Source: VICE News

Hungry for Identity: VICE News Explores Aboriginal Gangs in Winnipeg

Chelsey Luger
7/10/14

In Winnipeg, many First Nations peoples are entrenched in a devastating culture of gang violence, and VICE News took to the streets of the city to figure out why. The result is a 16-minute documentary, every bit as revealing and heartbreaking as you might imagine. VICE is known for their raw and non-sugarcoated reporting style, and the producers on this piece prioritized getting the real story from all perspectives.

Always curious about non-Native media’s forays into Native news, I spoke to the producer, Nilo Tabrizy—a former colleague of mine at NowThis News—about her experience working on the piece.

As an Iranian Canadian you come from an interesting background yourself. A lot of us journalists report on things that we are passionate about or things that strike a chord with our emotions. On a personal level, what drew you to creating this piece?

The Aboriginal community in Canada doesn’t get enough media coverage into the depths of their issues. Even though I grew up in Vancouver and there are reserves within the city, First Nations people are a community I don’t know much about, and of course I want to know more. I’m really drawn to stories that people don’t cover and I’m lucky to be at VICE where we are able to cover stories that are largely ignored by mainstream media.

How much time did you spend reporting in Manitoba?

We spent a week in freezing cold February in Winnipeg and then another week shooting in May.

Source: VICE News

And how big was your crew?

We were a small crew—which was better because the community was hard to get access to, and we wanted to build trust—especially being that none of us were First Nations or Metis.

That brings me to my next question. How did you find these gang members to interview?

Facebook. They all have Facebook. But also a guy named Larry Morissette, who was a really helpful social worker who introduced us to some of the characters. His family is gang affiliated, he grew up in Winnipeg, and he does a lot of work helping ex gang members get jobs and rebuild their lives, so he has an established level of trust with the community.

Where else did you get your background information from?

I read a book called Indians Wear Red about Aboriginal gang violence which was really helpful and it informed a lot of my research. I also reached out to a lot of community based organizations—groups that work with neighborhoods where there’s a lot of gang activity. And the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg was incredibly helpful.

Source: VICE News

Okay, last question. The nature of this story is obviously tragic, but was there anything you you learned about Native culture through the course of your reporting that struck you as particularly interesting or positive?

I was really lucky that I got to actually experience a side of Native culture that I never have before. I learned about tobacco offering, so when I met with Eric [the elder interviewed in the piece] the first thing I did was give him an offering of tobacco to show that my intentions were pure. Eric brought the story to a really interesting place in terms of culture, and his personal story really informed my understanding of what was going on. He was so understanding, and I couldn’t believe the way in which he was totally okay with explaining every single question I had, because there was so much I didn’t know. I felt really lucky to get the chance to speak with him. We also went to a memorial feast, which we didn’t film out of respect, for a gang member who was killed last year, and so I felt very lucky to partake and be included and welcomed into the culture in that experience.

* * *

Gang activity is a side of Native life that I, and many other Natives, have never really witnessed and certainly don’t know much about. On a personal level, the video opened my eyes wider than I imagined it would. The Anishinaabe side of my family and our tribal homelands are only a short drive from Manitoba, but gang violence like this is something that I’ve never seen. But it’s an important issue to us all, and a harrowing reminder of the devastating legacy which residential schools, colonization, and identity struggles have left in our communities. So, no matter which part of Indian country you hail from, I suggest you check out the piece:

Chelsey Luger is from the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe & Standing Rock Lakota Nation in North Dakota. An alumna of Dartmouth College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she lives in New York City and remains an avid student of global indigenous politics and history. She hopes to play her role as a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for Native health and wellness. Follow her on instagram at chelswhoelse or twitter @CPLuger.

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indianmedicine's picture
indianmedicine
Submitted by indianmedicine on
Good Tread Presentation, reinforcing the concept of "People Doing People Things" without regard to specific ethnic makeup.............................. .................................................................................................................. Including the interview of the former Homicide Investigator helped corroborate the statements of the "Gang Members"............................................... .................................................................................................................. The relationship of the Euro-American and the Euro-Canadian are the same Social Model - Red Ethnic Poverty and Social Classes established in The Americas................................................................................................. .................................................................................................................. I can appreciate the Objectivity of Ms. Luger in presenting equal attention to the parties involved in this Canadian Social Puzzle................................. ................................................................................................................. How do you rehabilitate the inequities of a Society against a directed Population of Aboriginal First Peoples?............................................. ................................................................................................................. What does have to happen, is ALL "Red Peoples" must become more sophisticated in the Economics in their immediate geopolitical locations if they really want to make a difference in themselves, their Communities, and their People..................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................. How is that done ? Serious Education, Training Skills, and Personal/Professional Abilities that also develop personal dignity. .................................................................................................................

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
indianmedicine that is a gross oversimplification of what really needs to happen in order to solve this problem. The answer is not to "follow the white man's way of living." or "educate themselves in the economics of their immediate geo-political locations." The answer and solution which will probably never occur is for racism to be curbed and by racism I don't mean individual comments, I mean the systematic instilling of social norms within society that lead to racial segregation for there to be any differences between being a person of color or not "white privilege." Natives need more of their own schools teaching their own principles and culture but instead many are following the way of the whites. Over indulging on television, eating in unhealthy ways, following christianity, assimilating and going to white mans schools because they think it's easier and it's the only way to get along or get by. Many aren't even aware of what's out there and what's available to them. Not becoming self sufficient or learning how to be self sufficient and not from the sense of watching television and watching the trends on television of self sufficiency. Becoming self sufficient without consumerism. There are many ways to educate yourself other than college and there are many ways to make money helping other people without needing the mainstream professional skills. By rejecting the system you are doing more good than going along. They feel oppressed because of society and that is why it continues. Society doesn't allow you to be indigenous in the 21st Century to the point that Natives turn in on themselves and are ashamed to practice their beliefs and to be themselves. It's a systematic destruction of our way of life and was designed that way on purpose by the oppressors in order to steal land and use our resources. If more Natives continue to spread knowledge and be a champion of their culture and continue to be warriors and stand up for their people and spread knowledge about their culture and traditions in a peaceful way and organize and become active in protests against Native injustices and teach their children that will give them dignity. These people that join gangs don't feel safe and don't feel like they have any where to turn to talk to anyone and they need to reel their culture back in to realize who they are and they are doing exactly what the white man wants them to do. People do care about them and people do want to see Natives come back to life so to speak. They just need more support and more ways to learn about their culture so that they are proud to be Native and they need to start going to Pow Wows and Indian Relay and join Stick ball or something like that so they can see that their culture is alive and they have support at these places where they can talk to people.If parents keep them active in these things and be around people like them more often it would keep them out of trouble. People need to tell their children stories about war and the reason not to repeat their mistakes and about consequences. Give children things to do in communities but it's going to take the people making change. Even though a lot of our cultures have been erased or nearly erased for some tribes we can start new traditions to hand down to the future generations.

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
The root is not the poverty. The root is the government that did this to the people which caused the poverty and caused them to be oppressed. It's also the majority of society which are go alongs and believe everything they are told.

Mojaverat's picture
Mojaverat
Submitted by Mojaverat on
@choctawgirl What does being Christian have to do with being white? I am Mexican Catholic and my families Christian hertiage goes back hundreds of years. Christianity was founded by Arab Jews, plus there are millions of Christians worldwide who are not white. I don't get it, you talk about ending racism but make a blacket statement judging alot of people you never meet. But alot of your ideas I do agree with in ending gang violence. The biggestest key to stopping gang culture is familia.
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