non-Indian education

Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways

Year

The Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways is the caretaker of cultural heritage for the Saginaw Chippewa. The Center educates the Tribe’s citizens and the general public through its permanent and rotating exhibits, research center, repatriation efforts, art market, workshops, and language programs. By sharing its story in many ways, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan is reclaiming its past and celebrating its vibrant present as Anishinabe people.

Resource Type
Citation

"Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways." Honoring Nations: 2008 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2009. Report.

Permissions

This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: John Echohawk

Producer
Institute for Tribal Government
Year

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, conducted in July 2002, Native American Rights Fund (NARF) co-founder and Executive Director John Echohawk shares his journey as a leader in Indian Country. A powerful voice in cases supporting Indian rights throughout the U.S., he has won numerous awards for his achievements.

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

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Echohawk, John. "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" (interview series). Institute for Tribal Government, Portland State University. Portland, Oregon. July 2002. 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]

Narrator:

"John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, NARF, today oversees multiple lawsuits on behalf of Native tribes in a more than 30 year career of correcting century's old injustices through the legal system. NARF, a nonprofit organization located in a rehabilitated fraternity house in Boulder, Colorado, provides legal representation and technical assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide, a constituency that has historically lacked access to the justice system. Echohawk has been with NARF since 1970 and served as Executive Director since 1977. Born and raised in New Mexico, John Echohawk is a member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. From a family that emphasized education, he is one of three siblings out of six that grew up to be lawyers. After attending Farmington High School he received his BA from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico's special program to train Indian lawyers. He was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. His years of study coincided with a time of national tumult and social change, when the inequitable treatment of African Americans and other minorities including Native Americans was coming into vivid focus. His studies also coincided with a crucial period in federal Indian relations when the federal government had been systematically dismantling reservations through legislation. The Ford Foundation which had also assisted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People issued a grant to California Legal Services for an Indian Legal Defense Fund. From this the Native American Rights Fund was formed. The organization was then moved to Colorado to be more central to the tribes it represents. In his years with NARF John Echohawk has worked with tribes throughout the lower 48 and Alaska on crucial and often contentious issues of natural resources, tribal sovereignty, human rights and ancestral burial grounds. His rule of thumb if, "˜Never give up.' Twice recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States, Echohawk has opened doors and forged many alliances in his work for Native tribes. One of the boards on which he serves is the National Resources Defense Council. He believes that Native Americans and environmentalists ought to be natural allies. He also serves on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. In 1995 he was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission. One of the most sought after experts on Indian issues, John Echohawk has received numerous awards over the years including The Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association. On behalf of the Native American Rights Fund he accepted the seventh Carter-Menil Human Rights Prize in 1992. Echohawk has been married almost 40 years to his wife Kathryn whom he met in Farmington where the two grew up. He has one son, a scientist at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico and a daughter who works at the American Indian College Fund in Denver helping Indian colleges grow. John and Kathryn Echohawk also enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. The Institute for Tribal Government interviewed John Echohawk in Portland, Oregon, July, 2002."

The war on poverty initiative and the beginning of the Indian Law Program

John Echohawk:

"I was one of the participants in the first Indian Law Program started by the federal government to develop some Indian attorneys that had been realized by the federal government at that time through their Office of Economic Opportunity, the War on Poverty that occurred during the 1960s, that there were only a handful of Native American attorneys across the whole country and that perhaps one of the best strategies to try to fight poverty in Indian communities was to get some Indians who were professionals like doctors and like lawyers. I checked with the University of New Mexico Law School for scholarship assistance and they told me that they had just contracted with the federal government to start this Indian Law scholarship program so I was just in the right place at the right time and accepted one of these scholarships and became part of the first class of Indian law students to start studying law under this new federal initiative."

The impact of the social movements of the 1960s on Echohawk's life work

John Echohawk:

"The Civil Rights Movement was something that I was able to put into context by going to law school. Of course I learned about the legal process and how that system works and basically I found that through the use of law in litigation that people could have their rights recognized and enforced even though they were politically unpopular and that's what was happening during the Civil Rights Movement. The courts were doing cases that provided equal protection and equal treatment for African Americans in this country for the first time and even though that was not politically popular this is what was required by the laws of this country if there was to be equal treatment of all people in this country. And so I saw how that happened through the use of the litigation process and when we started thinking about how that impacted Native American people we saw that we needed to utilize that same strategy. There had never been Indian law taught in the law schools and so the professors started pulling together the materials relating to Indian treaties and federal statutes relating to law and the treatises that had been done on Indian law and so the first time there was a body of materials that could be studied about Indian law. And when us Indian law students started reading that we saw that our tribes had substantial rights in the treaties and in the federal laws that were really going unenforced and the reason that was happening is because this legal process requires you to have attorneys to assert and protect your rights and if you don't have attorneys then it doesn't matter what it says in the treaties and the statutes. You don't have any rights. The tribes did not have lawyers cause they didn't have any money. They were poor and so we knew that what needed to be done was to get lawyers for tribes to assert these rights that tribes had. And that's when we decided that we needed to start the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit organization that would raise funds, hire lawyers expert in Indian law and make them available to the tribes around the country. We knew this would be something that would be beneficial cause we had seen at the same time we were in law school the start of civil legal services programs funded by the federal government being put out into poor communities around the country so that poor people could have lawyers. And some of these programs were started on Indian reservations. Of course the federal government didn't have enough money to put legal services lawyers on all the reservations so it was really present on only a few of the reservations but where they were active they were able to do many things in terms of enforcing Indian laws for the benefit of Indians. So we saw the formation of something like the Native American Rights Fund as being able to take the provision of legal services to tribes on a national basis and help many more people."

