KUYI Hopi Radio: A hallmark of community engagement

<i>Courtesy photo</i><br>
Jimmie “Jimbo” Lucero (left) and Burton Poley of KUYI Hopi Radio.

<i>Courtesy photo</i><br> Jimmie “Jimbo” Lucero (left) and Burton Poley of KUYI Hopi Radio.

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - On Dec. 20, 2000 at 10 a.m., Hopi Foundation Board of Trustees Chair Doran Dalton, in a clear steady voice made the official on-air introduction: "This is KUYI 88.1 FM." The introduction was followed by a traditional Hopi village crier making the announcement from the rooftops of every village as has been done for centuries. For all who were listening that day, it was an awesome cry. That call going out over the air waves was a wonderful and magical moment, one that signaled KUYI's on air debut.

When asked what she remembered about the first KUYI radio broadcast, Susan Braine, Chief Operating Officer for Koahnic Broadcast Corporation and first KUYI station manager, replied, "I'll never forget Jimbo (Jimmie Lucero) as village crier sending out to everyone the first words spoken over the air on KUYI. It was not scripted and it was in Hopi. As I recall, Jimbo said something like, 'Everyone listen - this is the new Hopi radio station.'"

Lucero, known by his DJ name "Jimbo" said, "I was the first one on when KUYI went live. The day of the station's first broadcast was also our graduation day. With KUYI staff and other volunteers, I had been in training preparing for this day. I said something like, 'We will be talking and playing music' and I concluded by saying, 'To all those out there, be careful where ever you are, stay together and be happy.'"

Jimbo was one of 15 volunteers trained by Norman Jayo, whose job it was to train the volunteers - ranging junior high students to adults - to work as DJs and programmers within a week. Another key contributor/trainer was John Greg, known for his work with AIROS (American Indian Radio on Satellite). Greg was in the radio booth as KUYI went live. He was "on loan" from Native American Public Radio Telecommunications in Lincoln, Neb.

The idea of a radio project was first brought to The Hopi Foundation by a small group of community people that included Doran Dalton, Jerry Gordon, Dennis Murphy, Priscilla Pavateah, Owen Seumptewa, and Rosanda Suetopka.

Prior to this, foundation staff and board had not ever seriously entertained the idea of starting a radio station. A proposal was submitted and discussions ensued. In its conceptual stage, the foundation had no real knowledge about how to start a radio station. A national search was initiated to find a professional who could bring the radio project to fruition. One name mentioned again and again was Susan Braine, whose efforts helped to jumpstart the project.

Braine explained, "I had been part of the technical planning team for the planning grant with Octagon Engineering (Anchorage, Alaska) working with Mel Sather, the chief engineer and his wife, Diane Kaplan, former Executive Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. Sather, was the engineer for many Native radio new-starts. Any time one heard about a Native community expressing interest in having a station, Mel would contact the initiators and offer help with writing the planning grant to the Department of Commerce. If the grant was awarded, Mel and Diane and I would go to the community and perform the required tasks to get the effort on the way: determine the listening area; identify the studio and transmitter site; perform the engineering tests based on these sites; write the proposal for equipment; file the appropriate FCC papers; survey the community needs/responses; and wait for the FCC to issue a construction permit. I was part of this effort in 1998.

Once the equipment grant was awarded to HF, they had 18 months to complete the process of getting on the air. I wanted to help Hopi people have their very own station. I was taught that we, as Native people, should help each other, especially if you have something that someone else needs. I had the expertise that Hopi needed at that time. The Hopi Foundation did ask for my help and so I decided to share my knowledge of radio."

According to former Foundation Board member Phillip Tulwaletstiwa, "One of the biggest challenges to the radio project was finding a site for the station and the antenna. Originally it was to be placed in the Hotevilla-Bacavi area, but that did not work out. Fortunately, First Mesa allowed us to locate it in their area. Due to the efforts of staunch supporters such as Barbara Poley, Loris Taylor, Susan Braine and Doran Dalton just to name a few, the radio project KUYI was made possible."

Tuwaletstiwa continued, "For me, one of the real joys in the creation and development of KUYI was knowing that the Hopi people would have their own voice and not be dependent on outside media ... We were excited, realistic about the work and everyone was committed to the radio project."

A walk down the KUYI memory lane would not be complete without hearing from beloved DJ Burton Poley, better known to the KUYI listening audience as the Beary Blues Bear. He shared, "If not for KUYI and all involved from the very beginning, I would not be enjoying what I do now as network manager for Native Voice One and working with all the great folks of Koahnic Broadcast Corporation. We believe radio is important in providing the Native Voice to both our Native and Non-Native people."

"I have fond memories of KUYI and the power it has to make life better for the Hopi, Tewa and our neighbors," related Loris Taylor, Executive Director of Native Public Media, and former associate director of the Foundation and first KUYI general manager. To Taylor, "Radio is a powerful medium and it can help us to address some of the most challenging problems on our reservation. Radio is also flexible. It can evolve over time with new programming and talent and that is what is exciting about KUYI. I hear new voices and new programs alongside the veteran programs."

"I am proud to have been the first general manager for KUYI and I continue to look at KUYI as a community model in the broadcasting family. Today I work with tribes across the country to build new radio and television stations as well as media networks on Internet and mobile devices. Congratulations to the Hopi Foundation and KUYI staff for instituting a wonderful communications anchor for the Hopi and people of northern Arizona," Taylor concluded.

Over 10 years ago the Hopi community demanded an outlet for news, entertainment and most importantly, cultural perpetuation. Through the hard work of many individuals, KUYI Hopi Radio went on air to provide a musical, linguistic and informational response to this request.

On Oct. 10, a celebration will be held at the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center just east of Kykotsmovi. The music festival doors will open at 4 p.m. with entertainment at 5 p.m.

Burt Poley will take the audience on a journey through the formation of KUYI to the present. Past DJs, staff, volunteers and funders will be honored during a brief presentation before yielding the stage to local Hopi performers.

Clan Destine will take the stage at 6 p.m. with Native Roots beginning at 8:30 p.m.

For listeners unable to attend, the event will be broadcast live and across the world via online streaming at www.kuyi.net.

Tickets are available at KUYI, The Hopi Foundation, Tsakar'ovi, Leslie's Hair Salon, in Flagstaff at Winter Sun, in Phoenix at Drumbeat Indian Arts or at the door on the day of the event.

For more information, call (928) 401-1244 or e-mail Richard Alun Davis at richard.davis@kuyi.net.

KUYI, a project of The Hopi Foundation is the third Native American community station in the state of Arizona and the 30th Native American station nationally. KUYI 88.1 FM Hopi Radio broadcasts 24 hours a day and across the world through online streaming and KUYI links Native artists, issues and communities to national and international indigenous communities with internet access at www.kuyi.net and also see www.hopifoundaion.org.

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