Out of the Big Bush

By: Kimberley Hartwig, Community Journalism Trainer

Since arriving in Nibinamik over five months ago I have yet to leave the reserve. It’s become a bit of a badge of honour for me. Most people here can’t believe that I haven’t been out at least once in that amount of time. Many community members will leave the reserve once every few months, whether it’s to travel to Thunder Bay or another reserve to see family, take part in sports tournaments, or attend festivals and powwows. 

This week it was finally my turn. I left the big bush and headed back to my hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan. It took over 12 hours and five flights but I finally made it to the Land of Living Skies. We do have some pretty nice sunsets in Saskatchewan, but I am already missing the ones back in Nibinamik.

One of the many beautiful sunsets in Nibinamik.

It’s a big change going from the quiet expanse of the reserve to the packed noise of the city. I’ve only been back for a couple of days but it’s already grating on my nerves. I went to the grocery store after I got back and was overwhelmed by the amount of choice, people and light. Walking down a single aisle took as long as walking half way across town! Things were a lot cheaper than I am used to but I bought so much more that in the end it didn’t even matter.

Saskatoon has never seemed so big.

I moved around quite a bit once I finished university and even more once I started my master’s program, which had us studying in a different country each semester. One of the results of moving so much is you learn to adapt to new places very quickly. The moment I step off a plane I say to myself, “Well, this is my home now!” and I go about settling in and making myself comfortable. It’s an invaluable skill in this job which throws you into a completely foreign environment. It does, however, lead to a bit of cultural whiplash. 

The relative permanency of this job is one of the things that most attracted me to the position. Since I’ve been in Nibinamik, I’ve seen many other programs come to the community. The difference is that these programs, and their leaders, never stick around for longer than a week. It seems like no sooner have I introduced myself to the visitors and learned a little about their program before they are packing up and heading to another reserve.  

Nibinamik youth show off the cupcakes they decorated during the Painted Turtle Arts Camp. Photo by Lennox Wabasse.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think these programs do good work and provide a valuable service to the community, but sometimes you wonder if anything is really changing. It’s nice that these programs come and provide a space for kids to have fun and be creative but it would be nicer if those type of resources existed in the community year-round. At the end of the day, the goal for every program should be to increase local capacity. Of course, this is easier said than done. I have had difficulty finding people who are interested in journalism and who are ready and willing to learn all the associated skills. But when you find someone, it’s absolutely worth all the effort you put in.

Kids try out the recorder during one of the first outings with the journalism program way back in April.

When I head back to the big bush I will only spend two more months in Nibinamik before the program comes to a close. It’s crazy to think that my eight months here is almost up. It seems like just yesterday I got off that tiny little plane and started this new adventure. One thing I’ve realized is that up north, eight months is nothing. Even though I feel a little rushed, I’m looking forward to seeing what projects we’ll be able to finish in these final months. A lot of great work has already come out of the community and hopefully we’ll be able to finish on a positive note.

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