Battling lack of resources, Native stations provide lifeline with COVID coverage

Indian Country Today Editor Patty Taalahongva, right, interviews Hopi Health Care Center Clinical Director Dr. Darren Vicente and Hopi Tribal Vice Chairman Clark Tenakhongva in KUYI's studio. Credit Current Media

Public radio stations that serve Native American communities are striving to provide essential local news and tribal content during the COVID-19 pandemic while grappling with the limitations of underfunded health-care services and information systems.

Many parts of Indian Country lack internet access and broadband connectivity, making their public radio stations the only source of local information, said Loris Taylor, president of Native Public Media. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this role more crucial.

“For all the little details that are hyperlocal, you can’t just go to another information source,” said Taylor.

Yet the challenges faced by Native stations make it more difficult for them to fill this vital role. Some lack access to water, Taylor said, which complicates instituting hand-washing protocols. In the Hopi tribal region where Taylor lives, some people have to drive over 90 minutes to a store to buy water, she said.