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Invisible No More: The Rise of Native American Power in Media

3 minute read | November 2020

Despite being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and one of the smallest ethnic populations in the U.S., Native Americans have made some significant progress this year in elevating their voices in the media, public policies and their communities. 

This month, as we celebrate Native American Heritage and the ongoing contributions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, we look at a few places where Native Americans exert more influence, what they care about and how marketers can better connect with this population.

Politically active and well-informed, younger Native Americans ages 18-34 increased their news consumption in 2020 by 41% compared to last year. Using smartphones and social media, they harnessed the power of hashtags like #ChangeTheName, #NativeTikTok, #MMIW and #SomethingElse to advocate for greater visibility of their diverse cultures and accurate portrayals in media. Activists like 30-year-old Allie Young helped bring indigenous Navajo people to polls in record numbers with her “Ride to the Polls” initiative. As a result, six indigenous people will be joining Congress next term. And where indigenous people have a stronger-than-average influence, such as in Arizona, they had the power to sway the electoral vote. 

“This rise in indigenous people’s political power and presence in the media is important for marketers and other non-politicians to tune into. The conversation around racial injustice, which kicked off with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, has expanded to other ethnic groups like Native Americans who have also long faced discrimination and other injustices. Companies, brands, and politicians alike will continue to be called upon to take action,” said Charlene Polite Corley, VP of Diverse Insights & Partnerships at Nielsen Media. “In future elections, both presidential and local, we can expect to see Native Americans play a larger role in influencing the electorate in much the same way Hispanic, Black and Asian voters have in their communities. The question is, how can media be more inclusive of Native Americans to bring the stories of their communities to the forefront?”

“The question is, how can media be more inclusive of Native Americans, to bring the stories of their communities to the forefront?”CHARLENE POLITE CORLEY, VP OF DIVERSE INSIGHTS & PARTNERSHIPS AT NIELSEN MEDIA

As marketers ramp up their messaging during the holiday season and begin planning their 2021 campaigns, it’s important to keep in mind the growing influence of Native Americans, their challenges and top concerns, such as healthcare and climate change. Luckily, inclusion of native cultures in the media is a widely accepted idea. According to the IllumiNative Reclaiming Native Truth Project (RNT) nearly two-thirds of Americans are interested in learning more about native cultures and want to see more inclusion of Native Americans in entertainment.

Honoring Native American Contributions, Service, and Media Consumption Infographic

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