More people across Indian Country are sharing their stories of the late Tim Giago.
“Tim was a media visionary,” wrote Avis Little Eagle of the Teton Times on Facebook.
Giago died July 24, 2022, at the age of 88 in Rapid City, South Dakota. His Oglala Lakota name was Nanwica Kcjii which translates to He Stands up for Them or The Defender. He was born on July 12, 1934. Doris Giago, his former wife, said he had cancer and complications related to diabetes. His wife Jackie Giago didn’t want to talk.
The Oglala Lakota journalist, ICT founder and co-founder of the Native American Journalists Association left a legacy that will carry on for generations of Indigenous journalists to come.
Here are some memories being shared about Giago.
Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, NAJA executive director:
The impact Tim had on Indigenous journalism as one of NAJA’s founders is immeasurable. He has been a champion of free press in Indigenous communities his entire career and faced challenges, threats and political pressure, but always pushed to bring essential news and information to the people. He’s irreplaceable. I know generations of Indigenous journalists will look to his dogged dedication to the truth for decades to come and be inspired by his tremendous legacy.
Francine Compton, NAJA president:
On behalf of the board of directors and staff we thank Mr. Giago for being a co-founder of NAJA, the first-ever journalism association for Indigenous journalists. We extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Giago’s family, friends and colleagues. His legacy and contributions to Indigenous journalism will not be forgotten.
Avis Little Eagle on Facebook:
My former boss Tim Giago made his journey this morning. Tim was a media visionary and I know in my heart if it wasn't for him and Amanda Takes War Bonnett, I would not have started the Teton Times. He will be missed by so many, for his forward thinking and his stalwart defense of Indian country. Journey well my friend.
Wayne Ducheneaux II on Facebook:
Got the news that Tim Giago has passed away. I had known of Tim my whole life. By the time I was truly paying attention, he had risen as a bastion of native journalism. His passion for informing our communities will be greatly missed.
Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender’s statement Sunday evening regarding the death of Tim Giago:
“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Tim Giago. Tim’s influence and impact on journalism and Native American life cannot be overstated. His views and dedication to journalistic excellence were well-respected nationwide.
His career was dedicated to providing quality journalistic vehicles to feature and profile important stories of Native American life and culture, and to focus on, address and highlight issues of importance. Tim was the first to provide newspapers where Native Americans could express and share their opinions, to provide stories on important events and issues and to feature Native traditions, culture and ideas.
Tim realized years ago the importance of featuring positive stories on the skills, talents and achievements of Native Americans and to share the views and opinions of Native Americans. He provided historical perspective and relevance to many issues as well as promoted the growing importance and influence of Native Americans to their communities.
My condolences to Tim’s wife Jackie and their families. His loss is a great one but he has left a lasting legacy of influence and excellence for all of us to appreciate and admire.”
Whitney Rencountre on Facebook:
Rest In Peace, Mr. Tim Giago, one of the most influential leaders amongst our people. Tim worked with the late South Dakota Governor George Mickleson to change Columbus Day to Native American Day in 1990. He founded the first independently owned Native American newspaper in America, The Lakota Times/Indian Country Today, on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Reservation. He is also inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame.
In this photo, Tim was leading the Native American Day Parade, that we organized in Rapid City. He always greeted me and others when we saw him.
Thank you for all you did for our people, Nanwica Kciji, Toksa Ake🙏🏽
Jim Gray, Osage, on Facebook:
As many of you who've known me for a while, know I was once the publisher of the Native American Times formally The Oklahoma Indian Times. In the mid-90s, there were just a handful of Indian-owned and operated newspapers in the country. In time, I began to network with Paul DeMain (News from Indian Country) from Wisconsin and Tim Giago (Lakota Times/Indian Country Today) in South Dakota. We would talk on the phone sometimes, trading string writers, story ideas and generally network like professionals. Tim was always so good to offer advice and treated me like a colleague. When I heard of your passing today, I was overwhelmed with emotions, I am so grateful to appreciate our visit a couple of years ago at NAJA back in '19. We traded old stories, laughed and parted as friends. Tim, you made us all better journalists, better columnists, better businesspeople and better newspaper men. A badge I carry with honor. You've left Indian country in a better place. Rest in peace.
Jim Carrier on Facebook:
In 1979 I left the Associated Press in Minneapolis to helm the newsroom of the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal. One of my first goals was to hire a Native American reporter. I scoured the country and found fewer than six; all were employed and unwilling to come to western South Dakota. I then learned of Tim Giago, a native of the Pine Ridge Sioux reservation, who had self-published a small book of poems about his education at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission, a church-sponsored school that squelched language and traditions. A Navy veteran, who wrote for a base newspaper, he'd also run a donut shop, and aired a local PBS TV show on Indian topics. He didn't want to work fulltime, so we settled on a weekly column, "Notes From Indian Country." He asked that it be in the Friday paper, which was widely read on the Pine Ridge reservation because of the TV listings. We paid him $8.50 per column, later raised to $10, as I recall. The result poured gasoline on a fire. For the first time, Indians were reading about themselves in stories that did not dwell on drunks or car wrecks. He reported warts, yes, but largely provided a portrait of Native Americans with families, traditions, struggles, sports, children, elders, religion, etc. Not many months later I persuaded him to become a full-time reporter, covering the Pennington County Commission. He wanted to cover Indian news. I refused, arguing that he could not be objective. That was the thinking in the early days of affirmative action - or at least was mine. Several times Tim would storm into the newsroom after witnessing the racist attitudes of the white commissioners, and quit. I would follow him out onto the fire escape and talk him into staying. In 1981, using the collateral of a relative's 1950s Chevy, he leased a former beauty shop in Pine Ridge, bought a typesetter, and with his wife, Doris Giago, began publishing the first independent (non-tribal affiliated) Indian newspaper in the country. Photos were developed in the hair-washing sinks. He was firebombed, threatened multiple times, and carried on a long feud with Tribal Chair Dick Wilson, but kept on publishing. He hired locals and trained them. At least two women, including Avis Little Eagle, went on to the launch their own native newspapers. After divorcing Tim, Doris became a journalism professor at South Dakota State University, another first. Tim's career included a Neiman Fellowship, a chain of newspapers, the founding of a Native American Journalists Association, and persuading South Dakota Gov. Mickelson to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. You can read much more about Tim's remarkably courageous and visionary life on Wiki. Hiring Tim as the first Native American voice in South Dakota is among my proudest deeds.
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