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KILI celebrates 26 years, a 'difficult journey'

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  • KILI celebrates 26 years, a 'difficult journey'

    KILI celebrates 26 years, a 'difficult journey'
    By Jomay Steen, Journal staff
    Rapid City Journal - 26 February 2009
    Rapid City Journal | News » Top | KILI celebrates 26 years, a 'difficult journey'

    It's morning coffee with an agenda.

    Like a lot of the radio morning shows that begin at 6 a.m., KILI Radio broadcasts the weather report and road conditions for the 38,000 Native Americans listening on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as well as those on the Rosebud and Cheyenne River reservations, too.

    But it has been its Lakota language programming that has kept fans tuning in and the station alive for the last 26 years. On Wednesday KILI staff and volunteers celebrated the station's march toward its third decade of operation with an open house, guests and music by the Crazy Horse Singers.

    As Hoksila Mesteth, Garreth and Sandy Good Boy South and the rest of the drum group's singers poured out their latest song on air, Dennis White Shield sat at the telephone to talk about the station.

    White Shield, Lakota Communications Board chairman, began his own radio show at KILI in 1996. Paid a small stipend to help with transportation, he soon discovered the allure this particular station's broadcast at 90.1 FM.

    "It was a unique experience to get in a place where you can talk to everyone and yet nobody ever sees you," he said.

    He was given the early-morning coffee show that showcased Lakota music and programming, which brought the station's listeners in touch with their culture, spirituality and especially their language.

    "The whole effort of the station was to relearn the language," White Shield said.

    It has proven to be a long, difficult journey, according to Melanie Janis, station manager.

    "We overcame so much," she said.

    As well as a manager, she also has worked at the Porcupine station as its housekeeper and a volunteer. Operated entirely on a shoestring of contributions, donations, volunteers and the occasional grant, Janis is proud of the station's autonomy.

    "Our goal is to keep completely independent and we're really proud of that. We're the only Native station out of 33 that is completely independent. The others are privately owned or owned by the tribe," she said.

    There have been obstacles to overcome to stay on the air. "A lot of it was horrifying," she said of the licensing, inspections and continual problems with maintenance.

    Those trying times include a 2006 spring storm's lightning bolt that struck the station's antenna and shut down the radio station for nearly two months before it could broadcast on low power. It took nearly a year to raise money matching a grant to replace the antenna, transmission line and transmitter.

    Having lived and worked through the first 26 years, Janis said the next 26 years will see expansion. Already, the station has its own wind turbine that will help reduce the outlay of cash for electricity. After a complete year of operation, it may even prove to be a means of generating money for the radio station.

    She also believes that she will be a part of the station's future.

    "I'll still be volunteering. I'll still be sitting here. I don't plan on going away anytime soon," she said.


    For more information, go to:
    KILI Radio - the voice of the Lakota Nation

    KILI Radio - 90.1 FM
    P.O. Box 150
    Porcupine, SD 57772


    Do you have information about other Independent Radio Stations similar to KILI in your area?
    Last edited by Historian; 02-26-2009, 10:01 AM.

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

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