Giago to retire after 21 years

John Schmidt Web Editor

After 21 years of teaching at SDSU, Doris Giago will be retiring at the end of the semester. 

Giago’s career in journalism started in 1981 when she and then-husband Tim Giago founded The Lakota Times. She started off as a typesetter after the newspaper’s previous one quit. She then began to take photos and report stories. 

“I didn’t intend to work at the newspaper,” Giago said. 

Getting The Lakota Times off the ground was no easy task. Giago did everything from custodial work to advertising representation to keep the paper operational. 

“You’re the janitor, you deliver papers, you write the stories,” Giago said. 

The Lakota Times was founded seven years after the occupation of Wounded Knee. Giago had her and her son’s life threatened and the main office for The Lakota Times was constantly vandalized and once firebombed. 

Giago then took off east to Brookings to earn her journalism degree from SDSU, graduating in 1989 where she interned at The Argus Leader with fellow retiring professor Frank Klock. She covered stories north of Sioux Falls as a regional reporter. She was only at The Argus Leader for a week when United Airlines Flight 232 crashed in Sioux City. She left reporting after a year and attended the University of Kansas to get her master’s degree. 

After earning her master’s in 1992, Giago shifted toward education as the first Native American instructor at SDSU. 

“Reporting and being a single parent just doesn’t mix,” Giago said. 

In her tenure, Giago has worked to create more awareness of Native American history and culture at SDSU. 

“[There is] a gap in regard to Native American history in this state,” Giago said. “A lot of American and Native American students don’t know Native American history.” 

Giago taught higher level reporting classes that required students to travel to reservations and do a positive story on life there. Giago feels mainstream media tends to focus on the negative parts of Native American reservations. 

“Students really benefit from those trips,” Giago said. “[Students] have a new respect for tribal people.” 

In Yeager Hall, Giago and former department head Richard Lee spearheaded the initiative to create the Lakota/Dakota conference room. The room has a circular conference table with a drum in the middle. Giago says the drum is considered one of the first forms of communication to Native American tribes and symbolizes the “heartbeat of the people”. The room is also home to a quilt Giago made. 

Giago also worked with the High School Press Association with tribal high schools to bring Native American students to SDSU. 

Once the semester closes out, Giago doesn’t really know what her plans are. 

“I’m just going to take it easy a bit,” Giago said. Her daughter and granddaughter are both in Brookings. She plans to quilt and garden. 

“I’ll always be a Jackrabbit fan,” Giago said.