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Medill Students Visit Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin

Aspiring journalists learn 'there's more to journalism than the who, what, where, why'

KESHENA, Wis. --- During a recent visit to the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, a group of Medill journalism students learned that there is often more to the story than the “who, what, when, where, why.”

Visitors to the Menominee Nation are overwhelmed by the forest, which expands in every direction for more than 200,000 acres, and the Wolf River, its life source, that traces the history of the Menominee people to their ancestral roots. The Menominee people who live on the reservation continue to teach their language to their children and practice the customs of their earliest relatives.

A group of Northwestern University undergraduates and aspiring journalists spent a weekend on the Menominee Reservation last month as part of an assignment that tasks each student with producing a video oral history interview and reporting on urban American Indians living in the Chicago area.

"I wanted the students to get a sense of how important the land is in the minds of their interview subjects -- many of whom are Native Americans who relocated to Chicago -- and what they felt about the place they had come from," said Loren Ghiglione, a journalism professor who led the trip.

The students visited the College of Menominee Nation, toured parts of the forest, walked along the river, participated in the annual Sturgeon Feast and witnessed a pow-wow celebration, complete with traditional tribal dances and games.

The goal of Ghiglione’s class was to learn about Chicago’s Native Americans, who are part of an important but underreported story in North America. The purpose of the trip was to introduce the students to the Menominee culture, customs and history so that the budding journalists will have a deeper understanding of urban American Indians in Chicago.

"In journalism, we learn a lot about simplifying things to the 'who, what, when, where, why,' but there's more to these stories than that," said Medill junior Samuel Park. "The people and the culture are complex, and your story telling also has be complex."