This page contains five different case studies which provide more in-depth overview and analysis of some of the initiatives found in our Collaborative Collection. Scroll down to read through them, or follow the links to each blog post shared below. The case studies are as follows:
Violence Against Women: Remembering and Honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: Click here
Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties Tour: Click here
The Sacred Water Circle: Click here
Transforming Curriculum, Transforming Consciousness? Initiatives Within the Formal Education System: Click here
Reporting in Indigenous Communities: Click here
The full case studies are included below:
Violence Against Women: Remembering and Honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
A Case Study of Sisters In Spirit Vigils, Walking With Our Sisters and the Moosehide Campaign
by Sara Taylor
Within Canada, Indigenous women experience violent victimization at a rate 2.5 times higher than non-Indigenous women (Statistics Canada, 2013). Indigenous women represent three percent of the female Canadian population, but are disproportionately represented as victims of violence (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2010a). In 2010, the Native Women’s Association of Canada documented “582 cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls in Canada through the Sisters In Spirit project” (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2014, p. 1). In recent research Maryanne Pearce, a doctoral candidate from Ottawa University, documented that this number has risen to over 800 women and girls (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2014; Welch, 2014).
Addressing the problems of violence against women in Canada is an urgent and paramount responsibility at the international, national and local level. The devastatingly high numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls has, and will continue to negatively impact the wellbeing of communities across Canada and the individuals within them. In order to challenge this ongoing violence, it is of the utmost importance to understand that “colonization is not simply a strategy of the past, but a reality that reinforces the silence surrounding the violence experienced by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women today” (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2010b, p. 1).
In the process of healing and reconciliation, relationship building and accountable partnerships are key components in the creation of holistic, and community minded recommendations to addressing violence against women (AMR Planning and Consulting, 2011). The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has called for a two-stream approach, advocating for both preventative and reactive action to challenge and change violence against Indigenous women in Canada (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2010b). NWAC, along with the UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and many other organizations and initiatives have recommended that Canada initiate a National Public Commission of Inquiry as well as a National Action Plan to further research, educate and advocate about violence against Indigenous women and girls (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2014).
The statistic of over 800 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, is more than just a number; these women are mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties, friends, leaders, partners and valued individuals who matter (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2014). Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians have created countless resources and participated in many initiatives in order to raise awareness and take action to change violence against women. The Sisters In Spirit Vigils, Walking With Our Sisters, and the Moosehide Campaign are only three out of the many initiatives that exist within Canada today. The following initiatives have been created to remember the women who have lost their lives, and to honour them by sharing their stories.
Since 2006, the Sister In Spirit Vigil (SIS Vigil) has taken place across Canada every year on October 4th (“Sisters in Spirit,” 2014). The Vigil is an initiative of NWAC, in collaboration with Amnesty International Canada, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The SIS Vigil was inspired by Bridget Tolley, whose mother Gladys was murdered in 2001 in Maniwaki, Quebec. Fearful that Gladys’ story would be forgotten, in 2006 Bridget held a vigil at the Parliament Hill steps to remember and honour her mother and the hundreds of Indigenous women and girls who are missing and murdered (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2010a).
Vigils are held to “honour and remember Indigenous women’s lives, support grieving families, provide opportunities for healing and is a movement for social change” (“October 4th, Sisters In Spirit Vigil,” 2014). As of 2012, over 142 vigils have been recorded, and this number continues to grow (“October 4th, Sisters In Spirit Vigil,” 2014). A vigil can take many different forms including balloon launches, community feasts, unity marches, moments of silence, candlelight vigils, gatherings at local parks, or prayer services (“October 4th, Sisters In Spirit Vigil,” 2014). Vigils can cost as much or as little as funding allows. Community organizing and fundraising can affect the size and activities, but each vigil is of equal importance despite the amount of money raised. Vigils can have a small or a large number of people in attendance, including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and men. These are public events which create safe spaces for respectful and open discourse about violence against Indigenous women and girls. The SIS Vigils bring awareness and strength to the stories of the women, and create an opportunity both to remember them and to inform others. Standing in solidarity and hearing families’ stories are moments that create space for transforming relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. SIS Vigils create opportunities for participants to build relationships and understand their responsibilities of challenging and changing violence within Canada.
Another initiative that honours and remembers the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is the commemorative art installation, Walking With Our Sisters. This initiative was coordinated by Métis artist Christi Belcourt, who was inspired to honour the lives of the women and transform public consciousness through art (Bell, 2013). This installation showcases beautiful, hand made moccasin tops (known as vamps/uppers) created by individuals in galleries across Canada and the United States. “Each pair of vamps represents one missing or murdered Indigenous woman. The unfinished moccasins represent the unfinished lives of the women whose lives were cut short” (“Walking With Our Sisters,” 2014, par. 3).
Walking With Our Sisters began with a call out on Facebook in June 2012 for handcrafted vamps. Christi originally started to bead the vamps herself, but when she realized it would take too long for the project to be completed, she began asking her friends on Facebook to join her (Bell, 2013). This was the beginning of a collaborative project, and by July 25, 2013 over 1,600 vamps had been received, created by women, men and children from all backgrounds from across the world. Triumphantly, they overachieved their goal by 600 vamps, with 1385 pairs of vamps submitted by residents of Canada (“Walking With Our Sisters,” 2014).
The project is touring across Canada and the United States and is expected to continue until 2019 (“Walking With Our Sisters,” 2014). Within the galleries, participants will be able to interact with the art. The installation is envisioned as a safe space where the visitor will be able to pick up and carry ceremonial tobacco as they view the vamps and remember and honour the stories and lives that they represent. At the end of their visit, the participants will then place their tobacco in a container similar to a sacred fire in which the tobacco will be burnt after the exhibition (Bell, 2013). It should also be noted that Walking With Our Sisters is a crowdsourced project that relies on the support of volunteers, artists, fundraisers and the thousands of people who have chosen to be a part of this project. It is an amazing collaborative project that has included people with a diversity of skills, from all different backgrounds.
In an interview with Christi, she said she believes that “art has the power to shift and transform the ways people think” (Bell, 2013, par. 8). Through a combination of art and story, Walking With Our Sisters is transforming public consciousness about violence against Indigenous women and girls (Bell, 2013; “Walking With Our Sisters,” 2014). This initiative is a way to inform the public that includes Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and men in the creative process of making vamps, and remembering the murdered and missing Indigenous women they represent. “The installation represents all these women; paying respect to their lives and existence on this earth. They are not forgotten. They are sisters, mothers, aunties, daughters, cousins, grandmothers, wives and partners. They have been cared for, they have been loved” (“Walking With Our Sisters,” 2014, par. 4).
