PAQTNKEK: As a way for the Mi’kmaq community to take control of their media and hear familiar voices, the Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation will be soon going live across the airways.
After 18-months of legwork to consider what kind of programming they want to offer, the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved Paqtnkek Radio Society’s (PRS) application for a broadcasting license to operate a Type B Native (Indigenous) English-and-Indigenous-language FM radio station on April 25.
Richard Perry, a former CBC journalist who will act as the station’s manager and lead training programs for their volunteers, told The Reporter he was largely inspired by what was done at the small community station in Potlotek.
“There are all kind of exciting things happening in terms of economic development, but still there is kind of a central news hub that’s missing,” Perry said.”A central place where people can find out what’s going on in the community.”
Operating on 104.5 FM to the call letters CFPQ-FM, the station would broadcast 126 hours of local programming each week, including at least five hours of programming in the Mi’kmaq language, five hours of news and five hours of spoken word programming.
Music performed or composed by Indigenous artists would comprise up to 11 per cent of the weekly music broadcast and the license will devote at least 35 per cent of its musical selections from Canadian content.
“It is our intention to provide spoken word and music content in Mi’kmaq and English that meets the regulatory requirements, and reflects our community back to itself, using our words and our music to preserve our Indigenous culture,” Perry said. “It’s going to be a great storytelling platform for all ages, and we’re already collecting a significant amount of Mi’kmaq music throughout the Maritimes that we’ll be able to run on the airwaves.”
Through generations, the Mi’kmaq have passed their history and culture down through oral storytelling, and radio was something Perry thought was a natural medium as a form of expression to celebrate Mi’kmaq stories and music that aren’t heard in the mainstream media.
“To me it’s everything. It’s something that’s largely been lost, the way reservations were set up years ago,” Perry said. “It almost sets an entire culture, an entire people in distinct remote areas that are disconnected from the mainstream economy, mainstream culture, so this is a way towards reclaiming some of that.”
Through multiple opinion polls, community members have expressed a strong interest for running mostly country and reggae music, with a strong presence of modern Indigenous music and PowWow performances.
“But let’s say a Mi’kmaq elder wants to have a conversation with a child about the Mi’kmaq language – they can do that,” Perry said. “They can come in, turn on the microphone, and have a conversation about our language or speak about our culture.”
Now that PRS has received their license, they are required to go live within two-years and will now embark on a fundraising campaign to raise a startup budget in the amount of $15,000 to complete studio renovations, install new doors and windows, and find audio treatment and studio-transmitting gear.
Funding will be shared by the band council, a private donation of $5,000, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, Sobey’s Inc., the Municipality of the County of Antigonish and Grant Thornton LLP of Sydney.
“Job number one is to get all the technical infrastructure in place to get the signal out,” Perry explained. “Industry Canada has a branch that comes around and does all the testing, they would drive throughout the community to test the signal strength, and apparently that’s about a three month process.”
Perry hopes to have the radio station up and running in six months and along with being over the traditional FM radio, they plan to live stream on the Internet as well.
In addition, PRS has secured in-kind donations of a CD player, microphones and cables from CBC Nova Scotia based in Halifax, and a new SAGE ENDEC emergency decoder from the Emergency Management Office of Nova Scotia.
Perry explained Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation finds itself between the commercial radio stations in Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish but have never had access to any Indigenous radio programming.
Paqtnkek’s slogan is “Kepmite’tmu’kw Ta’n Weni’kw” which means “Honouring Culture” and it is in this spirit that they believe a volunteer-run community radio station can enhance their unique Indigenous forms of art, poetry, dance and music.
“The day we announced our intention to seek a licence, 18 community members of all ages asked if they could become volunteers. One is a young man about to enter the Radio and Television Arts program at the Nova Scotia Community College,” he said. “Another is a woman elder who teaches the Mi’kmaq language, and sees community radio as an effective way to share her passion.”
In an ideal situation, if the funding was available to the PRS, they would like to hire an on-air morning announcer Monday to Friday to give them a good local presence and provide a nice foundation for their community.
The radio station will be located in the current entertainment centre building, and after it moves into the new development across the highway, the building is going to be completely re-designed and refurbished into an elder’s centre.
“We’ll get one corner of the building for the radio station. In my view, it’s the perfect location,” Perry said. “It’s centrally located in the community, and being within walking distance from where elders might meet, to me, that’s a perfect setup.”