A search into the archives of CBC and Radio-Canada has unearthed some photographs of the early days of Cree-language radio and television broadcasts out of Montreal.
The CBC North Cree unit celebrated the 50th and 40th anniversaries of its Cree-language radio and television broadcasts in November with a special event in the lobby of the new Maison Radio-Canada in Montreal on Nov. 24, including a special taping of Eyou Dipaimoon.
The very first broadcasts of the Cree language began in November 1972, with short segments in its Inuktitut-language programs. A one-hour Cree language noon hour radio show was added in 1975, and in 1980 a morning show was added to the service.
In 1982, a Cree-language television show, Maamuitaau, was launched.
"There was a perfect medium to connect my people with each other," said Dianne Ottereyes Reid, who started working for the radio service in the mid-1970s.
She went on to work with Maamuitaau and also helped create a network of Indigenous-language community radio stations across Quebec. In 1986, she began working with the Cree Nation Government in various roles and helped found the Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute, an award-winning museum in the Cree community of Oujé-Bougoumou.
"Having studied communications, we knew that this is the base for a language to stay alive ... whether it's television or radio," she said.
Emma Saganash started working at CBC North radio in 1977 and hosted most of the radio shows at one time or another. She also hosted two weekend radio shows. One of the weekend shows brought news highlights of the week and another focused on Indigenous music and artist profiles. The weekend shows were cancelled in 1980 to make way for Winschgaoug, the radio morning show.
Maamuitaau began without Cree staff
In the late 1980s, Saganash started hosting Maamuitaau and then moved into management until her retirement in 2018.
Saganash remembers at the beginning, there were no Cree involved in the production of Maamuitaau. It was delivered with puppets and was aimed at showing Cree people how to live — explaining basic lifestyle and hygiene information.
"At the beginning, I was so appalled by what I saw," said Saganash. By the time Saganash moved into the host's chair in the late 1980s, more Cree were involved in production of Maamuitaau and most of the CBC North Cree unit staff was Cree.
"We did so many stories both on radio and television. Important stories," she said, adding she remembers it was a challenge at times to ask difficult questions of leaders, because Cree culture didn't have a tradition of challenging leaders.