By Clint Buehler
YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. – “Life’s an adventure,” says Carol Morin. And she doesn’t want to miss any of it.
That’s why the recipient of the 2009 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media and Communications has her fingers in more pies than she has fingers.
She is—or has been—a law student, journalist, broadcaster, actor, singer, drummer, novelist, children’s and short story writer, poet, aspiring playwright, visual artist, and cultural activist—Carol does it all. She also finds time to be a wife, and mother to her three children, a 13-year-old son and 11-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.
She is currently the Lifestyles producer for CBC Northbeat although her responsibilities may change as the CBC reorganizes its activity in the north.
How does she do it all? “I don’t sleep,” she says, only partly jokingly. “But life is such an adventure that I don’t want to miss anything.”
That attitude has led her on an incredible life journey of achievement and recognition.
As someone who didn’t connect with her Aboriginal identity and culture until she was an adult, celebrating those has become an important—even essential—part of her life.
Adopted as a young child by Joe and Dorothy Adams, she grew up with no sense of her Aboriginal identity, and no knowledge of Aboriginal history or culture. Her adoptive parents did, however, reinforce her self esteem and encourage her to pursue her dreams.
One of those dreams was to become a journalist and broadcaster.
Along the way she would strengthen her credentials and credibility with formal training and education: Law studies at the University of New Brunswick and the University of Saskatchewan; acting workshops at the University of Calgary; voice training at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Calgary’s One World Drum Company; Cree language at Calgary’s Plains Indian Cultural School; drama at the University of Saskatchewan; creative writing at the University of Regina, and radio and television at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary.
And that formal education was pursued while she was building her career as a journalist and broadcaster.
Carol was one of the first—if not the first—Aboriginal person to embark on a career in southern Canada in television broadcasting when she was hired as a journalist by CKCK TV in Regina in 1983.
Later, experiencing some ups and downs as a freelance broadcaster for the CBC in New Brunswick, she decided to study law at the University of New Brunswick, eventually becoming the first Aboriginal woman to become a Lay Bencher with the Law Society of Manitoba.
But her other lives dominated in serendipitous ways. Walking down the hall at the CBC in Calgary, she was interrupted by a group of Aboriginal women who said, “you’re perfect.” They thought she was auditioning for a role in Thomas King’s “Borders,” a movie-of the week in the CBC’s “Four Directions” project. She auditioned successfully beginning a three-year sojourn as an actress on television and on stage in Calgary.
Returning to broadcasting, Carol’s work has garnered numerous awards, including: Best Newscast—Prairie Region—by the RTNDA in 2005 & 2006: Best Television News Anchor, Manitoba Film and Television Industry; and Best Producer, Best Feature Story, Best Live Coverage and General Excellence, by the Native American Journalists Association. She has been inducted into the Northwest Territories Hall of Fame, has been nominated for a Prairie Music Award for her CD of Aboriginal women’s drum songs, and has received writer’s grants from the Canada Council and the Northwest Territories government.
She says the turning point in her life came when she was working on a documentary on acclaimed Cree artist Allan Sapp. “He knew I was a young Cree who knew nothing about being Cree. He said three words to me that changed my life: ‘You should learn.’”
From that moment Carol began almost obsessively to explore her identity, her history and culture, and to find ways to acknowledge, preserve and express them. And she has passed that passion on to her children, whom she considers “my greatest achievement.
“I’m so blessed by my amazing children, who all love music and excel at playing the fiddle. Each is rooted in, and proud of, their Aboriginal culture. I think that is an important point to make because—having been scooped up—I was supposed to become totally assimilated, be forevermore ashamed of being an Indian and turn away from my culture.
“The opposite happened. I am therefore a failed experiment. Good.
“And now as a parent, my greatest pleasure is knowing that my own children are growing rooted, and proud, and participating and learning—thereby strengthening. You have no idea how cool that is for me.
“I suppose, to a very large extent, the reason I remain focussed is because I don’t just want to ‘say’ to any child, ‘you can become . . . ‘ I would rather show them. And has that road been easy? No way! But it’s been worth it—and I will keep going.”
Carol is a jingle dress dancer, a Native singer and drummer with produced CDs of drum songs. She is involved in inspiring women in the Northwest Territories to return to the drum. She has performed at various festivals, including the Open Sky Festival in Fort Simpson and Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife, as well as at Sombe K’e Park in Yellowknife during National Aboriginal Day celebrations.
As Carol Todd, herself an accomplished Aboriginal communicator, wrote in her letter in support of Carol’s nomination: “As she has assumed greater journalistic responsibilities and an ever stronger broadcast presence, her pride in her heritage has also grown stronger and richer. Through her work, Ms. Morin not only brings the news, but offers a shining example to other Aboriginal people.
“The image of an Aboriginal woman delivering the news through the visual medium of television carries a strong message of hope to young Aboriginal people, especially women, in and of itself. When that woman is also a superior broadcast journalist, the message is even more powerful: That a personcan succeed in the tough, ratings driven world of broadcast journalism while retaining their identity and pride as an Aboriginal person.”