Last but not least, the Moosehide Campaign is another initiative that advocates against violence towards Indigenous women. This is a grassroots movement in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous men join together to stand in solidarity and advocate in their communities about violence against Indigenous women and girls. The executive director Paul Lacerte, of the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, first started the campaign on February 13th, 2011. It is now in its third year, and includes a walk, a fast, healing circles and a public pledge to “end violence against women and children from aboriginal communities” (“Moosehide Campaign”, 2014).
The Moosehide Campaign is named as such because the men involved in the movement wear “a piece of moosehide pinned over their hearts”, which is believed to connect them to the “healthy warrior within”, and is a symbol of their commitment to ending violence against women (“Moosehide Campaign,” 2014). This annual gathering is well attended by local and provincial First Nations Chiefs and community members, RCMP, government officials, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous community service providers. In addition to the annual event, the Moosehide Campaign also continuously works in solidarity with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to end violence against Indigenous women.
As part of the events that are held under the Moosehide Campaign, women are invited as witnesses to offer support and prayers. Indigenous and non-Indigenous men are important allies in challenging and changing violence in Canada as they too are affected spiritually, physically and mentally by the violence in their communities (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2010a). Men have the very important role of respecting, listening and valuing the stories and experiences of women in order to repair and build healthy relationships within communities (The Native Women’s Association of Canada, 2010a). “The Moose Hide Campaign is calling on men across the country to stand up for those experiencing violence and to create an environment where it is safe to talk about the issue” (“Moosehide Campaign Press Release,” 2014, par. 4). This initiative demonstrates the active alliances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous men, and between men and women.
The Sisters In Spirit Vigils, Walking With Our Sisters and The Moosehide Campaign are just three of countless initiatives taking place within Canada. These initiatives are collaborative, creative and community driven, with the ultimate goal of challenging and ending violence against Indigenous women. The participants and organizers within these initiatives are both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and work to build alliances and act in solidarity with one another. The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is an urgent and damaging problem within Canada, and it affects everyone. It is through the work of initiatives such as those discussed in this case study, that the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are remembered and honoured. It is with great hope and the tireless work of champions of change that violence against women will end, and healthy communities will flourish.
AMR Planning and Consulting. (2011). Collaboration to End Violence : National Aboriginal Women’s Forum.
Bell, G. (2013). Interview with Christi Belcourt. Retrieved April 16, 2014, from http://www.aboriginalcuratorialcollective.org/research-page/podcasts/interview-with-christi-belcourt-contributing-artist-and-coordinator-for-walking-with-our-sisters/
Moosehide Campaign. (2014). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://moosehidecampaign.ca
Moosehide Campaign Press Release. (2014). Retrieved April 16, 2014, from http://moosehidecampaign.ca/press/
October 4th, Sisters In Spirit Vigil. (2014). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.october4th.ca/sis
Sisters in Spirit. (2014). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.nwac.ca/sisters-spirit
Statistics Canada. (2013). Measuring Violence against Women: Statistical Trent, (85).
The Native Women’s Association of Canada. (2010a). Community Resource Guide.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada. (2010b). What Their Stories Tell Us: Research Findings from the Sisters in Spirit Initiative.
The Native Women’s Association of Canada. (2014). More than Invisible , Invisible to Real Action, (March), 1–4.
Walking With Our Sisters. (2014). Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://walkingwithoursisters.ca
Welch, M. A. (2014). New database lists 824 murdered, missing native women in Canada. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/grim-number-jumps-in-study-241776001.html
The Sacred Water Circle
by Cherylanne James
In 2011, Dorothy Taylor from Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario took up a call from Indigenous spiritual leaders around the world. The Hopi, the Dalai Lama and the spiritual authorities of Gonawindua (Sierra Madres de Santa Marta, Colombia) had called out to the world to protect the water and to bring awareness to the beauty and living giving force of water. In recent years, the government of Canada has implemented detrimental policies that looked to further develop and extract resources from the land, at the cost of polluting Mother Earth and life giving water. Dorothy took up this call, and with a group of interfaith people from various cultural backgrounds, they formed the Sacred Water Circle.
The “Sacred Water Circle seeks to create dialogue around spiritually-based environmental issues, and to motivate communities and governments to act to set policy that will protect our water, by leading with prayer and walking together” (website, 2014).
Water is very scared to Indigenous people, and to all people. For Anishinaabe people, more specifically kwe (women), it is their responsibility to care for the water. As Anishinaabe kwe, they are the carriers of the water. They carry this water in their wombs and bring forth life into the world. It is with this knowledge that Anishinaabe kwe have a special relationship with water.
Coming together to create a space that is Anishinaabe-led is done through a decolonization lens. It is done through unpacking how previous organizations have been run, and how they have been led by non-Indigenous people. This organization is done in unison with the group of culturally diverse people; however, they follow the lead of Anishinaabe leaders. A respectful approach to being a part of an interfaith group is to ensure that every faith is respected. A strong approach used in the Sacred Water Circle is public education, which seeks to get the word out there to spread awareness of the importance of water and of the relationship that we all have with water. The Sacred Water Circle’s goal is seeking to connect to future generations and to see a future that is will continue to fight for water. The 2013 Sacred Water Conference focused on youth and how to involve youth and to hear their voices. Youth came from all over to share their ideas and to interact with Elders to learn about water and to see a future where there is change.
“My grandmother told me of a time when water would be like gold, like many others heard in their young lives. Slowly these Prophecies came into our lives, we didn’t pay attention in our young days–because our backyards were not affected, back then it was the mining and farmers spraying chemicals….People are scrambling to find good water that is nowhere to be found in their communities. Our way of life through prayer is to prevent such hurtful disasters on behalf of our future generations; it is our responsibility. I ask all the Voices to stand together at this time in Unity. My prayers continue for all you bringing attention to these global Giants affecting us all as a whole and for the Global Giants to pay attention to their own children’s future. In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning!” ~ Chief Arvol Looking Horse (website, 2014).
It is the goal of the Sacred Water Circle to bring people together to create a relationship with water for all human beings. In response to the creation of this relationship, they hold an annual Sacred Water Circle Conference in May. These conferences seek to bring together people from all walks of life and various ways of knowing to discuss water, to bring hope to youth that change is possible, and to bring together a variety of voices from First Nations people to scientists. The conferences are three day events with a variety of workshops and ceremonies to develop solutions to help the water. The goals for the 2014 Sacred Water Conference are;
- To bring together the Indigenous leaders who inspired the SWC initiative to the Kawarthas in order to host a significant world event on sacred water.
- To bring local and international leaders and speakers to the SWC gathering to share traditional teachings with the youth participants, government leaders, water quality scientists, industrial leaders, and community leaders.
- To catalyze positive action plans for community involvement in decisions making that affect the health of water.
