PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Storytelling is an integral part of Native American culture, and there’s a group of storytellers in Portland dedicated to Indigenous communities in Oregon and Washington.
The journalists at Underscore News, a non-profit newsroom that started in 2019, is a majority Indigenous organization, both on its board and its staff.
Jarrette Werk, a reporter and photographer with Underscore News and Report for America, has been with Underscore since June 2022 after graduating college. Originally from the Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana, he said coming to the Pacific Northwest was a change.
“You know, we’re horse people and buffalo people, and everyone out here is fish people, they’re salmon people,” he said with a laugh, “so trying to develop a taste for salmon is something that I’m trying to do.”
Casey Pearlman, board treasurer at Underscore who has Iñupiat heritage, originally grew up in Southern California before moving to Portland 20 years ago.
“I think the power of Native people to kind of be in charge of their own story is the beauty of working at Underscore,” she said.
Myers Reece, the executive director of Underscore, told KOIN 6 News the outlet’s aim is “to become … a paper of record for Indigenous communities in Oregon and Washington.
“We would really like to be where people know to turn not just for hard-hitting accountability or investigative reporting, but profiles on community members, athletes, activists, business owners,” he said.
Donations made to Underscore News in November and December will be matched through Newsmatch.
“Getting to work for Underscore and serve as a reporter and photographer is the best job that I could ever have,” Werk said. “I love what I do. I love that I get to come into work every day and just learn, learn from everybody that we’re talking to, and you know, tell those good human-centered stories.”