American Indian Movement (AIM)

Honoring Nations: Manley Begay: Reflections on the Day

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Harvard Project on American Development Co-Director Manley A. Begay, Jr. synthesizes the learning that took place during the first day of the 2004 Honoring Nations symposium, focusing on the nation-building success stories chronicled during the day as testaments to and reflections of Indigenous self-determination.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Begay, Jr., Manley A. "Reflections on the Day." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 11, 2004. Presentation.

"Thank you for the introduction and for sharing today with me. As I think about today, it's been a very good day. A lot of good discussions, good thoughts being expressed, and old friendships renewed and new friendships made. And all in all it's been a very good day. And as Amy mentioned, I am Navajo. I come from Tuba City by way of Wheatfields. Wheatfields is north of Window Rock about 50 miles. And my clans are Maii deeshgiizhinii -- that's my clan, Coyote Pass Clan. And I'm born for Tachiinii, the Red-Running-Into-the-Water People. And my maternal grandfather is Lokaa Dine'e, the Reed People. And my paternal grandfather is Todichiinii, Bitter Water People. So that's who I am as a Navajo person. And up to the year 2000, I had the great pleasure and honor of working with Joe Kalt here at Harvard. And since then, I've been stationed at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where I serve as a senior lecturer for the American Indian Studies Program, and also serve as Director for the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, and the Native Nations Institute is a sister organization to the Harvard Project. And since then I've been working with Stephen Cornell, who directs the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, the other partner in crime.

And Andrew Lee asked me to talk a little bit about, before I begin to talk, a little bit about this particular logo. This logo is something that I began working on when Joe was really young. Now he's getting old and gray. And so this is sort of an art project I started working on. And when I finally came up with the design, a good friend John Thornier got together with me and he has the talent of working computers and the Mac program and all that, and he basically perfected this design. And this particular logo is really about power and strength. It's really about vision. It's really about unity and a sense of direction. And you can see that the eagle is in the center. And you know what the eagle means to many of us as Native people; it's the source of strength, it's a source of vision, and it's really sort of the centerpiece of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. And you'll see a number of feathers that go around, which represents Native nations throughout Indian country. And around that you'll see a hoop, and that hoop signifies unity and togetherness. And there's a sinew that wraps around that particular hoop. And sinew is really, I believe represents sovereignty, it really represents this sense of strength. The old ones would say that we should be like deer hide, fine deer hide, and that particular deer hide could be used for bows and arrows and it's very, very strong, yet at the same time it's flexible and it's soft and it can be tender. And so it really has these elements of both -- sort of strength, protection, yet at the same time one of tenderness and softness and flexibility. So that particular sinew wraps around that hoop and really signifies togetherness, strength, sovereignty. And that makes up this particular emblem. And obviously the four eagle feathers represents the four directions, the four winds.

You know, sitting here today and going into a few of the sessions, I've been asked to sort of reflect on this, this day. And, you know, I can't help but also recognize that I have relatives here and family members here as well, many of whom I respect highly. And it's really quite an honor also to be in their presence and to know that they are from not only Navajo country, but also from Indian Country at-large. At the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona, I share a joint duty with Joan Timeche. I'm not sure where Joan is at. She's probably at Harvard Square. No, Joan's back there. Joan and I run the show to the best of our abilities. And Joan comes from the Hopi Nation. And it is not true that Hopis and Navajos don't get along. We get along. I just follow what she says.

You know, not too long ago, we were being controlled by the federal government -- and Anthony Pico talks a bit about this -- and we were being controlled by the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. State governments and other entities also controlled us to a large extent. We were dictated to about how to govern and how to run programs and how to live. In our travels -- Joe Kalt, Steve Cornell and I -- we ran across a tribal chairman at one point in time that said, 'You know, I remember when, as a tribal chairman, before we could even make a decision I had to lean over to the BIA superintendent right next to me, get his permission before the council could vote.' Clearly somebody else was in power, not our own leaders. And this was occurring only a few years ago. It's not like it occurred decades and decades and decades ago. It just occurred recently.

Then things began to change at the urging, sometimes strongly, by the National Congress of American Indians, by the American Indian Movement, by the National Indian Youth Council, and many other organizations as strong leaders throughout Indian Country. And this really occurred on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, movements that also included the Brown Berets, the Black Panthers and others. This was a time of change in the United States socially, and music began to change, people began to question, you know, 'Who are the Beatles, you know, who are the Rolling Stones, who's Bob Dylan?' And these were folks that were in the limelight. You know, peace and love were stressed amidst the Vietnam War. It was a time of upheaval for some. It was a time of needed change for others. For Native peoples, it was a time for needed change, a change from poverty and control, and we wanted to move toward a better life and freedom. And this same tribal chairman told us a short time later, 'You know, I found a bit of strength, and with this strength I told the BIA superintendent sitting next to me, 'Well, I really don't want you to sit by me anymore, I want you to move to the end of the table.' And so he moved to the end of the table.'

And I was just a young man at that time and, you know, somewhat in awe of the American Indian Movement. And their message was really a message of sovereignty at all costs. You know, I traveled at that time to Pine Ridge, to Flagstaff, Arizona to the [Childs?] Ranch, which is outside of Ajo, Arizona and protested the injustices that were occurring, the mistreatment that Indian people were going through. And these events were all part of the events like the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] takeover in Washington, D.C., Wounded Knee II, the burning of the Custer Courthouse, and the taking over of the Richardson Trading Post in Gallup, New Mexico, and many other events like that. It began to change the tide of people's thinking. I even had the distinct pleasure and honor of going to Coachella Valley at one point in time and actually siding with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. What these events did was begin to change the mentality of many Native peoples from being subjugated to thinking more freely, to thinking about freedom. Remember, this is in the world's greatest nation. This is in the world's wealthiest nation. This is in the country that touts democracy and freedom as the pinnacle of civilization.

There really was a change from some outsiders deciding how we should live to the right to determine our own destinies. It was a change from the one-model-fits-all that was being perpetuated by the federal government to the right to think independently according to our own diverse cultural teachings, from an outsiders, making mistakes and not being accountable to less making our own mistakes and learning from them, from being told how we should govern to designing our own constitutions and governments. This same tribal chairman that had moved the BIA superintendent to the end of the table now was even more courageous. He said to us, he said, 'At times, you know, we're dealing with issues that we don't want the BIA to know about.' So he said, 'I finally told the BIA superintendent we don't really want you in here at this moment, so could you please leave?' And he left.

So you can see the change that occurred ever so slowly, but significant nevertheless. We are currently in the midst of a political resurgence. Finally, and over 500 years, we as Native peoples are in a position to determine our own futures with programs designed by us, not by an outside agency or person. It is in this context that we are seeing these Honoring Nation's programs. It is in this context we have wonderful uplifting stories from Lummi, Chickasaw, Menominee, Zuni, Chickaloon, Navajo, Tulalip, Gila River, Viejas. These stories are a long time coming. They are a testament to resilience of the human spirit, ushering in of justice against tremendous odds. They are a testament to the power of the human will. They are also a testament to the gifts of strength given to us by our elders, by the land, by the mountains, by the rivers, by fire, by rocks, by animals. Lastly, these programs are gifts to those yet unborn. These programs should be our gifts to those yet unborn. I look forward to the time with our young ones. Those yet unborn will say, 'I'm so glad my leaders developed those programs. My life is richer because of their wise decisions and sound management.'

I do, however, offer one word of caution. We should not become complacent with our successes. Vigilance is key, because our sovereignty is neither secure nor absolute, and poverty, poor housing, and other social ills are still with us. So the fight continues through assertion of sovereignty, with the building of culturally appropriate capable institutions of self-governance. And with good leadership may we all continue to remain strong and creative. May we continue to be vigilant in the things that we do. Thank you."

Honoring Nations: Lenny Foster: Navajo Nation Corrections Project

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Program Supervisor Lenny Foster with the Navajo Nations Corrections Projects discusses how and why the project was created, and it how it is advocating on behalf of Native Americans prisoners across the country to ensure that their civil rights and religious freedom rights are respected.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Foster, Lenny. "Navajo Nation Corrections Project." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 11, 2004. Presentation.

Amy Besaw Medford:

"Next up we'll have Mr. Lenny Foster, who is the program supervisor of the Navajo Nation Corrections Project."

Lenny Foster:

"[Navajo language]. I want to express my appreciation for this privilege and this opportunity to share with you my thoughts and my feelings about the work that I have done for the last 24 years on behalf of the Navajo Nation, the Diné Nation. By way of introduction, I mentioned that I was a [Navajo language] born for [Navajo language], and my grandpas were [Navajo language] and [Navajo language], and that's important for our spiritual identity because the spirits recognize who we are when we introduce ourselves because the spirits are with us. And that's part of the concept in this area of spiritual counseling that the Navajo Nation has undertaken through the efforts and support from people like yourselves here.

I want to thank Dr. Manley Begay. Yesterday, he mentioned that we were at several campaigns through the [American] Indian Movement. I had the opportunity to travel and participate on a spiritual journey, pilgrimage, to Alcatraz Island. That was my start in the Indian rights movement. Then I moved on and that's when our paths crossed with my brother, Dr. Begay. The protests in Flagstaff, Arizona; Gordon, Nebraska; Gallup, New Mexico and places like that in the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan, BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] takeover in Washington, D.C., Wounded Knee '73, the Longest Walk. So that set the foundation for the work and the concept of overcoming the racism, overcoming discrimination, decolonizing, undoing the brainwashing that has taken place; a very intensive struggle that our people had to endure. We have prevailed, we're here today as evidenced by all of you. I applaud you.

I'm humbled being in your presence because [there's] so many brilliant, intelligent Indian people here. It's like the elite of the elite and I'm honored to be here with you in that manner. I had an opportunity to visit with Oren Lyons again and I told him that out of respect I want to enter his Ph.D. program, school of philosophy, "Oren Lyons School of Philosophy." That would be something, to have an Indian think tank right here at Harvard. You're talking about the history of this university. So maybe that's one of the things that you can all undertake is to bring philosophers and spiritual leaders and activists together to share and present in a think tank.

I want to say that in the past 24 years, it's been a very intensive struggle not only organizing, but advocating, promoting, educating, creating awareness and making every effort to raise the level of consciousness among our people who are incarcerated and their families and to overcome the colonization that has taken place because they made every extreme attempt to exterminate us. And today I see that the movement is the liberation of the mind, the body and the spirit; liberation meaning freedom. We talk about self-determination and sovereignty and I think that's what our work, what we commit and what we dedicate ourselves to that.

