Rebecca Nagle says cousins recall the way she was “always trying to tell people stories” growing up.
Today, the Cherokee writer, advocate, and language-learner couples her passion for stories with the rigors of journalism for a podcast called This Land, which addresses Native rights and the actions of those who seek to deny them.
Listening to her podcast, it’s clear the early practice paid off.
“Storytelling is how we make meaning,” says Nagle. “It’s a way to enter into big, complex issues.”
The first season focused on the status of reservations. “The land almost was another character for that season,” she explains.
Now, Nagle is tackling the topic of child custody, looking at cases of non-Native parents trying to adopt Native children. Launched in late August, season two opens with the case of a Navajo and Cherokee toddler referred to in court documents as ALM — and a white couple from the Dallas suburbs working to adopt him.
Channeling her gifts for both storytelling and reporting, Nagle leads listeners through this custody battle and others, exploring the implications in the larger context of Native rights.
But she doesn’t stop there.
Instead, Nagle uncovers connections to conservative think tanks, big corporations, and a foundation that supports the infamous “Stop the Steal” movement aimed at decertifying 2020 presidential election results.
The custody disputes could get a far wider audience, if the U.S. Supreme Court grants a request to hear the case at the heart of Nagle’s podcast. The parties are waiting now to find out whether, and when, that will happen.
In the meantime, Nagle is continuing her reporting, and the podcast is helping listeners understand what’s at stake. “I think of my job as a journalist as finding and telling the truth,” she says. “It’s important to gather the facts and put them in context.”
In eight gripping episodes, Nagle highlights systemic bias against Native culture. “There is a real bias against Native families, especially poor ones,” she says. “Rich white people can get around state and federal laws.”
In addition, she outlines the ways federal rulings on custody-related cases could erode Native rights in other ways, even as she connects the dots to other issues such as access to abortion, immigration, and voting rights.
“People who are concerned about the federal court system and how corrupt it is should really be paying attention to these cases,” she says of custody battles involving Native children.
Nagle has worked in additional ways to advance the cause of Native rights, including advocating on behalf of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Amid the highly publicized disappearance (and now homicide) case of Gabby Petito, Nagle is calling out those who ignore the murders of Native women even as they call for justice for Non-native victims.
On September 21, Nagle shared the following statement on Twitter: “In Wyoming over 700 Indigenous women have gone missing in the past decade. The same state where Gabby Petito was found. If only missing Native women received the same level of media attention, public concern, and police response as missing white women.”
So far, six of eight episodes of This Land, season 2 are available on Crooked Media, which releases a new episode every week.
In Wyoming over 700 Indigenous women have gone missing in the past decade.— Rebecca Nagle (@rebeccanagle) September 21, 2021
The same state where Gabby Petito was found.
If only missing Native women received the same level of media attention, public concern, and police response as missing white women.
For those who want to learn more about the struggle for Native rights as a struggle for civil and human rights, or simply revel in a masterful mix of storytelling and reporting, Nagle’s podcast is essential listening.