- To participate in ongoing collaborations with other local groups who have a focus similar to the SWC.
- To share and promote inspirational and educational tools as a product of this significant event experience and share with other communities.
Guests that will be present at the 2014 Conference are Josephine Mandamin from Wikemikong, Manitoulin Island, ON, Charlie Neyelle and Morris Neyelle from Sahtu Dene, Deline First Nation, NT, The Hopi People from Shungopavi Village, AZ, USA, Chief Arvol Looking Horse from Sioux Nation, Cheyenne River, South Dakota, USA, People of the Earth – the Kogi from La Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia and Jhaimy Alvarez-Acosta an Andean Wisdomkeeper.
“Water is life itself and makes all life possible, and we continue to honour the sacredness of water in our ceremonies. Sadly, today we are at a crossroads, and unless we actively work to defend and protect the water, water will become as valuable as gold to future generations”~ Chief Arvol Looking Horse (website, 2014).
Each year the Sacred Water Conference is run around the same time as the Water Walk. The Water Walkers are a separate organization of diverse people led by Anishinaabe-kwewag who walk to raise awareness of water. In previous years, from 2010 until present they have walked around Rice Lake, Stoney Lake, Upper Chemong Lake and Rice Lake again. In 2014, they are walking around the territory of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. Every year the water walk occurs on Mother’s Day weekend, which is a symbolic date for the Water Walks, “we pay homage to our mothers and grandmothers, we also remember and honour our Earth Mother and her life-giving water that nourishes and sustains all Creation.”
“A copper pail is filled with water and carried around a lake by Anishinaabe-kwewag (women) who bless and sing to the water. The Water Walks braid ceremony , spirit and community to bring people together to teach us about the sacredness of water. With this awareness, we can become informed caretakers of our waters. ” Words from the Water Walkers about who the Water Walkers are (website, 2014).
To date the Sacred Water Circle has gained support from around the Peterborough area in raising awareness for the waters around Peterborough. Supporters of the Sacred Water Circle are: The Ontario Trillium Foundation, Peterborough Community Future Development Corporation, School of Environment and Natural Resource Sciences, Trent University, GreenUp, TRACKS, Greening Sacred Spaces, The Council of Canadians, KWIC, City of Peterborough, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Alderville First Nation, Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre, The Baagwating Community Association, First Peoples House of Learning, and The Kawartha Lakes Water Awareness Walk. All the supporters have given a variety of support through different methods. Last year they were given monetary support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which made the 2014 Sacred Water Conference an international event.
To examine the initiative that this group of interfaith people took on, one must examine their own place within an organization, and to understand their role as a person who lives on Indigenous lands. There are many voices that come together to create awareness for the water. Creation of a safe space to talk and share ideas is vitally important. Becoming unsettled through working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is a shifting of consciousness and must be done with a great deal of respect for others and self-care.
“The water carries the same energy as mother’s milk and represents to us the milk that is given to us by the Cosmic Mother through Mother Earth for our lives. Therefore, we also call her YakuMama (Mother Water) because we not only receive life from her but also the energy and the programmation of the water that goes into ourselves. Our traditional ceremonies with the water give us a way to plant new seeds, new ideas and to bring clarity and peace to all of humanity” ~ Jhaimy Alvarez-Acosta (website, 2014).
For more information regarding the Sacred Water Circle and The Kawartha Lakes Water Awareness Walk please visit the website: https://www.sacredwater.ca
Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties Tour
by Tessa Nasca
Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties Tour is an example of a non-Indigenous celebrity artist engaging in an initiative that reaches a broad audience of mainstream arts and media consumers with a message rooted in treaty rights. As a non-Indigenous person working in the field of transforming settler consciousness, I am interested in the ways in which non-Indigenous artists are working in collaboration with Indigenous communities to create broad reaching initiatives.
In this case study, I will first look at the background context of Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties tour. Then, I will document the ways in which Neil Young collaborated with Indigenous communities, and how the initiative was carried out on the ground. Finally, I will look at the outcomes of the project, including examining the reactions of both settlers and Indigenous people to these initiatives.
In January of 2014, world-renowned non-Indigenous Canadian musician Neil Young launched a mini-tour in opposition to oil sands development on Indigenous lands. The tour, called the Honour the Treaties Tour, was orchestrated in partnership with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN) Legal Defense Fund, and all proceeds of the tour went to the ACFN’s legal struggles against oilsands development in their traditional territories. The Honour the Treaties Tour made four stops across Canada in Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, and Calgary, and garnered much media attention throughout the duration of the tour.
The Honour the Treaties Tour was a direct result of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s opposition to oilsands development in their homelands. ACFN is a Nation of approximately 1,200 members situated in Treaty 8 territory. The Nation “has eight reserves around the southern shores of Lake Athabasca, with a combined area of 34,767 hectares, but considers its traditional territory to encompass all of Treaty 8, which was signed in 1899 at Fort Chipewyan (Walker, 2014).
The traditional lands of Treaty 8 have been a hotbed for tar sands development in recent years. According to the ACFN Legal Defense Fund,
The ACFN is situated on the frontlines of tar sands industrial development – perhaps the largest-scale industrial development in human history. As a result ACFN members are witnessing the rapid and wide-scale industrialization of their traditional lands – lands that have sustained ACFN communities, their culture and distinctive way of life for countless generations. New studies have revealed there is currently no proven way to properly clean up and reclaim existing projects in the region (ACFN Legal Defense Fund, 2014).
The oilsands development in Treaty 8 territory is creating detrimental impacts on the health of the environment and the people. A few of the adverse impacts of this industrial development, selected from a list published by the ACFN Legal Defense fund, include:
- “Over 30 million birds will be lost over the next 20 years due to tar sands development, and under current oil sands expansion plans, woodland caribou populations are expected to disappear.
- 95% of the water used in tar sands surface mining is so polluted it has to be stored in toxic sludge pits. That’s 206,000 litres of toxic waste discharged every day
- 11 million litres of toxic wastewater seep out of the tailing pits into the boreal forest and Athabasca river every day. That’s 4 billion litres a year.
- Air pollutant guidelines in Alberta are less stringent than international standards. Despite that, air quality objectives were exceeded 1,556 times in 2009, up from 47 times in 2004.
- 80% of the traditional territories of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation are rendered inaccessible for periods of the year due to oil sands development.
- A higher than normal incidence of rare and deadly cancers has been documented in First Nations communities downstream of the oil sands by doctors, the Alberta Health Department and First Nations since 2007” (ACFN Legal Defense Fund, 2014).
