IndigiNews Okanagan nominated for two Canadian Online Publishing Awards

Our photojournalism and ongoing story coverage are being recognized.
Dec 2, 2020
Photo: Youth Leroi Bent, 12, shared his dreams of being an actor and powwow dancer. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna

At the beginning of 2020, IndigiNews didn’t exist. Now, after just eight-months working on covering community stories, we’ve been nominated for two Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPA). 

Okanagan-based reporter Kelsie Kilawna has been nominated for Best Photojournalism and Best Continued News Coverage of a Story. 

The Okanagan team, which also includes reporters Chehala Leonard and Athena Bonneau, was also recently nominated for a Jack Webster Award for Best Community Reporting.

“I’m totally taken aback and honoured,” says Kilawna. “Being nominated for work that is centred on lifting up community members reminds me that I’m doing this work for the right reasons.”

Reporters Chehala Leonard (left), Athena Bonneau (centre), and Kelsie Kilawna (right). Photo by Lauren Marchand

Representation matters

When we set out to start IndigiNews in the Okanagan, we heard from Syilx (Okanagan) people over and over, that they didn’t feel reflected in the local media coverage. Folks wanted to see stories that went beyond breaking, and often negative, news. 

The team has been working hard for more accurate, diverse, and holistic representation ever since. 

Since April, Kilawna has been working on an ongoing series of stories about cultural resurgence and healing that is driven by beautiful photojournalism. You can read some of these stories here: 

“It’s important to see yourself reflected in a good way,” Kilawna says.

“It has so much to do with our mental health and our narrative, especially for youth. A lot of young people grew up not seeing ourselves anywhere, so I think seeing it is so powerful.” 

Intergenerational Trauma
Danielle Saddleman and Shane Miller OKIB business owners are reclaiming their family and hope to see more people choose the same path. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna

For best community news coverage, our Jack Webster nominated stories include:

Continued news coverage

When Tupas Joint, an Indigenous-owned and operated cannabis dispensary, was raided back in May 2020, and then a second time, and then when it grew in popularity as a result, Kelsie Kilawna was there to cover it.

Tupas Joint is a sovereign shop that puts to work the implementation of United Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The shop received its first license under the Okanagan Indian Band’s new cannabis control law in September.

Indiginews copa award nominations
Tupa’s Joint owner Cory Brewer shows off some product at the store in Vernon, B.C. Photo by Kelsie Kilawna

Until now, Indigenous sovereignty has been widely misunderstood or misrepresented, and the coverage of the raids and resulting actions brought some contextual clarity to the issue. It opened avenues for further conversations on the topics of Indigenous rights and self-determination.

“Knowing what sovereignty is important in maintaining and upholding our inherent laws and responsibilities,” says Kilawna.

As we near the end of a challenging year, Kilawna, Leonard and Bonneau are continuing to tell stories that dig into complexity, uplift community and shift narratives. You can follow their work here.