Jack Kohler and Anacita Agustinez

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Jack Kohler and Anacita Agustinez

Anecita Agustines (Dine) and Jack Kohler (Hoopa/Yurok/Karuk) are changing the landscape in northern California for Native youth interested in television production. They are the executive producers for On Native Ground Youth Reports, a monthly entertainment broadcast on the FNX First Nations Experience Channel (www.fnx.org).

The monthly series is hosted by Daniel Herrera (Miwok Nation) and Bela Longee (Assiniboine Sioux and Mandan Nation). Each episode features an in-depth interview of a Native American role model. Special interest stories will be featured each month concentrating on cultural, political and educational events, including traditional storytelling and animation. On Native Ground Field Reporters cover news, entertainment, film festivals, sports, the rodeo and the powwow trail, as well as Native American celebrities and role models.

"This entertainment series captures a demographic of youth through elders, and reaches past all cultural and ethnic barriers, by highlighting positive role models and current and historical events that are uniquely Native American" said Agustines, "By partnering with the FNX channel, a member of the World Indigenous Television Broadcast Network, and their prestigious partners, the program will garner a world audience who will be introduced to a unique viewing experience that has not been seen elsewhere."

On Native Ground is a tribally chartered non-profit through the Hoopa Tribe since 2006. The company is well known throughout Indian Country as an incubator for talent development and programming in the tribal communities. It has also developed a successful youth mentorship program.

The company has provided press coverage for the past 4 years at the Sundance Film Festival and other film festivals throughout the country. The youth reporters, ages 12 to 16, get a chance to experience roles in front of and behind the camera.

The youth represent many different tribes and are required to maintain a 3.0 grade point average to stay in the program. About a dozen students are involved in the project.

Kohler said that On Native Ground has inspired its participants to work hard, graduate from high school and explore professional opportunities in the media. Several graduates of the program maintain ties to the project and serve as field reporters, from their college campuses.

This youth program is a personal passion for Kohler as he has invested his own resources for the success of the program. He also teaches media for the United Auburn Indian Community.

"There isn’t really a set place, it’s where ever we set up our green screen. I’ll use the school’s studio sometimes and we have a home studio, but most of it’s out in the field," Kohler said.

The portability of On Native Ground makes the Internet an ideal communications strategy for the project.

"Indians are really good at social media. It’s our new smoke signals in terms of how we communicate. We're showing the world that we’re technologically savvy," Agustines said.

Kohler said the project is a way to help build self-confidence in the youth and overcome obstacles in their lives.

"The media can be both a negative and positive thing, and we're trying to make it a positive thing for the kids to learn a way to use media to bring positive goals to other youth," Kohler said.

Native American Public Telecommunications provided funding to On Native Ground to advance content available to youth and for youth, as part of its American Graduate programming.

For the benefit of Native peoples First Nations Experience (FNX) now soars on air-waves of one full channel serving 18 million through KVCR TV with major support from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. FNX is currently available on Verizon in the greater Los Angeles area on channel 471, and over-the-air in the city of San Bernardino on channel 24.2.

On Native Ground vol 1 from On Native Ground on Vimeo.

Written by Shirley K. Sneve

Interviews conducted by Shirley K. Sneve with editing by Landon Mattison