Charles Michael Ray

SDPB News Producer

Charles Michael Ray grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota on the banks of Boxelder Creek downstream from the town of Nemo.

He began working for SDPB Radio as a reporter in 1992 at the age of 19. He worked his way through college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and received a degree in Geology in 1997.  He then worked as a freelance journalist in the Czech capital of Prague, covering major stories in Central Europe. After a year overseas he returned home to continue his work at SDPB-Radio and to get back to the Black Hills. 

Over the years his work has been recognized with numerous awards and fellowships.  He's won two national Edward R. Murrow awards and a National Scripps Howard News Service award. In 2006 Ray was a finalist in the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists. In 2009 he was selected as a Logan Science Journalist Polar Fellow, he spent three weeks above the Arctic Circle at a scientific research station reporting on the impacts of climate change.  He has won 20 regional Murrow Awards since 2004 and over 40 awards from the Associated Press since 1993. 

Ray and his wife Andrea live in Rapid City. He still enjoys spending time at the family home in the Black Hills.  He's an avid whitewater kayaker and also enjoys ice hockey, mountain unicycling, backpacking, and several other outdoor activities.   


4:25 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Wildfires Spark In Rapid City

Crews fighting small wildfire in West Rapid City.

Two small wild fires kept Rapid City crews busy Monday afternoon. Much of the Black Hills are sweltering in near triple digit temperatures. Officials say the hot weather could increase the fire danger. Jeni Lawver is with South Dakota’s division of Wildland Fire. 

“If things continue the way that they have been with this really extremely hot weather I’d say in the next two weeks or so, I’d be more concerned of more fires popping up. I believe over the weekend we had 5 or 6 starts from lightning, but all of them were contained at either a half an acre or under,” says Lawver.

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1:54 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Artist Collects Dirt As Part Of Statehood Celebration

Artist Altman Studeny is collecting dirt from each county in South Dakota as part of a project celebrating 125 years of statehood.
Credit Charles Michael Ray, SDPB

This year South Dakota turns 125 years old.  One art project celebrating the state’s quasquicentennial incorporates dirt taken from each county in South Dakota and sixty-six bur oak trees set up for display at the state capitol. After being displayed at the capitol, the trees will be planted in the county that loaned the soil.  Altman Studeny is the Plankinton artist behind this project. He visited with SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray as he traveled through Pennington County on his way around the state.

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10:58 am
Fri April 4, 2014

166 Polluted Rivers, Lakes, And Streams In SD

Water quality monitoring on Spring Creek in the Black Hills.

A report submitted by state officials to the EPA cites 166 lakes and streams in South Dakota as polluted or impaired.   The bodies of water fail to meet government standards for clean water.

Most of the polluted waters in South Dakota are due to non-point sources such as livestock waste.

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has this story on the work to deal with the causes of this contamination and a new citizen volunteer effort to monitor water quality in South Dakota. 

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1:22 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Bombers Vs Ranchers On The High Plains.

A B1 Bomber takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Credit Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan / U.S. Air Force

A low flying B1-Bomber makes a whole bunch of noise.   This is one reason a number of landowners in Meade County are angry over a proposed expansion of training space for military aircraft stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

The Department of Defense wants to increase the airspace it uses to train its B1 Bombers and other aircraft.  Ellsworth Officials say the move improves the military's effort to be ready for combat.

But some local residents say the loud airplanes hurt property values, scare livestock, and start fires.

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10:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Hell Chicken May Have Roamed Your Backyard

With a crest and presumably feathered forelegs, the newly described dinosaur Anzu wyliei was nicknamed the “chicken from hell” by researchers at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and University of Utah.
Credit Courtesy Bob Walters

If you’ve ever crossed paths with an angry rooster you know that chickens can be mean.  But they’re nothing compared to their dinosaur ancestors.    A newly described fossil nicknamed the “chicken from hell” might have lived in your backyard 66-million years ago. 

The fossil resembles a chicken out of a horror movie and it once called South Dakota home.

Here is a link to the published research on the "chicken from hell"


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1:17 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Lion Kill Bill Passes Senate

A tranquilized Black Hills mountain lion fitted with a radio collar.

A bill that expands the legal definition for when it’s OK to shoot a Mountain Lion is halfway through the State Legislature.

The State Senate gave approval to a measure that makes it OK to shoot a lion if a person feels a reasonable threat from an animal. 

Proponents argue the current law is too narrow and only allows someone shoot a big cat if the animals is threatening them or their livestock.

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3:16 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

State Senate Rejects Teacher Shortage Resolution

The State Senate rejected a resolution recognizing a connection between the teacher shortage in South Dakota and low teacher pay.    A resolution expresses the intent of lawmakers, it is not binding law.  

Republican State Senator Larry Senator Larry Tidemann from Brookings supports the measure.

“We do have a teacher shortage.   When we look at the time when the baby-boomers are going to retire we need to replenish those folks.   What can we do about it?   We can do nothing, or first you have to recognize there is a problem, there is an issue,” says Tidemann. 

