Spirit Lake Radio Station on the Air

Aug 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 10-4: Native Arts Education, Tribal College News

After three years of hard work, KABU Dakota Radio went on the air in March, thanks to the support of the Cankdeska Cikana Community College. John Chaske, a tribal member, initiated the effort to form a public radio station to serve the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota. He believed it would provide vital information on social services, tribal court, and other tribal programs. It could announce employment opportunities and provide timely information about immediate health concerns, such as immunizations and flu epidemics. Chaske wanted the radio station to preserve the Dakota culture by providing language classes, interviews with tribal elders, traditional stories, and live broadcasts of pow wows. In addition, he wanted local people to have access to the national Indian programming, such as National Native News.

Two years ago, Chaske approached the tribal college for help. The college created a community advisory board of Paul Yankton, Erich Longie, Christopher “Buddy” Alberts, Curtis Youngbear, John Chaske, and Ambrose Little Ghost. The board hired an experienced director, Pete Coffee, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and the director of the radio station on that reservation for many years. The community advisory board applied to the Spirit Lake Tribal Council for funding and received $66,000 for the first year plus $100,000 for radio equipment. Alex Looking Elk (Standing Rock ) serves as the technical consultant and engineer.

The radio station serves as a training site where high school and tribal college students can gain experience in broadcast journalism. The radio station broadcasts in both English and Dakota. “It has created pride in hearing our own language,” said Cankdeska Cikana Community College President Erich Longie. KABU joins three other tribal radio stations on reservations in North Dakota (Turtle Mountain, Standing Rock, and Fort Berthold).

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