In the studio of KNON, the native Dallas radio station
It’s a dark, overcast Sunday evening in August, and Albert Old Crow pulls a folding crate on wheels that contained two giant CD binders from his brown truck. Old Crow, 66, hosts the “Beyond bows and arrows”Radio program in Dallas. He’s tall with long graying hair tied in a low ponytail at the nape of his neck, dressed in a Head Start t-shirt and black basketball shorts, and holding a 44-ounce drink of Sonic. Old Crow, who is Cheyenne and originally from Hammon, Oklahoma, has brought hundreds of CDs with him to KNON 89.3 FM, as he has done every Sunday since October 1996.
“Beyond Bows and Arrows” has been airing since the inception of KNON radio station in 1983. The show was founded by volunteers, Frank McLemore and Dennis Wahkinney. At first it only lasted 30 minutes and the hosts only had one tape. Old Crow doesn’t remember the first tape, but says the second was a Chief Dan George album.
“My initial duty was to answer the phone, respond to requests,” says Old Crow. “Then after a period of time at the microphone and finally was introduced to card work.”
Every Sunday the show starts with the same song, “All my connections” by Lisa Gerrard and Jeff Rona. The lyrics read: “To those who survived resettlement, to those who died along the way, to those who carried on traditions and lived strong among their people, to those who left their communities by choice or by strength. “
On a rainy Sunday, Old Crow puts on his headphones, adjusts the soundboard, turns on his mic, and his warm voice enters homes, cars and holding cells in the Dallas-Fort Worth area: “Okay, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Beyond Bows and Arrows, your weekly American Indian radio show is brought to you every Sunday evening. “
The show is part of a long history of radio broadcasts produced by Natives for Natives. Radio has long been an important resource for rural Native American communities, used to disseminate essential information, create a sense of connection, and share culture and language. There are currently 60 native-owned radio stations in the United States, according to Loris Taylor, CEO of Native Public Media. “The stations we have are unique because when they’re tribally licensed they amplify the voices of the community and that’s through song or music, through the art they share,” Taylor says. . One of them is KUEH 101.5, owned by Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo in El Paso. During the pandemic, the Pueblo people used the station to broadcast their cultural events when large gatherings were prohibited.
Programming aired on non-native-owned radio stations provides a similar resource for inter-tribal communities in major cities in the United States. Unlike indigenous-owned radio stations, which focus on a specific indigenous community, urban indigenous radio broadcasts are intertribal and allow many different indigenous nations to be seen and heard. “Bows and Arrows” broadcasts two hours of Native American music, jokes, stories and news every Sunday evening. This show, the oldest native radio show in Texas, is aimed at the Native American community of Dallas.
In 1941, Don Whistler of the Sac and Fox Nation launched “Indians for Indians Hour” on the University of Oklahoma’s WNAD radio station. In the golden age of radio, the weekly half-hour show was one of the first radio shows aimed at an Indigenous audience. Whistler even joked once that no white person would be allowed to appear on the show. This at a time when Western radio was broadcasting shows like “Lone Ranger”, “Tales from the Texas Ranger” and “Dr. Six-gun ”perpetuated racist stereotypes of Native Americans.
The show reached nearly 75,000 listeners and pioneered radio, which was and remains a predominantly white space. Whistler has invited anyone or any group to perform on the air. The program included songs in Kiowa, Navajo, Apache, Comanche, Cheyenne and many other languages.
When the National Congress of American Indians began to organize and advocate for issues important to Indigenous communities, such as the protection of tribal sovereignty, Whistler kept his listeners informed. It was a time when Indigenous children were placed in nearby boarding schools, economic pressures during WWII led many to relocate to cities for work, and in 1956 the Indian Resettlement Act was passed. .
“He was very familiar with what was going on, both in Oklahoma, among the different tribes, not just the Sac and the Fox,” says Lina Ortega, associate curator of the OU’s Western History Collections. “He is also well aware of what was going on at the federal level because the tribal chiefs had to be. They needed to know what was going to impact their own nations and their own people. “
Listeners would send out telegrams and postcards announcing upcoming powwows and community events. Whistler, or Kesh-ke-kosh, the first elected Principal Chief of the Sac and Fox Nation, never focused on the show and handed the mic to others whenever possible, creating a space intertribal.
