News Falling Through The Cracks

By: Ross Montour
Staff Writer, The Eastern Door

For years, The New York Times has been rolling off the presses under the banner slogan - 'All the news that's fit to print' - a fine slogan for what is one of the most respected newspapers in the world. The New York Times stands as an example of what is best in print journalism and that is justly so. It is also true that in the filed of media of broadcast journalism there are many fine institutions.

The ability to tell the story of important events in the world, to as many people as possible, is vital. The various media, whether it be print, radio, or television, perform admirably in their roles. But, what happens when a single story dominates the attention of the media, so much so that other stories get lost in the shuffle? The media industry has been soul-searching about this very thing of late.

The object of their reflection has been the coverage of the September 11 attacks upon the United States. Questions have been asked about whether footage of the attacks was shown too many times, to the point of detriment. Should the media have shown 'live' interviews of Taliban leaders unedited? Just lately, some people are wondering if the media is contributing to the fears of anthrax.
Since September 11, there has been only one story, looming high over and above any other.

But is this true or is it overkill? Many people have turned off their TV screens when the news comes on because of the endless stream of stories and images of the war in Afghanistan, and white powder-laced envelopes with Arabic script coming from Trenton, New Jersey. Many people are in fact beginning to feel helpless. And, why not, isn't that the whole point of terrorism, to make people feel helpless?

In the beginning, many people went out of their way to give in extraordinary ways to help in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Our people are a prime example of this. Our ironworkers are still down in New York City helping with the clean-up. Native people from across the continent raised substantial amounts of money. But by and large, what can we do now?

The war is as out of our hands as its outcome. But, getting back to the point, have the various media and therefore we become too fixed upon one story? Last week, a story poked up to the surface, quietly, like a tiny air bubble, rising to the surface of the water, barely heard. It came through the e-mail, just one of hundreds that come to The Eastern Door. The thing of it was that the story should have been major front page news, at least in North America, yet it went largely unreported in the media. That it did was astounding because it was a category 4 hurricane dubbed Iris.

When Hurricane Iris swept into the Gulf of Mexico on October 8, 2001 striking at the small country of Belize, it devastated the country's inland Maya villages, destroying virtually everything in its path. Iris left over 11 communities of Maya people with out food, clean water, and shelter, yet hardly a soul here heard about it.

One woman, an American researcher intimate with the Maya people, Anne- Michelle Marsden said she heard only one report about the storm on radio, and that wasn't even mainstream radio. The story, she said, only mentioned the capsizing of a small American boat carry a number of U.S. divers. While it is sad that those divers should have perished, the story made no mention of the plight of the Maya people of Belize.

Marsden, who teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and her partner, Eric Leupold, rapidly put together a website to generate awareness about the disaster in Belize. Marsden reported that the U.S. had thus far only contributed $200,000 to assist the country. It seemed a pitiful amount of assistance, especially coming from the wealthiest nation in the world.

Reviewing the amount of money raised by Native North Americans for the relief efforts in the U.S. after the September 11 attacks, it seemed especially appalling that the U.S. gave so little to assist the Maya of Belize. Native North American people raised close to $1.5 million to assist in the U.S. relief fund, and that figure reflects only the cash aid given.

Those people who read the account of Hurricane Iris in The Eastern Door should have a clear idea of the devastation wreaked upon the Maya people in Belize along with the clear need now facing the people there. Marsden said that in the U.S. or Canada, a donation of $20 would be hardly noticeable to us, but in Belize that amount would go much, much further and accomplish tangible results.

That is something worth considering. An evening out here could cost a couple $50 - $100. Think what might be accomplished by the Maya, who by the way, who are responsible their own communities. How many people could they feed for the same $100 that would feed two or three of us one meal? Clearly, the need is there for the Maya in Belize, and just as clearly we, here in Kahnawake, have the means to make a difference there.

Perhaps there isn't anything we can do to change the outcome of terrorism in the world, but that doesn't mean we cannot make a significant difference in the lives of the Maya. How much more significant would it be, if we turned for a moment from the disaster in the U.S. and turned our attention to our own fellow Native people who are in need now in Belize?

The call for help has been made. Let us see what we might do to answer that call. For detailed information on Hurricane Iris, it's devastation of the Maya communities, and how we can help go to <>. There are direct ways to send assistance.

The Eastern Door, Page 9/10.39
The Eastern Door is a community newspaper serving the Mohawks of Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada
The Eastern Door is a Canada Post Publication

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