Native Media Resource Center

Native American Media Resources and Support

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A brief history of Native radio in the US.

In 1972, the first two Native stations signed on the air a few month apart. The first was KTDB in New Mexico, serving a remote area of the Navajo reservation known as the Ramah or Pine Hill.

The other station to start broadcasting was KBRW located in Barrow, Alaska on the edge of the Beaufort Sea, a North Slope community, serving the Native Alasksan, Inupiat, Korean, Filipino and Hispanic communities. Visit to learn more about their community.

Thirty seven years later KTDB and KBRW still provide service to their communities.

In the late 1970's, the  the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), a part of the Department of Commerce (DOC), initiated the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP). This program was designed to expand the coverage of public broadcasting television and radio to unserved portions of the US and to facilitate broadcast ownership of women and minorities.

Native radio is now growing into a system made up of three main components: the first and foremost are the stations, then content providers and content distributors. For a look at how the Native radio system in the US grew, see our timeline.

In July 2001, the first and only (to date) Native Radio Summit occurred. Hosted by KWSO at the Warm Springs Reservation in Eastern Oregon, the Summit brought together more than 200 participants. These participants were the leaders of the Native radio system, i.e, station managers and staff,  AIROS (American Indian Radio on Satellite), and KOAHNIC Broadcasting. Other participants included engineers, content producers, and friends of Native radio. The participants met over 4 days and began a series of discussions on the growth of the Native radio system. The Summit was led by NMRC's Peggy Berryhill with guidance from Loretta Hobbs of O'Neal-Hobbs Associates, and Carol Pierson of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The theme of the Summit was "The Future Of Native Radio Is In Our Hands".  Click here to see the July 2001 sumit poster, designed by Camille Lacapa.

There are now 34 Native stations on the air and another 33 under construction across the country. Native Voice One (NV1) is the distributor of many programs including the daily call-in programs Native America Calling and the five-minute newscast National Native News.  AIROS continues to distribute radio plays and other creative projects and new leaders are emerging as Native Radio continues to expand.

It should be noted that by the end of 2012 there will be at least 60 stations on the air representing only 55 Tribes and Native organizations: there are 568 federally recognized Tribes, and another 400 Tribes throughout the US.

The purpose of this site is to keep in touch with the stations and the industry leaders, Native journalists and other Native content providers and share their viewpoints on the Native media landscape.