Saskatchewan’s Indigenous storytellers past and present share the stage
- By NC Raine | April 14, 2023
Voices of past, present and future Indigenous storytellers were spotlighted in the spirit of truth and reconciliation during the Friends of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s (FRSM) Solstice Speaker Series.
The event, sponsored by Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) is in its second year. It’s a four-part speaker series built around the natural seasonal calendar, where Indigenous speakers come together to engage in conversations and explore subjects around truth and reconciliation.
The latest Solstice Speaker Series focused on Indigenous journalists and their personal experiences and work around truth and reconciliation.
The panel was moderated by former journalist and communications specialist Cherish Francis and featured Nelson Bird of CTV Regina, along with former Eagle Feather News (EFN) editor John Lagimodiere, and current EFN editor Kerry Benjoe.
The panel was introduced by University of Regina School of Journalism student Campbell Stevenson, who will be joining EFN in the fall as an intern.
“It’s great to be able to sit with my cohorts in the industry – Nelson, Kerry and Cherish – and talk biz,” said Lagimodiere. “I think Indigenous media, and the people who tell the stories, have come a long way. And these stories are so very relevant to everyone in Canada right now. It’s not just an Indigenous thing, it’s a Canadian thing.”
As the founder of EFN, which he owned until 2022, he said stories on subjects like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Indian Residential Schools, and mental health trauma are not only difficult to cover, but are sometimes hard to talk about.
Some of the topics are heavy and have impacted the careers of journalists, but sharing their perspectives can be part of the healing process.
“I think the outcome of this (Solstice Speaker Series) will be the audience will have a better appreciation of Indigenous stories, of the challenges of telling those stories, and the importance of telling them,” said Lagimodiere.
Craig Perrault, FRSM executive director, which organizes and hosts the event, hopes the event continues the important conversations that were started last year.
“The intent is to make sure all of us are getting access to people who can help inspire and drive change,” said Perrault. “The conversation started last year. But this needs to be a life-long conversation.”
Last year’s topics included Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Pope’s apology, the screening and conversation about the film We Were Children, and a discussion on “what we have inherited” by Chief Cadmus Delorme.
“The topics are current, thought provoking, and designed to create active participation,” said Perrault. “When you get great thinkers, you don’t want to control the conversation. You just want to put them in a position to share. Our job is to put the best people on stage so the audience can have an experience and grow.”
The spring solstice event kicked off with the official announcement of the Harold Johnson Memorial Scholarship, which will help to fund one young Indigenous student per year who is making an impact on his or her community.
It was created to honour Johnson, a renowned Saskatchewan author, advocate and lawyer, who helped to create the Northern Alcohol Strategy.
Both the Solstice Speaker Series and the Harold Johnson Memorial Scholarship are part of SGI’s commitment to advancing reconciliation.
“SGI is very committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, and to especially work with Indigenous community in the province and across the country,” said SGI Chief Customer Officer Barbara Cross.
The scholarship was created by SGI to honour the legacy of a man who made a significant contribution to the province, said Cross.
SGI will be awarding one student per year who has lived by Johnson’s values.
The post-secondary student must be a Saskatchewan resident, but can study anywhere in Canada. The recipient will receive a maximum of $2,500 per year over a four-year span. The scholarship opened on February 1 and will close on June 30.
Information can be found on the SGI web site at https://sgi.sk.ca/scholarships.
Additionally, SGI is awarding a one-time contribution of $10,000 to a charitable or non-profit organization that is making a positive difference in the Indigenous community.
“His approach was unique,” said Cross. “Instead of an organization swooping in to a community and telling them how to solve problems, the approach of Harold and the Northern Alcohol Strategy is to be in the community and support their work to make decisions around dealing with substance abuse issues.”
Information on the funding can be found at https://sgi.sk.ca/community.
The scholarship recipient and selected organization will be awarded this fall.
“We have set this up to honour Harold’s legacy,” said Cross. “We believe he really did make a contribution to this province, so we wanted something lasting that would put his name out there and honour the work he did and hopefully support the people who continue what Harold started.”
The Solstice Speaker’s Series was recorded and will be released at a later date for those who missed the event.