Skakel McCooey

When Meghan Gupta ’21 became a Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow this summer, she wanted to work on a capstone project that would allow her to tackle issues facing her tribe through policy.

But after thinking about it for a while, Gupta — the bonding coordinator for the Association of Native Americans at Yale and a staffer at the Native American Cultural Center — realized a deeper issue: public awareness about her community, its culture and the difficulties it faces is far from adequate. With that, she shifted her focus, and “Indigenizing the News,” a monthly newsletter highlighting indigenous news and voices, was born.

“Originally, I was trying to do something more policy-based with my tribe … but the more that I was looking at stuff and thinking about what people know, the more that I was like, the problem really lies in education for actually understanding attitudes and shaping actual policy,” Gupta said. “Before I jump into policy and really try to shape the way federal Indian law works in America, you actually have to have people who know some semblance of what this is like.”

The newsletter, emailed to subscribers on a monthly basis, is not targeted specifically toward a Native audience, Gupta said, but toward anyone looking to educate themselves and stay informed about indigenous culture, history and issues. And even beyond the monthly newsletter, Gupta has set up a website with resources for those completely unfamiliar with the topic to begin learning.

While she originally conceived the newsletter as a space to compile already-existing news articles, literature reviews, art and poetry, Gupta said she decided to expand it to also include original content. Currently, “Indigenizing the News” has around 500 subscribers.

Although Gupta does hope to maintain an editorial staff of Native students, a key element of the newsletter, she said, is that it welcomes and encourages non-Native writers to research topics they find interesting and write something for the newsletter.

“Native people often feel such a big burden to educate others, and I kind of wanted to flip that on its head and make sure that a lot of Native students didn’t feel like they had to write to keep it going,” Gupta said. “More like, non-Native people were having to do the heavy research and having to really look deep and understand these issues … We have so many other things that we love to do, other than educating allies. We are so engaged with our own cultures, and giving space to do that is really important.”

For one example, Eliza Lafferty, a junior at Georgetown who roomed with Gupta during the leadership program at Mount Vernon, wrote a piece for the newsletter about Native art in the digital realm, which fit into her own personal academic interest in art history.

Lafferty, a non-Native, said the process of writing the piece for the newsletter helped her learn a great deal about Native traditions as well as the state of modern indigenous art, which she said is “alive and well.”

“I think there comes a point when it’s just important for people to step up and take it upon themselves to educate themselves on issues that are affecting predominantly minority communities,” Lafferty said. “Even if you’re not a part of that community, it’s essential to educate yourself on history and the trauma that that community might be suffering. Especially as a woman of color for me specifically, I think it’s important for me to learn about the influence of colonization on other communities and to learn to how to best support brothers and sisters in that struggle.”

Now that she is back at Yale, Gupta hopes to also invite New Haven residents to write for and subscribe to the newsletter, she said. She also plans to expand her reach to youth in the Elm City, hoping to give classroom presentations in local public schools, Gupta added.

Andy DeGuglielmo ’18 LAW ’21 — a past ANAAY leader who helped Gupta with the newsletter in the beginning stages and continues to advise her moving forward — stressed that Gupta’s initiative is important because it works toward a larger effort of bringing together activists and allies to “operate from a baseline of shared understanding.”

“[Indigenizing the News] fits neatly into the broader push towards justice for the many Indigenous communities whose narratives of survivance have been and continue to be shaped by the historical and contemporary manifestations of settler colonialism,” DeGuglielmo wrote in an email to the News.

Founded at its High St. location in 2013, the NACC is the newest of Yale’s four cultural centers.

Asha Prihar | asha.prihar@yale.edu