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Weekly reads from CJR for November 27, 2020

Julian Brave NoiseCat on how Indigenous stories test the limits of journalism 

At the outset of his writing career, Julian Brave NoiseCat found himself on a hill at Wounded Knee, in South Dakota, looking down at the movements of Oglala tribe members as they attempted to collect rations from government services in the aftermath of an unexpectedly violent storm. To NoiseCat, the scene took on the aspect of a historical tableau: "Here before me were the interlocking forces of genocide, ecological apocalypse, resistance, and repression—the imperial roots of the climate crisis and their colonial fallout." He ditched his reporting assignment, a paint-by-numbers piece of solutions journalism, in favor of practicing something more like "systems journalism"—a perspective allowing for stories about Indigenous peoples to hold history and complexity within them.

NoiseCat speaks with other Indigenous journalists about the successes of this approach, but his conversations also lead him to wonder about the broader limits of the journalistic enterprise in lending full truth to Indigenous experience. How confident should journalists be of "the assumption that well-trained reporters can go out into the world, gather up the facts, and shape that material into narrative and argument"? There is no sure methodology for capturing the weight of history or the origins of injustice. The full story—if any story exists in full at all—is not so neat. 
—Camille Bromley, story editor


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