Behind “On the Line”

“On the Line” is the story I wrote for this year’s Crow magazine. It looks at the tradition and revival of trapping.  Drop everything and read it.  And the rest of the stories, because damn, it’s a fantastic collection of journalism.

 

I have never spent so long on one item. It was labourious. Every paragraph, every sentence, every word was carefully researched before it was crafted. Multiple sources to back up even the smallest of facts. I spent hours dissecting the smallest details, searching the ends of the earth (okay, the Internet) for that second or third source to triangulate what I was trying to say. At times, it was exhausting. But I am prouder of it than I am anything else I’ve written so far.

It was something I felt a connection to. Trapping is a tradition that is being lost in my own family. In fact, I am the first generation NOT to trap or hunt. So I see in Mikaela someone I could have been… someone I still could be. But it’s not just my interest or connection to the matter at hand.

Namely, selfishly, it was fun to write. I travelled to Prince Albert, Sask., for a two day northern trappers’ convention. No one knew what to make of me. I knew what to expect. These were men and women who lived largely in the bush. Their faces showed the hardships of the bush – the tough conditions, the hard work, the survival. Some could barely speak English, butwere fluent in their native Cree or Dene. Many glanced at me suspiciously… the stranger, the outcast.

Someone had me sign a piece of paper, saying who I was, where I was from. That paper was then read out, and my name was listed off with the various dignitaries that were there.

“She’s a journalist,” they announced. “She’s here to tell our stories!”

I was no longer a stranger or outcast, no longer eyed at suspiciously. From that point forward, I couldn’t get a moment to myself. People wanted to tell me their stories. Many of them were startling – sad stories of an endangered way of life. It was also telling how the north is an untapped resource of stories.

I took my time talking to people, to fully hear and understand their stories. At this point in my writing, all I had was research and statistics — the rich history of trapping, how many trappers there were, how many were left, and the implications of things like fur bans. The numbers outlined the crux of the story — it was a way of life that was at risk of being extinct. But I didn’t have characters to illustrate the facts. That’s what I set out to find at the convention. And there were many people that almost fit the bill. But the crowd demonstrated another point —  that when this generation dies, there is a risk that trapping will die with it.

Then Rose approached me. And then the rest unfolded from there.

My trip to Prince Albert is easily one of the highlights of my academic career. I met a lot of good people, who are fighting the good fight to hold onto their traditions. Many reminded me of my grandfather. Everything smelt smoky, like moose hide. I felt at home there, in a place I’d never been. Many people asked me my story and I told them, how my motives for telling this story were inherently selfish, how I wanted to tell a story I felt was being lost in my own family. I proudly showed them photos of my grandfather.

“He looked very kind,” one FSIN vice-chief told me, putting a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. “Kind eyes.”

Moments like that stick out the most. The acceptance into a community of which I was an outsider. The trust and eagerness in which they told me their stories. I haven’t forgotten many of them. I just don’t know how to tell them yet.

Click here to see photos from the Northern Saskatchewan Trappers Association Convention. 

Supporting country women

NOTE: THIS IS AN ARTICLE I WROTE FOR A JOURNALISM SCHOOL PROJECT. WE TRAVELLED TO THE COMMUNITY OF STRASBOURG, SASK., TO FIND STORIES. WE CREATED A NEWSLETTER AND BLOG: “THE 220.”

By Lauren Golosky

When Rita Kerr walked into the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool’s pancake breakfast with a girlfriend, she noted they were the only women there. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary – they always seemed to be the few token women at agricultural-related events in the area.

The absence of women – who make up about 20 per cent of all farmers in Saskatchewan – bothered Kerr and motivated her to create the Country Women’s Network under the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

“All the women that work on the farm and stuff, we need to do something for them so that they feel like there’s something that they can claim ownership to and they feel like they are welcome to come to,” explained Kerr.

Since CWN was formed in 1997, it has evolved. The group no longer focuses solely on agriculture, instead extending the focus to the interests of all women in the community. They have also severed their ties with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, now called Viterra.

CWN has become popular among the older women in Strasbourg, who make up a significant majority in the community. On coffee row, some women chatter about it excitedly.

“That is what we are trying to do – pamper women.”

– Rita Kerr

One woman, Gwen Yung, regards CWN as an “awesome group.” She enjoys the organization’s annual activities: the Ladies’ Day in April and the bus trip in June. The two events strive to meet the group’s goal: to encourage, educate, and empower women.

