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Yankton Sioux’s Radio Station Destroyed In a Fire

by Kyler Edsitty

Photo courtesy of Indian Country Today

On the night of December 20, 2021, a fire destroyed the KDKO 89.9 radio studio housed at the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC) on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Investigators determined that the fire was arson, leaving the Lake Andes community reeling at the loss of their local nonprofit and radio station.

KDKO radio is known for informing the community of potential disasters and emergencies. In the fight against COVID-19, KDKO joined other Tribal radio stations in providing lifesaving information across Indian Country as part of Native Public Media’s COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The station also offered culturally based content to preserve their Indigenous culture and language.

"It Is devastating to learn the voice of the Yankton Sioux Nation completely burned to the ground during the pandemic when information is vital. The community needs support to rebuild its center, which has been an anchor of service for decades," states Loris Taylor, President & CEO of Native Public Media.

Lake Andes resident Donovan Sully admitted to starting the fire at NAWHERC and other fires within the local park and community the same night while under the influence. In his account according to the Yankton Daily, Sully said he made his way to the NAWHERC, stuffed paper inside a pair of shoes, set the shoes on fire, and placed them in the door of the resource center. Sully faces several charges, including first-degree arson, intentional damage to property, and three counts of reckless burning and could face more than 25 years in prison and heavy fines.

NAWHERC staff created a GoFundMe page to raise money for a new center. So far, they have received over $13,000 towards their goal of $250,000. Damage to the center is over $900,000, including the loss of historical and culturally significant photographs and radio interviews that tell the history of the Lake Andes community. Besides the radio station, the center served as the headquarters of the food pantry, an essential resource for families facing food insecurity, and other services, including a domestic violence program.

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