About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Radio in Indigenous Mystery Series

On Friday Margot Kinberg at her terrific blog, Mysteries of a Mystery Novelist, put up a post about radio in crime fiction. I thought of how radio involving indigenous peoples in North America has been featured in mysteries. I left a comment and have decided to expand that comment into this post.

The Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson has significant Cheyenne Indian characters. While Henry Standing Bear is the most important other members of the tribe play roles in the different books.

The tribe has a reservation radio station with Herbert His Good Horse their leading radio personality. He has become famous in the books for his trademark phrase:

“Stay calm, have courage and wait for the signs.”

In Canada, several years before Johnson wrote his books, there was a wickedly clever satirical radio show, the Dead Dog Cafe, written and starring American - Canadian indigenous writer Tom King. I loved the show which punctured stereotypes. Each show signed off with:

"Stay calm! Be brave! Wait for the signs!"

I have often wondered if Johnson had been inspired by the Dead Dog Cafe.

Walt visits the station during As the Crow Flies which is set on the Cheyenne reservation. In the book Walt awkwardly handles negotiations with the Chief’s sister, Arbutis, to allow his daughter, Cady, to have her wedding ceremony on the reservation.

Another series with a local indigenous radio station is the Nathan Active series by Stan Jones set on the northwest coast of Alaska.

Kay-Chuck is required listening for the Inuit living in Chukchi and the villages scattered along the forbidding coast.

In Village of the Ghost Bears most of the residents hear about a body being found at One-Way Lake through Kay-Chuck.

Margot further noted in a reply to my comment of another indigenous mystery series that includes radio:

And now I’m thinking of the important part community radio plays in Tony Hillerman’s Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn novels as well. It’s woven into several stories.

In my real life Saskatchewan youth during the 1960’s CKBI, the radio station in Prince Albert, had a daily show called Northern News. While there were stories about the North much of the show involved messages being sent north by indigenous people down in Prince Albert or further south.

It was a full generation before cell phones and there was no way to communicate individual messages to the small remote indigenous communities and trappers in the vast forests of northern Saskatchewan.

Poignantly many of the messages were about how medical treatment had gone for a family member.

Others advised when someone would be arriving home and needed to be met at the plane. There were no all weather roads (there were and are some winter roads) and the only transportation was by plane, often a float plane.

I often thought of a trapper coming to his cabin after a long day on the trapline and listening to his radio to see if there were messages for himself or people he knew back home.

Subsequently, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians produced a program called Moccasin Telegraph which expanded upon Northern News.

As the communications industry became more diversified the MBC (Missinippi Broadcasting Corporation) was founded in the 1980’s. It has carried on with broadcasting throughout northern Saskatchewan with 70 low wattage FM stations carrying its signal.

Programs for the APTN (the Aboriginal People’s Television Network) have been created and filmed in Saskatchewan.

There continues a strong connection between the indigenous people of Saskatchewan and radio. Just as the fictional Inuit look to Kay-Chuck for the news the Inuit and Indians of northern Saskatchewan rely on the MBC.


  1. First, thanks, Bill, for the kind mention. Thanks too for expanding the post with your own. This is really interesting. It makes a lot of sense to use community radio for communication in remote areas with a lot of inclement weather. Even in this age of electronic communication and everyone having a 'phone, you can't always count on reception. So community radio still plays a role. And I think some of the Native American nations here use community radio to preserve their languages and announce when certain rituals will be held. Lots to think about here, for which thanks.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. No matter how we try to get around weather it still affects our lives especially out of cities. On language the MBC is committed to at least 10 hours a week of broadcasting in the Cree language.

  2. I found that absolutely fascinating Bill. I worked in radio for years, and love to hear about its continuing importance in people's lives, even in these days of other communications methods.

  3. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I did not know of your work in radio. I listen to the radio every day while I am in my van.