First Nation in Dawson hits the airwaves to get community updates out faster

The Tr’ondek Hwech’in Government’s elder coordinator Karen Blake spends every Monday morning in Dawson City’s community radio station to provide citizens with program updates, and classic rock tunes. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

Karen Blake went from calling dozens of elders a day to broadcasting live each Monday

Monday may not be the most popular day of the week but it is becoming a day many Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens look forward to.

That’s according to Dawson City, Yukon, resident Karen Blake.

Blake is the elders coordinator for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government. She is also the host of “The TH Wellness Program” at the local radio station.

“It’s too cold right now but normally you’ll have vehicles driving past honking,” Blake said to CBC News. “People messaging saying they enjoy the program and this is the day they look forward to.”

The show is broadcast from CFYT 106.9 FM, a non-profit station run by the Dawson City Community Radio Society, a volunteer board of seven members, over 30 volunteer DJs, and countless other volunteers and supporters.

In addition to regular programming, CFYT offers special broadcasts of community events as well as television broadcasts of events such as the Dawson City Music Festival.

Blake said during her weekly, two-hour program she gives updates on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in program information and events. She also gives on air shout outs, birthday wishes, and even takes song requests.

“Back home in Fort McPherson [N.W.T.] that’s the way information is given out every day,” Blake said. “So I brought it up to our director to make it easier on us and go out on the radio.”

She said hosting a radio show is much easier than the old way she used to get the information out to citizens. Especially elders.

“You’re phoning a lot of people. Everyday,” Blake said. “Our list is over 50 elders, so this is way easier because I get the information on, everything that happens throughout everyone’s programs for the week, and let everybody know that I’m on the radio.”

‘It’s too cold right now but normally you’ll have vehicles driving past honking,’ Blake told CBC News. ‘People messaging saying they enjoy the program and this is the day they look forward to.’ (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

Even with the show, Blake said she still does weekly check-ins with elders in the community just to see how they are doing.

As for the radio program, Blake said she isn’t sure what the show will look like in the new year, however she plans to host the show until the audience stops listening.

“I like it,” she said. “I enjoy coming on.”

‘A perfect fit’

The TH Wellness Program isn’t just gaining popularity among Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens.

Peter Menzies, the treasurer of the CFYT board of directors, said it’s been working so far and that Blake is a great addition to the radio station.

“She’s a great fit,” Menzies said. “Maybe even a perfect fit for … community radio. The host is clearly from the community. Clearly talking directly to the audience that she wants to reach and that’s really important.”

Menzies said Blake is like “a best friend who is sitting in your living room with you.”

“It’s really true,” he said to CBC News. “I’m sure she’s got a lot of listeners who really feel she’s in the living room or the kitchen with them and I like her style. I like her laugh. It’s really great.”

When CBC News asked Blake if her show’s growing popularity makes her feel like a local celebrity, she modestly smiled and laughed.

“Don’t say that,” she said. “The radio killed the radio star.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: New media company puts Canada’s Dene Indigenous narratives first, founder says, CBC News

Russia: Russian media pushing “business-as-usual” narrative in Arctic despite sanctions, say media researchers, Eye on the Arctic

Chris MacIntyre, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre is a CBC reporter in Dawson City, Yukon.

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