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2018-02-08 / Voices

Native Sun News Tries To Deflect Criticism Of Giago’s Massacre Site Development Plans

BY JIM KENT
FREELANCE WRITER & RADIO PRODUCER

Late last year I was asked by the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre Descendants Society to attend a meeting they were having to discuss concerns over protecting the massacre site, the mass grave of those who died there and the general surrounding area from development.

Of particular concern to the group were plans by newspaper publisher Tim Giago to establish tourist attractions in that location.

This request from the Descendants Society was nothing new. Nor was my agreement to attend.

I’ve been accepting invitations to events and requests to cover issues in “Indian Country” since my arrival to South Dakota in 1999.

Beginning with Elaine Quiver, who invited me to meet the elders of the Grey Eagle Society and then asked me to “tell the story of our people wherever you can”, to Johnson Holy Rock, who reminded me that sharing even one small piece of information that was the truth about the Lakota was a step in the right direction, I’ve been following the path these people asked me to follow and that was laid out before me.

I’ve never written about Indian Country exclusively, but most of the 5,000 or so stories published or aired with my name in the byline have focused on Native Americans, generally the Lakota.

Of course, one of the gambles you take by covering what are frequently controversial topics, as I do, is that you make enemies. That’s life.

Growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, as I did, one gets used to encountering people who don’t like you – sometimes for no particular reason, sometimes because, in some way, shape or form, they consider you a threat.

Such was the case with my coverage of the Descendants Society, their criticism of Tim Giago and his proposed development in the Wounded Knee area, and my accompanying column on the issue.

Rather than respond to the criticism, especially the descendants’ concern that Giago had failed to consult with them prior to announcing his plans for a Wounded Knee tourist complex, “the Editorial Board” of Giago’s newspaper wrote a column (how many people does it take write a column?) lambasting me and Marty Two Bulls – the Lakota artist who created an editorial cartoon to accompany my story and commentary.

You know, the way #45’s various press secretaries babble on in an attempt to defend his actions by bringing up issues that have nothing to do with the topic at hand - and are, generally, inaccurate - while lambasting members of the press for bringing up the issue in the first place.

I also received an e-mail from someone identifying himself as Giago’s nephew. Obviously upset that he felt his uncle was being picked on, he advised me that the publisher has only been able to raise $5 in his efforts to fund his Wounded Knee project. He also noted that Giago is 83 – which, in my mind, means he’s old enough to be aware of the responsibilities involved in the traditions of Lakota consultation and consensus.

But this is what happens when a man sells the largest national Native American newspaper in the country – as Giago did back in the ‘90s, and is never able to achieve that same status in the publishing world again. After all, his current (or last) publishing venture – Native Sun News – has a meager Facebook following of 29,000 compared to the publication his “Editorial Board” considers their nearest rival – the Lakota Country Times, which has over 300,000.

I can’t speak for Marty Two Bulls other than to say I’ve known him for years, stood beside him in a battle against an actor named Costner who was trying to build a golf course on sacred Lakota land (how synchronistic) and respect him as a person and as an artist.

As for myself, I won’t bother defending my reputation as a writer and radio producer against people who don’t know me, such as the Native Sun News “Editorial Board”.

Instead, I’ll quote a message that was written to me in 1999, while I was editor of “The New Lakota Times”: “Jim – Wakan Tanka smiled on Michele, Christy & Terri (the newspaper’s administrators) when you came into their lives. For them, and for the Lakota people, you are a Godsend. Continue to learn and to teach! Best always.”

The note is signed: “Tim Giago”.

Jim Kent is a freelance writer and radio producer who lives in Hot Springs. He is a contributing columnist to the Lakota Country Times and former editor of The New Lakota Times. He can be heard on National Public Radio and National Native News Radio. Jim can be reached at kentvfte@gwtc.net.

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