Al-Jazeera covers “Let’s Talk Native”

(L to R) Matt Hill, Tekarontake, Vera Sajrawi, John Kane, Chaz Kader, Ross John gather outside the ESPN - AM1520 station.
(L to R) Matt Hill, Tekarontake, Vera Sajrawi, John Kane, Chaz Kader, Ross John gather outside the ESPN – AM1520 station.

BUFFALO – On Sunday, Nov. 17, the “Let’s Talk Native… with John Kane” live radio show had some very special guests. In addition to the regular show participants, host John Kane and ESPN – AM1520 in Buffalo, welcomed a network television producer from the Al-Jazeera Arabic Channel. Supported by an international audience of more than 50 million viewers and a popular Internet site, this night was an international news event.

The Al-Jazeera Arabic Channel was represented by producer – interviewer Vera Sajrawi. Sajrawi, from the Washington, D.C. news bureau, she spent 12 hours with John Kane. The production crew filmed John at his home, walking to the studio and the entire two-hour radio broadcast.

Ross John, Chairperson of the Seneca Nation Commission for Economic Development, was a guest host that night along with Matt Hill, a local Seneca radio-journalist and activist. Joining John and Hill was Tekarontake, a Kanienkehaka grandfather, who came over from the Eastern Door of Iroquoia to offer his thoughts.

Kane and some of his “LTN All-Star” guest team were interviewed on-camera during the show. Some of the questions posed were: “What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Do you consider yourself American? Do you ever get discouraged in your Native activism?” All, gave heartfelt answers to Sajrawi’s questions.

Addressing the Thanksgiving question, Kane responded, “The most similar connection within our ceremonies is the Harvest Ceremony. We have to go all the way back to look at this historically. We give thanks for all of creation, each and every day. Surely not for just one day a year.”

In response to the question of being an American, Kane replied, “No country can strip a group of people of their self-identity in order to claim their land. Onhkwehonh:we are not Americans by that characterization.”

The Al-Jazeera crew was impressed with the amount of energy Kane displayed, moreover, Sajrawi, was amazed that he could operate like he did all day, at a nonstop pace. Kane’s mouth and smart phone were going all day, she noted, during a meal at the trendy, Brick House restaurant.

In the spirit of the Two Row Wampum (Kaswentha), Sajrawi also has walked between two cultures in her homeland, she was raised in Nazareth, Israel, then later moved to the United States. Throughout her life, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected Sajrawi, who identifies herself as an Arab-Israeli. Sajrawi speaks Hebrew and travels under an Israeli passport, this has barred her from entry to some Middle Eastern countries.

The show’s topics brought the night full circle. Some of the highlights of the night included hearing first-hand accounts by the LTN guest hosts about the generosity of Jake Thompson and his love for the Onhkwehonh:we commitment to the unborn generations, this was a powerful moment. The passion of Tekarontake flowed as he discussed foreign flag injustice in Toronto, was yet another radio show highlight. His memories of his fallen fellow land defender and Unity flag creator Louis Hall, (Karoniaktajah) were discussed over coffee following the live show.

However, the most riveting moment of the night was the description of sheer brutality displayed in the 1997 demonstration beatings by New York State troopers, witnessed by Ross John and Tekarontake that captured the amazing night’s atmosphere.

Their words painted a universality of resistance as was seen that May day off of Interstate 81.

The peaceful rally by a crowd of 100, was disrupted by steel-pot, helmeted, New York state police who had removed their uniform nametags in an effort to remain anonymous.

The storm trooper tactics exhibited by sworn law enforcement New York public servants that day were meant to impose the will of a system on unarmed protesters. Instead, the character of the arrested, beaten men and women showed that the era of peaceful dissent will live on as an example for future Onhkwehonh:we.

The Al-Jazeera Arabic Network will televise the day’s shoot as a news segment on an upcoming international program. As a footnote, the entry of Al Jazeera America as a new broadcast channel has opened up some doors in North America to news coverage previously unseen by viewers in the United States.

The audience that will seeing this special report on Native talk radio will be the widely diverse, millions of viewers, living overseas. The original content that “Let’s Talk Native” specializes in may be an area of future interest to the international news outlet. “You never know how this may play out,” said Sajrawi.

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