Broadcasting 'from outside': Inuvialuktun language show airing from Edmonton

Last Thursday, it was –19 C in Edmonton and –26 in Inuvik, N.W.T. Either way, it was cold and CBC Radio's Dodie Malegana was using that fact for a lesson in how to speak Inuvialuktun, endangered languages in Canada's North.

Dodie Malegana hosts Tusaavik program giving life to endangered language of the North

Dodie Malegana returns to hosting Inuvialuktun language CBC Radio program Tusaavik in Edmonton. (Ariel Fournier)

Last Thursday, it was –19 C in Edmonton and –26 in Inuvik, N.W.T. Either way, it was cold and CBC Radio's Dodie Malegana was using that fact for a lesson in how to speak Inuvialuktun — an umbrella term for several endangered languages in Canada's North. 

"Ah-lah-uppah. It's cold. Kick-cow-rook. It's cold," Malegana said over the airwaves on Thursday, giving the proper pronounciation for alappaa and qiqaur̂uq.

Malegana and CBC Radio One are hosting Tusaavik, the Inuvialuktun language program that started in 1982.

But there is one key change. Malegana is now is broadcasting from CBC's studios in Edmonton — or, as her listeners would call it — "from outside." 

Malegana took time away from the program in 2017 when she moved from Whitehorse to Edmonton to work on another job with an audio Indigenous archiving project.

In 2018 another host took over, but now Malegana is back in the chair.

Malegana, who grew up in Aklavik, a small N.W.T hamlet southwest of Inuvik, speaks in the Indigenous language to offer listeners interviews, music, announcements, weather, news and archival tape from elders.

Dodie Malegana says It's "nerve-wracking but exciting" to be back on the air after she took a break from hosting Tusaavik in 2017. (Ariel Fournier)

"It's the nervousness of starting all over again," said Malegana, calling the return to the airways "nerve-wracking but exciting."

But she quickly warmed up to returning to the program playing upbeat songs like Have Some Tea by Inuit musicians Uniaqtut.

Malegana said she created simplified snippets of language lessons when she reintroduced the program because she felt it was important to teach more fans of the show the language.

"I often have listeners that don't understand the language but they enjoy it," she said.

Currently, around 20 per cent of Inuvialuit are fluent in Inuvialuktun.

It's a welcome return for many who have counted on the program for announcements and to hear a familiar language on the radio ever since CBC began offering Indigenous language programming in the 1970s.

Tusaavik, the Inuvialuktun language program, is one of six Indigenous language programs CBC broadcasts for audiences in the Northwest Territories. Programs also air in Tlicho, North Slavey, South Slavey, Chipewyan and Gwich'in.

Malegana said and she's continuing to look for people who speak Inuvialuktun to join her on the show.

"Tusaavik means to hear and a place to hear," she said. 

The one-hour program airs weekdays at 3 p.m. MT, broadcasting to communities in Nunavut and in Beaufort Delta communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

If you'd like to tell a story, sing a song, participate in an interview or share language lesson, e-mail Malegana at dodie.malegana@cbc.ca.