Giago attended elementary and high school at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission. He enlisted in the United States Navy during the Korean Conflict in 1951 and was honorably discharged in 1958.
He attended college at San Jose Junior College in San Jose, California in 1960 under the G.I. Bill and transferred to the University of Nevada at Reno. He majored in business with a minor in journalism. He was awarded the prestigious Nieman Fellowship in Journalism to Harvard University for the years 1990-1991.
Giago was the founder of the Lakota Times in 1981. The newspaper withstood firebombs, had its windows shot out with shotguns on three separate occasions and Giago received many death threats including one attempt on his life while building the newspaper successfully on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The paper was re-named Indian Country Today in 1992. He served as editor and publisher for 18 years building it into the largest independent Indian newspaper in America before selling the paper in 1998. He started the Lakota Journal in 2000 and served as its editor and publisher until his retirement in July of 2004. Indian Country Today, The Lakota Journal and the Dakota Journal are still viable weekly newspapers that were all founded by Mr. Giago. The Lakota Country Times at Kyle, SD and the Teton Times in McLaughlin, SD, are both weekly newspapers started by former editors Amanda War Bonnet and Avis Little Eagle, who were both trained by Giago at his newspapers. A former Lakota Times employee, Kevin Peniska, started Wellness Magazine.
He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association in 1984. In 1983 he sent letters to every Indian newspaper he could find asking them if they would be interested in forming a Native American Press Association. He then worked with Journalism Professor Bill Dulaney of Penn State to raise the money to hold the first meeting of Indian journalists at Penn State. He was elected as the first President of the association when it was formally assembled on the Choctaw Nation the next year. He was the recipient of the H.L. Mencken Award for Editorial Writing from the Baltimore Sun in 1985. He holds Honorary Doctoral Degrees from Bacone College in Oklahoma and from the Nebraska Indian Community College at Winnebago, NE.
Giago was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1994.
Giago has received many professional awards including the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism in 1991, The South Dakota Education Association/National Education Human and Civil Rights Award in 1988, the Golden Quill Award for Outstanding Editorial Writing by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors in 1997, and Best Local Column by the South Dakota Newspaper Association for the years 1985 and 2003 and the Great Spirits Award from the Navajo Institute of Social Justice in September of 2004. The Harvard Foundation honored him in 1991 for his contributions to the growth of American Indian newspapers and Indian journalism.
In 1976 his weekly television show, The First Americans, made its debut on KEVN in Rapid City, SD. It became the first weekly television show hosted and produced by an American Indian on a commercial television station.
His books include The Aboriginal Sin and Notes from Indian Country Volumes I and II. Giago also edited and helped write The American Indian and the Media. His new book, Children Left Behind was published in August of 2006 by Clear Light Book Publishing, Inc., Santa Fe, NM.
He has served on many boards including three years on the Freedom Forum Board of Advisors with Allen Neuharth, founder of USA Today, and on the Running Strong for America Board with Billy Mills, the winner of the 10,000 meter Gold Medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
A column by Giago challenging Republican Governor George Mickelson of South Dakota to proclaim 1990 a Year of Reconciliation to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee was accepted by the Governor and 1990 was proclaimed The Year of Reconciliation between Indians and whites.
That same year an editorial by Giago was read on the floor of the Sate Legislature by Lynn Hart, a half Lakota, half African American. The editorial called for the state to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. The legislators voted in favor of it and South Dakota became the only state in the union to celebrate Native American Day as a state holiday.
He has appeared on national television on shows such as Nightline and the Oprah Winfrey Show. He has also been featured in many magazines such as Newsweek and People Magazines. His weekly column, Notes from Indian Country, appears nationally and also appears in many South Dakota newspapers as well as in many Indian newspapers and on the websites of indianz.com, nativetimes.comand huffingtonpost.com.
Giago has lectured on Indian issues at many colleges and universities including Harvard, MIT, UCLA, University of Illinois, Boise State, Chadron State, Bacone College, Nebraska Indian Community College, Florida A&M, University of Colorado, Navajo Community College at Shiprock, NM, and Miami of Ohio University to name a few.
