A successful entrepreneur as well as a newsman, he founded The Lakota Journal, a weekly newspaper based in Rapid City, in 2000. Nine years later, he started Native Sun News Today, another Rapid City newspaper, which he owned with his subsequent wife, Jackie Giago, and wrote for until his death.
Timothy Antoine Giago Jr., a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, was born on July 12, 1934, in Kyle, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of seven children of Tim Sr., who worked in a store in nearby Porcupine, and Lupita Giago, a homemaker. His Oglala name was Nanwica Kcjii, which translates to “He stands up for them.”
Mr. Giago attended the University of Nevada, Reno, before he began writing a column on Indian affairs for The Rapid City Journal in 1979, becoming the first regular American Indian voice in a South Dakota newspaper. The following year he was hired as a full-time reporter at the paper before striking out on his own.
With no precedent for a plucky, pugnacious reservation newspaper, Lakota Times was thought to have little chance of success. “Some people said, ‘I’m only going to take out a six-month subscription, because I don’t expect you to be around much longer than that,” Doris Giago recalled.
But the newspaper filled a void for Pine Ridge citizens.
“It was often the only way they could get information about what was going on,” said Rhonda LeValdo, a former president of NAJA who now teaches journalism at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan. “For us as Native people, our issues were rarely talked about in mainstream news unless it was about something affecting non-Natives.”
Under Mr. Giago’s leadership, the newspaper published investigative articles that “caused banks to be fined and rip-offs of the tribal government to be halted,” he wrote in the Nieman newsletter, Nieman Reports. In 1990, he spearheaded a successful campaign to get South Dakota to rename Pioneer Day, celebrated on Columbus Day, to Native American Day.