Hopi Radio hits the airwaves with a splash

For many people off the reservation, turning on a radio is force of habit — in the morning, in the car, at work. Now, with the recent debut of Hopi Radio, KUYI, the habit is catching on.

KUYI went on the air December 20, and has quickly become a resource for the Hopi communities, a resource often taken for granted in radio-rich areas. Susan Braine, KUYI’s station manager, says that the station has received tremendous, positive response in the short time it has been up and running—for both its music programming and community services.

“People can tune-in in the morning to find out what’s going on, to get the community announcements. They don’t have to go to the post office or the village store to check the bulletin boards any more,” she says.

“We also play a little of everything,” she said. In the initial village surveys, people said they most wanted to hear old country western, oldies and traditional Hopi music, and the station tries to meet the diverse tastes of the audience.

“We play everything from traditional Hopi music to contemporary Native American music to reggae. We have a lot of reggae fans out there.”

Hopi Radio can be heard all the way from Flagstaff to Kayenta to Happy Jack, says Braine. To help those places where the signal is weak, like Upper and Lower Moenkopi, they hope to put in a translator station.

Local listeners are, of course, the most important piece in the puzzle. But with technology being what it is, KUYI may soon have listeners worldwide—on the Internet. Braine said they should be able to send KUYI’s signal worldwide in just a couple of months.

“Hopi will be heard all over the world,” said Braine, “The technology is just amazing.”

But most importantly, Hopi Radio is heard on Hopi. “It really connects the larger Hopi community”—thirteen villages spread out over 100 miles.

In fact, the station recently broadcast its first Hopi High home game and plans on doing two more this season, said Braine. “The people here love it,” she said, adding that they hope to be able to broadcast away games at some point in the future.

Native radio stations are not a dime a dozen. With Hopi Radio on board, there are now 30 stations across the country, each one unique.

“They are pretty much tailored to the tribe and the culture they serve. They are programmed to best meet the needs of the people they serve,” says Braine. For example, “you will never hear the Hopi language as much as on this radio station.”

While some people think that the Hopi language should be taught at home, she says, others think that the radio station could help revive it.

The station will also help connect Hopi to other Native American peoples. Once the station receives its satellite downlink dish, it will be able to access public radio programming, like American Indian Radio on Satellite, for national Native news and Native programming, including “Native America Calling.” The station will also be able to access Public Radio International programs like “The World Café”—a world music program—and other specials.

And even now that the station is up and running, the villages will continue to be a part of the process, says Braine. “The villages were a part of the planning process, and we will continue to get as much input as possible on the progress of the station,” said Braine.

A community advisory board, made up of representatives from all the villages, will assist in programming, taking people’s comments and suggestions, says Braine, as part of the Federal Communications Commission requirement for a community station.

As a community station, KUYI does face funding challenges. The station will rely on the business community for underwriting and on individual, listener memberships. Braine also hopes that the station will soon be eligible for Corporation of Public Broadcasting grant money.

“If people enjoy the station, we expect them to help us out,” she said.

The money certainly doesn’t go to staff salaries. All 15 people who work at the station volunteer their time and their talents, including two junior high students and four senior high students, who are learning the basics of broadcasting. Eventually, said Braine, the kids will produce some of programs of their own. Thirty more people are signed up to receive training.

“This has been in the works for five years, and it is so exciting to get it developed. Now we just have to bring it along, nurse it like a baby,” said Braine.

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