Indigenizing Media with Michael Champagne

A Q&A With community organizer and AYO! founder Michael Champagne

On Feb. 4, The Uniter Speakers Series is partnering with Red Rising Magazine on Indigenizing Media, an event putting a spotlight on Indigenous media representation.

We asked some of our speakers for their insight into the discussions we will be having Thursday. Here’s what AYO! founder and community organizer Michael Champagne had to say.

What drew you into work in media?

I believe that indigenous young people have to break stereotypes in the places where they are created and perpetuated. That led myself and other AYO! leaders to connect with mainstream media as early as fall of 2010, the same year AYO! was founded.

Why does this event speak to you?

This event speaks to me because I believe Indigenizing Media provides an opportunity for indigenous wisdom, indigenous people and indigenous values to guide the creation of and delivery of media content. This can have the effect of empowering young people to be proud of who they are, hopefully counteracting the negative realities related to health, suicide, crime and other challenges prevalent in our communities. 

I believe Indigenizing Media provides an opportunity for indigenous wisdom, indigenous people and indigenous values to guide the creation of and delivery of media content.

Michael Champagne

What are the most important issues surrounding Indigenous representation in the media?

The most important topic we can address is the careful use of language when mainstream media is describing Indigenous youth and communities. We use the word “topics” when discussing any item, as it contains an issue and a solution. This allows for balance in how we approach our challenges, where we are not being deficit based in our thinking or organizing.

What can we learn from projects like Red Rising Magazine?

Projects like Red Rising Magazine provide a great example of indigenous youth and supporters leading with their example. Sharing stories that are often not heard, refusing to be silent. The product is professional, but also feels like home; specifically of the art of Jackie Traverse, the photography of Michael Kannon, the rugged graphic design of the magazine itself and the blending of modern and traditional indigenous imagery.

What do we as journalists, writers, publications or consumers of media need to stop doing?

For mainstream media, The 4Ds by Duncan McCue need to stop being used as the main driving force behind indigenous stories. Use indigenous voices in your non-indigenous stories, include indigenous people and voices in putting together their own narrative or story.

What are we as journalists, writers, publications or consumers of media doing right?

Events like this. Stories like the story on indigenous representation in the media that were on the cover of The Uniter in later 2015 highlighting AYO, Thunderbird House and Red Rising are examples of media done right. It used an existing platform to amplify the voices not commonly heard. It adds a legitimacy to our work that cannot be attained through independently produced media alone.

Michael Redhead Champagne, also known as North End MC, is the founder and organizer of AYO! where he is responsible for networking, public relations and mentorship. A well known public speaker, blogger and community activist, Michael was recently featured in TIME Magazine as one of 24 of the world's next generation leaders. Michael is a member of Red Rising collective.

See what our other speakers had to say: 

Billy-Ray Belcourt

Andrea Landry

Kim Wheeler

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