VI Waln: Native Americans still dealing with insensitivity in media

First, I want to thank Perry DeCory for all of his hard work in seeing the KOYA-FM Radio Station project through for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Our tribal radio station is scheduled to go on the air February 24. I think it is a great accomplishment to finally have a voice of our own.

For many years we have been limited to what we could listen to on both AM and FM radio. Since many Rosebud Reservation residents live in rural areas we have been pretty much stuck with listening to the local stations our radios could pick up.

When KOYA-FM begins broadcasting this week, a 250 foot tower will blast out 51,000 watts of purely Sicangu Lakota programming. I am anxious for our radio station because out here where I live I can’t get the other local radio stations to come in. Thus, I have not listened to any local radio stations on a regular basis for approximately five years. I do have to say that I do not miss any of them.

The one radio station I do listen to at home is KILI-FM 90.1. This is the radio station located on Porcupine Butte on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They have the capability to broadcast over the Internet and I listen to them on a regular basis. KILI is a radio station in which Lakota people can identify with. The majority of KILI programming is aimed at people like me. I thoroughly enjoy their grassroots radio shows.

It is my hope that KOYA will provide those of us living on the Rosebud Reservation with similar grassroots programming. KOYA has been in the works for many years and I am going to support it by becoming a regular listener. I encourage all of my fellow tribal members to also become regular listeners. I believe Perry will work very hard to provide programming to attract an array of listeners from diverse backgrounds.

I believe other tribal members will welcome KOYA on the first broadcast day. Some of you listen to radio stations which broadcast from locations off the Rosebud Reservation. I too used to listen to some of these radio stations but not anymore. Why should I listen to radio stations owned and managed by people who are still blatantly insensitive to the diversity of their listeners?

Last week I got an email from a Rosebud Sioux Tribal member. She wrote, “Good morning Vi, So just sharing a tidbit with a huge verbal implication.  This morning on the Winner radio station [KWYR-FM] 93.7, the radio disc jockey Scott Schramm, was referencing a band called the [All] American Rejects and instead changed the words to say “the Native American rejects”!  Really!  C’mon, you would think after all these years the non-Natives would have a bit more couth when implicating anything to do with our tribe or just Native people in general."  

"Hey maybe we can get [our tribal radio station] . . . to talk about the local [non-Indians] that still live on stolen tribal land when our radio station goes live!  I know two wrongs don’t make it right and there’s this entity called the Federal Communication Commission that frowns upon blatant slander. [In any case], 93.7 just lost a radio listener!”

She also wrote: “well I [know several working] guys who are willing to make statements – they’re all [very upset] wondering who Scott Schramm thinks he is! [These workers] are all Lakota men who have not worked for awhile due to no jobs here. . .and still some just moved home looking for work (ironic I know) – most of them are family men - all with a different outlook on life and thankful to have employment to be able to provide for their families.  Then you have a senseless radio disc jockey who thinks he’s a cool guy make a comment like that – he needs to get a strong dose of situational awareness – what does he think? [That] only the white people listen to 93.7?”

After reading the email from the Rosebud Sioux Tribal member, I went to the website of KWYR-FM 93.7 and filled out the online form asking for a copy of the February 18, 2011 morning radio show. I got a response through email from someone named “Darnell” who wrote: “The morning show is not taped.  Thanks for listening!!”

So I replied with another email which read: “How convenient. I got an email from a listener who says an inappropriate comment was made about Native Americans during the morning show today. I guess we will just file a complaint with the FCC based upon what the listeners heard. Thanks for responding.”

Later in the day I received another email, this time from Scott Schramm. He wrote: “I am rather confused.  I am on the air on both the AM and FM stations each day.  Was this comment heard on the FM or the AM station this morning?  Can I ask what the comment was about?  I am the Owner of the Radio Station, and would never approve of anything such as this.  Furthermore, I am one of the people on the air.  I have no idea what I could have said.  Could you please elaborate?  This is bothering me.”

Now, the fact that “this is bothering” him should tell us something. Perhaps he knows deep down that he said something he shouldn’t have. And he had “no idea” what he “could have said.” Schramm’s email to me proves my point. The non-Indians residing in the border towns of our reservations make statements every day but they have “no idea” what they are saying or how we are going to perceive their comments.

And that is the reality of being a Native American. Every day we often suffer from the thoughtlessness and insensitivity of the non-Indians who have lived next door to us their entire lives. Public figures such as Schramm would do well to think before they speak.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She is Editor of the Lakota Country Times and can be reached through email at

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