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Indian Country Today founder Tim Giago dies at 88

Tim Giago in a 2017 photo from his Facebook page. (Photo Talli Nauman)

Stalwart newspaperman Tim Giago (Oglala Lakota) died July 24 in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was 88. Doris Giago, his former wife, told Indian Country Today that he succumbed to complications from cancer and diabetes.

Giago founded the Lakota Times newspaper in 1981 with Doris Giago. It was based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota where he grew up and was considered the first independently owned Native American newspaper in the U.S.

In 1983, Giago organized dozens of Native journalists and formed the Native American Press Association, which later became the Native American Journalists Association. He was NAJA’s cofounder and served as its first president. In 1985, Giago was the recipient of a prestigious H. L Mencken award for editorial writing.

“He paved the way for countless journalists, bringing the hard-hitting Native American issues to light, [and] helping [to] change policies at a local, state and national level,” his wife Jackie Giago, said on a GoFundMe page she recently set up to help with expenses after he underwent surgery.

Giago moved the Lakota Times to Rapid City in 1989 and changed the name to Indian Country Today. He was also the owner and publisher of Native Sun News Today, where he continued to work as editor emeritus until weeks before his death, according to an Indian Country Today report.

Giago would eventually sell Indian Country Today to accept a Nieman Fellowship in journalism at Harvard University. In 1994, he was inducted into the South Dakota newspaper hall of fame. In all, Giago was involved in founding seven Native American newspapers or magazines over a 40-year span.

The U.S. Navy veteran was also known for being outspoken about abuses that took place at Indian boarding schools. He wrote extensively about his time as a student at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission, now the Red Cloud Indian School, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In his 2006 book “Children Left Behind: The Dark Legacy of Indian Mission Boarding Schools,” he wrote about his time at the school.

For Indian Country Today’s full report on Giago, go to or click here.