Tele-Native Youth: Natives in the Media

By: Ruben Littlehead, Northern Cheyenne

I was able to moderate the webinar “Natives in Media,” at the rest area along Interstate-90 between Hardin and Billings, Mt., and had just the right amount of battery life on my laptop too, as it shut off right at the very end. 


Let me begin by saying this webinar held an array of panelists that were filled with talent, passion and drive. Each panelist delivered a powerful message to all our viewers, young and old. Being a moderator, I get the honor and privilege to interview and lead discussions with native panelists that either had accomplished goals set at a younger age, or are currently pursuing their goals now, and I get to discover some of the catalyst factors that inspired that drive toward those goals.

As with Tsanavi Spoonhunter, a documentary film maker who recently graduated from University of California, Berkley shot her award winning documentary film, Crow Country: Our Right to Food Sovereignty in the exact same spot I pulled over at for the webinar. Spoonhunter credits the movie “Reel Injun” as the reason behind her wanting to get into the film industry and produce accurate portrayal of Native culture and history.

Others, like Julian NoiseCat and Jaida Grey Eagle expressed that education and being represented at the same level among other scholars was very important to their goals growing up.  Julian, a publicist and researcher, using his platform to reeducate some of the western philosophies of Native education, as with Jaida and her work with photography, she named dropped some of her idols and mentors that inspired her to pursue the media arts.

Also, I asked Julian about his journey through his personal education route. He attended Columbia University and studied abroad at Oxford as well.  I think when our younger viewers see and hear this, it provides the motivation and belief that it is possible to achieve goals, and to witness another native who has opened them doors of opportunity! 

Tomas is a very passionate film producer and also his passion was demonstrated with being a father and husband as well, as his kids and wife in the background tried to keep quiet during our zoom webinar! I think it reminded all of us who are parents with our kids being loud and busy, and we are trying to pay attention to the zoom meeting!

During his time to answer a couple questions, Tomas spoke of his upbringing and how Media artforms are integral in our education at an early age. Being a film maker allows him to create his vision and message to all his viewers, both native and non-native.

Last, but not least, our final panelist I get to talk about is CNAY’s own Jarrette Werk. Jarrette is working on his degree and continues to work with CNAY and shared why he chose to pursue the career in media, and his passion on being a voice and supporter of younger generations of native students that want to advance to higher learning. He also expressed the importance of elevating and supporting the Native youth voice and how he gets to do that by working at CNAY.

In conclusion, this webinar allowed five panelist to express their work in media and explain a little bit of their personal journey which directed them toward the field of storytelling. I believe that there is a lot more history that needs to be reeducated and retold of events that took place in the last 500 years. However, with the current platforms like CNAY and Tele-Native Youth, progress is being made and inspired Native minds are being woken up throughout the nation, and this pleases my heart, our hearts! 

Ruben Littlehead, an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, currently resides in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and four children. The proud Haskell Indian Nations University alum is currently pursing a masters degree at the University of Kansas. Throughout his life, Ruben has had many different hats; commercial roofer, Kirby salesman, Retention Specialist at Haskell, and most recent an independent consultant working with various tribal nations and first nations throughout United States and Canada. Being a consultant Ruben has the privilege to travel and see and experience the diverse communities and learn first hand from the teachers and elders of each society.  Ruben is also a basketball lover, and serve as a basketball coach and trainer through player development. Lastly, Ruben enjoys the outdoors and recently took up hiking and wants to explore more of this beautiful world.