And the goal seems to be accomplished. The Ladies’ Day provides the women with guest speakers with a variety of subjects, from the entertaining to the informative. The women are then served a catered supper.

“That is what we are trying to do –  pamper women,” said Kerr. “The whole purpose of that, too, is to make sure we serve them supper, otherwise they have gone and had a really relaxing, wonderful afternoon and then they have to rush home and make supper. We wanted to make sure we included supper in the day so it was still part of their relaxation.”

“This group is to get the women away from the farm for a day to be pampered,” said another member, Verlyn Cameron.

The success and popularity of the group is confirmation to Kerr that CWN is needed and appreciated.

“Country Women’s Network is so successful because it addresses women and we have a lot of them in Strasbourg,” she said.

Kerr explained that her two daughters often question her involvement, wondering why she is passionate about the organization.

“It serves such a need in our area,” she said. “We have no problem selling our tickets to either of our events. It’s easy to sell them because people want to do stuff to be pampered or get educated.”

While Kerr sees CWN filling a void in the Strasbourg agrea, Amber Fletcher says rural women across the province need a sense of belonging in the industry of agriculture. Fletcher is a doctoral candidate at the University of Regina and her research focuses on agricultural policy and the future of rural women in Saskatchewan. Fletcher’s research has found that farm women have a wide scope of responsibilities, from work on and off the farm to childcare and volunteer work. She explained that this excessive workload has dire repercussions.

“The things that I found to be most pertinent and most salient, in my discussions with farm women, is workload going back to all those different areas and the extension of their work,” said Fletcher.

Despite increased stress and potential health repercussions, there are few resources and outlets for women in rural areas.

“If you’re going through something and you don’t have anyone that you can talk to about it, whether it be formal structure such as mental health services or informal structure like neighbours you can talk to, it has health consequences,” said Fletcher.

While CWN has allowed rural women to be a part of something, Fletcher wonders if more should be done within agricultural organizations, such as Viterra, to improve the rate of women participating at their events. Fletcher grew up on a farm and recalls agricultural surveyors calling and exclusively asking to speak with her father, even though her mother was a farmer, too. This fails to foster a feeling of importance and inclusion among farm women.

“There’s this stereotype that farming is a masculine profession, therefore women don’t feel welcome in those spaces,” she said. “Due to this intangible stereotype, there is a concrete lack of inclusion.”

Farm women are also undervalued and underrepresented, claims Fletcher. While their work, on and off the farm, is necessary for the farm to function, farm women rarely get the proper recognition they deserve, as much of their work appears to be more domestic in nature, such as feeding workers or washing laundry.

“All work that women do is seen as not central, but peripheral work,” she explained. “It’s not seen as crucial to farm operation, but it is. You can’t have seven or eight workers without food.”

“There’s this stereotype that farming is a masculine profession.”

– Amber Fletcher

Fletcher wonders if more effort could be made to make women feel more welcome in the agriculture industry.

“For example, are meetings held at times that work for women, especially those working off the farm or commuting?” Fletcher said. “Is childcare available at meetings? This is important since women, particularly farm women, still tend to do an overwhelming amount of childcare.”

The overwhelming majority of CWN’s members are senior women, much like the makeup of the town of Strasbourg, who are 56 years old or older. Kerr, one of CWN’s youngest members, has acknowledged the lack of younger women within the group.

“We just don’t get younger women involved,” she said. “We have more younger women moving back now, so maybe it’ll get easier.”

Kerr is still adamant that the group serves an important function for the older demographic. She believes the group will continue to be a success as it serves a vital need in the community.

“It will change as the needs of women in the area change,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever have trouble getting membership.”

Wrapping up my internship at CTV

Note: this is my final report, required by school to complete my internship. I’ve omitted the more critical sections because it’s no one’s business to hear me whine. Instead, you get the full rock star, positive version. You’re welcome.

While initially I was apprehensive about the internship at CTV, I am incredibly glad that is where I did my first placement. I was worried about the workload, the responsibility and pressure of being the weekend reporter, and the overall skills required to be a videojournalist. While everything was as I expected it to be, from the responsibilities to the workload, I believe I met all the challenges head on.

