David Kirton is a Métis broadcaster, and while he can describe in great detail his 40 years of broadcast experience, his family history is something of a mystery to him. But his involvement in the Reconciliation and the Media conference has helped him embrace his Métis roots, engage in reconciliation as a journalist and continue a journey of self-discovery.
After working in various positions in Moose Jaw, Rosetown, and Edmonton, in 2000 Kirton moved to News Talk 650 CKOM in Saskatoon to co-host an Indigenous current affairs show called Meeting Ground with Mervin Brass.
Kirton said Brass has been a guiding force in his life. “Mervin’s been a spiritual advisor…in many ways, not just in terms of Indigenous issues and the like,” said Kirton. “He’s kind of the brother that I haven’t had before.”
Kirton recalls how Meeting Ground prompted him to wonder about his past in a new way. “By covering so many Indigenous stories, there was a growing awareness in me, about my family history as well.”
Learning about the intergenerational effects of residential schools – like addiction and violence – Kirton began to wonder if that could explain some things about his own family.
“I just want to know who I am, where I came from and why I am the way I am, whether that’s good or bad. That’s all I want.” - David Kirton
Kirton’s father grew up in Portage la Prairie, Man. He knew that his father had run away from home in Grade 2. When he investigated, Kirton found that there was a residential school run by the United Church close to where his father grew up.
Kirton recalls the moment he started to connect the dots. “I start to think, well wait, maybe that’s why he ran away, maybe he ran away from a residential school.”
He recalls childhood trips to visit his father’s family. “When we went to go visit them in Winnipeg it was a very dark few days and drinking and the like.”
Violence played a factor in Kirton’s childhood as well. Although his father was never violent with him, his brother experienced the abuse.
Growing up, his family never talked about the past, and with both parents now passed on, it’s too late to ask. However, Kirton remains steadfast in his journey to find the truth. He has spoken with the United Church and sent letters to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Winnipeg to find out more.
Kirton hopes that shedding light on the past will help him understand his own identity. He works to educate himself on Métis history through research and embraces friendships with people like Brass who continue to guide him.
Brass reflected on how the Reconciliation and Media Conference in Saskatoon was a spiritual awakening for Kirton. He explained that as part of the committee, Kirton was responsible for arranging all the ceremonies with the Elders. “You could just see David growing as a person, as an Indigenous man,” said Brass.
Others at the conference played a big role in Kirton’s journey. “I was around people, not just Mervin, but Doug Cuthand, John Lagimodiere, Betty Ann Adam … who have known who they are all their lives,” said Kirton. “They don’t shut you out because of that, because I’m the newcomer.
“They embraced what I could offer and they allowed me to suck up what they were offering,” said Kirton.
Encouraged by the conference, Kirton promises to foster reconciliation by telling Indigenous stories, and telling them properly.
Kirton plans to continue embracing his Métis roots by applying for status through the Manitoba Métis Nation where his family comes from. He also plans to spend some time with a newly discovered great aunt in Winnipeg, in hopes of collecting more pieces of his family puzzle.
“I might never, ever have the end of the story, but as long as I can continue to understand that side of my family … I’ll just keep talking to people, keep looking up genealogy … just keep chasing it down,” he explained.
When asked what he hopes to get out of all this, his answer was simple. “I just want to know who I am, where I came from and why I am the way I am, whether that’s good or bad. That’s all I want.”
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