David Gipp

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "Defending Sovereignty Through Its Effective Exercise"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders speak to the notion that Native nations' best defense of their sovereignty is the demonstration of their ability to exercise that sovereignty effectively.

Native Nations
Topics
Citation

Diver, Karen. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 17, 2009. Interview.

Fullmer, Jamie. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. June 17, 2008. Interview.

Gilham, Greg. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2010. Interview.

Gipp, David. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona.

Gray, James R. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 17, 2009. Interview.

Hicks, Sarah. "NCAI and the Partnership for Tribal Governance." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 18, 2009. Presentation.

Sampsel, Roy. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 31, 2010. Interview.

Wilkins, David E. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 6, 2008. Interview.

Greg Gilham:

"Most nations proclaim their inherent sovereignty. But without action, all it is is a proclamation. So at some point in time, you've got to develop a way of exercising it in order for it to work."

David Wilkins:

"Vine [Deloria] was always saying just that in his many writings about tribal sovereignty, encouraging tribes all along, dating back to Custer Died for Your Sins and even when he was Executive Director of NCAI [National Congress of American Indians], to quit talking and to get out there and start acting, to start exercising, to start wielding the residual inherent sovereign powers that you still have. He said, 'They're all there, and if you don't wield them, if you don't use them, in their dormant state, they atrophy.' When something atrophies in this society, it eventually becomes brittle and it breaks away and someone from the outside swoops in and just takes it away, because they say, 'You're not exercising it, you're going to lose it.' It's the old water law doctrine: either you use it or you lose it. And I think that's what Vine, and certainly what Oren Lyons, is referencing there. That's where I think tribes today are really doing some wonderful things."

Sarah Hicks:

"There are many issues where, if we don't deal with them ourselves, we know that the federal government will intervene. Where there's a perceived vacuum around policy making, the federal government will intervene to develop policy, and so if we aren't developing our own policies, if we aren't making sure that county and state and federal governments know about the policies that we're developing, there's a real danger there."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sovereignty is indeed is the act thereof. But it is also understanding that it's important for us to redefine it as time allows us. There are things that we as Indian tribes and nations couldn't do 20 years ago that we can do now because people are willing to exercise and express the sovereignty and push the boundaries. And really those leaders and those tribes that took on those challenges, those spearheads, allowed the rest of us to be able to stretch our own boundaries."

David Gipp:

"Well I think in this day in age when we deal with the U.S. government, or the tribal nations that deal with both the U.S. government, with state government, then all the creatures of the state as they say -- I think it is very important for us to utilize what that sovereignty is all about. Whether we do it through law enforcement, whether we exercise it in commerce, or whether we exercise it through our courts, or if we do it with our resources such as water. Those kinds of things have to be done if we're going to maintain and, for that matter, amplify our sovereignty. If you don't use it, you lose it, is, I think, part of the issue. And that is something that is very evident when we talk about things like court cases."

Karen Diver:

"To me, that really means, once again building those capable institutions. Everybody likes to know what are the rules that we're playing by, especially if you're dealing with outside entities that you do work with, whether it's governmental or through your economic development efforts. But also, that you're defining what those rules are. And whether you're dealing with a local unit of government, the feds, bankers, auditors, you know, they don't get to define the playing field. You're defining the rules, you're communicating them, and you're saying that 'Your work with us is going to be defined by us.'"

Jim Gray:

"I think that's an excellent point. I think a lot of tribes, certainly during the last century, really operate under the notion that if you stay quiet, if you stay under the radar screen, they'll leave you alone. And I think what is happening in the last generation of tribal leaders and tribal governments is that they've kind of broken out of that model and have taken the initiative to states, to the federal government, to the communities in their area and say, 'You know, we have the ability to help solve community-wide problems. We have the ability to address the social problems we have in our community.' We now -- in other words, instead of blaming somebody else and just operating under the radar screen, we're taking just the opposite approach, which is taking the fight to the streets and taking, and using the sovereignty of the nation to create programs and departments and initiatives that actually address the needs of our community."

Roy Sampsel:

"I think the tribes have been fortunate in that they have recognized that they have the ability to be self-determined and to exercise and to use their sovereignty. The question now is, 'Do they have to governance structures in place that allow them to make good decisions over time, and to implement their wishes into programs that actually deliver effectively?' That's the challenge, it seems to me, of the tribes since the seventies. But even more importantly, it'll be the challenge over the next few decades."

Honoring Nations: David Gipp: Sovereignty, Education and United Tribes Technical College

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

United Tribes Technical College President David Gipp discusses the impetus behind the establishment of United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) and the emergence of the tribal college movement, the growth of UTTC over the past four decades, and the critical roles tribal colleges and universities play in Native nations' efforts to rebuild their nations. 

