Indigenous media activist Tracy Rector (Choctaw) is an Antioch University Seattle (AUS) MAEd alumna. As Executive Director and Co-founder of Longhouse Media, which Rector started during her time as an AUS student, she teaches and facilitates the use of digital media in Indigenous communities as a tool for self-expression, cultural preservation, and social change.
Her work has been shown as part of PBS’s Independent Lens, she was a 2011 Sundance Institute NativeLab Fellow, and she has won multiple awards, including a 2009 National Association for Media Literacy Education’s Media Literate Media award, a 2016 Stranger Genius Award, and the 2008 Antioch University Seattle Horace Mann award.
Rector describes her time at Antioch as “the best educational experience that I’ve ever had”. She says:
I actually entered the dual teacher certification and Masters of Education program ten years ago at the Muckleshoot Tribe. It was the best educational experience that I’ve ever had. As students, we worked as a cohort model under the guidance of Dr. Wendy Rosen. She was so incredibly supportive, intelligent, creative, and encouraging to us over the two-year program. There was something certainly special about learning together as like-minded individuals.
We were for the most part mature learners who had decided to go back to school after having lived full lives. Most of our cohort drove long distances to be part of the cohort. There were women from the Lummi Reservation, Puyallup, Suquamish, Port Gamble, Seattle, Olympia, and Bellingham all traveling at least twice per week to Muckleshoot for classes. The commitment and courage of the group was so humbling and uplifting.
The instructors and special guests that Wendy assembled were incredible leaders in their own fields. Plus they were all Indigenous-centric in their practices. For example, we had Roger Fernandes teaching us about traditional storytelling and arts, Makah Councilman Micah McCarty shared his experiences with whaling as a longtime cultural practice as well as his take on tribal perspectives with regard to politics and treaties to mathematics rooted in Indigenous methodologies. When I’ve told people about my graduate school experience they are often amazed and in awe. I really don’t know of any program similar to our Antioch cohort experience in this country. It’s one that has fully prepared me to do the work that I do as an activist, artist, filmmaker, and educator advocating for Indigenous rights.
While Rector started at AUS with the intention to become a traditional, classroom teacher, as she progressed through the program, she decided that she could, in her own words, “better serve Native communities through access to digital media and storytelling. And with that, I knew that I would not be in the classroom.”
Rector learned skills that translate across multiple teaching contexts, helping prepare her for her work with Longhouse Media. Rector uses skills in classroom management, different types of literacies, and best practices when presenting information to students. As a teacher across multiple settings, including after school workshops, tribal school classes, weekend workshops, summer class settings, or with the Seattle International Film Festival, Rector’s educational background directly informs her work.
Rector reports that having a master’s degree also gives her additional clout. When in contexts where academic credentials are weighted heavily, having a graduate education helps, in her words, “validate why I was at the table, or asked to do something.” She’s put her enhanced credentials to good use, winning awards and accolades, and opening doors for the next generations of Indigenous filmmakers.