By Brenda Norrell
After Rob Port was banned by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, it was interesting to see the support Port received from some editors of North Dakota newspapers.
It had a familiar smell.
Racism was common in newspaper rooms in New Mexico and Arizona in the 1990s.
During the early 1990s, I worked as a staff reporter for the Farmington Daily Times in New Mexico. I was based in Shiprock, N.M., on the Navajo Nation.
A group of Navajo teens at a convenience store were attacked and beaten with baseball bats by a group of white Farmington teenagers.
The Daily Times editors knowingly published articles which distorted the facts and made it appear that the victims were responsible for those beatings.
The Navajo teens had broken bones. This was neither the first time, nor the last, that American Indians were beaten by Farmington teenagers. It was what Navajo Genevieve Jackson called "a rite of passage" for white Farmington teenagers. Three of the torture murders of Navajos in Farmington in the 1970s are described in the book, "The Broken Circle," by Rodney Barker. The beatings and murders continue.
When I made a formal complaint to the editors of Farmington Daily Times, about the facts being distorted and the teen victims being blamed, I was fired.
I reported the situation to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Denver. The Civil Rights Commission was holding hearings at the time on bordertown racism; it became part of the submitted testimony.
The institutionalized racism was intense.
The Farmington Police Department was monitored by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission for decades. Like in the Dakotas, Indians were stopped by police far more often than non-Indians. But even non-Indians who came to the defense of Indians were targeted by police. One non-Indian Farmington resident testified to the Civil Rights Commission that Farmington police stopped him dozens of times, for the purpose of harassment, after he reported police for beating an Indian man. (I've included a link below to the most recent Commission report on Farmington.)
Eventually, the Daily Times was sold and gained new management.
However, the racism and distortion of the facts concerning the beating of the Navajo teens by white teens with baseball bats was not just a singular incident at the newspaper.
The Daily Times staff meetings were often plagued with racist insults toward American Indians, derogatory racial slurs voiced by some of the staff reporters and editors.
Hopefully, things in Southwest newsrooms have changed for the better.
North Dakota is now in the spotlight, with exposure that the sayanything blog, which Port moderates, is a forum for racism and hatred.
It is interesting to follow the press coverage on this issue, since editors and wire reporters don't seem to have read the tribe's resolution or sought out Chippewa tribal members for their responses, which is normally done in news stories.
UPI's current wire story doesn't include a single comment from a Chippewa tribal member or a quote from the tribe's resolution. At least in this case, it appears that UPI doesn't believe it is important to get the Indians' side of the story.
The sad part is that violence begins with thoughts. The good part is that things usually change when people speak out for truth and justice.
UPI's one-sided story:
"The Farmington Report, Civil Rights for Native Americans 30 Years Later"
US Commission on Civil Rights
Original post: "Chippewa insulted by banned author"
Turtle Mountain Chippewa resolution posted at:
Return to Censored homepage: