Volume 23 Issue 2, February 1998, primary_article

CKRZ, a community radio station serving the Six Nations and New Credit Nations in Southwestern Ontario, is examined here as one of a number of strategies of cultural survival for those it serves. By providing local control over and access to communicative resources and important information, CKRZ is an important community institution. In a detailed examination of the evolution and development of CKRZ, through the collection and analysis of a variety of qualitative and ethnographic data and evidence, I argue that CKRZ has fulfilled its social functions and roles in a very divided and factionalized community by remaining open to the participation of all residents regardless of their chosen affiliations and by not identifying too completely with any specific interests or segments of the community.

CKRZ est une station de radio communautaire desservant les Six Nations et les Nations “New Credité” (“Nouveau Crédit”) dans le sud-ouest de l’Ontario. Cet article examine cette station de radio en tant qu’exemple d’une des nombreuses stratégies de survie culturelle pour ceux et celles qu’elle sert. En permettant un contrôle local de ressources communicationnelles et d’information importante et en donnant accès à celles-ci, CKRZ est une institution communautaire importante. Dans un examen détaillé de l’évolution et du développement de CKRZ se fondant sur le recueil et l’analyse d’une variété de données et d’indices qualitatifs et ethnographiques, je soutiens que CKRZ a pu remplir ses fonctions et rôles sociaux dans une communauté trés divisée et agitée en restant ouvert à la participation de tous les habitants, peu importe les affiliations que ceux-ci ont choisies, sans trop s’identifier à des intérêts ou à des segments particuliers de la communauté.

In July 1996, CBC Radio News reported (on the World at Six) that substantial majorities of English-Canadians thought that the Aboriginal population in Canada was as wealthy or wealthier, more politically endowed and selfish, and more socially self-destructive than other groups in the country. These stunning misperceptions have numerous causes including a disastrous lack of historical knowledge of Aboriginal issues and the near total dominance of the English-speaking majority over almost all political and media institutions in the country. More recently, several well-publicized conflicts between Aboriginals and Canadians in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia have trained a harsh spotlight on the festering wounds of still unresolved land claims without adequate contextualization or even a cursory presentation of the basic facts. In the face of growing poverty and social disintegration on many reserves, the still growing range of techniques employed by the federal and provincial governments in their now centuries-old policies of cultural genocide continue to take their toll.

English-Canadian misperceptions fly in the face of the volumes of evidence collected by the recent Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) in its wide-ranging, multiyear, cross-country series of hearings examining the social, political, and cultural state of Aboriginal people in Canada. The RCAP findings detailed the often dismal social status of most on-reserve Aboriginals in the country and included a recommendation that the Canadian government recognize the inherent right of self-government by Aboriginal peoples and the startling corollary that Aboriginal communities be allowed to “establish and administer their own systems of justice, including the power to make laws within the Aboriginal nation’s territory” (Moon, 1996, p. A11). Further, despite the fact that a 1995 federal government report concluded that government policy aimed at the termination of Aboriginal rights is paternal, has “poisoned” relations between the two, and should be discontinued, the government has refused to act on these or any of the over 1,800 recommendations by the more than 30 such reports completed over the last several years (Koring, 1995; Moon, 1996). The central disagreements are over self-determination, land claims, civil and treaty rights, and a range of cultural issues. The current situation is summed up by the experience of one anthropologist testifying at an inquiry into the possible impact of a pipeline in the MacKenzie Valley in British Columbia:

The superficial changes in the native way of life, he told the inquiry, had nothing to do with their fundamental Indianness. They still held on to traditional ways of thinking and seeing the world....Great, the corporate executives replied....They’ll get jobs on the pipeline that will run through their land, but they’ll still be Indians at heart. (Allemang, 1996, p. A7)

The government also plays both sides of the argument over Aboriginal self-determination arguing, on the one hand, that land claims should and must be resolved, but then, on the other hand, arguing that Aboriginals must abandon all claims to sovereignty and recognition of their distinct status in the process.

Clearly, the strategies for cultural survival on the part of Aboriginals living in Canada must be designed with equal or greater care and have increasingly included media in recent years. One radio station in particular is an important example of the development of Aboriginal community radio in Southern Canada in recent years: CKRZ, serving the Six Nations and New Credit Reserves near Brantford, Ontario. In what follows, the role of CKRZ in the cultural survival and community life of those living on or near these reserves will be examined within the context of claims to nationhood and the struggle to maintain a unique collection of political and cultural institutions. There are two sets of such institutions in this case. At Six Nations, the unique political history of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy and the Longhouse, whose adherents generally follow the Kayanerekowa (Great Law of Peace) and the Gaihwi’yo (Code of Handsome Lake), are central to understanding the unique claims to nationhood and sovereignty made by many of its residents. At New Credit, the much smaller population is descended mostly from the Mississauga and is more politically vulnerable. Those at New Credit are more concerned with securing the rights granted to them in federal legislation and upon the surrender of its original land base in what is now Metropolitan Toronto and reviving the use of the Ojibway language.

Community radio assumes many different roles in a setting such as Six Nations/New Credit and there are several central and unavoidable social functions CKRZ must fulfill. First, it must act as a locally controlled conduit for local, regional, and national information flows. This has historically been a central motivation for Aboriginal radio in Canada (Roth & Valaskakis, 1989; Salter, 1981). Also, in a community as politically and historically divided as Six Nations / New Credit, CKRZ must implicitly represent all possible constituencies. But, in doing so, it must remain a professional public service organization that is not beholden to any of the factions or affiliations which exist on these reserves. Finally, the station must provide equitable access to all of the resources to which it has access. The following analysis will be concerned primarily with assessing how CKRZ fulfills these roles; the importance of each will become clear as the story of CKRZ’s creation and evolution unfolds.

Perhaps the most important factor which determines CKRZ’s status as a viable community institution is the degree of local control and access. The desire for local control over important institutions is based on numerous, but as yet unrecognized, claims to sovereignty and nationhood on the part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Williams & Nelson, 1994). These claims are, in turn, based on a long and tortuous relationship between the Confederacy and the Crown in which disagreements and conflicts in such areas as land, treaty rights, maintenance of cultural institutions, and expressions such as languages, religions, and governing structures, as well as the desired degree of assimilation into Canadian society.1 These conflicts have driven numerous wedges into the internal and external relationships of those involved in the life of the Six Nations and New Credit communities (McCarty, 1993; Weaver, 1988). More importantly, these intergovernmental and intercultural relations have factionalized the population of these reserves to such a degree that few institutions can claim to be truly representative of the entire population as the weight of the inherent internal contradictions which accompany such claims often fatally compromises any organization that makes them. Thus, the degree to which CKRZ is locally controlled and beholden to a broad range of local interests also determines the degree to which its claims to represent those interests are perceived as credible.

