General Sam Houston’s comradery with Native Americans lives on through the university’s Global Center for Journalism and Democracy. The center has partnered with the Global Press Journal to train women who live on or are connected to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The trainees are aiming to join GPJ’s Tribal Nations news desk.
The women are on campus for a week-long journalism “boot camp,” coordinated by GCJD and led by two trainers from GPJ. Participants will hone their storytelling craft through photo and written journalism. Field work will include interviewing leaders from the Huntsville and the SHSU community arranged by GCJD.
After the training, the women will return back to their homes and put their craft to practice in their own communities.
Glorianna Under Baggage is one of the trainees from the reservation in South Dakota, where she finds her passion in photojournalism and teaching .
“I like the idea of putting myself out there as a reporter to demonstrate what that is and I think it will be good for my students to see their teacher is doing, not just teaching,” she said.
Because she works so closely with youth, Under Baggage said her future articles will be aimed toward issues that her students care about.
“I become aware of their concerns and so I really want to work on stories that relate and speak to youth and are hopeful and encouraging because they are the next generation and I want to be able to give them voice through that,” she said.
In addition to reporting on issues that matter to her students, Under Baggage said she will take the techniques learned during her training and try to present some of them to her students in a digestible manner.
To Under Baggage, it’s vitally important that reporters who cover her community do so in a correct and factual way.
“We need more reporters that are aware of the issues in Indian country that would tell the story that is there,” Under Baggage said. “Unfortunately, if you look at any U.S. History high school book, you’re not going to get an accurate story. So we can’t go back and rewrite all of that, but we can tell an accurate and true story today.”
Under Baggage, with the rest of her female team, plan to do that through a respect for their culture paired with honest reporting.
“Our stories are going to be culturally accurate,” she said. “They’re going to have our language, Lakota. It will not only contribute to better understanding in the United States about the Lakota tribe, but will give a better understanding as to who the first Americans are.”
Binesikwe Means, another female trainee, said she values the ability to tell stories about her own community.
“The ability to express our stories from our perspective is new to our community,” Means said. “So often we get people who come into our community that write stories about us and this is our first opportunity to have stories that are from us.”
Much of that opportunity is credited back to GPJ.
“I’m intrigued with Global Press because they have a need for solution based journalism,” Means said. “A lot of times people come into our community and say, ‘Oh these poor, drunk, poverty-stricken Indians…’ and then leave without ever presenting what they do to combat that.”
Means hopes to shed light on community issues through investigative journalism, but is still balancing how to keep strong community relationships while reporting fairly and unbiasedly.
“It’s a bit intimidating because with a small reservation like Pine Ridge there is always that thought in the back of your mind, because you’re close with everybody, you don’t want to offend a certain family or get ostracized for shedding light on a certain program or something that isn’t working,” she said.
Means said she brings a unique perspective to GPJ because she doesn’t actually live in Pine Ridge, but rather Minneapolis.
“I have a unique perspective of being an urban Indian, an “Indian in the city” type vibe,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to give that perspective because that’s the life that I know.”
The trainees will work alongside GPJ after they leave SHSU in order to keep bettering their craft. GCJD plans to continue its partnership with GPJ and coordinate future Tribal Nations trainings.
“This training is far and above anything that I had anticipated,” Under Baggage said. “The quality of the training, the thoughtfulness that was taken in the planning for us and the degree of detail that is shown to me suggests that this is premier organization to be a part of it. There’s nothing like affiliating with an organization that has such high standards and integrity.”