Jonny Harris takes flight in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory on Still Standing

For a quartet of seasons on Still Standing, host Jonny Harris has been crisscrossing Canada visiting small communities of people eking out a living despite tough times. Some towns are reeling over the loss of a key industry that left town. Other burgs are finding their footing thanks to budding tourism. Many of the communities Harris has visited are First Nations territories.

The latest is featured in Tuesday’s episode when he drops by Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, down the road a piece from Toronto. It’s a part of the province I’ve driven by many times on the way to and from Ottawa and Montreal—there are signs marking the area on Highway 401—but I’ve never made the turnoff to do some exploring.

Now I plan to, especially after watching Harris’ latest episode, which celebrates not only the tradition of the people in the area but the future too. I had no clue there was an aviation school there as part of the First Nations Technical Institute.

“We’re always interested in visiting First Nations communities,” Harris says over the phone. “The flight school was definitely something that caught our interest. A flight school that is, first and foremost, for Aboriginal kids. That was pretty neat.” It sure is. To see Harris behind the controls of a Cessna for just a few minutes is a sight to behold, as is his chat with the instructors and students at the school. Harris has made a career out of the gift of gab and it’s the high point for me during episodes of Still Standing, especially when he’s chatting and listening to stories told in Tyendinaga by Turtle Clan Mother Janice Hill, tanner Randy Brant or learning the intricacies of floorball from goalie Madison Brinklow.

Aside from celebrating Canadians eking out a living outside of the large cities, Still Standing revels in inclusivity: what connects us and what makes us different. That can be reflected in geography, livelihood and culture. And, as always, a shared laugh through Harris’ wry observations and teasing during his standup performance.

“It’s got to be a little bit saucy and cheeky,” he says. “But it also has to be respectful. I’m not there to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”

Still Standing airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.