It has been successfully demonstrated that, from Confederation to the present, the goal of all government legislation regarding Aboriginal peoples in Canada has been defined by three concepts: protection, assimilation, and civilization, which of course all mean the same thing, the elimination of any distinct status of Aboriginal peoples (Tobias, 1991). CKRZ was created and has been designed to fight the abolition of the distinctiveness of those living at Six Nations and New Credit and to resist assimilation by affirming numerous traditional cultural expressions and institutions. The one aspect of traditional culture and education which is central to all areas of the lives of these communities is language, and as has been asserted by many Haudenosaunee members and Longhouse adherents, it is impossible to claim to have allegiance to traditional institutions without the use of at least one traditional language in at least some aspect of its expression. CKRZ was founded in large part by those who were working to stem the erosion of Aboriginal languages and related cultural expressions on reserves throughout Southern Ontario and Quebec. Before examining the specific development of CKRZ, I will present a brief summary of radio activities on reserves in Southern Ontario and Quebec. I present the history of the establishment of CKRZ through interviews with participants and information culled from the huge volume of documents held by Carolyn King, a member of the New Credit First Nation and a founding member of the station. I conclude with a broad survey of CKRZ’s Aboriginal language programming.

The problem of language erosion in Southern Ontario’s Aboriginal communities is dramatic and mirrors the much larger problem of language extinction worldwide, which is most severe in North America (Ewen & Wollock, 1994). As many have noted elsewhere, the destruction of indigenous, local, and minority institutions and practices, especially languages, has been a central goal of colonialism as authorities often believed that allegiance to their aims would be solidified if cultural uniformity could be imposed (see Bodley, 1982). This grim project has found increased success in recent decades, especially within the last two or three generations. According to most sources there are anywhere between 5,500 and 6,000 living languages in the world, and of these, only several hundred are expected to remain if current trends continue over the next century. Further, of those rendered lifeless one fourth will be languages indigenous to North America (Ewen & Wollock, 1994). In Canada it has been generally acknowledged that the only three indigenous languages which are not endangered are Inuktitut, Innu, and Oji-Cree.2

At Six Nations the problem has become precarious. According to the Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council, as of 1992 less than 2% of the reserve’s members were fluent in one of the languages which have been historically present on the reserve. Only 13 people under the age of 40 were considered to have achieved fluency in one these languages (Shimony, 1994). As the latter fact indicates, the erosion of indigenous language use at Six Nations has been clearly acknowledged as a generational phenomenon. At the beginning of this century most families living on the reserve were involved primarily in farming and other local economies and most continued to speak their own languages. As reserve economies became more integrated in local and regional economic systems, increased efforts to incorporate residents into Canadian society were made by the federal government and local religious agencies (Austin, 1986; Titley, 1986; Weaver, 1994). The most vigorous efforts were made by The Mohawk Institute whose administrators enforced the use of English and made the use of indigenous languages a punishable offense (Shimony, 1994). The punishment was inflicted most severely on those children who are now reaching middle age and the memories of the brutality of their experiences at the Institute are still recalled on occasion by many who went through them (Dicy, 1996). The social stigma of speaking an Aboriginal language did not just apply at the Institute, however, but on the reserve where the social and class divisions between the more acculturated and the more traditional residents remained strong until very recently and helped to diminish the use of the languages. Only recently has Mohawk, Cayuga, and Ojibway language instruction become widely available to all residents, breaching what for many remains a painful and controversial subject (see Fairchild, in press).

The emergence of a growing number of community radio stations on reserves throughout Southern Ontario and Quebec has been in large part a reaction to the erosion of Aboriginal languages and cultures all across Southern Canada which has accelerated dramatically over the last two decades. But despite its basis in enhancing various traditions, the establishment of a radio network has been vigorously pursued by a diverse coalition of people. Most of the current crop of stations began as unlicensed low-power experiments and the activity has been greatest on Iroquois and Ojibway reserves, including the communities of Akwesasne, Kanesatake, Kahnawake, Tynedinaga, Walpole Island, and Cape Croker. The first station to be established on a southern reserve was CKON, and the current 250-watt station grew in part from an earlier 20-watt operation called Akwesasne Freedom Radio which was designed to demystify the technology and to draw in those interested in longer-term radio projects. CKON began broadcasting on the Akwesasne reserve near Cornwall, Ontario, in 1982 and since the reserve is situated on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario, Quebec, and New York State, the station is not licensed by the CRTC or the FCC, but by a proclamation by the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. This arrangement is acknowledged, but not controlled, by the CRTC, while the FCC has refused to recognize the station (Keith, 1995; Wilkinson, 1988). The stations of CKHQ at Kanesatake and CKRK at Kahnawake also began as low-power stations, between about 5 watts and 50 watts respectively, although CKRK now operates at 250 watts (Roth, 1993). Eleven other stations are either broadcasting or in development on other reserves throughout southern Ontario.

These stations began as unlicensed experiments because their communities are below the “Hamelin Line,” the arbitrary geographic delineation separating what the Canadian government defines as “Northern” and “Southern” Aboriginals. Put simply, stations in communities above the Hamelin Line are eligible for a variety of federal and provincial aid programs, while those below are not. The often fiercely defended independence of community radio stations on southern reserves is in large part a result of this distinction, as the development of stations on southern reserves has been entirely divorced from the bureaucratic infrastructure which has partially sustained efforts in the north. The independence of these stations also stems from the resolve of their members not to sacrifice the sovereignty and self-determination granted in numerous but mostly ignored treaties between the British Crown and their ancestors. As will become clear, CKRZ is a perfect embodiment of this reality.

To the CRTC’s credit, they did not try to force the early unlicensed stations out of existence, nor did they try to enforce any regulations which were clearly inappropriate to these communities, although they often insist on some involvement in what many reserve residents feel is a sovereign spectrum. The current Aboriginal radio infrastructure stands as testament to what Roth has called “the history of appropriating airwaves” for uses which are unimaginable to centralized administrative and funding organizations (Roth, 1993, p. 317). Most recently, the first regional communication society below the Hamelin Line has been formed. The Association for Indigenous Radio (AIR) represents the interests of reserve stations and radio groups on Ojibway and Iroquois reserves from Cape Croker to Walpole Island to Akwesasne, and was formed without the consideration, recognition, or the aid given to communication societies in the north. AIR represents a new era in Aboriginal media development in southern Canada and many of those involved in founding CKRZ have been central in its creation.

The founding of CKRZ itself is a story of the willed creation of a cultural institution as another in a long series of survival and adaptation strategies created by several distinct and marginalized groups of people in reaction to continually changing social and political contexts which continually threaten the existence of the central expressions of their society. The development of a community institution is difficult under any circumstances, but at Six Nations and New Credit the social and political obstacles which were overcome were more numerous than elsewhere. The social distinctions between people within this community are innumerable and are very difficult for outsiders to recognize and understand. I will not try to explain these distinctions because I will inevitably misrepresent them. Instead, I will attempt to recognize the role certain specific social distinctions have played in a variety of episodes in the development of CKRZ, while trying to be equally clear about the specificity of the perspectives from which I have gathered most of the information that follows. The most salient distinctions on these reserves are based on a large variety of factors, including religion, family history, national affiliation, place of residence, occupation, class and socio-economic status, gender, and political affiliation (i.e., Six Nations elected system, Confederacy system, or New Credit band member). I will attempt to clearly identify the roles some of these distinctions have played in the evolution of the station.

