Native family competes on 'Family Feud'
Wednesday, October 8, 2003

From left to right: Don "Gov" Chaino (Kiowa), Shelley McKosato-Haupt (Sac & Fox), Michelyn Thompson (Navajo), Brenda Wahnee McKosato (Comanche), Harlan McKosato (Sac & Fox). Photo Courtesy Wahnee McKosato.
Growing up, Harlan McKosato never saw people like him on one of his favorite television game shows. Oh, there were plenty of Smiths and Joneses and Clarks. But no Native Americans, he recalled.

That all changes next week when McKosato, the host of the popular radio show Native America Calling, and his family go for the big money on "Family Feud." It's believed to be the first time a Native family has competed on the long-running "survey says" show.

"I can't wait," McKosato, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said in an interview yesterday. "It's going to be hilarious."

The adventure started earlier this year when Brenda Wahnee, Harlan's fashion designer wife, contacted the show and inquired about appearing. "She called the number and didn't get much of a response," McKosato said.

The couple almost gave up hope until Brenda, a member of the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma, thought of an angle. "You should call them back and tell them we're Native American," McKosato recalled his wife as saying.

The strategy worked. Upon learning of their heritage, the show's producers invited the family to Hollywood for an audition. The couple asked Harlan's sister Shelley McKosato-Haupt, his Kiowa cousin Don "Gov" Chaino, and Wahnee's Navajo cousin Michelyn Thompson, to join them.

"There were a couple of dozen families" at the audition, McKosato said. "We had to get up and play another family and act all exuberant."

"But we got in," he said. "We were one of five families that got invited back."

At the end of September, the McKosatos returned to Hollywood to compete for real. "We were all nervous and we were all excited," McKosato said. "But we were pretty confident."

With the big money at stake, the team members spent the night before the taping watching reruns of the show. From there, they developed a strategy: always pass to the other family.

"Five Indian heads are better than one," McKosato said. "Even if we got the #1 answer [on a question] we would pass it to the other family and make them miss and then steal the money."

McKosato won't say how much money his family walked away with. But he did say they taped three shows. They won the first two but lost the third.

And the team didn't win the real big money, the $20,000 awarded in the final round of survey questions. "I totally blew it the first day," McKosato confessed.

McKosato said the family had fun with the game. For one question, their response was fry bread. "We got ringed," he said.

Other than an explanation of what the name "McKosato" means, there wasn't much discussion of the family's heritage on the actual show. But McKosato thinks it definitely worked in their favor.

"I think we got special preference because we were Native American," he said. "I think sometimes it pays to be Native."

The show's producers also encouraged the family to mention their ancestry on-air "Everyone is going to be fascinated," McKosato recall them as saying.

Next week's episodes are due to air in the Albuquerque area starting on Monday. McKosato is urging listeners of his radio show to call their local stations to make sure that episodes 03-041, 03-042, and 03-043 are broadcast. "Family Feud" is in syndication.

The family's brush with TV fame could lead to other appearances, McKosato joked. "I think we can strong arm our way onto the 'Wheel of Fortune,'" he said.

Relevant Links:
Family Feud -
Native America Calling -

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