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for people who care about the West

Our tribal affairs desk is looking for pitches

Got a solid idea from Indian Country? We want you to write for us.


Last year, High Country News launched our tribal affairs desk, making us the only non-Native news outlet in the country with dedicated resources and Indigenous staff focused on covering Indigenous communities. In our second year, we’re continuing to build a robust list of talented reporters, writers and analysts, while hoping to focus more closely on a few particular areas.

So, if you’re a Native journalist or a non-Native writer with experience working in Indian Country, we’d like to hear from you. Broadly speaking, High Country News will consider pitches for well-researched reportage, analysis, opinion, essays or criticism on issues vital to the West — especially under the broad frameworks of science and nature; conservation and preservation; food and agriculture; health and well-being; water; environmental justice and racism; climate change and energy; post-colonialism and the legacy of conquest; the rural-urban divide; environmental law, policy and philosophy; public lands and resources (including water, wildlife, rangelands, minerals, timber, recreation and preservation); military and nuclear activities and their legacies; and economics. 

We are especially interested in stories and perspectives from underrepresented communities where they intersect with these issues. The writing in High Country News seeks to explore the region through the unique stories that only the West can produce, but that have greater significance beyond our borders. We emphasize intellectual honesty, clarity, accuracy and nuance.

These are some of the stories our tribal affairs desk hopes to publish in the remainder of 2018:

Food. At High Country News, we understand that Indigenous food systems are the cornerstones of Indigenous health, culture and well-being. With that as your launch point, we want to hear about the food, food movements and chefs in your community. We also want to read love letters lauding your favorite dishes, whether you prefer Piki or Wojapi. Make us hungry.

Science, Technology and Research. We want to see deep-dive reporting into everything from medicine to astronomy to digital innovations that are happening with the guidance of Indigenous people. We also want to hear from researchers. Are you studying spiders? In the middle of an exciting archaeological dig? Exploring digital technologies as forms of resistance? Write a short essay describing what you do, and why you do it.

Occupying Forces. Native Americans are killed by police at a higher rate than any other ethnic group in the country. This topic cannot be covered enough, and we want to hear about all the other forms police brutality takes in Indian Country. Get those public records requests in and tell us what you find.

Activism. We want to see portraits and pieces on individuals and communities protesting, counter-protesting, mobilizing voters, actively resisting, and engaging in all other modes of direct action. We want to hear from both right and left.

Travel. What are the dozen or more things we need to know before we spend a weekend in your community? What are the events and special places you wish more people knew about? Think responsible, in-depth travel features on important places in Indian Country.

Sex and Sexuality. Indians have sex; your task as a reporter is to write about all the wonderful forms sex and sexuality take in Indigenous communities. From technology and toys to changing attitudes and Indigenous sexual autonomy, we want sex-positive reporting from Indian Country.

Style and Art. From fashion design to lifestyle trends, tell us what’s hot. Have we reached peak Billy Jack-hat yet? What’s new in art and photography? Is your community the epicenter of a dance revolution? Tell us something new about Indigenous art, fashion and style.

Groups. Some of our favorite stories are about interesting, remarkable and just plain weird groups of people, like that Rez band that’s been playing country music covers for 20 years; the local drag scene; the eccentric arts collective down the road; your local food-stand owner. These amazing people and their distinctive worlds are exactly what we want to read about.

Here’s the most important thing you should remember when you pitch: We work with long-form narrative storytelling. That means we need to see the traditional elements that go into great stories: specific characters and clear stakes. We want nutgrafs and well-written scenes. We also want pitches 500 words or under; if you can write your pitch up in a one-to-two sentence logline, you will have our full attention.

The second most important thing you should remember is that we cover the West: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and California. We rarely take stories from outside those states, though we do make exceptions, especially on the tribal affairs desk, for Indian Country of the High Plains and Oklahoma. Important tip: More than 60 percent of Native people live in urban areas.

For all tribal affairs stories, we have a best practices guide. For instance, we avoid the WD4 Rule, the word “Indigenous” is always capitalized, and we don’t publish ethnographic or anthropological-style stories. When coming up with pitches, you can download this Bingo sheet from the Native American Journalists Association to better guide your brainstorming, and if you feel really brave, you can download and sign this handy (and irrefutable …) set of rules for New Journalism.

Finally, we want to partner. To all you fine reporters at tribal outlets: hit us up, let’s figure this out. To all non-Native outlets: We have great stories and amazing investigations in the pipeline, and we’d love to find a way to work together.

To pitch us, tips us, or for more information, email Associate Editor Tristan Ahtone: [email protected]