Anishinaabe comedian and activist Ryan McMahon stopped in Yellowknife Monday as part of his project to collect stories from Indigenous communities across the country.
It’s all part of his podcast project The Stories from the Land, which is aimed at reconnecting his people with their lands.
On Monday afternoon, he gave workshops at Aurora College and Sir John Franklin High School, speaking to students about his experiences as an Indigenous person.
He shared stories about his suffering abuse as a child, his parent’s struggles with addiction, and how he was the first Indigenous person to audition for Saturday Night Live.
In the end, he says, Stories from the Land is meant to start conversations about Indigenous people’s lives in Canada and to spark reconciliation by reconnecting them with their land and culture.
“For 150 years, the whole project in Canada has been about removing Indigenous people from land,” McMahon said.
“I want to have that conversation about reconnecting our communities to the places they’re from and not apologizing for it and not saying sorry for being Indigenous.”
McMahon believes that through mediums like his podcast, Indigenous people can share their stories and pass on updated traditions about their people in a modern context.
“We’re only 150 years old, it’s not too late to make things right, it’s not too late to have these conversations,” he said.
“If we’re talking about reconciliation we should be brave enough to talk about all of the issues.”
McMahon says issues like poverty and violence exist within Indigenous communities because they were taken from their original land.
“Land is central to life, it’s central to our way of life, it’s central to our food sources, it’s central to everything,” he said.
“If we don’t look at the fact that Canada controls 99.8 per cent of all land in this country, if we refuse to acknowledge that then we’re just going to continue to perpetuate these cycles of poverty and violence.”
The storytelling workshops are meant to empower people, whether Indigenous or not, and are intended to create a healthy path forward towards reconciliation in Canada.
In total, McMahon plans to collect 60 original audio stories on his country-wide tour.