The power of broadcasting positive indigenous stories


I love being an entrepreneur.

Why? Because every day, for me, is an opportunity. An opportunity to connect, to help someone, to make a small difference. Maybe that sounds corny, and if so I don’t care. It also happens to be the truth. Being an entrepreneur is simply a mindset of looking at the world as one big opportunity.

What’s not to like about that?

Each day, I try to send an email or make a phone call to someone I truly believe I can help. I’m not talking about cold-calling or pitching or lead generation. I’m talking about giving my best ideas to people who I am confident could put them to practical use. I routinely give away ideas that could potentially be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Maybe that sounds arrogant. If so, understand that I have decades of experience at what I do. I have worked in my field a long time, and I’ve studied it carefully. I’ve had great mentors. I think constantly about my industry. Every day I am working to get better.

You can’t buy expertise on the cheap. It’s valuable.

If you give your expertise away, in the hope it will make something positive happen, sometimes people will like your ideas so much they’ll hire you. Sometimes however they’ll say “thank-you,” and that will be the end of that.

Thing is, a nice thank-you email makes my day.

Here’s where I’m going with this. I have an idea that I know is game-changing, and I’m going to tell you what it is.

Actually, I’m surprised no one is doing it already. You see, I have the privilege and pleasure of working with a lot of energetic, driven, successful, and goal-oriented people. The kind of people who get things done.

All of my clients are Aboriginal. They work in a wide variety of fields, from health-care to finance to investing to the arts. Some of my clients are charities, some are for-profit, some are governments, some are NGOs. Some are business-oriented, others are more focused on their traditional cultures. They all have one thing in common, and it’s this:

They are trying to help people, and they are making a positive difference.

All of them have the same complaint. They all say that the media only pay attention to negative stories about indigenous people. Positive stories, they say, are ignored. No one ever gets to hear about indigenous successes. Only misery and poverty and failure make the news.

They’re right. The media are failing.

We native people are just as guilty as the mainstream media. Think about it. Whenever we want to drum up support for our causes, what do we do? We talk about our problems and challenges. We make lists of grievances. We quote the horrible statistics. We try to make people angry and sad and outraged, in the belief that these are the best ways to inspire action.

I see it all the time. I’ve even been guilty of it myself.

Then one day I realized that even though the bad news was all true, no one was truly listening anymore. It’s not anyone’s fault. The truth is that you can only hear the same tragic story so many times before you stop actually hearing it. Unconsciously, you shut down. You decide nothing will ever change.

Face it. There’s nothing new or surprising about a sad story involving indigenous people in Canada.

Everyone pretty much expects it. After a while, the tsunami of bad news is paralyzing. A feeling of inevitability seeps in. What’s the point? Nothing can be done, and nothing will ever change.

That brings me to my radical, outside-the-box, man-bites-dog idea. Here it is….

Positive stories.

Behind the scenes I am quietly starting a revolution. I’m giving everyone I come into contact with a strategic pathway. Not just an idea, but a plan. Why? Because I believe that we’ve been making, and we continue to make, an easily-avoidable communication mistake.

A mistake with a huge opportunity cost.

The astonishing thing is that the positive stories are already out there. So are the means to broadcast them. For example: anyone with a laptop could start a curated website or app like Digg, Flipboard, or Boing Boing, focusing on positive indigenous news stories. I am 100% confident that a site like that would be hugely successful.

Instead of paralyzing people with an endless stream of the depressing and frustrating news we’ve all come to hate, we could energize and mobilize people around hopeful messages of transformation.

All we need is to put the pieces together, in a strategic way, and that’s what I’m showing people how to do.

Speaking of positive broadcasting, watch for the next issue of the Journal of Aboriginal Management, out next week. (The picture above is the cover.)

I am the editor of this unique magazine focusing on excellence in Aboriginal finance and management. It’s just one of the vehicles out there providing an alternative to the failed mainstream media.


Residential Schools: now an ebook

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Good news today. Residential Schools, With the Words and Images of Survivors will soon be available as an electronic book, suitable for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, laptop, or smartphone.

Read the ebook on the bus. Or the subway. Or wherever. It’s just like the print book, but better:

  • 76 pages longer
  • enhanced with video and audio
  • additional, high-res images
  • reproduction of the 1932 Coqualeetza Indian Residential School commencement program
  • … and more

Residential Schools is a unique work. Why do I say this?

It’s comprehensive. The book begins with a look at life before the residential schools.

It’s accessible. You can give it to anyone: a grade five student, a new Canadian, a Survivor, a teacher. Everyone will find something of value in this book.

It’s written in simple, clear, and unadorned English. I have been writing about residential schools for over 20 years, and so have my co-authors Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden. We worked very hard to get the tone and detail just right.

Decades of learning how to speak to Canadians of all ages about residential schools have gone into this book.

Larry Loyie is himself a survivor. He and his partner Constance have visited dozens of schools over the years, to talk to the young about his life in an Indian residential school.

For almost fifteen years, I worked for an agency called the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. When I started, in 1999, few Canadians had even heard of Indian residential schools. It was my job to change that.

It’s not just another archive-based book. Yes, I have done a ton of archival research. But for this book I wanted something different, and so did my co-authors. Residential Schools contains not just the words of former students, but images and objects.

There are things in this book you will not see in any other residential school book, like photos taken in the schools by the children themselves. That alone makes this book special.

When you put all of this together—the engaging tone, the comprehensiveness, the decades of research, the contributions of Survivors, the unique images—you have a book like no other.

My vision for this book has always been that it will one day be in every library and every classroom. I believe that this book is one of the best resources available to educate today’s young people about the Indian Residential School System.

Residential Schools is a Finalist for the 2015 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction and a 2016 Nominee for the Golden Oak award in Ontario’s Forest of Reading program.

Both the print and digital version of the book are published by GoodMinds, in Brantford, Ontario. You’ll find the print version in many bookstores.

You can also order the book from the publisher’s website: — for ordering information
Tel: 1 877 862 8483
Also: Jeff Burnham, publisher, Indigenous Education Press /
Tel: 519 761 0366

GoodMinds specializes in wholesale supply to educational institutions. But you can also order books as an individual, by credit card.

Jeff Burnham is a bit old school. The best way to order is to phone toll-free. Jeff, or one of his team, will take all the info and fill your order promptly.