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Become a Cultural Navigator

Become a Cultural Navigator

Indigenous musician and writer Christa Couture re-imagines travel for the blind and partially sighted through Postcards From…

Christa Couture
On Postcards From... Christa Couture visits different parts of Canada.

Christa Couture has spent much of her adult life singing, talking, and writing about grief. But the Indigenous musician, writer, filmmaker, and broadcaster is in a cheerful mood when Pancouver reaches her over Zoom.

It’s due to her upbeat documentary travel series, Postcards From… on AMI-tv.

“Hosting a travel show—or hosting any television show—was not part of my plan,” Couture says. “I was not looking for this job, but I’m so delighted and grateful that it came up.”

Couture was hired to host the fifth season of Postcards From… after being contacted by Black Rhino Creative executive producer Leah Mallen, with whom she had worked in the past. AMI-tv is the world’s first television network on which all programs have open-format described video. It’s ideally suited for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted.

“I am a sighted person, but they do include other disabilities,” says Couture, who has Cree and Scandinavian ancestry. “So, they needed a host with a disability.

“My left leg is amputated above the knee, so I was qualified,” she quips. “And then, I just had the time of my life.”

Billed as “a travel series for the senses”, Postcards From… has taken Couture to several fascinating locations across Canada. In the first episode, she rode a motorcycle in the badlands of Alberta. As a writer, she enjoyed coming up with adjectives to describe the surreal landscape of Drumheller, , a.k.a. the Dinosaur Capital of the World.

“It’s so dry and it feels like Mars,” Couture says.

Christa Couture shows off Dawson City in Postcards From…

Couture goes off grid in the Yukon

In the second episode, she visited Fredericton to sample its history and Celtic culture. Then, it was off to Dawson City in the Yukon, where she panned for gold and spent time with a queer burlesque dancer and an Indigenous river guide. Getting there meant flying from Toronto to Vancouver to Whitehorse to the Klondike region near the Alaska border.

“That might be my favourite episode because it’s so remote from Toronto,” Couture states.

In the 2021 census, Dawson City’s population was 1,577. Couture says that with its wooden boardwalks, it’s not nearly as accessible as major tourist destinations like Niagara Falls.

“I don’t think you can live in Dawson without relying on your neighbours,” she notes. “They were very willing and keen to do whatever they could for me to get on the boat, on the river, or off the grid, like to a house in the woods. Because that’s what they do as a community—they help each other.”

There have been some surprises as a TV documentary host. At Ruckle Heritage Farm on Salt Spring Island, a cow named Allison punched Couture in the stomach with her horn. But Couture still managed to draw some milk out of Allison.

“It’s very dangerous work,” Couture says with a laugh.

In the same episode, she went swimming in the Salish Sea with a group of women called the Salt Spring Seals.

“At 45, I was the youngest one there,” she says. “They are all mostly over 60 and they go swimming once a week, all year around, in the ocean.”

Because the show is for the blind and partially sighted, Couture knows that she has to describe various locations in ways that resonate with the audience.

Prior to this gig, Couture had done many impressive things in her life. She’s recorded several albums, including The Wedding Singer and The Undertaker, which won a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award. Another disc, The Living Record, made the Georgia Straight’s list of 50 albums that shaped Vancouver.

Christa Couture does some basket weaving at King’s Landing in Fredericton.

Fun, playful, and meaningful

Even though Couture has toured extensively, she usually didn’t see any of the sights in towns that she visited as a musician.

“You don’t get to explore because you go to sound check, you play the show, and you leave the next morning,” Couture says. “So, I’ve been to lots of places but saw nothing other than the bar I was playing at. But I’m very comfortable living out of a suitcase and I could easily roll with delayed flights and all that stuff.”

Couture also wrote a captivating memoir, How to Lose Everything, which led to a series of short animated films. Through it all, she spent a great deal of her life coping with loss. She emphasizes that she never mentions her personal “grief file” on the program.

“I’ve lost two children,” Couture tells Pancouver. “I’ve had two kinds of cancer. My bone cancer is relevant because that’s how I acquired my disability. And it’s been kind of a relief—or a lovely change—just to be part of something that is more lighthearted.”

Postcards From… is certainly fun and playful. And it’s also very meaningful to her.

“I think the work that I did with How to Lose Everything and the work I’ve done talking about grief has shaped how I am in talking to people,” Couture states. “That’s opened my eyes to all kinds of human experiences and trying to always centre compassion for people…

“You never know what battle someone is fighting in this moment,” she continues. “I think that it informs how I am as a host, even though I don’t bring that subject forward.”

Black Rhino Creative and Accessible Media Inc. are presenting Postcards From… on AMI-tv and AMI+. For information on future episodes, visit the show’s website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.