According to one of the founders of CKRZ, Carolyn King, the idea to establish a radio station on these reserves floated around for years, especially as word of the developments in the north spread. But even though the idea circulated informally even within such institutions as the New Credit elected Band Council, no action was taken until several public meetings were held at Six Nations in 1986 and 1987. Suzanne Burnett, an Aboriginal of Abenaki ancestry who had numerous friends at Six Nations, co-owned CHOW, a radio station in Welland, a small town about 30 miles from the reserve. The early meetings were in part a response to her offer of equipment and technical and other programming assistance, including a possible affiliation arrangement (“Proposed Radio Station,” 1987; “Education Radio,” 1987). The meetings were well attended, but even at this nascent stage, fears were expressed regarding the possible power struggles between the reserves over the future of the imagined station. According to King, while Burnett’s help was crucial and very much appreciated, it may have had some unintended consequences. King suggests that “maybe one of the reasons the station struggled so much from 1986 to 1989 is because the idea came from outside the community” (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996). Without the organic kind of growth of such an important institution, the issues of power and control were paramount from the beginning, and were especially salient in a community with so many divisions and distinct interests. For example, some participants were worried about what to call the organization, as King notes: “Some would say `if we’ve got New Credit’s name on here maybe we have to give them half the airtime.’ There’s always [been] this long-standing feud between New Credit and Six Nations and little things like that tell you that it’s still there and pretty strong” (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996). King, who married into New Credit but whose grandmother was from Six Nations, was well placed to mediate the relationships between those from each reserve who were interested in participating. Also, as Community Development Co-ordinator for New Credit, she had the organizational skills the group badly needed.

When I was asked whether I wanted to sit on the committee, she notes, and being a good meeting person, I like to meet and talk and stuff like that, I said “sure.” So at that first meeting...they put me in charge of something very quickly. I think I was the treasurer. (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

At this early stage, those involved each had multiple positions and varied responsibilities.

As King notes, at this early stage a small core of people formed and carried out the central activities of creating the foundation for the station, while a larger group of advisors and interested parties attended an irregular series of public meetings and informal activities over the next two years under the name First Nations Communications Society. Another person who was central to the development of what eventually became CKRZ was Brian Johnson, a Six Nations resident who worked as a volunteer organizer, proposal-writer, and researcher for years before the CHOW donations motivated others to get involved; he eventually became the first paid employee of the Society (“Community Radio Station,” 1987). Johnson’s existing connections with other radio groups in Ontario and Quebec became increasingly important in this early period as he visited stations in Akwesasne and Kanesatake and production groups in Toronto to see how they established their stations and produced programs. The pattern of station development at other reserves was followed very closely at Six Nations: an early period of unlicensed experimentation followed by the establishment of a stable institution whose independent development was eventually recognized by the governing authorities on both reserves and in Canada. During this period King and Johnson

begged -- I call it beg, borrow, and indefinite loan -- for all the things that came into the station like people’s equipment and people’s furniture and people’s stereo and typewriting stuff. I mean, you name it, people would give it, donate things, or give us a few bucks when we didn’t have anything. (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

While organizational activities continued, few obvious tangible results were presented to supporters. The biggest problem was funding, very little of which was available in the early years when development aid was most needed. King describes what happened in the formal committee. The common complaint of its members was clear:

We found that it didn’t go anywhere. We sat around for two years and talked and nothing happened. Then I think frustration set in and it didn’t look like we were going to be able to get any money. The fighting started and that’s where I see Brian getting attacked for coming to the trough and not producing anything. But they didn’t know how much time he worked because ultimately results weren’t there, no real tangible results; basically there was no real radio station....There were barriers against us; we couldn’t even get a license; we could never get enough money for the equipment; we were neither here nor there. (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

The accusation of “coming to the trough” is particularly damaging in a community which has been witness to any number of incidences of financial corruption over the centuries. The committee itself slowly disintegrated and ceased operations with a final motion in support of any further efforts on the part of King and Johnson. The idea of a radio station had strong popular support on both reserves and, as King notes, “there had been media coverage of the group in the Teka and even in Brantford and at the time there was this idea that we were going to have one. The seed was planted and other people came into play...talking about `Well, we’ll do it then.’ “ It was about this time that another group of residents formed as an independent entity designed to replace the previous committee. The conflicts between the two involved core groups would eventually come to a head several years later.

After the dissolution of the formal committee, Johnson and King decided to pursue their goals informally and according to King several outside contacts “were instigators in it all.” Through some of his contacts in Toronto, Johnson was able to find the specific equipment needed for a small low-watt operation; his contacts simply advised him to “just put up a transmitter” and start broadcasting and it was this group which provided some of the crucial technical advice that enabled him to do so. King was able to get a small amount of money from Randy Sault, a New Credit band member, to buy the needed equipment. An important contributor and inspiration to start broadcasting was an outside engineer who advocated modeling the station after the well-known example of the FMLN’s Radio Veneceremos in El Salvador. As King recalls, “He said, `You know if you want to get the word out’ and `This is just like the oppression in the war’ and `You guys have got to do this’ and finally we were, like, `Let’s do it.’ “ The only question left was figuring out where the station should be. They ended up setting up their low-watt operation in an unused back room of the New Credit Council House. King describes the development of the test broadcasts:

So Brian had to come to New Credit and he’d solder all these things together...you know, somebody was getting him the antenna and somebody was getting him the transmitter and I would go and sit with him while he worked. So he got these things together and, finally, I was in the office one day, and he goes to me, “It’s ready. That music on the air -- that’s us.” (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

The experiments were successful, the 10-watt transmitter worked well, and both King and Johnson kept working with the equipment to make a more permanent home:

He’d come back and do some more work, or try and do different things with the antenna because he was trying to get the antenna up on top of the building. So that’s where they tell the story that I held the antenna out the window of the old Council house while he went to drive to see where he could hear it and I’m holding the antenna out the window to see whether it was actually transmitting, but that’s the kind of things we did getting it there....Our aerial looked like a big paper clip, maybe six feet long. (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

With the help of an engineer who had worked for Suzanne Burnett in Welland, they found a frequency, 103.9 FM, which they believed had a 3,000-watt capacity. The experiments were a kind of open secret that many people either knew about or suspected, but did not really publicly acknowledge, a situation that did not, and perhaps could not, last.

