December 08, 2012

Gary Farmer on Native media

Gary Farmer: Empowering authentic Native media

Gary Farmer speaks out in Tucson on the fear and oppression of authentic Native voices

By Brenda Norrell
Native actor and blues man Gary Farmer was welcomed to Tucson, the ancestral territory of the O'odham, by Ofelia Rivas, who sang a traditional O'odham blessing for Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers, and Pomo film director Tim Ramos.

Between the screenings of Ramos' new film California Indian and Depp and Farmer's Dead Man, Gary spoke of the lack of free press in Indian country and the potential for empowerment through media.

Gary said the United States and Native governments are failing to recognize the importance of Native Americans and their vital place in the media. He described the lack of free press within Indian communities, and the lack of access to electronic media in the US and Canada, during the Native Eyes Film Showcase at the Loft Cinema.

During questions from the audience, Gary said there is a lack of vision by Native leadership to bring about change.

"Native people don't have any access to any form of media that reflects them. I think its quite significant in terms of our own self esteem and why we have such a high rate of suicide."

Describing his life long efforts in radio and television, he said, "I find radio is the more honest form."

"Radio is a way to re-language the people," he said, adding that small radio stations provide for Native languages, and urban radio stations have a great deal of information to share, like AIDS education.

Referring to APTN, Gary said the television network has made a great deal of difference in Canada, in socializing non-Native people to Native issues and stories.

However, he said there's been very little interest in authentic Native media in the US.

"We haven't been able to spark any interest in the US."
Comment:  Norrell apparently took these comments to be a criticism of the Indian Country Today magazine and online sources such as (where I work) and Because these sources are funded by casino-operating tribes (Indian Country Today and or casino advertising (, she questions their independence.

I'd say the "lack of free press within Indian communities" refers mainly to tribally owned and operated newspapers, which tend to publish only the company line. I'm not sure the same restrictions apply to Indian Country Today and, and they definitely don't apply to

If a business unaffiliated with a tribe owned a Native news outlet, the outlet still would be subject to censorship. Every media owner decides what it will and won't publish, based on its own or its advertisers' interests. And every media owner tends to quash criticism of itself.

In other words, a totally independent Native news source is an impossible dream. Even self-made entrepreneurs running publications or websites have their biases. A better solution is to have multiple sources of information, not to expect any particular source to be independent and cover "all" the news.

For more on Native journalism, see Indians Connect Via Social Media and Pine Ridge Gets Media Attention.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another myth about natives today is that tribal casinos support native artists and performers. They do not. Indian casinos hire non-native marketing people at excessive salaries, pay non-native artists and speakers higher fees and hide behind marketing stats to avoid native artists. So all you non-natives that think Indian casinos open their doors to Indian country are living a lie.