Looking back at 2022: A year in stories

From TMX to Pope Francis, IndigiNews highlighted a range of issues over the past 12 months
Tim Henry, a Vuntut Gwitchin and Tlingit resident of “Hope, B.C.,” smudges the Kw'ikw'iya:la River in S'olh Temexw during a ceremony, while workers with the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project complete the finishing touches of an installation of a pipeline under the waterway on Aug. 17. Photo by Aaron Hemens
Tim Henry smudges the Kw’ikw’iya:la River in S’olh Temexw while workers with the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project work in the background. The story by Aaron Hemens was one of our most memorable in 2022.

Winter is a time of rest and reflection, and with a new year comes fresh beginnings, different goals and renewed momentum.

Before we hunker down for the holiday season, the team at IndigiNews wanted to take a moment to look back on some of the work we’ve published during an eventful 2022.

While it’s impossible to list everything we’d like to, we narrowed it down to 10 of the most notable moments that our team worked on highlighting over the past 12 months: investigations, first person analysis, amplifying the work of advocates and on-the-ground news reporting.

As always, we are grateful to do this work and thankful for each of our sources and readers who make it possible for us to continue our Indigenous-led reporting.

A night in the life of a Kaska Dena drag artist

Two-Spirit drag queen Ella Lamoureux prepares her makeup before a performance at the Friends of Dorothy Lounge on Jan. 28. Photo by Aaron Hemens.

Early in 2022, Aaron Hemens spent a night documenting the routine of drag artist Ella Lamoureux — from their time getting ready, to their set on syilx homelands. The photo essay, published in March, painted a vivid and stunning portrait of Ella, and has since been nominated for a Canadian Online Publishing Award in the best photojournalism category.

Intergenerational survivors walk for 215+

Inspired by a similar installation at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Lou-ann Neel curated an exhibition where hundreds of stuffies and children’s shoes were displayed at the Mungo Martin House near the Royal B.C. Museum, as well as on the steps of the “B.C.” legislature on two separate occasions. The most recent exhibit occurred during the memorial ceremony on July 2. Photo by Mike Graeme

On July 1, while many were celebrating the colonial Canada Day, photojournalist Mike Graeme instead documented a 74-km walk undertaken by intergenerational survivors of residential “school.” The journey from from T’Sou-ke homelands to lək̓ʷəŋən homelands took 21.5 hours to complete and wrapped up at the B.C. legislature, where a ceremony was held for all the children who never made it home.

Pope Francis apologizes to survivors; dons a headdress

Pope Francis wears his white robes with a headdress. Chief Wilton Littlechild, who had just put the headdress on the pope, faces him
Pope Francis was gifted with a headdress by Chief Wilton Littlechild of Ermineskin Cree Nation in Maskwacis on July 25. Photo by Cara McKenna

On July 25, Cara McKenna attended Pope Francis’s visit to Maskwacis, where he issued a historic and contentious apology on behalf of the Catholic Church. At the event, the pope briefly wore a headdress presented to him by Wilton Littlechild — a now-notorious moment that had Cara weaving through the crowd to snap one of the many photos that would be privy to much analysis (including this first person piece IndigiNews published from the brilliant Patty Krawec).

Trans Mountain disrupts salmon run in the Kw’ikw’iya:la River

A dead fish along the shore of the Kw'ikw'iya:la (Coquihalla) River in S'olh Temexw in “Hope, B.C.” on Aug. 15, near the site of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project’s Coquihalla River crossing. Photo by Aaron Hemens
A dead fish along the shore of the Kw’ikw’iya:la (Coquihalla) River in S’olh Temexw in “Hope, B.C.” on Aug. 15, near the site of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project’s Coquihalla River crossing. Photo by Aaron Hemens

After workers for the Trans Mountain pipeline were recorded by a local doing invasive work in the Kw’ikw’iya:la (Coquihalla) River during a precarious salmon run in early August — Aaron Hemens travelled there to see for himself. Though the company made a public announcement that it had completed its in-stream work as of Aug. 11, Aaron observed the company continuing to disrupt the river days later, and learned workers continued on until Aug. 21.

