By NC Raine

Saskatchewan is a province steeped in Indigenous history and enriched by the continued practices and teaching of its many prospering bands and First Nations.  But, it’s also a province with endless complications, from the impact of residential schools and missing and murdered women, to the Indian Act and First Nation disputes with government. For media, reporting on Indigenous news and stories can be intimidating. Be they Indigenous and non-Indigenous reporters, media has the responsibility of reporting accurately and fairly, but also knowing when to criticize, when to support, and when to shut up and listen.

The Reconciliation and the Media event, a one day conference on October 5th, hoped to impart some of that crucial understanding.  Lead by Star Phoenix Reporter Betty Ann Adam, and Treaty 4 News’ own Editor-in-Chief Mervin Brass, the conference focused on improving news coverage of Indigenous stories. The event was a direct response to the Call to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC].

One of the event’s key speakers and participants, Jason Warick of the Star Phoenix, spoke with Treaty 4 News on the significance of understanding Indigenous issues as a responsible member of the media.

“When I got involved in this, I saw how important it is. This is the most important issue facing our province: the relationship between Indigenous people and the rest of the province. It’s also the most interesting area to cover as a journalist,” says Warick.

Complementing Warick were speakers Eugene Arcand of the TRC Survivors’ Committee, Marie Wilson, TRC Commissioner, and Tammy Cook-Searson, Chief of Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

“It’s important not to have a stereotypical understanding of who we might be as First Nations people […] and for us, as First Nations people, how we view non-native people,” said Chief Cook-Searson during the keynote address.

“We’ve been oppressed and suppressed for so many years. We have to take that into consideration. Even for ourselves, speaking out takes a lot of courage. But we’re testing the waters and figuring out how to be respectful of one another […] You have to take those little steps to make things better for ourselves and future generations; reconciliation and covering stories from a different angle,” said Cook-Searson.


The event was framed around the TRC Call to Action for media and journalists, with the goal of forging a new relationship between media and Indigenous people in Saskatchewan. The TRC Call to Action states, in part:

“Continuing to provide dedicated news coverage […] on issues of concern to Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians, including the history and legacy of residential schools and the reconciliation process.”

David Kirton, radio producer and host of Saskatoon Afternoon on 650 CKOM, says too often the Indigenous-related stories get pushed back to the Indigenous reporters.

“There needs to be greater knowledge. In newsrooms, if the word ‘Indigenous’ is in the news release, it gets sent to the Indigenous reporter. It shouldn’t work like that – it’s basically ghettoizing the Indigenous reporter,” said Kirton. “I think they’re intimidated, and they’re intimidated because they don’t have the appropriate knowledge.”

Kirton, who suspects his father may have been put in a residential school at a young age, says media should be familiar with the continued impact of residential schools in our culture.

“If our journalists are going to understand residential schools and that there is an intergenerational damage done by residential schools, that will help [those journalists] to understand where First Nations and Indigenous people are today. It just won’t be the bad guys against the good. There will be understanding,” he says.

“I’ve got a few bosses here today, and I’m hoping they come back and see that there’s a need for all our non-Indigenous journalists to know a little bit more about what’s going on. And that they will take measures to make that happen,” Kirton continues. “I’m hoping it’s a top-down thing.”

Warick, who served as panelist and speaker at the Reconciliation and the Media conference, says this process to greater understanding will yield benefit to both those working and consuming media.

“I don’t think we’re going to wave a magic wand and everything will be okay after today’s conference. We hope that this will be one small step on the path to reconciliation for everyone,” said Warick. “No mater if you’re a journalist, publisher, tribal council rep, or anyone else, we’re hoping this will bring everyone a little closer and move them towards the same goal.”



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