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Crystal “Zee” Hardy is decolonizing Thunder Bay’s airwaves (4 photos)

Crystal “Zee” Hardy hit Thunder Bay's airwaves last September with her radio show Zee's Place.

Zonge Binesikwe, Sounding Thunderbird Woman, began Zee’s Place, her radio show, on CILU 102.7 FM last September.

Crystal “Zee” Hardy’s voice has been broadcasted through the community since last fall and has been a staple of Indigenous conversation.

“I had my podcast, Under the Same Stars, so I knew I could speak,” she says about her introduction to the world of broadcasting.

Hardy is a nurse practitioner and a doctoral student finishing her PhD in decolonizing healthcare. When asked what brought her from the world of healthcare into a place that gave her a platform to speak?

“I was looking for how Indigenous people were represented in the media. It’s not great.”

Decolonization and reconciliation

Hardy is an Anishnawbe in the Bear Clan from Biinjitiwabik Zaaging Anishnabek in Northern Ontario. 

Now through Zee’s Place, she has made it her lifelong goal to advocate and lead the changes needed to decolonize not just the airwaves, but how the Indigenous community is heard in every facet of life within Thunder Bay; making their existence not just a breath, but a staple to the foundation of our community.

She asked herself how she could make this change and see herself reflected in the media in a positive way. She saw how the community was, and is, treated by the settlers of this land and saw herself in those word and judgments. 

“When people talk about Indigenous people they say, “Oh, we’re not talking about you.” But they are. I am Indigenous.”

She made the steps into broadcasting to be the voice of change.

Breaking boundaries

Hardy says she plays Indigenous artists and non-Indigenous artists raising awareness of unity and won’t define what Indigenous music is because what she’s learned is it’s an open-ended definition.

Genres are fluid and this includes music being created by and for the Indigenous community; this music is medicine.

“Music is a notional expression and evokes emotion in other people. By [playing a] protest song you can get someone to change their ideals about something or understand something in a different way in their heart [better] than giving them a journal article or policy or procedure.”

Music is the language the entire world speaks in unity and Hardy is bringing this into her community and the larger part of Thunder Bay. 

“This is joyful. It’s a passion.”

Music as conversation

Digging Roots, Northwest Kid, A Tribe Called Red, Page 38 and Visual Past are just some of the artists Hardy plays.

She regularly asks, “How can this help other people?”

She doesn’t believe decolonizing the airwaves is a linear path but a forest with roots for everyone. She has formed a path for the community to better understand where these roots began and how everyone can have uncomfortable conversations. Conversations needed in Thunder Bay.

“Sometimes we need to be and just listen to music and feel good.”

Hardy has created an outlet to make a difference for people and has only just begun. 

You can hear the voice of Zonge Binesikwe every Wednesday on CILU 102.7 FM 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.  Find her on Instagram @zongwebinesikwe and discover the work she’s doing through her website

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