His weekly column is distributed by McClatchey News Service (formerly Knight Ridder) in Washington, DC.
He can be reached at 605-430-8217, email@example.com, or by writing him at Tim Giago, P.O. Box 9244, Rapid City, SD 57709.//--/
Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
September 29, 2014
When I observe American Indians being deliberately deleted from nearly every aspect of American history, I usually refer to the old Jewish adage that goes, “What are we, chopped liver?”
Let me be very frank with you today. As I sit writing this column as I have every Sunday for the past 34 years I am terribly frustrated at the total lack of understanding and basic ignorance that still exists about America’s first citizens.
First of all I don’t even want to get into what you non-Indians should call us, or even what many Indians want to be called. Everybody born in America is a Native American so we can’t claim exclusivity to that name. Our local newspaper uses the word “Native” when referring to us, but I always think of an old Hollywood movie where the white folks are sitting around a fire and they hear the drums beating and one says, “The Natives are restless tonight.”
Let me just introduce my own feelings by saying most of us old timers (elders) prefer to be called “Indian.” It is what we grew up with and we do not find it demeaning or insulting. We were born Indians and we will die Indians. Indios refers to God in Spanish and it is not a bad word.
Should the Nation’s oldest Indian organization, The National Congress of American Indians, change its name? What about the National Indian Education Association or the Indian Historical Society? Are these organization living dinosaurs to be kicked aside by political correctness?
There are those who will never understand why I, Suzanne Harjo, Vernon Bellecourt, Michael Haney and Charlene Teters fought against the use of Indians as mascots for America’s fun and games for more than 40 years. Can’t the average American understand that it is not an honor to have our culture stolen, mimicked and insulted by fanatical football and baseball fans? Bellecourt and Haney are dead now and Suzanne, Char and I are tired, really tired of fighting racism under the guise of ignorance. We are not, and have never been “Redskins.” Find yourself an Indian and walk up to him or her and say, “Hey, Redskin” and see how honored they are. And then stand back before you get punched.
Last week someone in Sioux Falls, South Dakota decided to enumerate all of the different languages spoken in that city. Low and behold when all of the more than 100 languages were itemized, the people for whom the state was named, the Dakota, and their cousins the Lakota and Nakota, were not included for having a different language. We are not out of sight, just out of mind.
It doesn’t end there. A headline in the Rapid City Journal reads; Leadership South Dakota prepares next wave. The lead sentence goes, “For South Dakota to thrive, its leaders need to understand what makes South Dakota unique.”
Forty one South Dakotans were selected for the South Dakota Leadership Program and of the 41, guess how many were Indians? If South Dakota is looking to thrive it should learn that a part of the uniqueness it hopes to retain, a big part as a matter of fact, are the American Indians that make up 15 percent of its population. I find this particularly galling because the average South Dakotan knows less about its largest minority than do the people of Germany.
Let me point out a few simple facts. All Indians are not rolling in money from gambling casinos. The poorest counties in America are still on the Indian reservations. No, we do not get monthly checks from the government and free college educations. What we do get free is the poorest health care of any American citizen and the worst educational system in America with the highest high school dropout rate of any race of people. As a race we have the highest rate of diabetes and the highest rate of alcoholism and drug addiction. While America is busy sending millions to fight diseases in Africa, Indians here in America are dying. Is that fair?
No, we do not still live in teepees, but teepees would probably be welcome to the thousands of homeless Indians.
The American Indian has never asked for a handout. All they have ever asked for is that America honor the treaties their ancestors signed in full faith. Perhaps those treaties were forged as a stop-gap for Manifest Destiny, but they are still sacred documents to the many Indian nations that signed them. If the United States would honor the treaties to the letter of the law, there would be no poverty in Indian country.
We are not feathered warriors racing across your movie screens nor are we mascots for your fun and games; we are human beings and all we ask is that you honor our treaties and give us back our human dignity.
Tim Giago is an Oglala Lakota born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He has been a newspaper publisher, journalist and columnist for more than 35 years. He was awarded the distinguished Nieman Fellowship to Harvard in 1990 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org