People
Resource Type
Citation

Gipp, David. "Sovereignty, Education and United Tribes Technical College." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 18, 2009. Presentation.

"Thank you, Megan. It's great to be here. I don't often miss these sessions as a member of the Board [of Governors], and I apologize for not being here the last two days. Unfortunately, my schedule was such that it was difficult to get here, but I finally made it. I'm always late but I usually get there, as they say. So it's great to be here and I look forward to the presentations yet that are to come for this morning. I want to thank you for the prayer this morning and especially, the prayer where we talk about those who are in our communities -- and we use the word [Lakota Language] ones -- the ones that are kind of out there and we don't always see, the ones that are what we call pitiful and are in need sometimes, and don't get the privileges we have of being at this table here today at especially such a prestigious place. Those are the people that I serve, and I'm sure that many of you serve back in your home communities, especially if you're either in an elected position or have been in one. You know those people and who they are, and you know that these are the people that we really stand for back in our communities. Many of them are traditional people, many of them hang onto their culture in very closed and close ways, and some of them suffer because of the issues of poverty. In fact, many of them do -- at least in my part of the country in North and South Dakota and Montana and in other parts as well. So I think of these people when we're here and when I'm having a good breakfast, or whatever it is, and I appreciate that. And I've had my share of life from those days as well, having come up in that respect. So I appreciate that prayer and we think of these people. I want to extend my condolences to the Hill family -- and to all of you for your losses in your family as well -- and our prayers and good wishes for you and all of those who are dear to you. We have those kinds of things that happen to us, in all of our families again, because we're human beings and we come from the good earth here. So I think of those kinds of things.

I listen to Chief [Oren] Lyons and his speech about what happened back at Wounded Knee and I think of December 15, 1890 when Sitting Bull was killed. And two weeks later, the first Wounded Knee happened and quite a number of our people were killed -- Lakota people who were, Minneconjou who were, Hunkpapa, some Oglalas, Blackfeet Sioux and many others that were within that band -- that were on their way in, by the way, to give up, if you will, coming off the prairie. And [they were] some of the very last to be brought into what was to become reservation life, to the kind of confinement that we have lived with for many, many now centuries. And we were giving up a way of life, our freedom, if you will, giving up our constitution, if you will -- our constitution as we knew it and understood it. And many of our tribal nations have historically gone through that from the time that Columbus landed -- mistakenly landed -- on the shores of North America and stole the first Indian, kidnapped and took him back before Queen Isabella, and those kinds of things. Today, those would be considered crimes against humanity and inhumane acts. Although sometimes our own government continues to justify those things, as Chief Lyons pointed out, at the highest levels of government.

And so we need to be sure that what we do -- and this is one of the things that I think Honoring Nations does -- is brings the very best of Indian Country forward of what we're doing, that we're human beings, that we're not 'savages,' that we're not 'uncivilized,' that in fact we have our own civilizations and we have our own way of doing things and we have our own methodologies, all of these things that you know better than I do. And those are the presentations that we give to America -- and we have given freely and openly -- but we need to share them among ourselves so that those people that I talked about, the [Lakota language] ones, can benefit and can learn and talk about that. I talked to one of my students the other day, who has dreams of coming to Harvard. I don't know if he'll ever get here, hopefully he will, if that's what his dream is -- there are other places I told him he can go to school too, but we'll deal with that one later. Those are the kinds of things we look at when we talk about opportunity, because it's opportunity that -- as an educator --that we want to make. We want to be sure that our people are on a level playing ground and that they have that adequate and highly capable opportunity to bring themselves forward to be a part of life; and mostly, to do some good things for themselves and for their families and again for their community, as they so choose. And that's what United Tribes [Technical College] was about. We did officially, on September 6th, celebrate our 40th anniversary as an institution, as a school, as a training place that began in September of 1969. But the beginning of that goes back some years, back into the '60s, when a lot of us were ensconced with doing some fundamentals -- by us, I meant tribal leadership and tribal councils and other people.

