Indigenous Correspondents Program

Indigenous Correspondents Program

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


Logos for Planet Forward and Arizona Institute for Resilient Environments and Societies
Ilíiaitchik: Indigenous Correspondents Program logo


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 (IRes), 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.

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.

Meet the Correspondents

Get to know the Indigenous Correspondents participating in the program this year.

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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. 

Over the course of the Ilíiaitchik program, Indigenous Correspondents attend a series of seven monthly workshops led by Indigenous mentors. Workshop leaders represent a variety of communication fields, ranging from photojournalism and filmmaking, to education and scientific research. These workshops provide Indigenous Correspondents with unique opportunities to ask questions of experts in the field, engage in dialogue about stories, learn new storytelling techniques and practices, and receive feedback on their own work. Below is a synopsis of the 2022-23 Ilíiaitchik Indigenous Correspondents Program workshops, including a list of workshop leaders and learning objectives for each program:

Workshop leader: Cinnamon Kills First is a Northern Cheyenne artist, documentary filmmaker, speaker, educator, and author of Maria Tallchief: Woman of Two Worlds, Go Dance!, and a forthcoming book. Cinnamon owns and operates Northside Advocacy LLC and is currently working on several projects aimed at supporting Indigenous youth and mental/emotional wellbeing.

Learning goals/ objectives:

  • Introduce meditation and mindful reading techniques to process academic stressors
  • Learn how writing can be used as a tool to help heal ourselves and our communities
  • Offer tips for self-care, self-love, and for building confidence in your storytelling voice
  • Reclaiming narratives (focusing on body and heart in academia) 
  • Practice writing “six word stories” to convey and process emotions and our own stories

Workshop leaders: 1) Valerie Vande Panne is the Managing Editor of Native News Online - an Indigenous-focused news publication founded in 2011 by Levi Rickert, a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. Vande Panne’s award-winning stories have appeared in Bloomberg, Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, Harvard Law Today, Politico, and Salon, among many other publications. 2) Frank Sesno is a non-Indigenous political analyst, author, moderator, Emmy-award winning journalist, former CNN White House correspondent, and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. Sesno also published the book Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change and teaches a university class on “The Art of the Interview.”

Learning goals/ objectives:

  • Learn techniques for conducting a successful interview, including finding the "right" person/ people to speak with about your topic
  • Learn how to craft/ ask compelling questions and create a comfortable environment for interviewees
  • Learn note-taking techniques to better capture the essence of a conversation
  • Discuss how to conduct respectful, reciprocal interviews when speaking with Indigenous elders, government officials, and knowledge-holders in ways that protect culturally sensitive knowledge 
  • Understand the differences between different interview types (i.e., celebratory interviews, investigative interviews, etc.) and how to prepare for them
  • Learn techniques for accurately portraying an interviewee's voice and essence when writing a story

Workshop leaders: 1) Duncan McCue is an award-winning Anishinaabe television and radio journalist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. McCue’s Decolonizing Journalism: A Guide to Reporting in Indigenous Communities is the only text in Canada that teaches aspiring journalists how to build respectful, reciprocal relationships with Indigenous communities when researching and sharing their stories. 2) Kalen Goodluck is a Diné, Mandan, Hidatsa and Tsimshian journalist and photographer currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His reporting has been in The New York Times, High Country News, Pulitzer Center, National Geographic - Travel, Mother Jones, WIRED, NBC News, KCET, Off Assignment,  Bklyner, and Indian Country Today Media Network.

Learning goals/ objectives:

  • Learn strategies for crafting a compelling narrative in journalism/ photojournalism 
  • Learn tips for contacting media platforms and pitching story ideas to editors/ media outlets
  • Learn strategies for initial stages of story development, including identifying medium, plot, and key “characters”
  • Practice writing and presenting an effective story pitch

Workshop leaders: 1) Chelsey Luger is a Lakota and Anishinaabe writer and wellness advocate, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and a descendant of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism where she concentrated in broadcast and digital media, Luger’s writing and multimedia pieces have been published in the Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Well + Good, NowThis News, Indian Country Today, among other outlets. 2) Tanaya Winder is an enrolled member of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and an award-winning poet, writer, singer-songwriter, artist and educator. Winder co-founded the Sing Our Rivers Red traveling earring exhibit to raise awareness about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and her poems from “Love in a Time of Blood Quantum” were produced and performed by the Poetic Theater Productions Presents Company in NYC. Winder guest lectures and teaches creative writing workshops at high schools and universities internationally.

