Local Radio Show Broadcasts Native Perspectives | Live Culture

Local Radio Show Broadcasts Native Perspectives


Deb Reger, host of "Moccasin Tracks," at WRUV - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Deb Reger, host of "Moccasin Tracks," at WRUV
When Deb Reger began her weekly radio show, "Moccasin Tracks," on WRUV 90.1 FM last Tuesday at noon, she reminded her listeners where she was. "We recognize this area where we broadcast from as N'Dakinna, the ancestral homeland of the Abenaki nation," she said from the radio station's studio in the University of Vermont's Davis Center in Burlington.

As the song "Grandmother" by Navajo artist Radmilla Cody played in the background, Reger told listeners that her guest for the week was Grandmother Nancy Andry, an elder who lives in Connecticut and is of Algonquin and Metis heritage.

It took a couple of tries before Reger got through on the phone to her guest. So the seasoned radio host adjusted her playlist to include longer songs. She wasn't too frazzled, though. "It happens," she explained.

Reger started "Moccasin Tracks" in 2009 because she wanted to produce a show that featured the voices and music of native peoples. "You just didn't hear [from them] that much," Reger said.

Reger, who doesn't claim any native ancestry, stresses she doesn't seek to speak for the native peoples. Her goal is to let them represent themselves and tell their stories.
"I hold this space, this broadcast time, for the people who are underserved," the radio host said.

The Corinth-based artist started producing "Moccasin Tracks" on Goddard College's WGDR 91.1 FM in Plainfield in 2009. Before moving to WRUV about five years ago, she had stints with WJSC 90.7 FM at Johnson State College, WPCR 91.7 FM at Plymouth State College in Plymouth, N.H., and WOOL 91.5 in Bellow Falls.

"Moccasin Tracks" is syndicated by Pacifica Radio Network, which operates WOOL. About 15 stations rebroadcast an hour-long version of the show, which is whittled down from the two-hour WRUV broadcast.

When she started broadcasting from WRUV, the station had a small selection of music from indigenous artists, Reger recalled. Now, she has amassed  more than 100 CDs, most of which she got from record labels that specialize in Native American music, such as Silver Wave Records, Indian House Records and Canyon Records.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Reger has been living in the Green Mountain State for more than 30 years. She's produced "Moccasin Tracks" from different locations in Vermont because she wanted it to be easy for the native people who live in the state to come and visit the radio station, she said.

But her outreach isn't limited to conducting interviews and playing native music on air. "It's really important to meet the community and go to events," she said. Reger has also offered her videography skills to document gatherings by native communities.
CD collection of Native American artists at WRUV - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • CD collection of Native American artists at WRUV

Recently, the Black Hawk Singers, an Abenaki drum group, accepted an invitation to perform live on her show for a special segment called "Holding Space For the Voices and Music of N'Dakinna." That performance was only possible because of "years of building relationships," Reger said.

Melody Walker Brook, an Abenaki member and  adjunct professor at Champlain College, has appeared on "Moccasin Tracks" several times. The chair of Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs said the show gives the community the opportunity to share its stories with the world — and each other. The broadcasts are afterward turned into podcasts, which Walker Brook said she sometimes uses when she's trying to keep abreast of news about different Abenaki bands.

According to Walker Brook, Reger has established herself as a great resource to the native community, to extent that "when we have had events closed to the public, we have still invited Deb to document for us."

Reger doesn't only interview community members who live in N'Dakinna, the Abenaki homeland that spans all of Vermont and New Hampshire as well as parts of Massachusetts, Maine and southern Quebec. Her show has featured leaders from other parts of the U.S., such as South Dakota, and even Canada.

Grandmother Nancy Andry said Reger first invited her to be on "Moccasin Tracks" to talk about the importance of storytelling in native cultures. The elder had made a CD collection of stories from different nations and gifted it to her friends. Reger contacted her after receiving a copy.

The elder, who spends a lot of time in Canada, noted that that country has an indigenous broadcaster, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. The cable TV network was established in 1992 with government support. Though some reservations have their own radio stations, "we have nothing like [the APTN] in the United States,"  said the elder.

She went on to describe "Moccasin Tracks" as "unique" and "much needed." There aren't many platforms for native people to share their perspectives, she continued, especially those that relate to U.S. history and the injustices stemming from broken treaties that native people have suffered.

"There's not much awareness among the general public about shows that address Native American issues and Native American perspectives," the elder said. "I think it's horrifically sad."

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