Native American Rights Fund attorneys modeled their efforts on the NAACP in building up their organization

John Echohawk:

"Well, again, we learned from the Civil Rights Movement how that was done. We looked at where the lawyers for the African Americans was coming from that brought the Civil Rights litigation and their counsel most of the time was the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and that was a nonprofit organization that raised money and then hired lawyers to represent these African Americans in these important Civil Rights cases. And the funding, primary funding for that NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund came from the Ford Foundation in New York City. So we made contacts with the Ford Foundation in New York City and started discussions about forming a national legal defense fund for Native Americans and they were interested and ended up making a grant then in 1970 to start the Native American Rights Fund in that same model as the Civil Rights organization for the Blacks, they provided the counsel. We began as part of the California Indian Legal Services, one of these federally funded Indian legal services programs I talked about and we were a project of that organization for a year until we were able to incorporate separately and establish our national headquarters in Boulder, Colorado."

The priorities of the growing Native American Rights Fund

John Echohawk:

"Well, we started with the three lawyer program but we quickly got overwhelmed by requests for assistance from throughout Indian Country to help and with that we sought additional funding that came through from different foundations and the federal government through this legal services program and we were able to expand in a very short time to a staff of about 15 attorneys and we were able to do a wide variety of cases under the direction of an all-Indian Board of Directors. That established us as priorities cases relating to the protection of our tribal sovereignty, our existence as tribal governments, secondly the protection of our natural resources, our land, our water rights, our hunting and fishing rights and thirdly protection of our human rights, our rights to cultural and religious freedom and expression."

The historic Menominee termination case

John Echohawk:

"And one of the first cases that we undertook was to try to reverse the federal Indian policy at that time which was one of termination of tribes. The federal government had decided that the best policy for tribes was to quit being Indians and to have their tribal governments terminated and to be forced to assimilate into the larger non-Indian society. And this was the existing federal policy at the time when the organization was founded in 1970. So to do away with that termination policy we undertook to represent the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, one of these tribes that had been terminated starting with an act of Congress in 1954. And of course at the time the Congress told the Menominee people, 'this would be good for you, this is going to help you,' and of course what happened as a result of that is exactly the opposite. It nearly destroyed the Menominee Nation. They lost a lot of their land through that process, many of their people ended up instead of being productively employed ended up on the unemployment rolls and it just devastated that community. So we helped the Menominee Nation go to Congress and develop a bill that would restore the Menominee Nation's tribal government and tribal status and eliminate this termination of the tribe. We asked the Congress to basically look at the record and admit that this termination policy was wrong and to change it and to their credit Congress did that. They said, 'Yeah, this was clearly a mistake, this was not good for the Indian people so we need to change that.' They restored the tribe and that set up restoration of all the other tribes that had been terminated during that same period and of course that's happened over the last 30 years since that first Menominee restoration in 1973."

Changing federal policies toward sovereign Indian governments

John Echohawk:

"Since 1787 when this nation came into being and adopted the Constitution, what's the relationship between tribal nations that of course pre-existed the start of the United States government and the United States itself and of course in the Constitution this nation recognizes that tribal governments have sovereign status, that they are governments like state governments and like foreign governments and that there's this government to government relationship between the United States and between the tribal nations that's governed by the Congress. For a long time that was done by treaties and then later it was done by federal statute. But essentially it's a relationship between sovereigns, between governments and from time to time U.S. policy in dealing with tribes has been rather one sided and they haven't listened to what the tribes have wanted to do and they have basically forced their own version of what they think is good for Indian people on Indian people through the passage of these laws. And one of them was this termination policy that reflected really the paternalism of White America about what was good for our people without really even asking them and they were basically saying, 'You're better off not being an Indian,' and that was the crux of the termination policy but again they never asked the Indians about that. And when they did, the Indians said, 'We want to continue to be Indians, we want to continue to exist as tribal people, we want to continue to govern ourselves through our tribal governments and exercise a sovereignty that we've had since time immemorial and control our own affairs and continue the existence of our tribal nations.' And of course that's what's become the policy now that the termination philosophy was rejected and this Indian self-determination policy accepted by the federal government. Of course that's now been in place about 30 years and I think it's helped our tribes tremendously as we've finally been able to put a stop to this termination policy and start governing ourselves once again."