Learning goals/ objectives:

  • Learn about the diverse ways Indigenous communicators tell stories about their communities and the land
  • Experience different forms of storytelling - including poetry, song, and visual artwork
  • Inspire students to use forms of communication beyond writing, or to integrate different mediums into their communication work
  • Acquire a new multimedia technique and/or tool to help with storytelling 
  • Learn how to manage writer's block and how to begin a story through podcast, poem, etc. using drawing boards to map out a story

Workshop leader: Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, an American Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology, award-winning author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants and Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, and both the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. In October of 2022, Dr. Kimmerer was named a MacArthur fellow and a recipient of a MacArthur ‘genius grant’ in recognition of her groundbreaking work weaving Indigenous ways of knowing within her scientific work. 

Learning goals/ objectives: 

  • Learn effective science communication techniques, including how to write an engaging science story that combines emotion and storytelling while maintaining scientific accuracy.
  • Discuss how to center Indigenous knowledge and frameworks in science communication, including stories about climate change and environmental degradation. 
  • Learn techniques for writing about science and describing plants, animals, and ecosystems without reducing them to objects (as is often the case in Western science). In other words, learn how to write about plants, animals, and ecosystems as story subjects and not objects.
  • Learn how to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing into scientific writing in ways that don’t position science as “validating” Indigenous knowledge.
  • Discuss techniques for centering storytelling in joy, as opposed to solely climate anxiety, in environmental writing

Workshop leader: Kirsten Nagel is a Senior Customer Success Manager at Adobe with over 7 years experience developing integrated digital media and helping university students tell compelling narratives. In this workshop, Kirsten taught participants how to create dynamic web pages, videos, and infographics using Adobe Express.

Learning goals/ objectives:

  • Practice using new software programs to tell more engaging and impactful stories
  • Learn techniques for incorporating different communication methods, including videos, images, audio, and writing into a cohesive story (i.e., using Adobe Express)
  • Learn tips and tricks for producing visually-appealing videos, infographics, and websites

Workshop leaders: 1) Luella Brien is an Apsáalooke educator, journalist, and news editor who has worked with the Ravalli Republic, Billings Gazette and, most recently, the Big Horn County News. Brien received her Bachelor of Arts degree in print journalism at the University of Montana School of Journalism and is a graduate of the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. Brien is the founder of Four Points Press, an independent digital media company serving the Crow Indian Reservation and surrounding area that is “ dedicated to giving the voice back to the people of the region and getting the story right. She has focused on increasing coverage of Crow Reservation news in ways it hasn’t been covered previously. 2) Laurel Sutherland began her journalism career in 2018 and currently works as a Staff Writer and Indigenous News Reporter for Mongabay, the world’s most popular rainforest information site and an international environmental journalism network. Prior to joining Mongabay, she worked for the Stabroek News, one of the leading print and digital news agencies in Guyana. She has provided news coverage on several beats at once, including on the environment, the extractive industry and Indigenous Peoples. Laurel has written widely about environmental rights issues affecting indigenous communities around the globe, from Maasai villages battling displacement in Tanzania to Gwich’in communities fighting to protect the Arctic from oil extraction.

Learning goals/ objectives:

  • Discuss contemporary topics, trends, and journalism approaches across Indian country, including work being done both at local news outlets and larger, national media outlets
  • Gain insights on local journalism as a career, including how stories are developed and published
  • Learn techniques for telling compelling stories
  • Discuss strategies for doing journalism in a less extractive manner & building rapport and maintaining trust within a community


  • 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. 

