Native journalist who made a lasting impact dies at 84

Charles “Chuck” Trimble (Facebook photo courtesy Trimble family)

Kolby KickingWoman

Former executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, founder of the 1970s era American Indian Press Association

Charles “Chuck” Trimble, Oglala Lakota, a man who made a lasting impact on Indian Country has died at the age of 84.

Trimble served as the executive director for the National Congress of American Indians from 1972-78 and was a principal founder of the American Indian Press Association. He was also inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2013.

A long-time Native journalist, Trimble once wrote when he started in the industry, there wasn’t a lot of interest or understanding of Indian Country which led to the founding of the American Indian Press Association.

“I got a small grant to pull together a meeting of select Indian editors that represented a good geographic and intertribal cross-section, and we met at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington to talk about our common problems in securing news,” Trimble wrote in 2014. “We put together the American Indian Press Association and opened a news service that would feed first-hand, fresh news to Indian newspapers.”

Trimble also advocated for Native education and was the director of the American Indian Development Incorporated. The organization held summer workshops for Native students who were seniors in high school or college freshman focusing on courses related to Indian Affairs.

Paul DeMain, Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, is a former president of the Native American Journalists Association and said Trimble was a prolific writer who added perspective to what was going on in the world and a well respected individual.

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DeMain added that Trimble “came out of the same envelope” as fellow Native writer Richard LaCourse, and the two men provided in-depth analysis as tribal governments emerged during the 1960s and 70s.

“Their writing reflected that umbrella of getting the information and turning it into something you wanted to tell the people,” DeMain said. “It was always in the best interest of Indian Country.”

Trimble’s friend and Indian Country ally Jack Marsh, who co-founded the South Dakota News Watch, said Trimble was looked up to by Native and non-Native journalists alike.

“I’m deeply saddened to hear of Chuck Trimble’s passing. He was an honorable, fine and decent man who did much to promote reconciliation and advance a greater understanding of Native people and Native issues,” Marsh said. “He was a role model for many in the field of media and journalism, including me, a gifted teacher and an excellent writer. Others are credited as founders of the Native American Journalists Association but it was Chuck Trimble who helped lay the foundation for a national organization dedicated to truth, ethics and professionalism among the story-tellers of Indian country.”

People who knew Trimble shared memories and appreciation for Trimble on social media.

Frank Ducheneaux, Cheyenne River Sioux, called Trimble an asset to Indian Country and worked with him through the National Congress of American Indians.

“He was an asset to our Indian world in many ways. He was an early Indian journalist and started the American Indian Press Association,” Ducheneaux wrote in a Facebook post. “He segued into the Executive Directorship of the National Congress of American Indians where he served with distinction. It was my privilege to work with him in that capacity as the NCAI legislative consultant.”

“There are so many ways that Chuck Trimble contributed to Native journalism, and Indian Country, that it’s hard to narrow it down,” said Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today. “Chuck was a brilliant cartoonist. He could have made a career out of doing just that.”

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He also was a warrior in the battle against termination, Trahant said. Lucy Covington asked Trimble to help start a newspaper at Colville so that people would understand the implication of termination.

“She made no offers of compensation for travel and expenses. The Press Association was not yet established and there were no funds for travel or anything else; so I went at my own expense,” Trimble wrote years later. Covington “wanted a newspaper that would tell what a tribe means to its people, and its true worth to them in terms of land, natural resources, and most of all their cultural heritage. She wanted the newspaper to be called Our Heritage, and she even described the logo she wanted for the masthead. It would be a pair of hands holding together the shape of the Colville Reservation. The logo would signify that the future of their reservation, indeed their nation, was in the hands of the people, not in the U.S. Government or the State of Washington, or anyone else.”

Our Heritage chronicled the tribe’s eventual rejection of termination.

The family wished for privacy at this time but in a Facebook message, Trimble’s daughter Kaiti Fenz-Trimble, said he will be missed.

“As for Dad, he was a wonderful father & husband, and we miss him already.”

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Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/Gros Ventre is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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