And today, I would be at the United States penitentiary, Leavenworth, visiting with my brother Leonard Peltier and conducting a sweat lodge for him, but I was asked to come here and participate in this significant and important forum and I agreed. So Leonard extends his love and his solidarity and expresses his support and respect for all of you. And while I'm in that area, I want to recognize some of the people who have been involved in this work such as Archie Fire -- he has gone -- Wallace Black Elk, John Funmaker, Cedrew Gali [sic], Larry Foster and Tex Joey [sic] and Eugene Doc Anderson. These are some of the spiritual leaders, my mentors that I worked with through the years in providing spiritual counseling in the prison setting. And that's the work that we do. We're perhaps the only tribal-funded program in the country and that's significant in that way because it took the vision of our leaders to support such a project because prison work is very controversial. Many people sometimes don't like it. They would rather...they say to me, 'Why don't you just lock them up and throw the key away or introduce the death penalty?' And I hear those comments made to me. I don't condone what they do to end up in prison. I think we have an obligation to reach out and support them because many of our young people are there because of alcohol-related crimes and they're going to be coming home. They're not going to be locked up forever. Some will be yes, but on the average they're 23 years old, they're doing six years. So they're going to come home. So we have an obligation to reach out and try to teach them the spiritual laws that what they did was wrong and most of them do accept that and recognize that. And some of the ceremonies that have been very effective as part of our spiritual counseling is the sweat lodge, pipe ceremonies, talking circles, tobacco ceremonies, the cell-side visits. I work with death row inmates and it's very important that we reach out to everyone like that that are locked up -- both men and women and juveniles.

Our program visits over 96 state, federal, tribal and juvenile detention. So we reach out to as many as 2,000 in one year and I believe that a survey that was done by the Native American Rights Fund, there were over 7,000 Native Americans that were identified, but that's a few years ago. I'm sure that has doubled by now. And this involves all the tribes, it's not just individual or smaller tribes, but some of the larger ones like the Diné (Navajo), Lakotas, Cherokees, Cheyenne, Tohono O'odham. These are Apaches, these are some of the larger tribes, but you know, you have other small tribes, too.

I had an opportunity to visit two facilities that stands out in my mind recently. One was at the federal correctional institution in Milan, Michigan, near Detroit and it had mostly Ottawa, Ojibwa, Menominees, Mohawks, Seneca; those were the ones that are incarcerated in that facility. Then I was also in the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge and there you have Crows, Cheyenne, Flatheads, Salish. So it was something that needs to be done and we're able to provide that. And I'll briefly go over in the interest of time, like I said, tribal funding. That's the funding that we're provided and I think that will continue, but the federal funding through the Indian Health Service I think is something that we need to continue to pursue.

In the course of our work, we've been able to organize on a national level, because like I said we're one of the very few tribal-funded programs in the country. We've had collaborations and meetings with different organizations throughout the country. The National Congress of American Indians have been supportive, the Native American Rights Fund and Native American Church of North America, the Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice, the Oglala Sioux Tribe. These are some of the organizations or Indian nations that have provided that support, and along the way we were able to provide positive and strong testimony on behalf of the religious freedom and human rights, civil rights, of Native Americans that are incarcerated, state prisons and federal penitentiaries on two occasions in the United States Congress. That's a hard struggle because Congress sometimes is not easily moved. So as a result, we've had to take these issues into the international forum and made two appearances before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland. And there at least the representatives of the United States heard our testimony. The United States Civil Rights Division heard the testimony that we provided and they approached me and wanted to know how we can sit down and discuss some of these concerns that they feel, you know, the denial of religious rights for the original people of this country. And we were bringing that into the international forum and the United States didn't like that.

So we sat down with the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. on three occasions to discuss how we can revise the different statutes that affect religious practices in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and we made some recommendations to them that those regulations and statutes and the policies need to be revised to allow every opportunity for Native Americans -- regardless of what nation they belong to -- the right to have access to their spiritual leaders, to have a right to wear long hair for spiritual beliefs and to have access to the cleansing and purification ceremony. These are simple, very simple, yet they deny our religious beliefs and say it's a security concern. They're afraid that speaking a language that's foreign to them is we're conspiring or that we're going to hide contraband in our long hair or that we're going to go in a sweat lodge and tunnel out. Absurd, completely absurd, but these are some of the excuses that are given.

And what do we see for the future? The different experiences that we had through lawsuits and litigation over the sweat lodge, over long hair, over spiritual leaders, we're not able to pursue that avenue today. The political climate being as it is, it's not conducive to winning a lawsuit. The First Amendment protection, the civil rights protection, it's not there. Legislation is an area that we pursued in several states, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, and they were successful, but the problem there now is lack of compliance and lack of enforcement. We can't get them to enforce their own laws. And now we're pursing negotiations, just sitting down with these officials, the governor's office, the director of the department of corrections, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the United States Attorney General, sitting down and just being diplomats and discussing ways of how this can be resolved. We end up compromising, but at least it's better than nothing, but you know that's what you need to continue that. So that's another area.

As I mentioned, the collaboration between the different agencies and entities, I think that needs to continue. The International Indian Treaty Council has been very supportive of our efforts to pursue these issues in the international forum and also the Navajo Nation has been very supportive throughout these years and I thank them whole-heartedly for that. And other Indian peoples who have come forth and supported our efforts; it's very much appreciated. To be recognized after 24 years in the struggle by Harvard University's Honoring Nations really means a lot. At least if my own people recognize me for the hard work that I've done, then it's been all worth it and I appreciate that.

So I think the human rights and the civil rights and the religious freedom issues that the Navajo Nation Corrections Project has undertaken, a lot of that is just an extension from the Indian rights movement, the American Indian Movement and the work that I've done is reflected from that experience. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a member of the American Indian Movement, I was for many years and I still believe in it. I'm a sun dancer, I attend Native American Church prayer services, I carry a medicine bundle from my own people [Navajo language] and I sun danced with the Lakotas. The International Indian Treaty Council has also been responsible for this support of religious freedom for our Indian people. So these are some of the organizations that I give my utmost respect.

So some of the recommendations, I guess, or the solutions that we see hopefully for the next three to five years is that we'd like to see uniform standards established for religious practices across the United States prison system. We'd also like to see a congressional hearing and have these issues discussed before Congress and have all the Indian nations present testimony on these violations of human rights, civil rights. That might be a tall order, but that's something that we need to pursue. And also a commission study that needs to be done of how many Indian people are in prison throughout this country. Nobody knows. How many years are they doing, the men and women, juveniles? They're all forgotten. So this commission study that we would propose is important. And maybe an executive order by the president allowing Native Americans the right to practice their spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs and practices without any harassment, without any indifference, without any racism or discrimination. So that's another recommendation.

And I think the counseling at the schools and the home, each Indian nation and tribe have an obligation to really actively pursue that, to work with our youth so our people won't end up in prison. We have major problems with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine; now it's methamphetamines. There's a dangerous precedent that's being set here so we have an obligation to seriously look at those, because they're addictive and if we don't make an obligation or commitment it's going to overwhelm us. We don't want all of our young Indian people in prison, you know, and that seems to be a trend if we don't do anything about it and that's something that we see, the intervention and the prevention with the youth and the community.

The spiritual laws must be respected and re-learned. That's the thing about the clients that we have through the corrections that we do counseling and we see there's a lot of learning taking place because there's so much anger, so much rage, among our young people. And I asked these young gang members that were in prison from my community, from Fort Defiance -- because we had a serious problem with gang members where they were just shooting up the community and terrorizing, they ended up in prison -- and I asked them, I said, 'Why are you so angry, what's bothering you?' They were upset at their parents. They were upset because they didn't feel, they were neglected and abandoned, they weren't learning. There was something inside of them that wanted to express their Indianness, but they didn't have an outlet. They felt they'd been cheated out of learning the language. And that might be extreme, but that's the feelings of many of our young people that are incarcerated. So ceremonies are very important, the counseling is very important. And even those individuals that are in death row, we have Indian people who are on death row, they need our support and outreach.

So that's what I want to share and express and say thank you. I'd like to show a very brief clip of this tape that I brought with me. It's called A Seat at the Table: Struggling for American Indian Religious Freedom and it was a documentary that was made in Cape Town, South Africa several years ago by Gary Rhine and those of you who wish to have a copy, give me your address and we'll make sure you get a copy of this. So I just want to thank you for your attention and your time." 

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: Gay Kingman

Institute for Tribal Government

Produced by the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University in 2004, the landmark “Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times” interview series presents the oral histories of contemporary leaders who have played instrumental roles in Native nations' struggles for sovereignty, self-determination, and treaty rights. The leadership themes presented in these unique videos provide a rich resource that can be used by present and future generations of Native nations, students in Native American studies programs, and other interested groups.

In this interview, Gay Kingman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe discusses her 25-year career as a teacher, principal and tribal college president. She also discusses her work as Executive Director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association as well as some of her past roles, including Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians and Public Relations Director of the National Indian Gaming Association. Kingman is a fierce defender of tribal rights and sovereignty.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Institute for Tribal Government.

Resource Type

Kingman, Gay. "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" (interview series). Institute for Tribal Government, Portland State University. Portland, Oregon. 2004. Interview.

Kathryn Harrison:

"Hello. My name is Kathryn Harrison. I am presently the Chairperson of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. I have served on my council for 21 years. Tribal leaders have influenced the history of this country since time immemorial. Their stories have been handed down from generation to generation. Their teaching is alive today in our great contemporary tribal leaders whose stories told in this series are an inspiration to all Americans both tribal and non-tribal. In particular it is my hope that Indian youth everywhere will recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by these great tribal leaders."