Finding allies in Congress for a reversal of termination

John Echohawk:

"We had gone to the Congress looking for representatives in the Senate and in the House who would be supportive of this tribal position. And it's been so long ago I can't remember all of the players but there were some champions there that came through for us. I think on the Senate side Senator Abourezk from South Dakota was very helpful in particular and on the House side Congressman Morris Udall from Arizona was very supportive as well. But Indian people generally have been able to rely on champions like that beginning in the '70s, into the '80s and through the '90s and here into the new millennium too to basically stand up and fight for tribes and support their rights under new laws and the Constitution of this country."

The unique situation and challenges of Alaskan villages and tribes

John Echohawk:

"Well, I mentioned this termination policy that had been in place. The version of that for the Alaska tribes was this Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that was passed by the Congress in 1971. The tribes in Alaska had never been able to get the attention of the federal government and to make treaties with the federal government to have their claims to tribal sovereignty and their aboriginal title to their lands and waters and hunting and fishing rights recognized by the federal government. They had just been in limbo all this time clear up until 1971. But the Natives finally got some leverage with the discovery of oil on the north slope of Alaska and they wanted to put the pipeline down through the middle of Alaska and transport the oil that way. Well, the Natives saw a way to get the attention of the federal government by filing lawsuits to block the pipeline until such time as their claims to that land were settled. That was their aboriginal land and the Congress refused to deal with that issue. But when the Natives threatened to stop the pipeline through this lengthy litigation then Congress finally was forced to deal with land claims of tribes in Alaska and that resulted in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The tribes came away with recognition of title to land of about 44 million acres, about 10 percent of Alaska and about $1 billion in compensation for their other claims. But the strange part of the legislation was that this land and money did not go directly to the tribes. Congress again in the final stages of this termination period in an experiment set up Native corporations and put the land and the money into Native corporations and the Natives became shareholders of corporations. And so their land and money was held in a different way than tribes in the lower 48 where it's held by tribes. What that left open then was whether tribal governments had jurisdiction over that land in the same way that tribes have jurisdiction over their land in the lower 48. Is that Indian Country over which tribal governments can assert jurisdiction since it's not owned by the tribe, it's owned by these corporations that are owned by the individual tribal members? That was the question presented in this case brought by the Native village of Venetie where they sought to generate some revenues to support their tribal government by imposing taxes on people who lived and worked on their land and some of those people were non-Indians and they challenged the authority of the Venetie tribal government to tax them saying they didn't have authority to do that and the question was, is this Indian Country just like in the lower 48 and even though we won the case in the lower courts the Supreme Court reversed our victories and held that there is no Indian Country jurisdiction in Alaska, that the fact that these lands are held by Native corporations and not tribal governments makes a difference and that we have no tribal authority over our lands in Alaska because of this corporate status."

The impact of the Supreme Court reversal

John Echohawk:

"Well, what it means is that the tribes in Alaska don't have the same authority over their lands as the tries in the lower 48 and that means they're under state jurisdiction and with tribal governments being a distinct minority in Alaska they have difficulty controlling what happens in their own communities on their own lands and this is something that they want to correct and they've started discussions with the State of Alaska and with the Alaska delegation about this and they've started to make some inroads in getting the authority of Alaska tribal governments over their lands addressed. So even though the case was lost it started a discussion and a dialogue up there that started to result in change where tribal governments in Alaska are starting to be recognized as having the same powers and authorities over their lands as the tribes in the lower 48 so again it's another come back from this termination policy that had plagued us for so long."

Some of NARF's cases have roots deep in the past: the Trust Funds case

John Echohawk:

