Cherokee journalist brings Native issues to national stage
Cherokee journalist Rebecca Nagle, a recipient of the American Mosaic Journalism Prize, has pursued writing to help bring Native American issues such as tribal sovereignty and representation in the media to a “more national stage.” COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Rebecca Nagle, a Cherokee Nation citizen and freelance journalist, is preparing for her next writing project since recently becoming a 2020 American Mosaic Journalism Prize winner and receiving an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000.
Nagle, who originally studied art in college, found herself writing opinion pieces while working in advocacy and community organizations while attending school in Baltimore, Maryland.
“If we were working on a bill or something like that I would write an op-ed. When I left that work, I kept writing on my own and have been pursuing that in the past few years more directly,” she said.
Nagle said she pursued writing to help bring Native issues such as tribal sovereignty and representation in the media to a “more national stage” and writes in a way that everyone, Native and non-Native, can understand.
“One of the things that I like to write about are court cases, maybe bills in Congress, things that are happening with policy that impact our tribes and our communities. I think just in general…the law is this institution that has such a profound impact on people’s lives. It’s a really hard thing to understand,” she said.
Nagle said she’s passionate in writing about court cases, laws and policies.
“I’ve written several pieces about the laws and policies that are in the Violence Against Women Act, and about the need to restore tribal jurisdiction over non-Native offenders. I wrote a piece in The Guardian just about the Census rollout and some of the measures that are being placed to reach people in the Native community to make sure that we’re counted,” she said.
Her works have been published by The Guardian, USA Today, Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, The Boston Globe, Indian Country Today and The Washington Post, in which she wrote an opinion piece in 2018 that was turned into a serialized podcast by Los Angeles-based political media company Crooked Media.
The podcast “This Land” was about the Murphy v. Carpenter case in which Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Patrick Murphy was convicted of murdering fellow MCN citizen George Jacobs. After being tried and sentenced to death, the public defender argued that the incident’s location was on MCN land and that Oklahoma had no jurisdiction in the case. It has since gone to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a previous Cherokee Phoenix story, Nagle said the podcast’s goal was to engage and interest people about the case, and along the way, learn the aspects of Native history and contemporary rights.
“I get a lot of questions about the Murphy case because it is really complicated and there’s a lot of history to it and it’s hard to understand exactly the implications of it,” she said. “So I think that even for our own communities that kind of reporting is really important. When issues like this are in front of the Supreme Court, in front of Congress, a lot of times people outside of Indian Country, they don’t know about the laws that govern our rights. They don’t know what a reservation is legally. They might not know what a federally recognized tribe is. A lot of times people don’t understand tribal citizenship and the basics of tribal sovereignty.”
Nagle said with her award money she plans to write about the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. “It’s a law that’s really important to the safety of our kids and health of our families that’s under attack right now.”
With the piece, she wants to report on the groups putting money into filing the lawsuits against ICWA, who they are and why are they interested, as well as other questions that mainstream media are not asking.
“I’m just trying to write about all of those things in a way that is accessible, so people within our community can know what’s going on, and also, so that people outside of our community can know more about tribes and federal Indian law and that when these laws are in front of Congress or when these court cases are happening, it’s not just people in Indian Country who are paying attention, but there’s a broader base of people who care who are following along,” Nagle said.