M’CHIGEENG— Internationally renown Anishinaabe artist Carl Beam often spoke to his daughter (also an artist of note) Anong of his dream of creating an Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language) radio station that would broadcast in the language. Ms. Beam launched a nascent version of that dream five years ago, Gimaa Radio, but sustaining that dream proved to beyond the resources of a young artist and the station went into temporary abeyance.
Ms. Beam recently revived her father’s dream by donating the FM transmitter, licence and other equipment to Kenjegewin Teg Educational Institute (KTEI) and that organization has partnered with the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF) to bring the station back online. The organizers launched a 20-day Kickstarter campaign on November 30 with the goal of raising $8,000. With the help of the online community, Gimaa Radio will rise again.
“We had a really good meeting with Waubetek (Business Services) and the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation is getting an office together for the radio station,” said Ms. Beam. Waubetek will be assisting the station in applying for funding to help get the nascent enterprise off the ground and onto the air. “We have a really good team of people, including UCCMM (United Chiefs and Councils of M’nidoo M’nising) and Kenjgewin Teg (Educational Institute). They are really getting behind this.”
“As one of several partners in this language learning and revitalization project, KTEI is pleased to be a part of this exciting project with so many other like-minded agencies, groups and dedicated community members” said Stephanie Roy, executive director of KTEI about the project. “Together, we are all striving to support the UCCMM Tribal Council language declaration of Anishinaabemowin fluency by the year 2030, including supporting the M’Chigeeng First Nation, which is a member of KTEI, and which has also made its own public declaration and commitment towards language fluency for all. Together, we hope to see this momentum continue to grow to see what kinds of additional opportunities we can come up with in order to make these language declarations come to life.”
“It is an exciting project,” said OCF executive director Peggy Simon. “We are exploring partnerships to eventually build the station into a regional support for the language throughout our traditional territories.”
For now, the station is functioning as a low-power FM station broadcasting at 88.9 on the FM dial, and is currently only available to listeners adjacent to Mindemoya stretching from Kagawong to Honora Bay, but it is also available streaming online at www.uccmm.ca/gimaa-radio.html.
“If we can build the support expanding it is really not all that complicated,” said Ms. Simon. “All you need is a tuner and a computer. I would love for it to be available in each of our communities.”
While the current format still broadcasts a lot in English, Ms. Simon said that the ultimate goal is to see the station’s offerings be 80 percent in Anishinaabemowin. “That is our long-term goal,” she said.
Ms. Simon said that there is a growing desire among Anishinaabe youth to learn their language along with a general resurgence in interest among the younger generation in learning more about their culture. “It is cool to celebrate who we are as Anishinaabe peoples,” she said.
Ms. Beam noted that the station’s goal will take some time to ramp up, as many of the target audience are just beginning to learn their language, but the station planners have some ideas on how to tackle that. One of the ideas is to cover sporting events. “A lot of people enjoy sports and if people are hearing the language in a context they are familiar with it will be easier to pick up contextually,” she said, recalling that her own learning came through conversations with her father about sports and politics. “Most of what I know comes from those talks with my father.”
Other concepts include cooking shows. “That’s been really exciting,” she said.
Ms. Beam said that radio, being an audio medium, will play an important role in language revitalization. “We really want it to be a useful tool for people on Manitoulin.”
One of the challenges to making the concept sustainable is commercialization. “Most radio stations fund themselves through advertising, and we have had a number of people approach us to advertise already,” she said. “But since we want commercials to be in both languages, we have to come up with a way to say ‘zero percent financing’ in Anishinaabemowin.”
The Kickstarter link to donate can be found at: www.kickstarter.com/projects/477721434/gimaa-radio