Muscowpetung Sask. man becomes first graduate of new journalism program at First Nations University of Canada

Cole Cappo graduated in Sept. with the first ever Indigenous Journalism and Communications Certificate. (Submitted by Candace Cappo - image credit)
Cole Cappo graduated in Sept. with the first ever Indigenous Journalism and Communications Certificate. (Submitted by Candace Cappo - image credit)

Cole Cappo, from Muscowpetung Saulteaux Nation, became the first graduate of the Indigenous journalism communications certification program at the First Nations University of Canada this fall.

Now he wants to pursue a journalism degree.

"I want to share First Nations perspectives from a young man that grew up and was raised on the rez," he said. "That's what I'm trying to bring."

Cappo, 29, was diagnosed with MS when he was 15-years-old and has mobility issues.

He lives 45 minutes outside of Regina and when classes are in person he has a harder time getting to school due to his wheelchair and how far he has to commute.

Through the pandemic, remote classes helped him work towards the certificate he earned.

So did the support of his family and Shannon Avison, associate professor for the Indigenous Communication Arts program (INCA) at the First Nations University of Canada.

"I have a supportive network of family and friends who take care of me and support me, that's how I get through school. With my family and friends," Cappo said.

'Absolutely fearless'

Avison said she really got to know Cappo over the years he spent at First Nations University of Canada and learned how hard he worked to stay on top of everything — including teaching his family and friends the ins and outs of his projects.

When it comes to asking questions and learning, Avison said Cappo isn't afraid to ask questions others might not ask. His genuine curiosity makes him a good journalist and interviewer, she said.

"Cole is absolutely fearless and not self-conscious at all," she said. "He's really wonderful."

Submitted by Candace Cappo
Submitted by Candace Cappo

When he first graduated from the program Cappo said he didn't quite grasp the importance of his accomplishment until many people started congratulating him.

"It's cool to be talked up as the only graduate, that's cool," he said. "It was definitely an accomplishment but I'm not done with university."

INCA eyes Bachelor program

Avison said the certificate program Cappo went through is a stepping stone to earning a diploma and eventually a degree.

In the future, she hoped to see an INCA create a Bachelor's program so more aspiring journalists could learn about Indigenous journalism at the First Nations University of Canada.

Earlier this month, the University of Regina's School of Journalism announced it would pause enrolment for the upcoming fall semester.

"The argument has always been 'well, you don't need to do that because there's already a program at the School of Journalism,'" she said.

"[The journalism school announcement] kind of opens up an opportunity for us."

Avison said the announcement left a few INCA students who had planned on applying to the journalism school "in a lurch" and may have done the same for others interested in journalism.

However, Avison said there are classes rolling out in Indigenous community radio, collaborative investigative journalism, and Indigenous digital content through INCA too.

"The pre-journalism students who wanted to go to JSchool in the fall, they can take our courses, First Nations University courses are open to everybody."