National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby. Photo: NCAI

Oneida Nation donates assets of Indian Country Today Media Network to tribal organization

The defunct Indian Country Today Media Network will remain in Indian Country's hands thanks to the Oneida Nation.

The tribe is donating the assets of the operation to the National Congress of American Indians, the largest inter-tribal organization in the United States. The development breathes new life into the media outlet, which announced an indefinite "hiatus" barely a month ago.

“NCAI’s executive officers and I are humbled by this donation from ICTMN and the Oneida Indian Nation,” NCAI President Brian Cladoosby said in a press release on Wednesday. “Their love for Indian Country carries through their every word and has inspired our tribal communities to tell their own stories. This is an immense responsibility; NCAI will approach this responsibility thoughtfully and deliberately with an eye towards strengthening Indian Country’s voice.”

Tim Giago, a legendary journalist from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, started the operation in 1981 as a weekly newspaper in South Dakota called The Lakota Times. He changed the outlet's name to Indian Country Today in 1992 to reflect its national focus, according to Wikipedia.

The Oneida Nation purchased ICT, as it was widely known at the time, in 1998 and continued to operate it as a weekly paper. But by 2013, it had transitioned to a mostly online operation, having adopted the "Media Network" moniker.

The print version of the paper became a monthly magazine and, eventually, a bimonthly, whose third and final issue came out in September. The tribe has said it was unable to maintain the operation due to "enormous" and "unsustainable" costs -- a former editor linked ICT's demise to the expansion of non-Indian gaming in New York in a report on Voice of America.

Throughout the turmoil, Giago has remained in the media business -- he started Native Sun News Today, a weekly paper, and reached out to the tribe in hopes of reacquiring the "Indian Country Today" name. But he said he didn't hear back in a recent opinion piece.

"We are very happy to be able to donate ICTMN’s assets to NCAI – an organization whose entire mission is to advocate for tribal sovereignty and treaty rights and advance a common understanding of who Native nations and peoples are today,” Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in the press release.

NCAI plans to hold meetings with "key stakeholders over the next several months" to determine the future of Indian Country Today Media Network, executive director Jackie Pata said. In the Voice of America report, the former editor said the operation would require an annual investment of $2.5 million to $3 million to keep going.

The announcement comes as NCAI prepares for its 74th annual convention. The event takes place October 15 through October 20 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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