News / USA

Native Americans Take Control of Their Story

Shirley Sneve brings audiences accurate portrayals of the culture

NAPT Executive Director Shirley Sneve gives a presentation during the 2010 PBS Annual Showcase in Austin, Texas.
NAPT Executive Director Shirley Sneve gives a presentation during the 2010 PBS Annual Showcase in Austin, Texas.

Multimedia

Audio

For decades, films and television shows almost always portrayed American Indians as stereotypes. The stories were written and produced by white Americans. In 1977, Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) was founded to bring audiences native stories and accurate portrayals of the culture.

Taking control

Shirley Sneve heads the organization. She is a Lakota, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, who grew up in Flandreau, South Dakota. One of her earliest and most lasting influences was her mother, who has written and published more than 20 children’s books about Native Americans.

"When I was growing up my mother was always telling stories and she wrote all the time," says Sneve. "It was something that was always important to our family to understand our history, where we came from, and how we relate as natives in today’s world.”

NAPT Executive Director Shirley K. Sneve
NAPT Executive Director Shirley K. Sneve

Sneve studied journalism, and became a storyteller herself. "Unlike my mother, who created stories out of her head, I liked to tell stories about other people."

But these days, Sneve mostly helps other people tell stories as executive director of NAPT, one of five groups created to increase the diversity of voices on American public television.

"It can’t just be about Indians, it needs to be by Indians, Native Americans," says Sneve, who believes the authentic voice is important. "There has been so much garbage out there over the years by non-Indians that have perpetuated the stereotypes. You know the westerns and the stoic Indians, even more contemporary projects. They don’t do us any favors. We can tell our own stories better than anybody else. That is why we are so forceful about involving Native Americans in the creation of these documentaries."

Shedding light

Recent films that have received funding from NAPT have examined the impact of politics and economics on tribal fishing, explored what it is like to be a young Native American in the 21st century, profiled three young Lakota women who reconnected with their incarcerated father. Another revealed the little-known history of the original code talkers, members of the Choctaw tribe who transmitted secret tactical messages in their native language during World War l. 

Sneve says many of NAPT’s documentaries have been broadcast by other U.S. television stations, and some have been shown in other countries. They are also for sale on the organization’s website.

Some films, like the multi-part historical series, "We Shall Remain," include sections in native languages. Sneve would like to see more films done that way.

"It is through our languages that we speak to the creator and our ceremonies are still conducted in the native languages, and it brings meaning to culture for us to be mindful of our language. And I don’t think it limits our audiences. We do have to put English subtitles on there, but it shows that Native people and their cultures are still alive and vibrant and that the languages are used in our everyday lives."

Spreading the word

In addition to film, Native American Public Telecommunications has funded radio programming, but in this changing media world, Sneve says she would like to be able to support some interactive programs on the web.

"The hour-long documentary is not the best way to go sometimes to communicate your message. People are busy. There are so many entertainment options right now."

That makes it harder to get an audience, she says, especially with young people, who are more likely to get their information and entertainment from computers and mobile devices. But for now, Sneve is thankful to be able to bring Native voices and stories to television.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid