Oral history in a modern context

Reconciliation. We have all heard the term used in modern-day politics. You may have heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or even the 94 calls to Action that came out of it. However, few, if any, educational institutions have put reconciliation into practice as authentically as Yukon College. The spirit of reconciliation echoes through the new 11-episode podcast, Walking Our Path Together. The podcast is now available for download via iTunes and on Android. Episodes will be released bi-weekly through July. Episode two is available March 14. Walking Our Path Together is produced by Leighann Chalykoff of LC Creative. It features original music by Jona Barr.

Close collaboration between Yukon College and the Yukon First Nations has been a directive of the Yukon College board of governors for over a decade. This podcast begins to tell the story of how Yukon College has invested immensely in building connections and trust with the Yukon First Nations. Dr. Karen Barnes, president and vice-chancellor of the college, admits that this process takes time, but she hopes the podcast will inspire others to embark on a path to reconciliation. Tosh Southwick, associate vice-president of Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation, echoes these remarks. She said that, to her, reconciliation is “a lot of little steps” and at times it seems “a little fuzzy when you throw out these big words like reconciliation, Indigenization, and decolonization.”

Instead of publishing a detailed plan to address these complex issues, this uniquely northern college decided to honour tradition by simply telling a story of its journey towards reconciliation with the Yukon First Nations. While this story will likely not be told over a campfire, or on a trap line, it is oral history, nonetheless. It marries the ancient tradition of oral storytelling with the modern communication medium of a podcast. More than 50 Yukoners contributed to this oral history project explained Davida Wood, director of First Nations Initiatives. Wood expressed gratitude to those who contributed to the project.

“We are grateful for everyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts and stories with us,” she said. True to tradition, the podcast was launched with Elders, staff, students and members of the community joining together for a feast of stew and bannock on the Ayamdigut campus. (Ayamdigut was the name given to the campus in 1988 by First Nations Elder, Angela Sidney.) While enjoying a traditional meal, those representing various ethnicities simply listened. They gathered to listen to the podcast, which shared stories from Elders, Chiefs, students, educators, and government officials, and how each has grappled with complex concepts of decolonization, Indigenization and, ultimately, reconciliation. Telling this story, sharing this history and honouring the tradition of those who came before us is key to a future where we thrive together. As Yukon College progresses towards becoming Canada’s first northern university, Yukoners should look forward to Yukon University being a place where elements of traditional culture, academic voices and innovation can harmoniously exist in one place.

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