Indigenous stories, particularly those about Indigenous women, are often overlooked in Canadian media, but a new podcast aims to bring more attention to Anishinaabe-kwe without the colonial lens.
Auntie Up! is hosted by Kim Wheeler and Jolene Banning and executive produced by Tanya Talaga. The podcast is produced by Makwa Creative. Wheeler, Banning, and Talaga are all powerhouse journalists and storytellers who have made their careers bringing Indigenous stories to the mainstream.
The podcast will have a 10-episode run covering a whole host of topics, including land defenders and water protectors, beading and more! The podcast is conversational and pulls no punches, as the hosts will tell you: Aunties never do.
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“The reason why we went with Auntie Up! was because we were thinking, for far too long men have had the dominant voice, and we were thinking, that’s got to change. We need to hear women’s points of view,” Banning, who is Anishinaabe from Fort William First Nation, told Daily Hive.
They wanted to create a podcast that wouldn’t shy away from important topics, that looked at the work that Indigenous women are doing and to bring those women to the forefront to share their stories.
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“Everyone has that Auntie that’s going to tell you the truth, that’s going to keep secrets from mom, that’s going to be a friend, that’s going to be a confidant that knows just as much as mom but, you know, a little safer to talk to sometimes,” she added. “So we were just like: it’s our time. It’s Aunties’ time.”
Wheeler, who is Anishinaabe, Mohawk, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation and a Sixties Scoop survivor, said this is an opportunity for listeners to get to hear from the women who’ve made it their life’s work to champion Indigenous issues. The podcast’s tone will allow non-Indigenous listeners to hear things that are often not portrayed in media.
“Let people’s personalities come out and get to know both the hosts and the guests a bit better and see us as human beings instead of statistics,” she said.
The focus of the 10-episode podcast will be to explore topics that are important to Indigenous women,
“Indigenous women’s voices are extremely important. A lot of us come from matrilineal societies where the women are in charge. The subjects that we’re talking about have an audience, and that audience, for us, isn’t being reached through mainstream media,” said Wheeler.
And for Wheeler and Banning, it’s more than just sharing these stories.
“I want them to see themselves in us, to know that they have a voice, that they can speak up and speak out, that they’re on the right path when they’re fighting for their land when they’re fighting for their children when they’re fighting for their languages,” Banning said.
Wheeler, who is an award-winning journalist and a fixture in media in the country for decades, used to have to fight with editors in mainstream media to tell Indigenous stories. Her editors in the 90’s told her there was no audience for stories with an Indigenous focus.
“There are 1.7 million Indigenous people in this country. I’d say we have an audience,” she said.
It makes the podcast all that more important and special for Wheeler who has watched the landscape of Canadian media change over the years and begin to tell more Indigenous stories, and Auntie Up! takes it even further.
Welcome to Auntie Up! A podcast by, for, and about Indigenous women talking about important shit. (but everyone can listen!) Our first episode drops tomorrow but here is our trailer for now! https://t.co/8z8f6GvN1z pic.twitter.com/xObAuYOzoG
— AuntieUp! (@AuntieUp1) November 2, 2021
“I’ve worked so hard to tell these stories and get these stories told throughout my entire career,” said Wheeler. “Always with a non-Indigenous editor, or non-Indigenous producer who wants to change something, or tweak something, or you have to make it and explain it for a non-Indigenous audience.”
“We don’t have to explain anything now,” she added, explaining that the podcast is by, for and about Indigenous women.
“We’re talking to Indigenous women when we make these, of course, anybody can listen, and we hope everybody will listen, but we’re specifically talking to Indigenous women,” she said.
It’s a chance for stories to be told without the white-washing that often goes hand-in-hand with Canadian history and legacy media, said Banning.
“Canada wouldn’t be Canada without our contributions. And we have done a lot for this country, and those stories have been ignored, or they’ve been white-washed, or we haven’t been given credit where credit was due,” she said.
One specific example Banning gave is tapping maple trees. She said that Indigenous women would traditionally tap trees, but the story many non-Indigenous people hear is that Indigenous people discovered maple syrup by accident and that white people saw the true importance of it. When a maple syrup company opened up shop in Thunder Bay, Ontario, it was portrayed as the first ever in the area, which Banning says simply isn’t true.
Auntie Up! is a place to correct the record.
“By doing this podcast, we’re doing our part to say that’s wrong, and that we do have a voice and we are here, and we’re still surviving, and some of us are thriving, and that those voices deserve to be elevated, and people deserve to see that and to feel pride in where they come from,” said Banning.
The podcast is also a sort of call-to-action for non-Indigenous listeners.
“What we need now is action. What we need now is [for] Canadians to stop being so apathetic to the genocide we’re living through and demand change from their government, to demand them to put those calls to action in the TRC through, to put the calls to action for any report through. Like, how many reports and studies have been done on us?” she said.
The time for more reports and research is long over, Banning said.
Banning and Wheeler hope that Indigenous women across Turtle Island will feel empowered by the women they hear on the podcast and know that they have a voice to be heard.
“Together we can we can rise up and try to make change,” Banning said.
New episodes will be released on Mondays, and episodes can be streamed wherever you listen to podcasts. They will also post webcasts of the podcasts on their YouTube channel.