Published on December 15, 2010 by John
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Akwesasne Notes was founded in the late 1960s as part of the present-day reassertion of American Indian activism. Since then, the bimonthly Akwesasne Notes has been one of the foremost Native-owned editorial voices for American Indian rights in the United States and Canada. In a trade where advertising pays most of the bills, this newspaper carries nearly none. At a time when newspapers have come to resemble cousins of televisions, it rarely publishes color, relying instead on pages dense with text. In a media world of mega-corporations, Akwesasne Notes operates on a shoe string budget. It rarely pays writers and editors and fiercely maintains its editorial independence.
The name Akwesasne Notes comes from its location on the Akwesasne (St. Regis) Reservation, a Mohawk reservation that straddles the borders of New York and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The circulation of Akwesasne Notes averages about ten thousand copies per issue. Most subscribers get the newspaper by mail.
The newspaper’s content reflects its global approach to issues involving indigenous rights, but the focus of its coverage remains the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse). This is the native name for the confederation of Indian nations that the French call the Iroquois and the English call the Six Nations. The coverage is honest and reports on all aspects of life for Natife peoples, not just the positive ones. The pages of Akwesasne Notes contain candid accounts not only of internal dissension but also of occasional murder and fraud, along with graphic descriptions of the abysmal living conditions on many reservations.
On January 9, 1988, a firebomb razed the newspaper’s offices during violence related to gambling and the struggle for tribal leadership at Akwesasne. Akwesasne Notes did not miss a single issue, even though it sustained two hundred thousand dollars in uninsured losses from the fire. In spring 1988, in its first editorial after the fire, Akwesasne Notes wrote: “Our offices were torched by those amongst us here at Akwesasne who oppose our reporting on the conflicts that are plaguing the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois] nations…. With the gambling, the cigarette smuggling, and violence … it is understandable why those criminal elements amongst us are opposed to a free press disseminating information about the illegal and immoral activities around us…. They almost succeeded in putting us out of business … but we will survive.”
During 1991, following more gambling-related turmoil at Akwesasne, the newspaper stopped publishing. It resumed in early 1995.