[Native music]


"Gay Kingman, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, is the great granddaughter of Chief No Heart and daughter of Violet and Augustus Kingman. Her paternal great grandfather was Dog's Backbone who was killed in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Gay spent 10 years researching her grandfather and the Indians who fought at Little Bighorn. She was greatly rewarded when legislation was passed to establish a memorial in their honor. Gay's parents had high expectations for their daughter sending her to a school run by the Presentation Sisters where Gay was encouraged to continue her education. She earned a BS at Northern State College in Aberdeen, later receiving a master's in education at Arizona State. During her college years she married and had two sons. Her outstanding career as an advocate in Indian Country was preceded by 25 years in the education field as a teacher and administrator. Venues where she served include Pine Ridge, Eagle Butte, Minneapolis Public Schools, United Tribes Technical School and the Scottsdale Public School system. She was the superintendent of Pierre Indian Learning Center in South Dakota and the president of Cheyenne River Community College. Through all her efforts on behalf of Indian Nations, Gay has remained at heart an educator, one who liked to work with the student no one else wanted, the student causing the most trouble. This depth of commitment to social justice, this willingness to take on tough and stubborn jobs has informed every social task she has embraced. After her sons were grown, Gay went to Washington, D.C. accepting a prestigious educational award. President Carter had created the Department of Education. One of Gay's jobs was to see what could be done for Indian people in the Department of Education. She served as president of the National Indian Education Association which meant lobbying, testifying in Congress and fundraising. Quinault leader Joe De la Cruz brought Gay into the National Congress of American Indians and she was quickly installed as Executive Director bringing the venerable old organization from a financial crisis to a state of stability. She learned the maelstrom of Washington, D.C., developing allies in Congress and with staffers in finding opportunities to educate members of Congress who didn't have Indians in their districts. She cultivated many relationships with national Indian leaders such as Roger Jordain. In 1989 a propitious event occurred that would take Gay's life in yet another direction. She issued a call to the Indian community to come in and help her clean the NCAI offices. One man entered the door whose interest was not in clean floors but rather in taking her out to dinner. Timothy Wapato and Gay Kingman married in 1990. Gay a Democrat and Tim a Republican have been a dynamic political couple working both sides of the aisle through many daunting challenges, not the least economic development in Indian Country. In the early 1990s the times were contentious. Senator Daniel Inouye told tribes they had to get together and do some good education and media on gaming and how it could meet the needs in Indian communities. In 1993 Gay was appointed the Public Relations Director of the National Indian Gaming Association and Tim became its Executive Director. Many individuals, not the least Donald Trump, were hostile to Indian gaming and worked hard to limit it with legislation. To combat these efforts Gay created a PR campaign, Schools vs. Yachts which she conducted from the grassroots to the national level. For this campaign she won a prestigious PR award. Gay's human rights leadership extended to the University of Madrid where she was a guest lecturer at a discrimination and human rights symposium chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu. In 1998 Gay left her D.C. career to return to South Dakota to take care of her 100 year old father. Today her sons continue in the path that Gay, her father and her ancestors established. Vernon works with Indian business development and Chuck, a lawyer, is engaged with the National Tribal Judges Association. Gay Kingman is a member of the Policy Board of the Institute for Tribal Government.

Family history: Dog's Backbone and Little Bighorn

Gay Kingman:

"My parents, my mother was Violet Rivers Kingman and my father was Augustus "Gus" Gilbert Kingman. My mother... They were both Cheyenne River Sioux tribe members and both part French because the Canadian French came down on the Missouri and intermarried with the Sioux and so we're all part French as well. My grandfather, I remember very well my Grandpa Rivers was, they called him the Little Frenchman. He was a blue-eyed man and would...he fished in the river and would sell fish so I'd go out in the boat with him once in awhile. My father on my dad's side was a descendent of Dog's Backbone who was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn and he went to school as a young man at Hampton, Virginia. It was one of the first off reservation boarding schools. It's still in existence today. It's a prestigious Black university. I've been there twice now to do research on my grandfather. So the Kingman name will be honored this June 25th at Little Bighorn and I've worked almost 10 years on doing that research and they'll be laying a warrior marker where Dog's Backbone fell warning his tribesmen that the soldiers are coming and the bullets are coming fast and furious."

Gay Kingman's tribe

Gay Kingman:

"I was secure in who I was as a tribal...a member of the tribe and it was never questioned until I guess I grew up and went away and then I always...then I found out there were other people or other tribes and everything. But we had...the tribe that I'm from is a large tribe. We have over probably around 12,000 members, 12,000 something and our land base is quite large and our leadership is...we have an exceptional leadership all throughout history. So I come from I guess a tribe who I'm very proud of and we have four Bands of the Sioux Tribe at Cheyenne River. And those four Bands, on my father's side I'm Minnecojou and then on my grandma's side I'm Blackfeet Band. I guess...I did get an education growing up on my own culture and traditions but it was not anything out of the ordinary. It was just an accepted thing that happened."

Parents' hopes for their daughter

Gay Kingman:

"They set high expectations and it wasn't anything that they demanded but it's just accepted that you do these things. As my family had been great leadership in the tribe, it was just accepted. And so my parents started me playing the piano at I think I was like five years old and I kept that up through college. They sent me away to school so I could have a better education than I could receive on the reservation. That was all expected and I accepted it and went through with it because I believed that they knew what was right for me. I think those kinds of expectations you put with your children and I know for my own sons I didn't demand it but they were expected to go on to college as well and they did. The Presentation Sisters, and I was the only Indian there in school because as I said it was in Aberdeen, South Dakota and it's off reservation. They encouraged me as well as every student there to go on to school. As far as my tribe, the tribe encouraged us and they had financial aid opportunities for us to go on to school but if you think back in those days that was early ‘50s and girls weren't expected to do as much and it was that way on the reservation as well. A lot of the men were expected to go on to college and do great things but women it wasn't and we were geared into being a secretary or we were guided into areas that weren't as I guess progressive. And so after I got my two-year degree I had gone to Presentation College then for two years and I asked to go back onto my four-year degree and the person in charge of financial aid said, ‘No, you've got your two-year degree.' And so I thought, ‘Well, I want to go get my four-year degree of education so I can teach, not just a two year.' And so I went before tribal council and I remember I was so scared to go before the tribal council at that time and I asked them, I said, ‘I want to go on to school and get my four-year degree,' and one of the councilman I'll never forget, he said, ‘Why is it some students finish in two years and some finish in four.' They just didn't understand the degree and how many years it takes and the advanced degree but they gave me the financial aid and so I was able to go on then to Northern State College in Aberdeen and graduate with a four-year degree in Elementary Education. I finished in '63, 1963 and went immediately into teaching. Meanwhile backing up a little bit when I was 19 I got married and I had my first son in 1960 and I always tell my sons that, ‘You have to go on to school because you went to college before you were born,' because I was having them and I was in college and I was doing education and working too because when you go to school you never have enough money to fully compensate you for all of your needs. And so I worked at Penney's and got very low income. And then next door to Penney's was a Woolworth's and they thought I was a pretty good worker and a good checkout so then they gave me a nickel more an hour so I moved over to Woolworth's. It was really a struggle but it was fun because many of us Indian students were struggling together to get through college."

Choosing education as a field of study

Gay Kingman:

"I liked children and so I think education is a way that, it's a springboard too for any other field that you could go into so I went into education and minored in music because I'd had years of study in music, played in the church...played organ in church since I was 11 years old. I guess it was a springboard for me in my career because after education then I went into tribal affairs nationally. We didn't have a good career counseling either in those days. Today I think young people are exposed to all of, a wide diversity of careers. I began teaching on the Oglala Reservation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota and it was grade school. My degree was in Elementary Education so I taught from like first through third grade and then I transferred to...this was for the U.S. Government. Then I transferred to my own reservation, Cheyenne Eagle Butte and taught there and that also was...I think it was like third and fourth grade and then I moved to Minneapolis and taught there in the Minneapolis Public Schools. I've always been one though that I liked to work with the student that nobody else wanted, the student that was causing the most trouble. I can really relate to them well and they relate to me. And so when I was in Minneapolis, the school I taught in was in the south side and I had students there who came from poverty area and students there who had troubled home life. And the class that I had were those students that nobody really wanted and we had a great time. I think...I have such problem with parents who let down their children because many of the problems stemmed from the poor home life or the parents who were drinking or the parents...I had one child whose mother was a prostitute. I used to have to go get the child out the morning sometimes from her home because she'd sleep in and nobody would wake her. And then I was offered a principal-ship. So I moved from Minneapolis to Bismarck, North Dakota and I ended up actually beginning a school. It's kind of every teacher's dream to put into a school all that you've wanted for children and so I started the Theater Jamison Elementary School at United Tribes which's a college, it's University Today. So I moved to Scottsdale and I had a position as the Director of Indian Education for the City of Scottsdale and we had kind of the reverse from what I'd been used to. When I worked on the reservation, our children were more needy, had more poverty. In Scottsdale we had a lot of needy students but it wasn't because of poverty, it was because maybe their parents were gone all the time and they were neglected or whatever. So one of the things that I did with the students in Scottsdale was set up an exchange program with Chinle, which is a school district on the Navajo Reservation and we would bring our students from Scottsdale to Chinle, to the Reservation and they'd actually stay in Navajo homes and they would be exposed to the family and their way of life and then we'd have Chinle students come to Scottsdale and they'd learn what it was like to live in the urban area. And it was wonderful because when we first got to Chinle the Scottsdale students said, ‘Well, there's nothing to do here.' But it wasn't long and they were jumping in the sand dunes and they were hiking up and down Canyon de Chelly."

The American Indian Movement (AIM)

Gay Kingman:

"I was personally impacted by the American Indian Movement when I was in Minneapolis, that began in the late ‘60s and I saw for myself the reason for the American Indian Movement and there was a lot of persecution of Indians in those days and probably exists today but it's gone more underground, it's more subtle. There was a lot of abuse by the police to Indian people. So my husband, the boy's father couldn' involved in this because he couldn't let some of the abuse that was happening and he was well educated as well and so he used his ability to write and to speak out against the abuse that was happening. For example, some of the pregnant woman got beat up...there Minneapolis there's an area where a lot of the Indians lived and the police beat her and there were things like that. So a lot of the Indians got together and they formed what they called then the American Indian Movement and they would take people home from the bars before the police got to them because the police would abuse them. They'd get beaten up. And that's how the American Indian Movement began. And I think it had good intentions and it was the best way to do things at the time and it was the best way to help the Indians. My husband then and I started the school for a lot of the children because the children were being pushed out of the public schools. The school wasn't addressing their cultural needs or their other needs coming from the reservation to the city and so we started the Survival School for those children that weren't in school and my husband ended up running that as I worked for the Minneapolis Public Schools. And it's still in existence today and it's an acceptable school today but at the time we had such a hard time getting it going because people thought that it was something that wouldn't last. But yet we had a lot of success with the students that attended because we could attend to their needs, we could address their cultural needs, language was taught as well as we learned the values in the Indian way. To this day Clyde Bellecourt and the people that began it are still good friends because their intentions and what they did were very honorable. Today they run the...some very good programs for people in Minneapolis."

Life as a teacher, mother and activist

Gay Kingman:

"My own children were part of everything that we did. In the Indian way your children go along with you, you don't leave them at home with a babysitter so they were down with the American Indian Movement at the meetings. I taught in the same schools that they went to so I was there daily with them. My husband and I ended up parting ways at Minneapolis. He remained with the American Indian Movement in the Survival School and I left to go to Bismarck and run the school and begin the Theater Jamison School. I did so principally because I felt that the needs of my children would be better served that way for me to be in a more established position and give them a better home life that way."

