A message from MEDIA INDIGENA’s founding Editor-in-Chief, Rick Harp
Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by the tools, techniques and trade of the media. At their best, media can transport their audiences across time and space, as they evocatively share the stories of people from other parts of the world or just down the street.
Regrettably, when it comes to mainstream coverage of events and issues involving Indigenous peoples, we all too often experience media at their worst. That’s because, when push comes to shove, Canadian media will always revert to their default perspective: that of the needs, interests and aspirations of the larger non-Indigenous society.
For Indigenous people, the consequences of this mainstream bias vary. Where our stories are overlooked, we remain out of sight, out of mind. Where distortions of who we are and what we want are rendered grounds for incitement, we become threats or targets. In such cases, media plays at ‘objectivity’ swiftly evaporate in favour of sensationalist peddling of fear, anxiety and resentment.
So while I make media out of an admittedly nerdy love for every minute aspect of the craft, I’m also driven by a core belief that stories can be truly life or death. And out of such consequences comes a cause—to share stories which keep Indigenous peoples alive, in every sense of the term.
“I’m not supposed to be here.”
When I first heard these words—an Indigenous speaker’s acknowledgment of what her forebears did to survive all that the United States had thrown at them in hopes of wiping their people from the face of the earth—they shook me profoundly. Their poignancy, their power, forever changed how I understood the past, present and future of Indigenous peoples.
Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand: these colonial cousins never meant for Indigenous peoples to survive, much less thrive, into the 21st century. To Canadians like famed poet (and senior Indian Affairs administrator) Duncan Campbell Scott, Indians were but a “weird and waning race,” whose only role in the grand Canadian narrative was to simply fade away. In telling themselves the stories they wanted to hear, these newcomer nations couldn’t even imagine Indigenous resilience. We too are not supposed to be here.
Since its launch back in 2010, my goal with MEDIA INDIGENA has been to share the stories I wanted to see and hear as an Indigenous person, in the way I wanted to see and hear them. And what better way to achieve that than make my own media? And so, dead-centre in the Venn diagram of what one loves, what one is skilled at, what the world needs, and what can earn one a decent living, my sweet spot seems to land me squarely between your ears. (Okay, wait: that may’ve come out wrong.)
What all this has to do with podcasting is simple: freedom. Freedom from filters; freedom from fear or favour for those who’d rather you just shut up and go away; freedom from generic, safe, inane, middle-of-the-road content. It’s why I love podcasting, and it’s why I think you love it too, enough to consider investing in its future.
I believe that to best appreciate and ultimately act in support of what makes Indigenous peoples’ lives better, we need to be willing to push beyond convention and complacency. Because the status quo is literally deadening and destroying the lives of Indigenous peoples.
Which means that, if Indigenous journalism is to be of any service to Indigenous peoples, it must critically engage that status quo. That there exists a viable audience for this work is an ideal I am literally betting on, relying entirely on the crowdfunded support of listeners in order to sustain this mission.
The Vision Forward
From day one, MEDIA INDIGENA’s raison d’etre has been to inspire and conspire with those sharing our passion for advancing the well-being of Indigenous peoples.
Over the months to follow, our ambition is to augment the podcast with a series of face-to-face MEDIA INDIGENA events. In the same way we create and curate content on our site and social media, we intend to organize or jointly sponsor an ongoing series of quality, Indigenous-oriented events.
We also seek to supplement the experiential with the more material: as fans of Indigenous creative expression, we want to both highlight the works of others and contribute our own, from apparel to art to food and beyond.
Driven by the mission to originate and celebrate a wealth of distinct, Indigenous-led experiences both on-line and off, our larger vision is to catalyze these conversations and connections into community; to bring together the people who share our vision, from trendsetters and tastemakers to thought leaders. Our podcast is but one way to do that, and we’re just getting started.
What people are saying about MEDIA INDIGENA
What I love most about [MEDIA INDIGENA] is that it provides a rarely-heard set of perspectives from American Indian communities on everything from sexuality and marriage to natural disasters to education. It never fails to broaden my way of thinking about an issue.
Carie Little Hersh, assistant teaching professor of sociology and anthropology, Northeastern University, News@Northeastern, June 6, 2018
“Through MEDIA INDIGENA, Harp provides a platform for complex Indigenous topics to be explored in depth.”
“The media organization Canada needs to understand Indigenous issues,” THIS Magazine, Nov-Dec 2016
“Conversations you will hear nowhere else.”
“Journalism is less diverse than Hollywood—and Congress,” High Country News, July 27, 2018
“[The] latest developments in North American news and the direct impact on Indigenous peoples in the 21st century. The conversations are pointed and nuanced. Each guest brings their expertise and insight into the complex issues facing Indian Country.”
“Native Literatures and Indigenous Peoples’ Day: A Brief Historiography,” Not Even Past, Oct. 2019
“[T]his podcast is an important tool to build relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. If there is only one thing that you can commit time to, to learn how to be an Indigenous ally, make it this weekly podcast.”
“Being an Informed Indigenous Ally,” Women Warriors, January 2018
“Podcasting is a space where a community can talk to itself, without having to define its terms, cater for outsiders, or account for opposing viewpoints … For an American of settler descent such as myself, this is a transformational viewpoint. Host Rick Harp is a pro, and the high quality of the podcast reflects his years of work in the Canadian media.”
“Anthrocasts: When communities speak, listen and learn,” The Familiar Strange, March 2018