Walking Eagle News: Satirical news with an Indigenous twist

Four months ago, Tim Fontaine was what he calls a “serious journalist” - he was the lead reporter for CBC Indigenous, but he decided to walk away from that to start something new.
Tim Fontaine, who produces Walking Eagle News, a satirical online site featuring, as he says, "the finest in indigenous news," in his hometown of Winnipeg. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Four months ago, Tim Fontaine was what he calls a "serious journalist" — he was the lead reporter for CBC Indigenous, but he decided to walk away from that to start something new. 

That's how Walking Eagle News was born.

It's a satire news page, similar to The Beaverton or The Onion, but with an Indigenous twist.

"I've always considered myself humorous or kind of silly, so it was nice to actually break free … and light my whole journalism career on fire with this site," said Fontaine.

The article Fontaine is most proud of draws from the dark history of human zoos, and jokes that an Indigenous man will be gifted to the new Royal Couple. (Walkingeaglenews.com)

The idea for starting the website came to him after reading Stephen King's book, On Writing.

"He said you just have to keep on writing, and I just expanded on the jokes that I said over the years," said Fontaine.

What's with the name?
Walking Eagle News is satire with an Indigenous twist. (Facebook/Walking Eagle News)

Fontaine said that because he developed the website so quickly, he was pressed to figure out what to call it.

Originally he was going to call it Slop-Pail News, named after portable toilets, but instead drew inspiration from an old joke.

"The punchline of Walking Eagle is basically a bird so full of crap that it can't fly," said Fontaine. "If you understand that joke, or if you're from a certain generation you'll know … this is not meant to be taken seriously."

Satire that's a bit too convincing

Since launching a few weeks ago, articles from the website have been shared thousands of times on social media, and Fontaine says the reaction to the website has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I've had a lot of non-Indigenous people quietly inbox me and say, 'Can I laugh at this?' Yeah of course you can," said Fontaine.

"Because again, we're not the punchline here, it's okay to laugh at the absurdity of the things that [Indigenous people] face."

Despite the absurdity of the articles, some of the stories have hit a bit too close to the truth, confusing some people.

Fontaine says that people online are usually quick to point out that it's satire, but he did end up pulling one story about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

"We did one story about the MMIW inquiry … the story was they called an inquiry into the inquiry, and I thought that was funny," said Fontaine.

"But there were some families that were genuinely confused by that, so I pulled [the story] and apologized. That's a community that's been hurt enough, and even though it wasn't making fun of them, to cause any other even slight discomfort to them, that's not what I'm about."

Reclaiming Indigenous stories through humour

Fontaine said the power of humour and satire is that it gives a platform to Indigenous people to reclaim their stories.

The headline of one of the first articles to get a lot of attention on social media. (Walkingeaglenews.com)

"Our humour, and showing our humour, is a way of letting people know, this is us … we're not all the stoic people that you've seen, we're not the victims you see on TV — we're funny, and humorous, and there's joy in our communities," said Fontaine.

"We are reclaiming our place in this country that we've always had, and humour is one way of doing that … because it is such a big part of who we are."