By Anya Shukla
Matt Remle wears many hats—he’s passed several laws here in Seattle, works as a teacher at Marysville High School, and writes for Last Real Indians. Remle, along with Chase Iron Eyes, co-founded Last Real Indians in 2012, in response to the absence of Native and Indigenous stories in the media. Over the past eight years, the news site has gained a significant following and serves as a collective of Native and Indigenous authors, organizers, and content-creators.
Q: You started this organization more than five years ago. What, if any, setbacks have you faced throughout this process? And on the flip side, what success have you seen?
A: We have limited resources, ‘cause we’re financing this all out of our personal pockets. And it’s not like we’re rich.
Too often, Native folks, when we’re asked to do things, it’s expected that we’ll do it for free. But we didn’t want to do that; if we’re specifically looking for a certain story, we want to compensate people, with a stipend or a little something. So Chase and I self-fund that. It can be limiting for us: we can’t pay five authors a week to be producing new material. It’s more like three-to-four exclusive pieces per month.
In terms of successes… we always went into it with the attitude that we’re going to be unapologetic for who we are. We’re not looking to woo people over. We’re very direct with our content. That in itself turns some people off. But what we have seen is, since our pieces come from the voices of folks from the community, Last Real Indians is a place of empowerment and a voice for some very specific issues, issues some people don’t know are happening. And that in itself can be a very powerful organizing tool.
Q: When you say “organizing tool,” what exactly does that look like? What kinds of issues have you raised awareness of?
A: For example, with the Dakota Access Pipeline. I personally started writing about Dakota Pipeline back in 2015, a couple years before any other media outlets—primarily because I’m from there, and it personally impacted me and my family. So you can go back and search for some of the first writings on the issue, and it was just Last Real Indians.
As things started to heat up in spring and summer, we had already done several dozen stories. We were putting up the live streams that showed the private security coming in with the dogs, the armed National Guard; it was Last Real Indians putting those images out. We were able to put that story out into the world.
Last Real Indians is just giving voice to our community and people. I’m very strongly opinionated about that: we should filter our news to our own sites and not get other people to write about it.
Q: Can you expand on that? What exactly does “filtering our news to our own sites” look like, and why do you think it’s important?
A: I’ll give you an example: locally, I wrote the Indigenous Peoples' Day Resolution for the City of Seattle in 2014, and we had a sense that it was going to be a pretty big news story. I figured if we do a press release about this resolution, other media outlets can alter the meaning or message of our statement, and we’ll have to respond to them. I wanted us to own this story, to own the narrative, so I thought, let’s release it on Native platforms. That way, all these other outlets have to respond to us, and they have to cite Last Real Indians or any other Native news site as a source. That’s what ended up happening. And in doing all of this, we showed that we can control the narrative without getting the approval of a mainstream source.
Q: On that note, is there anything you would like to see change about the mainstream media’s portrayal of Native and Indigenous communities?
A: I don’t think there are many stories being told about Native people. And when there are, they miss the context. We get a lot of stories where Native people are said to be “statistically insignificant.” And that’s a loaded language, given the mass genocide that took place here, the reason we only have 3 million, 3.5 million people in the US down from 30 million pre-1900s. I just wish people were more accurate with their information because that’s a perpetuation of false narratives: Natives don’t pay taxes, Natives go to college for free, all of which is untrue. I like to use our platform to give exposure to that ignorance and educate people.
Q: In connection to that… education plays a big role in either maintaining ignorance or pushing for change. As a teacher, what advice do you have for students who’d like to advocate for racial equity in their schools?
A: I always tell my students that they need to understand their own power: under this educational system, you all are our bosses, because, without you, we have no salary. So I think students need to understand that and be more assertive in things they want to see in their schools, in their curriculums. Be unapologetic about that.
Q: One last question: is there any way teens can get involved in Last Real Indians?
A: We openly encourage younger authors and first-time writers. If folks need assistance with editing, we’ll certainly do that, but one thing we pride ourselves on is that we don’t want to tell people how to tell their stories, or rewrite their stories. We’ll publish you.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.