"The Trust Fund's case described as this case brought by Elouise Cobell as the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is a case that had really been out there for a long, long time that we were aware was out there for a long, long time but we were hoping wouldn't really ever have to be brought. Of course we had questions whether we would ever have the resources to bring it since it is the largest case that we've ever gotten involved in. But it starts with the fact that Indian lands are held in trust for Indians by the federal government. In that sense it's different from ownership of land that most people are familiar with in the United States. Generally speaking the title to tribal lands and individual Indian lands on reservations is not held by the tribe or by the individual Indians, it is held by the United States but it's held in trust for the benefit of the tribes or the individual Indians and that makes the federal government a trustee. In the beginning the land started out of course as land owned in common by the tribes. Initially that was the way that the federal government and the tribes established their relationship. But beginning in the 1880s with the Indian Allotment Act, Congress adopted a new policy part of this assimilation mentality that they had trying to force Indians to assimilate into the mainstream. They took some of this tribal land and divided it up and gave some of it to individual Indians, members of the tribe. And so individual Indians on some reservations for the first time got individual ownership of land but that land was still held in trust by the federal government for them. And of course as trustee then, like any bank, well, what that means then is the trustee when the land's to be leased for timber development or oil and gas development, the trustee signs the leases, collects the money and keeps it in an account for the beneficiary, the individual Indian. So the United States as our trustee became our banker and they were supposed to do all this for individual Indians who got these individual allotments beginning in the 1880s on many reservations across this country. Well, the federal government over all that time has not made a very good banker. They didn't keep track of all of these records and all these accounts and all of this money on all of these leases. This became evident pretty early. Beginning in the early 1900s there were starting to be reports of how the government was not managing these individual Indian money accounts for all these individual Indians that had these leases that the federal government was administering. Complaints were made to the Congress and to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and unfortunately nothing was done about them and even though these complaints would regularly be raised in the Congress and in the administrations all throughout the 1900s nothing was ever done about it. The latest effort was led by Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in this lawsuit that we're talking about. She got an act of Congress passed together with many other people in 1994 called the Trust Reform Act and what this did was put a special trustee into the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs to clean up this mismanagement of the individual Indian trust funds. Well, it turned out to be politics as usual because promptly after 1994 the administration never asked for any money to implement this law and Congress didn't give them any, didn't provide any itself so everybody passed this law and kind of promptly forgot about it so it was business as usual. So we made a determination at that time that the Indian trust funds mess was never going to be resolved politically by the Congress and by the administrations, that we had to enlist the aid of the federal courts to do that and to enforce this clear federal trust responsibility and make them account for all of this money for these individual Indians that everybody knew had been mismanaged but nobody was ever going to fix it. But by enlisting the aid of the court, the court could enforce the trust responsibility and make the Interior Department reform the trust and do an accounting. That's what we asked for in the lawsuit that was then brought in 1996. The courts have responded magnificently. They've read the law, they see that the Congress has accepted this role as trustee through the enactment of all of these laws relating to our people that the federal government has a clear responsibility that has to be carried out by the Interior Department and the Department owes all of these individual Indian money account holders now estimated to be as 500,000 an accounting of their funds going back to the 1880s. And the federal government has resisted the efforts of the individual Indian money account holders at every step of the way since 1996 but again the courts have ruled in favor of the Indians at every turn and we're still waiting for this accounting of funds."

The conditions of Indian tribes and the obligations of the federal government

John Echohawk:

"Even though the federal government has taken on substantial obligations to tribes through the treaties and through the laws they have never lived up to their responsibilities. That's why we've got such poor social and economic conditions on Indian reservations. We're at the bottom of the ladder on virtually everything. We've been able to make substantial inroads into that in the last 30 years during this self-determination policy when we've taken more of the control ourselves but still we have a lot of catch up to do. There's not only neglect in the management of the trust funds of individuals and of tribes but in education, in health, in roads and infrastructure on Indian reservations, jobs, income, whatever it is we're at the bottom of those statistics and much of it is due to the fact the federal government just has not provided the assistance and support that they promised the tribes through the treaties and through the statutes. Much of that comes down to the appropriation process where Congress appropriates money to carry out the treaties and its responsibilities and even though all of our tribes have worked very hard to get the necessary appropriations to implement those laws we just haven't been able to get the kind of funding that we need and that's why tribes through the exercise of their authority as tribal governments have worked so hard in developing their economies and prioritized economic development because unless we're able to provide for ourselves it's unlikely that the conditions on our reservations are going to change very much cause the Congress, the United States of America just has not done a good job of fulfilling its responsibilities to Native people."

The public is informed about trust funds mismanagement but the problem continues

John Echohawk:

"I think this case has gotten a lot of widespread publicity across the country. We've worked very hard at doing that hoping to be able to force the federal government to enter into negotiations with us and settle this case but all of that exposure has really not worked in the sense that the federal government continues to resist, continues to deny that it has any responsibility for the mismanagement of these funds and continues to resist us at every turn. But thankfully we have the support of the federal courts and I think it's one of the most difficult cases they've ever had trying to force the executive branch of government to do what they're supposed to do, which is to follow the law. And it's gotten so bad now that we've asked the court to hold federal officials responsible for the trust reform in contempt of court for not complying with court orders and to put these officials in jail and assess fines against them personally. And we've also asked the court to basically take these responsibilities away from the Department of the Interior on a temporary basis and to have the court appoint a receiver that would carry out the trust reform under the jurisdiction of the court until such time as we got it fixed and then got the Interior Department people trained in how to administer that trust and then turned it back over to them once they demonstrated they're able to do it properly. These are extreme measures but again they're prompted by the fact that there has been extreme reluctance on the part of the executive branch to carry out the law of this country."

What the injustice over trust funds has meant for tribal people

John Echohawk:

"Well, we think as a result of the shoddy mismanagement of these Indian trust accounts that our people over the generations have really been defrauded and have lost a lot of the money that was due them under these leases that were being managed by the federal government. And of course interest is due on all of that money that we should have had too. So as Elouise Cobell likes to talk about, she thinks a lot of the wealth that our people had in these lands has been dissipated, lost by this mismanagement. And if we had had that money the conditions of our people over the last few generations would have been better. But that should be made up by this accounting when we I think basically determine that there have been billions of dollars that have been lost through that process and together with interest there are billions that are owed to these account holders and that's the part of the case that we're pressing forward on right now in 2002. The next phase of the case after we get this trust reform effort underway to stop the bleeding to fix the system now and that's to get to the accounting part of the case and to have a trial on that issue and establish that there should be billions of dollars in these accounts and the accounts should be restated to reflect that. Like I say, we didn't expect it to go on as long as it has. We thought the federal government would use this as an opportunity to settle what's clearly been recognized a long time as a mess."

