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  • Lani Hansen

Tribal member earns NAJA Fellowhip



Aspen Ford will participate in the Native American Journalism Fellowship.

TAHLEQUAH – The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) recently selected seven students to participate in their Native American Journalism Fellowship (NAJF) Class of 2023. UKB member Aspen Ford has been given the opportunity of a spot in the fellowship program.

Ford grew up in Tahlequah, attending school at Woodall and graduating high school from Sequoyah in 2018 as Salutatorian. She then attended college at Northeastern State University, where she served as a member of the President Leadership Class. Ford double majored in Spanish and Media Studies, with a minor in Applied Linguistics in graduating in May 2022.

“Whenever I was in newspaper, I had reached out to Mark Dreadfulwater to help edit a story of mine, and he’s the one who helped my interest in NAJA,” Ford said. “I am so glad I signed up for a student membership, because they have so many opportunities.”

It was at the end of her last semester at NSU, when she learned about the NAJA conference which was held at Arizona State University.

“Not knowing what to do after college, I signed up to go to this conference because I had been interested in ASU’s investigative journalism master’s program,” Ford said. “I thought it was awesome to see so many Native journalists. That’s where I met my current boss Ryan Sharp, who is the editor at The Oklahoman and informed about the fellowship program.”

After speaking with Sharp, Ford was hired on and moved to Oklahoma City where she began her fellowship.

“I have learned so much being in this fellowship with The Oklahoman,” Ford stated. “I loved the NAJA conference so much last year, I had to apply for their fellowship program which I did in February. And in order to apply I had to be a student so I applied at ASU and got accepted.”

The NAJF Program begins in June, the fellows will participate in a virtual curriculum with selected mentors representing broadcast, radio, print and digital media. This innovative experience will be designed to leverage the advantages of a digital newsroom while allowing fellows to strengthen reporting skills, pitch stories to news outlets, participate in the National Native Media Conference, and network with other Indigenous journalists.

“They’ll fly us out to the National Native Media Conference in Winnipeg, Canada, I am excited,” Ford said.

During her fellowship, they will have virtual training by Indigenous journalists, work with their mentors and then present all their work at the conference.

After finishing the fellowship program, Ford will be attending ASU in the fall working on her master’s degree in investigative journalism.

For more information about the Native American Journalists Association, please visit



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