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Broadcaster Bucks the Odds for Success

Native American Times, News Feature, Shelley Bluejay Pierce Posted: Mar 25, 2009

Native radio shows are struggling, even going out of business entirely due to the poor economy across the United States. One radio program is beating those odds. Santa Fe is home to a broad spectrum of ethnic groups but Albert Raymond Cata has a niche to fill and has served Native communities for 17 years in radio broadcasting arenas.

When you meet up with a closed door, go around it or keep knocking! Cata said.

Though many people along his path have discouraged him from following his dream of working in radio broadcasting, he holds to the belief that you must believe deeply in yourself and never give up.

Do not act hasty with your reaction to comments; but wait a day and it will resolve itself and save you embarrassment, he said.

His journey into radio broadcasting took much more than a few days, however. In fact, the pursuit of his dream of a quality and community-dedicated program goes back several decades.

In 1968 while serving my first four years in the United States Air Force, I had the desire to get into broadcasting. I even considered joining the Army because they had a radio broadcasting school but when they asked for my 3rd class operator permit, which I didnt have at the time, I couldnt go that direction. But, my dream was never diminished.

Cata retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1986. His dreams of radio broadcasting came another step closer when, in 1991 while driving through traffic and switching between local radio stations in Reno, Nevada, he heard an advertisement. A local radio station needed help with broadcast sales and out of 12 people applying for the job, Albert Cata being the last to apply, his persistence paid off and he landed the job at KZSR. He wasnt behind the microphone yet, but now had the opportunity to learn more about the industry from the ground level and move upward.

Im 64-years-old now and I was 47 before I realized that I had a God-given talent which is my voice that sounds like a radio voice. I know that you must use the gifts Creator gave you and dont doubt yourself, explained Cata.

He speaks proudly of his traditional background and his place among the Ohkay Owingeh, which means, Place of the Strong People. Formally known as the San Juan Pueblo, Cata was and is deeply committed to his culture, their traditions and strives to honor and show respect for them as he moved closer to fulfilling his dream of Native radio broadcasting.

In 1992 while out selling radio advertising, he stopped in at Nambe Pueblo where his cousin told him that a local Spanish radio station, KSWV, was considering a Native American pilot show. Cata headed immediately to the radio station to visit with them.

Lets get started! was his opening statement. The management at the radio station needed more convincing, however, and Cata shared his lifetime of experience in dealing with and serving the community using his talent and that voice.

I had been a storyteller since 1969 when I was stationed in California working on air craft engines. I began telling some of the traditional stories and shared them with some local families and their children. I was nervous at first, just with that small group, but over time, the live performances grew from a handful to several hundred people and eventually, even arena sized crowds. I finally convinced KSWV that though I didnt have the engineering experience, I had the public speaking skills and the drive to make the program succeed.

From there, his drive and determination brought the radio show forward into reality.

All I know about broadcasting I learned as I went. I was interested in people and liked the music, culture, and wanted to share with others about who the Native American person is within the fabric of general society.

Today, after struggling to get behind those closed doors and stumbling blocks, Albert Cata has achieved what few in Native radio have accomplished. With the help of his intern, Shivonne George, Cata is the National Producer and Host of Native American Radio Live broadcasting every Saturday on Santa Fe Public Radio, KSFR.

As a radio General Manager, you have to keep on top of your community needs. You need programs that address what interests the listeners and that includes everything from music, politics, sports, school events, community fund drives and even gardening since spring time is coming and the community begins focusing on the planting. The trouble I see for many community radio shows is that they dont have a true format and are not focused on the needs of their communities.

Cata strives to be in touch with his listeners and feels that the health of the people is based on traditions and a true value of their history.

When you are known inside and by your community, they can call you on what you say or what you do you are accountable to your local community, Cata said.

We understand the issues because we are with the People. Respect for the traditions and our ways that non-Natives just do not understand are important to truly serving our communities through our radio programming. We give of ourselves for the people in our community and our programs reflect that. We want to support them and inform them while sharing the cultures of that region too.

Cata has persevered through all the pitfalls in radio broadcasting to now being the driving force behind a program heard coast to coast, across Canada and in Europe.

Asked if he has advice to young people who may want to enter the radio broadcasting field, he had this to say, If you are interested in broadcasting, you need commitment, dedication and a strong belief in yourself along with the desire to serve your people. I remember an interview I had some time ago with actor Wes Studi. I recall that he said many of the same words of advice that I would give a young person today. First, get the necessary training you need. Go to school, dedicate yourself to learning all you can and find your lifes passionwork in a career field doing something you truly love doing.

Never say I cant do that. It takes commitment to succeed. I have to drive 25 miles to get to the radio show each and every Saturday and unless I have severe car trouble or as once happened, another driver rear-ended my car, I am there ahead of time and ready to go. I say, just give me a project and turn me loose.

Many would say these are some of the reasons that Albert Cata and his radio show have survived against the odds stacked against Native radio. Tune in to enjoy the show each Saturday, 3-5 p.m. MST, aired live out of radio station 101.1 Fm in Santa Fe or streaming on the internet at www.ksfr.org

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