Sons growing up, a career change, going to Washington

Gay Kingman:

"For the first time in my life I didn't have my sons and it was terrible. I'd walk down the hall to where their bedrooms were and I'd just get a lump in my throat. There really is an emptiness syndrome. So at that time I thought, ‘Well, if they're leaving home, I'm going to too.' So that's when I went to Washington, D.C. I had accepted a educational leadership position and it was I guess a prestigious award that I got. I was one of 500 that was selected, 50 of us were selected to study policy in the Nation's capital and actually we worked at the same time and then we had classes going on at the same time. So I worked for OMB and my position was the transition team for the Department of Education. President Carter had come in and he created the Department of Education and so when you do a big transition like that in government it's almost an unwieldy situation because education had always been in Health and Human Services, HEW, Health, Education and Welfare and they took the Education out and made it a standalone department. And so one of my responsibilities was to decide what we could do for Indian people within the Department of Education. Today as a result of that there is a Department of Indian Education within the Department of Education and it works with Indian students in public schools and public schools across the United States that have a significant number of Indian students receive funding to assist them with Indian children. And it depends on the need in the community. There's also funding for universities that have Indian students and they can get funding for scholarship programs to set up for Indian students. So that's within the Department of Education and I guess I had a small part in trying to get that set up within the Department of Education. Always people think of the Bureau of Indian Affairs when you think of Indians. Well, in the Department of Education now there's Indian Education.

As President of Cheyenne River Community College, Gay works toward its accreditation. She eventually heads National Congress of American Indians, NCAI, getting it on solid footing

Gay Kingman:

"My career was going and I was working in these various positions. I'd also been asked by people I worked with and I got elected to certain offices nationally and I served...I got elected to a three-year term for the National Indian Education Association and served as secretary and treasurer and also president of the National Indian Education Association. That is an organization of schools and colleges nationwide of Indian Education and when I served as president it meant lobbying in Congress and advocacy for Indian education, trying to get more funds for respective programs. It also meant running our office and so these were going on parallel to my career and it also helped prepare me also for the advocacy and I guess the politics that happen in Washington, D.C. Then I was also elected to a three years term on the National Congress of American Indians. Now the National Congress of American Indians is much broader than the Indian Education Office. It is made up of all of the tribes nationwide who can have membership and it deals with all of the programs that Indians have nationwide such as economics or health and human services or education or it could deal with legislation in Congress, many Supreme Court law cases that have come down, whether good or bad for us and what that means. So when I got elected to the Board of Directors that meant a very wide perspective then that I would have to work with. I served as secretary for the organization and then I was elected as treasurer as well for the organization and served there three years. I remember it was Joe De la Cruz asked me if I would be interested, cause Joe was on the Board of Directors and I said, ‘Well, I never thought about it but I would be.' So the Board met and put me in as Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians. So I went into...I didn't even go back to Eagle Butte because the urgency was so demanding at that point so I went directly to Washington, D.C. from the meeting. And my son was working at home for the tribe as a comptroller for the tribe and so I called him and asked him to go pack up my things. I'd written a letter of resignation and of course the chairman of the tribe was there so they knew my situation and I went to Washington, D.C. to become the Executive Director. And I wasn't prepared totally for what we found. We found a financial mess. The organization was almost on the verge of bankruptcy. Federal grants that the National Congress of American Indians had at that time were in danger of being pulled because no financial reports had been submitted. It was just a real mess. And then the main thing was that there was no credit, no credit for any of the hotels so we couldn't even have meetings. And so I put out the call to some of the tribal leaders at that time and here again Joe De la Cruz and Wayne Duscheneaux, they immediately responded and they sent people in to help. I remember Joe sent in his financial person to help begin sorting out records. Another tribal leader sent in some staff. I believe a tribe in Michigan sent me some workers because we had to terminate, we had to let go the staff that was there. We just didn't have the funds to make payroll. And I called on some of my friends then who were living in Washington, D.C. One, Carol Gipp, whose field is business and finance so she came over and started helping. I called upon my son who is an attorney and an excellent writer and so he came over to help. And so we kind of got by that way and we began sorting out the financial situation and we began making headway and I had meetings set up...I remember [unintelligible] with a tribe in Wisconsin helped greatly with the federal people because we had grants with Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. And so we had meetings set up with them to work out what arrangements we could make to get our grant back in good financial sitting. The years that I was there, the couple of years until my contract was up, I received a resolution of support from the National Congress of American Indians acknowledging all my hard work and that we put the National Congress of American Indians back on a firm sitting again and it was able to move ahead. New people coming on were able to take it from there and keep the progress going. So our old and venerated organization that had begun back in 1944 was on firm sitting again. I especially enjoyed all of the people because I got to meet Indian people nationwide and work with them. I got to know all of the staffers in Congress and work with them and some very, very outstanding, very supportive Congressmen and Senators such as Senator McCain. He remains an idol to me today. If you think all this man has done, he was a POW for seven, eight years of his life and his arms were broken and he can't even comb his own hair, physically he went through so much. And so he stood up, he stood up for Indian people many times. Senator Inouye who is Democrat, again a warrior who's lost an arm in the war fighting for his principles and what he thought and we have him on our side and he's stood up for Indian people many, many times. There's many people like that including staffers that kind of come and go because they're not well paid in the Congress but many of them, we've lost some good people in Congress like former Congressman Elizabeth Furse. We need people like that in Congress to understand where we come from as Indian people."

Sometimes encountering negativity, looking for the good things and meeting Tim Wapato

Gay Kingman:

"With me, the politics that I ran into were Indian politics and I had a hard time because all my life I've always believed to see the good in things and you can do good but when I ran up against some negativity in politics it was hard to fathom and I didn't have...I could not get on that level and deal with it...I'd rather take the high road so that's what I did. But one of the good things that came out of my time at the National Congress of American Indians, it was soon after I got in in 1989 the place was a mess and so I had asked the Indian community in Washington, D.C. to come and help me clean. And so the doors were open and we had people doing floors and dusting and washing and everything and in walked this man I'd never seen before. I thought he came to work so I said...I was going to put him to work and said, ‘Will you do this and that?' and he said, ‘No,' He said, ‘I'm house hunting.' But he said, ‘I'll come out and take you out to dinner later.' And I thought, ‘Sure, just another Indian man, he's making promises he won't keep.' So we were all working and we had the National Congress of American Indians building all spotless and here he came back and he did take us to dinner. That was my first time that I met Timothy Wapato who eventually was to become my husband. The more I talked to him I thought, ‘Well, this man has some intelligence,' and I liked what he did. He was the Commissioner of Administration for Native Americans. I never thought in my life that I'd ever get married again ‘cause I was always so busy and never had time for it. I liked my life. I was satisfied with what was happening. But when I met Tim Wapato, he eventually asked me to marry him and I said, ‘Well, let me think,' and finally it was like a month later we were on a plane together going somewhere, Albuquerque or somewhere and I said yes. So we did get married. We got married...we've been together since 1990 and got married. We called this spiritual man at home Orville Looking Horse. He's keeper of our sacred pipe which is on the Sioux...sacred pipe of the Sioux Nation which is housed on my reservation, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. So I called Orville and told him and he said...he didn't say anything. And of course you don't pressure spiritual leaders anyway so I thought, ‘Well, we'll just pray and see what happens.' And time got closer and closer. So meanwhile Tim had asked some of his spiritual leaders from the northwest and they said, ‘Well...' and it's a seven drum religion and they said, ‘We'd be happy to do it but we feel that we don't want to come into another spiritual man's area and you should start there first.' And so we didn't know what to do and one morning about 5:00 in the morning the phone rang and it was Orville. He didn't say, ‘We're going to do it,' or anything, he just told me what to do, what preparations I had to make to get ready. So we were married on the equinox of summer on June 22nd and Orville performed the ceremony. He brought sage from our sacred area there and green grass, it was a traditional ceremony. It was interesting because the tribe sent one of our cultural people to tape the ceremony and so for the next week or so our wedding played on our reservation and they showed...our wedding is part of the archives now of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe."

As a political couple in Indian Country, one a Democrat, one a Republican

Gay Kingman:

"I think it's advantageous that Tim and I were in different backgrounds, he Republican, me Democrat, he in different areas of expertise than mine because when it comes down to it, when you advocate for Indian people it doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat or Republican or Independent. What matters is that you get for Indian people what needs to get done. The same way with the issues that Tim worked in the past had always been environmental or law enforcement. Mine had always been education and administration. We figured out that we'd been at many of the same meetings but we'd never met. In our careers we could work both sides of the aisle because he being Republican he could work that way for Indian people and I could work the Democratic side of the aisle. Being nonpartisan I think is the best thing I think when things come together for Indian people."

In the early ‘90s as some of the tribes began gaming, some of the governors objected: the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) enters in

Gay Kingman:

