Lakota Voice contacted Brenda Norrell, Censored News, last November requesting permission to reprint her story, “Powers of deception, arm chair journalism and editorial scams”. After Censored News published a highlight of Indigenous Resistance for 2014, we again contacted Ms. Norell. This time, we asked that she share some of her experiences with our readers. Published below, Ms. Norrell offers details of her journalist career, spanning over 30 years, with encouragement to Native youth. Her story is a small segment of the whole, a glimpse into one woman’s journey.
With Marcos in Sonora
by Brenda Norrell
I began as a news reporter at the Navajo Times in 1982. The years that followed were rich, especially when I lived in a log cabin in the Chuskas. In the 80s and 90s, I was a freelance writer for AP, USA Today and many others. The interviews were powerful, especially those when I was at Big Mountain and in remote areas with Navajo elderly. I lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years and the Chuska Mountains remain my heart’s home.
It was in the 1990s that I began traveling with the Zapatistas, and that changed my life because of what I saw happening to Indigenous Peoples in Chiapas. My view of what is really news was also changed when I covered the Earth First Trial in federal court in Prescott, Arizona. It revealed the extent that the US government goes to entrap environmentalists and others.
In the mid-1990s, I began as a staff writer at Indian Country Today, when it began a Southwest edition. When Indian Country Today was owned by Tim Giago, Lakota, I was never censored. The situation changed after it was sold. When I was censored repeatedly, then terminated without cause by the new owners in 2006, I created Censored News to publish the voices of grassroots peoples and reveal what was being censored.
I’m thinking now of the Native youths and what might encourage them to become journalists. There’s just no other profession that offers so much adventure, hope and joy. There’s no other life that can give you so much, in terms of meeting wonderful people and traveling to extraordinary places, both within one’s self, and in the world. Even though in the end I was penniless, and blacklisted by all paying media, I wouldn’t change any of it. It was all a gift. These days I continue as a volunteer, and treasure all of those who are on this same journey, as the Zapatistas say of autonomy, dignity and justice.
As for writing, the only way to do it well is to listen to your inner voice, whether you call it Spirit, or a muse, it is what guides and inspires writers with truth, just as in life.