February 13th was World Radio Day. This UNESCO International Day has been celebrated since 2011. Radio has been an integral part of our lives for over 100 years. How do you use the radio? Do you listen to music or the news and programmes? In the Arctic, there are also numerous radio stations. But would you have thought that for the nearly 40,000 residents in Nunavut, there are about 40 stations? In this region, which is more than 45 times the size of Switzerland, most people live in larger or smaller communities.
Clearly, the size of the area poses special challenges for the few residents. Also in regards to communication, because outside these hamlets cell phones quickly become relatively useless. Traveling is dangerous in summer and winter.
There are few roads. Boats and airplanes are important modes of transport during the summer months, dogsled and snowmobiles in winter. The radio broadcasts important information about weather conditions and local news in the communities, in different languages, especially Inuktitut and English.
In this way, radio also contributes to something else: language and culture preservation. . In its origins, the Inuit culture was passed on orally, i.e. not written down. The use of the language helps to preserve the cultural characteristics and to keep the language itself alive.
The local radios in the various municipalities broadcast all district, national and international news and thus help to structure life in these communities. Since 2013 the Nunavut Municipal Training Organisation has offered online courses for radio hosts. The radio is more than a mere distraction in the Arctic. It can save lives, as it can also help save cultures. Definitely a reason to celebrate World Radio Day accordingly. Don’t you think so?
Martin Schultz, Museum Cerny / Translation by Martha Cerny