Finding new and stable sources of funding for Cree media in Eeyou Istchee was one of the many issues brought up November 22 in Ouje-Bougoumou at the Annual General Assembly of the James Bay Cree Communications Society.
The JBCCS name isn’t one that will be around for much longer. At the AGA it was decided to change the name to Cree Eeyou Media to reflect the changes in the way the organization operates today compared to the past, said Raymond Menarick, president of the Society.
Menarick is from Chisasibi, the only community to have a twice-weekly Cree language television show. It is a point of pride for the community. He said the radio station announcers sometimes double as weather forecasters or announcers for the television show.
But most local communications in the Cree communities is radio-based and most of them want to extend their listening range.
“Trappers and hunters like to keep in touch,” said Walter Hester from Waskaganish. “Radio is a community service and needs to be preserved.”
JBCCS executive director Luke MacLeod promised several ways to make it happen. “It can be sharing job descriptions, policies or anything that makes use more efficient,” MacLeod said. “If we do it then it is ours because it came from within. You could hire a lawyer or consultant to write something like policies but none of us will really understand it. So we won’t use it but it could be used against us.”
One problem involved power surges and blackouts. Whapmagoostui said they can’t even phone out when the power is
down. A few others admitted similar problems. This leaves a gap in the regional programming schedule. The schedule itself is still being worked out so everyone benefits.
It was agreed to look into a member’s-only portion of the JBCCS website where such information could be looked at and exchanged.
“We all seem to have similar problems,” Menarick said. “We need to work together on them. We can have a stronger voice together that way and we have more people to work on finding solutions.” Nemaska society member Kenneth Tanoush noted that funding comes mainly from gaming and the band council. “Let’s start looking at a strategy for generating revenues,” Tanoush suggested. “We’re at risk with only a few sources of funding.”
His concerns were echoed throughout the AGA. Many local communications organizations were run by the bands, under or getting out of trusteeship or had narrowly missed getting in trusteeship. For example, Wemindji almost went into trusteeship but managed to stay out of it and raise $10,000 to fight diabetes last Christmas.
It was found all radio stations need new equipment and facilities. The worst case being Whapmagoostui, whose tower nearly collapsed. Thanks to a technician hired by JBCCS it should be good for another year. Their building, though, is nearly impossible to heat.
Another complaint was that the Cree media is simply a training ground. “After a while trained workers go on to higher-paying jobs because they’ve learnt great communications skills,” said Edward Georgekish.