Have any regular readers of the news stories on Indianz.com noticed that a fellow named Charles Trimble seems to have a vendetta against me?
He is even riled because I am starting another South Dakota state-wide Indian newspaper. When I announced this last week the outpouring of emails and phone calls from friends and former subscribers was astounding. So many readers said “congratulations” and “welcome back.” I am so sorry that Trimble takes my new venture as a threat to himself, but if he has noticed, I seldom, if ever respond to his vitriolic comments because I still believe in the old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”
For those who do not know me and assume that I am getting a government loan to start my newspaper they would be wrong. I am starting the paper with my life’s savings and whether it fails or succeeds will depend upon the support of the Native American readers and subscribers. I just feel that there is a great need for a good Indian newspaper and to be honest, I do miss the excitement of meeting the demands of a weekly deadline.
I started my first newspaper, The Lakota Times, nearly 30 years ago, on the Pine Ridge Reservation when interest rates at the border town banks hovered at 20 percent. The U. S. Census Bureau had just come out and it had named Shannon County, the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation, as the “poorest country in America.” People back then said the paper would never fly, but it did and it soon became the largest, independently owned Indian newspaper in the United States.
I recall vividly the day my friend and former classmate at Holy Rosary Indian Mission, Gabby Brewer, came into my new office and bought a paper. He said, jokingly I think, “I would take out a one year subscription but I don’t think you will last one year.” Later he did tell me he was joking and he did take out a one year subscription. He said, “The reason I said that the first time was because so many businesses on the Pine Ridge Reservation never succeed.”
The Lakota Times was started on a shoestring. I went to the border town banks and I was told I would have to have collateral to get a loan. I had nothing to offer. Another of my old classmates from Holy Rosary Mission stopped by to see me. Melvin “Dickey” Brewer had been one of the people who called me when I was a reporter at the Rapid City Journal and asked me to think about starting a newspaper on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Dickey said it was badly needed. I told him about the problems with the Nebraska banks in getting a loan. Dickey said he knew the loan manager at the bank in Rushville, Nebraska and he knew he was a collector of antique cars. Dickey offered to put up his 1946 “cherry conditioned” Plymouth as collateral.
The loan officer practically salivated when he looked over Dickey’s antique car. He made us a loan of $4,000.00 and that is what we used to start the Lakota Times. I say we because Dickey became my partner and also my advertising sales manager. My wife Doris Brewer Giago became my office manager and Mary Irving my typesetter. A little monk from the Marist Brothers retreat near Oglala became my photographer and darkroom guy. His name was Brother Scotty and he became a close friend and adviser.
Charles Trimble should know that this was a first for me and my crew. We weren’t professional editors or publishers and along the way we made mistakes. Anything brand new has to start off as a learning experience.
In our first year the windows in our newspaper office were blasted out with guns three times. A few days before Christmas in our first year the newspaper office was firebombed. One night as I left the office after putting the paper to bed a bullet whizzed through my windshield missing my head by inches. The telephone at my house and at the newspaper would ring and when we answered there would be threats of death against me, my wife and my children.
But in the face of all of this, my staff stood strongly behind me and we took an impossible situation and turned it into a story of success. If anyone picks up a copy of Indian Country Today now, they will be holding in their hands a newspaper that started out on the Pine Ridge Reservation and has a rich history behind it.
My former wife Doris is now a professor of journalism at South Dakota State University. Mary Irving lived in San Francisco for a short while and is now home at Pine Ridge. Dickey Brewer worked in Arizona for awhile but he is now back in Pine Ridge and working hard for his people. I do not know what happened to Brother Scotty so if anyone knows please let me know.
Let me conclude by saying that I have no hostility towards Charles Trimble and whatever it is that causes him to be so caustic toward me is troubling. I hope that someday he gets over it and moves on, and in the meantime, I hope that I have learned from all of my past mistakes in the field of journalism and I also will move on with high hopes of bringing my readers and subscribers the best Indian newspaper in America.
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was the founder and publisher of Indian Country Today, the Lakota Times, and the Lakota Journal. He is now the publisher of the Native Sun News and can be reached at email@example.com.
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