NAJA responds to Lawrence membership inquiry
January 25, 2021
NORMAN, Oklahoma — The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) is a member-based organization that advocates for Indigenous journalists and accurate, ethical coverage of Indigenous communities. NAJA’s membership is not restricted to Indigenous people and the organization has a designated membership category for non-Indigenous professionals who support the mission and programs.
Claudia Lawrence, a Seattle-area freelance writer and attorney, joined the organization as an individual professional member – a membership designated for Indigenous members – in November 2020 claiming Indigenous heritage. NAJA does not require proof of tribal affiliation to join as an individual professional member, however, the organization’s bylaws empower the board of directors to request proof of tribal affiliation when necessary.
Lawrence’s claim of Indigenous identity was recently called into question, and a NAJA representative reached out to Lawrence to request proof of tribal affiliation earlier this week. In response, Lawrence requested to rescind her membership and as of Jan. 21, is no longer a member.
NAJA membership is not exclusive, and the organization welcomes Indigenous journalists and allies to elevate Indigenous voices. NAJA leaders and members expect that all members honestly and accurately represent their identity at all times and in all settings. NAJA recognizes that Indigenous identity is complex, and the organization and our members work hard to ensure that Indigenous cultural and political identity is represented with nuance and authenticity.
A NAJA membership does not vouch for any member’s claim of Indigeneity, nor should it be used as a credential in support of those claims. It also cannot be used in place of tribal identification cards, certificates of Indian blood, or verification from tribal officials and leaders.
The NAJA board of directors condemns false claims of Indigenous identity and will take appropriate action when those claims are used to gain membership in the organization.