Thursday, September 28, 2006


Censorship in Indian Country Same As in Anglo Country?

Trying to get the truth, when the media is as concentrated—monopolized—as it is now, is hard work. One of the papers I've been reading for years is News From Indian Country. It isn't bad, but it hasn't always been reliable when it comes to shaking up the powers-that-be.

Today, I got the following:

Censorship, the other genocide, killing of the spirit


I was just terminated by Indian Country Today. Since I began this
effort as a news reporter in Indian country 23 years ago in pursuit of
justice and truth, I feel I owe the readers an apology for allowing ICT
to censor the truth in articles I have written. I did protest the
censorship, but no retractions were published.

Officially, my position is being eliminated on Friday. This comes
after I repeatedly complained of censorship at the newspaper. During
the past month these issues were censored:

--Censored: After all reporters were told to write about the bird flu,
I wrote about how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is profiteering by
millions from the sale of the drug Tamiflu, receiving profits from a
company where he holds shares. The article included information on the
earlier attempts of companies to profiteer from the sale of ribavirin
during the Navajo hantavirus outbreak. My article was censored in ICT
and turned into an advertisement for the medication Tamiflu.

--Raytheon Missiles on Navajo farm (NAPI) in the recent NAPI/Cuban
contract story; I was told not to include in the article the fact that
Raytheon is located on the Navajo farm and is responsible for spills
leading to cancer in South Tucson, where Chicanos and Indians live.
Raytheon produces missiles for the Department of Defense.

--Tohono O'odham teen ran over by Border Patrol, recent visit to the
site of Bennett Patricio Jr.'s death with Amnesty International; we
were followed by undercover agents on tribal land

Also, these are some of the articles censored since 2004:

--The fact that Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell is Portuguese and grew up in
California. His mother is full-blooded Portuguese and his story changed
about his father through the years. One Northern Cheyenne medicine man
asked ICT who Campbell is. Campbell first claimed to have some Apache
blood and later changed it Northern Cheyenne. The Denver Post reported
that Campbell is at least 7/8th non-Indian. Campbell did not respond
for a request to comment.

--Louise Benally of Big Mountain, comments comparing the Long Walk and
imprisonment in Bosque Redondo to the atrocities in Iraq (this deleted
from a published article)

--Denial of prison rights to Leonard Peltier in an article on Indian
prison rights

--The Montana governor's criticisms of the war in Iraq during his
formal address at NCAI's annual convention in 2005

--The handcuffing of Tohono O'odham Ofelia Rivas and attempts to
silence her by a non-Indian police officer of the Tohono O'odham Nation

--Comments by Bahe Katenay of Big Mountain on how the Navajo sacred
place of Creation in Dinetah, near Bloomfield, NM, in the Four Corners
area, is inundated with oil and gas wells and pollution from the power
plants on tribal land.

The ongoing censorship is a violation of the public trust.

This is the second time I've been terminated at ICT since the
newspaper was purchased by the Oneida Nation. I was already in
bankruptcy because of the first time they terminated me in 2001 (for
refusing to relocate, even though no male reporters were required to

To my knowledge, all female reporters who have not resigned have been
terminated. To my knowledge, none of the male reporters have ever been
terminated since the Oneida Nation purchased the newspaper.

However, the bigger issue is censorship. The censoring of vital
issues reflects what news reporters are enduring all over America. They
are forced into silence because of the necessity of work. However,
since ICT/Oneida Nation has already forced me into bankruptcy, I can
share a little of the truth. One of those truths is that Indian gaming,
at times, offers the illusion of wealth.

There are two Indian editors that deserve a great deal of praise for
what they have done over the past decades, Navajo Times managing editor
Duane Beyal and Indian Country Today founder, Lakota Tim Giago.
During the many years I worked for these two editors, I was never

When other publications refused to publish voices of Indian people
opposing the war in Iraq, the Navajo Times published those. When other
publications censored an article on Indians targeted by police in South
Dakota, Lakota Journal published it.

Those are just two examples. Both Beyal and Giago have championed the
pursuit of truth and never attempted to censor Indian peoples' voices.
I hope all Indian people will put pressure on Indian Country Today
concerning the censorship. There is a select agenda being published in
the name of "Indian Country," which does more to advance the interests
of the Oneida Nation and Indian gaming.

At ICT, I was repeatedly told to halt writing articles about
"grassroots people and the genocide of American Indians," by one of the
non-Indian managing editors.

Also, I hope people will question ICT hiring non-Indian managing
editors with no prior experience in Indian issues or Indian country,
and little experience in journalism. The managing editors are the ones
actually in the New York ICT office, chosing content and putting the
paper out. For years there has been a series of non-Indian managing
editors with no prior experience in Indian country. The censorship and
errors have increased.

It is easy to look at ICT and see what the agenda is and what is being
censored. There's certainly no articles on Leonard Peltier or how
Arizona Indian tribal members are living in poverty while the casino
gaming management makes a fortune. (One Tohono O'odham casino manager
made $800,000, according to a recent mainstream news article.)
Of course, I will continue to write for other Indian media, provide
information to radio stations and write for the UN Observer and
International Report at the Hague.

It is sad that at such a crucial time, while so many reporters are
being censored by corporations and the Bush administration, that Indian
Country Today has taken all of these extreme acts of censorship.
This censorship of Indian voices constitutes another form of genocide,
a killing of the spirit of the people.

Best, Brenda Norrell

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