Edmonton Elks announce first-ever CFL radio broadcast in an Indigenous language

Graphic courtesy: Edmonton Elks

For the first time in history, a CFL game is set to be broadcast in an Indigenous language.

The Edmonton Elks announced a partnership with Windspeaker Media on Friday which will see their July 22 home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium called live in nêhiyawêwin (Cree).

The broadcast will air across the province of Alberta on Windspeaker’s radio stations CFWE (98.5 FM in Edmonton) and CJWE (88.1 FM in Calgary).

The partnership is part of the Elks’ Indigenous Celebration game, which will also feature the Canadian national anthem performed in nêhiyawêwin (Cree) and English, the game’s coin toss by Grand Chief of Treaty Six First Nations George Arcand Jr., and an Indigenous performance at halftime.

On-air duties for the historic broadcast will be handled by a play-by-play team of Wayne Jackson, Darcy Houle, and Edwin Thomas.

“This will be an exciting and historic broadcast as it will allow the Cree language to be broadcast on an entire network to football fans across Alberta,” said Bert Crowfoot, the founder and CEO of the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society, which includes radio stations CFWE North, CJWE South, and 89.3 The Raven Edmonton. 

As part of the Club’s ongoing commitment to truth and reconciliation, the broadcast will showcase the nêhiyawêwin (Cree) language, and bring the joy of football to nêhiyawêwin (Cree) speakers in their own language.

“Sports has the power to transcend all language barriers. As a community-owned team, bringing people together around the game of football is one of our main objectives,” Elks president and CEO Victor Cui said in a statement after announcing the partnership on CFWE’s Friday morning show.

“We’re excited to be working with a tremendous partner like Windspeaker Media, who has gone above and beyond to make this historic broadcast a reality.”

CFWE and CJWE listeners can also enter to win a chance to attend the game, as the Elks have partnered to help bring fans from across the province to the game for a VIP experience. Listeners should tune in over the coming weeks to hear how they can win.

Information on the broadcasters can be found below.

Wayne Jackson — Originally from the Goodfish Lake First Nation in northeastern Alberta, Jackson was raised in a nêhiyaw (Cree) speaking family. His first language was nêhiyawêwin and he later learned English when he attended school.

With the advent of the television to the community, Jackson began to use more English with others his own age. He has been a Cree language teacher and a language advocate of nêhiyawêwin for over 20 years.

Darcy Houle — Hailing from the Goodfish Lake First Nation on Treaty Six Territory, Houle’s first language is nêhiyawêwin (Cree), of which he is a fluent speaker. 

Raised in a family that was fluent and a community of speakers, Houle continues to promote the language by speaking and using nêhiyawêwin on a daily basis.

Houle is also an avid fan of the Elks and is looking forward to calling the first indigenous broadcast of an Elks game on this historic night.

Edwin Thomas — From the Saulteaux First Nation in Saskatchewan, Thomas is fluent in nêhiyawêwin and versed in Saulteaux language.

The youngest of three brothers, Thomas is currently a summer student at Blue Quills University with the New Horizon Project, and is continuing full-time studies this fall for a third year in the Bachelor of Arts in nêhiyawêwin program.

Thomas wants to expand his cultural knowledge from our people through the language. It is who we are, and in doing so, it establishes our own identity as nêhiyawak.