How Duncan McCue approached his new hard-hitting podcast, ‘Kuper Island’

Duncan McCue goes in-depth with IndigiNews to share what it took to create the hard-hitting podcast ‘Kuper Island’

Trigger Warning: This story and the accompanying video contain in-depth conversations about the violence, and trauma experienced within Canada’s residential “school” system. Please prioritize your wellness and spirit, and read this with care.  

“Residential schools were like bombs in our family,” Duncan McCue shares with IndigiNews when talking about what it was like to create the eight-part series podcast, ‘Kuper Island,’ for CBC Podcasts

The podcast was released on May 17. 

“Our podcast is about three children who survived the Kuper Island Residential School: Tony and James and Belvie. They shared their truths with an intimacy that will make you laugh and cry – and may help you understand how we move forward from the shameful legacy of Indian residential schools toward a fairer and more courageous country,” says McCue who is Anishinaabe, and a member of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation.

“When the former Chief of Penelakut first told me how her community has grappled with the restless spirits of children ever since the Kuper Island Residential School closed, I knew it was a story more people needed to hear. I wanted to go beyond the cold, hard numbers of unmarked graves, to help people understand the deaths of children at a residential school aren’t a thing of the past.” 

McCue says that in the first thirty years at the Kuper Island Residential School, the survival rate was 60 per cent. 

“The Kuper Island School had a nearly a 40 per cent death rate […] four out of every 10 children that went to Kuper Island in those first 30 years died,” he shared with IndigiNews in an interview on May 12.

“Kuper Island is in the middle of […] the Salish Sea. And children were trying to get away from the place so badly that they were setting out into the Salish Sea, and some of them died. And you have to ask yourself why I mean, what would drive a child to do that?”

That’s the question that sent McCue and his co-producers Jodie Martinson and Martha Troian to Spune’luxutth homelands, on what’s been briefly known as Penelakut Island, and formerly Kuper Island.

Listen in as Kelsie Kilawna, Cultural Editor and Senior Aunty for IndigiNews talks to McCue about what it was like to cover such a heavy story, specifically for him as an Indigenous man and storyteller. 


Editors Note: This article was updated from a previous version to correct a spelling error. Thank you to our cuzzin for pointing it out.

Dear cuzzins, if you or anyone you know is struggling with a visit with depression, suicidal ideation or attempts we want you to know help is available at KUU-US Crisis Line Society.

​Adults/Elders (250-723-4050), Child/Youth (250-723-2040), Toll free (1-800-588-8717), or the Métis Line (1-833-MétisBC). 

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