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Minneapolis radio station to apologize after offensive American Indian remarks

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Local radio station KQRS-FM agreed Oct. 29 to broadcast a public apology, after American Indian leaders complained about comments on the rate of suicide among young people in Beltrami County. The comments, made during the rock station's popular morning show, were offensive, the leaders said.

Station president and general manager Marc Kalman said that in addition to an apology, the station would give equal air time to positive issues involving American Indians, work to hire American Indian interns, and continue making public service announcements for a suicide hot line.

More than a dozen American Indian leaders went to the corporate offices of KQRS to lodge a formal complaint against the show hosted by Tom Barnard.

In September, Barnard and co-host Terri Traen talked about the Red Lake and Shakopee tribes while discussing a report by the state Health Department that said Beltrami County has the state's highest rate of suicide among young people.

The disc jockeys then mentioned Bemidji and the Red Lake reservation, both in Beltrami County.

''Maybe it's genetic; isn't there a lot of incest up there?'' Traen said about the tribe.

''Not that I know of,'' Barnard replied.

''I think there is,'' Traen continued. ''Don't quote me on that, but I'm pretty sure.''

''Well, I'm glad you just threw it out there, then,'' Barnard said.

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Barnard also criticized the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which owns Mystic Lake Casino, for ''doing a hell of a job helping them out.''

''They don't give them anything?'' Traen said.

''Hell, no!'' Barnard replied.

Clyde Bellecourt, American Indian Movement co-founder, said Red Lake has received nearly $4 million in grants from the Shakopee tribe since 2004 toward building a new Boys and Girls Club, assisting with the recent rebirth of the tribe's walleye fishing industry and creating a center in Bemidji to address sexual assault.

''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 made 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.

Bellecourt said the remarks were ''ignorant.''

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.