It’s a new role at the CBC: Indigenous storyteller. Regina-based journalist Kerry Benjoe won the job earlier this month and has been easing into her new role. Benjoe was previously a reporter at the Regina Leader-Post.
But what exactly is an Indigenous storyteller, at least defined by the CBC?
“I think with storyteller it’s not so confined to something that’s happening right now in the news,” Benjoe tells Popjournalism.
When compared to traditional reporter/editor roles at the public broadcaster, Benjoe has far more freedom to pursue stories that are of interest to Indigenous communities.
“That’s what I think makes this role different from others, is that I don’t have to [make choices from what’s in the news],” Benjoe says. “In other times, I’ve had to, you know, if a report was released, I’d write a nice feature about it. Or if something happened in the news, I’d write a reactionary feature.”
Benjoe is currently exploring a feature about why people remain in Indigenous communities with difficult living conditions.
“I’ve always been curious about why Indigenous people stay… no matter how horrible the living conditions are, they will never leave their community. You will never find a First Nation that will be abandoned. People stay.”
She says that while the premise of the story is based on questions that non-Indigenous people ask, the story is an opportunity to explore the importance of land for Indigenous people, the centrality of their physical, emotional, and spiritual connections to home and the environment.
“I think being a storyteller is something I’ve always wanted to do, but due to limitations in my previous positions, that I wasn’t really able to tell these longer narratives. I can now do a series of stories… I can do something bigger and bring a lot of voices into it and have a broader context of the subject matter I’m trying to talk about.
“I think there’s a lot more opportunity to breathe life into these stories that are waiting to be told.”
This story has been edited from an interview on February 18, 2021, which was broadcast on Popjournalism #00002. The interview was co-produced with Kevin Philipupillai.