In the interim, a second group, called the Grand River Communications Society, had been formed to replace the original committee. While King and Johnson were trying to figure out how to attach their aerial to the roof and set up the station permanently, the new group had gone to the Six Nations Band Council, represented by Gary Farmer, to ask for their support in establishing a radio station under their auspices. But several councillors knew about the New Credit experiments and suggested that the Council hold off until they could get some kind of formal report on the progress of existing efforts. The Council held off to avoid fostering direct competition between the work going on at New Credit and the Grand River group, despite Farmer claiming that there was no connection between the two and that his group was more organized and community centred than the previous organization (“Hopes for Six Nations,” 1989). The consequences of this public admission of a “pirate” operation were important. As King notes, “as it turned out, I was on the front page of this and the second page of that, even though not everyone knew it was me. Those in the know could connect, but otherwise people didn’t.” The publicity was unwelcome and disturbing and as a result “Brian and I decided to take the radio station down because we were afraid they would come looking for us.” While both joked with each other about getting arrested, “it was always the fear that the radio cops would come and get us,” King was also afraid “that my bosses would hear that there was a public statement that we were doing something illegal” (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996). Johnson removed the equipment from the old Council house and took it to his house for about a month or so.

Shortly thereafter the station was resurrected as CFNC at the Iroquois Plaza, a small business centre next to the police station and the Band Council offices, at the main crossroads in the town of Ohsweken, at the centre of Six Nations. The manager of the plaza, who had offered technical help with the earlier experiments at New Credit, was now offering a small unused space in the back of the building and the station started up again, still broadcasting at 10 watts and still broadcasting irregularly. The station did not stay there long and by 1989 it had moved across the street into the basement of the old RCMP barracks, a move that was a significant event because it required the formal approval of the elected Council. As King notes, “the Council said, `Okay, we’ll support the station, free rent, you can go into the basement,’ with all its concrete and asbestos, `as long as when the radio station gets going and is on the air, that you support community organizations’ “ (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996). This acknowledgment, in many ways, signalled that a community radio station for Six Nations and New Credit had been formally and publicly affirmed.

It was also in the close quarters of the barracks that the conflicts between the two groups advocating the establishment of a radio station came to a head. A small original group had remained from the first series of meetings of the First Nations Communications Society and had been responsible for moving the equipment from place to place and maintaining the station’s irregular series of broadcasts. The second group, the Grand River Communications Society, was a different thing altogether. Routinely described by members and observers alike as a collection of “the movers and shakers” of the reserve, they were well-connected reserve residents most of whom, at one time or another, had left Six Nations to work or go to school and had come back to contribute to the community. The first meeting of the Grand River group was in late 1988 and they easily coalesced around the idea of a radio station, quickly drafting a plan of action, a proposed constitution, and drawing on the members’ numerous external contacts to explore funding opportunities. The group was also in contact with Johnson and received several reports on his efforts. Ultimately, strong differences between Johnson and some members of this group caused him to cease his involvement in the station. While his departure was a loss, King sums up his contributions:

I look at what Brian did and to me it was Brian’s idea and Brian’s dream, and to me if anything he was very successful because he ended up with people like me, Amos [Key] and everybody else who worked, and there’s a whole list of people who came in with the idea that actually carried it out and if that isn’t success I don’t know what is. So they took up his dream when he left and made it happen, and even though Brian was taken aback and was hurt when he left, there’s a legacy that I associate with his name. (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

Johnson’s departure marked the beginning of a new period for the radio groups as they moved from competing against one another through the difficult processes of coming together. The Grand River organization was viewed by many from the original group, with some resentment, as an elite group that wanted to usurp control over the future direction of a station into which the original group had already put a great deal of work. The rapidity with which this new group drafted plans and proposals for the future was disturbing to some and only strengthened their suspicions. King, with whom authority over the actual equipment was vested, was caught largely in the middle, asking Grand River representatives to understand where the original group was coming from and vice versa. She described the original group as “free thinkers” who, up until 1989, still operated entirely on an informal basis. She saw many of those at the station “thinking we don’t have to have a boss, we don’t need to have a board, we don’t need a committee telling us what to do -- and I was telling them that you do” (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996).

While King had been around since the beginning she was also part of the Grand River group and she implicitly agreed with their activities by arguing to some of the original members that “somebody needs to be in charge; somebody needs to be directing and co-ordinating things. We’re doing fine. We’re in the radio station, we’ve got the equipment...but we’re still at 10 watts.” Eventually she had to force them to adopt some rudimentary organizational forms:

One time we had a real knock-down, drag `em out fight and I just said if you guys don’t toe this line, if you guys don’t agree, I’ll take this equipment and go home. So they got real upset about that...so there started to be a bit of mutiny and they said “Okay, she has power, maybe we can sabotage it”...and this kind of crazy talk.

But King was quick to note that the original group was not reckless:

They were caring. I was only trying to keep the thing going and try to put some organization into it because I just know that’s the way life goes, somebody always has to go back to work....People move in and out and maybe some can stay longer, maybe not.

In the end, the two groups were able to work out their immediate differences and came together to create a single board to govern the station in mid-1989.

After the uneasy truce was established on the inaugural board, other concerns took over, such as fundraising, boosting the station’s power, and the debate over licensing. Through a variety of sources, funding for hiring employees, training volunteers, and buying some new equipment was raised and the station’s biggest source of revenue, bingo, began operations in early 1990. The station also had its first full day of programming in January of 1990. The programming is described by station co-founder and Speaker for the Board Amos Key (Mohawk and Onondaga), as “by the seat of our pants-type programming....We were just trying to get used to the equipment and making mistakes.” Key describes the station in the barracks:

I remember all we had was a Radio Shack four-pot board and an exciter, a little blue box which spit out the frequency....It wasn’t stereo, it was just on air, and the antenna was so low the signal couldn’t even get over some of the terrain, so people couldn’t hear it. But it was fun and we just brought in our home entertainment equipment; stuff people were throwing out anyway. (Amos Key, Brantford, ON, personal communication, March 5, 1996)

At this point the station was still using the 103.9 FM frequency, and by mid-1991 they boosted the power to 50 watts, but it was their “frequency-squatting” that was to cause the station’s next crisis. There occurred a serious debate over whether or not the station should apply for a licence and the debate was split along lines similar to those that split the station’s two founding groups. One side argued that the Grand River Territory was sovereign land and as such the CRTC should be required to adhere to their use of the frequency rather than the other way around. The other side, while also supporting their inherent sovereignty over the land, argued that it was not only unrealistic but dangerous to remain unlicensed. In point of fact, the CRTC had little obligation to the station and could have easily assigned the frequency to commercial interests who could then block or interfere with any transmission emanating from the reserve. In the end, exterior forces settled the dispute: the CRTC was threatening to give away their frequency to one of a number of regional commercial stations vying for its use. The station’s participants decided that if they were going to give up on 103.9 FM they were going to get something in return. After a strong showing of determination to the CRTC and several of the commercial interests, they got a small monetary settlement and an official licence allowing them use of the 100.3 FM frequency at 250 watts and, since the call letters CFNC were being used, the new call letters would be CKRZ. This, in addition to the station’s continued fundraising and grant writing, enabled them to buy a new 250-watt transmitter and a new antenna. The antenna was installed on the highest point for miles, the Ohsweken water tower, and the official “Boost-up Day” was held on February 29, 1992.

