Merelda Fiddler is a current affairs producer for CBC Saskatchewan, working in radio, television and online. She’s produced numerous radio local and network specials over the last ten years.
Fiddler also teaches at the First Nations University of Canada and was recently honoured with a Métis Award for Journalism.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. It’s about 6 hours north of Regina.
Meadow Lake is a special and complicated place for me. I love it because I have so many good memories. That said, it was almost a decade after I graduated from high school that I discovered and eventually changed the town's history.
My great grandfather's family essentially founded Meadow Lake - the town sits on land that was once his. Until about 10 years ago, the town history said my great-grandfather was French. He was actually Métis. So I did a story about going home and the town changed the history to reflect his Métis heritage.
What is a typical day like as a CBC Sask producer?
That might mean doing a special radio program for the network, running something like Boombox - CBC's Saskatchewan's all-Aboriginal Business Idea challenge (which was also a half hour information program), or running a big ratings project - which might be a series of stories that looks at something like home care or education etc.
It’s the perfect job for me really. I need constant change and challenge. This job offers plenty of both and still keeps me out in the community. I don't believe journalism, not the kind I want to practice, can really be done from my desk.
What story or project are you most proud of?
There are two. One is a big town hall we did at CBC Saskatchewan after the Prime Minister apologized for Residential Schools. It was such an historic moment.
I found former students and children of students and for two hours we shot and recorded a town hall that aired both on TV and radio, local and network - in segments.
I couldn't believe the stories that people were willing to share and the passion they all had for sharing that pain, as well as stories of how to move on. It was an amazing night and I'll never forget it because over 300 people came to hear it.
The other story is about a man named Darren Okemaysim. He's a language instructor, a PhD, a teacher, a colleague, a friend. And he's a cancer survivor.
At the time I interviewed him, he was diagnosed as terminal within about 8 months. He wanted to share his story because he found out that many Aboriginal people do not follow through with cancer treatments, and just go home and let the disease take its course.
He wanted to show people you could fight and win. He's actually beaten the odds and is recovering. But telling his story is something I'll never forget.
How has telling stories about indigenous people changed since you`ve been at CBC?
Well we're telling more of them for starters. We're also not starting at the beginning every time because all journalists and people in general are becoming more educated about Aboriginal issues.
We're also not telling Aboriginal stories like we're on an anthropological journey. They are the people who live next door, our friends and colleagues. There are still a lot of negative stories out there, but the positive ones are really starting to come through. That will remain a challenge, because we can't ignore the negative.
Do you have any sports jerseys in your closet?
One. A Vancouver canucks jersey. Even though I live in the heart of Rider Nation - and I support the riders and like football - I've been a lifelong hockey fan and specifically a big Canucks fan for a long time.
That only grew when I spent almost 2 years living in Vancouver and working for CBC there. One day, I walked into the Canucks dressing room, the day after a big game, and waited for the player interviews. And as the players walked in I looked around and realized that I was one of the only female journalists in the dressing room.
I started to panic because these guys were all walking around in towels and then I remember thinking of something my mom, who worked in long term care said, "You seen one, you seen 'em all." I'm not sure why I thought that - but my mom always says things like that. It made me laugh, I got my work done and left having actually been in the dressing room.
Any advice to young indigenous journos out there?
It’s the same advice I'd give to any journalist. It’s not about you. You are telling other people's stories, so you better get it right and it just can't be about you. I think the really good journalists get that. You'll notice they don't play up their role.
I learned that what we do can change the world - but only if we show the world what's in it - not tell the world how great it was that we told that story. I know I have done it right when people tell me how amazing they thought a person was, or how I changed something in their lives - not when they tell me my hair looked great.