David Pego: Prominent American Indian Journalist and Educator.

June 13, 2005 – David Pego, 51, a longtime journalist and writer, died last week at his home in Brookings, S.D. At the time of his death, he was a regular columnist for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and Dakota Journal and Lakota Journal as well as a frequent contributor to myriad publications.

A member of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, he was the first Native American journalist to be named a McCormick Tribune Fellow. David was also a delegate to the historic White House Conference on Indian Education and was the 2000 winner of the Innovators In Education Award, after which time he founded Great Promise for Young American Indians, a non-profit organization, dedicated to creating educational and cultural opportunities for American Indian children.

Perhaps David’s greatest accomplishment was as a national leader for Newspapers In Education. David had retired from his position as educational services director of the Austin American-Statesman when the 9-11 attack occurred. He came up with Penny Power in response to the attack. For this NIE project kids from around the nation collected over half a million dollars in pennies and bought a fire truck for New York City. The truck was dedicated to the men and women who were injured or died during the attack and aftermath.

David had been a journalist for more than three decades, working for large metro dailies in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Austin, Texas, as well as having spent time as a desk supervisor with The Associated Press. He was also a part-time journalism instructor at the University of Texas at Austin and a visiting professional at the University of Oklahoma. He spent three years as a contributing editor of the Native American Village at IMDiversity.com. In May he had just completed two years as Knight Foundation Visiting Journalist in Residence at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at South Dakota State University.

While at SDSU he was a tireless advocate for Native American student writers. He organized the student chapter of the Native American Journalist Association/Wordcraft. Wordcraft Circle named him 2005 mentor of the year for those efforts. He also served twice as a mentor for young journalists participating in the Native American Newspaper Career Conference held at the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills.

While the breadth of his writing ranged from political commentary to comedy, he will be best remembered by his friends and colleagues for his generous spirit and his words of wisdom. In one of his recent columns, he wrote:

“Giving back is the way of my people. I’m a full-blood Saginaw Chippewa Indian from Michigan. I was taught to help others by my grandmother, who always had enough soup to feed anyone who was hungry although we seldom had little more to give.

“My grandmother, who was an artist, also told me that as baskets are constructed so should communities be built. The long wooden splints, when lying on the table alone, were strong but could not hold much on their own singly or in an undeveloped group. It was only when they were woven together into an overlapping, interdependent shape that they could carry many times their own weight.”

David, the son of James and Elsie Pego was born in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, on February 1, 1954. He was preceded in death by both parents.

David is survived by his daughter Christina Pego Murray and her husband Jason, and their children Jackson, John-Thomas and Alexandra all of Oklahoma City, a son Anthony Pego of San Diego, and his wife, Jennifer Pego, of Massachusetts.

His funeral will be held June 20, 2005 at Helms Funeral Home in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

The family has requested that memorials be sent the Association of American Indian Physicians, 1225 Sovereign Row, Suite 103, Oklahoma City, OK 73108, Attn: Margaret Knight, executive director, and earmarked for diabetes education.