Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation using new media to showcase their culture

Before Chief Tony Alexis was a chief, an elder asked him if he ever became one to use the media to highlight the positives of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

'We can see the spirit of our people becoming stronger,' Chief Tony Alexis says

Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation's powwow grounds are a place for the community to celebrate their culture. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC)

Before Chief Tony Alexis was a chief, an elder asked him if he ever became one, to use the media to highlight the positives of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

By being the first to participate in CBC's Media Mentoring and Training program, Alexis tried to do just that.

"Our community has a lot of rich culture," Alexis said. "We have a lot of people who are always working to sustain and to enrich our culture."

Chief Tony Alexis talks about a mentorship initiative between CBC Edmonton and the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. 1:09

The project took place over a few weeks. CBC came into Alexis First Nation School and brought along some mentors to help guide them through telling their own stories.

To tell their stories, Alexis said the community of about 2,000 people — 1,100 of whom live on the reserve — are now adapting to the new media age driven by social media.

"We're adapting to new cultures of social media and modern society … and becoming masters of the institutions, whether it's governance or commerce or justice," Alexis said. "But still maintaining our culture."

That culture, Alexis said, is alive and well. "Our young people are starting to pick up the drum. Some of them, they haven't even walked or talked yet, and they're hitting a drum and they're singing away," he said.

"We can see the spirit of our people becoming stronger."

A makeshift firepit with the Nation's powwow grounds in the background. (Kyle Muzyka/CBC)

Students engaged

Dixie Davies has taught at Alexis First Nation School for 13 years. She said the mentorship program has been "fabulous" for the students.

"Some of them, it's the most engaged I've seen them in any activities we've done this year," Davies said in an interview with Unreserved's Meagan Fiddler. "It's getting the kids interested and getting them to write stuff down."

Davies helped organize the project — and with the help of mentors like Fiddler and Grant Bruno from the University of Alberta, the students were able to learn about different media projects.

They were also mentored by members of Sgwe Productions, Robin Alexis and his three sons Brandon, Nathan and Logan, all four of whom are from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.

"It was eye-opening to know that we, as Native people, have so many stories to tell," Nathan Alexis told the students. "Don't ever let anybody downgrade you or make you believe that you can't do your work."

For Chief Tony Alexis, that empowerment is exactly what the elder who spoke to him was looking for him to achieve.

"My vision is that we want to see the community thriving," he said. "Thriving in business, thriving in jobs, thriving in training, thriving in education, all the while maintaining the spiritual and the cultural value of our community."

Students from Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation told their own stories with CBC and received high-school credit for it. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

About the Author

Kyle Muzyka

Journalist

Kyle Muzyka is a Cree-Métis journalist and pinch-hitter for CBC Edmonton.