Photo by Loretta Yerian.
KEAMS CANYON, Ariz. — Whether you’re 10 or 100, most Hopis who listen to KUYI Hopi Radio are greeted nearly every morning by the DJ Jimmy Davis Lucero’s legendary morning cry.
KUYI’s volunteer DJ Jimbo or Jimmie-Mack, as he’s known to KUYI’s younger generation of listeners, has volunteered for KUYI since the station’s inception in 2000.
“Just write, ‘he looks younger, so we’ll call him Jimmie Mack,” he joked during at the beginning of a recent interview.
Jimmie Mack said he remembers the station’s beginnings and hearing they were looking for DJs. He applied and several weeks later received a letter asking him to come into the station.
“We started out (sitting) on a plastic bucket with a microphone — no earphones back then, we just started,” Jimmie Mack said. “I was the first one to get on the horn and get it started. Ever since then I’ve been a volunteer here.”
Since those early days, Jimmie Mack has hitch hiked 26 miles, one-way, to KUYI from his village of Hotevilla.
“I get up about 4 or 4:30 a.m. and I start hitch hiking at about a quarter to 6 because everyone starts moving around about then — some people are going to the agency or travelling or sometimes I get a ride with one of the nurses and that’s as far as I go and then I walk the rest of the way here,” he said.
Jimmie Mack is typically on-air from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sometimes he covers other DJs shifts and will stay for as long as he is needed.
“In the evening I catch a ride back home,” he said.
Jimmie Mack lives on Third Mesa. He has been there since he was three years old, when his family moved back to the area from New Mexico. He graduated from Tuba City High School in 1973 where he was a champion cross country runner. After high school he went to Denver, Colorado to study architectural drafting.
“I didn’t quite finish because back then there were drugs really happening (and) I fell into that and fell off the wagon,” he said.
He returned to Hopi and worked for the tribe before interviewing for KUYI.
“I heard we were going to have a radio station and they were looking for people who wanted to be a DJ. They wanted Hopi speaking people,” he said. “We were recorded and given (information) in English but (were expected) to say it in Hopi. I was the first one to go through it like that and I ended up the only one with them.”
He’s been with the station ever since.
His favorite part of the job is hosting live remotes.
“Those are the best. I like those because it’s all live and straight up,” he said. “You have eye to eye contact and you know who they are.”
Jimmie Mack said his animated personality and love of adventure and previous jobs have helped develop his skills as a DJ.
In the 1970s he worked as a stunt rider in motion picture films.
“They used to give us $100 just to fall off horses and we used to do that six times a day and make $600,” he said. “I was an extra in a couple movies, one was called “Bad Jim” with Clark Gable’s son.”
Jimmie Mack said his broadcasting voice came from judging and emceeing at pow wows.
“I had the voice for it,” he said.
Across Hopi land he is known for his on-air humor and quick wit.
“I think Hopis have a good sense of humor. When we’re out joking around by ourselves we do a lot of teasing, especially our aunties,” he said. “It’s fun.”
He said he enjoys his job and considers his co-workers as his family.
“We watch (out for) each other, take care of each other, we talk in our language,” he said.
In the community
In addition to volunteering at the station Jimmie Mack volunteers at children and youth events to help with language skills and youth mentorship.
“I am one of the leaders on Third Mesa so I take on the traditions and carry them. I am (from) the Kachina Clan and one of the fathers to the Kachinas. So everyone calls me father up there,” he said.
Keeping the Hopi language alive and current in the villages has been a mission of KUYI since the beginning.
“When we first started we were speaking English until people from the outside said, ‘this is Hopi radio, you need to start speaking Hopi,’” Jimmie Mack said.
Gradually the DJs began adding Hopi into their on-air time and as they did so, the public began asking for more.
“They already knew who I was and wondered, ‘that guy can talk Hopi, why can’t he go all fluency on there?’” Jimmie Mack said. “It takes me time read things.”
When reading on-air in Hopi, Jimmie Mack has to translate into Hopi everything from English which requires him to read backwards and translate as he reads.
“I take it sentence by sentence backwards,” he said. “That’s the way I learned it. You don’t say it like the white man — from the front, we say it backwards. We take out the important words and say it and that makes it simple.”