"The times were contentious and Senator Inouye was telling the tribes, he said, ‘You've got to come together on this.' It's a time much like today where there's a lot of adversarial problems thrown at Indians not because it's right or it's the truth but because there's a lot of anti Indian sentiment out there. So a friend of mine, Raquel, who was chairman at that time of the Oneida Nation was running for president of the National Indian Gaming Association and in those days NIGA, National Indian Gaming Association was kind of operated out of a shoebox. There was no office, it was kind of wherever the elected leader resided was where the office was. So when we were working for Sycuan Danny Tucker was chairman and they were looking at maybe trying to do some gaming and Indian people are always looking to bring in economic development for the people. So I said to him, ‘Well, why don't you run with Raquel on the National Indian Gaming Association.' I got up and went out of the room to go to the bathroom and here again the board was meeting and when I came back in Tim said to me, ‘You're the new Public Relations Director.' I said, ‘I am?' And he said, ‘Yes.' They'd asked Tim if he thought I would take it and Tim says, ‘Well, I don't speak for Gay Kingman,' he said. He said the right thing. So anyway they'd gone on to other issues and so finally they told me that I was the new Director of Public Relations for the National Indian Gaming Association and this is in direct response to Senator Inouye's telling tribes that they had to get it together, they had to come together and do some good education and media outreach on what their needs were and why they were wanting to go into gaming. It wasn't very long thereafter, I'd say maybe a couple of weeks that they'd asked Tim to be the Executive Director. So together then we remained in Washington, D.C. and Sycuan ended up donating our time to the National Indian Education Association and our mission at the time, the direction that they gave us was to set up the National Indian Gaming Association with an office in Washington, D.C. and the old advocacy and education to Congress and to the media and to, at that time, the governors because we were having such difficulty with the governors. So we moved...we remained in our townhouse. We lived just a few blocks from the capitol and we had our office set up within our townhouse. Our computer was in our living room and our fax was on the dining room, our fax was on the kitchen table, on our dining room table we had some of our other things. But we hit the ground running. We didn't have any time to take a breather because things were happening within each state. There were real problems with the governors, they didn't want the Indians to do gaming, the Indians were saying, ‘Well, we can...within the state you're doing gaming, why can't we.' And there were lawsuits that were going on. Many, many of the states were really having contentious situations. Anyway, this whole scenario was going on and finally the Cabazon case had come down saying that if a tribe...if its state is doing gaming then the tribe can too. So I want to say all hell broke loose and it was, it was just all over then. The governors were complaining to President Clinton saying, ‘You can't let that happen. It's immoral, these Indians can't do gaming, they couldn't regulate, who are they.' So we were dealing with this whole thing and then at the same time Donald Trump through Congressman Torricelli had introduced legislation to deny Indian gaming to the tribes saying that they couldn't. And so we were having to deal with that too. Hearings were set up and the House Interior and Insular Affairs was to hold a hearing so we brought in, we got Indian people to come in. Grandmas came in and elderly and children came in. We just really...people wanted to protect what they had and it wasn't by any means near what we have in gaming today. It was real small scale but yet they knew that they were making money on it and it was good revenue and it was economic development and they needed to keep it. So we set up the hearing and I put...I researched Donald Trump's yacht and got a big picture of it and put it outside the hearing room door and at the same time got a picture of the school at Mille Lacs that they financed with Indian gaming proceeds. And Senator Inouye and Senator McCain came over, here again our star warriors came over and testified in support of Indian gaming and then it was Donald Trump's turn. And the chairman of the committee and that time, it was a Democrat, was Congressman George Miller from California. And Congressman Miller, I don't know if you know him but he's a very strong supporter of Indians and civil rights of people and he's also a very strong personality physically. He's a big man and very articulate and so they...when Trump got up to testify, Congressman Miller started asking him his questions and Trump had a very politically correct speech written but as he listened to Senator Inouye and McCain and some of the Indians testify he was getting angrier and you could just see him. He was writing on the side of his speech and then all at once he just crumpled it up and tossed it. So we didn't know what was going on and here was Donald Trump getting angrier. And so when George Miller started asking him questions, he just let it out. There was nothing politically correct about what he had and he called...he said, ‘Well, those Indians don't even look like Indians,' and he meant some of the Indians on the east coast eluding to that they were mixed Black. And George Miller, you don't fight with the chairman in his own committee and it was the most astounding thing that happened. And after Donald Trump testified, his people pulled him right out because they knew what he had done. And we had videotaped...I had videotaped the whole thing and so when Donald Trump left, the press followed him and Tim and Rick Hill were outside standing in front of these pictures of the School vs. Yachts and they held a press conference. And both Rick Hill and Tim Wapato are very articulate and extemporaneous speakers and they can think on their feet and they held the best press conference. And I immediately took the videotape over to a studio and viewed it and pulled out the excerpt of Donald Trump and him opening his mouth and getting in a fight with the chairman and we put that up on satellite feed and got it to all of the major networks by the 6:00 news and it repeated again on the 10:00 news. We made a seven second video of it. We got that out to all of the areas that had remote stations so they could get it too and it played nationwide. We called the legislation, the anti Indian gaming legislation, we renamed it the Donald Trump Protection Act. And so after that happened, that episode, no congressman or senator wanted to touch it and in fact it failed in committee. We won big. We defeated the anti Indian gaming legislation but by no means were we out of the woods because there were a lot of battles yet. All of the governors were still crying because Indians were beginning to game in their states. It was the early stages."

The National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act had passed in 1988

Gay Kingman:

"Here again we won a lot in it but we lost our sovereignty in the way that...Indians have always been able to game. We've gamed since time immemorial. We've had our stick games, we've had all of our games but when it came down to organized gaming I guess or slots or gaming that the states realized we were going to get some revenue out of then they wanted to deny it. So in the Indian Gaming Act that passed the Congress allowed the states to enter into a compact with Indians to do gaming. It was an erosion of our sovereignty because Indians have always been able to do gaming. Now we had to go to the state and work on a compact to do gaming and in some states they even refused to do that, they refused to do a compact and in some states it wasn't a negotiation, it was a dictatorial relationship like in my state of South Dakota. The governor just said, ‘We're dictating this is how it is, take it or leave it.' And the tribes took it. In my state there's not a lot of revenue out of gaming anyway because we just don't have the market, we don't have the populations. In this state of Arizona Governor Fife Symington, the tribes eventually even had to go to negotiated rule making on getting a compact. Governor Fife Symington would not do a compact with the tribes. This is a time when Tim and I were running night and day. We were in all of the states sporadically depending on where the hot spot was at that time and working with the tribes locally and then we'd do a lot of media outreach to call attention to the issue. We were back in the office and we would get reams and reams of fax papers from the different areas."

Educating Congress on the issue of taxing and Indians; the role of Congressman Hayworth

Gay Kingman:

"One of the other things that happened was Bill Archer, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, decided that he was going to tax Indian gaming so he came out with language saying that he was going to tax Indian gaming. Tim and I happened to be in, I think we were in Spokane at the time and we turned our phone off that night cause we were so tired and that morning when we turned it back on we had like 60 messages and it was all because this had broken just that afternoon which in D.C. was late afternoon and we didn't get it. And so we immediately headed back to D.C. but Tim as Executive Director immediately put onboard two people who were tax experts. We held training sessions for staffers on why Indians don't pay tax and why we don't pay tax is tribes were sovereign before anyone ever came to this United States. After the Constitution was set up based upon the tribes and the confederacy on the east, in there the Commerce clause were in there that you don't pay taxes and it's in a lot of our treaties. I'm from a tribe that has a treaty and this is our land, we gave...we got our land reduced because of the influx of non-Indian people across this United States and the treaties we signed that this would be our land for time immemorial, it can't be taxed due to the Constitution and due to our sovereignty that we've always had and yet this was what Bill Archer was trying to do. And so we tried, we really tried to educate each member of the Ways and Means Committee. Now if you've ever worked with the Ways and Means Committee it's called Gucci Gulch because the Ways and Means Committee handles all of the big money in the United States, the airlines and they handle everything that is huge money and the people that work there, they wear very fine clothes. And here we were kind of a rag tag little group of Indians trying to educate Congress and if they needed something we had a piece of paper telling them that this is it. Then meanwhile Congressman Hayworth from Arizona, this state, was a new congressman and then we said, ‘Well, you can't just educate him, he's got to carry this.' So Ivan Makil who was chairman at Salt River Tribe at that time, a young, astute chairman, really saw the danger in this and so he came and worked with us side by side. Every time Congressman Hayworth would kind of waiver a little, Ivan would be right there because these were his constituency could do it best. So when it came time to vote Chairman Archer had commissioned a report from GSA on why tribes should pay taxes and meanwhile J.D. Hayworth, while Congressman Archer was waving this GSA report on why tribes should pay taxes, and when it was Hayworth's time to speak he pulled the Constitution of the United States out of his pocket and he said, ‘It says right here in the Constitution of the United States,' and he gave the section and everything and he said, ‘that Indians do not pay taxes.' And he slammed it down on the table and he said, ‘I'll take the Constitution of the United States over any old GSA report anytime.' And you're not supposed to clap or anything in the committee but there was applause. And finally it came time to the vote and this was like 3:00 in the morning and so Tim said, ‘I'm going to go stand up there and look them in the eye because if they're going to vote against us, I'm going to see who it is.' So he went up there and he stood like this and looked them in the eye as each came time for roll call vote, which congressmen had asked for and when it came time for the final vote it was in our favor, we had won. Indian tribes would not be taxed and it has not come up again. We had won such a victory in the Ways and Means Committee and...Indian tribes historically don't go to that committee, we go to Education or we go to Interior and Insular Affairs or we go to the Senate Indian Affairs but that's a committee we don't usually work. When we won there and we won big, we were immediately celebrities almost. People were calling us, our phone was ringing off the hook but there were so many issues again."

Gaming, misperceptions and prejudice

Gay Kingman:

"In response to Indians are getting rich I think out of 560 some tribes nationwide there's still only 200 and some that do gaming and of those 200 and some that do gaming there's only a few that have the very wealthy gaming that we hear about. My tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, doesn't have any gaming at all. The tribes in South Dakota that do have gaming like the Oglalas, they're not getting rich. They make just barely enough to make payroll and maybe have a little income to the tribal general fund, the revenue fund. We don't have the population. You've got to have the population and the market to do gaming. This tribe here, Gila River, they have access to all of the Phoenix area, there's a huge population. And in the wintertime when we get all the snowbirds, it nearly doubles. So this tribe here has access to all that population and that market and so I would imagine here that their gaming is very, very...the revenue that they generate is very high. So that's one thing, it's a misnomer that all tribes are rich. But all my life this is what I've had to deal with, whether it's this misnomer about Indians are rich or this misnomer that we're drunken Indians or this misnomer that we're dumb. These are misnomers that all my life that I've tried to educate people on that Indian people are like everyone else, we have our good people, we have our bad people, we have unfortunates, we have wealthy. It's the sprinkling of America and I would love to have the opportunity to talk to people about these ideas that they have that need correction."

Moving to Scottsdale, Gay and Tim take her aging father in

Gay Kingman:

"At that time he was only 98 and he loved Arizona. And he was getting along really well and he'd go out and sit on the patio all morning and watch the birds and he just really loved the weather and the climate. And then after he reached 100 we thought we better move back home and take him back to South Dakota so he could be near his relatives and people could come visit him ‘cause everyone was wondering how he was. This man was getting on up in age and they wanted to see him. So we moved back to South Dakota and I'd had a home there since early ‘80s and so we just moved back and began renovating it and my father was able to visit friends and relatives. Of course at his age a lot of his close friends had moved on. I took care of my father and I was really happy. I'm so glad to have done it. There were some hard times, some things he didn't understand and he couldn't hear and he was getting very, very forgetful, sometimes he didn't know us. Most of the time he was in real good shape. He ate very, very well. He loved his oatmeal every morning and he ate almost around the clock little bitty meals. He didn't like to go to bed. They say as you get older that you revert back to your childhood and he did. He was like a child. He was like my baby. But we had such remarkable times with him too. His bedroom was down one level. I have a level house and one morning he came up and he says, ‘Oh, I made it.' And then he looked at Tim and I and he said, ‘I don't know what I'm going to do when I get old.' And at that time he was probably 103. He was great."

Tradition, politics, concerns for the future

Gay Kingman:

"Well, first of all I think it's only been one world and that's my spiritual world that's kept me strong. The way I was born and raised my parents brought me up to be very spiritual and whether it's the Catholic religion, which I was raised in but also the traditional religion. And so that's been what's kept me strong through everything. Everything else just fell in line with the spiritual way whether it's been the politics or advocacy or working in the non-Indian world, that's all tied in with the spiritualism. We're in a very similar situation as we were in 1993 when we were asked to take over the National Indian Gaming Association. The tone of the country is the same way. There's a lot of anti-Indian movements going on, we're getting beat up in the press. The tribes are stronger I think in many ways and then some of the tribes have a lot of capital to deal with these issues. But with capital comes also a lot of demands and so say for example some of the California tribes although they have a lot of revenue coming in from the gaming, the demands for that revenue have increased. Meanwhile in Congress we still have some of our friends. Senator Inouye is still there, Senator McCain is still there. We might have some new friends but we also have a lot that don't understand Indians that aren't friendly either. I think we need better education of Congress. And a lot that has spilled over from gaming is hurting us like on the east coast some of the tribes that have tried to do gaming. It's spilling over into what we call federal acknowledgement. One of the main problems we're faced with is within our own ranks as Indian people. I think we need to come together better. I don't want to say unity because we're always talking unity but going back to spiritualism and traditions and culture, I'm a firm believer that that's where we need to be. And with money comes prestige and all of the...I think some of the people with money want to embrace right away all the glitz and glitter of the non-Indian world, which is fine but don't lose your traditions and your culture cause that's who we are as a people. I see a lot of our young people who are floundering because they're going into gangs or they're taking drugs or alcohol. If they had their traditions and the cultures and the values that came from...that were taught in those, they wouldn't need that. And so that's I guess some of the problems that I see on the horizon that we're faced with."

