OJIBWE RADIO LAUNCH A SUCCESS

M’Chiggeng – Carol Hughes and guest, Ontario NDP Leader, Andrea Horwath attended the grand opening of GIMA Radio at the Neon Raven Art Gallery in M'chigeeng yesterday. The not-for-profit, Ojibwe language station had a good crowd for the launch which should bode well for its ability to attract listeners.

The radio station is the product of the hard work of and perseverance Anong Beam and the vision of her late father, Mr. Carl Beam. It is a dream that was tested in the licensing process as the CRTC has abandoned the special licences that allowed this type of station to exist. Concerns about competition were cited in the process, ignoring the obvious language divide that makes GIMA Radio unique.

“This is a great outcome,” said Hughes. “My office worked tirelessly with Anong and Mark to get the CRTC to grant this licence. Now we will have to convince the CRTC to reinstate the special licences so others can follow GIMA’s model.”

The station is said to be the first entirely indigenous-language station in the populous part of North America. There are Native owned and Reservation stations, but even if they have some indigenous language programming, they operate like commercial FM stations.

Carl Beam, who made history as the first Native artist, to have his work purchased by the National Gallery of Canada as contemporary art, will have a major retrospective of his work, mounted by the National Gallery of Canada, in October, 2010. Mr. Beam long felt that radio was the ideal way to help preserve the Ojibwe language, which is an oral tradition, and one of the most difficult languages to learn in the world.

“Now that his (Carl Beam’s) vision has come to fruition, the Anishinabek Mindoo Mniss will have a better opportunity to preserve their language,” said Hughes. “Elders and youth alike will certainly benefit from the services and entertainment the radio station will be affording them.”

Getting the station on-air has been a labour of love for Anong Beam and her husband Mark Larochelle who have given both time and money in their pursuit of this truly unique broadcaster. “It is my father’s dream, but both Mark and I have put a lot of work in to get to this point,” said Beam.

Ojibwe is one of the few Native languages that is viewed as having a good chance to survive in North America. In Canada, many of Mr. Beam’s generation, including the artist himself, were forced into residential schools where their language was not allowed. “The emotional response from the community has been huge,” said Ms Beam. “I have heard people speaking Ojibwe that I had no idea were able to. It is great for our kids too, who will grow up listening to their own language and have it be a real part of their community.”