The making and muting of an indigenous media activist: Imagination and ideology in Charles Round Low Cloud's “Indian News”



In this article, I examine an example of American Indian activism through the once-dominant mass medium of the newspaper. I focus on Ho-Chunk author Charles Round Low Cloud and his development of an “Indian News” column into a vehicle for activism against everyday forms of racial oppression in the 1930s and on the ways others involved in publishing his column used the medium to subvert his message. The analysis shows how nonindigenous actors can mute activist messages through practices designed to celebrate indigenous voices. I argue that both indigenous media activism and reactions against such activism rely on the “mediated imagination”: the mediation of the use and reception of media messages by cultural ideologies and by individual creativity. Recognition of the mediated imagination, therefore, complements efforts to understand how language and other semiotic ideologies shape interpretations of social reality. It also facilitates analysis of the potentials and limitations of indigenous activism that uses existing media technologies.