Indigenous broadcasters gather to share and learn
- Jamin Mike | October 01, 2021
Indigenous broadcasters are coping with a decline in fluent Indigenous language speakers and funding cuts, the Saskatchewan Association of Aboriginal Broadcasters (SAAB) heard at an August gathering in Prince Albert.
“Part of our mission and mandate is to share programming and ideas, especially for the new radio stations that are really growing rapidly in the south,” said Deborah Charles, CEO of Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
“Our goal is to continue evolving, moving forward, but having a financial position where we can continue without federal government funding,” Charles said.
In 1996, MBC partnered with various nonprofit communications organizations that operate northern local radio stations to found SAAB. About 29 stations came together with a mandate to ensure the growth of Indigenous communications, including creating a safe environment.
“I think (radio) is expanding quite well,” said Pauline Clarke, a radio broadcaster from Southend.
“We have two new radio stations in the far north, Black Lake and Wollaston Lake, that just joined our team.”
Clarke takes satisfaction in managing Southend’s radio station where she does everything from to producing programs to taking out the garbage. She says radio can impact a community by bringing people together and telling them what’s happening within their communities.
“I'm hoping that the other communities from further (north) such as Fond du Lac and Uranium City will join because they really need it there,” she said.
“This networking that we are doing with SAAB is the perfect place to come if you have a radio station.”
Attendees shared recruiting strategies to cope with their common concern about who will fill positions as seasoned broadcasters retire.
They also applauded MBC on its release of a company history book, Recognizing Our Roots: Way Beyond Just Broadcasting, which surveys the company’s involvement in Saskatchewan and its founders.
Attendees also had socially distanced, but lively and informative discussions about what the next generation of Indigenous broadcasters should learn.
“The advice we heard is absolutely key to designing courses that are directly beneficial to local communities,” said Shannon Avison, coordinator of the Indigenous Communication Arts (INCA) program at First Nations University of Canada.
Avison is leading a research study into the training and recruitment needs of Indigenous language broadcasters.
In the past year, research assistants conducted more than 30 interviews by Zoom and telephone. The interviews, conducted in Cree, Dene, Michif and English, provide insights into the challenges of recruiting and preparing young language speakers for community broadcasting.
The research, which is supported by a grant from the InSpirit Foundation, is already helping shape INCA classes by increasing focus on station management, fundraising and best practices for teaching languages on the air.
“Our goal is to help build curricula that will support the growth of Indigenous language broadcasting and can be adapted to any location or language,” said Avison.