Kelly Boutsalis

Meet Kelly Boutsalis, The Narwhal’s first Indigenous Journalism Fellow

She's written about nostalgic fashion and named her child after a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, so get ready

Here at The Narwhal, we’re beside-ourselves-excited to introduce Kelly Boutsalis as the recipient of our inaugural Indigenous Journalism Fellowship.

Originally from the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in southwestern Ontario, Boutsalis now lives in Toronto where she writes on topics as diverse as parenting, Indigenous cultural revival and aging for Elle, Chatelaine, NOW Magazine and VICE.

We caught up with Boutsalis to learn more about the woman behind the journalism as she digs into her first in-depth feature for The Narwhal.

Q. What’s one defining feature about you as a journalist?

A. I write positive stories about Indigenous people, particularly in outlets where it isn’t the status quo.

Q. Is there a time over your career as a journalist that you can remember something really surprising you?

A. How hungry outlets are for Indigenous reporters and writers, honestly. It’s great for me, and for other amazing Indigenous journalists out there — Tanya Talaga, Alicia Elliott to name just a few — and it speaks to how much our stories haven’t been valued before and how times are, hopefully, changing.

Q. What’s one of your favourite pieces of journalism from 2019? Why?

A. The New York Times Magazine story that followed a handful of people trying to escape the wildfire in Paradise, California.

It was claustrophobic and terrifyingly visceral. Also, anything that the incredibly smart, talented and funny Scaachi Koul, Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Caity Weaver write.

Q. What do you think are some of the particular challenges when it comes to reporting on Indigenous stories in Canada? And within those challenges do you see opportunities?

A. Many stories about Indigenous people often don’t include Indigenous sources and that’s been a problem for a very long time, that other people are telling our stories.

I think Indigenous knowledge is often dismissed as not being “expert” enough, but those voices are so important to include and that’s something I strive to do, to see the value of our stories, our experience, and our lives and put that into media.

Q. Without giving away any surprises, can you give a hint about the upcoming feature you’re going to write for The Narwhal?

A. One hint is that it came from a nugget from my favourite journalism from the year.

Q. Can you string together a list of random facts about yourself?

A. Went zip-lining the day after I got married; despite my numerous attempts to learn how, I cannot drive; named my child after a member of the Wu-Tang Clan; I have a tattoo of a dolphin I keep as a cautionary tale; and I once slipped on a discarded banana peel in a parking lot.

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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