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Indigenous-led journalism degree program launches at First Nations University of Canada

Brittany Poitras is a student at First Nations University of Canada, which is launching a new four-year degree program in Indigenous journalism and communication arts. (Vashisth Trivedi/CBC - image credit)
Brittany Poitras is a student at First Nations University of Canada, which is launching a new four-year degree program in Indigenous journalism and communication arts. (Vashisth Trivedi/CBC - image credit)

A new four-year Indigenous journalism and communication arts program launched in Regina this week.

The program, which blends multimedia training with the study of Indigenous issues and languages, is the first of its kind in Canada, said Jacqueline Ottman, First Nations University of Canada president.

"The program … will be the foundation of the Indigenous knowledge system," she said at the program's launch on Monday. "We are already an Indigenized university, so this approach will be purely, as was mentioned again today, decolonizing media."

The first intake of students into the program will be in the fall. It builds on the Indigenous Communications Arts (INCA) program, which has offered a two-year diploma for almost 40 years.

"With that weaving of Indigenous perspectives and really leaning into truth and reconciliation, calls to action for the media, that is again one of those strong pillars for this program," Ottman said.

Shannon Avison, an associate professor in the INCA program, said the degree program has been a dream since the department was first established. Up until now, INCA alumni have had to go to other institutions, such as the journalism program at the University of Regina, to complete their studies.

"We relied on the (University of Regina) school of journalism for a long time, and so the opportunities and the calls to action just really said to us that it is time for the First Nations University to develop a full bachelor of arts program in Indigenous journalism and communication arts," Avison said.

Shannon Avison, an associate professor at First Nations University of Canada, has been a part of the Indigenous Communication Arts program since 1982, when it was first established.
Shannon Avison, an associate professor at First Nations University of Canada, has been a part of the Indigenous Communication Arts program since 1982, when it was first established.

Shannon Avison, an associate professor at First Nations University of Canada, has been a part of the Indigenous Communication Arts program since 1982, when it was first established. (Vashisth Trivedi/CBC)

INCA alumni include Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Connie Walker, CTV assignment editor Nelson Bird, CBC North senior managing director Mervin Brass, SaskCulture outreach specialist Shelly Fayant and Eagle Feather News editor-in-chief Kerry Benjoe.

Avison said the first graduating class of the new degree program will be within a year or two.

"It's a real landmark. We've been waiting for it for 35 years," she said.