I recently finished a mini-documentary (see it here) about a young First Nations woman that is really going places. Rebecca Sangwais works incredibly hard to balance all her responsibilities. She is a student at the First Nations University of Canada, working to support herself, while teaching beading and powwow classes at the Ranch Ehrlo Society. It is crucial to her to keep going forward and succeed while honouring her cultural roots. (Eh, watch the doc – you’ll get a far more succinct picture.)
I was honoured to be part of a team that took on this project. Our decision to tell Rebecca’s story came on the heals of meeting Aboriginal journalist Wab Kinew at the School of Journalism’s Minifie lecture this year. He reminded us that First Nations communities are not always fairly portrayed in the media. For example, the media jumps on stories of money mismanagement on First Nations communities, but the more positive stories are underreported or ignored. This creates the image that all First Nations communities have issues, when that is not the truth. It’s an imbalance and I feel that as the newest generation of journalists, we have a responsibility to correct.
I was honoured to have the opportunity to tell a positive story of a young First Nations woman who serves as role model, for natives and non-natives alike. As Rebecca describes in the documentary, she struggles to find her own role models that are close in age and on a similar life path with similar priorities; she describes that many women her age are focused on relationships and children. Despite her struggles, Rebecca excels in academics while keeping in touch with her culture and managing her responsibilities. I hope by telling her story, we can show young Aboriginal women that there are role models for them and there are opportunities in life. That is one of the joys I find in journalism. Yes, I will tell many sad stories – stories that question humanity and show the evils in the world – but I am also committed to showing the good in life as well. Good people like Rebecca who are dedicated to bettering themselves and the people around them.
Our crew spent time with her mother in Regina and her father and sister on their home on Sakimay First Nations. For the project, her father, Cameron, pulled out some old photo albums for us to peruse and find usable pictures in. As we worked, we also witnessed Cameron and his daughters reminiscing over family pictures and sharing memories. It was clearly something they had not done for some time, and I felt sort of responsible for that family bonding moment.
Rebecca’s family is crazy proud of her, which they all state in the mini-doc. At our J-school showcase at the end of the semester, Rebecca told me how nice it was to hear her family express their pride. She also told me after we filmed, the family reflected on what it took for Rebecca to get where she is today. It made them all appreciate the sacrifices she’s made and the hurdles she jumped. Again, as a journalist, I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible for this. It is why I do what I do. It is the beauty of telling stories.