By Marisela Amador
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Reviving Kanehsatake Radio (RKR) 101.7 FM will be celebrating its second anniversary on April 2. It’s an incredible accomplishment for a community radio station with close to no resources available at the outset.
“I am feeling proud and accomplished because we did come quite far with very little,” said Karahkohare Syd Gaspe, the station project manager at RKR.
Since getting back on the air, the station’s mission has been to promote Kanien’keha throughout the community and beyond. They must be doing something right because the reception by the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The biggest challenge was making radio happen with very little resources, no building, no place to house it because a new location had to be found, and a whole slew of things that we have accomplished since then,” he said.
Gaspe explained that they were able to save the 101.7 FM frequency, which they were about to lose, and was the very last frequency in the area.
“We also had to do a technical study for the government because as soon as you move an antenna, it’s a requirement,” said the station project manager.
“The way we got on the air was that a community member, a ham radio operator, allowed us to use part of his tower. He didn’t have any space to house the equipment, so we had another community member donate an old house trailer, so we used that to house our transmitting equipment.”
From there, Gaspe set up a studio in his home to feed the transmitter with audio content, and the rest is history.
He said that the pandemic also added an extra layer of difficulty, but with community support, they were able to push through and keep going.
“We have a lot of support from the community – the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK), the Kanesatake Health Center, the Economic Development Office, among others,” he said.
The station received some funding through economic development and Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communication. The Eastern Door also organized a big fundraiser for the station called the Secret Door.
“The fundraising efforts have been geared towards a new building and a new transmission tower at a new location,” said Gaspe.
“The new location was finally obtained through the MCK. It is located on a parcel of common land in front of the Riverside Elder’s Home.”
Kanehsata’kehro:non Sonia Bonspille Boileau is a board member on the RKR board and said that she was proud of the significant progress that RKR has made in the last few years.
“I accepted to be a board member because I care about the station. I care about our community having this important communication tool that can help share information but also revitalize our language and share our culture,” said Bonspille Boileau.
The station broadcasts a variety of content, including the All Kanien’keha Show, daily weather forecast in Kanien’keha and English by community member Tiorihwaie:ri Harding, and once a month, the station holds a radio bingo.
“I also wanted to work at building this bridge between our community and neighbouring communities,” said Gaspe.
In terms of the next steps for RKR, Gaspe said that phase one would be to get the station’s new antenna and tower up.
“We want to do that this summer. We received a grant for half of the cost through the Aboriginal Initiative Fund for the radio station tower. And we are close to raising the other half,” said Gaspe.
He said that phase two would focus on the construction of the new building.
“We are still going to be looking for a temporary office location while the building is being built, which will hopefully be the following year. However, the cost is very high, so we need to continue fundraising,” he explained.
Marisela Amador is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of THE EASTERN DOOR. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI government funding.