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Tim Giago – Mentor of Native Journalists

On November 6, 2022, Jackie Giago was in Oklahoma City at the National Native American Hall of Fame. Resplendent in black and silver and with customary grace, she was there to acknowledge the induction of her late husband, Tim Giago into the National Native American Hall of Fame (NNAIF).

In 2022 Tim was one of a select group of tribal people recognized for the work of a lifetime. In his case, a ‘grandfather’ of Native journalism.

His many stellar accomplishments have been recognized by NNAIF. More importantly, they are now public record, something that his beloved Oglala and indeed, all Native people can be proud of.

This small column addresses another part of Tim’s legacy, not well known to others. That is many Native journalists whom he befriended, encouraged and continually challenged – “Write it like you know it; don’t be afraid to challenge tribal governments or to expose wrong- doing.  You live it on the ground. Tell those stories. Write to our people.”

Ever a businessman, Tim would not succumb to begging for money, developing a non-profit for he feared that might compromise reporting.  Journalism is not a highly paid profession, those writers paid when someone reads. He kept going until the end, sacrificing social security to keep Native Sun News Today going. In that way, he maintained independent voice.

As a founder of the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), he once counted the number of Natives making a living as journalists. In the 1980’s there were 104. He knew most of us personally. Many of those were struggling on reservations, barely surviving, yet challenging the status quo and urging justice for Native people.  Tim was always there for those hardy few, offering encouragement. After all, his fledging office at Pine Ridge was even fire-bombed because his opinions and writings were not favorable to certain Native groups.  He knew what many were up against.

The list of those he personally mentored would be too long for this article. One example is Ernestine Charging Horse, Cheyenne River Sioux. She was a housewife, making and selling Indian Tacos to make ends meet. Yet, she had time to send a letter to Native Sun News, duly published.

Tim saw a spark in Ernestine and encouraged her to write.  Because she had something to say – a unique perspective in American journalism. Now, a widely known Native journalist, Chasing Hawk has stepped into the traces to keep Native Sun News Today going.

Tim wanted that.

On behalf of the many tribal journalists whom he supported, I say Thank You Tim Giago.  You were our godfather, our inspiration, our support and sometimes our harshest critic.  That is how you kept us going.  We are proud to part of your legacy.

(Contact Clara Caufield at


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