Journalist's Tool Kit
We hope this toolkit will be fun and informative to read. We hope it will also serve as a how-to guide for establishing relationships and writing even better stories.
This guide is a small window into one of the most important, fascinating and least understood aspects of our society. For some of you, this can be a useful review. For others, it may all be new. Whatever your level of understanding, we applaud you for seeking a deeper under- standing of Indigenous issues.
Download a hard copy for your desk from the link below and/or bookmark the online link. Next time there’s a First Nations election, a court ruling on Métis hunting rights, a community tragedy, an oil spill, a high-school volleyball star winning an award or an elder with a fascinating story to tell, we hope you’ll be a bit better equipped to cover these stories in a respectful, accurate, interesting way.
So here’s our challenge: Use the toolkit on your first day back at the office. Assign a news piece or feature from the story ideas page. Use the contact list and the protocol guide to call or visit one or two sources - ask what ideas they might have for you. Or start flipping through an item on the reading list.
Thanks to our toolkit team – Saskatoon journalist Jason Warick, University of Regina Master of Journalism student Jeanelle Mandes and U of R School of Journalism Professor Patricia Elliott.
Thank you, and good luck!
Reconciliation and the Media Committee Co-Chairs Betty Ann Adam and Mervin Brass
Media representations of Indigenous perspectives can be divided into three parts:
- The first and most basic are features on Indigenous people – a young basketball star, the first locally-trained doctor or a new chief.
- Second, try a few stories about Indigenous issues, which can range from lengthy Supreme Court rulings and treaty history to shorter pieces such as funding for on-reserve roads or child welfare.
- Third, consider including more Indigenous experts and per- spectives into everyday stories. If there’s an oil spill, call the reeve, mayor and provincial government but also the relevant First Nations leader. If you’re doing a feature on street gang activity, call the police, but also an expert to discuss the issues of race, poverty, addiction and colonization that may have caused it.
- Elders, athletes, artists, dancers, singers, entrepreneurs, volunteers, residential school survivors, diabetes sufferers, veterans, doctors, activists.
- Resource revenue sharing
- Racism and reconciliation
- Funding gaps for on-reserve education, child welfare, or housing,
- Court rulings on Métis and First Nations treaty rights, aboriginal title Cree, Dene, Michif and other language preservation
- Indigenous leaders, Elders, University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and First Nations University of Canada professors in Indigenous Studies, but also law, economics, education, history, medicine and even kinesiology.
- Institutions such as the Gabriel Dumont Institute, Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies or the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre can direct you to instructors in those fields.
On any beat, journalists and their sources may have differing ethical or cultural codes. This is particularly true when covering First Nations or Métis events and issues. The history of oppression has led many Indigenous people to mistrust official institutions such as the media. Long-term, successful storytelling will require you to educate yourself, build relationships and approach stories with humility.
Here is a rough guide to respecting your sources, maintaining your journalistic principles and accomplishing what’s ultimately beneficial for you, your organization, your sources and the public – better reporting of Indigenous issues.
This information is gleaned from several sources, including CBC reporter Duncan McCue’s Reporting in Indigenous Communities. For a more in-depth perspective, see his section on Aboriginal Customs and Protocols at riic.ca/the-guide/in-the-field/aboriginal-cus- toms-and-protocols.
- If unsure about anything, ASK.
- If entering a First Nation, make every effort to contact the chief beforehand and request a meeting as the first point of contact.
- Some Elders’ stories or responses can be lengthy, part of a long and respected oral history tradition. This can be difficult for jour- nalists accustomed to sound bites. Explain your preferred format in advance, but once the Elder begins, do not interrupt.
- Time can be a fluid concept. You can minimize frustration by building more time into your schedule, asking what time the key announcement will take place rather than attending the entire event or politely emphasizing your deadline. Realize there are times, how- ever, when you’ll just have to accept it.
- Go in person if possible. If not, call. Minimize email and other impersonal communication on all beats, but particularly this one.
- It’s obviously not necessary at news conferences, but bring a pouch of tobacco for a feature interview with an Elder. Cigarettes are an acceptable alternative. The tobacco is often burned rather than smoked. Accepting food or gifts is usually okay if the value is minimal and you’re confident it’s not seen as a bribe (that’s almost never the case).
- Be clear on your own ethics, and those of your newsroom. It will never cover all scenarios, but it’s good to discuss any issues with colleagues or experts before, during and afterward.
- If speaking to a source unfamiliar with media, explain that once the interview and recorder starts, anything that is said is on the record. If there is something they don’t want the public to know, politely but clearly ask them to not say it.
- When covering feasts, sweats or other ceremonies, participate if invited and comfortable. If you want to take photos, audio or video, ask the person in charge of the ceremony in advance. If told no, respect that wish. Put away recording equipment or at least point the camera at the ground.
- Words are important. For example, don’t use the term “Indian” unless talking about the Lac la Ronge Indian Band or other institutions. Will you call it the events of 1885 a rebellion or a resistance? If you’re a broadcaster, have you practiced accurate pronunciation of unfamiliar people and place names?
- Again, the key points are to be respectful, build relationships over time and ask, ask, ask if unsure.
Indigenous - A globally recognized term that recognizes original inhabitants who have been subjected to colonialism. It is the word used by the United Nations, and its use has been growing in recent years.
Aboriginal - Also a broad term to describe original peoples. In Canada, it is often used when referring in general to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people - although ‘Indigenous’ is becoming the term preferred by many.
Always ask people how they want to be identified. Most like to be identified by their specific First Nation rather than a blanket term.
• Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk
• The Education of Augie Merasty by Joseph Auguste Merasty & David Carpenter
• Children of the Broken Treaty by Charlie Angus
• Just Another Indian by Warren Goulding
• In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton
• Halfbreed by Maria Campbell
• The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
• Askiwina: A Cree word and Tap- we by Doug Cuthand
• MacLean’s article – Saskatchewan: A Special Report on Race and Power
• APTN - Why national media’s IKEA monkey coverage overshadowed Idle No More rallies
• Prairie Racism and Free Expression by Len Findlay
• Truth and Reconciliation Com- mission Summary Report (including the TRC Call to Action)
Saskatchewan First Nations
•Agency Chiefs Tribal Council (ACTC)
Spiritwood, SK.Glenn Johnstone (Director of Opera- tions) Glenn.johnstone@agencychiefs. com
•Battlefords Tribal Council (BTC) North Battleford, SK.
(306) 445-1383•Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC)
306-446-1400•File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council (FHQTC)
(306) 527-8424•Touchwood Agency Tribal Council (TATC)
Punnichy, SK.Corinne McNab (Director of Opera- tions)
•Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) Meadow Lake, SK
•Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Prince Albert, SK.
•Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) Saskatoon, SK.
•Yorkton Tribal Council (YTC) Yorkton, SK.
Unaffiliated/Independent (without a Tribal Council):
- Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation (306) 467-4523
- Big Island Lake Cree Nation (306) 839-2277
- Cowessess First Nation (306) 696-2520
- Fishing Lake First Nation (306) 338-3838
- Ochapowace First Nation (306) 696-2425
- Onion Lake First Nation (780) 847-2200
- Pheasant Rump Nakota First Na- tion – (306) 462-2002
- Thunderchild First Nation (306) 845-4300
- White Bear First Nation (306) 577-2461
• Gabriel Dumont Institute Saskatoon
• Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority
• Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre
•Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology
Fiji Robinson (Marketing Consultant)
•First Nations University of Canada Regina
Leila Francis (Executive Assistant – President)
(306) 790-5950 ext. 2100
•Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations
•Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC)