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“What? You mean I can produce a podcast for my master’s degree?”

Kris Cromwell

Kris Cromwell

Native studies student Kris Cromwell had a great idea for a series of podcast interviews highlighting contributions BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) are making to increase inclusion in outdoor sports and recreation.

But she didn’t see how she could find the time to balance a podcast with a conventional master’s thesis on the racialized geography of exclusion in the outdoors.

“I was having trouble defining my master’s project and thought, do I put my grad studies on hold for a year to figure out what I’m doing?”

That’s when her adviser, Nicole Lugosi-Schimpf, came up with the solution: “Why don’t you make the podcast your master’s thesis?”

“Is that academic enough?” asked Cromwell.

“Sure, it’s research creation – a great way to collect primary data,” replied Lugosi-Schimpf. A podcast would also reflect the Faculty of Native Studies’ mission to engage and collaborate with external communities in its research and teaching.

“Okay, amazing! So let’s do that then,” said Cromwell, and BIPoC Outside was launched – a serial podcast “about joy, empowerment and the transformative power of the outdoors,” said Cromwell.

It’s a topic with powerful resonance across communities in Canada, especially during the pandemic when more people are getting outdoors.

As a lifelong skier and year-round cyclist of Black Italian origin, Cromwell couldn’t help but notice a significant under-representation of BIPOC people in outdoor sports and recreation.

“And it’s also a male-dominated space,” she added. “My research is looking at the social construction of these spaces as exclusionary, specifically to Black and Indigenous people through policy and legislation. … My podcast is also a digital response to that.”

Those interviewed include BIPOC athletes, innovators in outdoor sports and recreation, and organizers who are breaking down barriers to participation, said Cromwell.

“We don’t need more ethnic-looking models in advertising. What we need are leaders.

“And we need to educate folks from under-represented groups to become leaders – whether behind the scenes, at the boardroom table or on the snow. They might be guides, instructors or avalanche forecasters.”

She pointed to B.C.’s Indigenous Life Sport Academy and Indigenous Women Outdoors and the U.S.-based National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) as organizations with best practices for promoting inclusion and respect in outdoor sports and recreation.

“All of these groups are using culturally appropriate approaches to downhill skiing and snowboarding as a rad-cool way for youth to engage with their land.”

BIPoC Outside debuted Nov. 12 with an episode called Good Relations featuring Lakota skier Connor Ryan.

The conversation explores Ryan’s professional career as well as his determination to always be in good relations with the land and its local people. As he carves his way through the snow, he thinks of skiing as a spiritual pursuit.

“I come from Lakota culture, where dancing is in many of our ceremonies. Skiing for me is like a dance,” he said. “It’s these repetitive motions that allow me to connect with the ceremonies of my culture.”

That episode is followed by a conversation with Colorado artist and outdoor enthusiast Latasha Dunston. The first season focuses mainly on skiing and snowboarding, said Cromwell, and transcripts of all podcasts are available on the BIPoC Outside website. The second season will focus on cycling, and future seasons will focus on water sports, hiking, running and climbing.

“We’re going to be talking about ways to organize in the outdoor space, about spaces specifically for women – Indigenous women, BIPOC women – and how to be new in the space, with tips and tricks for new folks,” such as safety and how to find gear: “What’s affordable? What are some ways that I can do this if I’m an urban person?”

The series will also devote time to being “a good guest” in the outdoors, said Cromwell, by respecting Indigenous land rights.

“Everything has to be done with permission. … There are some spaces that we just shouldn’t be recreating in because they are sacred or culturally significant spaces to Indigenous peoples.

“We need to change the culture of entitlement to the outdoors — how can I be respectful in these spaces? We need to listen to the local Indigenous populations.”

So far, Cromwell has had listeners tune in from as far away as China, Italy, Ireland and Turkey.

“Podcasting as a primary data source is an innovative way to collect and showcase people’s stories,” said Lugosi-Schimpf.

“Kris’s podcasting method is cutting-edge, and because she made the deliberate decision to highlight the strengths of the snow sports community, her research centres and empowers BIPOC voices.”

Those voices will eventually provide Cromwell with the necessary information to write a discourse analysis for her master’s thesis.

BIPoC Outside is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council with support from the U of A’s Intersections of Gender signature area.

The show is syndicated everywhere podcasts are available, with profiles on Facebook and Twitter.

| By Geoff McMaster

Submitted by the University of Alberta’s Folio online magazine. The University of Alberta is a Troy Media Editorial Content Provider Partner.

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