From residential school to singing on stage with George Jones, George Tuccaro shares his courageous journey from the drunk tank to professional CBC broadcaster, and why personal healing is essential to reconciliation…and joy.
After being separated from family and forcibly stripped of their culture, many Indigenous Peoples who attended residential schools still suffer. It’s critical to understand how the legacy of residential schools and colonialism continue to negatively impact Indigenous communities.
After surviving residential school and tragically losing his brother, George turned to alcohol to cope. But he found a way to overcome his pain through sobriety, self-help groups, public speaking, music and humour. George is an inspiration and continues working to help others overcome the trauma that remains from their experiences.
This episode sheds light on the importance of TRC Calls to Action 19, 21, and 22.
A member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, George Tuccaro began a career in broadcasting in 1971, when he became an Announcer-Operator with CBC North Radio in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. In 1979, Tuccaro joined the public service, becoming a communications officer with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. Leaving that position in 1981, Tuccaro returned to broadcasting by again joining CBC North as a Coordinator of Aboriginal Languages Programming. In this position, Tuccaro worked to develop the promotion of Aboriginal languages in radio broadcasting, as well as producing an internationally acclaimed radio documentary on the rate of teen suicide in the north of Canada.
Between 1990 and 1991, Tuccaro was the Coordinator of the Cultural Industries Program, and created a booking agency for northern performing artists in the Northwest Territories. From then until 2002, Tuccaro hosted Trails End, a CBC North Radio program, and served as the anchor of Northbeat, the first daily current affairs television program in Canada’s north.
In 2002, Tuccaro retired from public broadcasting to start his own company, GLT Communications, through which he aimed to bring major events to the territory. Tuccaro has been awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and a 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal. On May 12, 2010, Tuccaro was appointed Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. On May 10, 2016, Tuccaro retired from his position as Commissioner.
>> 03:00: They literally tried to reprogram us to take the Indian out of the child, I think was the objective back in those days.
>> 03:13: There’s a lot of issues that came out as a result of [residential schools]. I was a product of some of those issues as well after I left residential school. I was only there for six years. But in that time a lot of things had happened to a young boy who all of a sudden lost all the nurturing and everything.
>> 04:20: There’s some things that happened along the way that caused me to actually end up being an alcoholic
>> 07:15: I tried to encourage a lot of men to [come to healing groups]. And so I think that’s still the challenge today is to get them in, to dig down deep inside and pull this stuff out and look at it and get rid of it, you know, and keep on going and create yourself a happy place in this world so that we could raise our children. And we could be more in the moment as it were with our children or with our grandchildren.
>> 24:15: Reconciliation was the be all and end all for me because once I was able to reconcile a lot of things in my life…to be able to expose it and to write about it and to be able to speak to somebody about it and get it out of me, I was able to take all of that hurt and pain out and put in the good stuff.
>> 10:09: As I began to walk down the healing road, I had to find things that were natural to me. One of the things that came natural to me was that I was able to use healing through humor, to be able to release a lot of tension, a lot of stress in my life, and to be able to pass that goodness on to other people.
>> 12:15: And through the toughest times, you know, Aboriginal Peoples found a way to laugh. And I think that’s one of the things that I was able to pass on on-stage.
>> 13:45: And when I was able to take my power back, I was able to go on stage and be even funnier. And so, it was all a big part of my healing. And I think a lot of people find themselves hanging on to things that are so far back that it clouds the future. You know, it clouds this moment from this moment into the future.
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