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Posted on: July 7, 2017


Doris Giago

The City of Brookings will honor Doris Giago as the recipient of the 18th annual Dorothy and Eugene T. Butler Human Rights Award on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Professor Giago is being recognized for her promotion of American Indian culture and storytelling.

The Butler Human Rights Award presentation will be held in conjunction with the ABLE Awards for Accessibility, the Mayor’s Awards for Historic Preservation and the Mayor’s Generational Leadership Awards at McCrory Gardens Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 19 from 5 to 7 pm, with the presentations beginning at 6 pm. The public is invited to attend. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served.

As an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe from the Pine Ridge reservation, Giago came to Brookings along with her two young children in 1986 to complete her undergraduate degree in journalism.  She retired from South Dakota State University with the title Professor Emeritus in 2014.

Professor Giago served as director of the South Dakota High School Press Association. She immediately recruited American Indian students and helped them acclimate to the university, community and other students.

Under Professor Giago’s direction, journalism students began yearly trips to South Dakota’s reservations to write stories and take photos for a department publication called The Observer. The reservation trips broke down barriers for the journalism students who had a new understanding of Indian culture that they carried with them after graduation.

Professor Giago was recognized by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2011 for developing a high school journalism curriculum with which indigenous students could more easily identify. She ensured that tribal stories have a place at both the ideological and physical center of the journalism curriculum. She has personally taken the storytelling curriculum to tribal schools and was a lead sponsor of the Storytelling Competition held during the Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City.

Professor Giago made innumerable contributions to the success of two of SDSU’s major investments in American Indian cultural work – the annual Consider the Century Conference and the annual Oak Lake Writers’ Retreat for Tribal Writers.

Giago's commitment to journalism and education began in the 1970s when she and then husband Tim Giago founded the Lakota Times (now Indian Country Today), the first independent newspaper to serve American Indians on the reservation. The Times became one of the first newspapers to help improve the image of Indians in the state and the nation. Doris also served a short stint as a reporter for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Doris used her talent as a storyteller to bring statewide attention to Native issues.

Giago's life work has been to improve human rights of American Indians in South Dakota. Her success continues through the work of her students who are now writers, photographers, community leaders, and role models for young Indians across the state and nation.

Giago has devoted time in retirement to solidarity and activism with countless social and political issues that disproportionately affect tribal communities. One of these is serving as a member of the Brookings Reconciliation Council.

“Cross-cultural work can be stressful, and this is especially true if one’s own culture is as consistently undervalued and misunderstood as is Doris’s Lakota culture” stated Charles Woodard, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English. “But she has persisted no matter what in the work she knows she must do and has become a source of inspiration for many others. Doris is of course a very urgently needed role model for young tribal women, here and throughout our region, but she is also a model of courage and perseverance and idealistic good work for all other women and men as well” said Woodard.

The Dorothy and Eugene T. Butler Human Rights Award is named after the Butlers, in recognition of their lifelong advocacy in human rights issues on the local, regional, national and international levels. The annual award recognizes significant volunteer efforts on behalf of human rights. Previous honorees, in addition to Dorothy and Eugene T. Butler, Jr., are Dr. Philip and Winnie Baker, First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Carl Kline, the Rev. Scott Miller and Lisa Wolff, Margaret Denton, Dr. Steve Marquardt, Lawrence Novotny, Dr. Charles Woodard, Dr. Geoffrey Grant, Dr. Timothy Nichols, Scott Nagy, Dr. Ann Marie Bahr, Phyllis Cole-Dai, Harriet Swedlund, Drs. MaryJo and Richard Lee, and Dr. Ruth Harper.

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