Indigenous

CBC Indigenous top newsmakers of 2016

Here are the top five stories of 2016, as chosen by editors at CBC Indigenous.

5 stories that made headlines repeatedly throughout the year

From MMIW to Standing Rock, it's been an incredible year in news for Indigenous Peoples. (CBC)

What a year it's been.

A new government's promise of a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples faced its first real tests, the country continued to grapple with what reconciliation really means, the world watched a tiny North Dakota community stand up to a contentious pipeline, and a long-awaited announcement about missing and murdered women and girls had many wondering how that issue would finally be addressed.

Here are the top five stories that made headlines throughout 2016, as chosen by editors at CBC Indigenous.

1. Standing Rock

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the $3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline drew support from across the globe in 2016.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota said no to a multibillion-dollar pipeline they believe threatens their water — and already destroyed sacred and historical sites. 

It's a story many Indigenous people relate to, which is probably why thousands of people from across the globe gathered on land just north of the reservation to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. From First Nations people to Hollywood celebrities, many made the pilgrimage to a massive camp called Oceti Sakowin, which just kept getting bigger and bigger, even as temperatures dropped.

Over 500 people have been arrested in confrontations that sometimes saw police use water hoses in sub-zero temperatures and attacks with guard dogs; one woman nearly lost an arm.


2. Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

From babies to elders, the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is one that has touched all communities in this country. (CBC)
Sadly, this is a story that continues to make headlines year after year.

An arrest was finally made in the high-profile case of Tina Fontaine, two years after her tiny body was pulled from Winnipeg's Red River and allegations of horrific abuse by police against Indigenous women and girls rattled Quebec. 

CBC launched several major projects in 2016 — Unresolved took a second look at cases in which police said there was no foul play, uncovering evidence in some cases of unexplained injuries, suspicious circumstances, failure to interview key witnesses and persons of interest who have never been convicted; CBC's Connie Walker examined an individual case in her groundbreaking podcast series, Who Killed Alberta Williams?

Also, a long-awaited national inquiry into MMIW was finally called on Aug. 3, 2016. The five-member commission, led by Indigenous Judge Marion Buller, is expected to begin hearing from victims' families in spring 2017.

Not soon enough, however, for some families and advocates.
 

3. The suicide 'pandemic'

In some First Nations communities, the suicide rate for children under 15 is more than 50 times the national average. (CBC)
An unbelievable and all-too-familiar tragedy continued to make the news in 2016. From the Arctic to Saskatchewan to Manitoba and northern Ontario and Quebec, children as young as 10 attempted to kill themselves — or succeeded.

The crisis had Ottawa scrambling to provide emergency services and Indigenous communities calling for government to address the root causes. Cree communities in Quebec looked inwards, launching and funding their own inquiry into what they called a suicide pandemic.

4. Reconciliation

For many, Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip and an advocate for First Nations people, widened the conversation about the need for reconciliation in this country. (CBC)
As Canada gets ready to celebrate its 150th birthday, the relationship between this country and Indigenous peoples continued to come under the microscope. On the heels of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report, all levels of government, schools and universities, organizations and individuals made attempts to come together to heal from the destruction caused by a century of Indian residential schools.

While there were many heartwarming stories this year, there was also a B.C. mother who sued a school district for allowing smudging and a Winnipeg city councillor who suggested civic employees should be mowing lawns instead of learning about residential schools, stories some saw as indications that this country has a long wait before reconciliation is truly a reality.

5. New government, new relationship?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, promised to reset the uneven relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
A new Liberal government may have promised to hit reset on the relationship between this country and Indigenous peoples, but time and time again this year, that promise was put to the test. 

From mixed messages about what it really means to accept a long-awaited United Nations declaration to the promise of a renewed fiscal relationship, from a landmark ruling on Métis jurisdiction to the ongoing failure of this country to provide equitable funding to First Nations children, it was a year of hits and misses.

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