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12:36 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Arctic Ice Loss And The Loopy Jet Stream

Fog covered peaks in the Brooks Range of Northern Alaska. Northern latitudes are warming faster than other parts of the hemisphere.

If you think the weather has gone crazy in recent years some scientists say you can blame the melting of the polar ice cap.

New research ties together the massive summer ice loss over the North Pole with a weakening of the jet stream leading to changes in the weather in mid latitudes.

Take for example the record flooding in 2011, the drought of 2012, and again floods in some areas around the country in 2013. 

SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray spoke with a lead researcher of the study and with a regional climatologist to ask if this pattern of extreme weather will continue.

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3:33 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Daugaard Doubts Audits Will Find Wrongdoing

The now bankrupt Northern Beef Packers Plant in Aberdeen is in the center of a scandal around the handling of state and EB-5 investment dollars.

Governor Dennis Daugaard says he believes the audits of the state’s EB-5 program and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will not turn up any major wrongdoing

The EB-5 program allows wealthy foreigners to acquire visas when they invest a half million dollars in a rural area.   The program was used in conjunction with the GOED to fund the now bankrupt Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen.  

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5:02 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Chief Justice Heaps Praise On Reform Efforts

Chief Justice David Gilbertson during the 2014 State of the Judiciary Address in Pierre.

The Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court praises state lawmakers for passage of broad criminal justice reforms. Chief Justice David Gilbertson made his comments during the annual State of the Judiciary Address to lawmakers gathered in Pierre. 

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12:32 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Farm Bill Still Mired

South Dakota Congressional leaders say a Farm Bill is key for Ranchers dealing with the wake of the October Blizzard.

There’s still no agreement on a federal Farm Bill.  Representative Kristi Noem says lawmakers are close to coming up with a complete package to send to President Obama.  Noem says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has not given a deadline for crafting the bill, which has not been done despite various extensions.  Eventually, the nation’s Ag policy would revert to a standard from 19-49 if the House and Senate don’t hammer out a measure.  Noem says that’s not likely.

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4:54 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

State Of The State Kicks Off Session

Governor Dennis Daugaard delivers the 2014 State of the State Address.

Governor Dennis Daugaard delivered the annual State of the State Address on Tuesday (January 14, 2014) in Pierre to the opening session of the state legislature.   Daugaard began by highlighting the state’s accomplishments.  Daugaard has preached fiscal conservatism throughout his term as Governor—and he told lawmakers their work has paid off.

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1:48 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

SD AG Wants To Crack Down On Meth Makers

The South Dakota Attorney General  wants to crack down on those who turn cold medicine into illegal drugs. Attorney General Marty Jackley says criminals are buying cold medicine and using it to manufacture meth. Jackley is proposing tighter restrictions and digital tracking of the purchases of pseudoephedrine.

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1:21 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Church Sex Abuse Cases Dismissed

A 7th Judicial Circuit Court judge has thrown out a number of civil lawsuits against the Catholic Church that allege past sexual and physical abuse in Native American boarding schools.   

One case included a series of detailed letters written by clergy that plaintiffs say clearly show the church knew about sexual abuse of minors decades ago but covered it up.

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1:26 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

StoryCorps: Chuck Childs

Chuck Childs
Credit StoryCorps

In September and October, the StoryCorps traveling booth was in Rapid City collecting conversations between family and friends. Among those who stopped by was 93-year-old Chuck Childs.

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Around the Nation
6:31 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Shutdown Hinders S.D. Post-Blizzard Cleanup

Heavy and wet snow weighs down tree branches on the west side of Rapid City, S.D. Earlier this month, a fierce October snowstorm hit ranchers in the state hard.
Kristina Barker Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon October 14, 2013 7:58 am

A freak October blizzard earlier this month killed tens of thousands of cattle in South Dakota.

The number of animals is hard to confirm. In part, because the federal agency tasked with tallying livestock losses after a disaster is closed during the partial government shutdown.

October is often a great weather month to be in South Dakota, which is one reason why the early October blizzard caught so many off guard.

Todd Collins lost a fifth of his herd in this storm. "My dad is 80 years old, and he says he's never seen a killer storm the first of October."

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3:03 am
Fri October 11, 2013

SD Disaster Response Infrastructure

Western South Dakota is recovering from one of the worst blizzards ever recorded in the area. Thousands are still without power, broken trees lie everywhere, and reports of dead cattle are still being assessed by area ranchers.

Crises have a tendency to teach lessons. And on today's Dakota Digest we're continuing our series called The State of Our State with a look at disaster infrastructure in South Dakota.

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12:33 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Art of Healing: Healing a Community

Planned memorial

August 2, 2011 is a day many Rapid City Police officers will never forget.  It's the day Officers Nick Armstrong and Ryan McCandless were shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.  Throughout the Art of Healing series we're hearing how art in hospitals can speed recovery and also how artists find healing from personal tragedy.  Here we examine how art plays a role in helping an entire community heal in the wake of tragedy.

