Journalist returns home to present ‘Reconciliation in Port Alberni’ piece for Words on Fire event

Sam Laskaris, January 21, 2019

Wawmeesh Hamilton will be at Char's Landing this Thursday to read and discuss one of his favourite stories. (Wonderful Ida photo)

Port Alberni, BC — 

Award-winning journalist Wawmeesh Hamilton will be returning to his hometown later this week to read and discuss one of his favourite articles.

Hamilton, a member of the Hupacasath First Nation, will be the featured reader this Thursday at the Alberni Valley’s Words on Fire event at Char’s Landing in Port Alberni.

Hamilton, who now lives in Vancouver, will read his article titled One town, two worlds: Reconciliation in Port Alberni. The article, which was published this past January, was a collaboration between CBC Indigenous and The Discourse, the two main journalistic ventures where Hamilton’s work appears these days.

“I’ve never done this before,” Hamilton said of his upcoming reading. “I like the challenge of it.”

This won’t be the first time that Hamilton will be discussing his article. Interest in the article previously resulted in a radio interview and a Facebook live event.

While numerous articles have been published about reconciliation efforts in major Canadian cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, Hamilton’s story was different as it focused on a small community.

“I’m proud of the way the whole thing came together,” said Hamilton, a 54-year-old writer who specializes in reconciliation and Indigenous issues. “I didn’t put a knife into the small town.”

While working on his story, Hamilton visited the Port Alberni grounds where his parents went to residential school.

“I’m proud of having gone there,” he said. “I went to interview a source as a journalist. I didn’t go as a son looking to see what his parents had gone through. A flood of feelings came that I was able to hold in check.”

Hamilton said the article he will be reading is indeed one of his proudest journalistic moments.

“It ranks up there,” he said. “But I’m proud of every story I’ve ever completed.”

Hamilton is also curious to see what Port Alberni residents think of the story.

“There was a lot of shares of the story,” he said. “But I didn’t get a lot of feedback about it.”

Hamilton’s story, however, was indeed an eyeopener for many.

“It launched or sparked a national conversation about what reconciliation looks like in small-town communities,” he said. “It became part of an editorial in the Toronto Star and how they are ignored. When you can effect that kind of change, that’s something to be proud of.”

Hamilton had worked for the Alberni Valley News as a reporter and photographer from late 2006 up until the summer of 2014.

“That’s where I really got my grounding in journalism,” said Hamilton, who went on to earn a Master of Journalism degree from the University of British Columbia.

During his journalism career Hamilton has won three BC & Yukon Community Newspaper Association awards as well as three Canadian Community Newspaper Association awards.
Hamilton is also keen to share his thoughts of his story on Thursday.

“Up until now, where I work at The Discourse, I was never asked my opinion about my stories,” he said.

The Words on Fire event, held monthly, gives local writers an opportunity to read their work. The evening will also include an open mic session where spoken word performers and poets are welcome to sign up and participate. There is no set fee for admission, but organizers suggest a $10 donation. Thursday’s event is a presentation of the Federation of BC Writers. Hamilton is a board member of this organization.

The event begins at 7 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. Char’s Landing is located at 4815 Argyle St. in Port Alberni.