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Storm damage silences KILI radio

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  • Storm damage silences KILI radio

    Storm damage silences KILI radio
    By Jomay Steen, Journal Staff Writer
    Rapid City Journal - 6 May 2006

    PORCUPINE, SD - For the past two weeks “The Voice of the Lakota Nation” radio station has fallen silent across Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

    Trouble began for KILI FM radio station, a community station operated by a board of directors, on April 15 when a thunderstorm rolled across Porcupine Butte. A bolt of lightning struck the station’s tower, knocking programming off the air, initially for 20 minutes.

    Radio announcer Mary White Face was able to bring back low level power to broadcast programs to a limited area. A week later, the station’s engineer determined that the lightning had damaged the station’s antenna. He was able to increase the power for transmission, but it didn’t last.

    Tom Casey, KILI radio station manager, said the station fell silent on April 23.

    “We haven’t been on the air since,” Casey said.

    KILI officials are now scrambling to find funding to replace and install a $76,000 antenna and transmission line. “It may take us four to six weeks to get back onto the air,” Casey said.

    Officials are working on a grant proposal to submit to the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program in Washington, D.C. If funded, the grant would pay 75 percent of the cost to buy and install a new antenna and transmission line. The small station would have to generate $20,000 to $40,000 in funds to match the grant.

    “But with the antenna, transmission line and transmitter, we’re going to be set for the next 20 to 30 years,” Casey said.

    Paul Iron Cloud, executive director of Porcupine Clinic Health Board, said KILI’s broadcasts touched the lives of people on the reservation on a daily basis.

    In addition to broadcasting music, talk programs, announcements and commentary about tribal programs, the station broadcasts tribal council meetings, education and health programs and news across the reservation.

    “People depend on it,” Iron Cloud said.

    Iron Cloud said that Porcupine Clinic used the radio station to broadcast announcements and health programming to offer education to the people about their health issues. Its silence has been noticeable, he said.

    “People really miss it right now, and we need to get it on air as quickly as possible,” Iron Cloud said.

    It has been a struggle, Casey said.

    For the first time in 15 years, KILI was not at the Student Awards Banquet in Pine Ridge, where students from throughout the reservation are honored for their scholastic and sport achievements.

    “When you have a chance to broadcast something positive like that, it’s fantastic,” Casey said.

    But now that is missing, he said.

    “The biggest thing about all of this is that we’re silent,” he said.

    Last year during the station’s application process to renew its license, officials discovered that the antenna used since 1983 was sending out high levels of radio frequency.

    The station was allowed to continue broadcasting but only at 33 percent power as a safety measure for the people working in the station. The station kept its license and continued transmitting from 88.7 in Rapid City and 90.1 in Pine Ridge. Officials were left to decide whether to move the broadcast building or replace the antenna.

    Given the history of the antenna, frequency problem and damage to the antenna, KILI will need a new antenna and transmission line, Casey said.

    He asked for his listeners’ patience as they work to bring the station back on air.

    “We will be back,” he said.

    KILI officials are requesting financial help to replace and install a $76,000 antenna, transmitter and transmission line. A nonprofit organization with a tax identification number of 46-0357012, the station will accept donations for the replacement of its tower.

    For information or contribution details, contact Melanie Janis or Tom Casey at 605-867-5002; PO Box 150, Porcupine, SD 57772; or go to

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

  • #2
    Voice of Lakota Nation on air, awaits equipment
    by Jomay Steen, Journal Staff Writer
    Rapid City Journal - 19 July 2006

    PORCUPINE, SD -- "The Voice of the Lakota Nation" is back on the airways after being silenced for two months when an April lightning bolt destroyed its antenna on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

    KILI Radio station manager Melanie Janis said that the station began broadcasts in early June, its signal reaching listeners closest to its Porcupine Butte location.

    "We're on an antenna that reaches up to 50 miles away," Janis said. "Our permanent equipment will be in on Oct. 1."

    Tom Casey, business manager and development director, said KILI officials are awaiting word about a federal grant, which may permit the station to buy a new antenna, transmission line, transmitter and grounding system.

    "We went through an evolution here," he said of getting the rural American Indian station back on air.

    Casey said a loaned antenna and replacement line put the station back on the airwaves June 7. Three weeks later, crews connected the antenna to a 300-watt amplifier that enhanced broadcasts to reach listeners 40 to 50 miles away.

    But transmission has been problematic.

    With broadcasts transmitted on low power, the programming is able to reach only some listeners 15 to 20 miles from the station. To improve its reach, KILI officials also continue to broadcast on the Internet, he said.

    "We're doing mostly music for now," Casey said.

    This spring, the station missed broadcasting many annual events such as achievement banquets, school events and local programming. For the first time since 1983, when KILI first aired Oglala Lakota College's graduation, it had to skip this year's ceremonies.

    "We weren't there," Casey said.

    In light of its struggle to maintain its audience, Casey said, there have been some positive notes for the station.

    "People won't take us for granted after this," he said.

    People on and off the reservation have realized how much they depend upon KILI to be informed of reservation events and news, Casey said.

    The mix of programming from Indian Health Service, schools and college centers and tribal government remains largely unreported by other media, and its a vital part of their daily lives, he said.

    "They miss us," Casey said.

    For information on contributing to the KILI antenna tower benefit, call Melanie Janis or Tom Casey at (605)867-5002.

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


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