I was just coming out of high school back in the mid-60s, but I remember listening to the TV at the boarding school that I was in South Dakota and watching TV. And the people of South Dakota had voted that day -- in I believe it was '65 or so -- and they voted that the tribes of South Dakota would continue to have their own civil and criminal jurisdiction. In North Dakota, something similar was happening. The tribes of North Dakota came together and they became United Tribes of North Dakota. In South Dakota, it was United Sioux Tribes of South Dakota and they were the remnants of the great Sioux Nation, by the way. But my point being is the tribes in many states, in many communities, were fighting for the fundamentals of civil and criminal jurisdiction. Jurisdictions that, yes, we continue to fight about even today -- in the courts and with all kinds of people and with the states and cities and counties and those kinds of governments versus our tribes and tribal governments, so that fight certainly isn't over -- but they laid the groundwork for those that were successful in retaining that civil and criminal jurisdiction in the mid-60s by having rejected Public Law 280 as a methodology for having the state to assume those jurisdictions; and that's what happened in North and South Dakota. And obviously, I capsulized this in a few brief statements because this was something that went on for years and years, and you know the origins of Public Law 280. My point being is they were at least successful in saving that fundamental of jurisdiction of the tribes, otherwise we would not have this -- and many of our tribes that went under 280 know the difficulties of being a 280 tribe -- because that was not our choice. It was put upon us by the U.S. government and then by the states themselves -- states that certainly didn't exist when we were long, long around, let's put it that way. We know that we predate all of these governments, including the U.S. Constitution.

So those were the formative years for places like United Tribes of North Dakota, but one of the lessons learned out of that success was, if we come together -- and in our region we have Arikara, we have Mandan, we have Hidatsa, we have Lakota and Dakota, and we have Chippewa, Ojibwe or Prairie Chippewa -- as sometimes they're referred to on the Northern Plains -- and all of those tribes had historic differences at various times, but you know all of those tribes also got along, long before the non-Native ever came around. And those are the stories that are not told. Those are the stories that are not told. And that's also an element of Honoring Nations: ways in which we come together in good ways, ways that we share and that we trade, and that's what Honoring Nations is about.

Sitting Bull is often portrayed as a great hostile -- a guy who hated everyone. That's not true. I'm a Hunkpapa, and our family and all of our people knew him as a humble, as a generous, and as an open man. One of the children he adopted, in fact, and raised was an Arikara -- a supposed enemy, by the way, archenemy of the Lakota or Sioux. So we knew and we knew how to get along in our own good ways when we needed to and when we wanted to. And so we didn't need the lessons of the non-Native, even today. And the lessons of Honoring Nations, I think, is an excellent way in which we begin to share effectively, effective ways in which we continue in rebuilding the renaissance of rebuilding tribal nations.

And that's in effect what United Tribes [Technical College] was about, because when they came together in those mid 60s -- saved, if you will, or preserved that civil and criminal jurisdiction -- one of the things they said, our tribal leaders said is, ‘We can produce other kinds of success by coming together in unity and in spirit.' And one of those results was United Tribe's educational technical center. They spotted an old fort in Bismarck, North Dakota called Fort Abraham Lincoln -- the second Fort Abraham Lincoln, by the way. The first Abraham Lincoln is to the west of us, just across the Missouri River in Bismarck, North Dakota. And that first Abraham Lincoln is in ruins and that's where Custer left for his final ride, I'll put it politely. So I'm over at the second Abraham Lincoln that was built between 1900 and 1910. And you'll see the parade grounds, the circular parade grounds, and the brick buildings and that sort of thing. For some people, it reminds them of old boarding schools, but it was a military fort. And they're what I call the cookie-cutter forts of the turn of the century, built from 1900-1910 or so, and that's when this one was built. And it produced soldiers for World War I. It went on and was used by the North Dakota Army Guard, by the way, up until 1939-1940, when INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service] took it over and housed Japanese and German aliens there for five years. And then it was returned again to the North Dakota government. And in 1965, it was decommissioned completely and by 1968, we took it over. And that was again that lesson learned by United Tribes, by the United Tribes leaders and they said, ‘If we come together on issues, then why not do training?' We predate most of the tribal colleges, with the exception of Navajo Community College in 1968, but we actually were chartered in 1968, officially. And they said, ‘Let's get that fort,' one of our tribal leaders said and they did. And again, I simplify the story, but the point being is it was a good example of the Indians taking over the fort, but this time for peaceful and educational purposes and for our own wellbeing and on our own terms and conditions. So those are things that we keep in mind as we build and rebuild and we put things back together -- that our critical purpose is not only to preserve and protect, but to build. And again, I go back to what Honoring Nations stands for and what the kinds of lessons are that you provide for all of us throughout Indian Country, for those people back there at home.