CKRZ’s “paper trail” of public comment, official documents, and policy decisions during this early period of development begins with short items in the Tekawennake, includes proposals by each of the founding groups, continues with the licence application to the CRTC, and documents the present with the station’s constitution, mission statement, and guidelines for employees and volunteers. Within this trail of documentation, the vision for the station remains remarkably consistent. Almost all of the proposals and contemporary documents cite the traditionally oral culture still largely in place on both reserves and the failure of the local media to serve that culture. The mission statements for each imagined station included as their central tasks the enhancement of the social presence and practical use of Aboriginal languages and the promotion of the history, values, traditions, laws, arts, and sciences of the Iroquois and Ojibway peoples living on the reserves. Further, these documents cited not only the desire but the necessity of a radio station which could provide a communications tool for a population mostly ignored and which possessed few other formal locally controlled communication resources.

By the time the licence application to the CRTC was submitted in December 1990 and approved in December 1991, the Grand River Communications Society had changed its name to the Southern Onkwehon:we Nishnawbe Indigenous Communications Society (SONICS).3 The licence application was a more carefully drawn compilation of materials culled from the earlier proposals. The introduction outlines in more detail how “the information transfer processes used by mass communications television and newspaper media conflicts with Native oral communications and identifies a need to provide a personal cultural framework for the audience” (SONICS, 1990, p. 2). The authors argued that “Native communications traditions are based on intimacy -- the intimacy of storyteller to listeners as well as the characters in the story” (p. 2). Further, they argued that Aboriginal people often feel alienated from the Western European educational system’s emphasis on the “literacy and tactile/visual sense of information transfer” (p. 3). The focus of SONICS is thus “directed toward the individual and elevating the individual’s self-consciousness while reawakening the special, non-linear, abstract and creative way of Native thinking” contained within local languages (p. 3). The Society also submitted its first formal outline of the programming it wished to provide the local community which included substantial amounts of local news and at least 15 hours a week of programs using Aboriginal languages. A substantial amount of programming was also dedicated to music programs hosted by local volunteer DJs. All of the station’s programming was to be locally produced and the vast majority was to be produced by volunteers.

In the five years following the successful licence application, several crises of varying proportions enveloped the station. The most serious of these revolved around money. CKRZ was in transition from an ad hoc informal organization to a formal community institution for several years and between 1991 and 1996 their progress was remarkable. For example, they went from collecting about $100 a week through bingo to collecting well over $100,000 a year in both 1994 and 1995. Ad revenue also grew dramatically and the station was particularly successful in obtaining operating and development grants from the province’s Community Radio Ontario Program (CROP), a fund established specifically for the use of community radio stations broadcasting to reserve communities and using minority languages. In a community with so many social divisions and distinctions which are often invisible to outsiders, these accomplishments were key for CKRZ to assert a “professional” identity. In this context “professionalism” means that the station does not identify itself too directly with any specific interests, but strives either through access or representation to serve as many groups as possible within the community. Remaining neutral, or more accurately in the middle, of the existing groups is crucial to the station maintaining a place of centrality and importance to the entire community and thus to their very survival. CKRZ simply does not have the comfort margin to engage in the luxury of implicitly alienating anybody.

The series of events that marked the final affirmation that CKRZ was a professional and permanent organization began in mid-1994. The general outline of this crisis is as follows. During a staff retreat several staff members, risking possible dismissal, began to hint that the station’s finances were not as sound as the Board was being led to believe. Some of the paid staff, either through incompetence or malice, had been misrepresenting the station’s financial situation to the Board by overestimating the revenues from advertising and bingo and using too many paid employees to solicit ads and run the bingo. When the Board examined the situation they found some serious discrepancies, which when combined with a series of bad staffing decisions and inadequate accountability standards for both paid staff and Board members, according to Amos Key, Speaker for the Board at the time, put the station in serious debt. The Board then requested a variance report, a periodic statement of revenues versus expenditures, and not only was this report not forthcoming, but the station manager at the time had left word that he was going on vacation shortly after the request was made. As it turned out the station was over $80,000 in debt and the Board was forced to quickly layoff a large number of staff members who were responsible for everything from bingo card sales to ad sales to administrative work. When the station manager returned he was required to resign his position.

Many of those who were laid off were angry and began to tell their side of the story to the local press, which resonated with numerous irregular accusations of nepotism and mismanagement for months. Many similar attacks were faxed to those doing business with CKRZ and to provincial political representatives. But the Board did not respond directly nor did they appeal to the newspapers to try and tell their side of the story. Instead, the station sent out one press release and a few other informal statements which told the general public that the Board would explain everything after they compiled the details of exactly what happened and presented this information in such as way as to be accurate and fair, something which could not be done quickly and easily given the fact that the financial problems had been ongoing for months but had been successfully hidden from view. The conflict only escalated, however, and anonymous threats to the staff and the station were made repeatedly from pay phones in neighbouring Caledonia, Brantford, and from the reserve itself. There were even threats of a drive-by shooting at the station during an edition of the Phone-In Show which Key and fellow Board member Carolyn King were to host during this period. Key later recalled that after the show, as he was leaving the station, he noticed that there was an unusual amount of activity and traffic in the parking lot outside the station; several volunteers had called friends and neighbours to come and sit outside in their cars and trucks to keep watch over the station, in case any of the threats were carried out.

What went on behind the scenes is particularly instructive as to how CKRZ works. During the six-month period between the layoffs and the Annual Meeting in which the crisis was explained in its entirety, station staff and Board members decided not to speak publicly about “rumours, accusations, and innuendo” but decided to “take the high road of quiet diplomacy” (Key, 1995, p. 4). The goal was to diffuse the tension and solve the various immediate crises facing the station, while simultaneously trying to avoid closing down. Many members also felt that using the radio to launch personal attacks, however justified, was not an appropriate use of the station. At the Annual Meeting, Key presented the series of events, largely hidden from view, which at first had caused the crisis and then recounted the measures taken to fend off the impending collapse. Finally, King and Key went on the air and explained the entire crisis to the community.

