Recently, I had the opportunity to consult with Carmen Grey, a horticulturalist and Indigenous woman for our social media work with Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries’ DrinkSense division. In our brainstorms for what to post on National Indigenous Peoples Day, we came up with the idea of developing a pine and cranberry mocktail made with locally gathered ingredients traditionally used by Indigenous Peoples in Manitoba. So, knowing that authenticity would be one of our biggest concerns, we reached out to Carmen.
We met for an initial consultation and were immediately swept up in her knowledge and stories. Carmen grew up spending time with her family outdoors, collecting sweetgrass with her mom, helping her dad in the garden and chasing her brothers through the tall grass. During this time, Carmen’s parents taught her about respectful land stewardship, while nurturing her interest in local plant life. Carmen has worked as a horticulturist for 15 years now, and while sitting and listening to her stories I couldn’t help feeling that it just made sense. Learning about Carmen and her experiences became as much a part of the process as learning about local plant life and their uses. Her knowledge and personal stories were intertwined – one couldn’t exist without the other.
We left our meeting with Carmen bubbling with fresh inspiration and the excitement of learning something entirely new to us.
Talking to someone about something they’re passionate about is one thing, but speaking with someone with authentic experiences, someone who grew up immersed in that subject is entirely different.
Their personal experiences bring a new dimension to the topic that helps you view things from an entirely different vantage point.
If we hadn’t talked to Carmen (or if we had just relied on Google for our research), we still would have delivered on our client’s ask. But we would have missed out on an opportunity to share a full, authentic picture with their audience. The post wouldn’t have authentically celebrated the culture and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, it would have just been an outsider’s depiction. Instead, Carmen was a staple throughout the entire writing and recipe-making process and was more than happy to answer our questions and share her suggestions. She gave us feedback on word choice, offered advice on where to ethically source tobacco for gift giving and connected us with her mom, Terry, who graciously agreed to join us for the photoshoot.