Newly-established Piikani radio station delivering needed programming to reserve

Click to play video: '‘It’s a really big tool’: Piikani Nation Radio reaching Blackfoot residents with COVID-19 information' ‘It’s a really big tool’: Piikani Nation Radio reaching Blackfoot residents with COVID-19 information
WATCH ABOVE: In September 2020, Piikani Nation Radio launched the first station in roughly 20 years, to serve listeners in the Brocket, Alta. area. Eloise Therien has more on how the small crew is using the airwaves to connect residents with the Blackfoot language, and to communicate important COVID-19 information. – Feb 5, 2021

In September 2020, Piikani Nation Radio launched as the first local radio station in Brocket, Alta., in more than a decade.

“The reserve didn’t really have a communications department or any sort of media outlet prior to a few years ago,” explained manager Tawnya Plain Eagle.

“That was kind of a struggle with a newspaper once a month, and we thought, well, we need something a little easier to reach out to the community.”

According Plain Eagle, the previous station closed in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and it was time to return to the airwaves.

Some of their more popular programming includes the noon request hour and morning “coffee chats” involving the three-person crew.

Click to play video: 'Piikani Travel Centre seeks help from Alberta Transportation' Piikani Travel Centre seeks help from Alberta Transportation
Piikani Travel Centre seeks help from Alberta Transportation – Oct 19, 2020

Along with a wide variety of genres, Plain Eagle says they try to highlight Indigenous artists as well.

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“We also have our Blackfoot language program (which) was a key component when we were planning out this radio station,” she added.

Trevor Prairie Chicken, one of the DJs at the station, says they connect with Elders and other Blackfoot speakers to bring an educational and cultural aspect to the station.

They air stories, language lessons and powwow music.

“This (station) is a new, different direction because of the Blackfoot language, and the broadcast quality equipment, the digital equipment we have, is top-notch,” Prairie Chicken said.

Afternoon host Jared Wolf Child says having the station available to residents means being able to communicate with more of the community — something that has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Just (getting) information out there, a lot of people, you know, say they didn’t hear it or they didn’t see it on Facebook, so that’s where we come in and promote that,” Wolf Child said.

He adds radio is a great way to provide COVID-19 updates to those who aren’t inclined to the internet or television.

Margaret Potts, a COVID-19 health-care worker on the Piikani Nation, says she is very thankful to have the station as an outlet for health messaging, including updates on case numbers and procedures within the community.

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“I have absolutely loved it,” she said. “That gives us a tool to use in the community (if we have) to make an announcement.”

The station is optimistic it will be around for the foreseeable future to continue growing its programming and entertaining locals in times of need.

Brocket is located approximately 80 kilometres west of Lethbridge off Highway 3.

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