THE BLOG
07/31/2016 03:43 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2017

When a Native American Newspaper Gains its Independence

Notes from Indian Country

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji - Stands Up For Them)

The Navajo Times was founded in 1967 as a newspaper owned and operated by the Navajo Nation.
One of its early publishers was Loren Tapahe, a Navajo man who is still active in the newspaper business. The paper became an independent newspaper under the guidance of Tom Arviso and he remains as it publisher today.

The newspaper is unique for several reasons. First of all it is, along with Navajo radio, the voice of the Navajo Nation. It is distributed to all of the schools, colleges and government offices on the Navajo Nation. It is read by most of its citizens.

It is unique in that it is also a successful business enterprise. The Navajo Nation is home to 200,000 plus Dine'. It is surrounded by communities like Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona, Gallup, Farmington and Grants, New Mexico and many other smaller communities bordering it.

Many, if not most, of the businesses in the border towns are dependent upon the residents of the Navajo Nation for their very survival. Car dealers, department stores, restaurants, auto repair and auto parts shops, clothing stores, building material stores, sporting goods shops, and so many other businesses get much of their trade from the people of the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Times is extremely large for a weekly newspaper and its many pages are filled with advertisements from businesses from all of the bordering communities. The ads are the backbone of the revenues generated by the newspaper.

When I owned Indian Country Today in Rapid City I employed about 35 people and 95 percent of them were Native Americans. A newspaper employs delivery drivers, bookkeepers, advertising sales people, writers, editors, press operators, inserters, receptionists, circulation managers and telemarketers. The newspaper must generate the income to pay all of these employees and the Navajo Times operates in much the same fashion.

The Navajo Times operates out of its headquarters in Window Rock on the Navajo Nation. It probably employs the same or more employees as I did at Indian Country Today.

As an independent newspaper free of tribal government interference it is strong on the local news, but also keeps its people informed of news happening at the national level. It editorial pages not only carry strong editorials, but also is a forum for public opinion in both letters and guest columns. It publishes some of the best Native American cartoonists in America.

The Navajo Times is a microcosm of the media in Indian Country. Like many of the Indian newspapers in America it gives its people a voice not to be found in the mainstream media. Free from the control of tribal government the Navajo Times has become one of Indian Country's truly great newspapers. It will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year and so I burn some sage to honor this great Indian newspaper.

(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, has served as founder and publisher of the Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, the Lakota Journal and Native Sun News. He can be reached at unitysodak1@vastbb.net)