Thank you for making Indigenous Wire's first month a smashing success!
Now: Please allow me to introduce myself.
Happy Monday, Wiredians! (Yes, if Jacqueline Keeler can have her “Pretendians” and satire websites can have their “Karendians” and some of the guys who create Reservation Dogs can proclaim themselves “Defendians,” we are more than willing to claim “Wiredians” for this growing Indigenous-minded #NativeNerdNews community. For now, that’s going to be our shorthand for connected, political/policy-minded Indians and our interested friends, allies, frenemies and enemies alike.
On the last day of this first month, we wanted to take some time to orient new readers, give some insider-y info that only you Ron Klain types will truly take the time to ponder (to Ron, again, we know you’re reading, and we’d highly recommend nailing down that Supreme Court nominee instead) and to share some of our early highlights.
If you read our Jerry Maguire-like manifesto when we started this thing, you already know our big picture. And, boy, have the journalistic problems we talked about in there played out in a big way in just these past 30 days. To name but a few examples that reflect many of the concerns we raised:
Major mainstream media outlets muddled stories that were focused on Indian Country, failing to include tribal voices in stories that imply tribal and Native wrongdoing. Non-Native reporters told half stories without understanding the fuller picture, thus communicating half truths to large audiences. No one was well served.
Native media celebrated too much — in an advocacy way, as opposed to providing fuller news-minded analysis and reporting. We need our Native journalists to be tough in order to provide true checks and balances, as the Fourth Estate is intended to do. There aren’t enough Native journalists represented in any newsroom in the United States, and the ones who are in them shouldn’t be spending most of their time sending love letters.
A few of our own bridges are possibly burning (and one in Pennsylvania — unrelated to us — is even collapsing). Stay tuned.
Federal politicos have clammed up on various apparently tough issues we’ve asked them about, both going off the record on their juiciest tribal dealings and opinions — and sometimes ignoring questions altogether. We’ll keep pressing.
A handful of lobbyists, lawyers and advocates are angry that we are poking around in what they see as their turf, and we’re pretty sure some are plotting revenge as we type (journalists are paranoid). They send us cranky emails and other messages, some via mysterious smoke signals. Some even think we only pay attention to personality-driven politics, not policy issues; that’s how we know they haven’t really read us over the decades. Yep, decades. Even though this publication is young, we — the Native Rumpelstiltskins who toil in this stuff — are actually old! Older than that 40-year-old Indian Country Today, even, if you can believe that! Although we do have less gray hair than them. No dye necessary.
Tribal leaders have been dealing with a lot on their plates as a result of pandemic-related health issues, problems with federal funding formulas and related compliance difficulties, as well as regular, good old tribal politics. Some have been quiet when we’ve asked them for comment — when they should be getting in front of major stories that are yet to break, making sure their perspectives are heard, loud and clear. Being supportive of a free press can work for all sovereign governments, we assure you.
So, yes, we were prescient. Not a surprise to big-headed us, but maybe a surprise to some who don’t know or understand us. To that we say: Get to know us! We don’t bite (hard).
Next, we want to share some of our highlights:
We’re already the #1 Indigenous Affairs-focused publication on the Substack platform, according to their ranking system. Our frenemies may say to that, “So what! How many Indian-focused publications are even on Substack!?” We’ve counted a handful, with some heavy hitters among them, including Kim TallBear and Sherman Alexie (even Emily Miller, from the Jack Abramoff days, is here, but she’s hesitant to chat with us…hmm, let’s see what happens), so we’ll take the honor and run with it for this month at least. And we’ll encourage our Native friends to start their own independent writing on the platform, both for your benefit and for ours, so that we’ll have more good stuff to read and to investigate.
We also want to point out that none of the other major newsletter platforms, such as those run by Facebook and Twitter, have worked in a purposeful, meaningful way to be inclusive of Native voices (that we know of). That is not the case with Substack. And that is a very good thing, for which Substack should be commended. No one has commended them yet on that front (that we know of), so we commend them.
We don’t want to tell you a ton about our subscriber base for business-related reasons, but we can say that we’ve had hundreds of organic subscribers this month alone. And that doesn’t mean 200. Closer to the 1k range. It’s a good, solid start, outperforming expectations. We can do better. You tell your friends. We’ll tell ours.
Media have been taking note of what we’re doing, with nice mentions in Voice of America, Talking Biz News, Journal-isms and in one of the Native pubs, which listed us under its advocacy section and misspelled our name (ahem, frenemies indeed); hence, no link for them. Original Pechanga has been our biggest blog cheerleader to date. They are especially excited about our Alexa web rankings, but we’d remind them that we’re newsletter-based, so much of our news goes straight to readers’ inboxes, which means that web hits are not the sole measure of our matter. Plus, Alexa is going out of business soon, so they should probably find another, better yardstick.
We’re honored to have already been featured on the Substack homepage and discover page. Each week the Substack team apparently sifts through the platform to find publications to spotlight that are covering a clear topic in a unique way and exemplify Substack best practices, like posting regularly and engaging with readers. We do that! So thank you for noticing, Substack!
