KPYT-LP: The Voice of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe

In the last 6 years, Arizona's KPYT has come a long way. At its launch, the studio was a table with microphones clamped to it. They now have a real studio, and while there are only two paid staff positions, they have over 30 volunteers, an active webstream, and a steady flow of local programming. Even back when it first launched, Hector Youtsey, the station manager, recalls that they had to unplug the station phone because it was ringing off the hook.

KPYT broadcasts from a reservation to the southeast of Tuscon, AZ and serves the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Its programs address the local culture in ways that none of the commercial stations would or even could. For example, on "Tribal Legacies," community members are invited to talk about their traditions, culture and stories. From 1-3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, there is Yaqui-language programming. Youtsey says this programming is especially appreciated by older folks, some of whom don't speak English and are excluded from other  programming.

KPYT also broadcasts programs on things like diabetes prevention, wellness and behavioral health. These programs have encouraged many listeners, Youtsey included, to cut down on junk food and make healthier choices. The programs have a real effect on the community, evident in two new wellness centers. Members of the local public safety group also come on air to talk about quality of life issues and crime.

Youtsey appreciates how radio can get information to the public in a more open way than billboards. He says, “Low Power FM is our last resource for developing a conversation within our community.” And it's true, KPYT serves as a center for dialogue within its native community.

The station also works closely with schools, passing safety and wellness info on to youth and showing them the radio equipment. Youtsey describes how the station also has mobile DJ equipment allowing them to broadcast remotely while visiting elementary and middle school classes. For older kids, there's an internship program which teaches teens how the station runs and how to produce their own programming.

When KPYT first went on air, they sent out a survey asking community members what they wanted to hear. The results came back saying that the community wanted Tejano and Yaqui music, and Oldies. So at 5pm the station sets aside an hour to rotate between those different genres, making sure the community gets exactly what it wants. After six, DJs play all different kinds of music, from more Yaqui folk music to nonstop metal. KPYT also proudly hosts local musicians on programs like "Backyard Jam."

Youtsey, who has a background in commercial radio, says that the most important thing for a community radio station is to “stay local.” Talk to the local shops, the people, the community. It is just important to get known. The only programming on KPYT that is not locally produced are two national Native news programs. Everything else is entirely local. Youtsey says people come in to DJ and may not sound “professional,” but it's understood that KPYT is a community station, so mistakes are no big deal. New DJs are given a few tips and in no time at all sound as great as seasoned ones.


Thanks to Natty Pilcher for putting together this profile.