Meet the Correspondents

Raylen Bark headshot

Raylen Bark

Raylen Bark (she/her) is Cherokee, Choctaw, Hualapai, and Hidatsa. She grew up in Cherokee, North Carolina, located in the Great Smoky Mountains where she was raised with a love for nature. Learning sustainable harvesting techniques of medicinal plants and foods, Raylen learned about traditional agriculture from her Grandpa Goodlow Bark. She graduated from Cherokee High School as the Valedictorian of the class of 2020. Raylen is a junior (or ‘24) at Dartmouth College majoring in Native American and Indigenous Studies modified with Linguistics. She has been involved with the Dartmouth Rockefeller Global Leadership Program, Natives at Dartmouth Program, and the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America as a scholar and mentor. After graduating from Dartmouth Raylen plans to attend law school so that she can assist her tribe in the legal and linguistic fields.

Darien Benally headshot

Darrien Benally

Darrien Benally (she/her), Diné, is a first-year graduate student enrolled in the Master of Arts Communication program at Northern Arizona University. Darrien graduated from NAU in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Indigenous Studies. During her time at NAU, Darrien worked for the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals’ Environmental Education Outreach Program. Upon graduation, Darrien worked with Tribal Healthy Homes Network to improve wildfire smoke education for the Tulalip Tribes community in Tulalip, Washington. Darrien is the Communications and Outreach Manager for the Colorado Plateau Foundation, an organization that supports Native-led initiatives across the Colorado Plateau region. Darrien’s passion for environmental communication comes from the teachings of her paternal grandparents, who taught her the value of seed keeping and traditional knowledge. Darrien has an interest in ethical storytelling and Native representation in media.

Alexander Cotnoir headshot

Alexander Cotnoir

Alexander Cotnoir (he/him) is a citizen of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation whose  passion for environmental education is rooted in his home in Askaskwiwajoak (the Green Mountains of Vermont), where a love of maple sugaring, hiking, and hunting alongside his grandfather created a passion for environmental stewardship, ecology, and food. As a Dartmouth College undergraduate, he served as a teaching assistant for ecology and writing courses and worked in the university’s archival collections to explore his interest in regional environmental history. Alexander is particularly passionate about exploring how Indigenous communities relate to temperate forests and how climate change is impacting food systems and associated cultural practices in the north. After graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies, Alexander worked in outdoor education programs across Vermont. Alexander recently graduated from GW with a Master of Arts in Teaching and currently works at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In his spare time, Alexander is training for his first marathon, learning to weave ash baskets, and gardening whenever he can.

Carlie Domingues headshot

Carlie Domingues

Carlie Domingues (she/her) currently resides in Wintun homelands where she is earning a PhD in Native American Studies at UC Davis. She comes from Chumash and Mexican heritage and works to be a good relative. Carlie's research and lifestyle embodies Indigenous women's knowledge and practice to generate resilient ecosystems. Although being a mama is her most important responsibility, Carlie prepares for her qualifying exams to become a doctoral candidate, tends three sisters, contributes to revitalization of cultural burning and water tending in Chumash homelands and beyond.

JoRee LaFrance headshot

JoRee LaFrance

Raised at the foothills of Iisaxpúatahchee Isawaxaawúua/Big Horn Mountains, JoRee (she/her) grew up with a twin sister on a gravel road next to the Little Bighorn River where they spent most of their time swimming, riding horses, gardening, and lacing up their Nike N7’s to play basketball on a dirt court with a rim that had a plywood backboard. JoRee’s Apsáalooke/Crow name is Iichiinmáatchileesh/Fortunate with Horses - which was given to her by Sue Takes Horse - and her English name is JoRee LaFrance. She left the reservation to attend Dartmouth College where she received a B.A. in Earth Sciences and B.A. in Native American Studies in 2017. After taking a year off between undergraduate and graduate school, JoRee returned home to work with the Crow Environmental Health Steering Committee which has been dedicated to environmental health literacy and addressing water quality issues on Apsáalooke lands. She is now an aspiring water scientist studying surface water quality in the Little Bighorn River watershed as a doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Arizona. On top of her research, JoRee works as a consultant working on projects like the now traveling Apsáalooke Women and Warriors exhibit with the Field Museum and the University of Chicago Neubauer Collegium. She enjoys her heart work which is serving as a community advocate organizing events and workshops for women and youth in her community. Although she is away from home, JoRee continues to find ways to work with, empower, and support her people.

