THUNDER BAY, ONT. —
The project of decolonization and reconciliation is alive and well in a small Thunder Bay, Ont. radio station — Zee’s Place, run by Crystal “Zee” Hardy, an Indigenous artist and writer who is looking to change how the Indigenous story is told in the city.
In her Wednesday show, Hardy uses her own stories, the music she plays, as well as guest artists, to try to spread some healing and knowledge, a project that continues on her podcast, Under the Same Stars.
“I feature Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists,” she told CTV News. “Really anyone that’s promoting unity, using music as a tool for reconciliation.”
Hardy is using her voice to help others find theirs.
“If I can share some light and love in the world and just [give] people or someone a little bit of hope, then I feel like it’s important to do that,” she said.
With her radio show and podcast, she aims to highlight other Indigenous artists.
Anishinaabe singer-songwriter Nick Sherman is one of those artists Hardy has featured.
“[It’s] a perfect example of the Indigenous arts community lifting each other up,” he told CTV News.
Hardy’s driven by her own pain, as the daughter of a woman who was the likely victim of one of Canada’s most notorious serial killers.
“She’s presumed to be murdered by Robert Pickton,” Hardy said of her mother, one of the countless Indigenous women to have gone missing in Canada. Pickton, who was convicted of the murder of six women in 2007, is believed to have murdered many more. To this day, some have not been identified.
But that’s not the only trauma Hardy’s family has suffered. Her brother was also murdered.
“It makes me reflect that like, that could have been me or, you know, if I helped him, he could be where I am,” she said.
Hardy has a daughter of her own, 11-year-old Evelyn, and she’s promised her she will break the cycle of pain that so many Indigenous people suffer.
That promise was published in a piece called “A Letter to My Daughter,” part of a new anthology,
“Lighting the North: An Anthology of Feminism and Cultural Diversity from Across the Nation.”
“I write this letter to you in hopes it will let you understand me and how intergenerational trauma has affected our lives,” the chapter penned by Hardy starts.
It’s one more piece in the puzzle of Hardy’s ultimate mission: to be able to shape her own narrative.
Sherman said he believes Hardy’s work and his art are about seizing control of how their community’s stories are told.
“It’s been a long process of having people get into these positions,” he explained.
Hardy is a Two-Spirit Anishnawbe-kwe in the Bear Clan from Biinjitiwabik Zaaging Anishnabek, and her people call her Zongwe Binesikwe — “Sounding Thunderbird Woman.”
“Thunderbird people in our culture are messengers,” Hardy said.
It’s her spirit name — and one she’s clearly living up to.
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