January 10, 2009

Native radio = "untapped resource"

Tribe gets OK for radio station

Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation could receive news, music on station KWIS FM 88.3In the not-too-distant future, Valerie Fast Horse could wake up to the sound of drumming from a radio station that plays Indian artists.

By tuning in to KWIS FM 88.3, she could also check winter road conditions on the 345,000-acre Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation. Or listen to a broadcast in Snchitsu'umshtsn, the Coeur d'Alene language. Or catch a recap of the latest tribal council meeting.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission gave the Coeur d'Alene Tribe approval to start a radio station broadcasting to 8,000 households on the reservation, a thinly populated stretch of fields and forests in Benewah County and southern Kootenai County. The tribe has a three-year window to get the station on the air.

People on the reservation need timely access to news affecting them, said Fast Horse, a tribal councilwoman and the information technology director for the 1,900-member tribe.
And:Thirty-three of the nation's 562 federally recognized tribes operate radio stations.

Radio is "a medium that works for Native America," she said. "It's a huge, untapped resource."

Radio is suited to reaching people in sprawling geographic areas, Taylor noted, and it cuts across income levels, reaching families without Internet access, cell phones or wireless devices like BlackBerries.

When Taylor managed a radio station on the Hopi reservation, it produced its own news shows, including specials on coal mining's legacy on the reservation and meth's impact on the tribe.

The station "was an extension of the village halls," she said. "People could get news in real time."

Taylor also sees radio programming as a medium for strengthening and preserving Native cultures, including language, music and story-telling. Since most of the stations also reach a non-Indian population, there's an outreach element as well.

"Unfortunately, Native Americans have suffered from stereotypes in the mainstream media," Taylor said. "This way, ethnic people get to tell their own stories in ways that are accurate and true."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Pine Ridge Radio Anniversary.

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