British Columbia·Photos

Breaking the silence: CBC's Junior J-School shows Indigenous students how they can share their stories

Designed in collaboration and partnership with local Indigenous communities, CBC’s Indigenous Junior J-School aims to empower and inspire the next generation of journalists.

Free workshop aims to introduce more Indigenous students to journalism

Gitxsan journalist and columnist Angela Sterritt guides students during Indigenous Junior J-School at CBC Vancouver on Nov. 13. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Hannah Curr is looking to break the silence for Indigenous people.

The 16-year-old is one of more than 150 Metro Vancouver high school students who took part in CBC Vancouver's fourth Indigenous Junior J-School newsroom, a special workshop for aspiring young journalists.

"There are still a lot of stereotypes and negative images that are pushed alongside Indigenous people… being able to tell our own stories is really important to change that image," said Curr, a Burnaby North Secondary student who is Nuu-chah-nulth and Métis.

Across Canada, Indigenous people are under-represented in a number of fields, including journalism.

Hannah Curr, a 16-year-old Indigenous student at Burnaby North Secondary School, sees herself becoming a filmmaker in the future, but said the workshop opened her eyes to the possibility of becoming a journalist. (CBC)

Results from the 2016 Census found 4.9 per cent of Canadians identified as Aboriginal. A list of Indigenous journalists on Twitter compiled recently by an Indigenous website contains only 52 members.

Telling Indigenous stories

Right now, Curr considers herself to be more of a filmmaker, but getting a behind-the-scenes look of CBC's newsroom opened her eyes to a future in journalism.

Particularly inspiring was getting to speak with CBC Vancouver reporter Angela Sterritt, who was one of the day's instructors.

"I was just thinking how crazy it was that Angela was the one Indigenous woman journalist … and I was thinking that should be changed, that shouldn't have to be such a crazy thing like, 'Oh we have this Indigenous woman who's also a journalist that is at CBC' — like, that shouldn't be groundbreaking," Curr said.

Angela Sterritt speaks to students during Indigenous Junior J-School on Nov. 13. 'Seeing all these young kids today all interested in telling Indigenous stories, or just any story, is incredible,' she said. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

For Sterritt, the workshop is a chance to offer an opportunity she didn't have growing up.

"For somebody like me, not seeing any Indigenous journalists, not seeing any Indigenous stories, seeing silence, not seeing our voices heard, seeing all these young kids today all interested in telling Indigenous stories, or just any story, is incredible," she said.

Students practise reading for radio during Indigenous Junior J-School. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

'Raw history'

Curr's connection to storytelling runs deep.

Her stepfather, rap artist Darren Metz, performed with his group Snotty Nose Rez Kids for the workshop's attendees.

His medium may be different, Metz says, but at the end of the day, it's all about sharing Indigenous stories.

Haisla rappers Darren 'Young D' Metz and Quinton 'Yung Trybez' Nyce — a.k.a. Snotty Nose Rez Kids — perform at Indigenous Junior J-School. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"Now, a lot of our people are open about learning the history and the raw history that this country has and you know that's the first step when it comes to reconciling and reconciliation," Metz said.

"First, you've got to understand the raw history that happened. l won't say there's nothing we could do about it, but the first step is understanding and acknowledging what happened and then from there we can really grow."

Students practise reading from a teleprompter during Indigenous Junior J-School. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

For Curr, that growth begins with knowing you have options.

"I think this event is pretty important to show that to Indigenous youth who, like me, have not thought about that before… if you want to tell stories in a different way then this is here for you," she said.

With files from Lien Yeung