Meet Angela Sterritt: SFU Library’s 2023 non-fiction writer in residence

The award-winning journalist opens up about Unbroken and her determination to empower Indigenous youth

Closeup headshot of Angela Sterritt in front of blurred-out trees and buildings in the background.
PHOTO: Maggie McPherson

By: Anna Kazi, SFU Student

SFU recently welcomed Angela Sterritt, writer and “award-winning investigative journalist” as their 2023 writer in residence. Sterritt is part of the Gitanmaax community of the Gitxsan Nation and Bell Island Newfoundland. With over a decade of experience covering powerful stories, Sterritt is releasing her first book, Unbroken, this May. It is “part memoir and part investigative into the missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

Sterritt began writing about her experiences while completing her William Southam Journalism Fellowship at the University of Toronto. “When you’re writing about your trauma, you have to be ready, and only you know when you’re ready, and I wasn’t ready at that point [ . . . ] It took me seven years to write this book because it was traumatic for me to write about my experiences.”

For Sterritt, writing this book is about inspiring Indigenous youth and building a stronger relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Sterritt wants “to inspire, especially young Indigenous girls, in particular the Gitxsan Nation girls, that they can do anything they want,” said Sterritt. She plans on writing a book that teaches journalists to be “trauma-informed when working with Indigenous communities. 

“There are many Indigenous ways of viewing the truth, and there are many sides of the truth. And that’s something that Indigenous people haven’t been afforded, as our truth has been oppressed. [ . . . ] My purpose in life has always been to utilise the truth and to use the power of storytelling to help Indigenous people heal.” 

Sterritt also spoke on maintaining a healthy work-life balance while working full-time as a host and journalist: “I want people to recognize that it’s okay to take sick days, it’s okay to move slowly. It’s okay to tell your boss ‘this is a super traumatic story, so I’m going to take a week to do it,’” she said. “For people of colour and Indigenous people, we are often treated as resources to extract and mine.”

Another key takeaway from Sterritt’s experience was realizing that sharing a story as an Indigenous person is not easy. “I was told by my journalism community that I couldn’t have friends, I couldn’t talk to my elders when things were hard at work. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody. Journalism as an Indigenous person is very different because you’re told you’re biased,” said Sterritt.

What helped Sterritt face barriers and continue her journalism and writing journey was support from her mentors, elders, and publisher, Greystone Books.

As Sterritt begins her residency, she shared how valued and honoured she feels being part of SFU. “People were excited to bring my ideas to the table. I felt like people were also willing to have a conversation that’s not just based on somebody extracting from an Indigenous person, but somebody coming to the table with the same skills, the same knowledge, and willing to have a reciprocal exchange of ideas based on mutual respect, ” she said. “The residency that I am going to do at SFU is going to be groundbreaking.”

You can pre-order Sherritt’s book, Unbroken, via Amazon.

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