Despite the fact that the ACFN receives no federal funding (due to their refusal to sign a funding agreement that violated their treaty rights) (Walker, 2014), the ACFN has pushed back against oil sands development. In fact, “over the last five years, ACFN has spent over $2 million in legal fees in relation to its challenges of oilsands development” (Walker, 2014). The ACFN legal defense fund states,
In response [to the oilsands development] the ACFN are actively engaged in a multi-prong legal strategy to challenge public policy, individual tar sands projects and inadequate environmental protection in Alberta’s Athabasca tar sands region in order to preserve and protect what is left of their homelands. The ACFN legal challenges focus on defending culture, the lands required to exercise Treaty and Aboriginal Rights, and the resources associated with those rights (ACFN Legal Defense Fund, 2014).
Just prior to the formation of the partnership between Neil Young and the ACFN Legal Defense fund, Shell Oil Canada Ltd. gained federal approval for its Jackpine Mine extension, a 300,000 bpd mine extension on Treaty 8 land. Thus, the ACFN’s most recent legal battle is filing “a judicial review of the federal decision to approve the project” (ACFN Legal Defense Fund, 2014). The ACFN is also still engaged in multiple other legal battles to defend their traditional territories against oilsands development.
The Partnership: How the initiative was undertaken
Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties tour came about as a result of the ecological and cultural damage inflicted upon the ACFN by oilsands development. According to the ACFN Legal Defense Fund, “Neil Young… visited our territory and saw the impacts of the tar sands first hand. That is why he has partnered with us to raise money for our legal challenge of tar sands expansion and environmental destruction” (ACFN Legal Defense Fund, 2014). Young is publicly quoted as saying “We [Canada] made a deal with these [Indigenous] people. We are breaking our promise. We are killing these people. The blood of these people will be on modern Canada’s hands” and “Canada is trading integrity for money … That’s what’s happening under the current leadership in Canada” (Young, 2014).
Upon visiting the oilsands development sites in Treaty 8 territory, Young worked with the ACFN to establish the benefit tour. The Honour the Treaties tour is affiliated with an ongoing campaign by the ACFN Legal Defense Fund, called “Draw a Line in the Sand”. It was agreed upon between Neil Young and the ACFN Legal defense fund that 100% of proceeds from the tour would go directly to the legal struggles faced by ACFN (ACFN Legal Defense Fund).
Young and the ACFN Legal Defense Fund also partnered with other public figures, anti-tar sand activists, and environmental groups. Diana Krall was the opening act for Neil Young’s concerts, thus bringing another celebrity artist to the forefront of the issue. According to a press conference at Massey Hall prior to the tour launch, Young expressed that it is “a sorry state of affairs” that the ACFN must use celebrity voices to garner attention for their struggles (Toledano, 2014), but nevertheless his celebrity status was valuable in attracting mainstream media attention. In addition to celebrity musicians, the tour and the press conference were offered in partnership with leading voices of the environmental movement, including David Suzuki of the Suzuki Foundation and Vanessa Grey, a young activist from Aamjiwnaang First Nation (Tolendano, 2014). The Chief of ACFN, Chief Alan Adam, and the Spokesperson for the ACFN Legal Defense Fund, Eriel Deranger, were also instrumental in the partnership and were speakers at the Massey Hall press conference (Tolendano, 2014).
The core outcome of this partnership was a significant financial contribution towards the legal battles being undertaken to protect ACFN homelands. The benefit concerts “far surpassed” their fundraising goal, ensuring that the ACFN “will be positioned to match the legal power of [their] opposition dollar for dollar” (Young, qtd. in Krugel, 2014). Furthermore, at the tour wrap-up, Young stated, “We have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in raising money for the legal defense of the First Nations. Global environmental forces are joining us now with financial resources and it’s now because of the Canadian people’s awesome response to our call for justice” (Young, qtd. in Krugel, 2014).
However, perhaps even more important than the fundraising effort was the media attention and debate generated by the Honour the Treaties tour. According to a Canadian Press article, “Beyond the financial goal, Young said the concerts have succeeded in getting Canadians talking: ‘So it’s a win for us, because we’re all talking about it. No matter how you feel, there’s a discussion going on at the breakfast table. That’s big. That’s real. That’s Canada.’” (Krugel, 2014).
The “discussion going on at the breakfast table”: Canadians’ responses to the Honour the Treaties Tour
From the onset of this project, both Neil Young and the ACFN Legal Defense Fund knew that the concert series had the potential to spark controversy. Stated ACFN Legal Defense Fund Spokesperson Eriel Deranger, “There’s going to be controversy with this when it comes to people in Alberta, and that’s because our entire economy in Alberta is driven by the oilsands, and you can’t get away from that. Everyone is tied to industry” (Deranger, qtd. in Sherrit, 2014). Thus, Neil Young and the ACFN made a strategic decision to focus the concerts’ efforts on Treaty 8 as a legal entity that gives certain rights to the ACFN, rather than simply creating an anti-oilsands tour. Stated Young,
Our tour across Canada is to bring awareness that the First Nations treaties must be honoured if tar sands expansion is to take place… Honour the Treaties is not an anti-tar sands crusade… Its purpose is to bring light to the fact that the treaties with First Nations peoples’ are not being honoured by Canada” (Young, qtd. in Cryderman, 2014).
In my opinion, the tour’s focus on treaty rights as its core messaging is what qualifies it as an initiative that creates space to transform settler consciousness; by placing treaty rights at the forefront, non-Indigenous people in Canada are forced to consider their responsibilities to uphold treaties. This meant that environmental activists who are opposed to the oilsands for a myriad of environmental reasons were introduced to an angle of the anti-oilsands struggle that creates potential to deepen their analysis of the situation and serve as a foundation for coalition building between environmental groups and Indigenous peoples. This also meant that Neil Young fans that were attracted to the tour because of Young’s prominent status as a celebrity artist were potentially introduced to the relationship between treaty rights and the oilsands for the first time. Furthermore, Canadians that are pro-oilsands for a myriad of economic reasons were provided with the opportunity to consider the struggle through the lens of treaty rights and responsibilities. Ideally, this will prompt people that are pro-oilsands to consider their legal responsibilities and either halt development or seek ways to pursue development that does not violate treaty. Realistically, it may not achieve this goal, but at least Canadians were forced to view this pressing national issue from a treaty-focused lens.
Mainstream media outlets and social media platforms alike were abuzz with reactions to the tour, both in support of Young’s pro-treaty rights sentiment and opposed to the tour. A Huffington Post Alberta article entitled What we learned from Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties Tour and anti-oilsands fight highlights reactions found in mainstream media and on social media platforms. Whilst outlining each opinion is not within the scope of this case study, the Huffington Post article states the tour sparked some soul searching, and a lot of praise and rage. Those who depend on the oilsands for their living… are closely tied to the fortunes of the bitumen being extracted from the northern Alberta sand, opposed the singer’s message at every turn. Meanwhile, those who believe pollution and scarred landscapes are the legacy of the industry that’s been allowed to run amok with Alberta’s social, political and environmental well-being, adamantly defended the aging Canadian rock icon.
