Protecting the language with a permanent radio

·4 min read

An overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment overtook members of Reviving Kanehsatà:ke Radio (RKR) last week, as they secured the protected broadcasting license they had long been fighting for.

When extensive water damage to Kanesatake’s previous radio station brought its operations to a halt in July 2017, far was it for the station’s project manager, Karahkóhare Syd Gaspe, to imagine that 101.7 FM would be established as permanent four years later.

Despite the many setbacks, on June 14, 2021, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) rendered its decision and approved RKR’s application for a new license.

“We worked really hard to make this happen,” said Gaspe. “In a way, this was a relief because it’s been such a long three-year process.”

Gaspe explained that the process to change the local radio’s status from an unprotected low-power station to a protected station first began in April 2019, when another station filed an application with the CRTC to takeover RKR’s frequency.

With the beginning of this intervention prevention procedure, Kanehsata’kehro:non saw a daring opportunity to set work in motion in order to obtain the protected license they had been coveting.

“I felt like it was a shame to let that (frequency) go because it would have meant that the radio station wouldn’t have been able to exist anymore, since there are no other frequencies available around Montreal,” said Gaspe.

Part of the federal broadcasting commission’s decision notably made light of the station’s commitment to offering Indigenous content, such as spoken-word programs and music performed or composed by Onkwehón:we creators.

As the elder on the board of members for RKR, Gordon Oke expressed the significance behind providing Kanien’ké:ha content for the community.

“We have to progress with the times – one step at a time – in order to attract various age groups,” said Oke. “We’ve got elderly Mohawks who just speak the language, but then we also have a much younger generation who are learning the language and who want to get on the radio to encourage others to learn the language as well.”

Bearing in mind that Kanien’ké:ha, English and French are all languages spoken by community members, RKR set out to present content for everyone to enjoy.

This includes the station’s beloved radio-bingo program, which will be reinstated starting June 30 and carried out in the three languages.

“This will not only be good for our community members, but for some outside communities as well,” noted Oke.

As is the case with most stations, the Kanesatake radio plays a pivotal role in delivering important news, such as COVID-19 updates and directives to its listeners.

Moreover, RKR is a distinguished broadcaster made to hold local governing bodies accountable and ensure that Kanehsata’kehro:non have access to a reliable news source that holds truth to power.

For Oke, acquiring a permanent license for RKR is also part of a larger, ongoing movement to revitalize and protect the language.

“I’ve always dreamt of the day when I would be hearing the Mohawk language being spoken on a fairly regular basis – where people would be tuning in from their homes at any time of the day to listen to stories being exchanged and the news of the community,” said Oke. “We all want to see this through, so that it can be a thriving radio station.”

It’s with this intent that RKR embarks on its next endeavour: constructing a new station building and erecting a 180-foot transmission tower.

With all the work left ahead to be achieved, Gaspe said his willingness to see the project through and give back to his community has never been stronger.

“It’s part of our culture to work towards goals for the next seven generations when making all the decisions we have – and this was one aspect that made me want to get involved in this project,” said Gaspe. “Now that we’ve secured a radio station for Kanesatake, we want to work towards keeping it for those generations.”

laurence.b.dubreuil@gmail.com

Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door

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