Reframing Discourse: the Emancipatory Power of Self-Told Stories
By Dina Buck /

If indigenous and modern world views are going to inform each other to shift the trajectory of humankind toward a just, thriving, and sustainable future, an important step in this direction is for the modern world to better understand indigenous peoples’ stories, perceptions, and values.  In the past, indigenous peoples’ perspectives have too frequently been told by outsiders, which can, and has, resulted in biased and inaccurate storytelling that serves to add misunderstanding rather than clarity, and has, even if sometimes inadvertently, perpetuated the dynamic of inequality between modern and indigenous communities.

An Emancipatory Movement For Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Alike

This is changing, however, as members of indigenous communities increasingly take ownership of modern media tools to tell their own stories.  Indigenous peoples are gaining a foothold in producing their own news and entertainment media, and/or are collaborating with citizens of the global North to generate indigenous media, creating partner-based relationships that formerly might have been modeled under an observer-subject relationship.  A great example of such a partnership is Conversations With the Earth, an international indigenous-led advocacy and education organization through which indigenous communities are sharing how climate change is affecting their lives.

Manuela Picq, in her article “A Dynamic Year of Indigenous Communication” calls this an emancipatory movement for indigenous and non-indigenous.  She states, “Indigenous media, essential to secure self-determination, is also emancipatory for non-indigenous peoples. Complementing and correcting official history, it contributes new ways of seeing. For instance, the alternative narratives presented by indigenous visions blurs national borders, reassembling geographically dispersed voices beyond and across the political divides of the systems of sovereign states. With every new story made public, indigenous media contributes new perspectives to read the past and open alternative possibilities to imagine the future.”

A Diversity of Discourse Demonstrates Growing Empowerment

Picq’s article offers links to indigenous-run media and entertainment sources, such as the American Indian Film Institute, the XI International Festival of Indigenous Peoples Cinema and Video, and the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network that just held its first World Indigenous Journalism Awards to celebrate TV’s best indigenous perspectives.

Also, the Festival of Indigenous Storytellers will be held in Darjeeling, India later this week from December 7-10.  The festival’s website states, “The 3-day event will showcase various storytelling traditions (including shamanic oral traditions) and will include storytellers from various tribal communities across the country, alongside professional storytellers. The event brings in a remarkable glimpse of our ancient cultures, our sacred Spirits and our often forgotten societies with whom we invisibly share a heritage that simply cannot be expressed.”  All in all, a dynamic year of indigenous communication, indeed!

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Reframing Discourse: the Emancipatory Power of Self-Told Stories