How John Echohawk has maintained the strength of his commitments for more than three decades

John Echohawk:

"As a lawyer with tribal clients I take those responsibilities seriously and I represent my clients to the best of my ability. It's very interesting work, very rewarding work. We haven't been able to win all of these cases but we've won a substantial number of them and I've seen where that's made a difference in our Indian communities as we've talked about the change in Indian policy from termination to self-determination here over the last 30 years and the gradual improvement of social and economic conditions amongst our tribes even though we've got a long way to go and we're still pretty bad off, it's a lot better than it used to be. So it's been rewarding. I see the kind of work that I'm doing as something that really falls to each generation of Native people in this country. Reading the history of our people and all of the legal and political struggles they've been through since the founding of the nation in 1787 and even before then, each generation of Native people has had these issues that they've had to deal with. What's their relationship with the United States and what kind of conditions are they going to be living under today and what power do they have as tribal nations to impact that? And these are issues again that past generations have had, that our generation now has and the future generation of Native American people are going to have as well. I think that's why it's good to have programs like the Institute for Tribal Government do these kinds of projects where we can educate younger Indian people and Americans across the board about the history of tribes, the current issues and the future issues that are coming along that impact tribes and to get the younger generations of Native and non-Native people ready to deal with these issues because they will go on. The status of Native American people in this country has always been an issue in this country and it will always continue to be an issue in this country."

The preservation of Native religions and culture

John Echohawk:

"Well, our people are not only governments, nations but we're also people with different cultures and religions and that's I think the most important thing to our people is to continue to live the way that we were brought up by our mothers and fathers and our ancestors before that and to be able to follow the traditions and cultures and religions of our people and having the sovereign status as nations, as governments allows us to do that, to be able to make decisions that protect our tribes, our ways of life, our cultures and our religions and traditions. So along with protecting this governmental status we want to make sure that we can protect our culture and religious rights as much as possible, that's why this is one of the priorities that we've worked on at the Native American Rights Fund over this time. One of the areas we worked in quite a bit has been in the religious freedom of Native Americans. So many people in this country don't understand that many tribes have their own religions and in our view these religions are entitled to the same protection in this country as other religions but so many people just do not understand first of all that we have our own religions and then too they have trouble understanding that these religions ought to be accepted and protected on the same basis as other religions in this country so we've got a lot of work on that concept. The Congress passed the Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978 which was a declaration of policy intended to help all Americans understand that tribes do have their own religions and they're entitled the same respect as other religions but actually getting that implemented across the board has been difficult and there's been many cases on that. We've been involved in a number of them and it's still a very difficult and contentious issue."

Protecting Native sites, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act

John Echohawk:

"The whole country at one time basically being Indian Country we have inhabited the whole area since the beginning of time and we have burial sites all over this country, not just on the lands that we have left called reservations but on all of these lands and as this development occurs they are unearthing many of our tribal burial grounds and for so long under this termination policy most of America thought that tribes were extinct or disappearing and so when they did unearth our ancestors they hauled them away as if they owned them and that we as tribes didn't have any control over the remains of our ancestors. And we finally got Congress to pass a law in 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act that stopped that practice and recognized that our tribes own and control the remains of our ancestors and their burial goods and that they can't be taken away by other interests and that they do belong to us. So we've been able to stop that process and start reversing it by repatriating the bodies of our ancestors they've taken to the museums and all of the burial goods that they've confiscated and to return those to our people. And that has been a significant development."

Indian tribes and environmental issues

John Echohawk:

"The environmental movement really started about the same time as the Indian self determination movement in 1970. The environmental movement resulted primarily in a number of federal environmental laws that protect the environment across the country by setting minimal environmental standards that are to be met to stop and manage the pollution that has occurred. Under these federal laws most of them are carried out by states that contract with the federal government and then follow these federal environmental standards and implement them in the states. Well, of course as we've established in this Indian self determination era going back to the treaties, the jurisdiction on the Indian lands is the combination of tribal law and federal law based on this federal tribal relationship and state law does not apply on our lands unless that's been made applicable by a treaty or an act of Congress. These environmental laws did not give the states jurisdiction to enforce these environmental laws on our lands. That's still a prerogative of the tribal governments so what we've been doing as part of this Indian self determination and environmental movement is having the tribes develop their own environmental laws under the federal environmental statutes to take care of the environment on Indian lands. The environmental organizations that have been involved in overseeing this whole process like many Americans have not really been familiar with tribes and tribal governments and tribal authority so it's been important to reach out to them and explain to them why on Indian lands these environmental laws are implemented and controlled by the tribal governments instead of the state governments. I think they've become learners like American people generally about the existence of tribes and tribal governments and tribal authority and tribal nations and have been supportive of tribes regulating the environment on tribal lands. I've been one of several tribal people who have been involved in outreach to the environmental community about these issues and I've found it very interesting to see their reaction which is generally positive after they learn how all of this fits together under this legal system we have. But at the same time I've benefited from working with environmentalists to learn more about the environmental threats that do exist around the world and in this country and on our own lands too and be able to work with them to address these environmental problems that we have on our lands."

