Davida Wood, Yukon College’s director of First Nations initiatives, says that the college’s new podcast, Walking Our Path Together, helps tell a shared story of working towards reconciliation with Yukon First Nations. (Submitted/Yukon College)

New Yukon College podcast offers an oral history on the journey to reconciliation

Walking Our Path Together helps capture traditional Indigenous knowledge-sharing in a modern format

A new Yukon College project has combined traditional knowledge-sharing with modern media techniques to create a podcast highlighting the school’s work — both past, ongoing, and needed — on meaningful reconciliation with Yukon First Nations.

Entitled Walking Our Path Together, the podcast features the voices and stories of people both within and outside Yukon College reflecting on, according to the podcast’s website, “their first-hand experiences of the College deepening its relationship with the 14 Yukon First Nations and integrating Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into the institution.”

The first two parts — an introduction by the college’s associate vice-president of Indigenous engagement and reconciliation, Tosh Southwick, and the first real episode, “What does reconciliation mean?” — were released online Feb. 28, with new episodes to be released bi-weekly.

The podcast, which was about a year in the making, is among the college’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Its format is intended to reflect traditional Indigenous knowledge-sharing practices — namely, oral histories and storytelling — while making that knowledge easily accessible and shareable, Yukon College’s director of First Nations initiatives Davida Wood explained in an interview.

“I think when we’re talking about reconciliation in particular, and I think for us here (at Yukon College), it really is trying to think outside of a westernized, kind of colonialized way of doing things, and just creating another document or another report felt very much still within the confines of those limits,” Wood, a Teslin Tlingit Council citizen, said.

“… We kept coming back to, ‘We’ve been doing this for awhile, how do we tell that story (about the journey to reconciliation)?’”

Reconciliation isn’t any one person or institution’s story, Wood continued — it’s a shared story that everyone plays a role and has a voice in.

The shared story, and how to help tell it, is something Southwick, a citizen of Kluane First Nation reflects on in the podcast’s introduction.

“I’d been struggling for a few years on how to integrate Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into the college, and seeing a lot of our fellow institutions producing really amazing plans,” she says in the episode.

“But the plan piece stuck with me, and I think it’s not really a First Nation way to come up with this very detailed plan with strategic performance indicators and all of these other things… In our communities when something really important happens, we make a story about it, and one of the foundational differences between an Indigenous culture and a Western culture is that oral history part — that idea that we transmit our knowledge orally down the generations.

“I thought, what a great opportunity to do and look at reconciliation in a different way.”

Currently, the college has enough episodes recorded to take it through to July, Wood said. The episodes feature the voices of more than 50 Yukoners who come from a variety of backgrounds.

The process of selecting interviewees, whom the podcast call storytellers, was planned in some cases but occurred somewhat spontaneously in others, Wood said — oftentimes, after producer Leighann Chalykoff would finish speaking to someone, that person would suggest another person who could tell her more.

The podcast team also approached the subjects covered in episodes evolve in a similar way.

“It definitely was a fairly organic process,” Wood said, explaining that originally, the team had planned to create a timeline of sorts on the college’s reconciliation efforts.

“…What we found very quickly in having the conversations was that it was much more themed and much more natural, and so we’ve basically built the upcoming episodes based around what those themes were emerging in the conversations.”

Wood said the goal is to make the podcast an ongoing initiative, one that can continue to help share the stories of more Yukoners as time goes on. The podcast’s website features a tree theme, she noted, one that wasn’t just chosen for aesthetic reasons — episodes are placed starting at the tree’s base, and, as they continue, will gradually move up its trunk, branches and leaves.

“I think that that kind of metaphor was something that really struck a lot of us as we were moving forward on (the podcast), was this (idea that this) is a continuing story and in looking at it in tree-like fashion, we will have further branches to grow or further leaves to grow, and so when we look forward to kind of the plan or the future beyond where we are now, there is a hope that we will be able to tell our story through this route.”

Episodes and transcripts of Walking Our Path Together are available for free at ourpath.yukoncollege.yk.ca. The podcast is also available on iTunes and Android.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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