For the last six months, Ojibwe-language radio ads providing information on the Affordable Care Act have featured a voice that would be familiar to many in the Bemidji community.
Dr. Anton Treuer, executive director of Bemidji State University’s American Indian Resource Center, has worked in conjunction with Kauffman and Associates, Inc., a Native American-owned and woman-owned small business, to develop radio ads in Ojibwe with information about accessing services available through the Affordable Care Act.
The public service announcements, produced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are part of a comprehensive national outreach and education program to provide information about the act to American Indian and Alaskan native peoples.
“This American Indian- and Alaska Native-specific media outreach is intended to increase awareness and understanding of new, free or low-cost options offered through the insurance marketplace,” said Jo Ann Kauffman, Kauffman and Associates president.
Treuer, a nationally recognized expert in the Ojibwe language, was approached by Kauffman and Associates and asked to participate in the campaign. Treuer agreed and partnered with Anna Gibbs, a tribal elder from the Red Lake band of Chippewa in Red Lake, Minn., to provide on-air voices for the campaign’s six Ojibwe-language ads.
“There’s an awareness that there are actually quite a few indigenous people who wouldn’t access the information if it wasn’t presented in an indigenous language,” Treuer said. “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wanted to make enrollment material available to people in the languages they speak every day.”
Each month during the ongoing year-long campaign, Treuer and Gibbs translate English-language scripts into Ojibwe. After their translations are verified by third-party reviewers, the pair recorded the spots in Bemidji’s KBXE Radio studios (pictured, right).
In addition to English and Ojibwe, other groups around the country recorded each radio ad in Yupik, Inupiat, Lakota and Navajo. The ads have aired on dozens of tribal radio stations across the country. They can be heard on a variety of nationally syndicated networks and are available online.
Treuer thinks this project can help encourage participation in the Affordable Care Act among a population of people who need health coverage and might otherwise have avoided information about the program.
“In this part of Ojibwe country, the number of mono-lingual Ojibwe speakers is small,” Treuer said. “But there are other parts of Ojibwe country where it’s a different story. And a lot of the people in the older generation are bi-lingual, but might tune this information out if it were presented in English.”
For Treuer, the project not only supports the work he has done at BSU to revitalize the Ojibwe language, but also reinforces the language’s ability to be a part of everyday life.
“The language should be an everyday language,” he said. “It shouldn’t just be used for prayer or for academic work. It should be for everything. So I’m glad to see this. It’s helpful to have a healthy, living language.”
• Dr. Anton Treuer, executive director, American Indian Resource Center; (218) 755-2032
• Kelly Bundy, project manager, Kauffman & Associates, Inc.; (509) 789-2693, Kelly.Bundy@kauffmaninc.com
• Affordable Care Act options for American Indians and Alaska natives: (800) 318-2596