Q and A with Jennifer Loren

Critical Care

Being a Cherokee citizen is an important aspect of Jennifer Loren’s life. So, the opportunity to shift from the anchor desk for a Tulsa, Oklahoma TV station to creating a first-of-its kind TV news magazine showcasing the stories of Cherokee Nation people came as a welcome shock. “My jaw hit the floor,” Loren says.

She has been executive producer and host of “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” since its debut in 2015. The Emmy-winning program, produced by Cherokee Nation Businesses, airs statewide and in several other TV markets.

Loren will be the guest speaker during the National Council of American Indian/Alaska Native School Board Members Breakfast at NSBA’s annual conference in San Antonio in April. She spoke with ASBJ Associate Editor Michelle Healy about “Osiyo”—"hello" in Cherokee—and the importance of listening to and telling stories.

How would you describe your show?

Through short documentary-style pieces, we tell the real lives, sometimes gritty lives, of Cherokee Nation citizens. Some are doing interesting, unexpected things; some are living regular, everyday lives. We tell these stories in a visually beautiful way. That could be elders who cook traditional food or are basket weavers, but also 20-year-olds exploring a new field of athletics called slacklining, and many other stories. You always hear their voices, not mine. People ask if we’ll run out of interesting stories to tell. With 330,000 Cherokee Nation citizens nationwide, I think we’ll have stories for a while.

Who is your audience?

The show is a major point of pride for our tribe and people, so we really want to make sure we’re in their living rooms, on their television sets, on their computer screens whenever they want to watch us telling their stories. That’s our main goal. Our other goal is to educate people who are non-native, who want to know more about Cherokees, about native people, or just want to watch good storytelling. Our audience is anyone and everyone.

How does it feel to be breaking new ground in television?

I give all props to my tribe and the administration for thinking of doing something like this and for having the courage to give us the funding to do it, and let us be creative to do it the right way. The Chickasaw Nation is doing feature films to tell the story of their tribe and that’s very exciting.

What do you hope your audience takes from your presentation?

I’m hoping to talk about who Cherokees were when we lived in the southeastern United States and how we’ve evolved to be who we are today, after the Trail of Tears, and the lessons that we can learn from all of that. I want people to walk away from this with an understanding that, no matter how much we think we know about a topic or a tribe or a group of people, and how much history we’ve read or learned, that there’s always more to learn. Often, you learn that from hearing people’s stores. Traditionally, that’s how we passed our knowledge on, by taking the time to sit and listen to people’s stories.


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