North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News


December 15, 2005

11 Questions for Joseph Orozco


photo of Joseph OrozcoKIDE 91.3 FM has been broadcasting in the Hoopa Valley for 25 years. On Dec. 16, at 9 a.m., the station will celebrate its Silver Anniversary with an open house at its offices in the Hoopa Valley Shopping Center. There are 33 Native American radio stations in the United States. KIDE -- which in Hupa means "antler when it's removed from the deer's head and used as a tool" -- is the only Native-owned non-commercial radio station in California, and was the first solar-powered radio station in the state.

Left: Joseph Orozco, photo courtesy of KIDE 91.3 FM

Station manager Joseph Orozco, who helped found KIDE, has steered the station through smoke and high water and won some awards along the way, including a 2005 Hewlett Foundation Fellowship. This spring, KIDE aired a radio documentary produced by Orozco and his wife, Rhoby Cook: "Dying for Water: Indians, Politics and Dead Fish in the Klamath River Basin." Orozco also co-founded the new Seven Rivers Radio Network, a collaboration between KIDE, KHSU and KMUD in Humboldt County and KZYX in Mendocino County to share programming on local issues common to listeners in the region.

1. Who started KIDE, and why?

We started looking into it as part of the Hoopa Tribal Education Committee, as a way to promote the Hupa language. But at the time, the FCC had just changed its rules, and we had to go full power -- we didn't want to, because we just wanted to have the ability to broadcast our Hupa language lessons. We weren't ready to go Monday to Sunday, but we did it.

2. Did you broadcast the Hupa language lessons?

Well, we had some complications here. There were two different language camps -- see, we had never had a printed alphabet before. And there were two linguists who had two different ways. So that was always a controversy. It split the elders into two different groups. So the language lessons on the radio station was held in limbo.

3. What was your programming like, then?

We had some local programs -- of course, this was long before satellite feeds. We had tons of vinyl. And nobody here had heard community radio before. We had a lot of music, and we had public service announcements instead of commercials. Before radio came to Hoopa, the way people made their notices -- for their potlucks, their meetings, their garage sales -- was to put them on bulletin boards. And there'd be all these papers flapping in the wind.

4. And today?

We still do the public service announcements. We have public affairs programs, everything from [news about] our rivers, to health updates. In the Megram fire [in 1999], we let people know through regular broadcasts what the particulate matter level was. We were the main source of information. The Center for Disease Control did a study after the fire -- our community was inundated with smoke longer than any community ever had been -- and said the most beneficial thing the community had done was the radio broadcasts to let people know what the particulate matter level was at that time.

5. You have satellite feeds now, with national news and programs. How much local programming do you have?

Even without doing the language programs, we still have cultural programming. We may have elders talk about the dances. We talk about customs, and it gives people a sense of who they are. It gives them a sense of place. And also, it works cross-culturally. For people who are new to this area, they can learn about us. And it makes for better communication between cultures.

6. Do you have local news?

No. It's very costly to do. Interestingly, though, when you ask people what they want, in surveys, they want local news. It takes time. It takes leadership and somebody with production time. I could do it, if I had the time.

7. Who are your local voices?

One local show is "Q" -- it stands for Qosos [Q'o:so:s], which in Hupa is "hummingbird." It's a half-hour show, and they talk about family issues, they talk about the environment, they do a live interview. The other one is "Speaking Out," about leaders in the community. It's more of a public awareness show. The host is very good -- Kristi Shelloner. She draws 'em out.

8. You [and your wife] produced the radio documentary "Dying for Water" about the fish kills on the Klamath River. It was really good. Have you done other documentaries?

Before that, through the California Indian Radio Project, we did a 13-part series where we looked at 13 topics about different California Native cultures. We went up and down California and interviewed 280 people. It took us five years.

9. What have been some of the great moments in the station's history?

Let's see ... I guess some of the greatest moments are when people call you, and ask you to play a song -- maybe, say, someone's just had a baby daughter. And it's amazing: What's really important to listeners is sometimes a small thing. You play some Indian music for a new daughter, and then pretty soon the grandmother calls up in tears saying she just heard it. And then there's the live remote broadcast of the Hoopa High Warrior basketball. Now that's a big thing. For years and years and years Hoopa High was the champion, and we were right there at courtside. We had a great announcer. But then he went away to school [where] he ended up studying broadcasting. When he came back home, he started doing the announcing again. He also does "Q" -- Manuel Warrior Sanchez.

10. What is your broadcast area?

From the valley floor to Willow Creek, and maybe as far as a little bit down river past Weitchpec, then off towards Orleans to Bluff Creek. But it all depends on where you are, whether you can hear it. Our tower is on the valley floor. When we were installing it, we ran out of money and we couldn't afford to put a link on a hill. So we're shooting between the hills.

11. Why is Native American radio important?

Native radio is an act of sovereignty. National news services don't come to the Hoopa Valley to ask us what's going on here or to ask our opinion. It provides a missing voice in world affairs. It's the voice of our people.


Comments? Write a letter!

North Coast Journal banner

© Copyright 2005, North Coast Journal, Inc.