The first I ever heard of Professor William I. Dulaney was in 1983 when I received a letter -- it was not known as snail-mail back then -- saying that he had been reading my newspaper, Lakota Times, and he wanted to talk to me about a couple of things that perhaps, we could work on together.
After several phone discussions we came up with the idea of forming a Native American newspaper association of some kind. We found an ally in a Navajo gentleman named Loren Tapahe. Loren was the publisher of the Navajo Times, a weekly newspaper that served the people of the largest Indian reservation in America.
Of course, it was not the Navajo reservation any longer because a progressive tribal chairman by the name of Peter MacDonald had decided that his land was not a reservation, but was indeed a nation.
Tapahe was a newspaperman through and through. He loved newspapers and had transformed the Navajo Times into one of the truly great Indian newspapers in America. I also was a great admirer of the Navajo Times and when I founded my own newspaper on the Pine Ridge Reservation, I adopted the word 'Times.' Because the Navajo Times used the name of its people preceding the word 'Times,' I chose the name Lakota Times after my people, the Lakota.
Professor Dulaney; Tapahe, my managing editor Adrian Louis, a Paiute Indian from Nevada; and I formed the core of the group that would reach out to any and all of the Indian newspaper editors in America in hopes of organizing a group of newspapers into a national organization. Professor Dulaney and I raised enough money through the Gannett Foundation (now the Freedom Forum) to hold our initial meeting on the campus of Penn State University.
At our second meeting on the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma we named the newly formed organization the Native American Press Association, a name that was changed to Native American Journalists Association at the urging of Allen Neuharth, head of the Gannett Newspaper Group and of the Gannett Foundation. Neuharth had stepped forward and was the first to extend financial assistance to us. The only thing Neuharth and I had in common was that we were both from the state of South Dakota and we both loved the newspaper business dearly.
Standing quietly on the sidelines with advice and encouragement through all of this was Professor Bill Dulaney. My respect and admiration for Bill grew and grew over the ensuing years. His love for the Native American press also grew the more he met with us and we shared our mutual experiences. When we presented him with a star quilt at our second annual convention in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1985, a beautiful Indian designed quilt which we draped over his shoulders, he cried unashamedly.
Bill and I have stayed in touch for most of the 27 years I have known him. He came out to South Dakota and spent time with me and my family on the Pine Ridge Reservation and while he was at it, he became a professor of journalism once more and set up a classroom for my young staff of Lakota writers.
I learned a few years ago that Bill has cancer and he is now fighting for his life. I urged NAJA to honor him in some fashion and two years ago they gave him a plaque that he treasures. Nearly four years ago Bill subscribed to a newspaper I had just started called Native Sun News. He took out a six-month subscription because he did not expect to live much longer than that. He has since been proven wrong because the next year he took out a one-year subscription and he has been renewing that subscription every year since 2009. He claims the paper is better than his daily newspaper in Jacksonville, Fla. He always knew how to make me feel good.
Professor Dulaney is now in his mid-80s and the one thing he always wanted since getting to know so many Native American newspaper editors, publishers and journalists was to have an Indian name, preferably a Lakota name.
Last week he was given the name "Waonspekiye" at a ceremony held for him on the Pine Ridge Reservation. His new Lakota name means "Teacher" and that is what Professor Dulaney has been to so many Native American journalists over the past 27 years. We bonded on the Choctaw Nation in 1984 when Bill, Loren and I went jogging while Adrian Louis was out chasing armadillos.
Many years ago my daughter Marie -- I think she was about 4 years old at the time -- described Profesoor Dulaney as "that man who wears a short coat and has no hair." Her description of the outer man was pretty accurate, but she never saw his inner beauty which consisted of a heart big enough to fill a house, a passion for newspapers and journalism, and a deep love for the Native American journalists who became his lifelong friends.
May his remaining days be spent doing the things he loves and reading the newspapers that bring him such joy.
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is President of Unity South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1990. His weekly column won the H. L. Mencken Award in 1985. He was the founder of The Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, Lakota Journal and Native Sun News. He can be reached at UnitySoDak1@knology.net