Arnold "Pravda/Tass" Asham
Tansi/Good Day Folks:
The following article appeared recently in the Cree Opaskwayak Nation newspaper Natotawin News
a twice weekly publication (circulation over 2,500) operating for over 25 years in The Pas. I guess Mr. Kehler won't be working again for Grassroots News
anytime soon. A special thank you to the reader who sent the electronic link.
Clare L. Pieuk
---------------------------------------------------------------------------The World Of Aboriginal Media In Manitoba
Special Guest Editorial R. Irwin Kehler
May 12, 2006
I wonder sometimes about how much the general public, or particularly, the Aboriginal public may know of what is actually going on behind the scenes in the Aboriginal media world? Take for example, my recent visit to The Pas Regional Office of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF).
In a discussion with an employee there I asked a kind young lady if she knew anything about how much the MMF Head Office pays one particular Aboriginal newspaper to print news in its centre spread pages. She shook her head and stated she did not know. I informed that from my information the MMF Head Office regularly paid this newspaper every fiscal year (April 1) an amount in excess of $50,000. Furthermore, this amount did not include the additional advertising dollars spent by the MMF Head Office in this publication for other activities which from my knowledge exceeds an amount over $100,000 per annum.
The thing that I pointed out was intriguing in this business arrangement was the simple fact that from my knowledge, of all the seven MMF Regional Offices in Manitoba, there is no advertising budget allocated in their budgets - they don't have a need in The Pas or Thompson or Brandon to promote their own regional interests?
For me as a permanent member of the MMF, the $100,000 plus earmarked by the MMF for just one Aboriginal publication must be examined closer by the Metis people of Manitoba and they must be allowed to know how and why this business plan has been set up the way it is. That is my opinion as a guest editor.
Another situation that shows the behind the scenes activities of the Aboriginal media and the way it delivers information to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, of the province. I attended a Chiefs' conference at the Opaskwayak Cree Nation one year recently. I was doing coverage for the MKO Newsletter
at the time. I had signed a 3 issue agreement with MKO Grand Chief Sidney Garnoch and MKO Projects Advisor Ken Henry and Arnold Asham, Publisher of one of the Aboriginal newspapers whereby I would sell advertising for the MKO Newsletter
and also write its articles.
At the time I was attending the Manitoba Chiefs' conference at the Kikiwak Inn, I had a meeting with Steve Clarke who was Executive Director of the MKO Secretariat. One of the things Steve had suggested to me in an earlier meeting at the MKO Offices was that I do work with MKO on their newsletter and that "we don't need" Arnold Asham of Grassroots News
. So I had told him that I was doing the third installment of the MKO Newsletter
, as per agreement, and that I would consider doing the MKO Newsletter
by myself with MKO after I honoured the original agreement with the MKO Grand Chief and Ken Henry.
Well the interesting thing is that after I had a special meeting with Ken Henry, Arnold Asham, and Michael Jerch, Legal Counsel of MKO was in attendance, of course, Arnold Asham blew his top and Grassroots
would not be dropped from the agreement. So I felt good about calling the meeting and working out an effort we all could live with.
Eventually, Steve Clark met with Arnold Asham of Grassroots News
and I was dropped from the agreement and Steve Clarke would not authorize me to put out the third issue that I was working on for the MKO and he subsequently signed an agreement with Arnold Asham whereby Arnold would do eight more issues fo the MKO newsletter ..... that's how the Aboriginal media works. This is one of my experiences and this is truly how our Aboriginal media is employed ..... Dog eat dog!
Another situation, I created the Southern Chiefs' Newsletter
under former SCO Grand Chief Bill Traverse and I distributed the first issue at an SCO Chiefs' Summit in Dauphin, Manitoba. I hitched a ride back to Winnipeg from Dauphin with MKO man Joe Guy Wood and SCO Fisheries Director Pascal Bighetty (current Chief of Mathias Colombe), I had a chance during this trip to ask some questions from these "old political vets" of Manitoba Aboriginal politics and I remember asking Joe Guy what he thought of Phil Fontaine and his answer, "I think one word to describe Phil is "......."