Erosions to sovereignty

Gay Kingman:

"Yeah, I think it's a steady drip. I mentioned earlier the demands on the tribe because they now have a lot of money. For example the California tribes, they're small, maybe a few hundred people in a tribe and so the county is coming at them saying, ‘Well, we need money for roads, we need money for law protection,' so the tribes are negotiating with them to do that, which is fine but in a way it's eroding the sovereignty because they don't have to do that. They should be sovereign within themselves. It's also spilling off into other tribes like mine, my tribe because we don't negotiate with the county. We do to the point where we might have a mutual understanding but we don't give up any part of our sovereignty. We have a bill right now that's being floated around in Indian Country. It's called the Sovereignty Protection Act. I'm very fearful of it because what it's doing is...there are several sections in there that aren't very good like putting land into the PILT, the payment in lieu of taxes, saying that if you have trust land which isn't taxed then the United States Government will pay the county or the state in lieu of that land so they still get some money. Well, this is none other but taxation again, an attempted taxation and it's wrong because as I explained earlier it's our sovereign right, that land is ours in our treaties and in our heritage and it's ours, it shouldn't be taxed. But this legislation would allow that and tribes should rise up and deny this and it's floating around within our midst by our own people."

Gay's sons continue the family's legacy

Gay Kingman:

"My sons have followed in the path that was set by my ancestors, which is the responsibility we have to our Indian people. My one son is, as I mentioned earlier Vernon Robertson has his degree in business but he's gone on. He works for the Mille Lacs tribe and he's in there...he's Vice President of the Business and Economic Development, I'm not sure of his exact title. He's carried on. All of his positions have been to make things better for Indian people in the business world. Chuck, my other son, Chuck Robertson, with his degree in law is working also to make things better for Indian people. He's Executive Director of the National Tribal Judges Association and he works with all of the tribal judges nationwide in their respective areas. That was the other thing I forgot in the spiel that I mentioned that's floating around Indian Country that's so bad for us is the legal area, which would provide federal court review of our tribal courts and this is wrong because like my tribe and our tribal courts are just as good or better than courts off the reservation. We'd be the first to jump on our own tribal courts and improve them if something went wrong and so the regulatory factor is very important. So I'm very proud of my sons in that they've carried on the tradition that I've tried to carry on in my life."

Gay lectures in Madrid at a Human Rights forum chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu

Gay Kingman:

"What I learned was that there were other Indigenous people that are in the same category that we're in in our country. On June 25th of this year we'll be laying the memorial for the Indians that fought and died at Little Big Horn. My people, the Minneconjou Lakota, were the people that were totally annihilated at Wounded Knee, men, women and children. The children were followed up ravines and killed. The women were brutally mutilated and raped. For our people to have come through that and to have lived and to have survived is tremendous. And I like to think that my little part of the world where I've worked has had a hand in assisting with the improvement of human rights for Indian people. But I found out that it doesn't have to do with Indigenous I guess, with being a minority within a large majority. You're not respected and you're denied a lot of things. Our school systems on the reservation, if you look at the SAT scores, most of the school systems on the reservation are far below those off the reservation and it's not because the children are dumb it's just that they have less opportunities afforded them. These are all...there's so much to get done. In my life I guess I've tried to work on some of them."

A hope for the future and a legacy that could be shared

Gay Kingman:

"I'd like to see our sovereignty have true sovereignty where we're self-sufficient and our tribes are self-sufficient and our people aren't in poverty. My tribe and some of the tribes in the Great Sioux Nation live in, by the U.S. Census, some of the highest poverty in the United States, the counties that they're in and that shouldn't be in this United States with all of the wealth. When you think that we were self-sufficient here before the coming of the White Man, we had strong values that of fortitude and generosity and all of these things that kept us strong and I'd like to see that shared but until all people in this United States become out of poverty and self-sufficient, that would be my dream."

The Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times series and accompanying curricula are for the educational programs of tribes, schools and colleges. For usage authorization, to place an order or for further information, call or write Institute for Tribal Government – PA, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, Oregon, 97207-0751. Telephone: 503-725-9000. Email:

[Native music]

Videotaping and Video Assistance
Chuck Hudson, Jeremy Fivecrows and John Platt of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Green Fire Productions

Photo Credit:
Photo collection of Gay Kingman and Tim Wapato

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times is also supported by the non-profit Tribal Leadership Forum, and by grants from:
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Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Jayne Fawcett, Ambassador
Mohegan Tribal Council
And other tribal governments

Support has also been received from
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© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government

Suzan Shown Harjo: Nobody Gives Us Sovereignty: Busting Stereotypes and Walking the Walk

American Indian Studies Program

The first-ever speaker in the Vine Deloria, Jr. Distinguished Indigenous Scholars Series, Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) shares her personal perspective on the life and legacy of the late Vine Deloria, Jr., and provides an overview of her work protecting sacred places and fighting racist stereotypes that demean Native Americans. She also calls for all Native Americans to commit in some form or fashion to joining the struggle against enduring colonial forces that seek to destroy tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Harjo, Suzan Shown. "Nobody Gives Us Sovereignty: Busting Stereotypes and Walking the Walk." Vine Deloria, Jr. Distinguished Indigenous Scholars Series. American Indian Studies, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 9, 2008. Presentation.

“Thank you so much, Tom [Holm] and Tsianina [Lomawaima] and Tarissa [Spoonhunter] for getting me here and arranging things. I met Vine Deloria Jr.; I met Vine Deloria Sr. first in South Dakota and then in New York in the early 60s. I met Vine Jr. in 1965 in this state in Scottsdale where the National Congress of American Indians [NCAI] was having its convention. And I came down to Gila River because I have relatives there on our Cheyenne side, a boarding school alliance between a Cheyenne relative of my mother’s and a Pima woman and he was captured and taken to Gila River after boarding school. So I have a lot of relatives at Gila River who are also Cheyenne. And so I had my first child and took her to Gila River to see some of our relatives there. And while there, saw that NCAI was meeting in Scottsdale so I went over to talk with Vine Deloria since he was the executive director. And I had had a problem with some sacred objects that were in the Museum of the American Indian in New York and I wanted to get them out. So with my baby on my hip I went over and talked to Vine who was our most important Indian on the national scene and I was kind of skeptical about him. I thought, ‘Well, this is another politician and he wouldn’t have gotten in that job if he hadn’t been a politician,’ and I was skeptical of all politicians at that moment. And so he took a moment to talk with me and I asked him about, ‘How do you go about getting a sacred item back from a museum?’ And he said, ‘I really don’t know. I have no idea how to do that.’ He said, ‘But what I’ll do is help you think about it.’ So he had my attention because he said, ‘I don’t know anything about that’ and that he would help me think about it. I thought that was just wonderful and that was the beginning of a very great and long friendship.

We worked together on all sorts of things. I worked with Vine on guerrilla actions that had nothing to do with my background or experience and he did the same and we taught each other a lot. And I think I learned a lot more from him than he did from me but I taught him a few things as well. And when years passed and I wanted to, I’d been asked by Joe De la Cruz who was a friend of ours, very great leader from the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington State, if I would be director of the National Congress of American Indians and so I was really inclined to do it for a lot of reasons. The two most important ones were because Joe had asked and because Vine had been director of NCAI. So I talked to Vine about it and asked if I should do it and he said, ‘Don’t do it. It’s a terrible job.’ And he said, ‘What happened to me will happen to you. I found myself under my desk crying, just sobbing because I knew there was so much to do for the Indian people and I could do so little about it.’ And I thought that was just an amazing thing to say and said so much about his humanity and I thought about it for awhile and then I called him and said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do the job.’ And I was a little concerned about what his reaction might be but instantly he said, ‘Great! Let’s get to work. Now here’s what we need to do.’ And whenever Vine said, ‘Here’s what we need to do’, he meant, ‘Here’s what you have to do.’ But he always meant too that he would help you think about it. He would help you figure it out.

So I did that job and Vine was my closest confidant in that job and he was right about it being a terrible job. So no matter who’s in that position, I never say a bad word about them in public. So if you want me to say anything bad about NCAI director you have to catch me in private in a weak moment. But in public, it is a terrible job and you are aware of so many needs and how little you can do to address anything and everything. But I have to say that on my watch we did a lot of amazing things including getting the National Museum of the American Indian, getting repatriation law, getting gaming law, not small stuff, all of that. So I’m very proud of my tenure there and I have to say that I didn’t spend any time under my desk sobbing. That’s because I couldn’t fit under my desk. But that’s not to say that it was without tears.

We all in our traditions have a formality that we need to go through and I have to say before going farther in this public talk how I have to greet you with condolences. The Iroquois have something called The Wiping of the Tears ceremony. All of our peoples have that in our traditions and I’m reminded just by watching television of what happened here not very long ago between one Navajo young woman who is no longer alive and another who has lost control of her life forever. And I see that the one who is living and must be living in a hell of her own devising is on trial right now and so I did ceremony for all of you here who knew them, who know them, who were here at the time or who are feeling the ripples of that emotional onslaught that occurred on this campus. So I offer you my condolences and I hope that you will do what’s proper to do with all broken hearts, that you just surf on the top of negative energy and use it to accomplish something, to dedicate yourself to doing something about anything. No one can do everything about everything. You can do something about something and you just have to make a pledge to yourself to start and to do it in the name of someone or someone’s. And it would be good to dedicate yourself to the memory of people who had so much promise unfulfilled and to do something about the eradication of jealousy and envy, which are probably our two most important substantive enemies in Indian Country. And not just in Indian Country, you see it all around. A rising star shows up on the political scene and is immediately the target of people who are so envious that they are beside themselves and they do lose their mind, these people who have, who are guided by that kind of energy. When Shakespeare had a character say that jealousy was the green-eyed monster of despair that was so apt, it was so important. I have never heard a better description of jealousy. It eats away at you and it does consume you and take over your life.