The following chronology was outlined in Key’s report. In December 1993, the station moved from the basement of the barracks to new facilities in the Iroquois Village Plaza across the street. The new surroundings were more spacious than before although they were comparatively bland, consisting simply of several small square rooms and an on-air booth by the front window of the station. The station received a grant from CROP of $23,000 for the purpose and the money was deposited in a separate account with the station manager as the sole signing authority. Over the next several months he failed to submit the financial reports and projections required of him and, as was later discovered, this was probably due to the fact that he had lost control over the station’s finances. First, the move cost well over the available grant monies and well beyond anyone’s expectations. The station had budgeted $24,000 and had spent $37,000. Second, the relocation money given to the station by CROP, as well as additional “special project” grants, had been spent on station operations and staff salaries, not on the projects for which they were intended; in essence, this money was lost. In addition, the station manager requested several thousand dollars for anticipated “out-of-pocket” expenses related to the move for which no receipts and no justifications were ever provided. The money was never recovered. The station was also tremendously overstaffed with 17 paid employees, many of whom were on work program contracts and other short-term agreements with the station and outside authorities. To cover some of these costs the station manager negotiated a $30,000 line of credit from a local bank without telling the Board. And yet, even with all these employees, the station had no personnel policies, no operating budget, and no forecasts of future income or expenditures. In essence, they were flying blind, not due to negligence or ignorance, but to the fact that key station personnel did not fulfill the terms of their employment and that by the time the Board was able to recognize this fact, it was almost too late.

At the same time, the two major sources of revenue for the station -- bingo and advertising -- began to falter. The first problem was that the station manger had entered into a contract with an ad sales agent who, while claiming that he could bring in over $20,000, actually brought in about $4,000. But the station was “locked into an iron clad contract” written by the ad agent himself which cost the station almost three times as much as the business he brought into the station. Even after the agent had left, the station had to pay off the balance of funds in his contract and pay for the “contra ad sales” to which he had committed the station, that is, several thousand dollars of ad sales where services were promised in exchange for the ads. The bingo situation was even worse. The records for the previous year were simply not available in any comprehensible form. According to Key’s year-end report, “We may never know the true picture of the Bingo activities because the station manager did not request and demand [records] of his staff. This alone raised a lot of suspicions of impropriety by all parties concerned” (Key, 1995, p. 11). The details of the latter issue were never made fully public, but were severe enough to require the removal of most of the paid and volunteer staff involved. There were other pressing problems and minor disasters which fell in the collective laps of the Board which are too numerous to recount here; suffice to say that the station was in deep trouble and every source of revenue from advertising to bingo to future government grants were threatened while the debt load was piling up.

The Board had to take action. Their first decision was that the board would take over the day-to-day operations of the station and, if they were going to stay on the air at all, they had to come up with an interim financial plan to pay off immediate expenses and rebuild the revenue stream. The first step was to decide on a skeleton staff of 6 people, down from a high of 17, and layoff the rest or allow the terms of employment for those on work contracts to expire. Second, they cashed in whatever resources they had and negotiated a new loan and an extended line of credit with the station’s bank. The ad and bingo finances were also closely monitored and both eventually rebounded significantly in the following months. The internal organizational matters responsible for the crisis, such as the station manager’s job description and the range of responsibilities to be delegated to employees, were redefined and the blind spots, such as the hiring process, were also redefined to avoid future difficulties. In the end, the Board commended the staff and volunteers for job sharing, working extra hours, and foregoing vacations and holiday pay, and apologized to those who suffered public ridicule, character assassination, and the threatening phone calls. The station had been able to survive the worst crisis of its short life and was also able to rise above the personal attacks, avoid factional infighting, and not fall to the temptation of using its own resources to attack parts of its own community -- all of which are the hallmarks of a professional public service organization.

Several months after CKRZ had attained a measure of stability, CROP sponsored a Community Radio Workshop in the town of Geneva Park for those involved in radio groups on reserves in Southern Ontario. While representatives from existing stations had been pooling their resources through visits of station personnel to other communities and sharing their knowledge and experiences with each other, the workshop marked an important step towards the formalization of relations between the growing number of radio groups. The organizational umbrella AIR grew in part out of this conference. Workshops were chaired by CROP staff and station staff from various communities as well as by representatives of the CRTC and a number of public broadcasters. Workshop topics included everything from creating programming networks, to avoiding opening a station, to excessive liability, to strategies to preserve and enhance Aboriginal languages and cultural traditions. As well, issues of specific concern to Aboriginal journalists and program producers were covered, topics which often receive little attention elsewhere. Further, those stations still in the initial periods of development were guided through the process by those who had already gone through it. While CROP was abruptly discontinued by the harsh and arbitrary politics of the Harris government, events like these prove the value of facilitating exchanges of information and expertise without which the difficult processes involved in creating a community radio station are made nearly impossible, as the experiences of CKRZ demonstrate.

Every morning, after several hours of silence, a sound heard few other places in the world emanates from CKRZ: the Thanksgiving Address given in Onondaga, Mohawk, or Cayuga, three of the oldest and most threatened languages in North America. As Williams & Nelson (1994) note, the Address, or the Ohenton karihwateh’kwen (the words that come before all others), “has a deliberate structure.” In giving thanks, the speaker “moves outward and upward from the earth and the plants and animals of the earth to the village and the things that grow in the clearing, into the forest and into the heavens.” The Address is used to initiate any gathering of people articulating “their agreement on their place in the world and their duties to the world.” It reminds the participants that “what we do, we do for the generations who will come after us” (Williams & Nelson, 1994, n.p.). Many of those who helped create CKRZ have done so out of the desire to protect and enhance the use and place of traditional languages and cultural expressions within the local community and especially for the children of the community, who have only recently been given formal opportunities to learn about the most ancient aspects of their own history in official and continuous public forums such as schools and public meetings. The Thanksgiving Address is a daily reaffirmation of one of the station’s central missions.

The language issue is a volatile and sensitive one at Six Nations. For decades a conflict between the Anglicans charged by the government with educating Six Nations’ children, many of the parents of those children, and the Confederacy Council remained over the teaching of traditional Iroquoian languages, social systems, and values. The conflict escalated tremendously during the early and middle parts of this century when the Mohawk Institute became a boarding school for Aboriginal children across the region. Whereas two or three generations ago parents were still able to raise their children speaking their own language and try to sustain it at least in the home if they chose, the last two generations have not had that option because when they were children many were removed from their communities and schooled at the Institute where they were forbidden to speak their language -- they often had it beaten out of them. As a result, the generations now reaching adulthood and middle age were among the first to be raised almost entirely in English and thus cannot teach their own children the traditional languages or systems of knowledge. The situation has only intensified with the widespread availability of English-language media and the virtual absence of any other language in daily life. Further, high unemployment and related social problems have persisted on the reserve and these have made language classes appear to be needless luxuries in comparison to the more pressing concerns of everyday living.5

CKRZ has entered the contentious language debate by affirming the presence of local languages in its programming. In addition to the Thanksgiving Address, the station broadcasts an extremely popular Sunday night bingo program where the numbers are read in English, Mohawk, and Cayuga. Also, the station has presented recordings of the “Great Law of Peace” as read, in a careful mix of English and many other local languages, by the well-known Confederacy Council member Jake Thomas. As of 1996, CKRZ has presented a series of daily Cayuga language lessons designed by local educators Marge Henry and Evelyn Bombnerry that closely resemble second-language classes offered on the reserve. Mohawk classes were in production as of late 1996. Also, every year CKRZ celebrates Aboriginal Languages Day by broadcasting eight hours of programming relating to the survival of languages around the world and ongoing efforts at Six Nations.