The issue of oilsands development is one of the most pressing and divisive environmental, social, and economic issues in present-day Canadian consciousness. Because of the complexity of the issue and the deeply held beliefs by people on all sides of the debate, Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties tour was not able to resolve the divisive issue create was a dialogic exchange between First Nations leaders, environmentalists, Indigenous people, oilsand supporters, settler Canadians, people invested in the oil industry, and other stakeholders in the conversation. And, refreshingly, this conversation was rooted in a critical, but often-overlooked foundational element of the issue: the fact that Canada is treaty land, and that treaties across this land are being disrespected in favour of industrial development.
Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Legal Defence Fund. “Honour the ACFN.” Honour the ACFN. N.p., Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Cryderman, Kelly. “Not on an ‘anti-tar-sands Crusade’, Neil Young Says.” The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail, 19 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Krugel, Lauren. “Neil Young Concludes Anti-oilsands Concert Series.” CTVNews. The Canadian Press, 19 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
MacNeil, Jason. “Neil Young Putting His Music Where His Mouth Is In Oilsands Fight.” The Huffington Post. HuffPost Canada, 9 Dec. 2013. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
“Some Quotes from the Debate over Neil Young’s Anti Oilsands Concerts.” Canadian Business. The Canadian Press, 19 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Sterritt, Angela. “Neil Young Set to Kick off Honour the Treaties Tour – Aboriginal – CBC.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 11 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Toledano, Michael. “Neil Young Says We’re Breaking Our Promise to the First Nations | VICE Canada.” VICE. VICE Magazine, 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Walker, Connie. “Neil Young Tour: 5 Facts about the First Nation He’s Singing for – Aboriginal – CBC.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
“What We Learned From Neil Young’s Honour The Treaties Tour And Anti-Oilsands Fight.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post Alberta, 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
Transforming Curriculum, Transforming Consciousness?
Initiatives Within the Formal Education System
A Case Study of Treaty Education in Saskatchewan and Manitoba
by Kristen Lloyd
The education system is an institution that has played a critical role in Canada’s colonial history, and one that continues to shape relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people today. Throughout the late 1800s and 1900s, education of Indigenous children in Indian Residential Schools was used as a tool of forced assimilation; Indigenous children were removed from their homes and dispossessed of their traditional cultures and beliefs, and were instead taught alien religious and cultural ideals (Godlewska et al., 2010). Today, by virtue of the information that is taught, and through what is intentionally excluded from school curriculum across the country, education for all children continues to sustain the colonial attitudes and myths that lay at the foundation of settler consciousness.
Canadian history, from the Euro-settler perspective, is told as an objective truth and leaves no space for stories that deviate from the dominant narrative (Regan, 2010c). This narrative perpetuates the national myths that Canadians are taught to take pride in, which paint the Canadian nation-state as a benevolent peacemaker with a history devoid of violence (Regan, 2010b). Within Canadian schools this means that a great deal of colonial history is left absent from curriculum. In their research on Ontario public school curriculum specifically, Godlewska et al. (2010) found that subjects such as treaties and residential schools were rarely covered, and if they were taught at all it was never in connection to broader issues of ongoing cultural assimilation and trauma. While the authors noted that the school curriculum they studied no longer contained explicit racism, they argue that the historical misrepresentations and omissions concerning Canada’s history and historical relations between Indigenous and settler Canadians perpetuate the colonial attitudes, ignorance, and injustices that continue to oppress Indigenous peoples and serve the interests of settlers.
In 2012 Justice Murray Sinclair, the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, discovered that Canada’s Residential School history was only an optional teaching within most provincial school curriculum, and that often times this history was not taught at all. As such he called upon every province and territory to amend their curriculum to include Indian Residential Schools, and to make this a mandatory part of every student’s education (Pauls et al., 2014). Many view the formal education system as a site with great potential for engaging settler consciousness in a transformative way. Others, such as Regan (2010a) recognize the inherent obstacles and challenges that exist in this. She questions whether the public education system can truly bring about radical social and political change, noting that this is not in the interest of the dominant societal group, and that public education is supposed to be neutral and objective, not a place of critical engagement and self-reflection. Regan argues that without linking knowledge to critical reflection, guilt and denial are the most likely outcomes. Furthermore, in Braiding Histories: learning from Aboriginal peoples’ experiences and perspectives, Dion (2009) illustrates the complexities of restorying history within Canadian classroom. New stories and perspectives can be introduced, but these lessons are still taught within colonial institutions, by teachers who themselves are often unsure of the history they are teaching and its broader implications. It is Regan’s (2010b) understanding that curriculum and pedagogy, both what and how students are taught in Canadian classrooms, must be transformed.
Despite these challenges, and uncertainties about the transformative potential of public school classrooms, there is growing recognition across the country that curriculum must be rewritten, and that in order to have genuine reconciliation and foundations to build just relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, it is time to engage with topics that have long been silenced. From coast to coast to coast, provincial governments, treaty commissioners, teachers’ associations, and Indigenous organizations are working to various extents to implement new curriculum, make space for counter-narratives and Indigenous pedagogies, and in some instances to engage students in critical self-reflection. Treaty Education in Saskatchewan and Manitoba represent just two initiatives born from an acknowledgement of the formal education system as an important site for transforming consciousness and relationship building. Because of the role education has played in Canada’s colonial history, it is perhaps the most important and necessary place for all Canadians to begin addressing historical wrongdoings and recognizing their present day manifestations, and to start to move forward together, for as Sharilyn Calliou writes, “it is our children who will inherit the future we teach” (Peacekeeping Actions at Home: A Medicine Wheel Model for a Peacekeeping Pedagogy, as cited in Regan, 2010b, p. 83).
Saskatchewan: Teaching Treaties in the Classroom
Treaty education is an important part of forging new ties. There must be an appreciation in the minds of the general public that Treaties are living, breathing documents that continue to bind us to promises made generations ago. This is why my government is committed to making mandatory instruction in history and content of the Treaties in the K-12 curriculum.
– Speech from the Throne, 2007
In 2007, Saskatchewan became the first Canadian province to introduce mandatory treaty education into the curriculum of both First Nations and public schools, from kindergarten through to grade 12. Saskatchewan’s treaty curriculum and resources, called Teaching Treaties in the Classroom, has been developed as the result of a partnership between Saskatchewan’s Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC), the Government of Saskatchewan, the Federal Government, and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. Stemming from its public education mandate, the OTC first began to develop teaching resources in 2001, and by 2008 treaty kits and resource guides for all grade levels had been delivered to every school across the province. The OTC regards education to be of great importance in building a harmonious future between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Saskatchewan, and these curriculum resources are seen as a critical component of this education. The OTC was supported in this endeavor by the provincial government, who renewed its commitment to education for and about Saskatchewan’s First Nations and Metis peoples in 1995 (Government of Saskatchewan, 2012).
