Indian leaders win concessions from KQRSby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — A Twin Cities radio station will air an apology for remarks made by two hosts that drew complaints from American Indian groups.
Indian leaders called for the firing of KQRS Morning Show hosts Tom Barnard and Terri Traen. They say last month Barnard and Traen made offensive remarks about members of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and the Shakopee Mdewakanton band.
Barnard and Traen were commenting on a news report about high rates of suicide in Beltrami County. One of the hosts wondered if suicides on the Red Lake Indian reservation, located in Beltrami County, were caused by genetics. The host suggested there was a lot of incest on the reservation.
"These were irresponsible comments that are way out of bounds and intolerable," Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd Jourdain said before the meeting.
Jourdain compared the comments to those several months ago by Don Imus about the Rutgers women's basketball team that were racial and sexual in nature. Imus lost his syndicated radio job over that incident.
"Those comments (by Imus) were about losing a basketball game, and these are about life and death," said Jourdain, "and we're not going to endure this ignorance any longer in a state that emphasizes Minnesota Nice."
Jourdain said there hasn't been a suicide on his reservation in more than two years.
After meeting with station management for more than an hour, Jourdain said he's pleased the station is taking steps to address the situation.
"Reprimands have been handed out to disc jockeys who made these ignorant comments. But there have been no firings," said Jourdain. "We were pleased with the meeting. Of course, the Indian community was calling for the dismissal of these two jockeys, but it doesn't look like that is going to take place."
Clyde Bellecourt of the American Indian Movement was also in the meeting. He says it he was positive, but there's still a lot of work left to do.
"I think it's just the beginning. There's a lot of sensitivity, a lot of education that needs to take place," said Bellecourt. "I maintain it's like the whole educational system that causes that. None of us grew up knowing anything about Indian people. The only thing we know is what we see on television and the movie industry."
KQRS general manager Mark Kalman released a written statement saying the station reached an amicable resolution. The station has also promised to hire American Indian interns and air suicide hotline public service announcements.
The KQ morning show is among the most popular morning programs in the Twin Cities. It's known for delivering weird news, ethnic jokes and political diatribes.
Minority groups have long criticized Barnard and his crew for their on-air banter.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)