Teen Vogue got woke, writer Ruth Hopkins explains why it matters

Writer and lawyer Ruth Hopkins says youth are hungry for political writing and Teen Vogue is filling the gap.
Teen Vogue contributor Ruth Hopkins, a Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer and lawyer. Recently in an article she used her own personal stories to explain the treaties. (Provided by Ruth Hopkins/Twitter)

Teen Vogue isn't what it used to be. The magazine, which is now exclusively online and has over 3.5 million Twitter followers, is no longer only filled with articles about what to wear on a first date, or how to cover-up a blemish.

The magazine is publishing news and political articles that are read by more than just teens, said contributor Ruth Hopkins, a Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer and lawyer based in Lake Traverse Reservation, South Dakota.

Hopkins started writing for the magazine after an editor at Teen Vogue reached out to her and said they'd been following her work for Indian Country Today and the media site Hopkins co-founded, The Last Real Indians. Hopkins says she wasn't surprised to hear from them.

"I knew that they were being progressive and they are making great strides in making information available to youth," she said.

"These guys are way ahead of the curve."

Since she began writing for the magazine, Hopkins has published articles on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the opioid epidemic in Indigenous communities, and most recently, one on how the Trump administration is trying to remove tribal sovereignty.

An article she wrote about treaties "really blew up," said Hopkins. "I used my own personal heritage and experience to explain treaties to the public."

Youth as 'change agents'

When Hopkins was growing up she didn't see articles like the ones she writes today. 

"I grew up on the reservation and we were pretty poor. So I really didn't have a lot of access," she explained.

"There really was not anything out there about Native people, our history — especially geared towards young people. It just wasn't there."

Hopkins wants youth to have resources that weren't available to her as a teen.

"They deserve to make informed decisions and they deserve to know who they are. They are very politically and socially aware. They are definitely change agents," she explained.

I think part of what we're doing wrong as adults is we're not giving them enough credit. We're underestimating their capabilities and their intelligence, and we really have to stop doing that. We can provide guidance and support, but really we need to start handing them the reins because they are ready to make changes.- Ruth Hopkins

The responses to her articles have been heartening, explained Hopkins.

"I do get a lot of positive responses from Native youth in America, as well as Canada."   

"I did get an e-mail from a young lady who said that she's going to go to law school now because she saw that I was a lawyer. She was impressed with what I've written about my life story. So that was very encouraging." 

"I just encouraged her to work hard and do her best, and that I was proud of her."