Native American Journalists Association Celebrates 25 Years
by Dawn of Nations Staff
Dawn of Nations Today

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) will celebrate its 25th anniversary during its national convention in Albuquerque, N.M., from July 30 to August 2, 2009. NAJA has strong roots and has been one of the leading media organizations for journalists of color. While NAJA may be one of the smaller of the UNITY Journalists of Color partners, the organization has proven to be a powerful voice for journalism. NAJA members diligently cover the complex and difficult issues that impact Native American tribes and communities.

Jeff Harjo, who is Seminole and Creek, is NAJA’s executive director.  The organization is based at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK.
“I’m excited about the conference and about the 25th year celebration,” Harjo said. “I encourage everyone to attend, meet old friends and colleagues and make this a year to remember.” Along with NAJA board members and the local planning committee, Harjo has been working diligently for months to ensure the conference has workshops and panels to address the needs of its membership. This year is particularly important given the challenging economic times and the changing state of the news industry. Some of the panels will cover skill building in the digital age, covering border issues, and how social networking is changing news.

Shirley LaCourse is Oglala Lakota/Yakama and the daughter of esteemed NAJA member Richard LaCourse, who was considered the dean of Indian journalism. Shirley LaCourse is the head of the NAJA local planning committee. LaCourse has put in countless hours keeping the committee focused on creating a conference that meets membership needs but encourages continued growth. “This year more than ever we need to come together to ensure the future of Native media is strong and growing,” LaCourse said. “New Mexico looks forward to welcoming everyone to the conference.”

The conference will offer a lot to budding as well as seasoned journalists. Journalist and Twitter poet Mark Trahant is the keynote speaker, and there will be a showcase of local culture, said LaCourse. While the membership takes in the concurrent sessions and panels, the high school and college student media projects will be busy learning the basics of the craft.

Jeffrey Palmer is Kiowa and NAJA’s education director. Palmer knows how critical it is for the organization to address the changing state of the media industry. Native students must be prepared to work in multiple media platforms to distribute news. “This year’s projects will focus on the issues surrounding convergence media in the 21st century,” Palmer said. “Each student will be trained as multi-media specialists, utilizing the most cutting edge ways to tackle stories which affect Indian Country. Our hope is to create competent students who can take the skills into their undergraduate programs and on to the work place as future media professionals.”

The founding members of the Native American Press Association, which later changed its name to the Native American Journalist Association, stand gathered at Penn State University in 1984. Some of these founding members included Richard LaCourse, Minnie Two Shoes, Mike Burgess, George Gorospe and Bonnie Red Elk.

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Dan Littlefield, Sequoyah Research Center


The deadline for applying to either the Student Projects for college students or Project Phoenix for high school students is fast approaching.  Palmer urges students from tribes across the country to apply for the competitive positions by the June 1, 2009 deadline. Students who are selected for either the college or high school project will have all expenses paid, hands-on experience and mentorship from media professionals.

“We are looking for students that have a strong interest in the field of journalism and mass communications. The idea behind these programs is to excite these students’ interests in a career as media professionals. Students who apply to both Project Phoenix and Student Projects should prepare themselves for full immersion into the ever-changing field of journalism and mass communication.”


Editor to Twitter Poet
By Winoka Begay
Dawn of Nations Today

Mark Trahant post Seattle P.I.
photo credit: Photo courtesy of Mark Trahant

Journalists consider him an icon. Others remember him as the man who stumped President George W. Bush with the sovereignty question. Mark Trahant, former editorial page editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, will be the Native American Journalists Association’s (NAJA’s) keynote speaker for their 25th anniversary conference this summer.

“I’m deeply honored,” Trahant said. “I hope to try to talk about some of the people who have come before. So many of us stand on someone else’s shoulders. So try to remember those who help to make [this conference] what it is.” Trahant, a member of Idaho’s Shoshone-Bannock tribes, is one of Native America’s best known journalists. He has worked as an editor and publisher at Moscow-Pullman Daily News, a columnist at The Seattle Times, an executive news editor for The Salt Lake Tribune, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, and a publisher at The Navajo Times in Window Rock, AZ—before their publication was suspended 20 years ago. Trahant was also editor of the editorial page at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (SPI) before his job loss in March 2009.

