Native Public Media Celebrates 50 Years of Broadcasting in Indian Country
By Kyler Edsitty
Phoenix, Arizona – In 1972, KYUK radio in Bethel, Alaska, became one of the first Native-owned and operated radio stations in the U.S. Fifty years later, over 65 radio and television stations are broadcasting across fifteen states in Indian Country.
Native Public Media (NPM) hosted the 2023 Native Broadcast Summit on May 2-4, 2023. The summit brought together radio and television broadcasters to celebrate their role in providing vital news, cultural enrichment, and entertainment to Indigenous communities. It featured two keynote speakers, Diné radio broadcaster LA Williams and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chief for the Office of Native Affairs and Policy Denise Bambi Kraus, who spoke about the importance of Tribal broadcasters and closing the digital divide in Tribal communities.
The summit's theme, "Celebrating Over 50 Years of Broadcasting in Indian Country," highlighted broadcasting's critical role in fighting COVID-19, climate change, and natural disasters in Tribal communities. NPM's Station Advisory Committee served as Summit hosts and offered training sessions and networking opportunities to support radio and TV regulatory compliance, encourage Native content and programming, and facilitate community engagement.
“As NPM celebrates over 50 years of broadcasting in Indian Country, the role of radio and television stations in Indigenous communities is more important than ever. These broadcasters are on the front lines of providing critical information and support to our communities when we need it the most. The Summit is an important reminder of radio and television's vital role in rural and remote communities and the need to support their work,” Barbara Poley, NPM’s Board Vice Chair, states during her Summit welcome.
The summit's concurrent sessions addressed various topics, including emergency broadcasting, Indigenous storytelling, community outreach, and digital sovereignty. Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) joined Native Public Media to discuss resources and tools available for early warning alerts over the radio to the public. Colleen Thurston and Crystal Ashike from Native Lens talked about how they provide a platform for Indigenous storytellers. KLND Station Manager John BraveBull highlighted the Warrior Radio Show, a program produced entirely by special needs youth, and the importance of community outreach.
The Native Broadcast Summit brought together a diverse group of broadcasters, including KNNB Radio Station Manager Ellen Clay, who found the sessions extremely helpful and appreciated the opportunity to meet other broadcasters.
“The sessions were very informative, and now I know what to expect as a new station manager,” Clay said. “Meeting other broadcasters was truly amazing and gave me an opportunity to ask for advice and pointers. We are different and far apart, but we are all connected through broadcasting.”