On March 29, 1996, as part of that year’s Aboriginal Languages Day programming, the station broadcast a number of traditional texts including a presentation by a Grade 7/8 class from I. L. Thomas School, numerous songs and stories by elders and other students from Six Nations and New Credit schools, traditional Aboriginal music from across the continent, and a series of station IDs in a variety of Aboriginal languages from the local community and around the world, a continuing feature at the station. As Amos Key suggested, “I just want these languages to be in their ears” (Amos Key, Brantford, ON, personal communication, March 5, 1996). During the broadcast, Key read from a section of the 1989 declaration of the Assembly of First Nations which established Aboriginal Languages Day as a recognized national event in Canada in which the rationale for the event is described. He also took some time to outline the problems of language retention in the community in order to highlight the importance of some of the ongoing efforts to improve the situation. Amos Key (quoting report):

The Aboriginal languages were given by the Creator as an integral part of our life. Embodied in Aboriginal languages are our unique relationship to the Creator, our attitudes, beliefs, values, and fundamental notions of what is truth. Aboriginal languages are an asset to one’s own education, formal and informal. Aboriginal languages contribute greatly to our pride in the history and culture of the community, greater involvement and interest our parents in the education of their children, and greater respect for our elders. Language is the principal means by which culture is accumulated, shared, and transmitted from generation to generation and the key to identity and retention of culture is in one’s ancestral language. (broadcast on CKRZ, Aboriginal Languages Day, March 29, 1996)

It is difficult to overstate the precariousness and importance of the language issue to those involved with restoration efforts and those opposed to them. Amos Key notes the current situation of the reserve’s population:

At Six Nations we have 19,000-plus people on our band rolls and these are the statistics right now for the fluent speakers. For the Cayuga speakers, we just went over this yesterday and unfortunately within even the last four months -- it was kind of sad to go through this list -- we now have 125 Cayuga speakers that we identified as still carrying the language and being able to carry on a conversation in the Cayuga language. So there’s 125 people we have left who speak Cayuga, Gayogoho:no`. And Mohawk speakers, we have 80 speakers left, and Onondaga speakers, we find have 36 speakers that remain, and Seneca, we have 1 speaker, for a total of 242 speakers of the languages out of a band roll of 19,000 people. So we keep those kind of statistics up to date and the numbers are so low we can actually use names....And we just lost the last Tuscarora speaker in Ontario, that was a Mrs. Salter in Toronto, and we look to New York State now at Lewiston, to the Tuscarora community there to hold on to the language. (broadcast on CKRZ, Aboriginal Languages Day, March 29, 1996)

When CKRZ began to broadcast materials in Cayuga and Mohawk, community reaction was diverse. Several staff members recalled that many initial callers to the station were vehemently opposed to the broadcast of the languages. But during a presentation by an immersion class on a previous Aboriginal Languages Day, several older residents phoned the station and were clearly emotionally moved by hearing children speaking a traditional text fluently.

Generally speaking, the language programming has become simply another integral part of CKRZ’s schedule, along with country music and updates of the accomplishments of local sports teams. Beyond the efforts of the station, however, numerous people, including teachers and supporters of language restoration, have argued that while the use of the languages does not have to dominate life on the reserve, there are other less tangible benefits in making training possible. As with other reserve communities, social problems such as alcoholism, substance abuse, community and family violence, and youth suicide have been persistent and have been tied to high unemployment and school drop-out rates as well as racism and lack of educational opportunities. While many people worry that “the language won’t get you a job,” it does allow people learn about their heritage and history in a practical and immediate way and helps people to experience the main institutions of that heritage more completely; in fact, it is difficult to learn the language without learning about its cultural foundations (Cornelius, 1994). As ex-steelworker and local school teacher Thomas Deer told me, the kids in language programs often come to “see the world with different eyes” (Thomas Deer, Six Nations, personal communication, April 2, 1996). But the situation remains precarious. In an oral history of several Iroquoian communities in western New York an older resident of Six Nations described one part of his childhood:

At six years old I went to school on the reserve. We were all Longhouse people on our end. I don’t think there was hardly anybody spoke English when we went to school. Some were worse than me. Some didn’t really understand no English at all. The first day our teacher was “hahno`oh.” He was talking English. One of the guys said “What’s he talking about?” Anyway there were some there that didn’t understand. We all talked Indian outside when we played -- just inside the school we spoke English. (quoted in Austin, 1986, p. 39)

For many students today, the opposite is true. They speak Mohawk or Cayuga mostly inside the school and English when they go outside.

To change this situation, those who support language education in the schools and on the radio note that their goal is not presenting simple words because the languages are not just symbol systems or technical codes, but living systems of knowledge (Martin, 1996). The ultimate goal is to encourage and maintain fluency on the part of listeners and to encourage non-speakers to learn Cayuga or Mohawk as functional languages. Gary Farmer notes the importance of the languages: “I have been taught that native languages are the true study of nature. Based on centuries of observation, these languages reflect an understanding of creation, the earth, and how human beings are to survive in the world” (Farmer, 1994, p. 63).

Those who helped found CKRZ have made the station an irreplaceable institution for local residents for several reasons. First, radio is a particularly appropriate medium for the Six Nations and New Credit communities. It is comparatively cheap to maintain, easy to use, and pretty much everybody has a radio. Also, any local resident with the desire to learn can participate in programming in a matter of weeks. This is particularly important for a community which has only recently been able to establish its own educational resources on the reserve. Second, radio is an oral and aural medium and despite centuries of domination by print and visual media forms, nothing is more suited to the cultural life of these reserves than radio. According to Carolyn King:

I came to believe, based on my work experience, that paper doesn’t do it for us yet. To some extent it does, but when we pass this paper out to the community and we expect people to respond to it, it doesn’t happen. We still respond to the voice, I guess maybe more so than the rest of society, and the radio station with its oral and its voice was going to do more for us than all the paper in the world. (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

Third, the station is gradually becoming a central facilitator for the survival of local traditions of cultural expression and knowledge. Of course the most important carrier of these traditions are the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Ojibway languages themselves and, while the Iroquoian languages in particular are radically threatened, CKRZ has centralized the language issue in a non-threatening and mostly depoliticized way. The public profiles of the language classes offered at various schools have been raised and their participants have been supported in their decision to teach their children a language presumed to be irrelevant and, for all practical purposes, extinct. This is an accomplishment not to be underestimated.

