Why IndigiNews needs non-Indigenous Storytellers

Our stories need to be told in a respectful way, but this doesn’t mean we have to do it all ourselves.

We’re widening our circle of journalists to include accomplice kin, to support the canoe paddling on our journey to decolonizing the media. Our stories need to be told in a respectful way, but this doesn’t mean we have to do it all ourselves. In fact, when Indigenous storytellers report on the issues in our own communities — especially potentially-painful ones such as child welfare — we are exposed to vicarious trauma, and it can be a triggering experience. As you may know, we are prioritizing caring for our spirits here at IndigiNews. 

That’s where our accomplice storytellers come in. 

Read more about what an accomplice is here

Throughout our ongoing Canoe Journey at IndigiNews, we have found that we cannot do the work of decolonizing the media alone. Indigenous people cannot bear the burden of decolonizing by themselves. Our Senior Aunty Kelsie Kilawna and Business Aunty Eden Fineday have been outspoken about this in their newsletters, as well at engagements where they’re invited to speak on their work. It’s a vision all of us here at IndigiNews are working toward. 

That’s why we are thrilled to announce that Aaron Hemens and Philip McLachlan will be joining us in the IndigiNews Storytelling Lodge! IndigiNews is an Indigenous-led publication, but that doesn’t mean we are an Indigenous-only publication. Our two new hires are not Indigenous, but they are accomplices to Indigenous people.

“What I’ve learned in the past two years working in this space, is watching the high burnout that happens for Indigenous people telling Indigenous stories and holding colonial systems of oppression accountable. And how harmful that is on our spirits, how dangerous that is for us, to put ourselves in that position in a lot of ways,” shared Senior Aunty Kelsie Kilawna

“If we talk about solutions-oriented journalism, and we want real solutions to come out of our stories, then we do need to hold systems accountable, but that’s draining. That’s very draining on the spirit, because it’s me going to my oppressor and as an individual trying to hold them accountable.” 

For the first time since its inception, IndigiNews is now Indigenous-led. This puts us in the unique and privileged position of being able to hire and train mainstream journalists in engaging respectfully with Indigenous People and communities, practising trauma-informed reporting, and decolonizing ‘news’ as the world now knows it by uplifting Indigenous perspectives. 

By training non-Indigenous journalists to tell our stories well, we hope to create a ripple effect in the industry. After their time with us, we hope they will share their skills with other storytellers and newsrooms. We’re planting a seed, and nurturing it so it grows into a beautiful plant.

Aaron Hemens is the new Okanagan Storyteller, based on syilx homelands in what has been briefly known as Kelowna, and will be covering the Okanagan Region.

Aaron is a photographer, journalist and visitor on syilx homelands. He is Filipino on his mom’s side, and has both French and British roots on his dad’s.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Carleton University, which is located on Algonquin Anishinaabe homelands. He is passionate about community-based storytelling, particularly stories that highlight members from historically marginalized communities. As a settler, he is committed to learning and unlearning in his role as Okanagan Storyteller, and to accurately and respectfully tell stories of sqilxw (Indigenous) peoples throughout the region.

You can get in touch with Aaron about what’s going on in your community within the Okanagan at aaron@indiginews.com

Philip McLachlan is the new Education and Child-Welfare Storyteller, based in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. He’ll be covering education across what is colonially known as British Columbia and beyond, as well as covering child welfare on Vancouver Island and B.C. at large. 

Philip is a queer settler of Scottish and English ancestry, born and raised on the unceded territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ and Quw’utsun Nations. His background includes both working in small communities as a journalist for both mainstream and independent media, as well as freelancing for international wire agencies as a photojournalist. He is passionate about telling truthful stories in an authentic way that honours Indigenous Peoples on their homelands. 

You can get in touch with Philip about what’s going on in your community regarding national education issues or child welfare on Vancouver Island at philip@indiginews.com

Philip and Aaron’s work is supported in part with funding from the Local Journalism Initiative in partnership with The Discourse and APTN.

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