More than two dozen Native journalists joined Tim Giago, the owner and editor of the Lakota Times, at Penn State University in 1983 to determine if a Native press organization was viable. In August of that year, a second meeting was held to form the Native American Press Association.
The Native journalists in attendance were: Anita Austin (Native American Rights Fund), Jose Barreiro (Cornell University), Patty Bowen (Biskinik), Mike Burgess (Talking Leaf), Bill Dulaney (Penn State University), Verna Friday (Sweetgrass Magazine), Tim Giago (Lakota Times), George Gorospe (Pueblo News), Lenore Keeshig-Tobias (Sweetgrass Magazine), Richard LaCourse (Indian Finance Digest), Adrian Louis (Lakota Times), Sid Miller (Spilyay Tymoo), Mary Polanco (Jicarilla Chieftain), Loren Tapahe (Navajo Times Today), and Minnie Two Shoes (Wotanin Wowapi).
The first convention was held in the summer of 1984 at Warm Springs, Oregon.
The fifth convention was held in 1990 in Fife, Washington, and the membership changed the name to the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) to reflect a more inclusive mission.
NAJA, now based on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, has a unique and challenging mission. Its primary goal is to lift up Native voices in all platforms of media, and work with our colleagues across the media industry to ensure accurate and contextual reporting about Native people and communities.
The work of the association addresses Native media and encompasses a wide range of issues affecting the survival and the development of Native journalists and tribal media.
Native leaders have been long aware of the importance of the media to Native communities. Since the establishment of The Cherokee Phoenix, the nation’s first bilingual Native newspaper first published 1828, there have been continuous efforts by tribal people to address the news and information needs of Native communities. Only in recent times, with the advent of modern communications technology, have the Native media progressed from a local and regional focus to a national and international scope to meet the communication needs of Native people. Out of this history came the influences, philosophy and unique Native experience that gave rise to the Native American Journalists Association.