Lita Sheldon of the Tulalip Tribe in Washington State grew up in an age when Tonto – sidekick to The Lone Ranger – was the only Native American she had seen on television. News bulletins about Native Americans were endlessly negative, alcohol-related or concerning ‘trouble on the reservations’. Traditional communication – the languages, longhouses and potlatches – had long been brutally abolished, but Lita had an idea of how to change things. It was time, she thought, for tribal people to make their own news and get it on the national networks. It was from this initial idea that Northwest Indian News (NWIN) began, covering everything from whaling rituals to canoe journeys and watched, at its height, by 50 million people.
Peter Bowes hears from some of the
founders of NWIN. He learns how the money from reservation casinos helped fund
the first forays into television news production and helped change viewers’
perception of Native American life. Peter talks to Chenoa Egawa, a member of the
Swan Tribe, about being recruited as a TV presenter and follows Mark Anderson,
cameraman and Cowlitz tribal member, who is covering a story at the Lummi Nation
Longhouse whilst paying respect to the Elders.
Peter also hears of plans
for a new indigenous programme, ‘Native Heartbeat’, and meets the tribal
filmmakers of tomorrow.