Tom mentioned Hank Adams, the very great Hank Adams. Vine Deloria once wrote an article about Hank calling him ‘the most important Indian.’ And he was and he continues to be for many of us and for many reasons. Hank Adams is Assiniboine and Sioux and grew up in the Pacific Northwest and he thinks for people. He really is just a thinker. He wrote the '20 Points,' which you see on a lot of websites as an anonymous document or as the AIM [American Indian Movement] manifesto. Well, that was actually written by a person. Nothing ever just falls from the sky full written. That was written by Hank Adams. And one time I asked him, ‘Does it bother you that no one knows that you wrote that?’ And he said, ‘No, not at all.’ He said, ‘And that wasn’t the point was it?’ That’s right. The 20 Points give a good snapshot in time of where we were in the early 1970s, where Indian affairs kind of stood and what in some people’s minds could be done about it at the time. So Hank Adams is a very important person to research and read and if you’re looking at documents that are unattributed from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s and into the late ‘70s, you’re likely to find that Hank had a hand in writing those or some sort of, or maybe wrote all of those documents but you find a lot of them along the way. One time I was in a meeting of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians on the Pacific coast by Quinault Nation and it was very late and people were just talking as people do when it gets very late. And one man from the northwest shouted out, as Hank Adams was talking, ‘You have my international reputation.’ And he yelled it and everyone went, ‘What?’ And the man repeated it and said, ‘You, Hank Adams, have my international reputation.’ Well, what an odd thing that, you have to sort of put yourself in the mind of this man who was saying that to Hank Adams. What would make him in a social setting say something that was so bizarre but that to him was not at all bizarre? He had righteous indignation about Hank Adams and then he used the word stole, ‘You stole my international reputation.’ This is really strange. That’s how far jealousy can go. It makes you lose your sense of discernment; it makes you lose your sense of proportion of what’s socially acceptable in polite society.

Here Hank Adams just being kind of quiet, scholarly, intellectual Hank Adams scribing away for everyone and informing movements, writing what became the basis of the legal briefs that results in the Boldt Decision that upheld treaty fishing rights, doing that kind of stuff to benefit a whole lot of people and here someone else thought he had somehow stolen his international reputation. You never know what’s in the mind of a crazy person. Jealousy is craziness, envy is craziness and you never appreciate the limit of that kind of mind and the limitations of that kind of mind and the capabilities of that kind of mind. So be very cautious around crazy people. In our ceremonial ways, we’re always told not to go out in public when you are preparing for ceremony because you’re in a very vulnerable, receptive, weakened state, that you’re making yourself strong to be able to make offerings, to be able to withstand the rigors of whatever kind of ceremony you’re going through but you’re also in a very weakened position because you have no defenses, you’re not expecting any onslaughts, any assaults so you’re not supposed to go out in public, not supposed to go around lots of people, only people you know and trust, very small, doing things in a very private way while you’re in that state of making yourself receptive to visions or messages or just your own meditation [because] you never know when you go out in public where there’s someone lurking who is about to stand up and say, ‘You stole my international reputation.’

When you take on causes, it’s also done with some ceremoniousness and you have to be very careful because it means you are taking on enemies that you never had before and enemies you will never meet, enemies that will try to do things to you from the sidelines, through other people, through your job, through your school, through your nation, through your circle of friends so you have to really prepare yourself and understand how you could be vulnerable and if you are vulnerable to get rid of your vulnerabilities. If you can be taken out by booze, stop drinking. If you can be taken out by women or men or, what are your vulnerabilities, just eliminate the possibility of being used or undermined by people who will see any kind of weakened situation that you’re in. If you think that it doesn’t take courage to stand up to authorities or to something official or to something that’s wrong, then you don’t know what courage is. Vine Deloria was one of the most courageous people I have ever known and why? Because he would stand up and say, ‘This isn’t a good thing to do, let’s just cut it out shall we?’ And he would back it up.

He was the first person I thought of when, and the first person I asked to be a part of a lawsuit that I was contemplating bringing against the Washington football team, [because] I knew that we shared the same thoughts and we had worked on some projects together to get rid of Native references in sports in a variety of areas. In Louisville, Kentucky, for one, got rid of all of the elementary and middle school and high school Native references in their sports world, which took some doing and Vine was a great help with that. And it was done and when it was done, ‘Okay, that’s the end of that.’ Getting it done though we faced a lot of flak, mainly from the alums. And they would yell at us and say, ‘Don’t you have anything more important to do?’ Well, we’d look at each other and say, ‘We’re the ones doing the more important things. We’re the ones getting land back. We’re the ones doing religious freedom. We’re the ones doing these hugely important things -- getting health clinics, getting education programs. We are doing the more important things.’ And no one who has ever used that line, ‘Don’t you have more important things to think about or to do?’ has ever done anything for the Native people. I haven’t heard of anyone and it always makes me laugh whenever I see that.

Vine was the first person I asked to go on that journey of litigation that is now 16 years old. And if this were a child we would be preparing this child for college. Sixteen years. Now why has it lasted that long? Because the other side has employed a really old tactic against us, which is trying to starve us out. They’re trying to make us use whatever money we have by using all the money they have. And it’s not just the Washington football franchise that we’re up against, the National Football League, the NFL, has paid for every penny of litigation on their side, even though they’re not a named plaintiff. We didn’t sue the NFL; we only sued Pro Football, Inc., the owner of the Washington football team. So we have these huge monoliths that we are fighting and I miss Vine at my side on that fight but I can hear everything that he said so well and why he wanted to be involved in that fight was because, he said, ‘We owed it to our grandchildren, that this was a burden that we as the responsible adult population could not pass on to our children and grandchildren.’ So what’s ironic about that is that the courts are now saying that we waited too long. ‘Yes, you were the responsible adult population but you waited too long to file the suit.’ So they’re saying we’re too old in a world where we thought that’s what the elders were supposed to do was step up and lead the way. So now I recruited six young Native people to file our same lawsuit and they have done that. And our lawsuit remains alive, but it could be dismissed through the loophole of latches, passage of time, and it could be that they will never reach the merits of disparagement in our case. In the case of the 18 to 24 year olds, they don’t have a loophole of latches to hide behind and so they have to reach the merits of the case. So it’s going to be interesting to see how they address the merits of the case either in the case that’s captioned with my name or the case that’s captioned with Amanda Blackhorse’s name, Blackhorse et al. versus Pro Football, Inc. So it’s very interesting to have this kind of lawsuit.

In the meantime, we’ve been changing and getting changed these Native references with regularity since the '60s. The very first one was the University of Oklahoma and that fell by the wayside in 1970. That was the very first Native reference in American sports to be eliminated, was Little Red. Now why was Little Red, Little Red? Because in the beginning all of the schools didn’t have mascots, they only had colors. And Oklahoma was red so Big Red. It went from Red to Big Red and then Big Red had to have a Little Red. And once they had a Little Red it became a diminutive Indian, sort of Indian, mascot who used to dance around. And the Indian kids in Oklahoma like me would call Little Red the dancing idiot and Little Red was always a white guy in some sort of Indian outfit or supposed Indian outfit that became more and more authentic over time but the White guys could never dance. They still didn’t know how to dance like Indians. So then they had an Indian guy, their concession to all the clamber to get rid of Little Red was to make Little Red an Indian guy. And he was someone from my hometown who didn’t know how to dance either. And he, my cousin had a crush on him when we were little kids and he spat on her because he didn’t like Indian girls. And so of course we did not hold him in high regard in our town and he wasn’t Cheyenne or Arapahoe and we didn’t have a whole lot of tolerance for people who weren’t one of those two, in El Reno, Oklahoma. And when he became the University of Oklahoma’s Little Red, he went to my cousin, who was the brother of the girl who had had the crush on him and he knew Little Red, asked my cousin who was Junior Powwow champion, Junior Fancy Dance champion, which means something in Oklahoma and he asked him, ‘Would you sell me your outfit and would you teach me how to dance?’ So my cousin without saying a word took everything, his outfit onto the front lawn and set it on fire. Now that’s a Cheyenne response. That’s why we don’t have too much. It’s why we don’t have any museums and we had to build a national one. It was a heck of a thing to do and something that I’ll always be proud of my cousin for having done. The guy didn’t understand what that gesture meant. He knew it meant no. But he didn’t understand it and there was nothing he could do about it.

So he was Little Red and there was another Little Red and then there was a third Little Red who was also a Native person who was Navajo at the University of Oklahoma. And he accepted the job as Little Red but he really liked Indians. He liked the Indians in the Indian club and he wanted to understand what all this was about. This was his first year at OU and all of a sudden he’s the target of everyone. So what his friends told him, his Native friends was this, ‘Sit in the stands, just don’t go out for the big game.’ This was the homecoming game. ‘Don’t go out, just sit in the stands and see what happens when you don’t go down to dance.’ And so he did that and what he heard was, ‘where’s Little Red? We want Little Red,’ and everyone cheering and saying, ‘Yay, Little Red.’ And then the crowd turning and saying, ‘Eh, the Little Red, that dirty, ’ Calling him names and being angry with him because he wasn’t out there entertaining them. So then he really got it and he turned in his Little Red credentials or whatever you do and that started the University of Oklahoma in the direction of getting rid of the tradition of Little Red altogether because he had the courage to say, ‘Okay, let me try it. I’ll sit in the stands, I’ll sit this out, I want to hear what’s really being said.’ And so he got to understand what it was to be objectified and what it was to be the target of negative stereotyping. He had thought it was fine because it was a good stereotype but he came to understand that there’s no such thing as a good stereotype. There’s no such thing as a good stereotype. So even if people are saying, ‘Oh, we really like what you’re doing, we really like what you’re saying, you’re a good Indian,’ be very careful if someone’s calling you a 'good Indian' [because] where that comes from is from someone who chased our Cheyenne people all around the Plains after he had burned the south, Philip Sheridan. And what he would say is, ‘The only good Indian is a dead Indian.’ And he’s the one who sent Custer out to kill the Cheyennes on the Washita. And then Sheridan and Custer at the Washita were the reason that the Cheyennes went to Little Big Horn, where they did not lose.

I am enormously proud of my Cheyenne ancestors who were at Little Big Horn. I’m enormously proud of our Cheyenne people who resisted in whatever way they could resist the onslaught of 'civilization,' the efforts to change them into people they weren’t, their efforts to make treaties to provide for me. I’m here because someone could not kill Bull Bear. Chief Bull Bear was my great-great grandfather and he was the head of the Dog-Man Society at a time when the Dogmen Society families comprised more than half of the Cheyenne Nation. And the Cheyenne Nation at that time included, the Dogmen Society camps included Lakotas, included Kiowas, included Arapahoes, included some Comanches. It was a real United Nations. And the people were tri-lingual, quadra-lingual and they were called 'uncivilized' and 'savage.' And when they talked about the 'bad Indians' or the 'hostile Indians' or the 'fomenters of dissent,' that’s my family. I’m so happy for that. They created the civilization regulations that were in place, that were tools of religious oppression, cultural oppression, family breakup for over 50 years from the mid-1880s to the mid-1930s outlawing the Sun Dance and all other so-called ceremonies, outlawing the pagan and heathen activities of a so-called medicine man, prohibiting Indian parents from interfering with the education of their children. That meant as their youngest children were being taken away to boarding schools they couldn’t stop it. Outlawed dancing, outlawed roaming off the reservation with no apparent point in view, outlawed ponies [because] that was a mechanism for roaming off the reservation and stopped Native people from going to sacred places and then confiscated the places for the public domain. And that’s what you have a lot of court cases about today is those places that were taken in the name of 'civilization' that were stolen from the Native people where the Native people were prohibited from going to pray, to have ceremonies, to celebrate passages in people’s lives. Some of those places are now on federal lands and only the Native people can’t go there, only the Native people can’t control those places.

