By Lee Allen
Whether your residence is on a remote reservation or your living space involves rental quarters in an urban environment, staying in touch with your community and the world at large remains paramount. In remote rural reservation areas, radio might be the only communications contact with the outside world on a daily basis. For urban Indians, Native programming serves a different but equally important mission of keeping new urban populations connected with their roots while advising them of services available in their new location.
That’s the purpose of Native Talk Arizona, a production partnership between Radio Phoenix, a project of the member-owned-and-operated Arizona Community Media Foundation, and Native Health promising to “Bring the World to Phoenix and Phoenix to the World,” in a weekly program series that spotlights cultural, economic, and health issues through a Native point of view.
Native Talk Arizona is the only Native American public affairs program produced at a non-Native urban radio station and is hosted by Lanasha Puati (Navajo). She came to the city nine years ago as a former listener of KNDN (960-AM) All Navajo Radio in Farmington, New Mexico, the largest Indian reservation in the country.
“I don’t come from a broadcasting background,” she says. “When the original host, a pioneer in Native urban broadcasting, left the position, because I was part of the Native Health Communications Department, I got a chance to step into those shoes. In fact, it was a bit daunting at first because I’m basically a shy person, but being a radio show host requires you to project confidence and I’ve learned to overcome my shyness.”
“Our program, Native Talk, is produced and coordinated by our Native Health agency staff,” says spokesperson Susan Levy. “Our focus on urban indigenous peoples is reflected by our guest bookings that appeal to this audience and range from education to sports to museums and more. It is our mission to get timely, interesting, and useful information out to our listeners.”
Native Talk went on the air initially in 2012 under a format that worked for both Native Health and Radio Phoenix. According to station publicity, Radio Phoenix (which is also streamed on Radio Free America) “offers news, views, and music you never hear anywhere else, owned and operated by members of the community to meet the needs of the community through 24/7 programming.”
There are different programming segments to Native Talk Arizona such as “Spotlight on the Nations,” that highlights history, culture, and music of tribal communities in the United States.
Segment A is generally reserved for coverage of local events and topics of interest to Native peoples in the Metro Phoenix Valley and surrounding coverage areas,” says Levy. “Sections B and C cover programs, services, interesting individuals, and miscellaneous topics for indigenous peoples anywhere although we do try and place a focus on urban Natives in our area whenever possible. Section D is the “Spotlight on the Nation,” that narrows in on the speaker’s opinions, perspectives, culture and tribal traditions.
As a member of Indian Country, program host Puati (maternal clan of Red House, paternal clan of Bitter Water) grew up on the Navajo reservation before moving to the large and far-less-personal metropolitan area.
Coming from a rural background and now immersed in an urban environment, she had a foot in both worlds when it came to programming decisions.
“We still do what we used to do, in-depth interviews with people and programs that work with Natives in our community. We act as an outlet where new urban arrivals can learn more about available resources and agencies that can help them assimilate,” Puati says. “But going forward, we are moving into a more contemporary format. Previously our musical segments focused on more traditional music and we still play that, but we’re expanding our Native music coverage to include different genres that represent some of the artists I’ve actually interviewed.”
Still, the old adage is true—you dance with the one that brought you—and the weekly “Spotlight on the Nation” segment will be an expanded emphasis in their programming. “I interview a different person each week from a different tribe to get more of a perspective on traditions and culture within their own families that they share with our listeners,” says Puati. “It’s a good opportunity for us to learn about other tribes and while we do spotlight the more than 20 tribes in Arizona, we also branch out to other tribes, such as Oklahoma’s Comanche Nation and New York’s Shinnecock Nation in New York. We’re not just local or regional in our discussions, we’re countrywide in our interviews.”
The host has found her new radio responsibilities come with more than just a paycheck. “Our programming can help change people’s lives. I’ve interviewed several entrepreneurs whose ideas have helped enthuse Native youth into starting their own companies.
“One show I interviewed the president/CEO of a Phoenix career services company dealing with a Native workforce and got a follow-up call from one of our listeners who tuned in, who took to heart the advice given, and ended up with a job, in fact, the start in a new career. It’s nice to be able to help others.”
Native Talk Arizona airs on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on www.radiophoenix.org and streaming on Radio Free America. ♦
Listen live at www.radiorethink.comtuner/?stationCode=radiophoenix&stream=hi