National Humanities Medal Awarded to 'Native America Calling'

March 22, 2023

Public Radio Program Honored for Educating Public, Preserving Indigenous History and Culture

Native America Calling

Native America Calling – the nationwide daily public radio call-in show focused on issues affecting Native American and Alaska Native people – received the 2021 National Humanities Medal from President Joe Biden on Tuesday at the White House. The award was established by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1997 to honor individuals and organizations whose work has deepened our nation’s understanding of and engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects.

“Through its interactive shows on the radio and online, Native America Calling educates the American public about Indigenous issues while preserving Indigenous history and culture to honor their contributions that strengthen the sacred Nation-to-Nation relationship,” said President Biden, who bestowed the medal on Jaclyn Sallee, president and CEO of Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation.

Koahnic produces and distributes Native America Calling with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which has funded the program for more than 20 years, recognizing its central role in laying a strong foundation for a civil society.

Native America Calling provides a vital connection to Native communities celebrating culture and addressing and elevating Native voices,” said Patricia Harrison, CPB president and CEO. “CPB is proud to be a longtime supporter of Native America Calling and we congratulate everyone involved in producing the show on winning this prestigious award.”

Koahnic honorees with Bruce Springsteen
At the White House ceremony for the National Medals for the Arts and National Humanities Medals, from left, Jaclyn Sallee, president and CEO, Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation; Denise Morris, chair, Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation Board; National Medal for the Arts winner Bruce Springsteen; Shawn Spruce, host, 'Native America Calling'; and Art Hughes, producer, 'Native America Calling.'

The program has been called “the nation’s largest electronic talking circle” -- a shared space where listeners speak with noted experts and guests over the airwaves, according to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Native America Calling began broadcasting from public radio station KUNM in Albuquerque, N.M., to 14 radio stations in 1995, with first guest Ada Deer, the assistant secretary of Indian affairs during the Clinton administration, answering caller questions. Today, the hourlong program airs on 83 stations across the country and the podcast version is downloaded about 84,000 times per month.

Native America Calling
Celebrating the National Humanities Medal for 'Native America Calling,' counterclockwise from lower center, Jaclyn Sallee, president and CEO, Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation; Denise Morris, chair, Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation Board; Art Hughes, producer, 'Native America Calling'; Jacquie Gales Webb, CPB vice president, Radio; Shawn Spruce, host, 'Native America Calling'; Kathy Merritt, CPB senior vice president, Radio, Journalism and CSG Services.  

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