Radio show offers a voice to the native community

One woman discovered the power of community radio in 2009, when the indigenous people of Vermont were still not recognized at a state level.

Some tribes of the Abenaki nation, the people native to the region now known as Vermont, achieved state recognition as late as 2012, according to the state website.

Deb Regers, host of Moccasin Tracks on 90.1 WRUV, felt conversations about these people were held exclusively at state and professional levels.

“As a non-native person, I felt like I needed to know the truth,” she said. “I wanted to hear the truth from the people themselves, not be told by privileged white people.”

Regers created Moccasin Tracks to voice the stories and perspectives of Native Americans.

“The material that Deb single-handedly brings to this radio station is unmatched, here and at other radio stations,” said sophomore Rachel O’Neill, WRUV station manager.

Through her show, Regers shares the current cultural revitalization of the Abenaki with the larger community, she said.

“Some descendants are trying to reclaim their identities in these modern times,” Regers said.

Many Abenaki people are discovering who they are by learning their native languages, songs and traditions, she said.

Languages survive through music and oral stories which are passed on through generations, Regers said.

“All the music I play is by native artists from all over the country,” she said.

Moccasin Tracks also hosts a range of artists, including a traditional basket weaver and a birch-bark canoe maker.

Like music and language, traditional arts are passed down through generations, Regers said.

“I don’t think people are aware these arts are still practiced by many of the nations today,” she said.

“There is a huge network of history, art and music,” Regers said. “The challenge is: how do I bring that on the radio? How do I share that with the larger community?”

O’Neill remembers listening to a broadcast around Halloween on cultural appropriation which brought her to tears, she said.

“If we can understand history through communicating with the original people, we can achieve mutual respect,” Regers said. “There is racism everywhere, including Vermont.”

In recent history, Abenaki people were sterilized due to eugenics, a science dedicated to improving a human population by controlled breeding, Regers said.

Henry Perkins, a UVM professor in the 1920s, was a major proponent of the Vermont eugenics movement, according to the University’s website.

Moccasin Tracks also focuses on current events such as political and environmental challenges, which are threatening native culture, Regers said.

“They are losing a lot of human rights, tribal rights, sovereignty and the ability to protect the earth for future generations,” she said.

Native Americans who participated in the Standing Rock resistance have voiced their experiences on Moccasin Tracks.

“I want to hear from the grassroots people,” Regers said. “Although I have heard from professors and professional people, I’m really interested in the extraordinary things ordinary people do.”

Through Moccasin Tracks, Regers calls for an awareness of societal and cultural conditioning, she said.

“From doing this radio show I am learning to be an ally; I am learning to decolonize the way I think,” Regers said. “A lot of the times that means relearning what I have learned in school.”

While certain setbacks still exist, such as enduring prejudices and resistance to climate protection, Regers is grateful to be alive during this time of rising consciousness, she said.

“It’s a beautiful thing to witness,” Regers said. “The Abenaki people are re-indigenizing themselves and reaffirming their traditions with each other and with their larger communities.”

Regers hosts Moccasin Tracks from 2-4 p.m. every Thursday on 90.1 WRUV.