780 AM | 96.1 FM | “Yours for Western Alaska”

Telling Someone Else’s Stories

At the beginning of last week I posted the newest episode of “Let’s Tell Legends and Stories” on this website like it was just another thing to check off my To-Do list, but in my head I was marveling.

I haven’t written much about it this year, but I’ve agonized over my program, sunk hours into worrying about it, questioning its value and my role in working on it. In my interview for KNOM, the “Eskimo Stories and Legends” program immediately caught my attention. I love stories and storytelling deeply; it’s how I’ve always learned about and understood the world. And I love researching, which this program promised me plenty of. I couldn’t imagine a better way to learn about Western Alaska than to immerse myself in the stories of the people who have lived here for generations.

But there’s a difference between researching to learn and researching to create media. When I started working on this program, I immediately felt insecure about my place as a white outsider creating a program about Alaska Native culture for an audience that is primarily Alaska Native. It felt, and still feels, wrong to me. But I had trouble talking about my insecurities for self-absorbed reasons. I was afraid everyone would agree that I was the wrong person for the job and point out the mistakes I’d made in ignorance, and then how was I going to get through the rest of the year producing this program? New friends and acquaintances told me about incredible work they’re doing to start conversations about historical trauma and teach traditional languages and activities and so many incredible projects. I felt so lucky to meet them and learn from them, but I questioned whether this “Eskimo Stories and Legends” program was still relevant, whether I could do something to make it better, especially as a new member of the community.

It took longer than I care to admit, but finally I did get over my fears and started asking people, “Does this matter to you?” And to my surprise, a lot of them said yes. A lot of them had ideas about stories I could include, people who might be willing to narrate, and even offered to help.

So, thank you so much to the people who shared their opinions with me. Thank you for inviting me into your home or joining me at the station and speaking honestly, or calling in when you liked an episode. You are the reason that I continue working on this program, the reason I finally re-formatted it to allow us to post the audio online, and the reason I’ve looped so many talented people into the mix. Sometimes working in radio feels like talking in a vacuum, because it’s hard to know who’s listening and whether our work is meaningful to them. You’ve reminded me again and again that it’s a conversation.

Which brings me to where we are now: without someone to take over producing “Let’s Tell Legends and Stories” for the next year. My goal for the summer is to find a volunteer in the community who is interested in recording stories and/or producing the program. It’s a great opportunity for a local volunteer to grow this program in a new direction, and I’m hoping someone here in Nome is interested. If you are, let’s start talking. You can call me at the station during the week or email legends@knom.org.

Maybe these aren’t my stories to share, but maybe they’re yours. Maybe you know someone with stories to share with the communities in our region. We need your help to keep this program alive.