“He was a real role model and, for the time, it seems like a really dynamic space,” says Joshua Garrett-Davis, author of Resounding Voices: Native Americans and Sound Media, 1890-1970. “In Indigenous history, as far as the general public knows it in the 20th century, Indigenous people are somewhat invisible until the occupation of Alcatraz and the Red Power movement. I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of political and cultural activism took place before this. This is one more example of that.
Garrett-Davis spoke to Boyce Timmons, Whistler’s successor; he remembered that an agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Anadarko, Oklahoma once told him that they rarely tried to do business on Tuesday afternoons because everyone was crowded around a radio listening to WNAD . In a few neighboring boarding schools, the program was scheduled during the day to allow students to listen; some even went to the radio station in groups to perform.
“It was a way to reconnect with their communities using this medium,” says Garrett-Davis.
McLemore and Wahkinney, founders of Beyond Bows and Arrows, were members of the Bahá’í Faith. For the first five years of the show, members of Baha’i Faith kept it on the air with their donations during the annual giving campaign. Eventually, Wahkinney began attending powwows and other events to attract more Indigenous listeners. It worked.
The show went on at one o’clock and then finally at two o’clock. Old Crow was 41 when his voice first aired in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He remembers stopping in an old two-story white house. “I think our radio equipment was holding him back,” Old Crow recalls, laughing. As soon as the station moved, the house was demolished.
The radio station was on the second floor. Old Crow called the wood floor gaps their security system, because he could see from the second story to the first and watch who came and went. The floor was eventually covered with a carpet after a volunteer said he felt like he was going to fall.
“After about five years, Dennis started to retire from the radio show, because he saw that I was reliable and that I could lead the board, take care of it, that I had the show’s best interests at heart, so he just turned it over to me. So we went from there, “Old Crow says. In the early 2000s, he took over the show and KNON moved into a new location in far north dallas.
The show is relaxed with a loose structure that changes from week to week. On this Sunday in August, the show begins with 10 minutes of music before Old Crow takes the microphone. He talks about the rainy weather and the darkness of the studio. Next, Old Crow hands the mic over to co-hosts Cory Werthen, who is not Indigenous, and Jessica Johnson, from the Chickasaw Nation, to introduce themselves.
“Mahli ishto ‘, we got a new weather word today guys, because it’s stormy outside,” Johnson says.
Old Crow plays “Stomp Dance”, conducted by John A. Gibson. “It’s the only radio show in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where you can hear stomped music,” he says.
A longtime listener who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Seagoville, Texas, wrote a letter to the show. The author has sent a brief update and an illustration that will be the program’s new logo: a drawing of an Aboriginal man looking to the right; below him is the Dallas skyline, with a microphone towering over the city. Overhead, he reads Beyond Bows and Arrows.
“It’s good to listen to all of you on the radio, playing good music. It really makes you feel good. I appreciate what you are doing. Thank you, ”Johnson read aloud in the letter. The writer says he drew and did a lot of beading during the pandemic.
As Old Crow talks about currently incarcerated listeners, he chokes on him. These listeners are the reason he continues to do the show. “I have to wipe away my tears. I was telling a story and it touches my heart. It has to do with this radio show and the inmates of federal institutions, male and female, Carswell, Fort Worth, Seagoville, how they listen to the show, ”he says.
Old Crow explains how people in prison tell her how much the radio show means to them and how it keeps them out of trouble because they don’t want their radio privileges revoked. The show offers two hours every Sunday where they can feel connected to their own community and escape their reality, he says. “What makes the radio station vital to this community, the people of Fort Worth, [is] they can pick it up on their own personal radio and be in their own small space.
Old Crow puts on his last two songs for the transition to the next host, puts away his CD binders, takes his Sonic drink, and leaves the studio.
Top Image: Jessica Johnson and Albert Oldcrow, two of the three hosts of Beyond Bows and Arrows, chatting off the air. By Ivan Armando Flores / Texas Watcher
Indigenous Affairs stories are produced with the support of the Draft report on economic difficulties.