The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Guilfordian’s inability to properly cover Native events

Last week’s front page article “Native American Cultural Festival educates public on city’s diversity” featured glaring problems that highlight The Guilfordian’s distorted coverage of Native issues. Considering the original online headline, “Festiveness abound at Native American Cultural Festival,” the article makes light of the event.

I live within 15 minutes of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation’s reservation and have been to several pow-wows. While they are generally upbeat -celebrating the tribes, their histories and their survival – they are not shallow spectacles.

I feel this flippancy is repeated in the festival descriptions. It emphasizes crafts’ shininess and the scent of “adventurous” food, rather than explanations of the culture. I would’ve loved a quote from a craftsperson detailing the meaning of a dream catcher or the ancient pottery process, not just that they “tempted the wallet.” Without those facts, Native culture becomes a mere commodity, bought and sold by White America.

Growing up near Cherokee, NC, I’ve seen small businesses forced to display tipis and “Princess” headdresses – neither are Southeastern tribal traditions – just to attract customers; so this article’s commerciality personally pains me.

My biggest complaint is the article’s inexcusable lack of Guilford voices. I can’t attest to the presence of Guilford students at the fair, but the American Indian Student Circle (formerly the Native American Club, NAC) frequents this festival and could’ve offered valuable insight on the experience.

This lack of Guilford voices is especially unjustifiable when a volunteer at the festival said, “People think that Indians are either extinct or they all live out West.”

They actually live in Greensboro; former mayor Yvonne Johnson is Occaneechi. And they go to school at Guilford too; there are numerous Native alumni, students, faculty and staff on campus.

Additionally, when mentioning tribal dancers, the writer points to “North Carolina Indian tribes, such as the Cherokee and Lumbee.” Those are two of the largest, most recognized and well-funded tribes in the state, with the Cherokee being the only federally funded tribe in NC. Typical of our media, smaller (and ironically local) tribes such as the Occaneechi, Catawba and Saponi are unmentioned. Tribal affiliations of those interviewed, as well as the number of North Carolinian tribes go unmentioned. To create awareness about the presence of American Indians in our community, more effort is needed to fully inform readers.

I certainly appreciate the front-page coverage and photos of a Native event. However, this article proves a discrepancy in the coverage of Native issues, on- and off-campus. As a former section editor, I can attest that The Guilfordian is quick to cover PRIDE, BUS and other minority group events but Native events are ignored, or, as seen here, given little journalistic care.

This festival presented an opportunity to focus on our Native community members and their cultures; but was not handled properly.

Ruth Revels, executive director of the Guilford Native American Art Gallery said, “We are just as prevalent and important as any other minority;” it’s time the Guilfordian acted accordingly.

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