Empowerment through Social Media

Cohort 8 Rebuilder Jacob Davis (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians) harnesses the power of social media to get things done. As the Tribal Programming Director for Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota (PCAND), he uses digital advocacy tools to build a network of supporters with a shared vision for improving the lives of Indigenous people. Jacob explains, “Social media is essential in the digital world and provides us with an access point to create conversations within a large population of people.”

Photo of Jacob DavisIn 2016, PCAND offered Jacob the chance to create a new position within the organization. He developed a position focused on providing Indigenous families with community-driven resources. As Tribal Programming Director, he works with three of the four Native nations in North Dakota to empower Indigenous children, families, and communities to thrive.

Jacob sees interconnections between his specific focus area and broader issues, including food sovereignty, economic development, and trauma. As such, he appreciates that his work allows him to incorporate several of his passions into his day-to-day responsibilities and online advocacy campaigns.

He also believes strongly in the need for the presence of Native voices in the social media realm; initiatives succeed when Indigenous voices tell Indigenous stories. “To give a story justice, it has to be shared from a personal perspective,” Jacob states. “In order to bring truth to the message, it has to come from the voice of the people that it impacts.”

Jacob is a skilled digital communicator, but his work does not come without challenges. He admits that he oftentimes encounters “crabs in the bucket”-type lateral violence in online spaces. This happens when individuals direct attacks toward fellow community members working toward the same goal, rather than at the actual source of their oppression. Jacob notes, “Creating messages that cannot being taken out of context has been the hardest part of utilizing social media. Being aware of the potential for lateral violence has to be a critical part of the process.”

Despite these challenges, Jacob has hope for the future of the digital world. He encourages young people to use social media to highlight their accomplishments and struggles. This can help them gain experience with best practices for navigating the exciting, yet challenging, social media realm. In addition, he urges young people to seek out support and guidance for when the going gets tough: “Please know that surrounding yourself with people that believe in you is the most important building block of success.”

This article was originally published in our Spring 2019 print newsletter. Sign up to receive the print newsletter in your mailbox twice a year! 

Telling Our Own Stories: Rebuilder Vi Waln

Cohort 7 Rebuilder Vi Waln (Sicangu Lakota) is Editor-In-Chief for the Lakota Times, an award-winning, Native-owned newspaper that operates out of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. We interviewed Vi to learn more about her role with the Lakota Times and her advocacy for more Native voices in the media.

Native Governance Center: Tell us a little bit about your background, family, and community.

Vi Waln: I am a Sicangu Lakota Tribal citizen, otherwise known as the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. I grew up on the Rosebud Reservation here in South Dakota. Today, I live in the He Dog community where I was raised. My community is named after Chief He Dog. I have a bachelor’s degree in Lakota Studies from Sinte Gleska University and a Master’s in Mass Communication from South Dakota State University.

NGC: What makes the Lakota Times stand out from other media outlets?

Photo of Vi WalnVW: The Lakota Times has been in circulation for fifteen years. I think we stand out because the majority of our writers are Lakota. Our main focus with the paper is our young people. And we try to showcase them as much as we can every week. Connie Smith, the paper’s owner, and I have had conversations about how we want this newspaper to be positive. And we’ve taken criticism for it. But we will run the positive stories before the negative stories. Because you could pick up any paper in the country and read all about the negative things happening. You can look on the internet and see all the negative news. Go on social media, look on TV—the majority of it is bad. So we want to focus on positive things.

NGC: Why do you believe it’s important to have Native representation in the media?

VW: Well, I believe we have to tell our own stories as Native people. Most of our Tribes come from an oral tradition ancestry. But we have to be willing to evolve with the times. I see many non-Indian journalists out there attempting to write about the Lakota. And when I call them out on it—sometimes, they’re offended when I tell them that a Native person should be writing those stories. But, I continue to advocate for Native writers to write our stories. We’re the only ones who can offer a true perspective on our communities.

NGC: Do you see a link between your current work and nation building?

VW: My work is definitely linked to nation building. Columns I write every week address issues that our people are facing on our reservations. So, I always come to the computer thinking, if I can affect change through my writing, then all my hard work has paid off. If one person changes their behavior for the good after reading a column I wrote, then I believe that’s nation building.

This article was originally published in our Spring 2019 print newsletter. Sign up to receive the print newsletter in your mailbox twice a year! 

New Team Member at Native Governance Center

We’re excited to announce that the team at Native Governance Center is growing! Please help us welcome Jessa Boyer to the team as our new Executive Office & Events Coordinator.

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