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Last Modified: June 29, 2023
How Bert Crowfoot Blazed a Trail for Indigenous Publishing

Bert Crowfoot has spent decades passion championing unbiased and inclusive news and reporting.

By Ali Abel

Indigenous and inclusive. Those are the goals Bert Crowfoot set out when he founded the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA) more than 40 years ago.

“It’s not just about reporting the news to our readers and listeners,” says Crowfoot. AMMSA also owns three radio networks in Alberta: CFWE-FM, CJWE-FM and CIWE-FM (The Raven). “Our publications are a chance to teach all Canadians by sharing our language, stories from the Elders and the voices of our people.”

Crowfoot never planned on owning a national media organization. He was going to pursue a career as a coach after university, but when a friend approached him to cover a basketball tournament in Piikani Nation in southern Alberta for the Native People newspaper, his life took a new course.

“He must have liked my story and the pictures I took because he sent me back the next weekend to cover a hockey tournament in Kainai Nation and then he hired me as a sports reporter the next week.”

His journey through journalism wasn’t exactly easy. The publication had built up a deficit and employees had left. So, Crowfoot took on added responsibilities to keep the newspaper running like creating layouts and shooting photos on top of writing. Luckily, he had a good head for business and brought on a salesperson to help on the advertising side of things.

“Before we brought him on board, we were $100,000 in debt,” says Crowfoot. “We were out of debt and making money within eight months, which was great for a not-for-profit newspaper.”

Crowfoot was able to ride the waves of problematic boards of directors of a previous organization (Alberta Native Communications Society), funding cuts and deteriorating business relationships. With help from government funding, he launched AMMSA on March 18, 1983, later renamed Windspeaker.

Crowfoot attributes his long-term success to two things: his coaching experience and seeing what the future holds.

“The coach or leader’s attitude and actions reflect the team’s attitude and actions. If I’m calm, cool, and collected, my team will be too.”

He also kept an eye on the future, watching what was happening with technology and how that affected the print industry, allowing AMMSA to survive and thrive.

“If you refuse to look down the road and see what’s happening, you’ll miss opportunities. I’ve always tried to look around to see what’s coming next and to prepare for the change.”

Crowfoot’s resiliency and passion for sharing news in an unbiased and non-political fashion has earned him many accolades, most recently, he was named the recipient of the 2023 Achievement in Publishing Award from the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association.