Lakota People’s Law Project Attorney Chase Iron Eyes is garnering national attention for his relentless and undaunted activism as he continues to emerge as one of the most powerful voices in the Indian community.
Further cementing his status, Vice News, the alternative news source that is rising rapidly in both popularity and widespread esteem, recently took time to interview Chase Iron Eyes, specifically relating to his role as publisher of the Last Real Indians.
The article not only details Chase’s involvement in creating a Native-run publication, but also details a major problem facing Native Americans — that corporate-run media organizations devote little to zero time to investigating and exploring issues relating to Indigenous people in the United States.
While hate crimes, such as the 57 Indian honor role students of middle school age having beer poured on them as they were barraged with hateful racial epithets, get little play in newspapers, television news casts or magazines, those same outlets are willing to publish crime stories or one-off superficial accounts of social problems on reservations because those stories are easier to produce and appeal to a low common denominator.
The need for Indian media has become more apparent as the Oglala Sioux tribe recently voted to ban the Rapid City Journal due to what it perceived as a racially insensitive story.
The controversial RCJ story, which you can read about here, made the case that perhaps the students, between the ages of 9 and 12, were responsible for having beer poured on them because they neglected to stand for the national anthem, even though witnesses present at the game said they did indeed stand. Even if they hadn’t, it’s hardly grounds for an adult to verbally and physically attack children who were being rewarded for their academic achievement at school.
The fact that hate crimes such as this either receive no attention or are downplayed by traditional media sources underscores the need for Indian people to produce their own media outlets that advocates their unique and important perspective.
“Native people are not part of the normal discourse,” Chase Iron Eyes said in his interview with Vice. “You don’t learn about Indians in American school unless it’s Thanksgiving or Native Heritage month or there’s some movie that Disney puts out that has some other misinformed representation of Native people. Whether or not there’s a deliberate attempt to dehumanize us doesn’t matter anymore. The fact is, by and large, the media, the legal institutions, the economic and political institutions; they all dehumanize and oppress indigenous people just by their own force and existence. There is no criminal intent, but the impact is criminal. There is dehumanization when you have all this misinformation. They’re teaching us in school that we ourselves are primitive.”
The points being made here are so manifold and penetrating that it would take more time than we have here to parse them. But rest assure we will. Of particular import, is Chase Iron Eyes asserting that the injustice toward Indian people is systemic rather than the result of an individual villain or consortium of evil people. It can be challenging for most people to see that a whole system and the way it is structured can be the cause for injustice, even if the people who are manning the controls aren’t themselves unjust.
But until we learn to analyze issues with more breadth and depth, we will fail to understand that focusing our outrage, however justifiable, on a single politician, businessperson or political party puts us a long way out from the road to truth. We must analyze systems and the way they subvert the humanity of segments of the population and work to achieve solutions that address the inefficiencies and problems that any system will create.
To read the full interview with Chase Iron Eyes click here. Please read it.
To visit Last Real Indians, Native media for Natives and by Natives check it out here.
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