The main goal of Teaching Treaties in the Classroom is to teach students about the treaties and treaty relationships between First Nations and Canada, and how these affect all citizens of Canada. It aims to correct misconceptions that many Canadians have about the relationship between Canada and First Nations people, and to engender renewed respect for the living, breathing treaty relationships which all citizens of Saskatchewan are part of, and were meant to benefit from (Government of Saskatchewan, 2012). A 2010 survey of grade seven students carried out to assess the success of treaty education being implemented in Saskatchewan’s schools pointed to the fact that students are increasingly being given the opportunity to learn about treaties, and that the treaty curriculum is contributing to their knowledge and understanding of treaties and treaty relationships (Rohr, 2010).
The treaty kits and resource guides were developed in close consultation with Elders as well as both Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators in the province, and are designed to complement existing school curriculum. Teachers and administrators are not obligated to participate in any training prior to implementing the curriculum and resources in their classrooms and schools, but training is available on a voluntary basis, in the form of workshops facilitated by educators and Elders (Government of Saskatchewan, 2012). In the 2010 survey, only fifty-seven percent of administrators responded that mandatory treaty education was part of their school’s learning improvement plan, and that curriculum was being implemented, even though nearly every school responded that they had received the resources. The survey suggests that resource materials have been well received by teachers, and that they feel they are an asset to curriculum and useful for teaching treaties. That being said, the majority of teachers and administrators agreed that they need more resources and support to assist in teaching treaties in their schools and classrooms. There was also an overwhelming response that more training about teaching treaties is required in order for teachers to effectively implement the curriculum (Rohr, 2010).
Manitoba: Treaty Education Initiative
Manitoba’s Treaty Education Initiative(TEI) involves the development, piloting, and implementation of treaty related curriculum, educational resources, and teacher training. It has been developed by the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM) as part of their mandate to increase public understanding and awareness of historical and contemporary treaty relationships, and is a component of their broader “We are all Treaty People” initiative. The TEI has been made possible as a result of a partnership between the TRCM, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Manitoba Education, and the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. Unlike in Saskatchewan, the province of Manitoba has not committed to making treaty education mandatory in their schools, and currently the TEI is only a supplement to existing curriculum, implemented on a voluntary basis; teachers have the opportunity to use TEI resources in their classrooms, but there is no obligation to do so. As such, the long-term goal of the initiative is to establish province wide support and eventually to have the TEI recognized as an integral and essential component of education, which is relevant to all areas of current provincial curriculum (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, 2014).
The strategic plan for the project was developed between 2009 and 2010, and by the 2011/2012 school year, all grade 5 and 6 teachers in the province were given the opportunity to teach TEI curriculum in their classrooms. Currently, the curriculum for grades 7-12 is being piloted in Manitoba schools. Out of the thirty-nine school divisions in Manitoba, twenty-two have implemented Treaty Education in their schools, and thirty-nine of the forty-nine First Nations elementary schools in the province have received training and kits. As of March 2014, resources for kindergarten through grade 12 have been developed, and during the 2014/2015 TEI will officially be implemented at all grade levels (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, 2014).
The TEI is marketed as an enhancement or supplement to the current Manitoba school curriculum, and as such is administered within the formal education system operating within the province. That being said, the TEI allows for a different part of history to be told, something that those behind the initiative see as essential to understanding where Manitoba is at today. The AMC Council of Elders is involved in all aspects of the process, from curriculum development to the teacher training workshops where they provide historical background on the treaties and their significance. Along with Elders, educators, academics, historians and government officials review the materials developed and used within the TEI (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, 2014).
The TEI targets all students moving through the Manitoba school system. This includes both public and band-controlled schools, in both rural and urban areas. This initiative is directed at both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike. The overarching goal of the TEI is to increase the knowledge of treaties and treaty relationships among all students moving through Manitoba schools, and to support treaty education within K-12 classrooms across the province; upon completion of grade 12, it is hoped that all students will be able to demonstrate an understanding and knowledge of the numbered treaties in Manitoba, and the concepts and relationships relating to them, as well as understand the impact treaties have had on the creation of the province. The TEI wants both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to begin engaging in a dialogue which ultimately results in them valuing and respecting the living treaty relationships of which they are all a part. Through the addition of a critical piece of Manitoban and Canadian history to school curriculums, it is hoped that students will gain a critical awareness, and learn from new perspectives about how treaties and treaty relationships continue to affect the lives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples living in the province of Manitoba today (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, 2014).
Depending on the grade level, teachers use different materials and activities to help put complex histories and unfamiliar concepts into an accessible format. The teacher guides correspond with what students are expected to learn in that particular grade, and are linked to the prescribed learning outcomes. Moving through the grade levels, the curriculum becomes increasingly more involved, reflective, and critical. In the upper years, the material is structured in such a way that facilitates students to see the topic through many different perspectives, and to then form their own critical opinions (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, 2014).
Differing again from Saskatchewan’s treaty education, teachers and administrators are required to participate in a two-day training session before using the resources in their classrooms and schools. TEI provides these capacity building workshops to ensure teachers feel supported in their implementation of treaty curriculum. At these training sessions, educators are instructed on how to use the resources and how to integrate treaty education into current curriculum. Taught by Elders and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators and experts, they are also given a historical context on treaties and treaty relationships from which they can move forward. Following training sessions, schools are given kits containing many materials and resources. By now, over 200 teachers and administrators have received treaty education training (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, 2014).
An external advisor was hired to evaluate the TEI; he was a long-time educator from Saskatchewan who has worked on treaty education in that province. He gave an extremely positive review of both the material itself, as well as the manner in which educators are taught and trained to present the curriculum to their students. Two annual evaluation processes have also shown that students have a better understanding of treaties after having received TEI instruction (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, 2014). In addition to this, in an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, James Wilson, the Manitoba Treaty Commissioner, said that the reports he has heard from students and teachers alike shows how significant the TEI is, and that it has evolved into a successful exercise in relationship-building, which has connected students from different walks of life, and helped to “build bridges and begin to reshape attitudes among students” (Martin, 2012).
