NAJA Member Profile: Tsanavi Spoonhunter, 2015 Student Fellow

Tsanavi Spoonhunter, Credit: Jarrette Werk

My name is Tsanavi Spoonhunter and I am Paiute, Lakota and Northern Arapaho. Although I’m an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, I was raised on the Big Pine Paiute Reservation in Big Pine, California.

In December 2017, I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in journalism with a minor in foreign affairs from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). At UNR, I studied at the Reynolds School of Journalism and the Department of Political Science. Before beginning my studies at UNR, I was a student at Haskell Indian Nations University. My time at Haskell inspired me to seek a degree in journalism because our communities require well-trained journalists to cover Indian country in a way it deserves.

I was first introduced to the Native American Journalists Association as a first-year student at UNR. After I became a member of this association, I applied for the Native American Journalism Fellowship. Soon after applying, I learned that I was selected to attend NAJA’s 2015 conference in Washington D.C. as a fellow. During the weeklong conference I produced six pieces for the fellowship’s publication, Native Voices: three written articles, two videos, and one audio segment. My assigned mentor was Karen Lincoln Michel, who is the current editor at Madison Magazine. Michel was a very nurturing and positive mentor for me, and we’ve continued our mentoring relationship since then. I cannot express my appreciation to her or this organization, because both solidified my ambition to pursue a career as a journalist.

As a third-year student at UNR, I studied Spanish language at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Vicálvaro in Madrid, Spain as a Paul A. and Gwen F. Leonard scholarship recipient. This experience led me to believe that Native Americans need a stronger voice in the international arena, because we’re still highly romanticized. As a result, I wanted to maintain a presence in Indian country and I knew that NAJA is the perfect platform for that. Not only are members given a multitude of opportunities, we are updated and educated on current issues we face as Native people. When I returned to the states, I applied for the 2017 NAJA scholarship and was awarded this scholarship at NAJA’s 2017 conference held in Anaheim, Calif. I was fortunate enough to attended the conference because NAJA suggested that I apply for a Columbia Journalism School scholarship.

Following my undergraduate career, I found that I fit better as a longform journalist, and I’ve recently accepted an offer from the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism to study in its documentary program. I would like to extend my gratitude to NAJA and their staff for the support, network and opportunities that I’ve been presented with as a member. If it weren’t for NAJA, I wouldn’t have found a passion to pursue a specific journalism route, as a future Berkeley student.


The Native American Journalists Association strives to empower journalists and voices in Indian Country. Contact us to learn more about our members, access to our expert directory, and/or how to support student fellows.  If you have interest in applying to be a student fellow or a student fellow mentor, updated information is included on NAJA.com. 


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