And I look at my own Standing Rock area -- in North and South Dakota, which is where I'm from -- and I look at the issues of poverty, I look at the issues of the high suicide rate, some of the highest suicide rates in the nation, by the way. And I think of the story, of what Chief Lyons talked about at Wounded Knee in 1973 and going into that area at that time, about that same period of time. And what we were committed to was building and rebuilding our own educational systems, and we're still doing that. In 1973, there were six tribal colleges; today there are 37. In 1973, we were serving about 1,500, maybe 1,700 students nationally among those six schools, today we serve close to 30,000 students. Today 51 percent of our population or better across Indian Country is under the age of 25. And in many communities that 51 percent or better is under the age of 18 where you come from; we have a growing population. And so the challenge for us is to provide that quality education. The challenge for us is to provide even more, because our young people are hungry for the knowledge of who they are and what they're about. Yes, they need the skills. Yes, they need to be able to participate and actively compete, if you will, in areas of science, math and technology. I was just at a congressional panel yesterday in which we are beginning to develop our own engineering degrees on our own terms and conditions. [President] Joe McDonald out at Salish Kootenai [College] produced the first four-year engineering graduate this past May and we will do more. It starts in small ways.

But I remember in 1973 when a lot of people in D.C. -- where the Chief was -- said, ‘Why are you guys doing this? You can send your kids over to the local university, or whatever.' Well, local for us is anywhere from 50 to 150 miles away in our area of the country. The second thing is that mainstreams, only about 4 percent yet -- and this is a 30-year old statistic, by the way, that still stands -- only about 4 percent of our kids, our children that go through mainstream institutions, make it through with a four-year degree. That's a dismal shame upon America and upon American higher education, ladies and gentlemen. That's a shame. That's immoral that we have so few coming through the system getting and accomplishing degrees. So when I see an American Indian graduate with a two-year or a four-year degree, I tell you, I give them high commendations, I give them high commendations. And yes, there are great issues that they have to face even at that, but the point is we need more of these people. We need all of our trained and educated people back in our communities. And we face the risk of losing them every day to mainstream America because there are so many opportunities out there for them. And that is what nation building is all about, assuring that we have ways for these people to come back into the system. Too often, I hear young people say, ‘There's not a place for me to go back to,' either because the job doesn't exist or because there are certain kinds of politics back home. We need to teach our own tribal leaders -- and as leaders yourselves -- ways in which we welcome these people back, and ways in which we can have them come back into our communities, or ways in which they can continue to contribute -- whether they're in a national post, a regional post at even a mainstream institution -- because we are together and that is the way we continue and rebuild tribal America as I look at it.

And that's part of what really United Tribes [Technical College] is all about, that's part of what the tribal colleges are all about. But I mentioned in 1973 going into Pine Ridge -- myself with a crew of my staff, to do training among faculty, with Gerald One Feather, who had just completed his chairmanship, and Dick Wilson, of course, was chairman of the Oglalas at that time -- but going through roadblocks. On one end were -- Dick Wilson says, they often described them -- the GOONs [Guardians of the Oglala Nation]. So we turned around and went clear down the other way and went back into Nebraska and came back to the east side of that particular reserve. And then we ran into the AIM-ers [American Indian Movement]. So then we had to go back, come back through this way, double track and then go back through another road to get to what was then, the college. And the Oglala Lakota College -- which is now pretty much centrally located out of Kyle, but also has the rest of its centers, satellites, and all of the various communities throughout the Oglala Lakota area up there -- was pretty much in just what I would call broken down trailers and that's where they were teaching classes. But we went in and we talked to some of the staff and faculty and the president and did some work there. And then Gerald invited us out to his place just northwest of Pine Ridge. We managed to get over there late that afternoon into the evening and we had dinner with him. And we sat there and he was talking to us about what they were doing with the college and how things were going to go with it. We looked out of his windows there, his front windows, and they were all, there was no windows. We said, ‘What happened to your windows?' He said, ‘Well, they got shot out last night.'

But I guess my point is, we've had our war and this has happened in other communities as well, disparities. But what we have learned is we go on -- I'm not saying we aren't afflicted by them in negative ways -- but nevertheless we go on, because we're a strong people. We're a very strong, resilient people. We're a people that can accept and take change and incorporate it and do it in proactive ways. Otherwise we wouldn't be here, our children wouldn't be here, our grandchildren wouldn't be here -- given the size and makeup and complexity of our population, given the different languages that we have, the different customs that we have, from one nation to the other. As small and tiny as we are in this huge nation of 270, or more, million of the United States of America, we're still here and we will continue to be here. But the important thing is that we continue to build, as best as we can, and on our own terms and conditions. That's what tribal colleges are about: our own terms and conditions. They are the fundamental rights that go even before and beyond treaties.

