Kissing the Monster – Wrinkles podcast tackles Elder Abuse

Friday, December 30th, 2022 12:32pm

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by David Sereda 

1 out of 6 seniors suffers from abuse, says the World Health Organization. And the risk is much higher for Indigenous seniors, says Statistics Canada.

“Mishoo miinwaa Noki ~ You, Me and Wrinkles” (or "Wrinkles") is a podcast that calls out abuse by doing a simple and courageous thing – naming it, and saying enough is enough. Wrinkles puts authentic voices – in English and Anishinaabemowin – at the heart of the podcast. They tell true stories that inspire listeners to bring elder abuse out of the shadows and normalize talking about it.

“We need to talk about these issues. Even though they are raw, hurtful and scary, we need to kiss that monster on the nose.” — Ronat John, M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre

“Wrinkles” has two elements: audio dramas and discussions. Audio dramas feature lively, challenged characters, humour, and loving tributes. Discussions feature specialists talking about experiences, solutions and resources. Highlighted issues include physical, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse, isolation, family problems, and the lasting impact of residential schools and colonialism. Speakers include Elders, survivors, community workers, law enforcement, harm reduction workers, legal aid, and children.

There’s also music to uplift listeners – including songs performed by the cast, the staff of M’Wikwedong IFC, and the Ode’min Kwe Singers. There’s even some Hank Williams.

Spring Dawn Keeshig
Spring Dawn Keeshig

Episodes vary, a lot.  In “Boozhoo/Welcome”, Elder Shirley John of Saugeen First Nation starts the program with an opening, the Grandmother Song, a prayer, and insights into the Seven Grandfather Teachings. These provide a foundation for mino bimaadiziwin, healthy living, and for solutions for abuse.

There’s an entire episode in Anishinaabemowin, “Kitchi Nshinaabeg dibaataanaawaa Kitchi Nshinaabeg miji doodwindwaa – Elders talk about Elder Abuse in Ojibwe.”

In others, Elder Austin Elliott recounts his family’s story, kids from M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre share their thoughts, and two of the cast members, Dorothy Wassegijig-Kennedy and Gloria May Eshkibok, remember how “Wrinkles” came to life at Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.

“It’s going to be a really good resource,” says Wassegejig-Kennedy.  “We need to bring ourselves up, we need to feel that empowerment.”

“Wrinkles” began as a play, facilitated and directed by Sheatre’s Artistic Director, Joan Chandler in 2009. The cast were community members who wanted to speak out using theatre. Celebrated actor Gloria May Eshkibok was instrumental in gathering the right people. The premiere was memorable: the audience had to travel through a ferocious blizzard for the show.

“The snow [that] came that day for that presentation was a sign from the Creator. It's important work that we're doing. It's important work that we're listening to. It's important work that we have to bring awareness.”  Gloria May Eshkibok

Gloria Eshkibok
Gloria May Eshkibok

To reach more people, the cast recorded the play as a series of audio dramas which aired on Indigenous radio stations in 2010-11. Now as a podcast, Wrinkles is widely available and, sadly, it’s more relevant than ever. Since the pandemic, reports of elder abuse have sky-rocketed, according to Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario. There’s an even greater need to raise awareness and prevent elder abuse.

“It’s crucial to remember that elder abuse is a serious problem that’s often not discussed or reported because of shame, fear, and lack of awareness of resources. These are real stories, and real solutions, told by real people. Wrinkles gives them a platform to be heard, and break the silence around difficult situations,” said Chandler.

“We've always accommodated so much over our own best interests, our own morale, our own enlightenment,“ says Dorothy Wassegijig-Kennedy. “So I just like to point that out, that we need to keep on bringing ourselves up. And we're not just tools to resource here… We're doing a great big thing here.”

(David Sereda is Associate Artist and Producer with Sheatre)

Cast
Sheatre Cast

 

About Sheatre: we believe in the power of theatre and the arts to change lives and help build a compassionate and healthy society. Sheatre was established in rural Ontario in 1985. Since then, we’ve reached 184,200+ youth and adults through creating and producing 117 original plays and 1350 events in rural, Indigenous and small urban communities in Canada, the US and England. We are located in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabek Nation, the people of the Three Fires known as Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi Nations. We thank the Chippewas of Nawash and the Chippewas of Saugeen, known collectively as the Saugeen Ojibwe Nation. As traditional keepers of this land, for the opportunity to meet here. We also acknowledge the Metis community whose history and people are well represented here. We recognize the long and continuing history of Indigenous peoples in this place and affirm that we are all treaty people with all the responsibilities and relations that commitment entails.

"Wrinkles" contains scenes of violence against seniors, strong language, and frank discussion. Listener discretion is advised.  If you or someone you know needs help, here are some resources:

Call 911 if it’s an emergency.

Call 211 for help in connecting with supports and services close to home.

If you or someone you know is affected by Elder abuse, call the Senior Safety Line in Ontario anytime, anonymously and free of charge at 1866-299-1011.

Talk 4 Healing is a helpline for Indigenous women across Ontario. Talk, text or chat 1-888-200-9997. They are there to listen any time of day.

The Indian Residential School Survivors and Family 24 hour Crisis Line is at 1-800-721-0066

Turning to a good friend or trusted family member may be an option. Community can be helpful, so look around and talk to each other.

Listen to Wrinkles on Sheatre’s website where there’s more information on the cast and speakers, and a guide to use Wrinkles in your community. Or listen wherever you find your podcasts.

 

“Mishoo, miinwaa Noki ~ You, Me and Wrinkles” the Elder abuse Prevention podcast is made possible with support from Sheatre’s funders: New Horizons for Seniors, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Arts Council, Justice Canada, J.P. Bickell Foundation, Community Foundation Grey Bruce and individuals