Ilíiaitchik:

Indigenous Correspondents Program

Saguaro in the foreground with the Arizona-Sonoran desert on the horizon

Planet Forward and UArizona have partnered to launch the Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program (ICP). The goal of the ICP is to empower the next generation of Indigenous scholars to share environmental stories and resilient solutions of relevance around the world.

Photo Credit: Kevin Bonine

Planet Forward, a project of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, in collaboration with AIRES Education Initiatives and the Indigenous Resilience Center (IRC), will now support greater participation by Indigenous students in a program that centers their voices and brings broader perspectives to the successful Planet Forward platform.  

The Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program (ICP) will support 10-12 Indigenous graduate and upper-division undergraduate students from across the United States through a year-long professional development, communication skill-building, and community-generating program led by Indigenous mentors in fields ranging from environmental journalism to podcast production. Ilíiaitchik (Phonetic spelling: "Ih-lia-it-chick") means "to speak good words" in Biiluuke/Crow. Our co-founder, JoRee, comes from the Apsáalooke/Crow Nation and found inspiration in her own language that encompassed the goals of this program. Students with an interest in environmental science and knowledge generation, resilient solutions, and effective storytelling in media spaces are encouraged to apply for the 2022-23 cohort of the Indigenous Correspondents Program.

Thank you for Applying

The application is currently closed and the final cohort announcement will be posted on September 20th, 2022.

Reporting about science and the environment has not always been inclusive nor respectful of Indigenous communities and knowledge systems. Work remains to make journalism and storytelling accessible and equitable for Native people. Although Indigenous communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change and global biodiversity loss, only a very small percentage of scientists, professors, and science journalists at U.S. universities and news organizations are Indigenous. Additionally, despite modest increases in Indigenous representation among STEM professionals in recent years, recent research from the Institute for Scientific Information shows that between 2010 and 2020, there “was virtually no change in the representation of Black, Hispanic, and Native American researchers among authors of scientific publications” a symptom of structural inequality, including underfunding of BIPOC academics. This lack of resources and representation influences the coverage and perspective around issues of environmental justice, climate adaptation, and environmental policy.

Jarrette Werk 3-byJoReeLaFrance.JPG

Indigenous dancers being filmed while performing.
Photo Credit: Jarrette Werk

As we work to identify and disseminate environmentally friendly solutions that “move the planet forward,” we need everyone, regardless of their background, to be part of the communication efforts. The UArizona and Planet Forward Indigenous Correspondents Program will create a more equitable space for Indigenous voices and perspectives to be heard - on their own terms - amid this truly global effort. The long-term goals of the Indigenous Correspondents Program are to increase participation in Earth and environmental science communication and related fields among Indigenous students and to increase the quality and quantity of Indigenous stories in media across the U.S.

Participants in Planet Forward’s 12-month Indigenous Correspondents Program will periodically meet with members of their cohort (~10-12 students) and Indigenous activists, journalists, and scientists to advance their storytelling and communication skills while building their professional and community networks. Participants will also receive one-on-one mentorship and guidance in creating and publishing a final environmental communication piece (e.g., essay/article, multimedia story, podcast, video documentary, etc.) and will receive a Certificate of Completion for their involvement in the program. Throughout the ICP, participating students will focus on four main goals:

  1. Personal growth (reclaiming your narratives and voice, telling personal stories, healing through creative expression, and connecting with the land and our communities)
  2. Skill building (effective science communication strategies and storytelling techniques, multimedia technical skills (as applicable), editing, publishing and pitching content)
  3. Networking/community building (one-on-one mentorship with Indigenous speakers and Planet Forward editors, informal cohort gatherings, access to the Native American Journalists Association, Indian Country Today, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, and other platforms and experts as applicable)
  4. Publishing (a final project will involve either a podcast, music piece, exhibition, multimedia, or written piece showcasing the participants’ communication skills on an issue of their choice)

Program Timeline

  1. Monthly skill-building workshops: Program participants will engage in seven two-hour long monthly workshops over the course of the program, from September 2022 through April 2023. Workshops will occur in the following sequence: 1) Healing Through Storytelling, 2) The Art of the Interview, 3) Four P's: Producing a Publication-ready Piece and Pitching, 4) Multimedia Communication, 5) Indigenous Knowledge in Science Communication, 6) Using software and technology, 7) Journalism in Indian Country.
  2. Planet Forward Summit: The Indigenous Correspondents Program will culminate with participants traveling to Washington, D.C. to attend the 2023 Planet Forward Summit, which brings together scientists, students, and storytellers from around the U.S. and the world to discuss issues of effective environmental communication. The Planet Forward Summit serves as an opportunity for Correspondents to connect with and learn from leading journalists, policymakers, and innovators across disciplines.  *Note: Participants’ travel expenses will be covered to ensure everyone can attend the summit if they choose to do so.
  3. Mentoring check-ins: In addition to providing participants with ample opportunities to hone their storytelling skills through workshops, Indigenous Correspondents will meet once a month with mentors/editors at Planet Forward to discuss their current thoughts and progress on their written work. Participants will be paired with a Planet Forward editor during orientation and will coordinate with their mentor to determine check-in meetings.
  4. Community-building events: To help create a sense of community, participants will also be invited to take-part in virtual community-building events, such as team trivia and story-sharing nights. These events will be announced in advance by the Planet Forward Indigenous Correspondents Coordinator. 

Deliverables 

  • By December of 2022, Indigenous Correspondents will have each shared one piece (e.g., a podcast episode, essay/article, documentary film, or multimedia piece, etc.) with members of their cohort and the ICP’s Indigenous Editor-in-Residence for feedback and/or further refinement. Participants may choose whether or not they would like to publish this piece outside of the program. 
  • By the 2023 Planet Forward Summit (April 2023) Indigenous Correspondents will have each published at least one storytelling piece (e.g., a podcast episode, essay/article, documentary film, multimedia piece, etc.) on Planet Forward’s website. 

Graduate students and upper-division undergraduate students with an interest in environmental science and knowledge generation, resilient solutions, and effective storytelling in media spaces are encouraged to apply for the 2022-23 cohort of the Indigenous Correspondents Program. 

The application for the Fall 2022 - Spring 2023 cohort has been closed.

The final cohort announcement will be posted on September 20th, 2022.

The 2022-2023 Planet Forward Indigenous Correspondents Program is open to all Indigenous graduate students and upper-division (i.e., those in their junior or senior year as of September 2022) undergraduate students (regardless of academic area of study) currently enrolled in universities and colleges - including tribal, community, and private colleges - across the United States. This includes but is not limited to American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and members of Canadian First Nation or Métis communities currently attending colleges and universities in the United States. Preference will be given to applicants with an expressed interest in communication (writing, podcasting, music-writing, video production, etc.) sustainability, Native American Studies, environmental studies, earth systems, and resilience solutions.

Planet Forward does not act as an arbiter for determining Indigeneity. We rely on applicants’ good faith in self-representing connections to their Indigenous communities. To this end, please be prepared to provide documentation upon request or a statement of your Indigenous ancestry.

  1. Applicants should provide the requested information and submit their answers to four short-response (~120 words) questions via the form below.
    Note: We recommend writing, editing, and saving your statements beforehand in a Word or Google Document before pasting and submitting them via the form. 
     
  2. As a final step, you will be asked to upload a copy of your CV or Resume.

Note: Upon completion of the program in April 2023, applicants will be asked to submit a single-page evaluation of their experience. This evaluation will provide organizers with valuable feedback to help in evaluating and modifying the program to improve future participants’ experiences.