Listening carefully and asking questions

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When I first came to Albuquerque, I thought I was going to become a biologist, not a journalist. But I started writing for the student newspaper and freelancing for magazines, to pay the rent — and by the time I had my biology degree, I was a reporter.

Initially, I wrote only for science magazines and Western medical journals.

But then an editor sent me out to a little town in central Nevada, where children had suddenly developed very serious and rare blood cell problems. Some parents struggled to find gas money to drive to their children’s hospitals in California or Utah. State and federal officials assured me the problem was contained to the town itself, but when I talked with people from nearby Paiute and Shoshone communities, I learned they had not been consulted.

When I returned to New Mexico, I started working with newspapers, covering local communities and governments, public health, veterans’ issues, jails, drugs, drinking water quality and other facets of our day-to-day lives.

In recent months, I have attended health-care meetings between state officials and tribal representatives. At some meetings, elders from the communities have walked away after their questions went unanswered, or were answered with bureaucratic jargon. But I have also seen tribal members and officials working hard to take the lead in finding health care solutions for their members.

I am new to reporting on Native communities. Reporting responsibly and fairly means acknowledging my ignorance, listening carefully and asking questions.

This project allows me to do that, as part of a broader conversation.

I am grateful for this chance to work with people I know to be sincere and serious reporters, and dedicated members of New Mexico’s Native communities. Already, people from the Laguna and Acoma areas, and other communities, have been generous with their time, sharing their concerns and trying to help me understand how they see things.

I look forward to seeing where the conversation goes.

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