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KAWE/Channel 9 (Lakeland Public TV) - Celebrating 40 Years

One Hour Retrospective Premieres on Thursday, June 18th at 7:00 pm.


Did You Know That KAWE is an Ojibwe Word?

Happy Birthday from Michael Meuers

Explore the beginning of KAWE, and the formative years of Lakeland PBS with conversations with those who were there at the beginning to bring Public Television to northern Minnesota. There are interviews with many familiar faces, and maybe even me? KAWE Channel 9 signed on the air on June 1, 1980.

You can review those formative years of Lakeland PBS in northern Minnesota in a special hour presentation on Thursday, June 18, 2020 at 7 pm.

The Call Letters KAWE and the Connection to Ojibwe Country

Derived from Ojibwemowin, the word kawe or 'akawe' generally meaning 'first in a line of succession'

The process for developing call letters for the new PBS station back in 1979 was a relatively simple one. Northern Minnesota Public Television (NMPTV) could submit up to five suggestions to the FCC which would be checked for duplications and then narrowed to one.

An ad in the local newspaper asked for suggested call letters. Restrictions were four letters but the first must be a "K" because of our geographic location. (new station call letters west of the Mississippi River must begin with "K", stations to the east must begin with "W", so MN has both)

The one that was eventually chosen - came from Earl Nyholm, BSU professor of Ojibwe language. The unique KAWE call letters spell a word in Ojibwe which means "top priority" or "first in a sequence". The word is pronounced with the accent on the last syllable and rhymes with "cafe".

My Connection

I worked for Channel 9 for ten years, beginning shortly after they came on the air. I first got involved as a member of the station’s Community Advisory Council, then staff as the guy who punched the buttons that made the programming go over the air, and then nine years selling program underwriting. After that I went to work with Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians.

Because of my connection to Ojibwe Country, I was interviewed for the program and might get five or six seconds on the program. Many do not realize or have forgotten that the call letters for Lakeland are KAWE. The connection to Ojibwe country and the Ojibwe language was a main reason for choosing those call letters. The word kawe or akawe translates to English as “First (in a time sequence), or First of All.” All Ojibwe speakers would know that, but few others. So I tell a short story about that in the film, unless I got left on the cutting room floor.


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