Student empowers native youth

New club called Natives in Media empowers members to enter multimedia fields



Kyra Antone, senior digital technology and culture major and member of the Cour D’Alene Tohono O’odham tribe, speaks growing native representation on campus Friday at Cleveland Hall.

LOREN NEGRON, Evergreen editor-in-chief

A WSU student is serving her Native American community through her passion for digital technology and media, and working to empowering Native American youths to use podcasts to share their own stories.

Kyra Antone, senior digital technology and culture major, is a member of the Coeur d’Alene and Tohono O’odham tribes.

Growing up on the reservations, Antone said she struggled to find a mentor who was in her field of interest. She also did not see fair representation of her people in media. This inspired her to go back to her community and use her passion for digital technology to empower youths.

“You could be talking to a room of people and maybe reach just one person. But you reached that one person,” she said. “I think it’s important for communities to have someone who they can relate to and tell their story.”

This semester, Antone founded a new club called Natives in Media. It focuses on empowering its members to gain experience in the fields of digital technology and multimedia. She also developed Indigenize Media, a podcasting project that highlights the experiences of indigenous people.

Antone attended the Coeur d’Alene Tribal School from kindergarten through eighth grade. She then transferred to Wellpinit High School, which is on the Spokane reservation.

She said she appreciated the education she received from both schools. They had “culture days” that encouraged students to learn more about their tribe’s history and values, which helped her become rooted in her community.

Antone said her Native American community showed her the importance of uplifting each other. It was common for people on the reservations to help one another, she said, which motivates her to serve her people in any way she can.

“I think it’s always been about community,” Antone said. “It’s important for me to go back and create opportunities for the youth.”

Moving to WSU was challenging, she said. WSU’s environment was a culture shock for her because she grew up on the reservations where the population is smaller. However, she said the Native American Student Center helped her acclimate to WSU’s culture.

Committed in representing her community, Antone has been involved with many organizations since her freshman year, including the Native American Women’s Association. She served as president for NAWA last year and co-organized an event to bring awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women.

“I met a lot of strong, native women. It was very inspiring, and they were like mentors. They created this safe space for me to come and feel comfortable,” she said.

Antone was involved in helping all WSU campuses acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ Day. She also led NAWA’s collaboration with WSU’s Coalition for Women Students in developing a cultural appropriation workshop, which is now an annual program.

“It was important because Halloween was coming up,” Antone said. “Often, communities that are marginalized have to face going and seeing other communities kind of mock their culture and not fully understand what they’re wearing, or the effect it has.”

Antone is also a member of Ku-Ah-Mah. She served as its powwow committee chair last year.

Native American Student Services Director Faith Price said Antone wrote letters to different tribes in the state to raise funds for last year’s powwow, which cost about $30,000.

“[Antone’s] got a lot of strength. She’s very grounded on who she is,” Price said. “I see her as a future tribal leader. I have no doubt that she’s going to go back and do big things for her community with her education.”

During the spring 2018 semester, Antone was granted a three-year internship with Voices to Hear, a project that empowers native youths to share their stories through podcasts. Antone said the podcasts focus on environmental issues that affect reservations.

She mentored three middle school and high school students in the Coeur d’Alene reservation last summer, she said. Students learned about tribal sovereignty and met tribal leaders. The project also gave them an opportunity to see where the reservation’s resources are coming from.

“Any opportunity you get, make sure you take it,” Antone said. “Putting an audio recording on a kid’s hand—that’s a big deal. That’s going to make a big difference.”

Due to her work with Voices to Hear, Antone received the 2019 DTC Leadership and Community Service Award. She presented her project during the 2019 American Indigenous Research Association Conference in Montana.

“Just having an internship that is aimed towards uplifting youth on the reservations is important. I’m grateful that it had gotten a lot of acknowledgement and hopefully motivate other people to go out and help their communities,” Antone said.

It’s important to empower one another, Antone said. She believes digital mediums are a powerful way for youths to share their stories and use their voice.

“We are such a marginalized group,” she said. “Making sure that we’re not afraid to and starting that at a young age is very important because we’ve been silenced for so many generations.”