The Native American Journalists Association, based in Norman, Oklahoma on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, has a unique and challenging mission. Its primary goal is to improve communications among Native people and between Native Americans and the general public.
The work of the association addresses Native communications and encompasses a wide range of issues affecting the survival and the development of the Native media and Native communications.
Native leaders have been long aware of the importance of the media to Native communities. Since the establishment of The Cherokee Phoenix, the nation's first bilingual Native newspaper first published 1828, there have been continuous efforts by tribal people to address the news and information needs of their communities. Only in recent times, with the advent of modern communications technology, have the Native media progressed from a local and regional focus to a national and international scope to meet the communication needs of Native people. Out of this historical context came the influences, philosophy and Native experiences with the media which gave rise to the formation of a Native American Journalists Association.
In 1983, a group of 30 Native American journalists met at Pennsylvania State University, pursuant to a call from columnist Tim Giago and Adrian C. Louis, with assistance of Professor William Dulaney of Penn State. The conferees agreed that a national organization was needed to reinvigorate the Native media, address the widespread barriers and challenges facing Native journalists, and build on the strengths of Native communications. The conference participants agreed to meet again in early 1984 at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. At the meeting in Oklahoma, the participants created a constitution and by-laws thereby establishing the foundation for a national organization that they called the Native American Press Association (NAPA). The name was changed in 1990, to the Native American Journalists Association to better reflect the organization's broader goals and the inclusion of radio and television professionals among its membership. Prior to the name change, NAPA laid much of the groundwork for the present organization.
The following year, the founding members sought and secured its 501(c)(3) or tax-exempt status.