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Upcoming OU exhibit 'Native Voices Over the Airwaves' to commemorate old radio show, include tribute concert

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Native Voices

Pawnee Indian School students in OU’s WNAD radio station studio for an "Indians for Indians" radio show broadcast in 1942. 

An upcoming exhibit and concert will celebrate OU Libraries’ recent digitization of a historical Native American radio show.

"Native Voices Over the Airwaves," Bizzell Memorial Library’s newest exhibit, will open Nov. 14. It commemorates the "Indians for Indians" radio show, which was broadcast from the Oklahoma Memorial Union radio tower from 1941 to the mid-1970s and provided a space for Native Americans from across Oklahoma to talk or perform, said Lina Ortega, associate curator for the Western History Collections and Native American studies librarian.

“The radio show is really important to Native Americans across the state,” Ortega said. “A lot of people still remember it, you know, with a lot of good memories and fondness for this show.”

The OU School of Music will host a tribute concert, also called "Native Voices Over the Airwaves," on Nov. 14. The concert will feature performances by eight groups representing tribes or schools who participated in the radio show  and even some descendants of participants in the original program, according to a press release.

Performances will include traditional dances, hand-game songs and Muscogee Creek and Seminole hymns, Ortega said. 

"Indians for Indians" was created by Don Whistler, OU alumnus and chief of the Sac and Fox tribe, and it was later continued by OU’s Sequoyah Indian Club and its staff sponsor Boyce Timmons, according to the press release.

“People from tribes from a good portion of the state of Oklahoma would come and participate on the show,” Ortega said. “And they did this on a voluntary basis and at their own expense, you know, during a time when it wasn't so easy to travel around as it is now.”

The digitization project started when OU Libraries received a grant last year to have an audio engineer professionally digitize and improve the sound quality of the old "Indians for Indians" recordings.

Before this, people had to drive from all over Oklahoma to listen to the show on cassette tapes in the OU library or pay $20 to get amateur copies made. Now, the recordings will be freely available online, Ortega said.

“I see this as a service to the Native communities in this state to make these recordings much more accessible than they have been,” she said.

The exhibit will open at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in Bizzell Memorial Library. The concert will start at 7:00 p.m. Nov. 14 in Sharp Concert Hall in Catlett Music Center, and it is free and open to the public.

Note: This article was updated at 12:45 on Nov. 11, 2019 to reflect a change in concert schedule.

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