A reminder of love and strength amidst tragedy

Rose petals float on dark water of the lake, over rocks which are visible underneath
Flowers given to the waters of Okanagan Lake in memory of loved ones gone too soon. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna

Amid continued losses of young Indigenous kin to colonial violence — Kelsie Kilawna drafted a grounding love letter to all of those who were grieving. The piece came after Kelsie had undertaken an important series of stories about the life and loss of her sqilx’w kin Kwemcxenalqs, and after a Tshilqot’in man, Surrance Myers, died while in police custody. The piece proved to be a necessary touchstone and reprieve through the rest of the year as IndigiNews continued to write about the harms of “Canada.”

“When the colonial forces of this country lay their hands on our people, it is our collective responsibility to stand up, and hold on to one another,” Kelsie wrote. “We are each other’s greatest strength — because we know what happens to one happens to all.”

Prioritizing staff wellness and documenting homecomings

A storm encircled my father, daughter, and I, as we drove from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation back to “Winnipeg.” The clouds shapeshifted and bent as we passed through forests of birch trees and the wide open canola fields of “St. Laurent,” a historic Métis community. Photo by Anna McKenzie

One of the most joyous moments of 2022 for the IndigiNews team was the ability we had to reconnect staff with their home communities and families. We had put some funds aside for staff wellness, and decided as a group that a crucial form of wellness is our connections to our communities. Through the summer and fall, Anna McKenzie was able to visit her family in Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Odette Auger reconnected with family in Sagamok Anishnawbek, and Aaron Hemens travelled to see his mother in “Ottawa” at a time when he was most needed. The visits were personal, but because we are a group of writers, they also resulted in some beautiful reflection stories which we’ve cherished and revisited often.

Rebuilding a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh village

Council chairperson of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, Khelsilem, helps to complete a traditional groundbreaking at the Sen̓áḵw construction site by shovelling into the dirt.
Council chairperson of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, Khelsilem, helps to complete a traditional groundbreaking at the site on Sept. 6. Photo submitted by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw

IndigiNews expanded our coverage area into the “Metro Vancouver” area this past summer — so after Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw received a record-breaking loan to move ahead with its Sen̓áḵw development in September, Amei-lee Laboucan set to work writing a piece that explained how the project is also a historic reclamation for the nation. In 1913, families were forcibly removed from Sen̓áḵw by colonizers and the village was destroyed — after decades of advocating for the land’s return, the community is again establishing itself on the site.

Delving into the topic of Indigenous identity

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond speaks at a podium with the flags of "British Columbia" behind her.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond presents a report about racism in healthcare in November of 2020. Photo: Province of BC

After CBC released its Oct. 12 investigation calling into question prominent scholar Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s claims to being Cree — it prompted many national conversations about Indigenous identity, both public and private. In our newsroom, we each had strong reactions to the piece and Eden Fineday and Anna McKenzie felt called to write pieces that delved into the topic of identity a bit further. These nuanced and honest first person accounts both ended up being some of the most read stories on our site this year — speaking to the desire from readers to hear analysis from Indigenous voices on topics such as these.

Protecting the waters of syilx homelands

cewel’na Leon Louis of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band stands near kłlilx’w (Spotted Lake), located seven km west of sw̓iw̓s (Osoyoos) in syilx homelands, on Oct. 27. Photo by Aaron Hemens

In late October, Aaron Hemens travelled to nk’mip for a water science forum that brought together many knowledge-keepers discussing the protection of waterways throughout syilx homelands. Over the next month, Aaron drafted a series of three stories that each delve into key topics and places touched on during the event: from the syilx conservation knowledge at the heart of the forum, to the miraculous and healing kłlilx’w (Spotted Lake), to the crucial protection of kɬúsx̌nítkʷ (Okanagan Lake).

Justice for Jared Lowndes

A rally in July passed by many homes in “Campbell River”, while on their way to the RCMP detachment. Photo by Philip McLachlan

Many readers have been following the tragic story of Jared Lowndes, a Wet’suwet’en man who was killed during an interaction with police, since Odette Auger began covering the story in 2021. IndigiNews has continued to write about the tireless advocacy work being done by his family and others affected by police violence against Indigenous people. In December, it was announced that three RCMP officers involved could now face charges in Jared’s death — something advocates said happened because of the community’s power and strong voice.

Help us raise $25,000 to get justice for Indigenous families who have lost their children

We just want to know what happened to our Indigenous children — and we’re continuing to fight for answers. On June 12 and 13, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is taking B.C’s Information and Privacy Commissioner and IndigiNews to the B.C Supreme Court. Why? To keep redacted documents from our storytellers. What is MCFD fighting so hard to hide?

We want answers. Will you pitch in so we can continue to hold colonial institutions accountable?

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