RECEPTION BRINGS TOGETHER MEMBERS, LOCAL CULTURE

Tom Arviso, the publisher and corporate executive officer of Navajo Times, Inc., gave a lively keynote address at the opening gala at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Ariz. PHOTOGRAPH BY AUTUM MANUEL/PROJECT PHOENIX

BY ALEX MAXWELL, NATIVE VOICE

The National Native Media Conference kicked off Thursday night with a reception that welcomed both members of the Native American Journalists Association and National Public Media with food, dance and intellect.

The conference’s opening reception was held in the Heard Museum’s Steele Auditorium. More than 150 Native American journalists from across the country attended the event.

The night’s events included a line-up of performances and speeches.

Mary Hudetz, NAJA vice president, to be the master of ceremonies for the night. After her welcome speech, the Diné Urban Voices, a group of 10 including six children, provided the opening blessing via a traditional song.

“It’s a good feeling,” Amber Brown, one of the group’s adult members said of the songs. “They all carry positive energy.”

The conference “is going to go very well for you,” she told the crowd.

Rhonda LeValdo, the NAJA president, and Roanne Robison-Shaddox, the Native Public Media board secretary, offered speeches following the song.

Shaddox recognized two conference attendees who traveled a long distance for the event. Mikaela Simpson and Loreana Walker of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association from Alice Springs, Australia were recognized.

“It’s been and eye opener,” Walker said in an interview of her experiences so far.

Walker and Simpson were in the US for three weeks for the conference and other radio training and exchanges.

Headlining the evening was Tom Arviso Jr., Chief Executive Officer and publisher of the Navajo Times Publishing Co. Inc. He encouraged Native American journalists and congratulate NAJA on many its endeavors.

“It takes a team and with NAJA we have that,” Arviso said. “I’m proud of all of you.”

Arviso offered advice for young journalists.

“You’re the ones who are going to take us to the next level,” Arviso said of the upcoming journalists. “Be ethical, be fair, be honest. Live a good life and practice what you preach.”

The night concluded with dances from the Young Hopi eagle dancers and the San Juan Children Dancers of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Sooya, 7, and Su’anma Davis 6, dressed in full traditional regalia danced for healthy positive, energy while their father Derrick Davis and friend Ryom Polequaplema sang.

The 12 children dancers from the Ak-Chin Indian Community performed their Kwailia dance, a type of square dance.

“We wanted to show our culture,” Robert Miguel, the group’s leader, said. “There are a variety of cultures in our area.”

LaValdo said one of the goals of the night was to showcase the local culture as well as provide venue for the NAJA membership to come together.