Pressing Play on Nature, Culture and Music: Lyndsay Amato’s Career in Media and Education
She plays music on the radio and has a career playing and learning with kids of all ages. Lyndsay Amato is from Carcross Tagish First Nation. She’s Tlingit, Cree and Blackfoot and lives in Whitehorse, Yukon. Her background is in education, working with little kids in preschool but she also teaches cultural competency in university, mentoring students through the Early Learning Program. She works with a group that does outdoor learning programming for youth, bringing the youth outside or nature inside.
Growing up, Amato struggled in school. She didn’t grow up in a cultural way or with a strong cultural identity, living in a community significantly impacted by residential schools and colonization. She didn’t graduate from high school but went to college and upgraded.
In college, Amato was able to target her strengths and build on her skills. Working with kids and learning about childhood development allowed her to excel and get good grades, even as a single parent working full time. Since graduating, she’s worked with preschool kids for 17 years.
As a first generation residential school survivor, Amato had a hard time with what came to light when the gravesites in Kamloops were confirmed. She left her elementary school job to take care of her mental health and her family. Amato needed time to be creative and figure out what she wanted to do, yearning for flexibility to show up the way she needed to as a mother.
She never saw herself as an artist until she was recruited to teach a short media and interviewing workshop to youth. The experience was transformative and she started to think about all the ways she could share her knowledge, launching media workshops to increase their confidence, find their values and build their inner strength.
“When I realized what my own values are as a person in this world, I felt so confident in who I was and what I brought here that I didn't feel so lost anymore. I had kind of an idea of where I wanted to go and what felt good and what didn't feel good. That helped me make the choices that I've made in my life, which have really guided me to success. I never thought it was possible,” she beams. In her training, Amato also likes to talk about mental health and wellness and the importance of self care.
The Yukon is where she’s made a home for herself the majority of her life, outside of time spent in her father’s home community in Alberta and in Vancouver. “I just feel such a deep connection. I'm finally connecting with my culture. I'm sharing my knowledge with youth, and the importance of culture with students coming in to teach our small children of the Yukon. It just feels like I need to be here and I need to keep being here. I don't see myself leaving. I love it here. It's such a beautiful, unique place with a deep history,” she smiles.
The North is where her radio career started with a summer job. She was the first person to have a heavy metal show on that Indigenous country radio station and had a lot of fun. Now she has a Saturday night request show she loves. “It's an amazing experience to be able to connect community with their love of music,” she reflects. Many Northern communities still rely on radio to stay connected, without accessible cell phones or affordable internet. She loves being part of that connection for people.
Public speaking didn’t always come easy to her, but when she stopped caring what people thought and just honoured herself, it got easier. Being herself was what people wanted. “They like me as a person and there's nothing wrong with me. I have grown up my whole life here not really knowing who I am, not understanding who I am as a Tlingit person and not being able to connect to myself in a deep way. The moment that I started to do that kind of healing, working on my inner child, my mental health, my own personal health, changed my diet, started taking vitamins, on the road to sobriety for two years now, everything in my life just got better, and my ability to connect with people just was incredible. Because you don't have those masks up anymore,” Amato shares.
If she could give advice to her younger self it would be to take care of herself because she’s worth it. “I think the moment that I would have felt that self esteem and that care for myself, then everything else in my life would have flourished, I wouldn't have struggled as long as I did,” she offers. She tries to focus on the good things and share that positivity with the world.
Working a variety of jobs with flexible hours lets Amato take care of her child who has extra support needs. When she’s not working, she enjoys connecting with the land, going for walks, appreciating nature and being outside. Collecting plants, gardening, going for drives, watching wildlife and going to therapy help her stay well. She sees a psychiatrist and maintains a healthy lifestyle, eating well and taking her medications.
“It's taken a lot of work, and a lot of humility, to be able to say I need help to get through this life. I did it and I'm feeling the best that I ever have. I'm the happiest that I have ever been. I have a really bright future ahead of me. I will continue on this journey the way that I have been. I hope that whoever's out there listening will do the same things for themselves and know that they're worth it,” Amato shares in closing.
She plays music on the radio and has a career playing and learning with kids of all ages. Connecting with her identity as a First Nations woman and connecting her community with music, Lyndsay Amato has found a way to bring her interests and experiences together and share it with the world. When she found out who she was, she was able to find where she fit and help youth do the same, while pressing “play” on nature, culture and music.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.