- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) - Several residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation are bringing their talents together to produce a new and independent newspaper on the reservation.

The majority of those involved in the newspaper are enrolled members of the Three Affiliated Tribes. Others on staff include enrolled members of other tribes in North Dakota or other states. Most on the staff have newspaper experience and have worked together before.

“The name of the publication is Six Star Observer. There is a star for each of the six segments of the reservation,” said Sarah Dea, co-editor along with LM Baker.

The newspaper is owned by Roger R. White Owl of New Town. He has lived on Fort Berthold nearly all of his life, the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1A6QXzG ) reported.

White Owl said coverage of all six segments of the reservation is “one of the things that needs to be done that isn’t being done.”

He said one of the focuses of the newspaper will be transparency of tribal government.

“We are going to be there to let the people know what is going on with the tribal council what they’re doing, why they’re doing what they are doing and all the programs that are taking place within the reservation,” he said.

“It’s not just for the New Town area. It’s for the whole reservation and all the communities so that everybody knows what’s happening within them,” White Owl added.

“One of the things we want to do is basically educate our people about oil royalties,” White Owl said. That includes explaining the ups and downs of oil prices and how that affects royalty checks.

“So they have a better understanding of what is happening around them and why it’s happening. It’s not because of the tribal council, it’s not because of the tribe, but there’s outside influences taking place that are affecting them not only here in the United States but throughout the world. We want our people to understand what is happening in the world and how it is affecting them, what decision-makers are doing and how it is affecting them and even the markets,” he said.

He said those who are not receiving royalties from the oil and their communities are benefiting from the oil but also are impacted when there are changes.

“We want to make sure our council members are letting the people know about these kinds of things,” he said.

Mark Fox, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, noting freedom of information and freedom of the press is the right of everyone and every entity, said the more accurate information people know, the better it is. He said he wishes those with the new newspaper well in their endeavor.

Marilyn Hudson, of Parshall, said, “I am very excited about the prospect of the Six Star Observer a great name and a great project. I give Sarah and her staff my best wishes for a very successful news reporting venture. I am looking forward to seeing the first edition, which she tells me will be Monday, Dec. 15. Our reservation has never had its own independent newspaper.

“Sarah plans to provide more community news which is great. The New Town News and Minot Daily News do a good job of reporting but Sarah’s paper will give more space to detailed community items and writings. She is trying to find writers to submit comments and news stories. That is not always easy to do, although people like to express their ideas and so forth. I hope to be able to provide a number of items as time goes by,” Hudson said.

The Six Star Observer’s staff includes:

Dea, who has resided in New Town since 2004, is originally from Texas. She is an enrolled member of the Texas Cherokee tribe, a tribe not recognized by the U.S. government. She has a master’s degree in English and nearly completed her doctoral degree in English. Incidentally, Jacqueline Mundy, a visiting professor from Minot State University, was her thesis director at the University of Texas at Tyler. Dea has been editor at a scientific research company, taught English and/or literature at universities and community colleges in Louisiana, Texas and Fort Berthold Community College in New Town, and also worked at newspapers.

Previously co-editors Dea and LM Baker have done a variety of newspaper work including editing, writing, layout, photo editing and maintaining websites.

“I am looking forward to being a part of an exciting new project such as this. I believe with this great staff and contributors that it will be a success,” Baker said.

Staff writer Theodora Birdbear worked for the federal Indian Health Service. She is a board member of the Dakota Resource Council, an unpaid, voluntary position.

“Tribal newspapers are usually the voice of whichever administration is in office. An independent voice is needed, especially with millions or billions of oil and gas revenue and environmental impacts at stake.” said Birdbear.

Staff writer Cassandra Aulaumea has previously worked as a newspaper reporter.

“I absolutely loved it,” she said, adding, “I’m super excited and I’m glad there’s finally a paper about every segment of the reservation.” She said she is looking forward to providing community updates and events.

“People want to read about what is going on in the community,” she said. Aulaumea grew up on Fort Berthold and has always lived there. She has nearly completed her associate of science degree. She’s also starting a cleaning business on Fort Berthold.

Jackie Powell, who will do layout and design, said she is looking forward to including information from the local areas in the newspaper.

“I’m really excited about it and feel it will take off,” she said. A lifelong resident of Fort Berthold, except for several years when she lived in Minot, she has a degree in graphics from Fort Berthold Community College in New Town and has several years of newspaper layout experience.

Laurie Kraft, office manager, has a number of years’ experience as an office manager.

Roger D. White Owl, a contributing writer, said he is looking forward to being part of the endeavor of having a healthy new media for tribal membership and the surrounding area. He said there is a need for the journalistic style of the new paper.

“We want the community to take ‘ownership’ of the paper,” White Owl said, with “ownership” meaning the newspaper is representing them. He has worked for tribal government and is a former tribal college instructor.

Heather White Owl, editorial assistant, has experience in working with children and education.

“I want to learn something new,” she said, adding, “I want a paper that has good information in it.” She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

The Rev. Stephen Krantz, is a contributing columnist who, best known as Father Steve, served the Fort Berthold Reservation for many years. He’s now at Assumption Abbey in Richardton.

An “unofficial staff member” is Dea’s service dog, Carson. He is always at her side to alert her in case she has a seizure.

Staff members credit Dea with the idea of starting a newspaper and keeping that idea going.

“The idea for the new paper has been cooking for some time over a year,” said Dea. She said she and others, as well as a number of community people, felt more news, in particular local news, needed to be covered and to include not just the New Town area but all six segments of the Fort Berthold Reservation Four Bears, Mandaree, Twin Buttes, Parshall/Lucky Mound and White Shield.

She said the staff plans to cover many different aspects of news, including many events in the six segments or areas of the reservation as well as culture, history and language of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people. They will ask community people to contribute stories and photos to the newspaper but also plan to have other ways for community people to be involved in the newspaper.

She said they will also do expanded coverage on various topics.

“If an issue is controversial, there’s more than one side of the story. I’d like to present all sides as honestly and clearly as possible. Then once the readers are informed, they can decide for themselves what is valid. So that is the driving force behind the new paper more complete coverage about what’s going on here,” Dea said, adding, “This is intended to be a community friendly paper.”

The first issue, which was published on Dec. 15, is free, Dea said.

“It’s going to be a tough road but we know we can do it. We have people we know who can do it,” Roger White Owl said.

___

Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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