How did we ever get here? According to traditional business models, we did everything wrong. Our first issues were sent to the communities we wanted to serve with a few prayers and a lot of hope that they would actually arrive. One community member questioned whether we would be able to find enough news and stories to fill each issue. It turned out that wasn’t a problem. Everyone and their dog had a story or a news tip and it wasn’t possible to print everything that deserved to be brought to our communities’ attention. It still isn’t. Our biggest initial obstacle was financing the next issue and that remains true, at times, even now.
I remember one advertiser who was upset with a story we published, and yes, there was more than one person like that. This advertiser mentioned how much they had paid us over the year. I informed him the integrity of the Nation was not that cheaply purchased. That didn’t mean it wasn’t for sale, however: I told him he could buy control of editorial content for $1 million a year. Thankfully, the offer was not accepted. On the other hand, that money could have paid for one hell of an investigative news story after the year was up. If someone or an organization is willing to pay that much then something needs to be looked at and passed on to our readers.
I use this anecdote to demonstrate that the Nation won’t back down from a story no matter how much it might cost us. That was what made us different. We believed in what we were doing and it was an expensive lesson but we stuck to our guns. Our readers came before any other consideration, and you still do.
At times the Nation was politically, socially and financially ostracized. Dissent within the Cree Nation is sometimes a costly exercise, whether the dissenter is an individual or an organization. We have not been exempt from this but did not let it affect our goal of creating discussion on important issues. That is the purpose of and mission statement of the Nation. It is simply to offer information, ideas and arguments to people so they can make up their own minds on how they want to act on that knowledge.
In our 100th issue Ernest Webb said it best: “One of our goals at the Nation is to introduce a level of dissent so the issues can be discussed. Issues that used to be swept under the rug and allowed to fester. How many times have you heard about someone who is accountable to the people doing something they shouldn’t be doing? How many times have you wished someone did something about it? We are trying to do something. We are trying to do our part. Our part in being a strong Cree Nation.”
We are still trying to follow this path but we also make a point to show what’s good in our culture. We promote role models, programs, achievements, and we celebrate when we overcome challenges placed in our peoples’ and nation’s path.
Five hundred issues seem so like so much work that began so long ago and yet it also feels like we have only just begun. That’s because the reasons we founded the Nation and the goals we made for ourselves have not changed. But during that time we have reported and been a part of the many changes in the Cree Nation. Through it all the Nation has been there, and with your help, we always will be.