Courtney Dickson, Roving Editor Ω
TRUSU’s annual Storyteller’s Gala, held Thursday, March 14, featured Aboriginal role model, journalist and musician, Wab Kinew. More than 200 people attended the early-evening event to listen to Kinew and other guests speak about this year’s gala theme of Aboriginal language and culture.
“Right now, everyone wants to get an actual Shuswap language credit course,” said Nolan Guichon, Aboriginal collective director, “That’s the meaning of this event.”
When Kinew took the podium following a video presentation and traditional Aboriginal dances, he spoke about a number of Aboriginal issues, including residential schools and the Idle No More movement.
As he reminded listeners, more than 10,000 Aboriginals appeared on Parliament Hill on Jan. 11, 2013 in support of Idle No More.
“Who had the power that day?” he asked. “The people did. Don’t ever forget that.
“What this (Idle No More) represents is a chance for Canada to get it right.”
Kinew has always been an Aboriginal rights supporter. Though he doesn’t have a degree in journalism, he used his 2012 CBC program to educate Canadians about Aboriginal rights and culture.
Kinew had been working multiple jobs upon graduation from the University of Winnipeg when he got involved with the media. He wrote a letter to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press and people noticed him. Not long after, he was working for CBC Radio and later transitioned into television.
He got involved in some larger projects for CBC, because, as Kinew puts it, he’s a “bit of an outspoken person.” When the topic of residential schools was brought to the table, Kinew told others how important the story was and that it had to be told properly. Eventually, this turned into the CBC documentary-series 8th Fire, which examined the relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
“The things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us,” he told listeners.
Throughout the hour, Kinew emphasized what seemed to be his motto, “We do better when we work together.”
There were Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal listeners out to support Kinew on Thursday evening, however Kinew noticed a lack of international students.
“It would have been nice to have more of the international student community involved,” he said.
While Kinew was doing tourism reporting, he said travellers would tell him they came to Canada to see “the Rocky Mountains, a Christmas tree and some Indians.” He noted, however, that some of the international population doesn’t seem interested in Aboriginal culture.
Recently, Kinew became the first director of indigenous inclusion at the University of Winnipeg. His job is to help Aboriginal people utilize their talents and share them with outside communities.
Guichon started planning the gala in May of last year and had no problem convincing Kinew to be part of it.
Guichon had prepared the Grand Hall in the Campus Activity Centre for 160 people and was glad he had to find more seating to accommodate everyone.
“We try to get non-Aboriginal people to come to these events to learn about our culture and our history and our issues.
“To have First Nations and non-First Nations people in one room together is just, it’s great.”