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Native Communicators Launch Their Newest Initiative

Eileen Vance-Duchesne

Despite the many obstacles aboriginal communicators and broadcasters have had to overcome in the last 20 years, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. On October 24, 1991, members of the National Aboriginal Communications Society (MACS) gathered at a reception, in Ottawa, to celebrate their latest project--the launching of the Information Registry and National Advertising Agency.

"Finally the government has turned around and said these people (native communicators) can in fact do the job. They're (federal government) spending all kinds of money putting together pamphlets and other materials trying to get the message across (to the First Nations communities) but its not getting to the people." Ray Fox, President of NACS, said in an interview with DANNZHA. "It only took us five and a half years to get here (from the grassroots to Parliament Hill)."

The reception which was co-sponsored by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and the Department of Secretary of State (DSOS) was to honor the initiatives of the group, as well as, to formally introduce members to communication directors of various Government of Canada departments.

The Honorable Tom Siddon, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development was on hand to offer his congratulations. He responded by saying, "Tonight marks a very special development--the launch of an economic and cultural venture that offers important opportunities and benefits to native and non-native communities alike."

"The establishment of the National Aboriginal Information Registry and Advertising Agency is the product of hard work by a lot of dedicated native communicators," the Minister added.

For many native communicators, it seems like just yesterday when the words of the former Federal Finance Minister, Michael Wilson, rang in their ears as they heard the announcement, in February, 1990, that core funding for the Native Communications Program would be eliminated and 16% of the budgets to Northern Native Broadcasting would be cut.

Although there are still communication networks struggling across the country, here it is just over one year later, and aboriginal communicators are finally receiving recognition for their efforts and they have reason to celebrate.

"A look at the front page of almost any newspaper in the country will tell you, and polling companies will confirm, that there has never before been such a dramatic level of concern among Canadians to right the wrongs of the past and create an equal partnership between aboriginal people and the rest of Canada." stated Siddon.

NACS President, Ray Fox, agreed by saying, "Gone are the days native and non native politicians can make decisions and not be accountable to the grassroots people. Gone are the days band meetings are held and no one shows up. Because we (native communicators) are able to inform people on decisions that affect their lives.

Native communicators may be celebrating this new venture but they are not underestimating what it required of them, especially given that aboriginal issues are at an all time high. Lawrence Martin, executive Director Wawatay, in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, and Treasurer of NACS, says, "We (aboriginal communicators) have been put through the test. But now the onus is on us to produce. NACS members will certainly have to get together and plan. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us."

In his closing remarks, at the reception, Fox echoed the message of communicators across the country, "When you think of this work and you know that as a human being, that you will someday be called before your Creator, and on that bright cloudless morning when time shall be no more and you stand there naked before your Creator and he asks you, `Did you support aboriginal communications?' I hope you will be able to look him in the eye and answer yes I did."