Tim Giago, left, is shown with the late Gov. George Mickelson in 1990. Giago lobbied the governor to proclaim 1990 a year of peace between Indians and Whites in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre. Giago also lobbied the governor to change Columbus Day to Native American Day. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today.

Tim Giago: South Dakota governor remains ignorant of state's Indian history

Notes from Indian Country

Sending the Governor back to school
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up for Them)

I continue to be appalled at the apparent ignorance of South Dakota's Gov. Dennis Daugaard when it comes to the thousands of Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota living within the borders of the state he governs.

A couple of weeks ago the governor wrote a column about the annual Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park and mentioned in passing that there used to be millions of buffalo roaming the plains and suddenly they just diminished in numbers.

The fact that the United States Government put a hefty bounty on the heads of the buffalo in order to kill them off as rapidly as possible so that the Native Americans dependent upon them for food, shelter, clothing and tools, would starve to death never entered the governor’s mind. The fact that his own government paid out millions of dollars to ensure the extermination of the vast buffalo herds in order to kill of a race of people, or better yet to starve them into submission was apparently never taught in the schools Daugaard attended.

The governor wasn’t content with this bit of buffoonery so the next column he wrote was titled, “Native American Day cause for celebration” and then he went on to further display his apparent ignorance, this time on contemporary Indian history.

According to Daugaard Native American Day came about at the urging of Gov. George Mickelson as part of the Year of Reconciliation. And how did the Year of Reconciliation come about? After I wrote an editorial challenging Gov. Mickelson to proclaim a Year of Reconciliation. And why did I do this?

As I told the hundreds of Native Americans gathered at Memorial Park following the Native American Day Parade on Saturday: Because 1990 was the 100th Anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee and South Dakota had to do something really powerful to honor those 300 men, women and children slaughtered there on December 29, 1890.

Somehow how this all happened loses something in translation to the governor and the South Dakota mainstream media. First off it took a forward thinking and courageous governor to accept my challenge and to act on it. It also took a courageous South Dakota State Legislator to introduce the bill and to vote yes on it.

But none of it would have happened if a Native American editor and a Native American newspaper had not wanted to do something to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Wounded Knee and pushed the governor to adopt the idea.

Daugaard mentions in his column that Gov. Mickelson and OST President Harold Salway were at the Crazy Horse Memorial to accept plaques, but fails to mention that I was also there so that Mickelson and I together could announce the Year of Reconciliation and Native American Day. I still have the plaque to prove it.

When Gov. Mickelson and I discussed when and where we should hold the announcement I recommended it be held at Crazy Horse Memorial because I believed that Ruth Ziolkowski would be more than happy to host it. And she was a gracious host that day.

Let me just add that Gov. Daugaard was not at Crazy Horse Memorial that day so his retelling of what happened there that day is visibly lacking in candor and accuracy.

I have a copy of Gov. Mickelson’s book talking about how he and I collaborated on the Year of Reconciliation and Native American Day and I would be happy to send it to Gov. Daugaard to further educate him on the topic.

In the meantime Gov. Daugaard if you are going to continue to write columns about the Native Americans of South Dakota please educate yourself on the topic.

Contact Tim Giago at najournalist1@gmail.com. Giago was the founder of the Native American Journalists Association and the initiator of Native American Day and the Year of Reconciliation in the State of South Dakota.