Storied Mvskoke journalist Gary Fife has walked on.
Fife, an award-winning reporter for more than half a century who challenged Indigenous stereotypes and fought for Native visibility, died on January 14 at age 73. The news was first reported by Mvskoke media, the newspaper of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, where the journalist hosted a regular radio program.
The storyteller’s career began as a legislative intern in the early 70s with the Indian Legal Information Development Service, according to journalist Joaqlin Estus’s 2021 profile on Fife for Indian Country Today. Fife later went on to work for the Alaska Public Radio Network as producer and editor of National Native News, the first Native daily radio news show to broadcast across the nation. Fife also served on the board of directors for the Native American Journalists Association.
“Gary was a pioneer in radio broadcasting in developing a network of journalists reporting on Native American issues,” Koahnic Broadcasting Corp. President and CEO Jaclyn Sallee told ICT in 2021. “This was a time when there was very little information about Indigenous groups being voiced on the airwaves throughout the nation.”
Fife’s vision of Native visibility was the guiding force throughout his decades-long career.
In a 1994 recorded interview with Fife, who was speaking on behalf of National Native News, he spoke about America’s ignorance of Indian Country and its people.
“America knows more about our past and our dead ancestors than they do about us today,” he said. “That may be changing because of casinos and bingo halls…but what we want to do is have our nation and our people and our colleagues in this business find out what our communities are really like, and stop …call chief making, where you find a colorful representative who is supposed to speak for all Native Americans. Well that aint so, we are a diverse group of cultures.”
“We have many people who are very traditionally oriented and choose to remain that way. But we also have members of our community who are sitting in the United States Senate, and other places throughout the administration. So we need to be accepted as part of this society. That includes things like journalists, or the military, or doctors and lawyers. We need to shake up America's thinking.”
In June, the Mvskoke Nation honored Fife with a Living Legend award for his work in pioneering Native American media.
When Fife received the news, Mvskoke media reported, he was surprised.
“I guess there were people out there that were listening, and reading my material,” he said. “It was nice to know someone was paying attention.”
Details about Fife’s memorial service are pending. For more information, stay tuned to Mvskoke Media.
About the Author: "Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York."