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Janklow's Legacy In Native American Community

January 12, 2012, 6:40 PM by Derek Olson

Janklow's Legacy In Native American Community
RAPID CITY, SD - Bill Janklow lived and worked on the Rosebud Indian Reservation before he was governor.

Later, as the state's attorney general, Janklow prosecuted members of the American Indian Movement for crimes committed on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Tim Giago, who spent more than three decades reporting for Native American newspapers, says that people in that community have a wide array of opinions on the former governor, but ultimately believes that Janklow's death will be seen as a loss.

"Governor Janklow was very strong-minded. He had very strong opinions and I think deep down he had a sort of a dislike for newspaper reporters and he let you know that right off the bat. He wasn't bashful about slapping you across the face verbally if he thought you needed it," Giago said.

Because Giago spent decades covering events, both in the statehouse and on the reservations, he got to know Governor Janklow and his policies quiet well.

"He was trying to enforce the laws of South Dakota and ran into a lot of problems with Russell Means and the American Indian Movement," Giago said.

Janklow's role in prosecuting Means and others in the AIM movement helped shape his image amongst Native Americans.

"There were conflicting opinions about Gov. Janklow. A lot of the opinions that were negative about him were brought about by the influence that AIM had and a lot of positive things came from, maybe my newspaper or the tribal council that felt that he was doing a good thing to uphold the law," Giago said.

But in Janklow's final days as governor, he granted Means an official pardon. It's something that Giago thinks helped to mend Janklow's relationship with the Indian community.

"I think that was a big grand gesture on his part, almost like he was offering an olive branch to all Native Americans in the state saying, 'we've buried the hatchet, now let's get on with our lives,'" Giago said.

But the peacemaking wasn't limited to official pardons.

"I was really surprised in his last year in office, to get a plaque from him naming me as an ambassador for South Dakota," Giago said.

And ultimately, Giago feels that Janklow's impact on the native people of South Dakota was positive.

"He's going to be a loss, not only to the Native American community, but to all the people of South Dakota," Giago said.

Giago founded numerous newspapers and publications in the state, including the Lakota Times and the Native Sun News. He is also a member of the South Dakota Hall of Fame.

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