Is it ever too late to a make change in an individual’s life or even an entire community? Should money, age, race or status become an obstacle and an excuse?
One fairly young grandmother has made it her life’s mission to bring the people of Regina closer together with the city’s brand new Indigenous radio show.
She hosts it, writes it and arranges the line-up of interviewees for her show that will air every Friday at noon. She even came up with the name herself: Indigenous Vibes. The reason why she chose this name was because she wanted to send out positive vibes about Indigenous people. This passionate one-man-band producer/host is not putting in the effort and time for money, but rather for something much more precious.
Elvie Stonechild, who also has a Cree name Mihko Pihesiw Iskewew (Red Thunderbird Woman), was born in Nekaneet, Saskatchewan and raised in Regina. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Indian Art) and a Minor in Indian Art History from First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) and University of Regina. She also took some courses in the Indigenous Communication Arts (INCA) program at FNUniv, which helped her develop her journalistic skills. It proved to be very helpful in setting up Indigenous Vibes.
Her one-hour talk show on 91.3 FM CJTR Regina Community Radio focuses on Indigenous peoples’ success stories within the community. Thanks to Stonechild’s show, Reginans can tune in to basic and spiritual teachings and topics of Indigenous communities. The last time the city had an indigenous radio show was about a decade ago, and that did not last long.
For years, Stonechild has always wanted to give back to the community and more importantly First Nations. Her first major campaign of serving the community began when she was looking for a job as a single mother of four. As she described it herself, there were no jobs for Bachelors of Indian Art graduates at that time; but it did help her to get a job as a Correctional and Parole Officer for Correctional Service of Canada in Saskatchewan, where she worked for 11 years. She was able to help a lot of women out on parole since she worked on them and help them improve themselves before writing up positive reports about them. Her report played an important role in these women’s release.
Despite feeling satisfied with what she achieved at Corrections, Red Thunderbird Woman wanted to help even more people and reach a broader audience. In 2011, Stonechild decided to put an end to a decade-long profession as a Parole Officer because she believed that there was a more effective way to make a big positive change in her community. “At the time, all you heard was negative [things] about indigenous people… they (the media) are not telling our good stories,” she explained.
She pointed out that she is “not turning a blind eye” to the issues and problems within her community, but she feels that mainstream media is not shedding enough light on good stories about her people. “I have known so many people who were doing positive things in their lives and doing so much good for their community… those stories are not being shared.” This was the main reason why she rolled up her sleeves and took matters into her own hands with Indigenous Vibes. She believes this show can somehow help “balance out” the negativity with positive stories about Indigenous people.
By transmitting and spreading peace and positivity through the airwaves, Indigenous Vibes aims to encourage its listeners to continue making positive choices. “Maybe one story will change somebody’s life and the direction they are heading,” said Stonechild. “I want to help people before they get to corrections.”
She also hopes the talk show will pass on the Indigenous teachings and identity to the next generation, and create opportunities for non-Indigenous people to learn more about First Nations and their culture. Stonechild believes that in this way “we can bridge the gap so they (non-Indigenous communities) can understand us better.”
Stonechild says the radio show is satisfying, but being a volunteer position, it does not pay the bills. So Stonechild teaches powwow dancing every Thursday at Mother Teresa Middle School and is a full-time family support worker for young mothers at Street Workers Advocacy Project (SWAP). Just like the radio show, she believes these jobs also give back to the community. At Mother Teresa Middle School, she has the opportunity to educate the younger generation a bit about her culture; and at SWAP, she is able to help many mothers, who may struggle with alcohol or drug-related problems, get back on the right track.
Amber Goodwyn, Program Director at CJTR, says “the people have been hungry for this.” She explained that it is not often that the station debuts a new program and gets feedback immediately.
“The first two programs have been very successful. We have gotten positive listener feedback. I have just received an email this past Friday after her second show from somebody who said they were not Indigenous, but that they really appreciated hearing a different perspective on the people in our community.”
For the last two years, Goodwyn and the team had been trying to develop a talk radio program that reflected the reality of Indigenous people in town, and luckily, Stonechild came along. She had “a really clear focused vision” of what she wanted for the show along with the background and knowledge. Goodwyn further added that she is a positive, upbeat, hopeful, creative and smart individual, “we are very lucky to have her on the air at this time … she is the perfect fit.”