I spent two days with Jennifer Bear Eagle, first at her home on the northwest tip of Nebraska, to her job as a lawyer for the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Her story — growing up at Wounded Knee, making her way to law school and returning to the reservation to help her people — showed me the resilience that resides in the hearts of Native American people and fueled my decision to return to the Midwest to tell more stories like hers.
For the past two years, I’ve lived in New York City, working as a business reporter for Bloomberg News. But I’m a Midwesterner at heart. I grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio, then attended journalism school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before making my way to the big city.
Now for my next adventure, I’ve joined The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead as a reporter covering Native American issues in North Dakota and Minnesota. My new job is part of a program known as Report for America, a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms for one year to report on under-covered topics and communities. This year, 61 reporters have joined 50 newsrooms across the country to help fill in coverage gaps.
I’m honored to join this one and to cover a topic close to my heart once again.
I owe my passion for reporting and writing about Native American issues and culture to University of Nebraska-Lincoln professors Joe Starita and Rebekka Schlichting, who spearheaded a year-long project during my senior year, in which my class reported on the travesties of Whiteclay, Nebraska — a small town that peddled millions of cans of beer each year to the dry Pine Ridge Reservation. Not only did we expose issues caused by the town, but we also told stories of influential Pine Ridge natives such as Jennifer Bear Eagle and Tom Brewer.
The experience showed me the beauty of Native American culture, but also revealed many of the hardships Native Americans face as a result of historical trauma and discrimination.
This year, I want to report on both.
I want to tell stories of Native American entrepreneurs, politicians, leaders, teachers, veterans and elders, but I also want to tell the tough stories on issues like political under-representation, historical trauma, economic disparity and social injustices.
And I want your insight, too. Let me know what ideas you have for stories you want to be told on the topic and reach out to me with comments on my articles. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 701-241-5528. Please also follow me on Twitter @n_rausch21 to see my latest stories and live updates.
I hope this year I can build your trust, and I hope my experiences reporting on Pine Ridge, working in various newsrooms across the country, and learning the ins and outs of the business world in New York City will allow me to find the best stories that need to be told.
I will do my best to shed light on issues Native Americans face, and I hope I can tell many more stories of warriors, like Jennifer Bear Eagle.