CFUV’s Native Waves Radio (NWR) has been nominated for the Indigenous Music Award for Best Radio Station Program — Promoting Indigenous Music. This is opportune timing, as NWR aired its last show on Tuesday, April 18, after ten years on the air every week.
The Indigenous Music awards will take place on Friday, May 19, in Winnipeg, Man. If NWR wins, then Janet Rogers, creator and co-host of NWR, has given the producer of the CBC’s UnReserved permission to receive the award on her behalf, “as long as she wears a crown of diamonds and recites some of my poetry.”
Rogers first created NWR following the retirement of William George and Gordon DeFrane and their CFUV program UnReserved. Both Rogers and her co-host Troy Sebastian were guests on UnReserved during its original run, and after UnReserved finished, there was a notable gap in Indigenous programing that Rogers says initially prompted her to consider taking to the airwaves.
Over the winter holidays of 2006, Janet said she heard the voice of DeFrane, then deceased, which solidified her path to NWR. “He said ‘You should do radio.’” Rogers said. “So after the holidays, I checked in with the station . . . By the end of [January], pretty much, I was on the air doing my first show.”
Sebastian joined NWR in 2015, after spontaneously running into Rogers in the SUB and being invited to guest host. “From the start, it was a really good energy,” said Rogers.
Both Sebastian and Rogers bring a different style to NWR, with Rogers’s decades of experience in Indigenous music, and Sebastian introducing vinyl and a more political element to the show. Rogers is from Six Nations in the east, while Sebastian hails more locally from the Ktunaxa Nation in the west.
“I have always just had such a huge joy at being on the show with [Rogers],” said Sebastian. “When I lived back home . . . I’d be driving my crappy white truck that had no brakes, a little crackle on the radio, and all of a sudden I’d hear [Rogers] talking about Indigenous music.”
In the ten years on air, NWR has been host to swaths of iconic artists, including Robbie Robertson, Willie Thrasher, Joseph Boyden, Richard Wagamese, Gary Farmer, and Jesse Gon.
In addition to music, the co-hosts discuss current events like the upcoming provincial election, which Sebastian referred to as the “rowdy warrior pillage tour 2017.” NWR has also been highly involved in social movements such as Idle No More and #NoDAPL, primarily through featuring news on developing events and sharing announcements about rallies and marches across Canada.
“People were posting audio recordings of speeches, songs, statements, and things like that in this one dropbox,” Rogers explained. “I was able to share this audio from the front lines [of] Standing Rock on the program.”
In 2016, NWR premiered NDNs on the Airwaves, a radio documentary series chronicling the current history of Indigenous radio. Rogers cited this as her proudest moment at NWR, stating, “I haven’t seen anything else like that anywhere ever, so I was really pleased to have that opportunity.”
However, these opportunities can be problematic when not publicly made available to the Indigenous community. Both Rogers and Sebastian voiced concern about the limited voices of First Nations people currently on the airwaves. Although a foremost goal of NWR, according to Rogers, was to “create a presence of Indigenous voice on these airwaves and on the airwaves in general,” it’s difficult to maintain when opportunities for Indigenous radio programs aren’t communicated. Furthermore, Sebastian expressed that there should be Indigenous language revitalization with content available at UVic.
April 18 marked Rogers’s last show on NWR, which she’ll follow by spending her hiatus from radio pursuing artistic residencies across the globe, starting in Colombia.
For now, as they wait for the award results, Sebastian is looking back at the time on the radio with Rogers fondly. “Years from now, I’ll remember talking, BSing with [Rogers] on the radio, and making the weather forecast fun.”
Editor’s note: The print version of this article erroneously stated that the final broadcast of NWR would be a tribute show to Rogers hosted by Sebastian on April 25. The Martlet learned that the April 18 broadcast was the last show, period, too late to make the change in print. We regret the confusion.
Correction (April 20): A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Ktunaxa Nation as being on the West Coast; it’s in fact much further inland. We sincerely regret the error.