Our Twitter follows and engagement are way, way up. Others have had a major head start on us there, so be sure to follow us if you’re not. Twitter matters, whether we like it or not. Follow us on LinkedIn, too. Smart people are there!
We now have to pat ourselves on the back for a sec, just to make sure you know how very worthwhile it is for you to subscribe to us. We have to make a living from this thing, and our rates our pretty low for what we offer (with only one complaint from a disgruntled non-subscriber on social media to date), and we don’t see other outlets offering what we do. They either aren’t connected; they don’t want to be connected; they don’t know how to be connected; or there’s something else they’re not telling you. We’ll tell you. If you can afford a subscription, pay for one. If you have time to comment, please do share your knowledge. If you can only afford our free work, then send us tips. Tips help us to write better stories that help other people subscribe. And tips lead to scoops. All of it keeps us growing and independent and able to tell stories that no one else in the world is telling (even though they ought to be). Our scoops, this month alone:
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg sat down for an exclusive Indigenous Wire interview on $13 billion in tribal infrastructure funding. He made news. Read it here.
U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, likewise. He speaks a few words of Lakota, and he’s smarter on Indian issues than a lot of other federal legislators we’ve spoken with.
The Illinois DNR played shenanigans on Aztec Indians and didn’t want to explain why.
The International Women’s Media Foundation canceled a $10 million program meant to strengthen Native journalism coverage of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. They won’t explain how they’re retooling the fund.
The Biden administration said it didn’t have time to do consultation with tribes re: the vaccine mandate for big businesses. Tribes are not happy.
We did a second story on that, with tribes still angry even after the Supreme Court blocked the mandate. There’s good reason, read why here.
The Catawba Nation defended Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s inclusion of the tribe’s off-reservation casino in the defense appropriations bill.
The GOP launched a campaign ground game plan in Indian Country for the 2022 midterms. The DNC is intensely watching, and we are watching them, too.
Finally, a lot of miigwetch (THANK YOU) from us is in order:
To Vanessa Bowen, of Bowen Creative, whose Albuquerque-based firm strives to “amplify and empower BIPOC communities through art design and technology.” The Navajo artist and her team created our small sweetgrass-inspired logo, our cover logo, our newsletter heading image and gave general design input, all making this feel much more like a Native-friendly place. We’d love the design of the entire site to be even more circle-based in the future, so look for that to happen one day. Bowen, famous for her line of apparel featuring the “Make America Native Again” logo is a delight. Easy to work with, even during the busiest times in life, we highly recommend her.
To Marty Two Bulls Sr., Oglala Sioux, for doing the caricature of Rob Capriccioso for the publication and our social media. The Pulitzer finalist captures so much depth and meaning in his editorial cartooning, so we had to have him. When we saw his final product, we grinned (and laughed). He captured our increasing jowls perfectly. But also, if you notice, one of the eyes looks slightly darker, like its recovering from a bruise, almost healed. We think there’s meaning there, and we don’t know for sure if Marty intended it. There’s another hidden meaning in that pic for us, and we’ll keep it private for now. But it’s a good one, and we like it.
To Robert Odawi Porter (Seneca) and to Stacy Leeds (Cherokee) for letting us re-publish their smart thoughts. And to Wendy Helgemo (Ho-Chunk) for allowing us to delve into Harry Reid’s Native legacy with her. We like to publish a variety of views, so follow their brave leads by reaching out if you’d like your voice featured for our informed audience of growing Wiredians.
To all our tipsters, we thank you for giving us good starts to solid stories.
To our paid subscribers, we thank you for helping make this place run.
To our free subscribers, we thank you for noticing our work. More of our content will go behind the paywall in the future, as journalism is not free — it’s a lot of work that can sometimes be a lot of fun. A paid subscription allows you to join in all of the fruits of both the labor and the love.
To people who we’ve reconnected with who have provided wisdom and mental support, we thank you.
Last but never least, thank you to the late-Harry Reid. He did two interviews with us that unexpectedly helped us to do a lot of thinking over this launch period, just after his passing. His fighting spirit helped us feel a little more comfortable sharing some things with you that strict journalistic rules would have frowned upon in the past. Remembering his words and strength allowed us to feel safer to publicly be a little sillier and snarkier than we would have been otherwise. Like Ben Smith, we think journalism is evolving, and there is no one right way to do it. So we’ll keep experimenting along the way, gaining new inspiration as we do. One right thing we do know: It is right to speak truth to power; it is right for us to connect the dots. Our people deserve no less.
Again, chi miigwetch (a big thank you) for connecting with us during our initial month.
Pleased to meet you.
Founder & Editor, Indigenous Wire
P.S. Wasn't it Harry Reid who once said, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” No? Someone else? Well, good advice, anyway.
P.P.S. A reminder to Native news outlets to get in touch. With our permission, you’re able to publish one free article a week from Indigenous Wire, with proper credit. That’s a bargain. And you obviously need the help. We kid. Or do we?
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