Individuals and foundations nationwide who believe in the protection of Native rights support NARF

John Echohawk:

"We've been able to establish a network of 40,000 individual contributors across the country that help us raise funds every year. In recent years too we've also seen tribes because of the increase in the ability they have to generate funds to help their people and their social and economic development be able to contribute part of that back to organizations like the Native American Rights Fund that have helped them do that so we've seen tribal contributions grow in recent years. I think even though we've been able to sustain the Native American Rights Fund at this level of around 15 attorneys for this 32 year period that we've been around, we haven't really despaired too much because the major development that's occurred during that time has been the number of tribes who are now able to afford their own attorneys. Thirty-two years ago there were only a handful of tribes that could do that but these days because of the progress that tribes have made most of the tribes today have their own attorneys. Maybe not as many as they need but they at least have some legal assistance available to them and that's helped them tremendously because I think tribes have learned so much of what's involved in protecting your tribes is dealing with the legal and political systems in this country and that for better or worse requires the use of lawyers. And our tribes now have a lot of legal counsel today, many, many more than they had when we started back in 1970 when together with Indian Legal Services we were about the only legal counsel available to tribes."

How to deal with setbacks

John Echohawk:

"Well, you try to figure out what you can learn from that and then how you can move forward with basically the same issues and try to change the outcome. In other words, never give up."

Never giving up, using the cases to educate the public

John Echohawk:

"I think really a process of starting with the United States Constitution, which is to say you talk about the American system of government and how tribes fit into that system. Even though that's really very basic so many Americans don't really understand that. It should be taught in our public schools and in our civics courses but unfortunately it's not addressed. And so we end up with the vast majority of American people not having any idea about the existence of tribal governments in this country today and the fact that it's based on the Constitution and treaties of this country. So it's a process that me and other Native Americans are involved in all of the time, it's a continual education process. It's particularly critical at the congressional level when these issues end up before Congress cause we end up with so many of our elected representatives really not only in Congress but the state level too not understanding the basics of American government that includes tribal governments. So we talk amongst ourselves about having to do an Indian 101 course like in college when you talk with federal and state leaders cause so many of them don't have any idea about our status as governments."

Educating around misconceptions about Indian issues, especially gaming

John Echohawk:

"Well, you have to talk about the Constitution and the treaties and the fact that tribes are governments like the states and like the federal government and that tribes like other governments have a need to raise revenue to provide services and just like the state governments do who operate games of all kinds to generate revenues, tribal governments are able to do that too under tribal law and that even though tribes have that option not all of them exercise that, that not all of the tribes are involved in gaming. There are 557 recognized tribes around this country. Less than half of them engage in gaming. Of the ones that do engage in gaming only a handful make a lot of money off of it because of their location and because of their business skills. The rest of them have fairly marginal operations but the revenues that are generated provide services for their Indian communities and very few Indians get these per capita checks that some people think we all get and that we're all rich and that's just not the case. And again, it's a continual process of educating people about that cause some of them pick up the wrong information, get the wrong impression about things so it's a continuing education campaign that many of us are involved in."

How tribal governments are impacted by the federal budget emphasis on national security

John Echohawk:

"So much of the budget is starting to be deferred over to these national security issues and what that's meant is that the difficulties we usually have trying to get appropriations for Indian programs are made even more difficult by this competing priority of funds for national security. It's made things even tougher and we're seeing that in this appropriation cycle now. We're barely able to have appropriated the same funds that we have appropriated last year before this national security crisis hit and it's very, very difficult, very tough going to ask for increases in all these programs that are woefully inadequate to start with."

The most beneficial piece of federal legislation for tribes in the past 30 years

John Echohawk:

"I think it has to be the Indian Self Determination Act of 1975 because that really implemented this Indian self-determination policy that we had all been pushing for and got Congress officially onboard that concept and what it means. It was really a change in Indian policy because under the old termination policy that of course self determination replaced the thinking of the federal government and the policy makers was that Indian affairs were to be managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the federal government on our lands until such time as we were able to manage for ourselves. And when that happened then we would be terminated and the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs would leave the reservations and our tribal governments would be eliminated and we would come under the authority of the states. That was their prescription for us. But with the Self Determination Era what happened was we would accept the Bureau of Indian Affairs leaving the reservations or taking a back seat on the reservations but what would come forward was the tribal governments and that's been the biggest development here over the last 30 years has been the growth of modern tribal governments where our tribal institutions have stepped up and began governing our reservations in place of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And the Self Determination Act facilitated that by providing the funds that usually went to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to govern our reservations and to get those funds over to the tribal governments so the tribal governments could govern our reservations."

