From the only journalism course in Canada to focus exclusively on Indigenous news stories, fourteen students produced this enterprising series of online and radio reports on sexuality in Indigenous communities across British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.
In “All My Intimate Relations,” student journalists provided audiences rich multimedia insight into topics rarely discussed and definitely under-reported. When it comes to sexuality, contemporary Indigenous peoples in Canada are in a time of transition. They struggle with colonial legacies such as Indian residential schools, which had a profound inter-generational impact on sexuality in Indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples are not immune from the homophobia and misogyny which exists in the general population, and health indicators show Indigenous peoples suffer disproportionately higher rates of sexual abuse and sexually transmitted infections than other Canadians. But Indigenous peoples are also in the process of reclaiming traditional understandings, practices and teachings around sexuality, gender and sexual relationships.
Story subjects included puberty camps for Indigenous teens, traditional Indigenous weddings, healing for female prisoners who have suffered sexual violence, an Indigenous doula collective, an LGBTQ group lead by an Indigenous man in a small logging town, sex education classes for First Nations teens and traditional women’s ceremonies surrounding menstruation.
Student journalists were reporting on vulnerable populations such as queer youth, survivors of sexual abuse, and impoverished women. Yet these stories were told in compelling and respectful narratives which emphasized Indigenous voices and perspectives. The series highlights problems facing Indigenous communities but also pointed toward solutions, and was vividly illustrated with photos, text, audio and graphics.
The submission illustrates how the reporting of Indigenous issues is a strategic priority for the UBC School of Journalism in order to nurture the next generation of journalists in Canada who can address shortcomings of mainstream media coverage of Indigenous issues. Since its launch in 2011, the Reporting in Indigenous Communities course has sought to introduce students to First Nations’ ethics, cultures, histories, and politics as they immerse themselves in several different Indigenous communities in British Columbia.
The addresses long-standing issues in how Indigenous peoples have been misrepresented in the mainstream media. It reflects concerns raised by the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission that called on Canadian journalism programs to education students on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Government relations.