Southeast Native Radio aired for just 16 years, but its voices live on in a new digital archive

A group photo of 11 people, standing and kneeling
KTOO transferred the Southeast Native Radio tapes to Sealaska Heritage Institute in a ceremony in 2010. The show was produced by a team of volunteers, including Arlene Dangeli, Joaqlin Estus, Cy Peck Jr., Kathy Ruddy, Kim Metcalfe, Andy Hope III, Jayne Dangeli, Laurie Cropley Nix and Rhonda Mann. (Photo courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)

Hundreds of hours of Southeast Native Radio broadcasts are now archived on the internet and available for anyone to listen to.

Southeast Native Radio was broadcast over KTOO in Juneau for 16 years, from 1985 to 2001. The volunteer-produced show played as current affairs at the time, but twenty-one years later it’s become a window into the lives of the people and events that shaped Native culture in the region over the last century.

A shelf of old tapes labeled "KTOO" and "SNR"
The Southeast Native Radio collection includes over 400 programs broadcast from 1985-2001. (Photo courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute)

The catalog of recordings is lengthy and populated with names that make it a who’s who of Southeast Native culture at the turn of the 21st century.

Nora Marks Dauenhauer, for example, was a leading Lingít language scholar and historian, as well as Alaska’s Poet Laureate. She died in 2017, but her words are now just a click away.

The Southeast Native Radio Recordings collection is available through the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which received the donated DAT tapes, reel-to-reels, and CDs from KTOO in 2010. In all, there are 400 recordings.

Even the most seemingly mundane shows are abuzz with history because the people represent a generational bridge to an even deeper past.

In one of the archived recordings, Roy Peratrovich, husband of Elizabeth Peratrovich, talks about the first of five times he was elected Grand President of the Alaska Native Brotherhood, when he lobbied to bring the Grand Camp to Klawock:

Peratrovich: When you’re young, you do a lot of foolish things…

Host: Was this 1929?

Peratrovich: No, 1939.

Host – 1939, okay.

Peratrovich: So I told the group that if we are going to build up this group, this ANB, we’re going to have to do it big. Pride is going to help us. Not knowing some screwball was going to nominate me for Grand President. So I got elected.

Peratrovich died in 1989, a year after that appearance on Southeast Native Radio.

And there’s basketball, which is a large thread in the cultural fabric of Southeast Alaska. One of the stars of the annual Gold Medal Tournament was Sitkan Herb Didrickson.

He told Southeast Native Radio that the Sitka team had to catch a ride on a seine boat each March for the trip to Juneau.

“As I started to put my gear up in the top bunk, I found this old man was laying up there already,” Didrickson says. “He kind of got on board a little early, and no one knew that he was there. So he was trying to stowaway, you know. So we figured, well, the old fellow wants to go and see some games, and we all couldn’t sleep at the same time.”

Didrickson to this day is considered one of the greatest players produced in Southeast Alaska, whose chances at a pro career were thwarted by WWII. Didrickson died in 2017.

Sealaska Heritage Institute refers to the archive as a “treasure trove,” and that’s not far off. The recordings include a 13-part series produced in 1986 on the history of the ANB. There are also a number of Lingít language segments with fluent speakers like Dauenhauer and Walter Soboleff conversing on a range of subjects.

Note: The Southeast Native Radio Recordings project was supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections or Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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