Mar. 6, 1897 (Lawrence) — “The Leader makes its first appearance in public modestly, even shyly. But having a mission to perform gives even youthful and modest persons courage. The chief mission of the Leader is to carry greetings from Haskell Institute to former pupils who have returned to their homes, or who are at work in other schools; to bear items of news to them about their former instructors and school mates; to give them a word of cheer, a helping hand. This is not the Leader’s only duty however. It hopes to win new friends, to enter the homes of many who know but little of Indians and their capabilities, showing them that though of a different race, many of them are intelligent and progressive; that they have for their motto, ‘Onward and Upward’ and are trying to live up to this. May both missions be successfully fulfilled is the earnest wish of the Leader.”
These words, printed 124 years ago, were The Indian Leader’s inaugural address to its readership. The publication was a product of its time; as an administrative newsletter for the Haskell Institute, it included stories from the institute’s boarding school era — “[A] new name was given, and Huntington became one of our best Christian workers. Ever willingly and faithfully he worked for the Master.”
But as the Haskell Institute changed into today’s institution of higher learning, Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU), so has The Indian Leader changed with it.
In 1897, “[there was] no editor, foreman, no regular proof-reader and no organized force of compositions. So no one [could] be blamed.” Despite these claims, The Indian Leader would eventually organize under a student editorial board. In 1989, a lawsuit settled over allegations of censorship affirmed that The Indian Leader, which saw its genesis as an administrative publication, was now strictly student-run.
Today, The Indian Leader operates by students for students, and it builds on the legacy of “The oldest Native American student newspaper”.
Click here to read The Indian Leader’s first issue.
Efforts to digitize and make available the historic collection of The Indian Leader issues is underway with public details to come out at a later date.