A Métis broadcaster is bringing Michif radio programs to more N.W.T. communities

·3 min read
Vance Sanderson is a Michif language advocate who works for the NWT Metis. (Submitted by Vance Sanderson - image credit)
Vance Sanderson is a Michif language advocate who works for the NWT Metis. (Submitted by Vance Sanderson - image credit)

A radio language initiative might start making waves across the territory.

Vance Sanderson is a Michif language advocate who works for the Northwest Territory Métis Nation. He's been offering programming in Michif — a language that combines Cree, French and English — in Fort Smith since 2018.

Now the host is hoping to expand that to other communities soon.

"We want to make sure that the communities have … a good creative opinion, or approach towards how their radio will be formed and shaped," Sanderson told CBC, adding he wants it to be an initiative the community can look forward to.

"Something that can strengthen their language, and at the same time, share ideas and make sure it's open and for everyone."

He says within Métis culture, or in some small communities, it isn't uncommon for people to speak a mixture of languages.

"A lot of the time when you speak a language, a lot of people don't really realize that you can actually use French and Cree and English all at once. I grew up listening to all these languages at once," he said.

"Hearing other communities and other elders speak and sharing their language is very special."

He says he hopes bringing Michif to air in more places will help bring more prominence to the language in the territory and build "creative ways to use language with radio broadcasting."

Tapwe 'true' FM

The radio station in Fort Smith is owned by the N.W.T. Métis Nation. Sanderson aims to name it Tapwe — meaning true — FM. They're also in the process of creating a new channel for the station to live on. For the time being they operate on CKLB where they can cut in anytime to do local weather and COVID-19 updates.

Right now, Sanderson says work is underway to develop the radio's programming.

"We hope by year end, we have a technician who could train youth, elders, adults, storytellers, people that can come in and do the weather in their language, or any language that is in the community. And we hope that it makes really good progress or a positive impact on the community," he said.

So far, equipment has been ordered for Fort Resolution, which they hope will be up and running this year. Another in Hay River should be readiy either later this year or next year. Sanderson expects the station in Fort Resolution will be named "Nezu" meaning "it's good."

"We can even expand towards say Fort Providence, Enterprise, Fort Simpson, Fort Liard. A lot of smaller communities that love radio and enjoy it," he said.

This is one of two rooms at the Michif radio station studio in Fort Smith, N.W.T. Vance Sanderson says the aim is to name this station Tapwe — meaning 'true' — FM.
This is one of two rooms at the Michif radio station studio in Fort Smith, N.W.T. Vance Sanderson says the aim is to name this station Tapwe — meaning 'true' — FM.(Submitted by Vance Sanderson)

"We are making sure that we have the right equipment, the best equipment for each of those communities so they can look forward to at least 10 to 20 years of radio broadcasting in their languages."

He added he hopes to ensure there's a focus on Chipewyan, Cree, Michif, and even French,"if elders or other speakers have that influence."

He says the feedback has been positive.

"A lot of people really want to get involved," Sanderson said.

Their goal is to eventually make an advisory board, where they can go for advice on what works and what doesn't, and eventually they hope to draft new policies for the smaller communities, said Sanderson.

"I think there's a lot of excitement with each community to get involved and make radio strong again and have it on the airwaves."