For years I was under the impression that the old and original Lakota Times was first published on July 1, 1981. Faulty memory? I was looking through the archives of my newspapers past and was surprised to see that Volume 1, Issue 1 of the Lakota Times was dated July 9, 1981.
Perhaps in those first few months when we were sweeping out and doing repairs to the old beauty parlor we eventually turned in to the office of the first Lakota Times took a toll on us because we were jumping into a business venture none of us had ever tried before.
My old schoolmate from Holy Rosary Mission, Melvin “Dickey” Brewer was out and about the old border towns of Rushville, Gordon and Chadron, Nebraska trying to scrape up advertisements for a newspaper that had not been published yet and the Marist Brother Scotty was working trying to renovate an old clothes closet and storage room into a dark room which meant putting in a sink and faucets.The newspaper machine of note in 1981 was the Compugraphic Machine. It was a machine where our very first typesetter, Mary Irving, typed out the copy on film strips. The strips came out and were cut with a pair of scissors to fit on the grid sheets. The grid sheets were laid over the top of what we called “light tables” which were made of glass and light bulbs installed under the glass so that when the grid sheets were placed on top of the layout tables you could see through them and better able to follow the lines on the sheets in order to paste your copy.
After Mary brought us the copy we ran it through a wax roller that applied a light coat of wax to the film strip and we then laid it on the grid sheet, lined it up and then packed it down with a plastic roller. It was only after the copy was laid out that Mary typed out a larger font for the headlines which were waxed and applied separately from the copy. We left exact spaces between the lines in the copy for our photographs. Brother Scotty developed the photos and put the dots in them so that they could be reproduced by our printer. None of this would have been possible without the support of an 81 year old lady named “Pug” and her assistant Joyce who worked across the border in Nebraska at the Sheridan County Star. While we were waiting for the arrival of our Compugraphic Machine, grid sheets, dark room equipment and other supplies and fixtures we went across the border and asked “Pug” if she would educate us. She said, “I know you will be competing against me for stories and advertising in the future, but Pine Ridge needs a newspaper just like we do.” All of her equipment was at our disposable along with the education they gave us.
That is how the first edition of the Lakota Times was assembled at the Sheridan Country Star in Nebraska. By the time our equipment arrived we had learned enough from Pug and Joyce to put together our own newspaper. We took the boxes of copy across the border to Chadron and they printed our first copies of the Lakota Times. Some folks thought we chose the name Times because of the New York Times. Not so! I was a great admirer of Loren Tapahe, then the publisher of the Navajo Times, and his paper, which was founded in 1967. Their founders took the name of the people, Navajo, added Times to it after the New York Times, and it became the Navajo Times. I took the name of our people, Lakota, and named the paper the Lakota Times after the Navajo Times. Up in Alaska there was a great Indian newspaper called the Tundra Times and we learned from them also.
In looking at the early Lakota Times I noticed few if any of the stories had “bylines.” It puzzled me until I remembered that I wrote the entire paper by myself and I thought at the time that it would be overreaching to see my byline on every story in the paper including sports.
Mary Irving, Pug, Joyce, Brother Scotty, Doris Giago, and Dickie Brewer and I struggled and sweated that first week in July of 1981. Finally I took that box of copy to the Chadron Record, hand it to the publisher and sat back and hoped. The paper came off of the presses and to me and the crew it was like a miracle. I loaded the papers into my pickup and set out across the Pine Ridge Reservation to every store and gas station delivering the first issue of the Lakota Times.
It was getting dark when I drove back into Pine Ridge Village with an empty truck. As I pulled into town I saw on a bench across from the Sioux Nation Shopping Center, two elderly Lakota men and each of them held a copy of the Lakota Times in front of them.
I let out a “whoop” and relaxed for the first time in weeks. The newspaper would succeed, I knew. The date was July 9, 1981.
(Contact Tim Giago at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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