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Oyate Today Debuts on SDPB-TV

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A. Gay Kingman and Richie Richards share a laugh on set.
A. Gay Kingman and Richie Richards share a laugh on set.

Produced by Native Sun News publisher Tim Giago and filmed at Prairie Edge in downtown Rapid City, Oyate Today is a 30-minute interview program on the history and living culture of indigenous people in the Northern Plains.

Richie Richards has hosted the program since October 2018. Born in Minneapolis, Richards grew up in Rosebud, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City and went to Marty Indian School. After attending Contra College and the University of California-Berkeley for Native American Studies, he was an educator at the Phoebe Hurst Museum of Anthropology. Since returning to Rapid City in 2012, Richards has been a correspondent for Native Sun News on race relations and community building.

Katy Beem:What’s the editorial process for figuring out stories for Native Sun News?

Richie Richards: “Tim leaves a lot of creative license up to us. I was working directly with people who generally haven’t been reached out to, not only by the newspaper, but by the Native American community in general – the sheriff’s office, the police department, people in areas who can improve conditions not only of Native Americans in Rapid City but the non-Native population as well. It’s really interesting to get that inside perspective.

We get to heal ourselves vicariously through telling the story of other individuals. It’s really a healing process for us as people who have been exposed to historical trauma for generations. We get to heal ourselves, heal our community, heal our Native American population through our storytelling. Although it’s borderline, something that’s not generally done in journalism, we do walk that very fine line of what becomes an editorialized piece versus a traditional AP style of writing.”

KB:How did you move into hosting Oyate Today?

RR: “As a weekly newspaper, we wanted to produce something a little more up-to-date. We considered a podcast. Tim had a local TV show here in the 70s and 80s, so that’s part of his legacy. He had a meeting with KEVN, who was able to work on it. Then when the original host wanted to transition out, I got an evening call from Tim. I figured something was wrong. But he asked if I could be down at Prairie Edge for an early morning shoot. I said, ‘Yeah. Let’s do this.’ It was between laundry days. I had to scramble to make sure I had a shirt ironed. We’re really doing a good job of educating our community with who’s actually available in our community and doing great things. A lot of these Native Americans we bring on are very humble. They’re very quiet about their experience, and their work and they’re not really open to just coming out and sharing and saying, ‘This is me. This is what I do. This is my work. This is the impact that I have on these people.’ It’s been fun bringing that out of them.”

KB:What are your most memorable moments on the show?

RR: “Many moments make me proud to be Native American, proud to be a host of the show, and proud to have met these people. Joseph Marshall III, author and historian there from Rosebud, he was telling me about the Lakota language. He introduced me to the idea that when you’re a traditional Lakota speaker there’s a Lakota mind, and there’s a Lakota thought and there’s a Lakota mindset that isn’t available to an English-speaking group.”

KB:I love following your Facebook page because it’s hilarious. You find humor in everyday situations: eating in a restaurant, going to Walmart, black olives on Indian tacos is someone trying to be fancy. You poke fun at yourself, too. What role does humor play in your life?

RR: “I don’t want to be the stereotypical, rough-life Indian storyteller, but growing up we went through a lot of inter-generational trauma, violence, alcoholism. As a kid up into my adulthood, I used humor to get through it. I can make people laugh at funerals and wakes because that was a good way of healing. Even today, I have an overactive imagination. Part of focusing that energy is to put it on social media and make myself and others laugh. In any circle of people I’m in, I always want to make people smile and laugh because I think that’s important for all of us to break down those barriers of communication that so many of us feel. I think laughter and smiling has been a part of my healing over the years.”

Oyate Today premieres Sunday, February 17, at Noon (11am MT) on SDPB1.