The Native American Journalists Association changes name to be more inclusive

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WINNIPEG, Canada (AP) — The Native American Journalists Association announced Friday it is changing its name to the Indigenous Journalists Association in an effort to become more inclusive and strengthen ties with Indigenous journalists worldwide.

“We need young, Indigenous people to be telling stories in their own communities, and so having a name that can be inclusive to all Indigenous peoples, especially First Nations and Inuit, Métis and Canada, who don’t identify as Native American — So that was really part of it,” Francine Compton, citizen of Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation and associate director of the journalists association, told The Associated Press.

The group that was founded in 1983 and now includes more than 950 members, mostly in the U.S., announced the name change at its annual conference in Winnipeg, Canada. The decision was made after Indigenous members voted 89-55 in favor of the name change. The organization also updated the logo from NAJA with a feather to a stylized “IJA.”

The name change has been in consideration for a few years, as the association sought to give its members time to voice their support and any concerns, Compton said.

It also wanted to honor the association’s legacy and those who led it, including board presidents who were gifted a beaded medallion with the NAJA logo on stage Friday, with drumming and song filling the room.

The change also reflects terminology used by the United Nations and other multinational organizations.

“We live in a time when it is possible to connect and create deep, meaningful relationships with Indigenous journalists no matter where they are, and we look forward to helping them find each other to share their knowledge and support,” Graham Lee Brewer, a Cherokee Nation citizen and the association’s president, said in a statement.

It also represents an evolution in how Indigenous people see themselves.

“It’s part of this larger movement that’s happening in Indigenous people, just reclaiming everything that’s theirs that should be theirs,” board member Jourdan Bennett-Begaye said ahead of the vote. “Since contact, decisions have been made for us and not by us.”

But other members of the organization did not agree with the change.

Roy Dick said the change doesn’t align with how he identifies as a citizen of the Yakama Nation and as Native American. He voted against it.

“Indigenous is good for the young people, but we’re old school, and that’s how we’ve been going,” said Dick, a morning DJ at the tribally owned KYNR radio station in Toppenish, Washington.

He noted the work ahead in assuring the organization’s bylaws and other guidelines are consistent with the new name.

“It’s a lot to think about for these new leaders that are in there now,” said Dick. “They have to do a lot of reading to see if that name will grab on.”

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