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!