Treaty education in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are just two examples of the many ways that curriculum is being rewritten and teachers are being retrained, in order to change how and what Canadian students are being taught. The province of Ontario has also implemented an Aboriginal Education Strategy, which includes curriculum development and revision, and aims to infuse Aboriginal perspectives into teaching practices. In British Columbia, the Learning First Peoples Initiative has been developed by the First Nations Education Steering Committee and the First Nations Schools Association, with the support of the Ministry of Education. It involves the development of new curriculum for a number of different subjects, which follow the “First Peoples Principles of Learning”, a set of beliefs and values surrounding education that have been drafted and affirmed by First Nations within the province. In the Yukon, Nova Scotia and elsewhere, provincial First Nations organizations are becoming involved in curriculum development and revision to ensure that the history and culture of Indigenous peoples being taught to non-Indigenous students are accurately represented and given due space within Canadian classrooms.
Across the country, recognition of the need to make changes within the formal education system is growing. Efforts are being made to improve the way that Canada’s colonial history is being taught and how Indigenous peoples are being represented in schools. Space is also beginning to open up for Indigenous perspectives and knowledges to be used and taken seriously within educational institutions. Education on topics such as treaties, residential schools, and the ongoing impacts of colonialism still is not happening in many parts of the country, and almost nowhere is it mandatory. This type of education, however, is starting to take root, and we can already see evidence that the understanding of Canada’s many histories is growing as a result of initiatives like the ones examined in this case study. As initiatives within the formal education system continue to unfold, their effect on settler consciousness and relations between Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians may become more clear. For now, the effects of these initiatives on Canadian society are yet to be known, but a great deal of work is being done, inspired and driven by hope and the desire to create a better future for all of the children who will inherit this land and its many histories.
Dion, S. (2009). Braiding Histories: learning from Aboriginal peoples’ experiences and perspectives. Vancouver: UBC Press.
Godlewska, A., Moore, J. & Bednasek, C. D. (2010). Cultivating ignorance of Aboriginal realities. Canadian Geographer, 54(4), p. 417-440.
Government of Saskatchewan (2012). Treaty Education. Government of Saskatchewan Education. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.sk.ca/treaty-education/
Martin, N. (2012, December 1). Treaties serious to these pupils. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/treaties-serious-to-these -pupils-181651361.html
Pauls, K., Hampshire, G., & Allen, B. (2014, March 26). Residential schools history not always mandatory in class. CBC. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/residential-schools-history-not-always-mandatory-in-class-1.2587870
Regan, P. (2010a). An Unsettling Pedagogy of History and Hope. Unsettling the settler within: Indian residential schools, truth telling, and reconciliation in Canada (pp. 19-53). Vancouver: UBC Press.
Regan, P. (2010b). Deconstructing Canada’s Peacemaker Myth. Unsettling the settler within: Indian residential schools, truth telling, and reconciliation in Canada (pp. 83-110). Vancouver: UBC Press.
Regan, P. (2010c). Rethinking Reconciliation: Truth Telling, Restorying History, Commemoration. Unsettling the settler within: Indian residential schools, truthtelling, and reconciliation in Canada (pp. 54-82). Vancouver: UBC Press.
Rohr, B. A. (2010). Treaty essential learnings survey 2010: analysis. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.sk.ca/treaty-education/survey2010
Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (2014). Treaty Education Initiative. Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. Retrieved from http://www.trcm.ca/treaty-education-initiative/
Reporting in Indigenous Communities
by Brodie Ferguson
Ever since the creation of film and television, there has been controversy over the representations of Aboriginal peoples. Articles and reports on corruption, substance abuse, crime are often the only times we see Aboriginal peoples in the media. With very little external knowledge, many non-Indigenous Canadians set their views of Aboriginal peoples on these small glimpses of Indigenous peoples. It becomes necessary that newspapers and television channels alike must alter the ways in which they develop and present news stories relating to Indigenous peoples in a Canadian context. Mug shots of Aboriginal criminals or shots of stereotypical cultural events cannot be the only times in which we see Aboriginal peoples in the media. As Duncan McCue states, “An elder once told me the only way anIndianwould make it on the news is if he or she were one of the 4Ds: drumming, dancing, drunk or dead.”
Though Indigenous peoples may be present when filming takes place, there are seldom any other times where they influence or determine what is actually said or shown in the final report. Little consideration for the very people they are writing about only creates more problems in terms of reporting. Accuracy and truthfulness can never be incorporated into articles and presentations if there is no input from Indigenous peoples. Without any capacity of Indigenous input, it is difficult to believe that any kind of report on Indigenous peoples can truly be called accurate or truthful.
With the shortness of articles, footage and reports, there is little time to contextualize any issues that these journalists decide to bring up. Because of this, audiences may only hear about corruption, substance abuse, and crime without hearing about the reasons as to why such events might be occurring. The media is centered upon producing interesting and engaging stories, and Indigenous peoples are included or excluded on those terms. Positive events like Powwows are often used as filler, socio-economic problems of Indigenous peoples often taking center stage. And because of this, Indigenous peoples are more often associated with negative news.. “It is easy to understand why a non-Native audience might come to the conclusion that Aboriginal people are a troubled, plagued and contentious people.”And because audiences are more attracted to bad news, Aboriginals become stuck in this area of news. Rudy Platiel, who spent 27 years covering the Aboriginal beat for theGlobe and Mail, notes that, “There are an awful lot of good things happening that are not going to get reported in the mainstream press unless somebody pushes to get them there.”
Though it is the audience who takes in and believes the media, it is through the journalists and reporters that this issue can truly be fixed. Altering the way Aboriginal peoples are approached, filmed, and presented in the media will aid in changing the way Aboriginal peoples are portrayed to readerships and television audiences. To aid in this process, new resources and initiatives are being created to offer suggestions and advice to reporters and journalists in how they might go about correctly creating news article portraying Indigenous histories and culture. Among these resources is Reporting in Indigenous Communities, an online resource that aims to change the way reported enter, investigate, film, and present Indigenous peoples, histories, and cultures. In doing so, they hope to use the power media has to alter the way audiences and readers think and perceive Indigenous peoples.
Reporting in Indigenous Communities was conceived and created by Duncan McCue. Mr. McCue has worked for 15 years as a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Company in Vancouver. Often, his current affairs pieces are featured on CBC’s main news show, The National. As McCue states, “Every story structure is an endless array of possibilities. I strive to afflict the comfortable. I do my best to get it right.” Being Anishinaabe and a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, McCue saw that there was a serious lacking in the representation of Indigenous peoples in the news. Seeing that there was little. In addition to this, very few reporters were educated in how they might properly enter Indigenous communities and film them. Feeling Native Issues should be either presented by Indigenous peoples are with heavy consultation from Indigenous peoples, McCue began to present many Indigenous pieces in the news. As Mr. McCue states, “I’ve made a point of telling native stories because other people have been telling our stories for too long. You name it. Missionaries, archaeologists, authors, explorers, historians. It’s through their eyes that Canadians have learned about Indians, and, unfortunately, they often get it wrong.” He saw the value of the Anishinaabe values of reciprocity and respect and felt that these ideas were needed to define the relationship between reporters and Indigenous peoples. He saw that reporters would enter Indigenous communities with little regard for traditional protocols or rapport building. It only follows that this lack of respect causes tension between the media and Aboriginal peoples. McCue saw this firsthand and decided to create some kind of resource to fix these problems.
