Episode 5: Words Travel On Air - Attikamekw/Innu

This episode was filmed at the SOCAM radio network headquarters at Wendake and in the Attikamekw community of Obedjiwan, located on the northern shore of the Gouin Reservoir. A young Attikamekw journalist working at SOCAM makes a trip to her home community to tape interviews and legends told by elders in their native tongue, as part of the network's language initiative.


episode 5SOCAM, la Société de Communication Attikamekw -Montagnais, produces 5 hours of radio programming daily in the Innu and Attikamekw languages (both belong to the Algonquian language family). SOCAM headquarters are located in Wendake, near Quebec City. The network broadcasts via satellite to fourteen communities in Northeastern Quebec, many of which possess local affiliated stations.

One of SOCAM's mandates is the preservation and transmission of Native languages, as reflected by its programming prerogatives for the year 2000. Both languages were thriving until recently but the influence of the media and a more urban lifestyle have eroded its current use among the younger generations. With this in mind, SOCAM director Bernard Hervieux has resolved to increase the network's daily use of Innu and Attikamekw in the workplace, both on and off the air.

episode 5Part 1

Bernard Hervieux has been the director of SOCAM since 1997. Born and raised in the Innu community of Betsiamite on Quebec's Lower North Shore, for many years, he traveled the region in his capacity as a journalist, producing public affairs programming in his native tongue. He has also participated in several exchange programs, notably with Bolivian Native communicators in 1991.

We see Bernard in the course of his activities at SOCAM, working with staff members on the new fall programming schedule, brainstorming and exchanging ideas with the dynamic SOCAM team, among them Attikamekw producer Yvon Dubé and broadcaster Martha Karine Awashish. They discuss the network's special focus on language, which we see in practice both on and off air. Our camera participates in the production of programs with linguisitic and cultural content such as "Elders' Stories", "Les Mots en Perte" (Disappearing Words) and " Techno-linguistes", which provide a vital communications link across the network's territory.

episode 5Part 2

Martha Karine is a 21 year-old woman who works full time as a radio broadcaster at SOCAM. Her contributions to the daily Attikamekw programs deal with a number of subjects, including news, public affairs, music and cultural issues. She also acts as radio technician. Recognizing the key role played by elders in the preservation of native language, Karine is currently developing a weekly feature in which she invites elders to tells stories on the air in Attikamewk and Innu.

episode 5Karine's keen interest in language stems from her personal story. She was born and raised in Obedjiwan, 140 kilometers north of Chibougamou, where as a young child, she spoke mainly Attikamekw at home with parents, friends and extended family. At that time, Attikamekw was not taught in primary school but there was a weekly language class taught at the secondary level. However when Karine left her community to attend secondary school in Trois Rivières and then in Quebec City, she no longer had the opportunity to speak her language on a daily basis and quickly lost her fluency.

This young radio communicator and mother of an 18 month-old son, regrets this loss and intends to focus her work on the survival of the language among future generations. She especially wants to transmit her mother tongue to her son Alexandre, so that as the child grows up, he is able to communicate with his grandparents and great grandparents, who speak mostly Attikamekw.

episode 5We travel with Karine to Obedjiwan, where she spends several days interviewing elders for her radio program, collecting stories and anecdotes revolving around the language and traditional Attikamekw way of life, based on hunting, trapping and knowledge of the land. Like the ancestral forest surrounding Obedjiwan, the survival of the Attikamekw language is now threatened by global consumer culture. The younger generations spend much of their leisure time watching television and listening to music in French or English, turning their back on the traditional Native lifestyle. But Karine believes that radio can play an important role in preserving the Attikamekw language.

Back at SOCAM headquarters, as part of the "Elders' Stories" program, Karine introduces a poetic legend she has recorded, told by an Attikamekw elder in her native tongue. And in Attikamekw communities, attentive listeners tune in.

language keeperLanguage Keeper

César Nemashish was an Attikamekw leader from Manouane who died in 1994 at the ripe old age of 91. An expert craftsman who made beautiful birchbark canoes, he is revered by his people for his efforts to preserve and transmit the Attikamwk language and culture. A poster of César hangs on the walls of SOCAM offices in Wendake and in the dining room of the Six Seasons Traditional Site in Obedjiwan. SOCAM regularly broadcasts archival recordings of his talks in the Attikamekw language.