By Brandon MacLeod, Community Journalism Trainer
Northern lights above, and clear, bug-less winter nights ahead, feelings of settling in for the long haul strikes me as comforting, the anticipation of cool crisp air soothing. North Spirit Lake First Nation has taken me in, and for that I am grateful.
To consider the origins of my gratitude towards my new home and to the wonderful people of North Spirit Lake, I would only be scratching the surface in pointing out the more-than-welcoming treatment I have received thus far, only a month in.
The tours around the community, by foot, firetruck, and by van. The friendly waves. The courteous hellos, and curious questions about why I am and how I got here. The invites to feasts, and allowing me in to help out with preparations, when it would be just as easy to set me off to the side and say, ‘enjoy the meal’. The kids catching frogs, skipping rocks. The smiles on their faces. And the dogs, the adorable dogs.
The history lessons from residents, both young and old. The stories of a time when there were no cars or power lines and only trails and boardwalks in place of roads.
The excursions in all directions by boat with new friends. Always bringing fishing rods and rifles, catching walleye and searching for moose. Crossing portages, generations old. Carrying boat motors on shoulders and dragging full-strings of fish across land. Returning late into the evening, sharing the catch with elders and friends. And being called back to the house later in the night for tea and tacos, just to keep me company during the tough times in life we all seem to have.
But, sure enough, I have arrived with deeper and longer-lasting aspirations than just feeling welcome. While my job title is Journalism Trainer for the Indigenous Reporters Program, that in itself is just a small description of the depth and empowerment this program can bring to individuals taking part. The training is more than training. It’s a program with broad and lofty intentions of helping those colloquially termed ‘trainees’ in developing an understanding of the subject matter, and subsequently developing their own skills, thoughts, and personal definitions of what journalism, and furthermore, what storytelling means to them. And while that is a big part of what the program can bring to an individual, it is simultaneously a mentorship experience, where the skills and understanding that trainees develop are put into practice, and the important stories people in the community have to tell are, if they so choose, shared with the world.
And in response to my intentions and what I am attempting to share, I have been met with groundswell of openness, emotions, ideas, and an intense reality of creativity and talent. These are incredibly special people with value that has regrettably too often been ignored or dismissed. Their voices hold power. They are leaders now and of the next generations.
The caring, kind welcome I’ve received so far in North Spirit Lake is nothing compared to the inspiration and good feelings I get working together with people finding their own potential to share with the world, not to mention simply bringing more to each other’s lives.