NAJA selects Jodi Rave Spotted Bear as 2023 Tim Giago Free Press Award recipient

📣 Stay tuned for the regular awards announcement the week of July 3!
Spotted Bear to be recognized during 2023 National Native Media Awards Banquet Aug. 12

The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) has selected Jodi Rave Spotted Bear (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation / Lakota) as the inaugural 2023 Tim Giago Free Press Award recipient, which recognizes an individual NAJA member that has shown dedication and commitment to upholding freedom of the press, information and transparency within their Indigenous community.

As one of the founders of the former Native American Press Association in 1983, Giago has shaped NAJA’s mission, which has always focused on uniting and empowering Indigenous media and championing accurate journalism. Giago passed in 2022 and the NAJA Board created the award to honor his legacy of fighting for press freedom in Indigenous communities. 

Spotted Bear was selected for her work as a citizen and journalist in holding the Three Affiliated Tribes (TAT) of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation accountable through her reporting on the tribal government and raising awareness regarding its transparency issues. 

Spotted Bear is president of the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information (SPJ FOI) Committee, which gave the 2023 SPJ FOI Black Hole Award to the Three Affiliated Tribes’ Mark Fox administration, the first ever to a tribal government. 

According to the SPJ FOI release, although the TAT Constitution and Bylaws state that money spent from the Tribal Business Council fund is a matter of public record, citizens were not provided with a copy of the TAT’s 2018 audit or any other audit upon requests. Citizens received a 2018 copy through a leak, when it was discovered that the auditing firm issued two adverse opinions and four disclaimed opinions. Furthermore, to the public’s knowledge, the tribe has not conducted an annual audit since 2018, despite the requirement in the TAT Constitution and Bylaws. 

Beyond the alleged violations of the tribe’s own laws regarding transparency, TAT officials have also been implicated in illegal fiscal activity, which involved bribery between a contractor and tribe officials. The administration also purchased property for $90-125 million and did not inform the citizens until the deal was finalized.

The NAJA Special Awards Committee is comprised of current and former NAJA board members and past NAJA Special Award winners. As a NAJA board member, Spotted Bear was not involved in the 2023 review process. 

“As one of our founding members and a dogged journalist and writer, Tim is someone who many NAJA members have looked up to or been inspired by over our 40 years as an organization,” NAJA President Graham Lee Brewer said. “This award pays homage to him and his work by recognizing the commitment to freedom of press in Indian Country that he embodied.”

Jodi Rave Spotted Bear
Spotted Bear serves as a board member for the SPJ Foundation and an at-large director for SPJ where she chairs the SPJ FOI Committee. After working in the mainstream press for 15 years, she is now the founder and executive director of the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit media organization located in Bismarck, N.D. The Alliance operates Buffalo’s Fire, an independent digital news site. 

In 2003, Spotted Bear received the Nieman Fellowship for journalists at Harvard University and was selected in 2021 as a Bush Fellow in recognition of her commitment to journalism within Indigenous communities. She was awarded the 2020-2021 MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the John S. Knight Community Impact Fellow at Stanford University in 2021. Her writing is featured in “The Authentic Voice: The Best Reporting on Race and Ethnicity,” published by Columbia University Press.

Spotted Bear will be recognized during the 2023 National Native Media Awards Banquet Aug. 12 as part of the 2023 National Native Media Conference Aug. 10-12 at the RBC Convention Center in downtown Winnipeg.