Native Media Provides Important Perspective at NAMAC 2012
A Conversation with Shirely Sneve
Executive Director of Native American Public Telecommunications
Last week, the NAMAC offices were abuzz with news that Member organization, Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT), was generously offering to fund up to six Native media professionals to attend NAMAC 2012. In the announcement of this scholarship, NAPT wrote that the conference is "a hotbed of creativity and community innovation for the media and visual-arts field," so much so that NAPT had already committed to funding 30 Native producers to attend.
NAMAC is proud to work with NAPT in hosting a national conference inclusive of a variety of perspectives and communications. We spoke with NAPT Executive Director, Shirley Sneve, to discuss the importance of gatherings that bring together arts leaders from different sectors and cultures, especially in this funding climate in which we all must work collectively and share responsibility.
What perspectives do Native makers offer to the media arts discipline that would otherwise be missing?
The Native perspective is unique. We are the original caretakers of this land. I believe we still have a special relationship to the land through ancient traditions that have shaped the U.S. today -- for better or for worse. Our storytelling reflects this.
How does a conference like NAMAC 2012: Leading Creatively support NAPT in meeting its goals, serving its constituency, and fulfilling its mission?
Each year, we convene NAPT producers. We’ve been to St. Paul, Santa Fe, Chicago, Lincoln, and now back to Minnesota. Many Native media professionals in the Minneapolis area will benefit from attending NAMAC, not to mention, strong organizations that are making huge strides like Twin Cities Public Television, MIGIZI Communications, and many more.
I have been to NAMAC conferences in the past and always found them very useful in gaining strategic partnerships and skills building. The variety of workshops this year will bring new and innovative ideas on how each and every one of our producers can share their Native stories with the world.
What are some of the media-related questions/issues that NAPT is currently grappling with as an organization?
Like many media distributors, we’re trying to figure out the business model in the age of 24/7 video-on-demand. All of our documentaries carry a message of change. How do we connect with audiences to support this? We realize the importance of partnerships forged through NAMAC and other organizations.
NAPT’s major funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which seems to always be under Congressional pressure for downsizing or elimination. Now, more than ever, we must diversify our income sources so that we can continue to serve the American public and Native American communities.
An interesting juxtaposition at the heart of NAPT’s work is that of using advanced technologies to promote traditional ways of life. I first started thinking about this while reading about Growing Native, a seven-part web series focused on Native culture.
The synopsis for this program notes this: “Across the country (and world), Native people are regaining health and strength through the recovery and revitalization of traditional knowledge systems of land, language, traditional arts and health.”
Can you speak to how technologies are supporting this revitalization?
Native Americans have always been storytellers. We didn’t have written languages, we passed on our knowledge through the generations in storytelling.
There are many opportunities in Indian Country to promote traditional ways of life through foods, languages, arts, sports, and happenings. Growing Native is allowing us to promote these areas through technologies such as the television broadcast, online streaming, and a mobile app. Attending the NAMAC conference will help us look at other ways to use advanced technologies to continue sharing our Natives stories with the world. One thing that never seems to be talked about is our tradition of innovation. Natives have always had to adapt to their environment, so embracing technology is not different. They don’t call them digi-Natives for nothing!