Sharing our Stories online enables us to define who we were, who we are, and who we will be as Indigenous peoples.

The scale of social media’s impact surprises me, especially considering that it sits in the palm of my hand. It is a thread connecting us to so many across the world. Over the past decade, there has been an expansion and evolution of social media that has changed the lives of people—both in how we build and maintain relationships and how we share and produce knowledge. It has created a culture all its own. One of the most significant impacts I have experienced is how Indigenous people have embraced the art of storytelling online.

I remember the first TikTok video I made that went viral, back in 2019. It was a tongue-in-cheek history of Thanksgiving and its significance today as a celebration of genocide. The video was removed from TikTok, supposedly for violating community guidelines, so I posted it on Instagram and Twitter, where it amassed more than a million views and thousands of likes. It was then I realized my own power and the power of social media as a tool for positive change. 

I have seen it on a much larger scale as well, as Indigenous peoples have used social media to lift up and demand justice. I remember in 2016 how silent mainstream news media initially were about what was happening in Standing Rock between water protectors and the militarized police force. Social media enabled those on the ground to act as witnesses to the gathering of Native nations and the violence they faced, amplified by Indigenous activists and filmmakers such as the International Indigenous Youth CouncilMyron Dewey (may he rest in peace and power), and Chad Charlie

Storytelling is more than just recounting events. There is an inherent art and skill to one of the oldest and most widely practiced forms of communication and cultural preservation in human herstory. Indigenous storytellers are inspired by and pull from what I lovingly describe as the “sentient archive”—a living, breathing repository of memories, lessons, and knowledge built and shared from generation to generation. 

There is an inheritance formed through the kinship of sharing a story, imparting strength, beauty, and wisdom that transcend temporal and spatial dimensions. Our storytelling enables us to define who we were, who we are, and who we will be as Indigenous peoples. 

As an Indigenous trans femme, who I am, who I was, and who I will be exist because of my family, my community, and the people I choose to be in relationship with, as well as what I learn, embrace, and refuse in this life. My use of social media is informed and grounded by Diné ways of being and knowing, which I have inherited from and cultivated with my family and community. 

Through online platforms, I have been able to reclaim what was long denied to me: my story. Social media enabled me to create new and complex representations of what it means to be Indigenous—along with fresh forms of queerness and transness that exist in alignment with my Indigeneity. 

I have also studied the specific relationship between Indigenous peoples and social media while on my doctoral pathway at the University of Denver. This relationship is rooted in culture, community, and advocacy while celebrating all three. Bronwyn Carlson, an Aboriginal professor and head of the department of Indigenous studies at Macquarie University in Australia, highlights how social media has empowered Aboriginal peoples to redefine representation while challenging caricatures. Marisa Elena Duarte, an associate professor of justice and sociotechnical change in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University, emphasizes that Indigenous peoples’ usage of social media is grounded in our tribal philosophies, spiritualities, and legacies, which destabilizes colonial power and supports decolonization. 

Social media, too, exists in relation to settler colonialism. In Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s book Control and Freedom, she highlights how early conceptions of the internet described it as an imagined electronic frontier: an unknown space to occupy and—dare I say?—colonize. 

As with so many things, the internet enables both the good and the bad. I choose not to engage with the ignorance of trolls and the violence they create with their hateful comments and occasional death threats. Instead, I tackle misinformation about Indigenous peoples, our issues, and our rights. I breathe new narratives—inhaling what I know and exhaling something personal and new—rooted in supporting and celebrating the communities I cherish.

Over the course of four years, I have inspired thousands of people by sharing joyful educational videos around climate justicerepresentationdecolonizationsettler colonialismLGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit experiences, and celebrating Indigenous brilliance. I have cultivated a community all my own by embracing the beauty and power of digital storytelling. 

Charlie Amaya Scott is a Dine scholar born and raised within the Navajo Nation.

This article was first published in Yes! Magazine and is republished here under a Creative Commons License.

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