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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
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 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.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid