Charles “Chuck” Trimble, 1935-2020. Courtesy photo

Tim Giago: Charles Trimble's passing leaves a big hole in the world of Native journalism

Notes from Indian Country
His passing leaves a big hole in the world of Native journalism

When Charles Trimble first showed up at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission Boarding School on the Pine Ridge Reservation he was dropped off by his mother.

At the beginning of every school year some of the HRM veterans would stand in front of Red Cloud Hall and scrutinize the new students. The first question asked of Charles by some of the older boys was, “Where are you from?” Charles was about six years old at the time and when he told us he was from “Wanbli” it sounded to us like “Wobbie.” Wanbli is one of the communities on the reservation.

“Wobbie” became his nickname from then on. Even when he became “Chuck” Trimble, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, his old friends still called him “Wobbie.”

I was working for Cleveland Neiss at the American Indian Business Association in the 1970s when Chuck stopped by the office. Of course everybody was excited about his visit because he was a VIP to all of us. One Lakota man who knew Chuck from the boarding school said, “Hi Wobbie.” He then caught himself and said, “Sorry Chuck.” Of course Trimble was not offended. He said, “That’s alright, I will always be Wobbie to my friends.

Charles “Chuck” Trimble throughout the years. Courtesy photos

In the 1940s Wobbie and his mother moved to Rapid City. His mother, ironically, got a job at the Virginia Café. I say ironically because my mother was also working there. They had rented a small, wooden shack off of Osh Kosh Street, a place that was now called “Osh Kosh Camp” by the white folks. In fact on some Saturday nights, when the white boys had too many beers, they would find great sport in driving by Osh Kosh Camp and throwing empty beer bottles at the wooden shacks.

One summer day I stopped by the Camp and got Chuck and we walked downtown to check out the sights. As we were walking by the famous Alex Johnson Hotel we were fascinated by the revolving door. We sort of looked at each other, shrugged and dared each other to try out the revolving door. We made it inside of the hotel when the doorman grabbed both of us by the collar of our shirts. He kicked us and threw us out into the street shouting, “Get out of here you dirty little Indians.”

That was a memory neither of us ever forgot. In fact the day that Chuck stopped by the AIBA office we decided to go to the Alex Johnson and walk through those revolving doors as adults, walk up to the bar and have a beer. And that is what we did. The doorman tipped his hat to us as we walked in.

We sort of followed in each other’s footsteps over the years. Chuck formed the American Indian Press Association in the 1970s and ran it for two years until it ran out of funds. In the 1980s I founded the Native American Press Association and invited Chuck to one of our first organizational meetings to speak to us.

We attended Holy Rosary Mission together through elementary and high school. Chuck was a great fan of the West Point football team and I was a fan of Notre Dame. We had our spats over which team was the best and they were both great teams in the 1940s. It is ironic that we both pursued careers in journalism. Chuck went on to Washington and ran the NCAI and I stayed on the Pine Ridge Reservation and started a newspaper, but we never lost touch with each other.

Oftentimes he would blow his stack over something I wrote especially if it was about the Holy Rosary Mission Boarding School. He thought highly of the school and I detested it. I made sure I included Chuck in my book “Children Left Behind,” a book about the boarding school. I admit he wasn’t too happy about it. But we still remained friends.

Charles “Wobbie” Trimble passed away this week and his passing has left a big hole in the field of Native American journalism.

For two “dirty little Indian boys” who were kicked out into the streets of Rapid City for having the audacity to walk through a revolving door, we both survived and made good lives for ourselves and we both hope that we made a strong contribution to Native American journalism.

“Wobbie” my kola, you will be missed.

A photo from the 1940s shows Tim Giago, fifth from left, at the Holy Rosary Mission school on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Charles Trimble, fifth from left on second row, is seated directly behind Tim. "Great photo of us as kids," said Giago.


Tim Giago is the Publisher of Native Sun News Today. He is a former Nieman Fellow with the Class of 1991 and the recipient of many journalism awards including the H. L. Mencken Award. He can be reached at najournalist1@gmail.com

Note: Content copyright © Tim Giago

Join the Conversation
Advertisement
Tags
Trending in News
More Headlines