Bert Crowfoot’s history in Alberta runs deep, and not only because he is a proud member of the Siksika Nation and the great, great grandson of Chief Crowfoot, signatory of Treaty 7. With over 45 years of journalism experience — much of it at the helm of the same ground-breaking news and information service — Crowfoot is a trailblazer in Indigenous publishing in Canada, and of grassroots media in general, offering perspectives often overlooked by mainstream outlets.
Crowfoot started out as a sports writer, but by the early ‘80s he was editor of an Indigenous-focused publication, entering the media sector that would become his life’s work. In 1983 he founded the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA), an independent non-profit with the mandate of getting pertinent news and information to Indigenous communities. That spring AMMSA started a magazine that would become the society’s flagship publication Windspeaker, which Crowfoot continues online to this day.
Crowfoot’s contributions to Indigenous communities cannot be overstated. His insistence that Windspeaker and AMMSA resist political interference and deliver coverage that not only challenges federal and provincial governments, but holds Indigenous leadership to account as well, has been a game-changer for Indigenous news reporting. Crowfoot has proven that running an independent media organization for 40 years — and an Indigenous one at that — is not only possible, but crucial. He’s had to fight for its existence at times, but they’ve been battles worth waging.
While Windspeaker is an important part of Crowfoot’s legacy, AMMSA also operates four radio stations that cover the province. AMMSA was an early adopter of online technology, launching a website in 1996 and digitizing Windspeaker’s back issues in 2000. Crowfoot has an archive of Indigenous film and audio pieces that date back many decades, which he’s currently in the process of cataloguing with the help of the University of Alberta. This process will create a trove of rare and invaluable materials that will be forever accessible to future generations.
Crowfoot’s influence extends into non-Indigenous publishing circles as well. He’s one of the signatories on AMPA’s certificate of incorporation. He mentors and teaches journalists and helps to Indigenize journalism training programs. His work acts as an ongoing example of what can be achieved when a publisher sticks to his vision and values and refuses to give up. Crowfoot is an inspiration to any publisher looking to make a real difference in Alberta and Canada.