Trahant, along with many other employees of the SPI were laid-off when the newspaper decided to shift to a web-only product. The shift was made after the newspaper’s publisher, Hearst Corp., decided to shut down the print operation of SPI due to its inability to find a buyer. Trahant’s work experience does not stop there. He was chairman and chief executive officer at the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, a trustee for the Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, and former president of the Native American Journalists Association.

Trahant has also published two books, A History of American Indian Contributions to Journalism and Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes. He is a regular speaker at college campuses and meetings. A few recent keynote appearances are The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, American Journalism Historians Association, and the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Conference. “He is a leading figure when it comes to Native journalism … he is also someone that the whole industry looks up to … he is a respected journalist and a good guy,” said Tom Arviso Jr., Navajo and Chief Executive Officer and publisher of Navajo Times.
Arviso Jr. worked for Trahant as an intern for the Navajo Times when Trahant was a publisher for the newspaper. Arviso Jr., however, does not consider Trahant an iconic figure to the journalism world as most would define him. Instead, he views him as a journalist who has earned respect in this industry.

Trahant can also be found within the world of social networking. Twitter, a social network site and mini-blogging service, is now the home for NewsRimes4Lines, Trahant’s twitter page that hosts daily “news” poems about various current events.
Yesterday he was the bloc to swing
Today he feels Republican sting
Sen. Specter is on other side
Admitting power of reelection pride

“I just wanted to do something, I figured the way some people do the crossword puzzle in the morning,” Trahant said. “I try to sit down and try to do a little ditty. It’s for fun. I think [social networking] is a new form, I think we need to learn how to communicate in that medium.” Even before Twitter, Trahant was not unknown to the world of the Internet. The video where Trahant asked former President Bush what sovereignty means in the 21st century can be found on YouTube and various other video-sharing websites.

“It’s a good way to talk about sovereignty,” said Trahant. “It really caught people’s attention … so I think it is a good way to get into the whole idea … to introduce people who look at the video and then laugh, but then to introduce them to the serious side behind it.”

Right now, Trahant is still “twittering” away and will be teaching a twitter class at the University of Colorado-Boulder titled Twitter Democracy. He is also finishing up a book on Henry Jackson’s contribution to American Indian Policy. He hopes to finish up the draft before his departure to Boulder, but for right now, he says: “I’m open. I’m kinda looking for things.” More information about Mark Trahant can be found at his website:












Pueblo News Pioneer Remembered
by Paul Kasero
Dawn of Nations Today

George Gorospe Sr., working the Pueblo beat.
Photo credit: Courtesy of George Gorospe, Jr.

Memories and Matchbox Cars

George Gorospe, Jr., recalls his earliest memories of his father, George Gorospe, and his passion for writing.

video credit: Paul Kasero


The Pueblo News first rolled off the presses on February 22, 1974. Published by the All Indian Pueblo Council in Albuquerque, N.M., it was initially a bi-weekly. The paper focused on national, state, and local news affecting New Mexico Native communities, and it was well received by the Native population. “I think people actually looked forward to getting some kind of newspaper or newsletter from AIPC during that time. I think they actually appreciated having some kind of paper that represented them,” said Dr. Beverly Singer, a professor of anthropology and Native American studies at the University of New Mexico. Despite this success, only eight months later, the paper had to shut down for six months due to financial problems and the inability to maintain an adequate staff. The closure was announced in an October 21, 1974 Special Edition. Production resumed on March 20, 1975, and it stayed a bi-weekly until it became a monthly in 1977.

George Gorospe, who was from Laguna Pueblo, joined the staff as a reporter and photographer in May of 1983. Gorospe became the editor beginning with the November 1983 issue. During this time, the AIPC public information office conducted a readership survey using a sample of subscribers. Out of the 7,500 copies printed each month, 2,600 were subscriptions. The survey found out that an average of eight people per subscriber read the paper. The survey indicated the Pueblo News had a potential audience of 20,800 readers. Subscribers were primarily from the 19 different pueblos, but subscriptions were also coming in from 37 states and some foreign countries.

George Gorospe Sr., in an undated picture.
Photo credit: Courtesy of George Gorospe, Jr.

