Tim Giago: The new year brings time for a couple of apologies

Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2012 Unity South Dakota

I have been writing a column nearly every week for 34 years. I started with a Montgomery Ward electric typewriter and graduated to a 1986 Apple Computer that was more of a word-processor than a computer. We had not reached the age of the Internet yet.

My staff at the old and original Lakota Times had to steal away in the middle of the night to get rid of my old typewriter and replace it with a computer. I was steaming mad and threatened to go out and buy another typewriter but by this time they were nearly obsolete and I couldn’t have bought one if I tried.

But my column this week is not to reminisce about the good old days, but to try in a humble way to make amends.

There are two people who meant a lot to me that I hurt in a couple of my columns. They were two of the most skilled journalists I have ever known and I have hated myself for writing about them in such a mean way.

I thought I was writing a tongue-in-cheek column about my longtime friend and fellow journalist Jerry Reynolds when he was writing for Indian Country Today even after I sold it to the Oneida Nation of New York.

I wrote about some of the silly things Jerry did when he worked for me at the Lakota Times (later Indian Country Today) when it was based in Martin, S. D. I did not consider that things I wrote about Jerry were funny to all of us at the newspaper simply because we were all there to share it with him but to write about some of Jerry’s idiosyncrasies for the consumption of the general public was wrong and hurtful to him and should have been kept in-house.

Jerry wasn’t just an employee at my newspaper; he was a true and trusted friend. In fact, after he moved to Washington, D. C. and continued to write for Indian Country Today after I sold it, we still continued our friendship. Whenever I was in Washington we always got together and had dinner. In fact he knew how much I liked the singer Julie London and he went out of his way to find me a great CD of some of her greatest hits.

Let it suffice to say that Jerry Reynolds was one of the greatest newspapermen that ever worked for me. He wasn’t afraid to delve into the deepest of stories and turn out articles that even got local banks fined by the U. S. Attorney for discriminating against Native Americans. There are times when some of my old employees and I get together and over a glass of beer recall some the funny things that happened at the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today and Jerry was usually right in the middle of them. But it was always in a good way that we remembered him because he did become a close friend to all of us.

So with the New Year still ahead, I express my sincerest apology to my old Kola (friend) Jerry Reynolds.

One of the finest journalists, reporters and managing editors I have known was Valerie Taliman. Valerie was Navajo and worked for me at Indian Country Today as managing editor in my Arizona branch of the newspaper. She was always a most professional journalist who looked at every angle of a story before she put her byline on it.

Several years ago I wrote a column in which I mentioned a personal part of her life that I had no right to do. We all do stupid things in our life and this was one of those stupid things I did that I wish I could have taken back as soon as it appeared in print.

I recall how hard Valerie worked at Indian Country Today. She was a terrific writer, but she also served as my managing editor at my Scottsdale, Arizona office. This gave her the added responsibility of managing all aspects of preparing the paper for publication. She worked with the writers, photographers and the business office and I did not have to worry at all about the newspaper since I spent much of my time in our South Dakota office. She also did a great job of story selection and the layout and design of the paper.

Two great people and two great journalists got the sharp point of my pen, one inadvertently and the other out of stupidity. There is no way to erase the words I wrote that hurt these wonderful people and all I can do is to offer a weak apology for the harm I did.

Jerry and Valerie will always be two of the greatest journalists I have ever known and I apologize and doff my hat to both of them in this New Year of 2012. Please forgive my ignorance my old friends.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is President of Unity South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1990. His weekly column won the H. L. Mencken Award in 1985. He was the founder of The Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, Lakota Journal and Native Sun News. He can be reached at UnitySoDak1@knology.net

More from Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Wounded Knee a day of infamy for Lakota people (12/29)
Tim Giago: He overheard daughter's prayer on Christmas Eve (12/19)
Tim Giago: SuAnne Big Crow's legacy lives on at Pine Ridge (12/12)
Tim Giago: 75th birthday of IRA met with silence among tribes (12/5)
Tim Giago: An outlook on election season for the coming year (11/28)
Tim Giago: 'The outside of a horse is good for inside of a man' (11/21)
Tim Giago: Reviving Native languages in face of technology (11/14)
Tim Giago: Former adversaries face terminal cancer ailments (11/7)
Tim Giago: Re-examining Christianity and indigenous beliefs (10/24)
Tim Giago: Many people trying to make it right at Pine Ridge (10/17)
Tim Giago: Reflecting on enigmatic AIM leader Russell Means (10/10)
Tim Giago: Include South Dakota tribes in the Buffalo Roundup (10/3)

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