Native Americans Find Value in Indian Radio Stations

February 4, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On February 4, 2001, The New York Times published an article on Indian radio stations. Indian country just celebrated its first radio station, KUYI-FM, in First Mesa, Ariz. The new station is significant in part because it "can give news to elderly Hopi that can't speak English." In addition, the birth of the station represents "another triumph over difficult conditions in an industry that ignores Indian broadcasting. KUYI (88.1 FM) is just the 30th American Indian radio station in the United States." KUYI serves a remote reservation of 11,000 Hopis who have retained much of their traditional culture. "As mass media chip away at Indian cultures, tribes have turned to radio to keep languages heard and spoken...Like most Indian stations, KUYI carries a mix of programming: mainstream and American Indian music...; information from tribal and village governments; syndicated national news in English; live coverage of high school basketball games, which Indians follow fervently; community bulletin boards. Also like many stations, KUYI carries the English-language 'Native America Calling,' a popular national call-in show that allows dialogue between Indians and non-Indians all over the country." A recent program of the show featured a discussion about the massacre of Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee, S.D., 110 years ago.

"Most public radio not pick up national programs like 'Native America Calling.'...Indians are not seen as a desirable demographic...Indian radio stations are publicly financed through tribes, grants and underwriting. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting channels federal stations that meet certain criteria." In spite of financial difficulties, "Indian stations...continue to grow. They have gone beyond cultural preservation and are active listening posts for the communities they serve. They also provide indispensable, sometimes lifesaving public service, especially on sprawling reservations where phone service is inferior or nonexistent...National programming brings Indians and non-Indians to a common ground around the microphone and on the Web." One listener said that "Native America Calling" reflects "what the 500 tribes of American Indians share -- the continuing pain of oppression -- while telling the story of how Indians live in two worlds, the tribal and the broader cultures."