The Guide


I’m pretty sure Tonto was the first Indian I ever saw on TV.

The Lone Ranger’s sidekick was a lousy role model for a little Indigenous lad. Tonto wore buckskin, spoke in pidgin English,and existed to serve the needs of “Kemo Sabe.” Adding insult to injury, his name translates into “dummy” in Spanish.

Credit: Bunky Echo Hawk

But, no question, Tonto was indispensable to his masked companion.

I can’t count how many times as a journalist I wished I had a “Tonto” when venturing into an unfamiliar Indigenous community. A partner — who offers advice on the lay of the land, provides wise counsel, helps make my stories better.

Every reporter –– Indigenous or non-Indigenous –– needs a guide.

Welcome to Reporting in Indigenous Communities — an online guide intended to offer you useful ideas and practical methods for finding and developing news stories in “Indian Country” (as we NDNs sometimes refer to the lands we inhabit).

It’s rooted in the Canadian experience, but journalists around the globe may find it useful, when covering Indigenous communities from the Americas to Australia.

The guide is structured into three areas of reporting where journalists face challenges when producing news stories about Indigenous peoples.

1)    AT THE DESK – how to research and pitch stories;
2)    IN THE FIELD – how to gather information for these stories; and
3)    ON THE AIR – how we present stories about Indigenous peoples.

Some advice is mine, based upon my experiences as a TV reporter. But, you, too, can be a RIIC Guide! I know, I know… isn’t it exciting!

Credit: Kevin Drews

  • Offer lessons you’ve learned in the Teachings section.
  • Go to the RIIC News Facebook site or @RIICNews on Twitter to share news stories about Indigenous peoples that inspire you, or stories you’d dump on the cutting room floor.
  • The RIIC Blog is a hungry goat — send your guest blog posts on how journalists can better present Indigenous news.
  • Comment on or share the advice in the RIIC Guide.
  • Keep RIIC looking sharp and fresh, by posting your photos from the field, or helpful links to include in the Additional Resources section, on our Facebook or Twitter site.

Collectively, we can help each other do our jobs better, better serve Indigenous communities, and improve the quality of our news coverage.

As for that thorny issue of terminology — I’m Anishinaabe, as my people call ourselves, from the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation in southern Ontario. The terms I use to describe Native-Aboriginal-First Nations-Indigenous Persons are fluid and depend on the occasion (more on that in the Terminology and Lexicon section).



  • What a fabulous website! The Reporter’s Checklist alone is invaluable.
    It made me realize how we’re all so conditioned to be aware of cultural protocols when it comes to various ethnicities outside of Canada, eg, how to present a business card to someone from Japan, but when it comes to First Nations people, many of us don’t really think about it the same way.
    I’ve done so many stories over the years in Aboriginal communities and I love how you’ve covered everything from common sense recommendations, for example, When you wonder what the appropriate term is to use when refering to Aboriginal people – Answer, why not just ask the people you are interviewing what they prefer, to the more complicated issues like the role of elders, dealing with grief, eye contact, etc.
    In the end, respect is the most important thing any reporter can give to any person of any culture. Your website is a wonderful resource for all of us who want to understand and honour some of the unique values and customs held in Aboriginal communities.


    As a Dene working at the CBC, I get questions from my colleagues about how to approach stories in the North. Half the NWT population is Indigenous, all the small communities are predominately Dene, Metis or Inuit or all three. It gets tiring sometimes, so I appreciate a website where I can now refer them to. Plus the website is able to put into words some of things I just ‘knew’ but couldn’t really vocalize. I can see where this resource can be really useful for all staff working in the North, staff and management. Mahsi cho and keep up the good work.

  • Amos Scott

    I am sharing this with the newsroom at CKLB. The NWT’s first nation radio station run by the Native Communications Society whom I proudly work for. Our news team comes from a variety of places, not many from our indigenous communities. As a former journalist and journalist at at heart, this blog is the best thing I’ve seen in a long a time.