Wiikwemkoong launches talk show

WIIKWEMKOONG—A new talk show called ‘Aambe Giigididaa Wiikwemkoong – Let’s Talk Wiikwemkoong’ is aiming to bring news and views to the people of the community and beyond through distribution on WikyTV5, online video and an audio podcast, hosted by Wiikwemkoong’s own Kerry Assiniwe who brings an extensive media background to the new project.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do as a volunteer working with FirstTel because of my journalism background and my role in communications within the community,” Ms. Assiniwe told The Expositor.

Although discussions about launching such a show far predate it, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the community’s need for a dedicated information source that is separate from the unregulated world of social media.

The communications working group in the band office has been a strong supporter of the project. The show retains full editorial independence as a “voice of the community and the citizens of Wiikwemkoong.”

“We’ve been talking about this in Wiiky since way before COVID-19 happened, with the communications working group out of the band office,” she said. “We have two camera people and most of the production is done by Kyle Corston; he’s there on contract until March.”

Mr. Corston works at FirstTel by way of a Local Journalism Initiative grant organized through the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS), the same type of funding that allowed The Expositor to hire Lori Thompson as a dedicated court and climate change reporter.

His mandate includes producing journalism content and training others in such techniques within the areas of Wiikwemkoong, Assiginack and other First Nations in the District of Manitoulin.

Ms. Assiniwe has taken up the show hosting duties on a voluntary basis in addition to her job in media and communications at Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre.

It’s a return to a personal area of interest and expertise for the Wiikwemkoong woman who spent many years working in journalism and broadcasting. She began as a summer student at MCTV (now CTV Northern Ontario) in Sudbury in 1994 and stayed there until 2001, ultimately getting trained on videojournalism, producing, editing and anchoring news.

Ms. Assiniwe has further worked in radio and freelance print journalism before transitioning into communications work and serving on various boards including Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Union of Ontario Indians and in Wiikwemkoong.

“I believe there’s so much to showcase and bring to light,” she said. “There’s a lot of things in the community that we can bring to the forefront and give insights into our community, and then even just beyond to things like community progress, economic development and job creation. There’s so many facets that can be covered.”

She created a Facebook page for the show to share its content, interact with community members and learn what they wish to see featured on the program. Wiikwemkoong also created an official email account for inquiries to the show, WUT-TalkShow@wiikwemkoong.ca.

“What I’d like to see out of this is to engage the community to get involved in community development and decision-making. Simply by reaching out to them and saying, ‘do you have a story, do you think something would make a good feature, or what are your ideas,’ that’s engaging them to become more part of the community,” she said.

Since the launch of the first episode last week, feedback from both near and far community members has been positive, including comments from a Wiikwemkoong citizen in Ottawa.

The show begins with a song by Jason Manitowabi called ‘Unceded,’ which Ms. Assiniwe described as a perfect match, especially because of its local connection. ‘

Aambe Giigididaa Wiikwemkoong’ is currently on a bi-weekly release schedule.

FirstTel TV5 manager Chuck Peltier said he was pleased to see the project hit the airwaves.

“It gives people more insight on what is going on in the community itself; if they have questions about what’s going on in the community they can bring their discussion and topic ideas to Kerry and she can bring special guests on certain topics of discussion,” he said.

Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier, the first guest of the program, expressed gratitude to Ms. Assiniwe and the opportunities that this program would bring to his citizens.

“It’s very exciting to be part of this inaugural talk show, ‘Aambe Giigididaa’,” he said. “This is something that we’ve always wanted to do and I want to thank you as well as FirstTel for taking the initiative in putting this show together.”

The first episode included discussions of the community’s COVID-19 response, the elections that took place earlier in the year within Wiikwemkoong, what the idea of nationhood means to the community’s leader and reflections on Remembrance Day and local veterans.

Episode two will focus on Anishinaabemowin and the rejuvenation and preservation of language through a discussion with Brian Peltier.

“It’s so integral because we’re losing a lot of our fluent speakers,” said Ms. Assiniwe. “It’s really about bringing awareness, education and information to community members both who live in Wiiky and outside the community.”

Future goals for the show are to get more youth involved in the production so they can job shadow with experienced mentors, possibly even hosting segments on the show. Ms. Assiniwe said she also wanted to see elders involved, whether as hosts, guests or advisors. She added that she wants to explore ways to enhance the set in future episodes to make it more colourful.

To watch episodes of ‘Aambe Giigididaa Wiikwemkoong’ outside of its television distribution within the community, visit the FirstTelTV5 YouTube channel or search for the show’s page on Facebook.