By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

“Our Land, Our Story, Our Words-Hakyaxniki” is a Ktunaxa publication currently in the works. The countdown is on, with an anticipated launch date sometime in April 2023.

This publication is a result of an ongoing relationship the Ktunaxa Nation has with Parks Canada and will be part of the Stories of Canada funding stream and project. 

“As part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, this project started in 2019, and expresses Parks Canada’s commitment to a system of national heritage places that recognizes and honours the contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories, cultures and the special relationships Indigenous peoples have with traditional lands and waters,” says Marie Philippe-Ouellet Media Relations Officer for Parks Canada. “To advance this work, Parks Canada is collaborating with Indigenous communities to re-evaluate the history and the stories presented, to integrate culturally specific ways of experiencing these heritage places and showcase the importance of these treasured places from an Indigenous perspective so that all Canadians have opportunities to understand a fuller scope of Canada’s history, including the difficult periods that are part of our past.”

The Ktunaxa vision is to create a legacy publication that situates their nation within its traditional territory through storytelling, oral history, alongside contemporary stories, and imagery of Ktunaxa communities. All seven Ktunaxa communities are encouraged to contribute, including the two in the U.S. 

“The border has created a divide amongst the Ktunaxa Nation,” says Rose. “I want to engage people to get involved in this publication whether it be through photography, or graphic design.”

 The ball got rolling a few months ago when Emily Rawbon, Graphic Designer for the Columbia Valley Pioneer taught Adobe Creative Suite to Akisqnuk youth three days a week for four weeks out of the Columbia Lake Recreation Centre at the Akisqnuk First Nation. “I’ve instructed many colleagues over the years,” says Rawbon. “This is my first time having the opportunity to teach the ins and outs of InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator in a classroom setting. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share 25 years of knowledge, and experience to an up-coming generation who will create their own visions of print history.”

There was a six-month print journalism program on the Akisqnuk First Nationin the past. “We had great results with that,” says Rose. “Right now, computers are the way to go so we have the equipment to provide some great training, whether it’s photography, videography, or graphic design. We’re looking at creative expression as a way of helping people, so they can obtain employment in a field that is creative. People are very computer savvy these days so giving that opportunity to participate, and in grasping concepts and being able to put words and or pictures to it. It’s an opportunity. We will be running a three-weeks introduction to graphic design in about two-months’ time and will have six seats available for those that want to get involved”

Nearly 100 people are involved in this project already including the Ktunaxa Nation Council’s communications team, Trevor Kehoe as Managing Editor, as well as 89 other contributors. 

“We have developed our storylines, and this week we will be reaching out to our list of contributors and working with them over the next four or five months to finalize their part, and submission to the publication,” says Rose. “We anticipate that we will be printing 20,000 copies, because it’s a Parks Canada centered funding stream and the Ktunaxa have specific relationships to all the national parks within our territory, we will make it available not only to Ktunaxa households and then through an agreement the national park system it will be available to the public through their vendors.” 

At its core, this publication will appeal to all ages and celebrate the Ktunaxa people, the lands they have called home that run adjacent to the Columbia River and their enriched and beautiful culture. 

To tell the true Ktunaxa story, it must also include heartbreaking truths such as what went on in residential schools, the history surrounding Murdered Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, the discovery of unmarked mass graves, as well as current efforts towards truth and reconciliation. 

“Those negative stories are always hitting national media outlets while the more positive things don’t have that same voice,” says Rose. “There’s still a lot of negativities associated with our presence in Canada. We are hoping this publication will highlight some more of the positive aspects that people don’t know about. We have an amazing group of talented Ktunaxa people. We have ballerinas, chiefs, politicians, celebrated writers, performers, artists. We are looking at highlighting that part of our communities.”