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Around the Nation
4:48 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

A Dry Reservation Clashes With Its Liquor Store Neighbors

Oglala Lakota activist Debra White Plume (left), tribal president Bryan Brewer (center) and other protesters create a blockade to prevent trucks from delivering beer to a liquor store in Whiteclay, Neb. The town, which borders the Pine Ridge Reservation, has been the site of recurring protests over alcohol.
Charles Michael Ray/SDPB

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 9:18 pm

At the Pine Ridge Reservation just outside the town of Whiteclay, Neb., an upside-down American flag flies on a wooden pole next to a teepee. About 60 people gathered here Monday to protest as beer truck drivers unloaded cases into a Whiteclay liquor store a few hundred yards away.

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1:54 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

First Successful Concrete Plane At School Of Mines

Three SDSM&T seniors took part in the project. David Haberman and Tyler Pojanowski, both mechanical engineering majors, and Seth Adams, a civil and environmental engineering major, worked on the plane for a year as part of their senior design project. Dr. M.R. Hansen and Dr. Lidvin Kjerengtroen advised the students throughout.

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11:00 pm
Sun April 7, 2013

Letters Detail Alleged Church Sex Abuse

The Rapid City Catholic Chancery Office.

A set of letters recently filed in a court case against the Catholic Church detail allegations of sexual abuse against Native American children at the Saint Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  

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12:51 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Recovery Efforts Continue at the Falls with Two People Missing

Early Friday morning rescue efforts at the Falls Park in Sioux Falls switched to recovery as the bodies of two people remain missing.
Credit Hannah Olsen

In Sioux Falls emergency crews are working to recover the bodies of two people who are believed to have drowned in the swift moving water of the Big Sioux River. 

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Around the Nation
4:12 pm
Tue January 1, 2013

The Slow Carving Of The Crazy Horse Monument

When completed, the Crazy Horse mountain carving will be 641 feet long by 563 feet high.
Matthew Staver Landov

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 1:19 pm

South Dakota is famously home to Mount Rushmore, but it's also been making room for a second colossal mountain carving that, when finished, will dwarf the four presidents.

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5:14 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

SD Governor Presents Budget

SD State Capitol
Credit Cara Hetland / SDPB

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard outlined his budget proposal to the state Legislature Tuesday afternoon in Pierre. South Dakota did better than projected in the last fiscal year. Daugaard is proposing a total budget of more than $4.1 billion dollars.

Daugaard began his budget address by thanking voters for supporting a new constitutional amendment that he says reinforces the requirement for a balanced budget.

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Around the Nation
4:04 am
Fri November 30, 2012

Native Americans To Soon Receive Settlement Checks

Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Tribe, and four other Native Americans led a class-action land use lawsuit against the U.S. government. Cobell is shown here in 2009 with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after an announcement on the settlement of the lawsuit. Cobell died last year.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 6:05 am

Federal officials are working to send out $1,000 checks in the next few weeks to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans. The money stems from a settlement of the Cobell case, a landmark $3.4 billion settlement over mismanagement of federal lands held in trust for Native American people.

The case was brought by Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Tribe, and four other Native Americans in 1996.

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8:24 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Russell Means Dies on Pine Ridge

Russell Means at Wounded Knee in 1973. Credit: Anonymous / Associated Press

Hollywood actor and American Indian activist Russell Means died early Monday morning at his ranch near Porcupine on Pine Ridge.  Means was 72 years old and had battled cancer for the past few years.
Means is noted not only for his roles in Hollywood film but also for being a seminal figure in the American Indian Movement.

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10:44 am
Mon October 22, 2012

Actor and Activist Russell Means Dies at 72 on Pine Ridge

Russell Means died this morning on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota he was 72 years old.

Means starred in a number of Hollywood films including the “Last of the Mohicans.”  But he was also a member of the American Indian Movement and a champion of indigenous rights.

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7:25 am
Sun October 21, 2012

Senator George McGovern Dies in Sioux Falls

Senator George McGovern in 2007 at an event in Rapid City.

Former Senator George McGovern died today in hospice care in Sioux Falls. He was 90 years old. McGovern encountered age-related medical conditions that led to his death.

McGovern served in South Dakota in Congress for almost a quarter century, both as a U.S. Representative and Senator. McGovern lost the 1972 presidential race against Richard Nixon by a landslide; Nixon later resigned amid the Watergate Scandal.

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5:14 pm
Thu October 18, 2012

Winds Fan West River Wildfires and Force Evacuations

High winds are fanning wildfires around the Black Hills area. Crews have responded to sixteen reported fires since this morning.

The biggest, called the Fork Fire, is burning on about 100 acres near Custer and has forced the evacuation of a sub-division located on Renegade Pass Road.   The fire is zero percent contained.  A separate, but smaller fire is also threatening homes in the Custer area at the same time.  The North Pole Road near Custer is closed to general traffic from Highway 16 to the Custer Limestone Road.

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11:17 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Winds Blowing Down Power Lines, Sparking Fires

High winds are tearing an American Flag in half near Downtown Rapid City.

High winds are blowing down power lines and fanning wildfires around the Black Hills area.

Crews have responded to seven reported fires since midnight.

The wind has also caused  power outages  and loss of cell phone service in parts of the Black Hills.  

The National Weather Service in Rapid City recorded a wind gust of 78 miles per hour.   That’s above hurricane force.

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