Zongwe Binesikwe Decolonizing the Airwaves

By Betty Carpick

Zongwe Binesikwe (Sounding Thunderbird Woman), also known as Crystal “Zee” Hardy, is a mother, hand drum carrier, educator, nurse practitioner, and a storyteller with great creative and compassionate fortitude. In the Bear Clan from Biinjitiwabik Zaaging Anishnabek (Rocky Bay First Nation), her path is to follow and uphold traditional culture, values, and spirituality in her work as a helper, a steward of the land, a relative, and an international citizen. 

“I’m a healer,” says Zongwe Binesikwe. “I make the sound of thunder.”

Around the world, the fight against colonialism and discrimination continues. For Zongwe Binesikwe, raising awareness and creating safe spaces for Indigenous people through cultural humility, social justice, health equity, and advocacy has taken different turns at different times of her life. She’s had to strengthen herself as an Anishinaabe-kwe (Ojibway woman) and be adaptable, teachable, and progressive. 

Following the completion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s work in 2017, the response from the status quo around historic systemic racism was barely audible. The challenge for the people of Canada to understand and embrace individual responsibility to make change happen continues to this day.

Zongwe Binesikwe embarked on a seemingly unconventional road to amplify reconciliation and promote decolonization. Her podcast series, Under the Same Stars, debuted in January 2019. Then, buoyed by the resonance of Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire’s multi-media art project, Secret Path, and inspired by the possibilities of music as a way of healing and wellness, she launched Zee’s Place on LU Radio in December 2019. “Challenges are an opportunity for growth,” she says. “I’m decolonizing the airwaves.”

Since time immemorial, Indigenous people used what the land offered to make instruments for sacred song and dance. After the Europeans came to Turtle Island, ceremonial practices were forbidden. Zee’s Place provides a way to open hearts and strengthen connections through the geographically mobile forum of radio. Using an inclusive process of healing from histories that have silenced Indigenous voices, Zongwe Binesikwe competently weaves storytelling and genres including pop, rock, rap, hip-hop, and country to hold positive discourse. 

Music and creativity are an essential part of Indigenous daily life and the backbone of spiritual, cultural, and kinship beliefs. Given the urgency for equity, justice, tolerance, and civic engagement, Zongwe Binesikwe is challenging preconceptions about care and compassion by liberating healing to the air. Listen in, it’s a generous act.

Tune into Zee’s Place on LU Radio – CILU 102.7 FM every Wednesday from 2–4 pm.