Would there be a NAJA without Bill Dulaney?

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Defender)

Bill Dulaney came into my life in 1983 when he was a professor at Penn State. He had been bringing different journalism groups to Penn State so that his students could learn from them. He had invited the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Asian American Journalists Association so far, but he was totally bewildered as to why he could not find a Native American group of journalists.

I was the editor and publisher of the Lakota Times back then and he had read the paper and really enjoyed it. He saw my phone number on the opinion page and called me. He invited me to come to Penn State and meet with him so we could talk about Native American journalism and discuss why we (Natives) did not have a newspaper association. With that invitation in hand, I and my managing editor, Adrian Louis (now deceased) flew to Pennsylvania to meet with Bill.

We spent two days discussing plans for a Native journalists association and finally decided to head back home, and with the professor’s help, we set about trying to contact every reservation in America to see how many Native newspapers were out there and how many would come to a get acquainted meeting at Penn State.

A date was set and all of the invitation calls and letters had gone out. Adrian and I flew back to Penn State and sat at an open air café on the campus with Bill, waiting and wondering if any Native journalists at all would show up. It was getting late when into view came a dozen rez cars, held together with bailing wire, filled with Indian journalists honking and waving. It was then, and only then, that we decided we were on to something good.

We held our next meeting to form the Native American Press Association at the Choctaw Nation in Durant, Okla. Thanks to the editor of their newspaper, the Biskinik, the Choctaw let us use their campgrounds and facilities for our meeting. At the meeting Bill worked with us to draw up a constitution and bylaws, and we elected our first board of directors. I was lucky to be chosen as NAJA’s first president, Loren Tapahe of the Navajo Times was our first vice president, Anita Austin of the Native American Rights Fund magazine was our first treasurer, and Mary Polanco, editor of the Jicarilla Chieftain, was our first Secretary.

Professor Bill Dulaney’s role in forming what is now the Native American Journalists Association is here for all to read. He has journeyed to the Spirit World now, but he will always be in the memory of those Native American newspaper editors and reporters who knew, loved, and admired him. Let this be our tribute to a true journalist.