One of those places is Mount Graham and this university teamed up with the Vatican and with other entities, educational and religious, to desecrate it with the huge telescope project that exists now at the top of Mount Graham. And the people, the Apache people who opposed it and said, ‘That’s a holy place, that’s where we go for vision questing, that’s where the Gaan dancers live.’ They would say, ‘Oh, you mean the devil dancers?’ Now any place, any time you see a map or hear about a place that sounds sort of negative biblically, you know that that’s a place that was sacred or is sacred to Native people. Anything that the white people came into and called the devil-- a devil dancer, Devil’s Tower, Hell’s Canyon -- any of these places that have that kind of name -- Squaw Peak -- any place that was given a pejorative or a devilish kind of name, you know it’s a sacred place for Native people. So here at Mount Graham where the Gaan dancers live, where there are burials, where there are living objects of religious importance, where people have to go for emergence, not just one time in their life but many times in their life through any sort of passage, this university, the Forest Service, the Vatican all teamed up against the Apaches and called the religious practitioners crazy. I was in the chief of staff, in the [President Bill] Clinton Administration, I was visiting Leon Panetta who was chief of staff when one of the lobbyists for this coalition for the telescopes, which they originally called the Columbus Telescope -- which I thought was really rubbing it in -- they came, the lobbyist came in and said in front of me that ‘the Apache people were nuts, were crazy, were demented.’ And it reminded me so much of the way our Cheyenne people had been treated. And then on my father’s side how our people had been treated by the non-Indian people and by the good Christian people who moved everyone out of their homes in the Southeast and into Indian territory without asking permission and doing so against law, against any sort of morality.

These are huge things that are being done to Native people and they’re the same things that have been done to us throughout history. No other people have had their religions outlawed, no other people have had a final solution against them as we have had the Civilization Regulations, no other people have had these things done to us in the name of law and justice. And now when Native people are trying to do something about it and trying to get back into court, into legal processes to regain some of this territory, especially our sacred places, we’re being tossed out of court with regularity. A recent court decision was rendered against Navajos and Hopis and Apaches and Pueblos and Havasupais and Hualapais in the San Francisco Peaks case. The Ninth Circuit, after having decided on the side of the Indians in the San Francisco Peaks case, then were requested for an en banc decision for all of the Ninth Circuit judges, not just the three, to look at the case. And of course the minute that the Ninth Circuit accepted the petition for en banc consideration everyone knew that was the ballgame, that they would not have accepted had they not been about to overturn the three-judge unanimous decision. So in the en banc decision what are they saying about San Francisco Peaks? Well, they said it’s okay to use wastewater for snow, they didn’t permit the question about health, ‘Would you permit a baby to eat snow that has just this little one to 10 percent of sewage in it?’ They didn’t permit that. They permitted the religious testimony but not anew, they only permitted an argument and they decided that what they were dealing with was damaged, spiritual feelings. Now that’s sort of like saying, ‘You Indians are whiners, you just have hurt feelings and you’re trying to get us to stop using sewage water for snow at the top of your holy mountains.’

This is something that I encountered with the Forest Service in 1978 right after we had gotten the American Indian Religious Freedom Act passed and I went into the [President Jimmy] Carter administration and was made the person in charge of implementing the Religious Freedom Act and working with all the 50 agencies in the first year’s implementation and reporting to Congress. So the Hopi elders asked me to convene a meeting with the Forest Service and I did and they talked about San Francisco Peaks and how this recreation was causing turmoil in very important places in the peaks. And the Forest Service people just wanted to know, ‘What are we talking about, how much territory, how much land do you need?’ And the Hopis were saying, ‘It’s not like that. All of the San Francisco Peaks are sacred. It’s a landscape, a sacred landscape. It’s not to have skiing over here, religion over here. It’s not like that. You can’t pollute one area and expect the rest to remain unpolluted.’ So the Forest Service people were trying everything they could to get the Hopis to answer these quantification kinds of questions and in exasperation at one point a Forest Service man said, ‘Okay, you say your gods walk around the San Francisco Peaks. How big are their feet?’ And even for the Hopi elders who were speaking English, they knew they were talking a different language. How big are their feet? That was, there was no more meeting after that. That was the equivalent of my cousin having taken his outfit to the front lawn and set it on fire just because he couldn’t bear contemplating the request. The Forest Service people did not understand why that ended the meeting. They just didn’t get it. The Hopi elders felt that there was nothing more to discuss and that they had made their point and that they certainly weren’t in a position to say how big their god’s feet were or even if they had feet. It was just another way of looking at the world.

So that’s the kind of thing that’s going on right now. At Bear Butte, a holy mountain to the Cheyenne people, there are all sorts of things that are happening there that are disturbing the people’s vision questing, disturbing the people’s meditation, their prayer, everything that’s done there by all the 60-plus nations who go there, whose traditional people go there, has to be done in quiet. There’s nothing that can be done with loudness. It’s just right next door where the town of Sturgis has the motorcycle roundup and where the people, at one point we almost had to make a treaty with them [because] they were driving up Bear Butte and throwing bottles -- beer bottles, pop bottles -- and hitting our people who were in meditation, who were in prayer, who weren’t allowed to do anything or even move from dawn ‘til dusk. And they made a game of trying to disturb them and then made a game of them just being targets. So we finally stopped that sort of thing but the roundup has gotten louder and louder and louder and now they have lots of music events. One of the candidates for president, John McCain -- who knows better -- went to Sturgis for this year’s roundup and said, '250,000 motorcycles, that’s the sound of freedom.’ And then he said, ‘Drill here, right here, drill here.’ Here is Bear Butte, this holy mountain to so many Native people. It’s acknowledged as a holy mountain by the federal government, by the state government of South Dakota, some of our people own part of Bear Butte. We’ve been trying to buy it back when it’s been under threat of development. Our Cheyenne/Arapahoe people, our nations own 120 acres. Lower Brule Tribe owns about that and others are contemplating buying up some of the buffer zone. And it was shocking to see a sitting senator go to the base of our holy mountain that is so huge in our history and to talk about, to encourage this roar of 'freedom' and to invite people to drill; ‘drill here, drill here.’ And he wasn’t pointing to any other place. He wasn’t saying generally or offshore, he was saying, ‘Here, here.’

In the southeast, because so many of our peoples have been removed from our sacred places, they are being plowed under, dug up -- burial grounds, worship areas, mounds, all sorts of places that you would think people would have respect for, just a little respect -- and those are being destroyed by the thousands each year, by the thousands. So this is something that is a crisis in Indian Country and it should be a crisis for America and is not yet. I think it’s because not enough people understand what happened and that there are too many people who understand but simply don’t care and who are fine with it, who are fine with it and would like to see an end to the Indians forever. Something we faced before and something we faced in the Civilization Regulation period, but now I think a lot of politicians rightly perceive that once we lose our language, once we lose our culture, once we lose our religion, if those things are no longer in existence then we are no longer Native people. Then who are we? And we will cease to exist. So I think that we are in for it, I think we’re in for it and that that’s the era we’re in right now.

One of the things that Vine did that was so very important was to work his heart out for sacred places protections. And he went to a lot of these places I’ve been talking about and really helped us out, tried to do what he said he would do when I met him in 1965 to think about it, to think how we could do it. Well, we thought a lot of, we figured a lot of stuff out. We figured out the repatriation laws, we figured out the whole line of cultural property rights laws and I’m very happy with what we have done. The only thing that we were not able to achieve was full legal protections for sacred places so we’ve had to cobble together protections made of other laws, cobble together protections made of people in corporate America and people in government at all levels who have a conscience and who have just done things irrespective of laws that say you can or cannot do this certain thing. Because in the end everything comes down to people -- it comes down to you and you and you and me -- to get something done. And here’s the good news about it, it doesn’t take many people to get something done. It doesn’t take many people at all. Any time we have a campaign on an important Indian law and we have five Native people on Capitol Hill, you’ll hear from all over Capitol Hill, ‘Indians are everywhere in town.’ So it doesn’t take long, it doesn’t take many people, but it just takes committed people and people who look around and say, ‘I can do something over here. I can help out over here. People need a helping hand here. People need my thinking about this. I need to be a part of the conversation.’ Maybe you don’t have 10 years of your life but maybe you have 10 minutes or you have 10 months. Any kind of time you can give to the Indian public service, is all to the good. Whether you’re Native, whether you’re not Native, but especially if you’re a Native person, you should pony up and say, ‘This is what I have to do to serve Native America.’

I want to open this up for questions but I also want to read a poem that I wrote for Vine Deloria’s celebration of life. And it was right after, it was a public event. I’d been asked to speak at it and I knew we were going to say our final farewells to him in a small setting and then go into this larger setting. So I was trying to figure out what I should say and I was at my computer typing in the morning and nothing was coming out right. And then I could hear Vine’s voice in my head saying, ‘Just write a poem for Christ’s sake.’ So I did and this was the easiest poem I ever wrote and the hardest one I ever read.

This is called 'Sing Your Song for Vine':

Vine was our sacred mountain and raging river and gentle rain. Healing sage after Sun Dance sacrifice. Cool, calm waters after a hard day’s work. He was that wicked funny thought at the least appropriate time, whip smart and coyote clever tossing banana peels beneath the feet of the pompous. He was our Atticus Finch who defended us to the death. He was our teasing cousin who never let us get away with pretention, our kind grandpa who wanted us to love each other, our warrior leader who lifted us up for counting coup, our stern teacher who made us sit up straight, our good-time uncle who took us to old timey movies, our kid brother who always wanted to play another game. He filled our horizons and now we see him as a mirage, but sing your song for Vine and call him to your side, a Yanktonai song for the longest journey, an honor song of praise and thanksgiving, a traveling son by the Sons of the Pioneers. Then he will be there as a shadow of an eagle overhead as the glint of silver medicine flying from the corner of your eye, as a distant sound that commands your attention, as a sudden realization you might think of as an original thought, as the turning aspen leaves in the peace and glory of the dying moment, as a gentle voice telling you things will be better when you know they never will be, as maybe just a sigh, ah, hello my dear friend, I have a song for you.