Papago Indian News
Published in Sells, Arizona, the Papago Indian News covered all corners of the Tohono O’odham Nation. The newspaper title refers to the name that Spanish explorers used for the Native American tribe. The tribe’s own name, Tohono O’odham, was officially changed in 1986. Sells is the capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation, located in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico.
Published monthly, the first issue debuted in May 1954 under the direction of the Papago Indian Editorial Board, led by chairman Louis Harvey, and started as a project of the Papago Self-Help Program of the American Friends Service Committee. In its tenth anniversary issue, the editorial board noted that “although it is not a tribal enterprise the paper is considered the voice of the Papago tribe.” While Frank Stein was listed as editor until August 1955, the anniversary issue stated that “an editorial board…has been chosen over the usual editor-and-staff set-up.” The first issue stated the publication’s purpose: “let the general public know what goes on here and off the reservation that is of importance to Papagos.” The newspaper carried a wealth of community news about visitors, job changes, health updates, baptisms, marriages, births, and deaths. The paper also incorporated news from nearby towns like Ajo and Tucson.
In October 1956, a “Special Rodeo Issue” was published for the twentieth annual Papago Indian Rodeo. That issue also contained several pages about the history of the tribe and the newspaper, noting that their “printing press is a mimeograph machine.” There was also occasionally “Agency Relocation News” about where some of the tribal members had been relocated. The paper frequently covered educational topics, and the editors hoped to “encourage the younger generation of today to become interested and take part in some of its own affairs and to help plan their future.” Students’ accomplishments, such as making honor roll, earning a scholarship, or graduating high school, were regularly announced in the paper.
The News also had a strong focus on public health education, frequently publishing advice and advisories to inform readers how to prevent sickness. In early issues, a schedule of the mobile health unit that visited the reservation was printed. A front page article in 1954 advocated for a new hospital in Sells and referred to the ground breaking for it in 1959 as a “medical high point of the year.”
The paper also included political news, such as tribal elections and Tribal Council news.Issues affecting the community were featured on the front page, including a bill in Congress to restore mineral rights, the decision to locate a new observatory on Kitt Peak on the Tohono O’odham reservation, and details of the Indian Civil Rights Act and what it meant for the community.
The newspaper’s staff were all volunteers. An annual subscription cost $1.00; individual copies were 10 cents. Circulation peaked at around 1,200 in 1964, with copies being sent directly to subscribers’ homes or available for sale at trading posts. The Papago Indian News ceased publication in 1968.
Essay provided by University of Arizona Libraries.Dates of Publication1954-19??Frequency of PublicationMonthlyPlace of PublicationSells, ArizonaLanguageEnglishPermissions and ReuseThe contents of the Arizona Digital Newspaper Program (ADNP) are available to the public by our partners for using in research, teaching, and private study. Please note that U.S. Copyright and intellectual property laws apply to the digital resources made available through this site.