Before long, financial troubles began to surface again. Dr. Singer recalls, “[Gorospe] specifically said, ‘I really don’t have any support, I’m just doing this because I feel the need for all the Pueblos to have some information on what AIPC is doing, and also what some of the opportunities are. That’s why I do it.’” Singer adds, “They had reduced the funding, and he was still going to do it, no matter what, until he didn’t have anymore funding. He said, ‘I’m it. I’m the only person now that is keeping it going.’ George was an incredibly dedicated man, and he did so much with what little resources he had.”
Barely ten months after his first issue as editor the final edition of the Pueblo News was printed. If you had read that issue, there was no mention of its finality. Vol. 12 No. 8, August 1984 was the very last issue.

On June 6, 1985, a promotional issue of the Pueblo Times hit the streets. Owned and operated by Gorospe, it was a weekly newspaper from a Native American point of view. Distribution was to be among the 19 Pueblos and the metropolitan areas of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

University of New Mexico Engineering student George Gorospe Jr., displays two Native journalism awards won by his father, George Gorospe Sr. His father was one of the founding members of the Native American Press Association, later renamed the Native American Journalists Association.
Photo credit: Paul Kasero

George Gorospe, Jr., is Gorospe's son. He is currently an engineering major at the University of New Mexico. The younger Gorospe had this to say about his father: “He wanted to bring the whole New Mexico Pueblo community a little closer, especially with each other. From Acoma to Taos, he wanted to give a voice to some of these people that hadn’t had one so far. I think he used his medium to really do that.” He even intended to hire the entire staff of the defunct Pueblo News.

Despite his best efforts and intentions, the paper produced just two issues. “I think that the Pueblo Times was a realization of a dream that he had, and I am immensely proud of his work,” said the younger Gorospe.

George Gorospe Sr., received the General Excellence Award at the third annual convention of the Native American Press Association held in Albuquerque, N.M in April 1987. Later, Gorospe Sr., received an award by the Native American Journalists Association for his "Foresight and Commitment to Native Journalism from 1984-1994.
Photo credit: Paul Kasero

The mission statement of the Native American Journalists Association states, "NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures." The statement should sound familiar to those who knew the elder Gorospe. That’s because he was a member of the group that formed the organization that eventually became NAJA.

Minnie Two Shoes is Assinaboine and a current NAJA board member. She is one of the original co-founders of the organization. “George came with us when we formed our constitutional committee,” Two Shoes said. “The original group met in Pennsylvania and, out of that, we selected a group, and we went down to Choctaw territory. He was among the people who helped draft the beginnings of our organization. He was one of the first that came, along with Trahant and those guys that were in the mainstream. Originally, we were the press association. It was the newspapers that started it out.”

Thirty representatives of Native newspapers and publications met at Penn State University in State College, P.A., in June 1983 to discuss issues related to Native media and submit proposals for the formation of a national organization. No agreements were made, but a sub-committee of 11 was formed to evaluate the proposals. The committee agreed to meet on August 23, 1984 in Tuskahoma, OK, where a constitution and by-laws were drawn up to create the Native American Press Association. In 1990, the name was changed to the Native American Journalists Association to include broadcasting.

In April 1987, NAJA held its third annual convention in Albuquerque, N.M. George Gorospe was then working for the mainstream paper, the Valencia County Bulletin in Las Lunas, N.M. In addition, he was running for a NAJA board position. “What I remember is that his company rented him a two floor poolside suite, and he had a little reception with, like, little nuggets of food,” said Two Shoes. “It was our very first fancy reception, as a matter of fact our one and only reception, that a mainstream media organization had for us. They do that all the time in their organizations, but never with us.” According to his son, George Jr., it sounds like just the thing his father would do, “Pops was an incredibly interesting person. He tried to take advantage of any situation.”

George Gorospe's passion for news is evident, but his career was short-lived.  Gorospe passed away on October 25, 1996.  His dream of providing a newspaper to the Pueblos is just waiting for the next Pueblo journalist to revive it.

Cartoon from the Pueblo Times, Aug., 21, 1985 issue.

Dawn of Nations Today Volumn 4; Issue 1; May 2009, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.

Dawn of Nations Today is a special edition published by the Native American Studies Department, University College, University of New Mexico
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