The Raven CIWE 89.3 took flight across Edmonton airwaves on Monday.
“When we applied for this licence, we said everything but country,” said Bert Crowfoot, CEO of the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA).
“On the Raven, you’ll be getting rock, blues, hip hop, as well as other alternative genres.”
The group applied for two radio licences about four years ago; one for Calgary and one for Edmonton. They were granted and then the AMMSA applied for a one-year extension due to the pandemic.
The Raven will join Edmonton-based CFWE FM and Calgary-based CJWE FM as part of the Windspeaker Radio group.
Being able to finally launch was a proud moment for Crowfoot.
“It was awesome. Real exciting. I felt like a grandfather who’s waiting for a grandchild to be born.
“The crew here both at Windspeaker Radio and The Raven worked their butts off to get to this point. So I’m just kind of watching and enjoying.
“This morning at six o’clock we launched and it was awesome. It was emotional.”
To start, the station played songs by legendary and meaningful Indigenous artists including the Logan Alexis Singers, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Redbone.
“It was awesome to hear that music on the station,” Crowfoot said.
“We had four back-to-back legends in Indigenous music. It was a proud moment.”
Crowfoot describes the station as bilingual, with a focus on sharing diverse First Nations’ languages and culture. It will not only highlight the power of music; but also the power of the spoken word.
“When it comes to language programming, we approach it a little bit differently. When you’ve got five languages that you’re trying to put on the air, to a non-speaker or a non-Indigenous person, it all sounds like the same thing.
“What we’ve tried to do is make it bilingual.”
Crowfoot says that means when words in Cree or Blackfoot are used, the DJ will identify the language and also say them in English.
In Calgary, the radio station was using a fair bit of Nakota Stoney.
“People were really interested in the language… so we’ve got one-word translations… everyday phrases that are translated. I’ve heard back from some people that they’re picking up the language,” Crowfoot said.
He grew up with a Saulteau mother and Blackfoot father. Crowfoot was part of Siksika Nation in southern Alberta until his family moved to Edmonton when he was 12.
“Listening to some of the Blackfoot programming, some of that language is coming back. Some of the words will pop into my head that I have not heard since I was 12.
“So to me it shows that the language is working.
“It’s really exciting to be part of this and to be able to share the beauty of our culture.”
The station’s name is also rooted in culture.
“In Indigenous culture, the raven is a messenger. It lets people know that there’s somebody else in the area. It comes in and it’s like a storyteller,” Crowfoot explained.
“For us it seems like the proper name for a messenger to bring news to our people in the north and the Edmonton area.”
Crowfoot says the plan for The Raven is to start small and build from there.
“I believe in growing it. I don’t believe in starting with a deficit,” he said.
He’s also proud to share that both CFWE and CJWE are self-sufficient.
“We own this building, we generate revenue from this building, we also sell advertising,” Crowfoot said.
“There’s no government funding in this thing. We’re starting basically from scratch. We’ve got a lot of talent in our organization.
“We’ve got a really great crew of young people who are excited. They’re committed to this, they feel apart of it… I’m proud of this place.”