Voicing Indigenous (dis)connection to Canadian land: Identity construction in the “Stories from the Land” podcast
Settler-Canadians have traditionally controlled dominant institutions like media and education that produce national knowledge grounded in white histories and experiences, negating the traditions and lives of marginalized peoples. For Indigenous communities especially, their heritage and connection to lands and territories have been omitted from Canadian mainstream representations. This paper examines if podcasting provides a potentially decolonizing media space online for Indigenous peoples in Canada to confront the hegemonic constructions of dominant Canadian history while voicing counternarratives reflecting Indigenous connection to Canadian land and the rituals of colonized subjects. Particularly focusing on the Indigenous podcast Stories from the Land (Cowboy & Indian, 2014-2018), this paper utilizes textual analysis on the program’s website and episodes to address digital audio storytelling that not only facilitates community belonging online, but also builds on the oral traditions of Indigenous cultures by allowing these communities to vocalize their affiliation with Canadian land. Stories from the Land is chosen because of its central focus on reinforcing Indigenous connection to local territories and because its mandate promotes Indigenous worldviews in experiential audio formats facilitating marginalized stories. As a form of oral storytelling, this program illustrates the potential for podcasts to communicate histories, experiences, and traditions of a marginalized group over space and time through the Internet’s digital affordances while still respecting the customs of oral knowledge dissemination. Discussing interactions with animals and nature, each episode invites a special guest who identifies as an Indigenous person to share their individual stories of connecting to land in Canada. All episodes amalgamate into a podcast catalogue revisiting what it means to be Indigenous and how that identity is constructed across the country through cultural practices respecting traditions rarely discussed in mainstream Canadian media.
Jeff Donison is a PhD candidate in the Communication and Culture joint program at York University and Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He holds a MA from the University of Western Ontario in Popular Music and Culture. His current research focuses on participatory cultures and digital technology, specifically dealing with race, identity, and representation in Canadian podcasting and the use of sound as a primary epistemological tool for decolonizing historical narratives.