Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oregon reservation radio shows power of tiny station

Dec. 29, 2010, 3:19 p.m. PST                                          Associated Press   PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — One of Bill Young's earliest memories is listening to Elsie Conner tell him stories about Coyote as he fell asleep.  As an adult, he held that memory dear, even though he couldn't remember the stories themselves.
Now he is revitalizing those stories by reading them on the airwaves. Sunday through Thursday, between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., Young's voice goes out on 104.5 FM to the Umatilla Indian Reservation. He reads stories by well-known authors, with their permission.  "I feel like I'm saying goodnight to all my neighbors," Young said.
Though Young has just started his show it's been on air for about eight weeks he hopes to build a library of stories that can be broadcast over and over, repeating the oral tradition via the radio waves. The show, called "Good Night Rez," is one of many broadcast on KCUW, the low-power FM radio station of the reservation.  Its signal stretches from near Wildhorse Resort & Casino almost to Highway 11. Sometimes it can be heard as far west as the Pendleton city limits and, on a good day, as far east as Cabbage Hill.
The signal is powered with 100 watts, about the same as a bright light bulb. It is centered in a back office of the tribal public safety building on Ti'mine Way, near the large Nixyaawii Governance Center. Along with Young's show, the station broadcasts national shows and shows produced by local volunteers with a love for music, storytelling and community.  Now, more places across the nation will have the opportunity to serve their communities as KCUW does.
The U.S. House and Senate recently passed the Local Community Radio Act. It now awaits the president's signature. The bill will allow for more stations like KCUW to get licensed and serve their local communities  The Prometheus Radio Project, which helped start KCUW in 2004, was a big proponent of the bill.
"A town without a community radio station is like a town without a library," Pete Tridish with Prometheus said in an announcement on the group's website. "Many a small town dreamer has successfully launched a low-power station, and built these tiny channels into vibrant town institutions that spotlight school board elections, breathe life into the local music scene, allow people to communicate in their native languages, and give youth an outlet to speak."
KCUW DJs Daisy Minthorn and Cindy Halfmoon both said they wouldn't be able to be involved with radio if it wasn't for KCUW. Young admitted he would likely be involved in radio in some way, but KCUW offers him the freedom to do what he loves.  And it's that freedom that makes KCUW unique.
Minthorn hosts The Quiet Storm, an R&B show allowing her to indulge in her favorite music.  "I love it," Minthorn said. "I just like music new stuff that's just come out, comparing it to older stuff. Mix it up, basically."  Minthorn grew up making mix tapes and giving them to friends. Developing a radio show was a "natural step" forward.
Minthorn comes off as a quiet person, speaking softly. She said it took a few months before she felt confident enough to add commentary to her music show. She's gotten more and more bold and now takes requests via Facebook. She usually makes up her playlist a few days before the show.  It is also a nice break from her day job in the tribal housing department and serving on the Nixyaawii school board. It gives her time to relax and do something different.
Cindy Halfmoon said she looks forward to working on her show, "C-Bear Revivals," every week.  "It's a lot like exercise" Halfmoon said. "You put it off, but when you get in here it feels good."  Unlike Minthorn's show, Halfmoon mixes music and talk to tackle serious topics such as suicide prevention, gang awareness, depression and breast cancer. She also looks into timely subjects such as elections or honoring veterans.
"I see topics on the news and bring them up if they're relevant to the community in how it affects the reservation," Halfmoon said. "I don't think I'll ever run out of ideas."  She pairs these discussions with music that runs with the theme.
"There's a song for every occasion," Halfmoon said =.  Aside from the fun of hosting a show, Halfmoon revels in the opportunity to help her community.  "I've been a taker all my life," she said. "It feels good to be a giver."
Young enjoys that same sense of community when he reads stories about Coyote. They are old lessons. Lessons that don't have to do with modern life, like work and business. It teaches the importance of a secure family, of having a good hunt, of being prepared for winter.
"It allows us to live in another view of the world," he said.

No comments: