Native Village
Youth and Education news
October 2010 Volume 1

Natives, others promote healing after radio insult
Condensed by Native Village


Alaska: Alaska Natives are using a racial insult on an Anchorage radio station as a teaching tool. They hope to heal the hurt and work towards healthier racial relations.

“We've going in the right direction,” said Liz Medicine Crow, vice president of First Alaskans Institute. “It's the Native way of trying to work forward. It's so easy to go negative. We're going in the right direction.”

Rochene Rowan-Hellen, a Tlingit woman, also heard the racist comments while listening to KWHL on her car radio. That same day, she sent an email to media and community leaders. It read:

“This morning on the Bob and Mark show some guys called in they wanted to listen to something funny they had played before. When they put it on the air it was faux commercial advertising 'cash for Tlingits.' It went something like this:

" 'are you out of cash? Do you need to make some quick money? Do you have an old Native lying around? Well, we will give you cash for Tlingits.'

“It went on with a supposed Native man talking about how his grandson turned him in for cash. I literally almost drove off the road I was so shocked and offended."

Things appear to have changed now. First Alaskans Institute and many others, including the KWHL's staff and management, are determined to improve race relations.
“When I was asked what I would like to see done, I wanted to see if we could work out a way to communicate -- not in anger - -so we can present a positive image for Alaska Native people,” said Rowan-Hellen.

DJs Bob Lester and Mark Colavecchio attended a series of meetings to help them better understand Native culture. The meetings included Native community members as well as other local groups.  Medicine Crow said the meetings began with a large circle, “to speak to each other as human beings about where we wanted to go..

The disc jockeys spoke about how the meetings have changed their attitude.

“I've never written a comedy bit with the intent of hurting anyone,” Lester said. “I was so ashamed of the hurt of this girl I'd never met before. It has really changed my brand of humor. We've done so many good things over the years. The shame and hurt (from this incident) took all that away from me.”

Lester was overwhelmed by the feeling of forgiveness from the Alaska Native community. “It's been fulfilling to work together as a team,” he said. “I feel so blessed that this opportunity has happened.”

“Everything I've heard in the last three months has made me a better human being,” said Colavecchio. “The opportunities ... are incredible.”

Their efforts were applauded by Malcolm and Cindy Roberts of Bridge Builders, an Anchorage group.

“You are pioneering a whole new approach to this,” said Malcolm Roberts. “This is a human nature thing. You've made a tremendous start.”


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