Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

July 25, 2022

Lakota Publisher Tim Giago: Journey Well My Friend

Lakota Publisher Tim Giago: Journey Well My Friend 

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

It is with sadness we share the news of the passing of Tim Giago.

As publisher of Indian Country Today, he gave me a great opportunity to travel with the Zapatistas. During all the years that I worked for him as a reporter at Lakota Times and Indian Country Today, we didn't talk much.

Tim left me alone to cover the news. He gave me the open road, from Big Mountain to the border and beyond. Tim never censored me.

While I was posting articles on Censored News yesterday, I thought, Tim would like these. Tim passed this morning, may his journey be a good one on that vast open road.

Tim had great insight into the news.

Tim encouraged us to write what people didn't want to hear, and encouraged us to go where other reporters didn't want to go. Editor Avis Little Eagle exposed fake medicine in a powerful unforgettable series.

Looking back now through the archives, I see the articles he published about protecting the environment in the early 1990s, when few people wanted to hear about protecting the environment. He had that wonderful sense of knowing what was coming, and he published it in the new Indian Country Today. On those pages, were our heart songs, pieces of our hearts, and we wrote the stories of the good hearts.

Jose Matus, Yaqui Ceremonial Leader, with Zapatistas in
mountains of Chiapas. Photo by Brenda Norrell 1995.

Tim, and our editor in Scottsdale at the time, Monty Ecoffey of Wounded Knee, who died too soon, made it possible for me to travel to Chiapas, the first of many journeys, with the Zapatistas. The Indigenous delegation from the north arrived as human shields to prevent the assassinations of Zapatistas by the Mexican military. Matus, who traveled south to the Yoeme villages in Sonora for more than 30 years, and made the difficult border crossings to bring the Deer Dancers and medicine people north for ceremonies, eventually released his spirit from this world.

Tim never liked people bending the truth.

The current Indian Country Today is not the newspaper that Tim created. The sale to the Oneida Nation in New York in 1998 was not amicable and was followed by the threat of a lawsuit by the Oneida Nation's attorneys.

The newspaper Indian Country Today was dormant for a while, then owned by the National Congress of American Indians, and now has new owners.

Giago always required his reporters to be foot soldiers, dog soldiers fighting to the end for truth, and present in the community. After the sale of the newspaper, the pattern was to hire stay-at-home re-writers who seldom left their homes. They plagiarized or re-wrote others' work, sometimes added a phone call interview to deceive readers into believing they were out covering the news and topped it off with a stolen photo from the web. This became the pattern of producing the news.

One of the facts that Tim encouraged me to write more about was this: When Indian Country Today fired me they offered me hush money. It was less than $3,000 to keep quiet. Of course, I didn't accept it. In fact, when the offer arrived in writing, I had already begun to expose ICT and the censorship of some of the most powerful voices in Indian country.

The new ICT owners in New York censored Buffy Sainte Marie describing how she was blacklisted out of the music business by President Johnson because of her stance against the Vietnam War. They censored Louise Benally of Big Mountain comparing the war in Iraq to the death march of the Longest Walk -- as the bombs fell on Baghdad. They censored Kat Bahe describing the oil and gas drilling destruction at Dinetah. They censored Lenny Foster describing Leonard Peltier's struggle in prison. They censored San Carlos Apache on water rights.

When I started to investigate the Raytheon Missile factory on the commercial Navajo farm, the editors forbid me to even research it. (They were involved in an attempt to sell farm products to Cuba which failed.) They forbid me to write about the fact that the Navajo farm was using genetically modified seeds of Monsanto, which was stated on its website. The article that I wrote on the profiteering from Tamiflu was so badly twisted by the editors that it was a promotion for the drug.

Even when I insisted that the articles be corrected and uncensored, the editors refused. As a result, I created Censored News.

On injustice, genocide and boarding schools, Tim's words were a razor.

Tim Giago wrote:

Adolph Hitler was not quite 2 years old when this editorial written on Jan. 6, 1891 appeared in the Aberdeen SD Pioneer. The editorial called for the genocide of the Lakota people.

“The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.”

The editorial was written by L. Frank Baum, just 6 days after the bloody massacre at Wounded Knee of Lakota men, women, children and even babies. He would go on to write a children’s book called The Wizard of Oz. Hitler was vilified for calling for the annihilation of the Jews, while Baum is honored for calling for the annihilation of the Lakota people. Wrap your head around that.

In January, Tim wrote, 'An era of shame: The boarding schools'

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up For Them or Defender)

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION - Holy Rosary Indian Mission, or Red Cloud Indian School as it now calls itself, is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

It seems that the former Holy Rosary Indian Mission boarding school is feeling pangs of guilt and is undertaking what it calls “Truth and Healing.” The school now wants to hear the stories of former students and open its archives and face its past. Read on but please understand that some of the stories of former students are very graphic. Read with caution. And for the staff at Red Cloud, put these stories in your files.
Read article:

About the author
Brenda Norrell has been a reporter in Indian country for 40 years. Norrell became a journalist at Navajo Times during the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation. She was a freelance reporter for Associated Press, USA Today and Lakota Times. After serving as a longtime reporter for Indian Country Today, she was censored and terminated in 2006 and created Censored News. She has a master's degree in international health focused on water, nutrition and infectious diseases.

Copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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