Troi Madison Newman headshot

Troi Madison Newman

Troi Madison Newman (she/her) is a black-indigenous enrolled citizen of Piscataway Conoy Tribe and a first-year law student at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. From 2019 to 2021, while obtaining her master’s degree at George Washington University, Troi researched Missing Murdered Indigenous Women under Dr. Elizabeth Rule, which led to a publishing thesis: “Are Tribal Courts equipped with the knowledge and resources to handle MMIW cases of non-Native perpetrators?” Troi is the Project Artist of the “Guide to Indigenous Maryland” App available in the Apple Store and Google Play.

When Troi is not freelancing graphic designs, she is a part-time paralegal and was previously working with All Native Group (ANG), a government contractor for Ho-Chunk Inc. of Ho-Chunk Nation. Troi has a strong interest in Environmental Law, specifically focusing on racial discrimination in environmental policy-making, enforcement of regulations and laws, and the deliberate targeting of indigenous communities.

Shondiin Mayo headshot

Shondiin Mayo

Shondiin Mayo (she/her) is originally from Stevens Village, Alaska, and grew up in both Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Navajo Nation. Shondiin is both Dine and Koyukon Athabascan. Shondiin’s childhood was influenced by the subsistence lifestyle of fishing and living in a rural Alaskan village as well as spending time on the reservation with her family. There, she learned values such as an appreciation for the land, preservation of traditional knowledge, and the responsibility to continue her heritage for the next thousand years.

Shondiin recently graduated from Northern Arizona University where she studied Creative Media and Film with an emphasis in Documentary and a minor in Ethnic Studies. Amid the Covid pandemic, Shondiin returned home to Alaska and completed a 10-minute thesis documentary about the cultural erasure of dog mushing due to the advancements of the 21st century. Shondiin’s upbringing in a small community that was only accessible by plane, boat, or snowmachine inspires her to capture her people’s traditional ways of living and knowledge about the environment that surrounds small villages in the Interior of Alaska.

Nadira Mitchell headshot

Nadira Mitchell

Nadira Mitchell (she/her/asdzáán) is Diné (Navajo) and an honors undergraduate student at the University of Arizona studying Natural Resources with an emphasis in Wildlife Conservation and Management. She is a student leader in the Tucson Native American community, holding the title Miss Native American University of Arizona First Attendant 2022-2023, and a board member of the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Foundation. A life-long resident of Tucson, Nadira is passionate about the Sonoran Desert, conducting wildlife conservation research using wildlife cameras, and helping lead American Indian Student Initiatives. In her first year at UArizona, she became a founding member of the American Indian Student Initiatives (AISI). The student-run organization’s goal is to reduce environmental injustices for Indigenous communities in the state of Arizona. Nadira is interested in the integration of Indigenous perspectives in wildlife, Tribal lands, and natural resources policy. She aspires to advocate for environmental equity in Indigenous communities.

Alisa Smith Woodruff headshot

Alisa Smith Woodruff

Alisa Smith Woodruff (she/her) is an enrolled Skokomish Tribal citizen who comes from a family of weavers, teachers, and nurses/caregivers. Her family focuses on traditions and culture. Alisa enjoys spending time with tribal Elders who weave, gather, and dye using traditional Skokomish practices. She was taught basic Twana (Skokomish language) words for animals, plants, seasons, clothing, and numbers. To reciprocate the knowledge, Alisa emphasizes sharing and teaching through her work, with special consideration for future generations and those willing to learn. She was reminded that sharing with our future generations keeps traditions alive and helps others gain a better understanding of traditional practices. For these reasons she is grateful to have been accepted into the Masters in Environmental Science program at Evergreen State College where she has the opportunity to add to the skills she learned at Northwest Indian College. Alisa has also worked to combine both Western and traditional knowledge in internships for NASA and Mount Rainier National Park to enhance knowledge of the Cascade red fox.