When I was four-years-old, I wrote in my kindergarten book that I wanted to be a painter and a writer. I always have sought to create, whether it was through oil on canvas, multi media or — the one that has stuck the most — telling stories.
When I was 13, I set out to write a novel. I had the encouragement of teachers, but it somehow didn’t feel within my grasp. These creative vocations weren’t for trailer park kids, society led me to believe. Don’t show off. Don’t be too loud. Don’t rock the boat.
Now, as a mother of three, those limiting beliefs become easier to let go of. It becomes essential to lead by example: use your voice, so they will learn to use theirs.
My intention in my role as managing editor (and contributing storyteller) at IndigiNews is to honour Story first. I’ll do this by supporting the team to always amplify and centre Indigenous voices. I hope to hold space for continuing to learn and strengthen ourselves; to help uplift the stories that need to be told. Speaking truth to power and seeking justice can be done with clarity and honesty. When truth-telling is a teaching, there’s a grace that naturally avoids feeding harmful narratives, or trauma-porn. I don’t think it’s a matter of choosing “hard” vs. “light” stories. I’ve heard that healing can only begin when the stories of all of our people have been told. My mind circles around that word: all. For me, it means All the stories (even the tough ones), from All the people (not just the most connected).
I see myself as a helper — mindimooyenh, one who holds things together. I formalized that “skillset” during the pandemic with McGill’s Public Administration and Governance program, with a mostly Indigenous cohort. The wisdom, straight talk, and shared lived experiences of my classmates made them my life teachers, along with the couple instructors who had the sparkling intelligence to know where the real teaching was happening, and joined us there. That cohort was where I found strength to really use my voice.
As Brenda Child, PhD, of Red Lake Nation writes, “holding things together” is not a wordy or showy endeavour for Anishinaabe women. Life lessons and spiritual teachings are embedded in doing even the most humble tasks, such as preparing food and helping others get ready for ceremony. It both grounds me and deeply inspires me, this teaching that story has agency.
Coming full circle
I started in journalism in 2017 as a project coordinator with CKTZ community co-op radio. There, I ensured stories that came from Indigenous communities and their members, rather than extractive stories. This experience set the path for a podcast series focusing on intergenerational transmission of the arts for Red Waves. The series of artist interviews was produced with funding by First Peoples’ Cultural Council. It was a natural extension of this work to continue onto the then-newly formed IndigiNews as full time health reporter. I’m proud of many of the stories I wrote during that time, such as looking at workers tackling anti-Indigenous racism, and featuring gentle truth-telling in a piece about how to talk to our youngest community members about residential schools.
I went on to write for The Resolve, La Converse, Windspeaker, The Tyee, APTN National News, Asparagus Magazine. In addition to writing for award-winning environmental magazine Watershed Sentinel, I was given free reign to initiate a successful Indigenous reporters internship.
In 2022, I joined Journalists for Human Rights Indigenous collaboration to use solutions journalism to focus on our climate emergency.
In that natural full circle way that happens when we follow our calling, I’m currently writing a novel. Chosen for this year’s Audible Indigenous Writers’ Circle, I feel fortunate to be learning with mentor Angela Sterritt. I was camping in Sointula, and couldn’t sleep. The pounding waves energized me, and I was itching to paint, or write. I stayed up and started my novel.
Let’s get busy listening deeply, writing with care and sharing in good ways.
I’m looking forward to continuing the journey with you!