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Tim Giago: Signing off after more than 30 years of columns

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: media, south dakota, tim giago

Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Unity South Dakota

We all, eventually, reach that point in our lives when it is time to move on.

For more than 30 years I have spent each Sunday morning listening to National Public Radio with a piping cup of coffee at hand while I racked my brain to turn out an interesting and meaningful weekly column. And then all of a sudden what used to be a column is now a blog. It is then that I realize how fast the world has turned and what was new yesterday is now blurred by the swift acting technology that changes, it seems, by the hour.

I think there is some truth in the saying that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Try as I might to adjust to the rapidity of change in life and technology they still tend to overwhelm me. I don’t have a Kindle or a Nook even though it appears that these are the devices that will replace books. I still enjoy sitting in a comfortable chair with a cup of hot tea reading a good book. As I am now at the end of my life, I believe I shall continue to do things the old fashioned way because this is the joy I have remaining.

News never stops happening and as a former newspaper publisher I know that people make news whether it is at night or on a holiday and it is the job of a newspaper reporter to be out there and to get the facts for the readers. But in today’s world news comes at you from so many directions and in such varied formats that at times it can be stifling.

When I take my son Tim to lunch he is on his cell phone reading the news to me almost as fast as it occurs. News seems to come in sound bites and snippets. Newspapers all over America are going head to head with this ever changing technology and surprisingly some are not only surviving, but growing and winning. I guess there are folks out there that still believe in getting their news the old fashioned way.

I have often wondered what I would write about when I sat down to write my last column. For more than 30 years I have glimpsed the world of Indian country as it ebbed and flowed. And I have attempted to capture those changes in my weekly columns and in the pages of the newspapers I have been honored to publish.

Over the years there has been a balance of good news to bad news. I have written about triumphs and tragedies. I have written about high expectations and sad disappointments. My columns have at times been praised or torn apart with scorn. In any event, I have always maintained the courage of my convictions. I have written about topics the main stream media never covers with high hopes of giving them a lead to do so.

A column I wrote in 1985 about Christmas on the Pine Ridge Reservation won the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s Best Column of the Year Award and then went on to win the H. L. Mencken Award from the Baltimore Sun.

I know there is one person who will miss my weekly columns. His name is Bill Dulaney and he is a retired professor of journalism from Penn State. In my last conversation with Bill he told me that his battle with cancer is about over. The cancer has now gone to his brain and that brilliant instrument that guided him through a career in journalism is about to grow dim. In 1983 Bill and I put our heads together and came up with the idea of a Native American Journalists Association to emulate the other great minority journalist associations. We succeeded in this endeavor with the support and guidance of Allen Neuharth, then the head of the Gannett Foundation. Twenty nine years later the association is still strong and viable.

It was never a challenge to find material every week because there was always something either good or bad happening in Indian country. In fact there were times when I had to sort through the material offered in order to choose the subject I thought to be the most tantalizing.

But I believe that one of the most important things my weekly column accomplished was to take on the closed media in South Dakota in the 1980s and cause them to open their news pages to more positive news concerning Native Americans in their state. I wrote at the time that South Dakota was like the proverbial mule: you had to hit it between the eyes with a two-by-four in order to get its attention.

My columns and my newspapers earned me a seat on the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame and on the South Dakota Hall of Fame. Not bad for a little Indian boy from Kyle on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

To those who have read my columns for more than 30 years I say “wopila” (Thank you) for your faithful support and guidance. 30 used to be the sign off sign for ending a column or a news story. This column is my 30.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He was inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2007. He can be reached at

More from Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Separating the mixed-bloods from the full bloods (2/4)
Tim Giago: Was the Indian Reorganization Act good or bad? (1/28)
Tim Giago: Eulogies for three great leaders in Indian Country (1/21)
Tim Giago: The destruction of Wounded Knee by AIM in 1973 (1/14)
Tim Giago: 'Wiping away the tears' after Wounded Knee 1890 (12/31)
Tim Giago: Incompetence overwhelms at Bureau of Indian Affairs (1/7)

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