Worry: the sixth ‘W’ of journalism

Stress is the bedfellow of serious journalism – and for good reason
As a young reporter I was taught about the five W’s of journalism: Who, what, where, when and why. Nearly 20 years into my career, I’ve realized that another “W” word is critical to doing my job: worry. Take, for example, the recent story I wrote for InvestigateWest, in partnership with The Nation. The story tries to answer the question of why the Goldwater Institute, a conservative Republican think tank in Arizona was trying to use a series of lawsuits to dismantle the Indian Child Welfare Act, a landmark law created to keep Indian families intact. The article follows the people involved, the lawyers who are bringing the lawsuits, and the tribal members who would feel its impact.

A Right-Wing Think Tank Is Trying to Bring Down the Indian Child Welfare Act. Why?

A Right-Wing Think Tank Is Trying to Bring Down the Indian Child Welfare Act: Evangelical and anti-Indian-sovereignty groups, adoption advocates, and conservative organizations like the Cato Institute have united behind the Goldwater Institute in attempts to dismantle aspects of a law intended to protect Native American children. Many tribal members fear that if Goldwater is successful, it could undermine the legal scaffolding of Native American self-determination.

Seattle Schools failing Native American students?

Native American students in Seattle are not graduating at the same rate as non-Native students, according to KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher, who has been tracking how the Seattle  school district spends its money. In her report, she finds that only 44 percent of Native American students graduate compared with 63 percent for all students. A less than two-thirds graduation rate for all students isn’t something to brag about, but the under 50 percent rate for Native kids is distressing, and the irony is the schools do have access to federal funds specifically to educate Native kids. Yet they apparently aren’t using them effectively.

Indian Heritage Middle College High School, established in the 1970s to provide Native students an education, has not received any federal money earmarked for Indian education. In fact, the school district, which does get some of that money, isn’t sure where all of it went,  although district officials told Fletcher some of it was used for tutoring and leadership programs as well as staff development. An auditor’s report of the district’s use of Indian money is expected this month.

— Carol Smith

Utah tribes band together to stop train station on sacred land

Seven Utah tribes want to stop the Utah Transit Authority from building a train station on the site of an ancient village in Draper. They came together in a rare show of public unity to petition lawmakers and Utah’s next governor to stop the proposed project, according to a story by Brandon Loomis of the Salt Lake Tribune.

 The site, which dates to 3,000 years ago, contains some evidence of the earliest known corn farming in the Great Basin area and has been deemed significant by the state archeologist. 

“Are we so insignificant that we are overlooked and desecration is done to our sites?” Curtis Cesspooch, chairman of the Uintah/Ouray Utes, told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Utah Legislature had mandated the land be preserved for open space in 2000, but the Department of Natural Resources never signed a proposed perpetual conservation easement, and last winter lawmakers allowed UTA’s proposal go forward.

Whistleblower in trafficking case threatened

The undercover operative who helped unravel the massive illegal artifact trafficking case in Blanding, Utah, was threatened with a baseball bat for his role as a whistleblower in the case.

The man now charged with threatening the whistleblower told federal agents, he “wanted to hurt him real bad,” according to Christopher Smart of the Salt Lake Tribune. Charles Denton Armstrong, now charged with felony retaliation, made the threat after one of the other trafficking suspects in the case committed suicide. Multiple arrests related to the theft and illegal trade of Native American antiquities enraged many in the town.

Stimulus money for better water

Stimulus money for better water

Indian communities throughout Utah and New Mexico are getting federal stimulus money to improve water quality. The AP reports in the Salt Lake Tribune that the Skull Valley Band of the Goshutes and the Ute Indian Tribe will each receive in excess of $100,000 to upgrade drinking water supplies.

In the Santa Fe New Mexican, the AP reports nearly $5 million will be shared by six American Indian communities for water improvements. The improvements are expected to create jobs.