Discovering the Innu Nation through a podcast

·4 min read

Exploring new cultures and places is something that we all have been deprived of in the past year, however, a new series of podcasts introducing the Innu culture might just be the best way to travel while remaining safe and COVID-free at home.

Released on January 18,Tipatshimun: l’histoire orale à l’ère numérique offers six widely different podcasts that navigate the Innu culture, language and history.

If you are looking for something dynamic, Tipatshiumun’s wide range of content will bring you on a captivating journey, one of the greatest assets of the series. The episodes juggle songs, poems, language lessons, old tales and intimate stories - all to demonstrate Onkwehón:we diversity. With episodes from impactful 20-minute narratives to short and lively five-minute clips, the listeners can choose to immerse themselves completely in a colourful introduction to the Innu Nation, or briskly get accustomed to the Innu language.

Tipatshimum is the result of a pilot project from a podcast workshop that allowed 10 participants to meet in Maliotenam, near Sept Iles, in 2019 and learned how to produce their own audio content. The podcast series was produced by CKAU, the Uashat mak Mani-utenam radio, in collaboration with various organizations as a way to empower newer generations from Onkwehón:we communities near Quebec’s North Coast.

The On n’est pas des sauvages is a witty and greatly sarcastic introduction to Innu history, traumas and stereotypes - which makes for a great start for the audience. Through five episodes of less than 15 minutes each, Eve Ringuette and Matiu humorously sail across the past, uncovering the history of their nation and what it means for them to be Innu nowadays.

Les mots de Joséphine embarks the listeners on a linguistic journey, sprinkled with humour. The Innu poet Joséphine Bacon from the community Pessamit, offers a short but solid initiation to not only Innu words, but the story behind each of them. The narrator’s reputation precedes her and expectedly, the 11 episodes are destined to make anyone smile and laugh. Short, sweet and brilliant! The audience meets with her once again in the La légende de Tshakapesh podcast, a very soothing and poetic exploration of a legend told by Charles-Api Bellefleur in Innu and translated by Bacon.

While the strength of the above podcasts don’t necessarily rely on their musical production, which usually allows avid podcast listeners to dive deeper into their appreciation of the final content, Florent Vollant’s unique episode perfectly offers that missing element. Florent Vollant: Innu Nikamun is a 35-minute musical tale of the infamous singer’s life from Maliotenam. Vollant explores his musical influences intertwined with his familial background. It brings the audience to reflect on what it can take for one single person to achieve their dreams, and the sacrifices that lead to success.

Vollant touches on residential schools, but C’était ça ma vie, le bois delves into the conversation with a familiar feeling that makes the 21-minute episode even more poignant. Tim Lalo Malec from St. Georges de Beauce was longing for answers regarding his father’s past, an Innu man who was one of the too many victims of residential schools. The episode is a touching conversation between both men, narrated by Malec who maturely addresses the complicated nature of forgiveness. Sadly, while the setting allows for a very intimate and accessible discussion, bits of it are hard for the listener to understand due to poor audio quality.

Finally, Puamun Meshkenu comes off closer to an audio documentary than a podcast episode. Activist and filmmaker Uapukun Mestokosho Mckenzie from Ekuanitshit-Mingan presents an immersion into Puamun Meshkenu, a non-profit organization launched in 2016 by Dr. Stanley Vollant. The program aims to inspire Onkwehón:we youth. The podcast beautifully addresses impostor syndrome and empowers youth to find a balance between being unique while also working together. The shift in language, from French to Innu to English, and the mix of songs and poems allow these messages to vibrate on a deeper level.

The Eastern Door recommends listening with earphones to capture all the details and subtleties.

Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door