Stories in Indian Country Today, The Daily Orange, Medley magazine and other publications.

Photo by Lauren Miller

Photo by Lauren Miller

Mohawk students must leave their nation to attend high school

Students on the Mohawk territory that spans across two countries, a state, and two provinces must travel to Canada or the U.S. to attend high school.

This story was written as part of the Newhouse Spring 2019 Reporting Project and republished on Indian Country Today.

“Tara Skidders opened the door to a small classroom. She stopped at the entrance when she saw the pens, papers and craft supplies students left on their desks from Friday’s class.

She shook her head and laughed, eager to show the decorations and student work displayed in the room. Everything inside – from the charts and posters hanging on the walls to the school schedule outlined on the board – was in Kanien’kehá, the traditional Mohawk language.

There wasn’t a trace of English in sight.

“These are our pronouns,” Skidders said, pointing to a poster with drawings of people to show 15 pronouns in Kanien’kehá. “And that’s only 15. There’s actually a few more.”

This is a typical classroom in the Akwesasne Freedom School, one of five immersion schools for Mohawk youth living in Akwesasne, a territory that straddles the U.S.-Canada border…”

Photo by Micah Castelo

Photo by Micah Castelo

From the River to the Sea

The Jordan River is dying. Can the entities that share it save it?

This story was written as part of the Newhouse and Jerusalem Press Club 10 Days in Israel trip.

Adam Waddell gazed at the lush, green fields surrounding Naharayim, a small strip of land on the northern part of the Israeli-Jordanian border.

He looked down from the hill he stood on and pointed to a sliver of water that snaked through the fields. It was an opaque, brown shade, a sharp contrast to the rest of the rural scenery.

“This is probably the most water you’ll see here,” said Waddell, a tour guide from the nearby Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov.

That sliver was a portion of what was once known as the mighty Jordan River, a 156-mile-long body of water that runs through the Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea’s arid valley.

The Jordan River is an important natural resource shared mainly between three entities: Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories in the Israeli-controlled West Bank. It’s also revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians across the world, considered as a sacred site in all three religions and its holy scriptures.

But the river is shrinking every year, putting it at risk.”

Photo by Micah Castelo

Photo by Micah Castelo

Their buildings burned down in August. Here’s how community members responded.

In August 2018, four buildings in the 700 block of North Salina Street caught on fire due to a discarded cigarette. Since then, the city has announced the buildings must be demolished due to the damages.

This story was published in The Daily Orange, Syracuse University’s student-run newspaper. To view all stories, click here.

“Lisa Welch spent three and a half years transforming a former furniture and embalming business into apartments on Syracuse’s North Side.

But, at the end of last month, she saw her building go up in flames.

Welch’s property is one of four buildings that were destroyed in late August after a fire broke out in the 700 block of North Salina Street. The city has ordered that the buildings be demolished due to safety concerns. Property owners said that while they’re devastated by the fire, demolition was the most viable option to move forward.

The August fire began when a discarded cigarette lit up a large stack of cardboard leaning against the rear of Cities Leather and Luggage on 719 N. Salina St., according to a press release from the Syracuse Fire Department. Authorities determined the fire was accidental…”

Photo by Jordan Larson

Photo by Jordan Larson

Royal treatment: making a safe space for women of color throughout pregnancy

This story was published in Medley magazine, a student-run magazine on sociocultural issues at Syracuse University.

Angela Thornton spent over 24 grueling hours in labor when she had her first child five years ago. At one point, her doctor told her it would be best to deliver her baby by cesarean section, she says. But Thornton knew she wanted a natural birth despite the pain she was going through. She spoke to her doula, SeQuoia Kemp, who advocated for her decision. Kemp also helped relieve Thornton’s pain by going through breathing exercises with her.

“She comforted me and let me know that she’s going to be there every step of the way, and she was,” Thornton says. “She was more of a help than my son’s father,” she adds with a laugh.

It was the first time Thornton had a doula. She didn’t even know what they were until Kemp approached her at their church and asked if she could be her doula. But now, the 38-year-old says she tells people who are pregnant to get a doula after her positive experience with Kemp, especially since they aren’t often talked about in minority communities.

Kemp is trying to change that with Doula 4 A Queen, a private practice she launched in 2014 to provide prenatal, labor, birth, and postpartum support specifically for women of color and of low-socioeconomic backgrounds…”

Photo by Randy Plavajka

Photo by Randy Plavajka


This story was published in Medley magazine, a student-run magazine on sociocultural issues at Syracuse University.

On the edge of the historic Hawley-Green neighborhood sits a commercial building with a narrow green door and raised garden beds. If not for the bright rainbow flag waving proudly from its front façade and the environmentally-friendly posters posted on its  side, your eyes might casually glaze over it while driving down Lodi Street.

This is Syracuse Cultural Workers, a national publishing company and retail store founded in 1982. Walk through the door with the sign overhead that reads “Tools for Change” and you’ll be greeted with progressive paraphernalia and products- from feminist artwork hanging on the walls to pins and buttons with messages like “Protect kids, Not guns” and “Drones R Terrorism” tacked on cardboard.

For 36 years, this business has been educating people about human rights and social justice issues and encouraging activist work through the visual materials they sell…”