Planning for the struggles ahead in light of recent Supreme Court decisions

John Echohawk:

"Well, the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative is an effort by tribal leaders across the country to address what I think is the biggest threat to Indian Country today and that is the big change that we have seen in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court as they affect Native American rights. Throughout this whole 30 year period we've been talking about tribal progress has been driven by and large by favorable decisions of the United States Supreme Court upholding tribal rights in this country. In the last 10 years or so that has changed dramatically as the makeup of the Supreme Court has changed and it's become more conservative. Now the tribes lose virtually every case that goes to the Supreme Court. It used to be that they would take cases that we lost in the lower courts and decide them in our favor or take the cases that we won and affirm them in Supreme Court opinions. But anymore what they do is take cases that the tribes have won in the lower courts and then reverse them and come out with new interpretations, limiting interpretations of tribal rights. And this trend is of great concern to tribal leaders particularly because of two cases that came out last year that established that tribes have virtually no sovereign inherent authority over non-Indians in Indian Country whether it's on fee land owned by non-Indians within Indian Country or whether it's on tribal lands now. The tribes have virtually no authority over non-Indians in our territories and of course this is going to have a devastating impact on our ability to control public health and safety on our lands. It's going to impact our economic development and all of this comes at a time when of course we thought that we had clearly established what our authority was to control things on the reservations and now we find through these recent Supreme Court decisions that we do not have this governmental authority over non-Indians in Indian Country that we thought that we had. And tribal leadership has determined that it's not a good future for our tribes without this authority over non-Indians and it's so grim that we need to do something that's going to be very difficult and that is we need to go to the Congress and share with the Congress our concerns about these Supreme Court decisions and have the Congress reaffirm tribal authority over non-Indians in Indian Country so that we can protect the health and safety of everybody on the reservations and we can also continue to develop our tribal economies in a way that benefits our people and non-Indian people as well. This is going to be a very difficult issue cause it raises of course the basic question of the status of tribes in this country and their authority in this country but it's something that we have to do because the Supreme Court has basically decimated the tribes in terms of their authority over non-Indians on the reservations. We understand that the concern of the Supreme Court primarily has been how the tribal governments treat non-Indians as they exercise authority over them particularly in our tribal courts and the laws relating to the tribes basically empower those tribal courts in past years to decide these issues relating to non-Indians but the court has withdrawn that authority now because of their concern that these tribal court decisions are not subject to review by the Supreme Court, by the federal courts and the court has said as much. They want an opportunity to review all of these decisions of the tribal courts and that's the only way they can insure that non-Indians get treated fairly in our tribal courts. So part of what the tribal leaders are ready to do is to talk to Congress about having their authority over non-Indians restored and in return the tribes are willing to subject their tribal courts to federal court review of their treatment of non-Indians. It's just a very difficult issue that tribes face. Some of them are ready to do that, some of them are not ready to do that just yet."

The need to address not only civil jurisdiction but also criminal misdemeanor jurisdiction

John Echohawk:

"The crime statistics in Indian Country are abominable. While the crime rates across the country generally have gone down, in Indian Country they've gone up and that's primarily because the tribal governments don't have any authority over non-Indians in the criminal context and any prosecutions have to be done by federal or state authorities. And of course they're not really there in our Indian communities so much of the crime that happens does not get prosecuted and the tribes are powerless to do anything about it. So the tribes, many of them want this misdemeanor jurisdiction authority over crimes on reservations so that they can address the crime problem themselves so all these issues are going to Congress because we are not going to win these issues in the Supreme Court. They have basically denied our authority to do that so we have to get Congress to recognize our authority to do that."

Extreme cases have stirred minority descent

John Echohawk:

"In one of these cases last year when the court basically extended their interpretation of the limited authority of tribes over non-Indians on non-Indian land those same limitations over to now jurisdiction over non-Indians on our own Indian lands. They said there's virtually no difference between tribal authority over non-Indians whether they're on non-Indian land in Indian Country or whether they're on Indian land in Indian Country, it doesn't matter who owns the land, the fact of the matter is they're non-Indians and tribes have very limited if no authority over non-Indians anywhere in Indian Country. And this surprised three of the justices so much that six of the justices would all of a sudden announce this interpretation of Indian law that we had virtually no authority over non-Indians even on our own Indian lands that three of the justices in a very vigorous descent said the court has gone way too far in basically ignoring all of their past decisions relating to the authority of tribal governments over non-Indians back to the earliest days of the nation and all of a sudden announced this new doctrine, this new rule of law that takes away from the tribes authority that they have always had that we have to object. We have to descent vigorously and tell the majority of the court that they have made a really wrong decision, a bad decision and a decision judges should not be making because it's not the law of this country, that's not the law of tribal sovereignty. The opinion was written by Justice O'Connor supported by Justice Breyer and Justice Stevens."

The project ahead with Congress

John Echohawk:

"It's going to be a long process, there's going to be a lot of debate involved on all sides about the status of tribal governments and what kind of authority they should have over non-Indians and the impact on the states and local governments and non-Indian people. But it's one that has to be done because otherwise tribes face an uncertain future lacking control over a lot of things that happen in Indian Country that they need to be involved in."

