Riley Yesno – 2021

Hanna Waswa flies the Eabametoong First Nation flag in British Columbia in 2019. (Hanna Waswa/Facebook)

By Riley Yesno

2021 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellow

Perhaps every era of journalist would argue this, but I truly feel that there is no more critical time to be a reporter or a storyteller. As COVID-19 has kept us isolated in so many ways, it is reading the work of others that keeps me, and so many others, feeling connected and part of a community.

I certainly felt the weight of that reality as I joined the CBC Indigenous team to begin my fellowship.

Luckily, I was not only greeted by a team of people who also recognized the critical role journalists play in our communities themselves, but who were limitlessly generous in sharing their expertise, so that I, too, could better come into that role.

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer, Nic Maloney, and the rest of the folks CBC Indigenous are a dream team— and I am honoured to have been mentored by them to produce a story that is so important.

I know that queer Indigenous people offer some of the most necessary leadership and insights that will bring us to better futures. It was a joy to interview them, listen, and try to convey their power. A heartfelt thank you to Hanna Waswa, Melody McKiver, Janine Frogg, and Clint Tootoosis for trusting me with your stories and wisdom. That is a real gift the fellowship gave me.

Overall, I left the fellowship only wishing that there was more time I could have spent with the team bringing stories to life. Even with the limitations of the pandemic, I was able to gain so much from my time with CBC Indigenous. If anything, it likely made me a more adaptable and resilient journalist.

The whole experience just reinforced how rewarding it can be to be a writer right now, and I am confident that the fellowship will be an equally rewarding experience for whatever Indigenous journalist is lucky enough to pursue it next. Miigwetch to all who helped make it happen.

Featured work: 

Check out Riley Yesno’s piece for CBC News: “Life on the rez for 4 2SLGBT Indigenous people



ISABELL BASSETT, Former Minister of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and former chair and CEO of TVO