Tribe to KELO: Find new TV tower siteRELIANCE — An American Indian tribe wants KELO-TV to find a different site for a broadcast tower that was toppled last month by a winter storm. The toppled tower was located on Medicine Butte, near Reliance in central South Dakota. KELO is currently erecting a temporary replacement tower and plans to eventually seek permission from the Federal Communications Commission to erect a permanent replacement tower this summer.
By: Seth Tupper, The Daily Republic
RELIANCE — An American Indian tribe wants KELO-TV to find a different site for a broadcast tower that was toppled last month by a winter storm.
The toppled tower was located on Medicine Butte, near Reliance in central South Dakota. KELO is currently erecting a temporary replacement tower and plans to eventually seek permission from the Federal Communications Commission to erect a permanent replacement tower this summer.
Michael Jandreau, chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, said he has sent a letter to the FCC requesting an opportunity to discuss the tower’s location. He said his tribe regards Medicine Butte as a sacred site.
“It ties into a whole sacred set of buttes that figure predominately in our culture,” Jandreau said in an interview with The Daily Republic, “and I would like to have our folks comment more on that.”
The butte is located about three miles west of the Lower Brule Indian Reservation’s western boundary, though the tribe’s letter notes that the butte “was very much inside the original, historic reservation boundaries.” Just north of Interstate 90 and west of the Missouri River, the butte rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is visible for miles.
KELO-TV is located in Sioux Falls. KELO's tower site is owned by Young Broadcasting, the station's New York-based owner.
A spokeswoman for the FCC said the organization’s Media Bureau has not received a copy of the tribe’s letter and therefore has no comment. KELO General Manager Jay Huizenga said he has not seen the letter, either, and has received no notification of the letter from the FCC.
“I don’t have any reaction to it at this time, because I haven’t seen exactly what they’ve written,” Huizenga said.
The tribe provided a copy of the letter to The Daily Republic late Tuesday afternoon, after the newspaper spoke with Huizenga. The letter says the tower was built 53 years ago when “statutes and regulations protecting Native American historic and cultural resources and traditional cultural properties were nonexistent.”
Jandreau said times have changed, and the tribe wants its voice heard.
“We request consultation with the FCC on this matter,” his letter says, “as we would like to explore alternatives for finding another site for this tower.”
Huizenga said the old tower was 700 feet tall. The tower supplied KELO’s over-the-air television signal for viewers in central South Dakota, who are now without that signal. He expects the temporary tower to begin broadcasting within a week.
Huizenga noted that there are other towers on Medicine Butte, including one operated by South Dakota Public Broadcasting. The Daily Republic saw numerous tower-like structures of varying sizes on the butte during a recent visit.
Jandreau acknowledged that there may be little his tribe can do to get KELO’s tower moved, given that the site is not within reservation boundaries or held in trust for the tribe. He is holding out hope, though, and he playfully suggested that perhaps the winter storm wasn’t the only force at work in the tower’s fall.
“When it was built, some of our old men told them that it was going to fall down,” Jandreau said. “It took 53 years, but it fell down.”
View Medicine Butte in a larger map