Patty Loew wants to change the role of Native Americans in the media.
Loew, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, spent 12 years as a co-anchor for ABC in Madison, Wis. She feels that it is important for Natives to be involved in both local and mainstream media.
“Radio and television are really culturally compatible with who we are as Native people,” said Loew.
“To be able to blend sound and picture, and be able to tell stories in the oral tradition, I think is just really in sync with who we are.”
Loew feels that incorporating Native tribes and individuals into the news on a more regular basis must happen for the good of Native Americans across the country.
“Mainstream media especially need to see us as the complex individuals and the complex communities that we are,” said Loew.
“Including Native people in the routine coverage of news is a good start…(The media) needs to develop Native people as sources and not just show up at powwows or when there is some crisis happening in a community.”
Developing more young Native journalists will help to get Natives more representation in the media. With more Native people in the newsroom, the media would, as a whole, eventually gain a better understanding of Native culture.
According to Loew, this aspect of the media has taken a turn for the better over the last 20 years. This improvement is partially to thanks to several Native media organizations.
“Groups like the Vision Maker Media folks have, along with NAJA, helped elevate the professionalism of Native journalism,” said Loew.
“That’s gone a long way to help prepare young journalists who come from tribal communities to get jobs both in the tribal media and in mainstream newsrooms.”
As for her teaching career, Loew is enjoying being associate professor at the University of Wisconsin.
As someone responsible for molding future members of the media, Loew says she wants to instill some of her enthusiasm for the news in her students.
“I enjoyed my career in television and I am still enthusiastic about it 35 years later,” said Loew.
“For me, teaching is a second career, and I am really enjoying it.”
Aside from teaching, Loew has written two textbooks about Native American history in the state of Wisconsin. She feels that they will provide both Native and non-Native people with a glimpse of history from a more Native point of view.
Along with the textbooks, Loew has found time to produce the film Way of the Warrior. The one-hour documentary, released this month, chronicles the stories of Native American service in American wars.
Her inspiration for creating the film comes partially from personal memories- Loew’s grandfather served in World War I.
Although it is rarely mentioned in history books, more than 12,000 Native men served in this war, despite not having the rights of an actual citizen.
“I imagined him up there, hand raised, ready to uphold the Constitution and I always thought this was ironic because, of course, him and other Native people had no protection under the U.S Constitution,” Loew said.
“I thought about that for decades.”
Although she is pleased with the finished product of Way of the Warrior, Loew is already looking forward to future films.
Sacred Stick, a film about Native lacrosse in the United States is already in the works. The film will chronicle the importance of the game to Native American culture.
“So many Native American communities have this game, but it’s more than a game,” she said. “It’s a reflection of their culture; it’s a right of passage.”
Several Native lacrosse teams have reached the national level in many tournaments and leagues, something Loew will certainly cover in her film. This trend has also become visible in recent years regarding Native Americans in the media.
These things don’t happen by accident. They happen because of the hard work of people like Patty Loew.
Written by Zach Oliva.
Interviews conducted and edited by Zach Oliva.