By Elizabeth Weatherford, Head of FVC
Most audiences for Native radio-Indian and non-Indian alike-rarely
hear the Native experience reflected on other broadcast sources.
With Native radio, listeners get an informed focus on what concerns
Indian communities and people, and its programs reach national,
local, tribal, and urban audiences.
a notable example of Native broadcasting, a community of about
250,000 listeners tunes in every Monday through Friday to hear
Native America Calling. A one-of-its-kind, award-winning
national call-in program, Native America Calling links
listeners in "an electronic talking circle" about issues and cultural
concerns. The conversations cover topics like environmental preservation,
repatriation of cultural objects from museums, or Indian humor.
In a recent discussion about the anniversary of the 1890 massacre
of the Lakotas at Wounded Knee, the program became a forum for
how Native people could heal from the impact of traumatic events
in history. Native America Calling is brought to tribal
and other public stations by the nonprofit American Indian Radio
on Satellite (AIROS). But only recently, when AIROS began providing
the program live from its Website, could a huge portion of Indian
Country-Native people living in urban areas or east of the Mississippi-access
to this article are listings that indicate the breadth and depth
of Native radio. They include tribal and urban stations and Latino
affiliates; Native radio programs, both independently produced
series and national and local urban programs; media organizations
that support and serve the Native radio-producing community; and
the radio audiences themselves. The information covers First Nations
radio in Canada, indigenous radio in Mexico and Panama, and Native
American and Latino radio in the United States.
programs that air daily make up only part of what Native radio
offers. Reservation community radio provides local programming.
The newest tribal station to open in the United States, KUYI-FM,
is in Polacca, Arizona, on the First Mesa of the Hopi Reservation.
Like most others, it's noncommercial and 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, community bulletin boards, and
public affairs programming produced by and for Indian Country.
is the thirty-first Native station to go on-air in the United
States-seven in Alaska and twenty-four in the lower forty-eight
states. More than four hundred Native radio stations operate in
Canada, either independently or as part of a communication society
or network funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage. In the
United States, AIROS and its parent organization, Native American
Public Telecommunications (NAPT), offer program and broadcasting
support. NAPT is a multidimensional organization that provides
information, support for productions, an excellent newsletter
on Native broadcasting, and Internet Webcasts of many Native programs.
In Latin America, low-power, solar-powered, and even wind-up
radio makes it the most widely used form of community media. In
Mexico, stations serving Native audiences may be part of a national
system supported by the National Indigenous Institute (INI), or
they may be independent, such as Radio Tamix, a Mixe-language
organization in the state of Oaxaca. In northern Mexico and Baja
California, stations affiliated with the U.S.-based Latino service
organization Satélite Radio Bilingüe receive Spanish-language
Latino and indigenous programming. Radio Bilingüe's broadcast
of the English-language Native America Calling also reaches
affiliates in Mexico.
Radio in the City
urban areas, independent producers for broadcast on local public
radio organize weekly Native public affairs and cultural programs.
The urban audience for Native radio has grown. With more Native
people living in cities, a successful movement is developing for
licensing Native stations in urban areas. The pioneer is KNBA-FM,
the twenty-four-hour station organized by Koahnic Broadcast Corporation
in Anchorage, Alaska. In Canada, First Nations radio activists,
led by actor-director-publisher Gary Farmer, currently are working
to launch the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network, which is on its
way to obtaining licenses for stations in three major cities.
Bilingüe's flagship station in Fresno, California, and other
affiliated stations reach a large urban Latino community in the
United States. In 2001, Radio Bilingüe began partnering with
a radio station in Jalisco, Mexico, to produce a live simulcast
series linking callers on both sides of the border. Focusing on
Mexican transnational life in the United States and Mexico, the
series reaches indigenous populations far afield. In Panama broadcasts
of Kuna radio originating in Panama City are heard not only on
the mainland but also in the Kuna communities on the islands of
One concern in many communities is the survival of the Native
language. With indigenous languages becoming obsolete as their
fluent speakers age, tribal radio can be an important partner
in preserving traditional language and culture. Of the 300 indigenous
languages spoken in the United States at the time of European
contact, only 148 survive today. Of these, one-third have fewer
than 100 speakers. Currently Koahnic Broadcast Corporation produces
the popular national program Native Word of the Day, heard
in community and urban areas alike.
first Native radio stations started with the promotion of language
and culture within their own communities as their main interest.
