Niijii Radio silenced by gear thefts
The radio station that has been called “The Voice” of the White Earth Indian Reservation has fallen silent.
Niijii Radio, which just took to the airwaves in November, based in the old Callaway School, was struck first by Mother Nature, then again by burglars.
The station, known for its hodge-podge of music and Native American educational programming, was first put out of commission this past summer when lightening and power surges blew the transmitter, which broadcasts the station out over a 60 mile radius.
The expensive fix took a while to make, as the new public station is only funded through underwriting.
But just as the community had pulled together to get Niijii back up on the air, burglars struck …. twice in only three weeks.
Now, missing equipment has station volunteers disheartened.
“This was a community radio station … all the DJ’s are volunteers … so whoever came in and took from the station, took from the community,” said Niijii General Station Manager JoDan Rousu. “I’ve poured my heart and soul into this station, and a lot of other volunteers have as well.”
Station employees aren’t saying much about the burglaries, as there is still an ongoing investigation. “But I do know justice will be served, and I also believe in karma,” said Niijii CFO Daryl Frazier.
Now, those same volunteers are using their voices to try to solicit the financial support it will take to get the Niijii back onto its 89.9 FM frequency.
Rousu and Frazier say while they have received some donated equipment from other community radio stations throughout the state, they are still in need of more.
A theater show put on by Medicine for the People at the Holmes Theater in Detroit Lakes Tuesday night raised addition funds, but station officials say expensive electricity bills and a lull in underwriting from not being on the air has them “scraping by.”
“But we’re going to cross our fingers and with big eyes, we hope to get back on the air in the next couple of weeks,” said Rousu.
“People have came to really understand how important this station is, and that it’s theirs,” said Frazier. “This is our radio station, and now it’s hitting home how important we are to the reservation, and the community is aching for us to come back.”
So while fundraising efforts for the station continue, Rousu continues planning for the future.
A state legacy grant of $115,000 was awarded to Niijii, but station leaders are not able to use it for technical problems — it has to be used for programming.
“And we are planning some really great shows,” said Rousu, excited to talk about some of the new cultural programming they have coming up.
Having the ability to bring Native American cultural programs into the homes of White Earth residents is what keeps the radio volunteers pushing forward and unwilling to give up.
“Never, we won’t give up,” said Frazier, who says the station is for every color and creed in the region. “It’s just too important to the community.”
“We finally get a voice,” added Rousu, “and that’s something we haven’t had here before the station,” said Rousu.
To donate to the Niijii station, log on to http://www.nativeharvest.com.