Three years ago, Thom Eagle Staff began his journey of creating a radio station for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. 93.5 KIPI FM is scheduled to go on-air in spring of 2018.
Eagle’s Staff journey has been one of hard work, determination, and downright grit.
A retired Indian Health Service employee, Eagle Staff began doing sports commentary for local high school events with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal radio station, KLND 89.5.
A few years ago, KLND, a non-commercial entity, stopped broadcasting for a few months due to funding issues. Eagle Staff asked the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Ventures program if funding was available to help the radio station get back on air.
Instead of finding funding, Eagle Staff was encouraged to create a radio station for CRST. He took that seed and planted it.
In the first year, Eagle Staff says he began educating himself about Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, learning about radio broadcasting, and attended various conferences and training.
He then presented all this information to the tribe in hopes of gaining support and approval.
The tribe green-lighted his project and soon, Eagle Staff started applying for grants to help fund the $1.3 million project.
Eagle Staff secured grants through the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Northwest Area Foundation, and CRST’s TECA program.
He also began exploring locations for the radio station building and radio transmitting tower. Eventually, land for the tower was secured, and is located one mile north of Highway 212 in Eagle Butte.
According to Eagle Staff, although he had support from the tribe, he did face opposition. In March, Eagle Staff was notified that a complaint was filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), stating that the proposed tower may cause interference with air traffic from the Cheyenne River Airport.
Finally, in June the FAA determined that the tower would not cause obstruction and a permit to construct the tower was issued.
“We had to endure a mitigation process with the FAA and finally received a construction permit. That is all that matters. I just wish it could be have been sooner,” said Eagle Staff.
Through his time learning about radio broadcasting, Eagle Staff realized the importance of how marketing and business development can impact the success of a radio station. A website for the station is being created that will integrate numerous social media outlets and advertisement opportunities.
“The goal is to be fully self-sufficient. The station will be able to maintain a budget and hopefully in the future, generate income,” said Eagle Staff.
Incorporating the latest technologies of radio broadcasting was also a goal of Eagle Staff.
The radio station will broadcast in HD radio format and will be capable of broadcasting two programs simultaneously. The station’s main call sign will be 93.5 and the substation will be 93.4
“The primary station will consist of mainly music and cultural programs. The substation will broadcast educational presentations and courses such as tribal health programs and college events,” said Eagle Staff.
Because of the radio station’s HD format, the radio signals coverage will be massive, reaching as far east as Faulkton, as far west as Mud Butte, as far south as Interstate 90, and as far north as Flasher, ND.
“Whereas in the past, communities such as Bridger, Cherry Creek and Takini would have no services, they will now be able to listen to the radio. We are encouraging listenership and will be inclusive with everyone,” said Eagle Staff.
Working with the youth is especially important to Eagle Staff, and another goal is to get as many high school students involved with the station — which may include programing music to their preference and doing mobile broadcasting of their school activities.
“Our goal is to include them, encourage them, and let them know that there are exciting careers with broadcasting,” said Eagle Staff.
With all the permits in hand, and a new beautiful radio station equipped with the latest technology, Eagle Staff continues to work toward the day that 93.5 will broadcast live for Cheyenne River.