Originally pitching the idea to the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University, McCue received one year of funding to create “Reporting in Indigenous Communities”. Finally launched in 2011, the website has grown to act as a resource for reporters, journalists, and filmmakers alike.
The website’s target audience consists mainly of those in varying journalism careers, but the information offered on the website allows for a reaching out to a much larger audience. Ethical considerations and proper engagement with communities are themes everyone must come to follow. Anyone intending to research Indigenous peoples should abide by many of the guidelines put forth by McCue on the website. And for this reason, Reporting in Indigenous Communities is able to reach out to a much larger audience.
Reporting in Indigenous Communities’ main goal is to increase accuracy and truthfulness when reporting on Indigenous peoples and events that might surround them. McCue and other workers on the site believe journalists and reporters cannot continue to report on Indigenous Peoples without any guidelines or protocols. Though many journalists have a general disregard for ethical reporting, other journalists are genuinely unsure as to how to approach and engage with Indigenous peoples and communities. McCue intends for Reporting in Indigenous communities to help with both of these issues. He hopes that by reading examples of successful reporting that other journalists and reporters may come to understand what defines accurate portrayal of Indigenous peoples.
In addition to this, McCue also hopes that the website encourages Indigenous journalists to cross over into mainstream newspapers and television stations. A 1994 study by the Diversity Committee of the Canadian Newspaper Association, found that of the 41 mainstream papers surveyed (employing 2,620 reporters, copy editors, photographers and supervisors) only four people were Aboriginal. In doing so, the website expresses the belief that an increase of journalists in mainstream media might also help to alter portrayals of Indigenous peoples.
“It’s time native storytellers tell our own stories. The truth about stories is sometimes that is all we are.”The guidelines and advice aim to regulate and define three aspects of the reporting process; at the desk, in the field, and on the air. McCue states that these are the three main aspects of the reporting process that must be directly attended to in order to create accurate reporting.
Reporting in Indigenous Communities is divided into a number of different sections. It consists of the blog, the guidebook, teachings, and a number of different links. The Blog is a place where website workers post articles, essays, and other literature on accurate reporting or other related issues. It also contains links to other news websites such as CBC’s specific area for Indigenous news. However, it is truly through the websites guidebook and teachings page that we begin to see how effective this resource or initiative is.
Reporting in Indigenous Communities’ Guidebook offers “ideas and practical methods for finding and developing news stories in ‘Indian Country’.” Though it is rooted in Canadian journalism, McCue hopes that the guide will may have a place in other contexts as well. Here, he offers suggestions as to what stories should and should not be presented or published on individuals. It offers methods of approaching Indigenous peoples and communities correctly. He discusses the use of traditional protocols and their effectiveness in building rapport. In essence, he asserts that creating a news piece on Indigenous peoples or culture is very difficult, and requires rapport and transparency with the individuals or community involved. He suggests that cultural events must be explained to the audience in an attempt to counter stereotypical perceptions of powwows and other cultural celebrations.
The Teachings page is a unique opportunity for other reporters and journalists to post their experiences and ideas that they encountered when engaging with Indigenous peoples. Whereas the guide is built mainly around McCue’s personal experience, the Teachings page allows for a mosaic of different opinions and ideas from hundreds of different journalists from a number of different backgrounds. As McCue states, it is “a place to share the collective wisdom of journalists about reporting in Indigenous communities. Find tips on what to do, and what not to do, from reporters who have been there and done that.”
Reporting in Indigenous Communities has a unique pedagogy. Though McCue has written the guidebook and several of the articles on the web]site, he admits that he does not necessarily know all that there is to know about reporting on Indigenous Peoples. Through its Teachings page, the website allows for a horizontal pedagogy. Newcomers and veterans alike can play both roles of teacher and learner, as the website allows for the posting of experiences and advice from visitors to the website. Many resources speak to the reader as if they are the authority on issues and Reporting in Indigenous Communities does not follow this mantra. Instead, their
The last link provides a list to a number of different resources to aid in contextualizing ones’ article or report. Many reporters are greatly unaware of the complex histories of Indigenous peoples in Canada. A full understanding of a context can lead to more accurate and truthful reporting, as the audience is given a more holistic understanding of what they are viewing or reading. The Resources page offers links to timelines of significant events in Métis, Inuit, and First Nation histories. In addition to this, there are links to articles discussing the proper terminology relating to Indigenous peoples and the proper contexts and situations in which to use them. Every word has the power to affect one’s perceptions and it is by the use of the glossary that this aspect of misrepresentation can also be addressed. As well, this page offers links that map out the many First Nation reserves in Canada, and contact sources if the visitor chooses to learn more.
As news and other forms of media exist on many different scales, Reporting in Indigenous Communities aims to alter portrayals of Indigenous peoples on local, provincial and national levels. National newspapers often portray Indigenous peoples negatively, and Reporting in Indigenous Communities aims to focus on this aspect. As the website’s guidebook features rules and protocols for a number of different situations and events, it is well suited to address issues encountered on all three levels. From local Powwow events to broader stories, Reporting in Indigenous Communities is effective in addressing all levels of truthful reporting of Indigenous peoples.
In brief, Indigenous peoples have been misrepresented in the media for far too long. Audiences create many of the perceptions of Indigenous people from what they read and encounter in newspapers, magazines, and television. It has only been in recent years that foundations aimed at increasing proper representation have come to light. Reporting in Indigenous Communities acts as a tremendously effective resource that aims to offer reporters and journalists a guide in how to approach, engage, and present the stories of Indigenous peoples. In doing so, they help to combat the century old problem of misrepresentations of Indigenous peoples in the media.
King, Thomas.The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2005. Print.
McCue, Duncan. “Guide.”Reporting in Indigenous Communities. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.
McCue, Duncan. “Indigenous Stories.”Simon Fraser University. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Apr. 2014
McCue, Duncan. “Teachings.”Reporting in Indigenous Communities. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.
McCue, Duncan. “What It Takes for Aboriginal People to Make the News.” Online posting.CBC News – Aboriginal. Canadian Broadcasting Company, 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
Saganash, Emma. “Aboriginal People in the News.”Mediasmarts.ca. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
Warry, Wayne.Ending Denial: Understanding Aboriginal Issues. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2007. Print.