Oki. Good morning.
I threatened to do this thing in Blackfoot, but I'll go with English instead.
The Aboriginal Multi-Media Society was established 34 years ago, in 1983. In the early days, our multimedia consisted of a radio show and a single newspaper, Windspeaker, which was devoted to the indigenous populations of Alberta. With the news media in general, the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society evolved, embracing new technologies and new opportunities. Newspapers went from typesetting to desktop publishing to websites, blogs, and social media.
Windspeaker evolved too, expanding its scope from provincial news to national indigenous news to fill the void created when 11 indigenous newspapers across Canada closed their doors that year. This void was created with the elimination of the native communications program in 1990.
AMMSA then developed a new publication, Alberta Sweetgrass, to fill the void when Windspeaker went national. Two publications under AMMSA's banner led to four, with Saskatchewan Sage and Ontario Birchbark, and then to five, with Raven’s Eye for British Columbia, with other specialty publications filling in the gaps of reader interest and need: Buffalo Spirit, a guide to indigenous spirituality and culture; and Windspeaker Business Quarterly.
Radio evolved from a show on the CBC station CFWE to a network of websites, YouTube channels, and a mobile phone app. People can now listen to our multiple radio channels from a smart phone anywhere in the world. AMMSA continues to bring our terrestrial signal into small and large communities alike and works continuously to improve signal quality in remote areas. Radio is also working to expand the organizational newsgathering service and to build on the work being done on the publishing side of AMMSA.
The pace of change experienced by all news organizations has been dramatic, especially over the last 10 years. In publishing, ink now takes the form of pixels. Newsprint is now computers, phones, and tablet screens. AMMSA can reach more people every day and faster than we did with the old biweekly print publication model.
While the changes have been exciting, they have also not all been positive. Readers have a voracious appetite for news without cost. They want it now, they want it at all times, and they want it free of charge. These needs put considerable strain on the financial resources of small market publishers. AMMSA is not immune, but the burden is compounded by the fact that our coverage area is widespread, remote, and isolated. Advertisers meanwhile puzzle over the effectiveness of the new digital model and struggle to invest their own dwindling advertising budgets in it.
There is also concern over rural, remote, or isolated communities that suffer connectivity issues. Some communities are not connected to the Internet at all. Even if communities continue to have access to Internet services, extreme poverty may preclude individuals from enjoying it. Community members may not have computers in their homes, and if they do, the cost of Internet service may be wildly beyond their means.
Computer literacy also lags behind the mainstream in many indigenous communities. These are barriers that go beyond geographic isolation, and they marginalize indigenous people and their communities further from the important news and information that affects them.
Our perspective is important. What remains consistent over time, however, is the desire of our readers and listeners to have their own selves reflected fairly in news coverage. They want their issues and concerns discussed from the position of their own world view. They want value placed on their history, their cultures and traditions, their perspectives.
Since AMMSA was established, our publications and radio programming have helped bridge the gap of understanding between indigenous peoples and Canadian society. This was long before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission told us that such understanding between peoples was imperative.
We take our direction from the elders, however, who tell us it is even more important that indigenous peoples learn about and understand themselves through an indigenous lens, not the distorted lens of the non-indigenous perspective, amplified by mainstream news.
The world view, cultures, and traditions of indigenous peoples are rarely accurately portrayed by mainstream media, and reports often take a pan-indigenous view of aboriginal people in Canada. They make no distinction among nations, further skewing understanding of indigenous communities by Canadian society from coast to coast to coast.
News of indigenous peoples by mainstream publishers is, in general, focused on the activities of indigenous peoples that run contrary to the initiatives, values, and perspectives of Canadian populations. There is no coverage of potlatches or powwows, coming of age ceremonies, Indian rodeo, activities like fishing, beading, or weaving; and no coverage of what fills out our knowledge and understanding of value-based indigenous communities.
Mainstream reporters don't often get to develop relationships with nearby indigenous communities to gain the comprehensive knowledge about indigenous people that comes with those relationships. That's why it is so important that indigenous publications and radio be allowed to flourish, because those relationships are established.
Indigenous news publishers—