The role of familial support

John Echohawk:

"Well, I've got a wonderful wife and family. They've been very supportive of me in my work even though it takes me away from home quite a bit traveling throughout the country on these cases and various issues. They understand it's important work and that my workplace is basically the whole country and I need to be at my workplace and it's not always in my office at home, it's different places around the country. So they've really been very supportive of me in that regard. I couldn't do it without them."

The values that underpin John Echohawk's work

John Echohawk:

"Well, I believe in the fairness and justice in this country and under the American system and even though our people don't always receive that sometimes we do. And it's really great when we're able to win something and make some progress for our people. And when that fairness and justice doesn't come through then it's very disappointing but at the same time we never give up and we figure another way to try to get the point across and get this fairness and justice that we're due under this system."

Education about the history of Indian nations for both tribal youth and non-Indians

John Echohawk:

"Well, I try to take advantage of every speaking opportunity I get in front of college classes and Indian youth in particular. But on a broader scale we're trying to impact the education systems on or near reservations so that tribal governments get involved more in that. And through the involvement of the tribal governments then they can modify the curriculums and what happens in the schools so that the existence of modern day Native Americans can be taught and appreciated in these schools and so that people come to learn about the history of our Indian nations and our legal status today as Indian nations. And again not only our Native youth but also the non-Indians involved in those same systems that our neighbors come to understand that too."

The greatest contribution of Native Americans to the country

John Echohawk:

"I think it's remarkable that our Native people have been able to maintain their sense of spirituality throughout all of this time that we've had dealings with non-Indians in this country and despite all the terrible things that have happened to us. Our people are still I think very open and caring and that's why they try to preserve their way of life and also continue to try to reach out and share with non-Indian people and try to deal with non-Indian people fairly too in recognizing the place of the human being in the larger universe and in this environment and our obligation to recognize that environment and our place in it and our obligation to take care of it."

The thread in Echohawk's own story he would extend to youth

John Echohawk:

"Well, I think the same thing that my parents engrained in me and my brothers and sisters that education is important. It really helps to understand the world around you and how it works and that you need to have that information to be able to take care of yourself but also to be able to help in your communities and that you have an obligation to do that. Our youth sooner or later at some point in their lives will come to understand those things and I think the earlier they understand that they need this information, they need this education for themselves and for their families and communities the better off they will be. So many of them resist the idea of education but I think once they see how it helps them personally and how it helps their families and communities the better off they're going to be and I think the easier it will be for them to open up and be receptive to educational opportunities."

The legacy Echohawk and his generation will leave

John Echohawk:

"I think I was raised in an era where I'm part of the first generation of Native American people who became professionals in this country, lawyers and doctors and we're able to use that knowledge then for the benefit of our people in a way that never had been done before. I think the assumption was always if our people got educated then we would be like White people and that has not proven to be the case. All of us have used the knowledge and education that we've gotten to benefit our people in our own terms and to continue our Indian ways and I think that has really surprised the American culture generally and has basically given our people a future where we see that our tribes are going to be able to exist in perpetuity."

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: tribalgov@pdx.edu.

[Native music]

The Institute for Tribal Government is directed by a Policy Board of 23 tribal leaders,
Hon. Kathryn Harrison (Grand Ronde) leads the Great Tribal Leaders project and is assisted by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, Director and Kay Reid, Oral Historian

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

Editing
Green Fire Productions

Photo credit:
John Echohawk
NARF
Anthony Allison
Joseph Consentino
Thorney Lieberman
Gary J. Thibault

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times is also supported by the non-profit Tribal Leadership Forum, and by grants from:
Spirit Mountain Community Fund
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Chickasaw Nation
Coeur d'Alene Tribe
Delaware Nation of Oklahoma
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Jayne Fawcett, Ambassador
Mohegan Tribal Council
And other tribal governments

Support has also been received from
Portland State University
Qwest Foundation
Pendleton Woolen Mills
The U.S. Dept. of Education
The Administration for Native Americans
Bonneville Power Administration
And the U.S. Dept. of Defense

This program is not to be reproduced without the express written permission of the Institute for Tribal Government

© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government 

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: Gay Kingman

Author
Producer
Institute for Tribal Government
Year

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
Topics
Citation

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]

Narrator:

"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 of...in 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 is...it'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't...got 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 was...in 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 table...no, 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...in 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: tribalgov@pdx.edu.

[Native music]

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

Editing
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:
Spirit Mountain Community Fund
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Chickasaw Nation
Coeur d'Alene Tribe
Delaware Nation of Oklahoma
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Jayne Fawcett, Ambassador
Mohegan Tribal Council
And other tribal governments

Support has also been received from
Portland State University
Qwest Foundation
Pendleton Woolen Mills
The U.S. Dept. of Education
The Administration for Native Americans
Bonneville Power Administration
And the U.S. Dept. of Defense

This program is not to be reproduced without the express written permission of the Institute for Tribal Government

© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government