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In a new summer issue, Harvard’s Nieman Reports features my essay about my personal experiences with community and journalism. I trace my views on community-based story-telling from my early days in journalism and independent documentary film-making to my current work  with HIGHRISE and Filmmaker-in-Residence at the National Film Board of Canada. Here’s an excerpt:


When Community and Journalism Converge

‘… I am bypassing the predictable, often sensational headlines to explore the profound ways that digital storytelling can be a force for political mediation.’

By Katerina Cizek

I encountered journalism on the day I came to understand the word “community.”

It was my first assignment as a student photojournalist and I was behind the barricades in Quebec at what became known as the Oka Crisis. It was the summer of 1990, and the news media were watching the military showdown between the Canadian armed forces and a Mohawk community.

The confrontation involved plans to expand a municipal golf course onto an ancient Mohawk burial ground. This standoff, which some consider Canada’s Wounded Knee, lasted two and a half months. When it was over, so much had changed, including the political balance between First Nations and the federal government.

As the day turned to dusk, it was clear that I would remain at the standoff through the night. A few members of the Mohawk Warrior Society had pulled up plastic lawn chairs around a rabbit-eared television directly behind the barricade of overturned police vehicles and large branches. They were watching the evening news. They invited me to join them, and when I did I saw that Alanis Obomsawin, a First Nations Abenaki documentary filmmaker, was there to document this crisis through her own eyes for the National Film Board of Canada.

One hundred meters down the road and behind the barricades, military guns were aimed in the community’s direction and ready to be fired. Army helicopters buzzed above. Like the military, the Warriors had weapons. But there were unarmed women and children present as well.

As I watched TV with the Warriors, I came to realize how divergent the mainstream representation of this armed conflict was from what I was witnessing. That evening I heard about unresolved land claims and the abuse of power through the centuries as non-Natives encroached on First Nations lands. There were among the mainstream media some well-established members who expressed views about this mistreatment—a view I shared. Later, they were accused of Stockholm syndrome.

read the rest here.

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