Life in the BIG City
- by Jamin Mike | November 28, 2022
As I enter my third month working for the Toronto Star (the Star), I acknowledge those who come before me – who broke trail in newsrooms for the next generation of Indigenous journalists like me.
From what I was told, it wasn’t easy being a journalist 20 plus years ago covering Indigenous stories. But even today, we still receive negative, and often racist, backlash from many Canadians who cannot handle the truth.
A month ago, I was honoured to sit down with Tanya Talaga, a widely-respected Anishinaabe journalist who worked for the Star for over 20 years, and we talked about storytelling – the need for more Indigenous reporters – and she talked with wisdom.
As we sipped coffee, I stared at her in admiration of all she has achieved for our people.
What I felt on my first day as an Indigenous reporter in a major newsroom, she felt decades before me. It’s people like her who deserve respect for paving a way and breaking glass ceilings.
Looking back as an undergraduate student, I didn’t feel I’d cut it as a reporter, but I soon realized our callings can take us through trials in order to grow and unlock skills. That’s OK.
Knowing others had to start somewhere, like I am right now, brings me comfort as I build my career.
It was in the Indigenous Communication Arts Diploma program at First Nations University when my cohort was asked if we are Indigenous reporters, or reporters who happen to be Indigenous.
I thought about that for a long time, and I still find it hard to answer that question genuinely.
Though, for my nehiyaw people, our stories are integral for our future, along with our languages, laws, lodges, and songs. I find our identity, families, and culture cannot be put on hold in order to fit into a status quo.
In my younger days as a student in traditional lodges, I received teachings from different Elders, who lived life and earned their wisdom just like Tanya Talaga did as a long-time journalist.
It’s through this wisdom I no longer allow negativity to be part of my story and shape who I am. Something I and many others let control us for far too long.
I feel, deep within, I am nehiyaw first and foremost.
My ancestors didn’t survive hardship for me to continuously find an excuse to not live my best Indigenous life – including as a journalist – and I truly don’t want to remove my identity in order to fit into a box.
Knowing others had to start somewhere, like I am right now, brings me comfort.
To start, I am assigned to the Star’s city-life desk and, so far, I covered Toronto’s municipal election, Ontario CUPE walk-out, and other daily news stories with a one-day turnover.
There are challenges to writing breaking news stories, but it’s rewarding to know I can do it, even when I feel defeated.
When I covered Toronto’s municipal election, I was sent into the field to ask 25 streeters their opinion on who should take office. It was pouring rain, and I walked around for seven hours, finally finishing my task.
I wanted so badly to give up on this assignment and call it quits for the day, but perseverance proved itself the key to my success.
On days like these, I call upon my ancestors and their strength.
As I go through life and learn through trial and error, I begin to realize we are champions who will create a bright, Indigenous futures through hardwork, faith and responsible storytelling.
Jamin Mike is Willow Cree from Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation who is pursuing a career as a journalist. He is currently a reporter at the Toronto Star and is the latest Eagle Feather News columnist. Jamin invites readers along his journey of growth and career building in his column about being an Indigenous reporter from the rez working in Toronto.