Charnel Anderson – 2019

A wigwam exhibit along the Sweetgrass Trail is part of a trail system that takes hikers on an historical journey through the interior of Georgina Island. (Charnel Anderson)

By Charnel Anderson

2019 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellow

When I learned that I would be one of this year’s CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellows, I knew the gist of what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would get to spend a whole, entire month in the CBC Manitoba newsroom, where I would receive training and support, and in the end, publish a story on an issue that’s close to my heart. I was thrilled! And honestly, maybe a teensy, tiny, little bit nervous.
Still, the fellowship was so much more than I could have anticipated. A few months before I landed in Winnipeg, I attended the CJF Awards gala in Toronto, where myself and Logan Perley (the other 2019 CFJ-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellow) were recognized. It was an incredibly surreal night, and one I won’t soon forget (not least because the Raptor’s won the NBA championship later that night). However, I was nervous about staying in a stranger’s apartment, all on my own, in an unfamiliar city. I grew up in Thunder Bay, and I find Winnipeg and my hometown to be somewhat similar—in geography, and climate, and in the way that pedestrians don’t wait for the light to change before the cross the street (like they do in Toronto, where I live now). I heard that the winter is colder in Winnipeg than it is in Thunder Bay, but luckily, it was August when I landed in Winnipeg, primed for an adventure! On my first day, Stephanie Brown, a senior producer with CBC’s Indigenous unit, showed me around and introduced me to more Indigenous journalists than I’ve ever seen in a single newsroom. Steph and I sorted out some logistics and the budget before I arrived in Winnipeg, and she would continue to guide me through the fellowship and the reporting process with her expertise. The first week of my fellowship was spent researching everything First Nations land management related I could find, and later, completing some training. I learned proper Marantz etiquette and best practices for handling a DSLR—a valuable refresh, because even though I knew the topic I wanted to report on (that is, First Nations land management) I wasn’t entirely sure about the story I wanted to tell, nor how to tell it. Fortunately, Bill McCue, the former Chief of Georgina Island First Nation, (the first community in Canada to take back control of their reserve lands through the First Nation Land Management Act) had invited me to visit his community. And on the second week of the fellowship, I travelled back to southern Ontario, and spent a day in Georgina Island. Situated on Lake Simcoe, Georgina Island is breath-taking reprieve for cottagers in southern Ontario cottagers, and has been home to the Anishinaabeg for at least a century.   I am so grateful to have had the chance to visit Georgina Island, where I learned more about the community’s experience with First Nation land management. The reporting I did in Georgina Island allowed me to illustrate First Nations land management issues for a wider audience. And as soon as I got back to Winnipeg, I started writing. Perhaps the thing I appreciate most about this fellowship is that it gave me the time and space and support to work on a feature length story that I feel so passionate about. Well, actually, that’s tied with the opportunity to work amongst and learn from other Indigenous journalists, including a former CJF-CBC Indigenous fellow, Lenard Monkman. Words fail me when I try to express how grateful I am to have had this opportunity. What I learned in Winnipeg, and throughout the entire fellowship process, will guide me in my future endeavours. Chi-Miigwetch to the Canadian Journalism Foundation, CBC, Steph Brown for her guidance, Bill McCue for his candor, Kathy Vey for encouraging me to apply, and everyone else who made this possible.

Check out Charnel Anderson’s piece for CBC News: How Georgina Island First Nation took back control of lands and resources

Charnel Anderson and Logan Perley were the CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellows. Details of the 2020 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowships coming soon.


Isabel Bassett, former chair and CEO, TVO