A new podcast is bringing together Indigenous perspectives on climate change and decolonization.
It’s called Story-telling/Story-listening: Decolonizing Research. It’s the brainchild of Jessica Hum, who used to work for the Tłı̨chǫ Government, and then went on to do her masters in resource and environment at Dalhousie University.
The four episodes focus on changes to land and water, as well as relationships. Hum says her research looks closer at climate change — how it’s affecting the landscape, and how people who know the land are responding and adapting to it.
Tłı̨chǫ knowledge holder and Elder John B. Zoe is featured in the first episode, which launched at the end of April.
“When I first started talking to John about this, you know, we wanted to explore what decolonizing research really meant,” Hum said.
“If we’re doing research, talking about the land, asking those kinds of investigative questions, how can we do that with an approach that honours the way those original landscape stories were told orally, through storytelling and through story listening.”
Hum travelled the land and water with Zoe in the summer of 2018 while working for the Tłı̨chǫ Government. They traversed from Behchokǫ̀ to Whatı̀, N.W.T., the canoe and water trails of ancestors. She said Zoe took the time at every rest stop to talk with the young people who gathered around him.
“He was just really sharing his knowledge,” Hum said. “And he was taking the time to share his experiences and ensure that people knew how to properly walk those trails and what to look for on the trails.”
‘Layers of information’
In his years of exposure and experience on the land, Zoe says listening to elders has been crucial; they can provide “layers of information” from Tłı̨chǫ history to the present. He said that’s especially true with place names, which have become a navigational tool.
“It’s like the land is talking to you because if they see a place and describe what it means or what happened in that area … it’s like it’s written on the landscape and the only way to read it is to go out.”
Zoe said society today is focused on “western knowledge,” but the podcast brings listeners to the “natural classroom.”
“And the idea is that, if you’re in the natural classroom, that we need to be aware of our surroundings because just by being there, the transfer of information is happening just by being present.”
Zoe says the Tłı̨chǫ are combating that vacuum by doing their own research in their own way — boots on the ground, observing things like weather and wind, and drawing on historical knowledge.
“The result is much more closer to home and the results of that impact can be more resonating to the younger generation.”
Hum hopes the podcast will inspire others to think about the way they listen to storytellers in their lives.
“Who can we sit with? Who can we sit by the campfire with, and listen to those stories?” she said.
“So by grabbing ahold of my microphone and trying to capture this in a recording, it’s my own way of trying to give space for those histories, those oral histories to still be alive today.”