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.”
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:
- This Syilx youth dreams of being an actor and a professional powwow dancer
- Confronting their addictions to make way for healing — a love story
- How three generations of women are working to stop the impacts of intergenerational trauma
“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.”
For best community news coverage, our Jack Webster nominated stories include:
- Being out on the land for Indigenous communities is being home, by Chehala Leonard
- We are the children of the survivors of past pandemics, by Kelsie Kilawna
- Revitalizing a language, one video call at a time, by Athena Bonneau
- First Nations seek data sovereignty amid COVID-19, by Kelsie Kilawna
- When starting a business and COVID-19 collide, by Chehala Leonard
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.
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.