Nonfiction, podcasts, politics

Highway of Tears

I’m listening to another CBC podcast: “Missing and Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?” Reporter Connie Walker investigates the 1989 unsolved murder of a young indigenous woman. Alberta Williams was found along Highway 16 in British Columbia, now known as the Highway of Tears because of the number of women (mainly indigenous) who have been murdered or went missing along the highway.

As she interviews people who knew Alberta, Connie Walker peels back the layers of a terrible past that may be unknown to many non-Canadians.

From the 1880s until as late as 1996 (!!!), the Canadian government operated “residential schools,” or boarding schools for indigenous people. Children as young as 6 were forcibly removed from their homes and taken from their families to spend years in cruel institutions where they faced sexual abuse, forced starvation, and even death. Their hair was cut, and they were not allowed to speak their ancestral languages.

The legacy of residential schools continues today, passed down by grandparents and parents who were treated less than human. Alcoholism, PTSD, poverty, domestic violence, and feelings of worthlessness are remnants of the residential school system.

I just finished listening to Episode 3, where Connie Walkers begins to connect the past with the present — why are indigenous women  3 to 4 times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous Canadian women? Unlike all the other podcasts I’ve listened to, Walkers draws from her own childhood experiences and links the culture to the crime.

Walker’s approach underlines how no crime stands by itself. We are all products of our upbringing, history, and society. And it reminds me how every country has its shameful past — the U.S. being no different — that affects its citizens for generations.

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Nonfiction, podcasts

Open your ears!

For the past few months, I’ve been on a podcast binge. It started with S-Town, then went to Dear John, then Someone Knows Something, and from there it’s kept going until today. I just finished Missing Richard Simmons, so now I have to find a new series to listen to while I walk the dog, wash dishes, brave the exercise machine, or fold laundry. There’s nothing like a good podcast to make excruciatingly boring tasks enjoyable!

So, here’s a rundown of my top three favorites, and if you have any suggestions of great podcasts, please share them in the comments section!

S-Town: Produced by Serial and This American Life, S-Town feels to me a little like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil but with a lot more cursing. The main “character” is John, who hounded journalist Brian Reed for months and months, wanting Reed to come down to Alabama to investigate a murder. At least, what John thinks is a murder. From there, the story unravels like a prickly spool of mohair yarn, itchy and bright colored. I have mixed feelings about S-Town. Part of me feels like it exploits the quirks of the deep South — but what saves it, I think, is Reed’s affection for the eccentric and troubled John.

Someone Knows Something: This series is by far my favorite. Produced by CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and hosted by David Ridgen, Someone Knows Something covers cold cases — murders and missing persons — compassionately and extremely thoroughly. Its first season delves into the case of a missing five-year-old boy from 1972. The second season looks into the disappearance of Sheryl Sheppard in 1998, and the third season helps solve a 1960s murder by the KKK. I can’t wait for Season 4!

Sheryl Pic
Sheryl Sheppard went missing in 1998 from Hamilton, Ontario. If you know anything about the case, email sks@cbc.ca

Unconcluded: I just listened to the latest episode of Unconcluded last night. Friends Shaun and Scott are currently investigating the 2006 disappearance of Jennifer Kesse from Orlando, Florida. To me, this podcast feels the most urgent because it deals with a somewhat recent case, and as Scott and Shaun find out information about the case, they share it with listeners. We are on the journey, too. This podcast, like Someone Knows Something, feels compassionate and honest, with real hope of helping the Kesse family find answers to a horrible crime.

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Unconcluded
Jennifer Kesse went missing in January of 2006 from Orlando. If you know anything about the case, contact the Orlando Police at Orlando Police: 321-235-5300