The first week or so, I shadowed fellow reporters and camera operators. I completed my first pack on my third day, trying to live up to Tonaya’s pack on day two. I went solo after probably a week and a half and was working weekends within the month. I haven’t looked back.

Being a videojournalist is no easy feat. I vividly remember my first day flying solo as a VJ: everyone was staring at me as I struggled; lugging the equipment and setting up my tripod for the scrum. Thankfully, the other journalists understood my struggle. Raquel Fletcher held my microphone for me, while her shooter, Jason, saw that the scrum held off a few extra moments, allowing me more time to set up properly. Afterwards, Kent Morrison and Raquel offered me words of encouragement. They’d been there. They understood what I was going through. It would get better – I would get better. By the time I left, I was too exhausted to cry, although I felt like it. The pack turned out okay.

It’s been just over a week, but CTV took away my training wheels and sent me out to VJ on my own. It was a bit overwhelming, but big shout-out to the media vets at the other outlets who were patient and helpful while I struggled a bit today.

On a more positive note, I just finished an interesting story on an advancement in blood testing that was made right here in Regina. Find out tonight on CTV!

– my Facebook status from my first day as a VJ!

Thankfully, Raquel and Kent were right. Things got better, and I improved drastically. I learned the majority of VJ lessons the hard way, figuring things out on the fly. That’s the thing about being a videojournalist – it’s really just you out in the world. You just have to get the story done. And I did. Most days, I didn’t have time to dwell on what a rookie I was and what I wasn’t very good at, especially on the weekends, when I had a full story, and then some, to file. I was busy, but busy is good. Idle hands, and all that, as the expression goes.

Weekends were often my favourite to work. It meant I got to experience people, places, and things I might not otherwise have done. Weekends brought me to the Claybank brick plant, the Montmarte Folk Fest, and a Lego expo in Moose Jaw. I met a two-pawed dog, a blind golfer, and a 101-year-old yacht club member. I got to tour around Wascana Lake on a boat, take in a wedding at Craven, and shoot paintball in the woods. While many groan at the thought of working weekends, more days than not, I loved it and took full advantage of as many opportunities as I could.

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Channeling my inner ‘Titantic’ as we tour Wascana Lake on Canada Day. I also got to check “wave like a Queen from a boat to strangers” off the bucket list.

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I was training our new ENG, Katy. We were both PETRIFIED to go into the combat zone of paintball, but it ended up being a blast!

In the end, the short training period and a busy summer meant I had to become very independent, very quickly. I never felt completely abandoned; I always had support from the team, but I knew I had to make it on my own and I am so, so glad I did. Ask Robin and Trevor (my intro to broadcast teachers) about my first television news story and how brutal it was. If we had awards, Julia (CBC rock star) and I would have been voted Most Improved Players. During first semester, I never could have imagined myself as the weekend reporter, weekend assignment editor, and videojournalist rock star (my preferred title) I am today. While I have so much more to learn, I am very proud of myself. I am often my harshest critic, but I feel like I have grown eons. This internship reaffirmed for me that journalism is what I want to do, and not only that, but I will be a damn good journalist. This is just the start for me.

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I call this my “rockstar VJ lean.”

My first week at CTV News (also my first pack!)

I have wrapped up my first week, albeit a short one, at CTV News Regina. I spent my first couple days shadowing other journalists (shout out to Morgan Campbell and Kelsey Chadwick for tolerating this new intern!). My work included editing visuals and a little bit of writing.

But on Friday, my third official day at the station, I got the opportunity to do my first story: more flood prep in Regina. It ended up being a bigger story than we originally imagined and it was the lead story of the newscast! I was excited and think it went pretty well (another shout out to Morgan Campbell for rocking the camera for me!).

I am excited to take on another week, and even more excited to fly solo!

 

The first time my name was supered on CTV News Regina.

The first time my name was supered on CTV News Regina.

You can see it here: http://regina.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=919437

Reason #101 why I love journalism…

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 mini-doc crew with the Sangwais family.  From leg: Penny Smoke, Rebecca Sangwais, me, Chelan Skulski, Cameron Sangwais, Tianna Sangwais, Julia Dima Photo by Julia Dima

Our mini-doc crew with the Sangwais family.
From leg: Penny Smoke, Rebecca Sangwais, me, Chelan Skulski, Cameron Sangwais, Tianna Sangwais, Julia Dima
Photo by Julia Dima

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.