Man that was an interesting response! I asked Joe Guy what he meant and I recall him stating that once he sets his mind on something there is no way in H to get him to change his mind! Anyway, after Bill left as SCO Grand Chief, Margaret Swan was elected to take over. I got a call from the new SCO Executive Director at the time to do another issue of the SCO Newsletter
under the new SCO Grand Chief. I acquiesced.
Fast forward to 2004 where I was producing the MKO Newsletter
with Arnold Asham that I seek approval from SCO to do their newsletter again and produce it as in a 24 page newspaper format like I was doing with the MKO Newsletter
. At the time, Chris Henderson, SCO Communications Officer was interested. I even arranged a discussion between SCO acting Grand Chief Norman Bone, Arnold and myself to move the plan ahead. Chris ignored me for certain reasons.
Eventually, Chris ran as a candidate for the SCO Grand Chief position and won. On the first day of his term as SCO Grand Chief, Chris was signing an agreement with Arnold at his newspaper office for a whole year of advertising. I had left Winnipeg and was busy on tour for the MKO Newsletter
conducting interviews and business meetings in northern communities. I was left out of the meeting between Chris and Arnold and I got nothing out of it. The point here is ..... that is how the Aboriginal media works in Manitoba.
One other important event has to be discussed herein to see what I am talking about. I recall receiving a letter from Carol Wood of Nisichiwayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) describing her feelings towards the proposed Wuskwatim Hydro Electric projects. She released the letter for publiation and I thought that would be a good "Letter to the Editor" type of story for the MKO Newsletter
- I've written in over 25 local, regional and national publications and I had a good feeling that this would be a great grassroots type of article.
But I was approached by Kevin Mason, Editor of Grassroots News
and he pointed out that I should think twice before printing Carol's letter because it could cause "problems" between MKO Grand Chief Sidney Garrioch and Elvis Thomas of NCN who was a proponent of the hydro projects. By the way, Carol opposes the projects and she is Elvis's sister. Anyway, Kevin Mason in his wisdom somehow convinced me nto to publish Carol's letter in the MKO Newsletter
. My point here? This is the Aboriginal media at its finest whereby we try not to share information that cause rifts between our leaders. They must agree on everything because we're one big happy family! Huh?
I must point out here that I also am very impressed by Arnold's business dealings at Grassroots
and other northern leaders on how they deal with the Aboriginal media and tell it what it should and shouldn't write about. For example, those who are regular readers of Manitoba Aboriginal media publications may recall how after time and time again the Editor of The Drum
newspaper would attack Norway House Chief Ron Evans regarding his work in his local community. It seems The Drum
would eventually be blacklisted by various Aboriginal leaders and communities. What is interesting is that today that same former Editor of The Drum
newspaper is now employed as an Editor for the Grassroots
newspaper, a newspaper that has a signed agreement with MKO News
to regularly publish articles for the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chief, Ron Evans.
I believe that readers of Aboriginal newspapers should take a closer look at how these types of business maneuvering take shape because it is the MMF, AMC, MKO and SCO that financially give the lion's share of advertising dollars to the Grassroots
Do you believe the Grassroots
Newspaper is writing independent articles or is there a possibility that there is influence peddling and meddling of Grassroots
Newspaper in the Aboriginal media of Manitoba. As the writer of this article and these are my comments and statements, not the opinion of Natotawin News
, I am very gracious to have the opportunity to have submitted articles for publication consideration by the new Editor, Mr. Constant, and I hope he does allow my freelance articles to be published in his newspaper for his readership.
If you have any questions about my article, I can be reached at the following contact numbers:
R. Irwin Kehler (204) 283-2456
E-mail: Attention Mr. R. Hehler, firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. I have taken a lot of space in this article. One more thing, I have gone to the big brother newspapers such as the Winnipeg Free Press and I have asked a simple question, "Has the Winnipeg Free Press ever, ever sold their front page for coverage of some special event?" and the response of the journalist whom I was talking to commented that she thought that was, "Out of the question!" I informed her that from my experience and knowledge, the Aboriginal media does that type of thing.
R. Irwin Kehler