Stations like KTBD in New Mexico translate National Public Radio's
Morning Edition into Navajo. KYUK at Bethel, Alaska, presents
its daily news programs in English and in Yup'ik. KILI on the
Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where about 15,000 Lakota
speakers live, offers its four-hour morning program and other
cultural programs in Lakota. The KILI crew often travels across
the 5,000-square-mile reservation to do live coverage.
Similarly, in Canada, CKRZ-FM on the Six Nations Reserve in southwestern
Ontario serves a community with members from each of the six nations
of the Iroquois Confederacy. CKRZ has gradually introduced multilingual
radio, with broadcasts in Cayuga, Mohawk, and other languages.
These broadcasts reflect the communities' continuing efforts to
maintain fluency in their languages, which once faced destruction
through the imposition of the non-Indian education system.
strengthen their collective voice, independent Native producers
who run their own production companies, producers of nonprofit
weekly Native programs on urban public stations, and tribal station
producers annually meet in the United States for the National
Federation of Community Broadcasters. In summer 2001 a groundbreaking
Native radio summit was organized by the award-winning producer
Peggy Berryhill and hosted by KWSO-FM at the Warm Springs Confederated
Tribes Reservation, in Oregon; the purpose was to explore common
efforts that can be undertaken now to strengthen the field.
Of great concern to this community has been the organization
of support for more Native Americans to become professionals in
the field. Large organizations such as Koahnic have provided youth
training in Native media at summer workshops. Many independent
producers mentor new professionals by incorporating them into
producers have taken the initiative in organizing and finding
funding for their projects and investing them with the creativity
and imagination that independence enhances. The programs they
produce mostly circulate through AIROS, and some also have their
own Websites. About a dozen independent radio series, a sampling
of local urban programs, and Native-produced daily or weekly national
programs are on the list linked to this feature. Some can be heard
live through local public radio stations, and many are available
live through the Internet.
Native radio is also concerned about finding a way to listen
to the programs after their broadcast date has passed. Some Websites-the
outstanding example being AIROS-are developing listening archives.
The national media collection at NMAI also has an archives of
radio programs for on-site listening and hopes to offer audio
streaming as part of its own Website development.
(starting at color bar from left to right, top to bottom):
Harlan McKosato, "Native America Calling" Host Drumbeat for
Mother Earth - Courtesy Joe Di Gangi/Amon Giebel; Club Red
Radio broadcast at the Native American Film and Video Festival
2000 - Photograph by Amalia Cordova, NMAI; Anelio Merry Lopez
at the NMAI Technology Consultation Meeting, Prairie Island Indian
Community, MN - June, 2001 - Photograph by Elizabeth Weatherford;
Women at radio board Finding My Talk - Courtesy Paul Rickard;
Mary Sando-Emhoolah at the 1st Intertribal Native Radio Summit
- June, 2001 - Photograph by Elizabeth Weatherford, NMAI; Susan
Braine and Greg McVickars at the 1st Intertribal Native Radio
Summit - June, 2001 - Photograph by Elizabeth Weatherford, NMAI;
Performers at the 1st Intertribal Native Radio Summit - June,
2001 - Photograph by Elizabeth Weatherford; Navajo producer at
the 1st Intertribal Native Radio Summit - June, 2001 - Photograph
by Elizabeth Weatherford, NMAI; Peggy Berryhill at the 1st Intertribal
Native Radio Summit - June, 2001- Photograph by Elizabeth Weatherford;
Independent Producers in Native Radio at the 1st Intertribal Native
Radio Summit - June, 2001 - Photograph by Elizabeth Weatherford,