How a podcast-turned-non-profit is amplifying Indigenous voices and culture
Growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan on the traditional lands of the Treaty Four Territory, Alicia Morrow and her sister, Lexie Obey, struggled with their identities.
While both are members of the Peepeekisis Cree Nation, as urban Indigenous kin, they could not easily access their Indigenous culture, knowledge, traditions, or ceremonies.
Growing up urban and looking different, Alicia faced a lot of racism and stereotypes about Indigenous people in her community, but she knew there had to be more to her culture.
“Indigenous people are resilient,” said Alicia, who is co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer for The Comeback Society. “We're strong, we're powerful, we're beautiful – our culture is beautiful.”
The start of "The Comeback"
After Alicia completed her post-secondary education at First Nations University of Canada and Lexie graduated from the University of Regina, the sisters came to recognize the vital importance of reclaiming their Indigenous culture.
“We wanted to talk more about that – between her and I,” explained Alicia, “And so, we decided we were going to do a podcast because our traditions were told by oral storytelling.”
Their podcast – called "The Comeback" – started out as social media project, centred around sharing stories of personal resilience and coming back from things you never thought you could. As the sisters spoke with Indigenous people from across North America, they discovered they were not alone in feeling a disconnect.
“We found that there were so many of the same stories of Indigenous people not having access to their culture because of the residential schools, because of their colonization, and the intergenerational impacts it has had on our communities,” said Alicia.
She added that the lasting, negative impacts of residential schools and colonization are often the only stories that get coverage from the media – as opposed to positive coverage, like Indigenous success stories.
Thinking about their education and their ability to create, Alicia and Lexie knew they wanted to tackle the effects of colonization in their community while finding a way to share the beauty of their culture with the next generation of Indigenous youth. For the sisters, forming a non-profit seemed like the next logical step.
“Indigenous people are amazing at our core, and our culture is beautiful, and it needs to be celebrated,” said Alicia. “And so, we're just on a mission to help amplify that – to be showing it on social media, to be showing to other kids – that we're powerful and we're deserving to be here.”
And so, "The Comeback Society" was born
The Comeback Society offers several streams of programs to help Indigenous people reconnect to their ways, including: the Making and Meaning stream, through which they teach ribbon skirt- and ribbon shirt-making classes, beading, and leather work; the Movement is Medicine stream, through which they teach pow-wow dance classes; and Cultural Collaborations, through which they connect other non-profits with cultural specialists to enhance the cultural programming within their respective agencies.
One of the largest programs the society offers is their weekly Soup Bowl Sunday program, through which they make 300 meals and distribute them to Regina’s downtown core. Run 100% by volunteers and donations, the program has served 11,000 meals in the last 8-9 months alone.
This fall, in partnership with the Peepeekisis Cree Nation, the society also held its first annual Comeback Society Buffalo Harvest Ceremony. An important step toward having a fully sustainable program by utilizing food sovereignty, the buffalo from the ceremony will be used by the Soup Bowl Sunday program through the winter months.
How Alicia and The Comeback Society stay focused
With so much on the go, including a future goal to one day build a cultural centre, Alicia admits she doesn’t have the time (or the skill set) to also manage the society’s taxes.
Instead, she relies on FBC and her Tax Consultant Cassandra Haynes to not only help prepare the society’s tax filings, but to give her sound advice as she continues to build up its programs and services.
“Anytime I need any sort of advice, I can go to her and consult with her and talk about what I need to do as a non-profit, especially as a start-up non-profit,” said Alicia. “I think it really is more than just a business relationship – it has evolved into a personal one.”
In fact, Alicia goes as far as calling Cassandra a part of her kin.
“She’s really knowledgeable about what she does, and she is professional,” said Alicia, referring to Cassandra. “Being able to connect with her whenever I have a question of some sort really helps the agency as a whole. I would highly recommend FBC to others.”
Working with FBC helps Alicia focus her energy on what’s really important: amplifying Indigenous voices for herself and for that next generation.
“I want to learn my traditions and I want to learn my ceremonies,” she said. “I think success to me is seeing my son and my future grandchildren knowing who they are and being proud to be Indigenous.”