the newsroom I work in has been beyond accepting of my indigenous roots, and they’ve even encouraged me to use that piece of me and share it with our readership. I have had the best mentors at the State Press that have taught me that who I am and where I come from gives me something worth writing about, not something to overcome. They’ve shown me that my Native American identity is a leg up rather than a hurdle to climb over.

Q: So what made you ultimately stick with journalism?

TN: Because I had story ideas: No one in the newsroom knew what was going on in the community that I came from. My first story for Cronkite was about language revitalization among the Navajo Nation … I would hear from back home the language was declining at a very fast rate. I wanted to report on that because stories about Native Americans aren’t always negative. Yes, our language is declining but there are so many amazing things that are happening by our people who are trying to make the language come back. So I wanted to show that … and that stems from the mission in my work to show the beauty and the resilience and the strengths that Native Americans have. What people in mainstream media always see are stereotypes and misconceptions, and I wanted to turn that around.

JP: Journalism is what I love. I’ve been a writer for a good chunk of my life, and finding this niche where I can write, but write something worth reading is all I could ever ask for. I’ve never once doubted whether this is what I want to do, and the fact that I can do this incredibly important job while offering a voice to my people is a dream come true.

Q: Any major turning point for you?

TN: We did this intermediate reporting class, taught by Maureen West. I actually took that class two times. The first time I tried reporting how I thought they wanted me to report — I’d go to these council meetings in Mesa or cover an event, and I didn’t really connect with it. I just bombed because I was trying to step into a world where I didn’t feel connected. So I retook the class with Maureen West and she really pushed and encouraged me. She told me that I had good story ideas and that I should pursue them. So I began seeking stories in Native communities where I felt comfortable reporting. I first got published through the Gila River Indian Community, and the editor said they had a story I could write. I had to have six stories to pass the class. So with GRIC, they realized that both of us are helping each other if we tell our stories together.

JP: A major turning point in my journalistic endeavors was when I began writing for the State Press. I had a job doing what I loved, and I felt like a shark that had smelled blood. I got a taste for reporting as a job, and walking into that newsroom every Thursday night only assured me that this is what I was meant to do. I believe that everybody has a purpose, and as soon as I started writing for this student-run publication, I knew that I had found mine. Writing and now editing for the State Press has made me sure that there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather do than this.

Q: How did the opportunity come up for your current position?

TN: I was on the Navajo reservation one summer and I got an email from Rebecca Blatt, my director at Cronkite News, who mentioned a possible podcast opportunity. She connected me with Dr. Amanda Tachine at the Center for Indian Education who was looking for someone to do a podcast, and I had experience in that from Cronkite. So we connected and I found out about “Turning Points,” and heard they needed someone to finish a few stories. That was my reconnection to Native communities and stories on campus. That’s where it all came back for me and where I find myself now. I’m honored with all of these connections that brought me to my current path now.

JP: This past fall was my second semester writing for the State Press and I had decided to take on a full-time reporting position. It was arduous. I had a really hard time, but I was always proud of the work I did, and it seemed that my editors were as well. It came up in conversation with my editors and leadership that editor applications were opening and I decided I would apply. Friends of mine told me that I’d undoubtedly get the job, but I was extremely nervous to apply nonetheless. Of course, I filled out an application the very day they were open and interviewed for the spot on the very first day I was available to do so. Needless to say, I got the position and I couldn’t be happier with where I am.

Q: Why do you think that historically many young Native Americans have not pursued a career in journalism? And how can this trend be reversed? 

TN: Maybe it’s because they don’t see themselves in this role. I certainly didn’t. All of my other friends pursued other careers and I was the only one in my group who gravitated toward the Cronkite program.

To reverse this, I would say we come from a long line of strong indigenous people and that we can do it. We may be in places that weren’t originally designed for us, but if we think of the need of our community and family, we can achieve anything. That’s where our strength comes from. We face so many obstacles, but in the end we have the teachings from our culture to persist and keep going.

JP: I think it’s hard for Native Americans to pursue a career in journalism because we already feel so underrepresented. Journalism has been a white man’s business for so long and I think it’s hard for any minority to go out on a limb and try to make something of themselves in a field where almost nobody shares their ethnic roots. It’s intimidating. That’s not to say that Native Americans aren’t bold or brave, because that’s so far from the truth. It’s to say how intensely horrifying it is to be the only indigenous person in any field, especially one as important and daunting as the journalistic field. A lack of representation can be a huge hurdle to overcome, and I think it’s a vicious cycle: Natives don’t pursue careers in journalism because there are no Natives in journalism.

The key to changing this is to see our aloneness the way my peers at the State Press taught me to: as an advantage. Newsrooms everywhere are trying to diversify their staff and with so few indigenous people in the field now, the few will stand out to publications. We need to see ourselves not as unwelcome, but as unique. We need to see ourselves as special, because that’s what we are.

I also think that we need to see how important it is that our voice is heard. Without Native American journalists, our voice will never be heard and I think that we, as a people, need to recognize our duty to ourselves to make sure that we are heard — and heard loud and clear.

Top photo: Taylor Notah (left) and Joseph Perez are Native Americans and editors of two Arizona State University-sponsored publications this semester. Notah graduated from Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is the senior editor at "Turning Points, A Guide to Native Student Success." Perez is a sophomore at Cronkite and is the community editor at "The State Press." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now