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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 3, 2003 - Issue 86


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Hoopa Valley Radio:
Native Radio Sets the Standards

by Julie Johnson - New California Media
credits: Joseph Orozco (left), manager of Hoopa Valley Radio

Hoopa Radio"Before radio, we had bulletin boards." KIDE 91.3 station manager Joseph Orozco remembers the days before the Native American Hupa tribe had its own station. "Every store and just about every public wall around had cork board mounted somewhere. People would post their bulletins on different colors of paper that attract the eye. The wind would come up and blow and rustle them around."

Now residents of the Hoopa Valley listen to news and cultural programs on KIDE Hoopa Valley Radio, the only solar-run station in California, with two thirds of its energy generated by solar power.

In 1978, when Orozco and a group on the Hoopa Valley Reservation in Northern California applied for a radio license, they were among 14 that were granted a license out of the 94 tribes who applied. With just enough resources to keep the electricity on and the phones ringing, they aired programs ranging from public service announcements and election debates to shows promoting the Hupa language and culture. Orozco and 22 others volunteered their time to keep the station going, relying on family and neighbors to trade food for their work in the community. "It's a meager living, but you can survive. I did that for two years."

After those tough first years, the tribal council agreed to fund the station. The station expanded its programs to include syndicated national satellite programs, such as "Native America Calling," a highly regarded show by American Indian Radio On Satellite modeled after NPR's "Talk of the Nation." Hoopa Valley Radio is also working with the local high school to develop youth radio programs. In addition to a closed circuit broadcast at the high school, student volunteers produce a show on campus and community issues.

"If we want to build Native radio, there has got to be an effort from the grassroots level that this is a viable career choice, this is important to our community."

A vocal advocate for Native media, Orozco believes that to increase coverage of the issues important to them, Native Americans must create their own media outlets. "The Native voice is missing from mainstream media. Larger society talks about wanting ‘native' spirituality, but we have other systems to model after, like government systems and others [that incorporate] both spirituality and day-to-day life."

The station has covered events like the Wellness Gathering, a nation-wide forum on subjects ranging from substance abuse to finance and parenting. In addition, as a solar powered station, they recently hosted a panel discussion of high school students on alternative energy programs.

Currently, Hoopa Valley Radio is working on a documentary on last year's Klamath River disaster, when the diversion of Klamath River waters to irrigate farmlands resulted in the deaths of nearly 34,000 salmon.

"Why are we always looking to a non-Native press to talk about what we're doing?" he asks. "Why aren't we using our energies, our financial resources to build our own press, so that it becomes a mainstream model? Then the mainstream community will turn to us for the views of the world, of the nation, and of the local communities from our perspective."

"Until dialogue comes out from the grassroots, we'll continue to mirror our oppressors," says Orozco. "Every Native community should have their own low powered FM, if not full powered FM."

But many tribes lack the financial resources necessary to start their own stations. "If you look at mainstream media, they all started with cash power," he says. "Native communities, we don't have the financial depth that mainstream entities have."

According to Orozco, the key to developing Native media is encouraging young people to get involved. "We encouraged our young people to become teachers. Then we did the same thing with lawyers, doctors, engineers, and probably even rocket scientists, but we haven't yet made that same effort in media."

On average, 68% of Hoopa's 3,000 residents listen to the station each day, and the next step is to get their waves out of the valley and over the surrounding mountains to expand programs to include nearby tribes. "We want to unite the three local tribes, the Hupa, Yurok and Karuk, through our radio broadcasts."

"The future of Native radio is in our hands. It's up to us to do something. We've got to network. Standing alone, we can't do it."

Read about Hoopa Valley Radio's mission and programs at

Sung to the Tune of Mexican Radio by Wall Of Voodoo

I feel a cool breeze on my shoulder
Off the river at the reservation border
I have my walkman and check the station
I listen for Tribal News of the Native nations
I hear the talking of the DJ
Is it Hopi, Maybe Hoopa, perhaps Lakota
Sometimes even Bellagana (sp?)
Can't understand just what does he say?

I'm on an Indian radio
I'm on an Indian radio

I dial it in and tune the station
They talk about Council business, and commodity allocations
There is a tourney on the next Rez
Guess its time for a road trip journey

I'm on an Indian radio
I'm on an Indian radio

I wish I was in Albuquerque
Dancing at the Midnight Rodeo
I call my request in on the phone
Can’t We hear "One Eyed Ford"
I want to taste some food from home
Maybe Salmon, even deer meat,
Mutton stew just doesn’t cut it
There is the guy, with no teeth
That I met at the 49er
Can't understand just what does he say?

I'm on an Indian radio
I'm on an Indian radio

Radio radio..

Hoopa Valler Indian Reservation, CA Map

Maps by Travel

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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