Native report scheduled for fourth season


cover_story_thunder.jpgcoverstoryjohnson.jpgNative Report, a weekly TV news magazine produced in Duluth, has been renewed for a fourth season and is scheduled to start in February. The program is produced for both Native and non-Native viewers and is offered for free to public television stations across the country.

Native Report, co-hosted by Stacey Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe) and Tadd Johnson (Bois Forte Ojibwe), is an entertaining and informative TV news magazine that celebrates Native American culture and heritage, and discusses issues with some of the most influential leaders today.

Juli Kellner, Executive producer at WDSE-TV in Duluth, says story ideas come from people who call or send emails to Native Report. She, Thunder and Johnson then collaborate to make selections and put the shows together.As part of production, Thunder and Johnson each do their own writing as well as the reporting and interviewing.

Thunder says she is proud to be part of this ongoing effort to share

the stories of Native people. “The Native community has been

under-represented in popular media, and if there is coverage, it tends

to be negative,” Thunder said. “So Native Report shares the positive

and dispels the myths. Viewers get to know all of who we are.”

The fourth season will include programs that deal with topics such as:

American Indian children’s welfare; KILI Radio in Porcupine, SD;

Superintendent Dr. Page Baker of Badlands National Park; Native

American natural foods; National Congress of American Indians’

President Joe Garcia; country singer Crystal Shawanda; and many more.

The hosts say that Native Report chooses to focus on the positive news

throughout Indian Country, even when it covers the challenges. The

program takes a particular interest in efforts to deal with tough

issues. “We want to examine what folks are doing that works, what

approaches are proving themselves in areas like language

revitalization, economic development, and other issues. We want to

share what the elders are saying,” said Kellner.

The program grew out of an increasing concern with the pervasive

coverage of negative stories. “The idea for the show came from both the

WDSE Community Advisory Board and Tadd,” Kellner said. “It was his

brainchild, as a response to all the stories about drug abuse and

violence in Native communities. The majority of reporting was only

covering negative events, which are relevant but not always

representative of everything that is happening.”

Thunder became involved in the program when Johnson asked her to host

the shows. They were colleagues and lawyers for the Mille Lacs Band of

Ojibwe at the time. “It was his dream to have a show like Native

Report,” Thunder said.

The station put together a pilot series in 2004 with four short

episodes. After evaluating them, they made some changes to the format

and put out a full first season. Native Report’s season grew to 15

episodes by 2006.

Seasons One through Three include such stories as students learning the

Dakota language, tribal preparations for disasters and other threats,

the Rolling Plains Art Exhibit, raising buffalo, regional powwows, and

the new National Museum of the American Indian

An earlier story that means a lot to Thunder is her piece on the

recovery of walleye fish in Red Lake. In the 1990s, tribal leaders had

to make a difficult decision to close the lake to fishing due to a

collapse in the fish population. It was hard to shut people off from

their way of life and a resource they used to feed their families.

However, the tribe was able to cooperate with the Minnesota Department

of Natural Resources and reopen the lake much earlier than the planned

ten-year moratorium because the fish population grew so fast. Thunder

values the story as an example of the important and inspirational

accomplishments in the Native community.

Thunder previous positions included working with the Anishinabe Legal

Services, the Indian Child Welfare Law Center, and as a tribal attorney

for the Red Lake Band, and corporate attorney for the Mille Lacs Band

of Ojibwe Indians. She received a B.A. in psychology from Hamline

University and a J.D. in 1998 from William Mitchell College of Law. She

is a board member and Vice President for the Minnesota American Indian

Bar Association, and Vice President of Native Thunder Distance Runners,

an organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles in the Native

American community.

Johnson is currently Solicitor General for the Mille Lacs Band of

Ojibwe where he works to protect the Band’s interests at the local,

state and federal levels. He also worked for five years with the U.S.

House of Representatives, ultimately becoming the staff director and

counsel for the House Subcommittee on Native American Affairs and in

1997, was appointed to chair the National Indian Gaming Commission by

then President Bill Clinton. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the

University of St. Thomas and his law degree from the University of


Native Report is aired from California and Alaska, to Florida and New

York. Many stations in the Midwest also carry the show. Each individual

station decides on the program’s slot in its local lineup, so viewers

should check their TV listings.

The current program is free to any interested public television station

and is funded by grants from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Grotto Foundation, and Blandin Foundation.

The support from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community allowed WDSE

to make the programs available in high definition for season four. It

is part of the shift to digital in 2009. “That was a great boost,”

Kellner said. “We are now ready for the digital transition.”

Response to the show has been supportive. The station often receives

emails congratulating them on its success. Thunder hopes Native Report

continues breaking stereotypes and allowing viewers to get to know

Native individuals and tribes for many seasons.

“Many people live next door to Native families and reservations but do

not know anything about them,” Thunder said. “Learning what Native

people are doing helps to shatter prejudice.”

In the Twin Cities metro are Native Report airs on TPT’s digital MN

channel, Sunday evening at 8:30 P.M. and on Monday mornings at 2:30 AM.

If you are interested in viewing Native Report in your area, contact

your local public television station and ask them to air it. If you

have story ideas, contact Native Report at 218-724-8567 or 888-563-9373.