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'NDNs on the Airwaves' Brings Humor to Real Issues, Life On the Rez (Watch)

ES Staff  |  Comedy Web Series

Instead, she makes a promise to her dying grandfather and finds herself forced into community radio and keeping her family's station running.

This is the core story behind web comedy NDNs on the Airwaves, which launched this summer. The series' creator is Six Nations poet and artist January Marie Rogers.

Rogers has spent her career in radio, but this is her first online series. She wanted to keep the episodes short while still telling an engaging story. Each episode lasts 10 minutes.

Despite the made-up station and reservation, the show discusses real issues facing Indigenous people with humor and absurdity. Rogers says that her fictional characters are composites of real people who live in First Nations communities.

For example, everyone is familiar with an Auntie Brenda, she claims.

"Everyone knows someone who lives on the reservation, feels stuck there, and longs to leave."

Six Nations closed its borders during the pandemic to safeguard its elderly and fragile inhabitants. One episode depicts this decision. In it, the "Outside Guy" of the station, DJ Wiias, reports live on his cell phone from a community checkpoint.

After being asked for proof of residency, a furious guy tries to enter the reserve to buy gas. As he is denied entry, the radio audience can hear every word of his response.

He claimed that it is racist to deny him entry because "you Indians can come into our town for Dairy Queen or Micky D's, you fat pigs, and we can't come into your rez." He added he "wouldn't live on the reserve if you paid me to. How is that reconciliation?"

While giving his license plate number to the listeners, DJ Wiias asks him to identify himself.

DJ Wiias concludes by saying the following: "Even though it's just 9:30 a.m., the locals are already acting racist... I mean restless."

Rogers claims that these kinds of encounters have occurred in real life.

"Those plot lines, such as the blockades and locking down the rez during COVID, and the exchanges that occur there, may sound unrealistic, but I based them on genuine conversations that occurred at those checkpoints. Those things were really said," she said.

Dark humor and the series' use of these tropes provide Indigenous people a platform to fight prejudice.

Actor Lacey Hill, a former singer from the Six Nations who plays Patti Jones, hopes that the show will enable her people to laugh together.

Hill calls humor "an element of our survival," saying it's a coping strategy and component of the rehabilitation of our generation."

Randy, a conspiracy theorist and fancy dancer, is portrayed by Joseph Owl. He brings his experience in radio to the show and has collaborated with some of the cast members in the past. In the northern Ontario community of Serpent River First Nation, he ran the Sunday morning radio program for three years.

YouTube hosts the series, which has received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and Six Nations Development Corporation.