Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kili radio, labwork, and the badlands

Last Friday we accompanied Bob to Kili Radio, a 45-minute drive from the office. Bob spent an hour on the air discussing disaster preparedness, specifically for tornadoes. Apparently it is a big deal because the prefabricated "trailer houses" that many people live in around here are easily blown over in a tornado because they lack the foundation and basements that other houses have.

As a bit of a radio nerd myself (I host a weekly public affairs program called Spherio on MIT's radio station) it was a lot of fun to poke around and trade stories with the announcers. We listen to Kili radio a lot around here, and it plays a whole lot of different kinds of music, from pop, rock, and rap to country and oldies to pow wow music. I've really enjoyed listening to the traditional songs in particular, and some of them are even written and sung in English now as well as Lakota. I also love to hear all the local announcements for garage sales, parties, Indian taco sales, and puppies to give away. It reminds me of the announcements for parties on Radio Huayacocotla La Voz de los Campesinos as I always heard them in Mexico -- except that Kili doesn't tell you the time of day nearly so much as Radio Huayococotla, maybe because more people here have clocks and watches...

The station is beautiful, perched up on the side of this hill with a giant new wind turbines that will go online at the end of the month. Although small windmills for watering cattle are commonplace, this is the first wind turbine for electricity generation. The reservation has some of the best wind resources in the country and there are a number of proposals on the table for the tribe to develop commercial wind fields in the near future.

Last Thursday we went up to Rapid City for a meeting on solid waste management, a challenging issue for the tribe, but one they are really working to improve. On the way, we drove through a different side of the badlands -- at one overlook the immensity of the sandy buttes was distinctly reminiscent of the grand canyon.

And last but not least for this entry, yesterday we went to the main center of Oglala Lakota College outside of Kyle and talked to the staff at their laboratory. The lab has some incredibly nice equipment -- X-ray spectrometer, Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, an Ion Chromatograph, and a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer to name just a few. The equipment came through a NSF grant, but they have a much harder time getting "soft" money for salaries of lab staff, etc. Right now there is only one full time person in the lab, with some interns for the summer. So our next big task is figuring out how much money could be generated by running samples for tribal programs to see if it is economically viable to support the staff, supplies and equipment maintenance that would be necessary. As always, the technical issues are dwarfed by the economic and organizational challenges...

No comments: