When Elder Gerry Oleman began his journey of bringing First Nations teachings about healing to others, it was because he too, was feeling deeply hurt.
“I lost a nephew two years ago; he got stabbed to death," Gerry shared. “I got depressed. I said, 'well, I'm going to do something.' There are so many people that shouldn't have died and are suffering."
Frustrated by the high rates of suicide and violence within First Nations communities, Gerry began to lead healing circles that focused on strengthening culture and empowering individuals to take an active role in their health and wellness.
Working in community and strengthening culture is a lifelong passion for Gerry. He has had a longstanding relationship with the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), where he worked as a consultant on several projects including the San'yas Anti-Racism Indigenous Cultural Safety training program that is now taught in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario.
In 2017, Gerry decided that there was an opportunity to expand the audience of his healing circles and to meet youth and people living away from home–on a digital podcast platform.
The Teachings in the Air podcast is part of a response to high suicide rates and a lack of violence prevention within First Nations communities. Research shows that these rates are lower in First Nations communities where culture is strong.
When asked about where the podcast name came from, Gerry shared that he previously spent time with an Elder who passed on stories and teachings to him. Gerry said that throughout this experience he felt that everything—including the teachings, nature, stories and music—comes from the air.
“When I used to work in mental health in Vancouver, many people didn't have an Elder nearby. But now, I can spread teachings through the air in a podcast," says Gerry.
The podcast allows people, no matter where they are living, the opportunity to connect to culture through the teachings that Gerry shares in the episodes. Since it began, the podcast has grown to reach an international audience. With over 18.9k total plays, listenership has increased by more than 30 per cent over the last year.
Teachings in the Air is currently finishing its sixth season and is planning to launch its seventh in the upcoming months. You can follow the podcast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates and listen to the latest episodes on Spotify.