Iapi Oaye / The Word Carrier

Iapi oaye (Greenwood, S.D.) 1871-1939 Browse the title

The Word carrier (Santee Agency, Neb.) 1884-1903 Browse the title

The Word carrier of Santee Normal Training School (Santee, Neb.) 1903-1930 Browse the title

Iapi Oaye was a monthly Dakota-language newspaper published from 1871 to 1939. The first four-page issue was published on May 1, 1871 by Reverend John P. Williamson, for the Dakota mission at Greenwood, Dakota Territory. Williamson, a Christian missionary who spent his life living and working among the Dakota in Minnesota and South Dakota, served as publisher and editor, with assistance at times by Reverend Stephen R. Riggs. The paper's printed motto was Taku Waśte Okiya, Taku Śica Kipajin (Help the Good, Oppose the Bad), and its stated purpose was to further the mission's "civilizing and Christanizing missionary work."

Iapi Oaye included Christian devotional content, church news, and national and local news for the Dakota communities near the Yankton Agency at Greenwood, Dakota Territory and the Santee Agency at Santee, Nebraska, 50 miles from Greenwood. The paper was printed in Chicago, Illinois, but intended for distribution to Dakota people throughout Dakota Territory, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, and Manitoba, Canada.

Originally published entirely in the Santee dialect of Dakota, in January 1873 Iapi Oaye began to include some English-language content, with the title's English-language translation, "The Word Carrier", appearing below the masthead. At the same time the paper increased from two columns to four. The English-language content was aimed at white settlers living near the Dakota missions. In January 1877 Williamson left the paper to devote himself to preaching, and Alfred L. Riggs, the son of Stephen Riggs, took over as publisher and editor. Publication moved to Santee, Nebraska, where Alfred Riggs ran the Santee Normal Training School, a Dakota boarding school he had founded in 1870. Printing of the paper moved from Chicago to Greenwood in 1883.

In January 1884 the newspaper split into two separate four-page titles, one in Dakota and one in English. Iapi Oaye returned to Greenwood, Dakota Territory, published and edited by John Williamson. The Word Carrier remained in Santee, Nebraska, published and edited by Alfred Riggs. Iapi Oaye maintained its focus on religious content and news for the Dakota community, while the Word Carrier shifted its focus to the Santee Normal Training School, and Indian schools and missionary work in general, for a white audience. Iapi Oaye retained monthly publication while the Word Carrier was published irregularly, once every month or two.

In January 1888 John Williamson once again retired and Alfred Riggs resumed the role of editor and publisher of Iapi Oaye, moving it back to Santee. In September 1903 the Word Carrier's title was expanded to the Word Carrier of Santee Normal Training School, and both this paper and Iapi Oaye were reformatted to three columns. Following Alfred Riggs's death in 1916, his son Frederick Riggs took over as principal of Santee Normal Training School and editor and publisher of the Word Carrier and Iapi OayeThe Word Carrier folded sometime after the November/December 1930 issue, and the school closed in 1936 due to financial difficulties. Iapi Oaye ceased publication following the March 1939 issue. 

While teaching English was considered "civilizing" Native Americans, Williamson and all three Riggs believed that the Dakota language was important in civilizing Dakota people. Oral storytelling and traditions were written in Dakota language for Iapi Oaye, but not without its mistakes in translation. Ella Deloria, a Dakota student of anthropology, attempted to rectify some of these mistranslations for her own writing and ethnographic work. Iapi Oaye was unique for covering tragic events such as the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee in the Dakota language. It was another Westernized publication of its time but it covered major historical events and is an important text for studying Dakota history. Both Iapi Oaye and The Word Carrier/Word Carrier of Santee Normal Training School were referred to by settlers as part of the "first Dakota library."