Sharing and celebrating Indigenous cultures, voices and stories
A Toronto Metropolitan University researcher’s award-winning creative project is helping students learn about and celebrate Indigenous peoples, cultures, languages, stories, current issues and how to effect social change.
Professor Pamela Palmater has been a lawyer for 23 years and now serves as professor and Chair of Indigenous Governance in the Department of Politics and Public Administration in the Faculty of Arts. A Mi’kmaw woman, mother and advocate, she set out to share her Indigenous research, knowledge and lived experiences with the public. Professor Palmater is a member of the Ugpi'Ganjig (Eel River Bar First Nation) in northern New Brunswick.
“The public overall doesn't always get the benefit of the work we do as academics,” said professor Palmater. “Indigenous issues are so important because there's so much racism out there, there's so much misinformation, there's so much hatred.”
To share her work beyond academia and the students in her classes, professor Palmater started writing blogs, engaging in public speaking and building a presence on social media. She also created the Warrior Life Podcast, which amplifies the voices of Indigenous artists, educators, advocates, leaders and land defenders. After many requests for children’s content, professor Palmater created a second podcast for children and families, the Warrior Kids Podcast, to celebrate everything Indigenous. It is now being used as a resource by educators across the country.
The Warrior Kids Podcast allows children aged four to nine to learn about First Nations, Native Americans, Inuit and Metis peoples. Some episodes include Mi'kmaw words and stories like The Thunders and the Mosquito, while others feature Indigenous authors reading their children’s books. Professor Palmater also talks about current events like residential schools on the podcast.
“Indigenous peoples could be your next-door neighbour,” said professor Palmater. “I want kids from a very young age to hear about all the cool Native people out there who are doing great things, as well as their struggles, and to incorporate that as part of their everyday lives. I don’t want them to get to Grade 12 and hear about Indigenous history for one week then move on.”
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada published 94 Calls to Action, which is leading to the development and implementation of Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum on Indigenous cultures, contributions and histories, including the legacy of residential schools. Each province sets their own Indigenous studies curriculum, which can vary greatly, and some provinces only recently announced mandatory Indigenous-focused coursework.
“Kids should know about these issues because Native kids are experiencing these issues,” said professor Palmater. “Teachers have told me the podcast simplifies these very complex issues, so they can understand them and explain them in a child-friendly way.”
The elementary school age-appropriate content in the Warrior Kids Podcast was developed with the support of early childhood educator Lara Pace and includes several episodes to help children understand residential schools and reconciliation. Every episode of the Warrior Kids Podcast ends with a call for action, encouraging listeners to draw pictures inspired by the stories they hear, share Mi'kmaw stories with their families, participate in events to support Indigenous children’s advocacy or ask their teachers for more Indigenous resources at school.
The Warrior Kids Podcast has also provided some catharsis for professor Palmater.
“I get to have fun, make up characters and include my dogs. It's like an outlet to celebrate Indigenous cultures because there are just so many heavy issues that we have to deal with on a regular basis. So, it's very cathartic for me,” said professor Palmater.
The Warrior Kids Podcast was the recipient of the imagineNATIVE Narrative Audio Award in 2021, the Mom’s Choice Award in 2020 and was recently nominated for the 2022 Canadian Podcast Award for Outstanding Kids & Family Series. Professor Palmater and the Warrior Kids Podcast will also be featured at the imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in October 2022.
Learn more and listen to the Warrior Kids Podcast (external link, opens in new window) .