Kanina Holmes, an associate professor in journalism, launched Stories North this past summer, bringing 15 students to the Yukon for four weeks.
In this first-of-its-kind experiential education initiative, students focused on listening and learning about Indigenous history, culture and politics in the territory. They worked with residential school survivors, First Nation leaders and youth who are at the forefront of a profound movement of cultural resurgence and reclamation. Stories North was designed to address the calls to action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which included calls to transform journalism curricula to find ways to acknowledge past and current realities of Indigenous peoples in this country.
“I can say, with confidence, that the experiences we had during our month in the Yukon challenged and moved us all emotionally and intellectually. We were so honoured by the openness and generosity of the people who spoke with us,” says Holmes. “A course like this proves we have the potential to profoundly inform our work as journalists, to change perspectives and also alter the ways we understand and share stories.”
The course was made possible through a Teaching Achievement Award that Prof. Holmes received and put toward Stories North. Carleton’s Discovery Centre and Education Development Centre also contributed to this initiative, support that stems from the university’s interest in exploring the dynamics of experiential learning. A successful Futurefunder crowdfunding campaign assisted students with the costs of accommodation and transportation.
Students who took part in Stories North were based in Whitehorse and travelled to Dawson City, Kluane National Park and Carcross. They also ventured to northern British Columbia, near the Yukon border, to find stories at the Atlin Arts and Music Festival.
Student work included Canada 150 North of 60, an alternative look at Canada’s sesquicentennial, videos about the impacts and responses to the travesty of missing and murdered Indigenous women, a podcast produced from a 1985 vintage van named WolfPack Force, photo essays about the demolition of the last remnants of a residential school and emerging Indigenous leaders striving to create a different path for their communities.
Students were interviewed by CBC North in Whitehorse, reflecting on what they saw and learned.
The legacies of Stories North continue to unfold.
Taylor Blewett, a recent graduate of the Bachelor of Journalism program, turned her experiences with Stories North into a job covering the Yukon legislature for the Whitehorse Star. Blewett starts her new job in September.
Front page photo by Kait Labbate
Remaining photos by Kanina Holmes
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