#26 Indigenous Activism Through The Lens Of Journalism with Desiree Kane

TRIGGER WARNING: Very sensitive topics discussed like rape, incarceration and genocide.

This is an exhausting , endless beast with endless resources. They have guns and dogs and mace and money, power, privilege. But what we have is each other. 

– Desiree Kane

When your community is suffering due to marginalisation of overpowering groups, those within your community are the only ones that will fully understand the pain. However, when marginalisation morphs into brutality, murder and rape at a mass scale, it can’t just be members of your community fighting for justice and change. It has to be everyone.

Desiree, being a Miwok woman herself, has dedicated her life as a multimedia journalist to document the atrocities against Native American communities to those that have little knowledge of the brutal reality of indigenous people. Being at the frontlines of conflicts like Standing Rock, Desiree has seen the unnecessary usage of force by the police on unarmed native protestors, been physically and mentally impacted by genocide and indigenous communities being deprived of basic fundamental needs like houses and water.

Whilst talking to Desiree, I was able to realise that a lot needs to be learned, by non-natives in the US and across the world. I was shocked and devastated to realise that very little coverage is given to the ongoing torture against Native Americans and whatever information is given is either diluted or only shown through the lens of environmental activism.

Through this episode, I hope to shed more light on the struggles of American Indigenous communities as well as build momentum on documentation of the brutalisation and infantilisation of these communities. Essentially, the Indigenous will not be able to attain justice without allegiance of allies. This is not just a fight for the natives, they have fought this alone for more than 500 years since colonisation and we can’t let them suffer anymore.

Black Americans, also heavily impacted by extreme levels of racism and hate crime, have always stood by Native Americans, so now it’s everyone else’s turn to do the same. Silence and inaction will only support white supremacy, allyship and support will result in major change and dismantling of racist systems.

Episode Content:

Read the transcript HERE.

  • How Desiree came into the journalism field and what motivated her to specifically document indigenous communities
  • Importance of native Americans telling their stories and not non-natives to prevent sugar coating or dilution of extremely violent events
  • The inabilities of mainstream media to cover Indigenous issues apart from environmental issues
  • The power of land for Indigenous communities and the usurping of power by eviction of communities from their own ancestral lands
  • Failure of education systems to incorporate indigenous struggles, whether in the US or UK
  • The danger of infantilisation of indigenous communities due to “saviour complex” and alteration of narrative by non-native activists/journalists.
  • Police brutality against unarmed indigenous protestors e.g. water protectors.
  • Recommendations by Desiree of Indigenous womxn to follow and listen to for gaining more knowledge on indigenous communities.
  • Objectification of native women’s bodies and victimising them to sexual abuse.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak in Navajo Nation due to non-natives carrying the virus entering native territory and how it acted as a heavy blow to the community.
  • Difficulty of those with lower class (especially POCs) getting tested for COVID-19 in the US compared to the ease of testing in the UK
  • Seeking validation whilst carrying out journalism and activism
  • Desiree’s support in a media making program for Guyanese youth to have autonomy to document the realities of their community
  • Emphasis on teaching the youth how to embody unlearnings and be unafraid to speak out without filters
  • Need of educated non-natives on these issues and examples of how Desiree has done this
  • Highlighting the importance of grassroots activism and the lack of support and engagement in these groups
  • Indirect support of white supremacy through inaction, silence and villainisation of those that protest violently or peacefully
  • Importance of Black and Native American solidarity and how Black Americans have always stood up for Indigenous rights
  • Necessity for revolutions to be non-peaceful in response to systemic racism and the urgent need to dismantling a “dying system”
  • Strong emphasis on focusing on mental health after being on the frontlines to maintain longevity in activism/journalism and only getting involved in events when asked by the community to avoid a “coloniser” approach to dealing with sensitive issues

Desiree’s Resources:


Thanks for listening!

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