‘Re-establishing a sense of identity:’ RIVR gives indigenous people a voice on broadcast radio

James Dommek Jr is the sole operator for Rising Indigenous Voices Radio, or RIVR. RIVR was launched in September and can be streamed at therivr.net. (Photo by Samantha Davenport, Alaska Public Media)

A new streaming radio channel aims to give young, indigenous musicians and artists a voice on broadcast radio. RIVR, an acronym for Rising Indigenous Voices Radio, launched at the end of September, and streams 24/7 to provide a unique playlist, from top 40 hits to podcasts of Native American food bloggers.

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James Dommek Jr. is spearheading the radio project for Koahnic Broadcast Corporation. Dommek wants to include American Indian and Alaska Native millennials in the project that revolves around their culture.

“I think that Native people in general through media have in the past really have seen ourselves as mascots, have seen ourselves as vilified. I think the time is now for us to just have our own voice on our terms,” Dommek said.

Dommek’s background is in music and film; he played drums in the indie group The Whipsaws and tribal funk group Pamyua before being hired by Koahnic. Since then, Dommek has been the sole visionary for the online channel and the one-man-band for RIVR.

Dommek was brought on board about a year and a half ago. When he was hired, there was no name or website for the project, only a vision.

Finding Indigenous musicians can be a challenge and Dommek has to oftentimes dig for new content.

Dommek is half-Inupiaq and was born and raised in Kotzebue. He thinks the way television has portrayed Native Americans is disparaging.

“It’s important that Native young people hear themselves, and see themselves in media, and I think that’s the direction that the RIVR is going to head, where the content will be produced by the demographic itself, and so that they hear themselves on the product, on the station. And I think just re-establishing a sense of identity,” Dommek said.

Currently, a good amount of musicians, rappers and DJs occupy RIVR’s air time, but Dommek hopes to eventually air speeches by inspirational Native Americans, or comedy bits.

RIVR can be heard at therivr.net.