Finally, CKRZ has given local residents, regardless of their chosen social affiliations, a certain measure of power over a very important piece of their communicative environment and this has had important consequences. As Amos Key suggests, previously impermeable barriers between local factions have been breached: “I think when you look at the history of the community you really understand. I think of all the sectors or the factions....They’re divided first by religion; we’ve got all the religions in the world here” (Amos Key, Brantford, ON, personal communication, March 5, 1996). Other divisions, such as those between adherents of competing political systems, have been noted earlier. An important distinction is that between “upper enders” and “down belowers” where the former were the more assimilated residents living in the northwestern end of the reserve and the more traditional residents, mostly Longhouse adherents, living on the southeastern part of the reserve. The division was based on the original settlement patterns from the late eighteenth century where people from different nations settled on different parts of the Grand River, a pattern that was simply repeated within the current boundaries on the reserve. “We still joke about it as older people,” Key notes:

“That’s because they’re from the upper end that they think like that” or “that’s the way they talk up there.” Even in the language, they say they’re from the other end and so it means something different and, whatever it means, it conjures up an image of an upper ender or a down belower....I think it’s just because we couldn’t communicate. We didn’t have telephones and we didn’t have cars like we do now, so you couldn’t be up there in 10 minutes. So when functions were going on up there you’d have to take a whole bunch of people with you to go up there. So you looked like a gang because you didn’t want to walk 8 or 10 miles at night. So all those walls broke down because of communication. (Carolyn King, Six Nations, personal communication, March 26, 1996)

As the only radio station serving a community with divisions which can still be painful and can easily remain hidden to outsiders, CKRZ has successfully assumed its special responsibility to serve all the local residents in a manner appropriate and relevant to their lives and traditions, a subtle and delicate task.


This work is based on field work at Six Nations made possible by a grant from the Canadian Embassy’s Office of Academic Relations, to which I owe a great debt of gratitude. I would also like to thank the staff and volunteers at CKRZ, Marge Henry, Norman and Carol Jacobs, Tim and Lisa Johnson, and Jake and Yvonne Thomas for their explanations of their work and their perspectives on life in their community. I would also like to thank Sheila Staats and Winnie Jacobs at the Woodland Cultural Centre for their assistance in using the Centre’s library.


1 The differences even extend to very conception of the numerous treaties between a succession of Canadian government and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the latter which sees treaties as living flexible agreements (Williams & Nelson, 1994). In contrast, Canadian governments claim that since the treaty agreements occurred outside of what is currently Canada, they are not responsible for their enforcement. As Williams & Nelson (1994) note, that “this would make almost any international treaty impossible seems to have been overlooked” by those offering such views (n.p.).

2 Oji-Cree is a functional amalgam of Ojibway and Cree. These are too similar to be considered separate languages for the purposes of defining endangerment.

3 Onkwehnon:we is a word meaning “original person” or “first peoples” most often used to describe Iroquoian peoples.

4 I will only deal with Aboriginal language programming here. I have described CKRZs other programming in great detail in Fairchild (in press).

5 This information comes from several interviews with language instructors and researchers at Six Nations, including Marge Henry, Norman and Carol Jacobs, and Thomas Deer between January and April 1996. See also McCarthy (1993) and Titley (1986).

Allemang, John. (1996, May 25). Academe confronts the sound bite. Globe and Mail, p. A7. Google Scholar
Austin, A. (1986). Ne’Ho Niyo De”:No’ (That’s what it was like). Lackawanna, NY: Rebco Enterprises. Google Scholar
Bodley, J. (1982). Victims of progress. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin / Cummings Publishing. Google Scholar
Community radio station project forges ahead. (1987, July 6). Tekawennake, 13(15), p. 1. Google Scholar
Cornelius, C. (1994). Language as culture: Preservation and survival. Akwe:kon: Native American expressive culture, 11(3-4), 146-150. Google Scholar
Dicy, D. (1996). Residential schools took more than taught. Tekawennake, 26(1), 8. Google Scholar
Education radio for Six Nations. (1987, March 12). Tekawennake, 12(50), p. 1. Google Scholar
Ewen, A., & Wollock, J. (1994, Winter). The survival and revival of American Indian languages. Daybreak, pp. 16-17. Google Scholar
Fairchild, C. (in press). Community radio and public culture, being an examination of media access and equity in the nations of North America. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. Google Scholar
Farmer, G. (1994). Native language survival: The context of radio and television. Akwe:kon: Native American expressive culture, 11(3-4), 63-64. Google Scholar
Hopes for Six Nations/New Credit radio station still alive. (1989, March 9). Tekawennake, 14(45), p. 1. Google Scholar
Keith, M. (1995). Signals in the air: Native broadcasting in America. Westport, CT: Praeger. Google Scholar
Key, A. (1995). Southern Onkwehon:we Nishnawbe Indigenous Communications Society (SONICS) annual report. SONICS. Google Scholar
Koring, P. (1995, September 15). Treat natives as equals, federal report says. Globe and Mail, p. A7. Google Scholar
Martin, K. (1996). Listen! Native radio can save languages. Native Americas, 13(1), 22-29. Google Scholar
McCarthy, T. (1993). On having a good mind: Local diversity and education in emergent constructions of Iroquois identity. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Western Ontario, London, ON. Google Scholar
Moon, P. (1996, February 24). Natives deserve own laws, report says. Globe and Mail, p. A11. Google Scholar
Proposed radio station discussed. (1987, March 26). Tekawennake, 12(52), p. 4. Google Scholar
Roth, L. (1993). Mohawk airwaves and cultural challenges: Some reflections on the politics of recognition and cultural appropriation after the summer of 1990. Canadian Journal of Communication, 18(3), 315-331. Google Scholar
Roth, L., & Valaskakis, G. (1989). Aboriginal broadcasting in Canada: A case study in democratization. In Peter Bruck & Marc Raboy (Eds.), Communication for and against democracy (pp. 221-234). Montreal: Black Rose Books. Google Scholar
Salter, Liora. (1981). Community radio in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Office of Community Radio. Google Scholar
Shimony, A. (1994). Conservatism among the Iroquois at the Six Nations Reserve. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Google Scholar
Southern Onkwehon:we Nishnawbe Indigenous Communications Society (SONICS). (1990). An application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for approval to undertake the operation and delivery of native community FM radio on the Six Nations and New Credit Indian Reserves. SONICS. Google Scholar
Titley, E. B. (1986). A narrow vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the administration of Indian Affairs in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. Google Scholar
Tobias, J. (1991). Protection, civilization, assimilation: An outline history of Canada’s Indian policy. In J. Miller (Ed.), Sweet promises: A reader on Indian-white relations in Canada (pp. 126-137). Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Google Scholar
Weaver, S. (1988). Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario. In B. Trigger (Ed.), Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 15, pp. 525-536). Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. Google Scholar
Weaver, S. (1994). The Iroquois: The Grand River Reserve in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, 1875-1945. In E. Rogers & D. Smith (Eds.), Aboriginal Ontario: Historical perspectives on the First Nations (pp. 213-257). Toronto: Dundurn Press. Google Scholar
Wilkinson, K. (1988). Community radio in Ontario: A dynamic resource -- An uncertain future. Downsview, ON: Department of Culture and Communications, Government of Ontario. Google Scholar
Williams, P., & Nelson, C. (1994). Kaswentha: Submission to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Ohsweken, ON: Haudenosaunee Confederacy Council. Google Scholar