Sitting Bull never signed a treaty, from where I'm from. He was a Hunkpapa Lakota, but as he said when he picked up that piece of earth and dropped it back to the ground, he said, ‘I never gave up or sold an ounce,' to be interpreted, by the way, of the earth, ‘because I am part of it. I've never given it up. No matter what they say. No matter what kind of piece of paper they put in front of me.' And yes, we have to adhere to things like treaties. And yes, it's important to assure that they're enforced, if you will. But he never signed a treaty. He fought his whole life and he gave his life telling people, ‘If you sign that, you sign your life away.' For him, that was what destiny was about and that was the loss of freedom. We're in a different era now, and even he recognized, though, that we had to make changes that were significant among ourselves, because he had gone on the Wild West Show with Buffalo Bill Cody and went clear across to Europe and been in D.C. One of the things -- he came back and he visited in a little school on Standing Rock, when it was settled, after he had been brought in, brought back from Canada and had been held in prison at Fort Randall for two years, brought back to Standing Rock and some of my own people followed him back up. They brought him back by riverboat up the Missouri and the rest of the people that were with him walked; they didn't ride on that boat. One of them was my grandmother, who was a little infant and brought up from that area of the country -- Fort Randall back up to Standing Rock. But he later visited that school where my grandmother was at, and it was called the Kennel Industrial School. It's not there anymore. In fact that whole community was inundated, flooded by the great dams that were put upon the Missouri River Basin from Montana clear down into Nebraska. But he walked in that school and he said -- and he talked to the children and he looked at all of them -- and he said, ‘You need to learn, you need to learn what the wasicus are doing and you need to learn how they write and what they do.' He said, ‘I can't read or write.' He could write his name, but he said, ‘You need to do these things and learn what they are about, because that is the only way you're going to protect yourself, it's the only way you're going to keep who you are.' He said, ‘I've seen them,' he said. He said, ‘They're going to come in such great numbers.' He said, ‘When you see the ant pile,' he said, ‘there are even more than that coming. They're not here yet, but they're coming. You see them around us right now.' He meant wasicus, the white man. He said, ‘They're bringing things that you can't see or understand all the time, but you must learn about them and you must learn their way, because otherwise you won't be able to take care of yourself.' He said, ‘I've seen them,' and he said, ‘there's more than you can ever imagine or think that are coming.' And he said, ‘It's something we cannot stop.' So even he knew at the end, just before the end, that there was a complete change in life. And he had his own school that was established in his community, just shortly before he was shot. So he was making changes himself.

But for other reasons, I won't get into the whole story about his killing, and how he was murdered, unfortunately, by other Native people. And these are the things -- and that is one of the first lessons we must always remember -- that the United States government has used effectively the Roman rule of ‘divide and conquer' very effectively among us. And we must always be cautious that we, as Native people, don't become continued victims of that, and that we don't use those non-Indian ways to take advantage of each other or to harm or hurt each other. Those are the realities. That was one of the lessons we should have learned out of the last Wounded Knee that Oren Lyons talked about a little bit ago. Because when we create those kinds of conflicts among ourselves, it also creates very harsh, bad realities, for generations to come, among ourselves. And then I can go back to the good lessons I hear and I listen to about what you are doing out in those communities -- of dealing with issues of disparity, turning them around and creating whole new kinds of opportunities, whole new kinds of wonderful hope and giving hope to others -- so that that student I talked to the other day may indeed be here at Harvard, but will continue on in a good way, carrying with him some good kinds of new proactive, if you will, weapons, but also ways that we continue to create peace and humanity among ourselves. Because that's where our hearts are, that's where our hearts are. They are good hearts. [Lakota Language]. Thank you very much."

Honoring Nations: David Gipp: Sovereignty Today

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

President David Gipp of United Tribes Technical College synthesizes the words of the "Sovereignty Today" presenters at the 2007 Honoring Nations symposium, and discusses the direct relationship between a Native nation's effective exercise of sovereignty and its distinct traditional cultural values and identity.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Topics
Citation

Gipp, David. "Sovereignty Today." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 27-28, 2007. Presentation.

Amy Besaw Medford:

"We're not just leaving yet. We're hoping that the microphones are still going to circulate around. Dr. David Gipp from United Tribes Technical College, also on the board of governors is going to join me and kind of synthesize some of the things that we've heard today, and set the stage for tomorrow 's discussion. So I hope you humor us, and participate with us, add to things that we may have missed, add to things that you would like to hear spoken about tomorrow, issues that you wanted to bring forward, things you want to further pull out. So without further adieu, Dr. David Gipp."

David Gipp:

"Well, I would say we had quite a discussion going already in terms of reflections and what's going on, and I'm not sure that I can do justice to some of the remarks that have already been made. But I was asked to give some remarks about our first panel and some of the other remarks that have been made throughout the day. It seems to me that every one of the panels -- both panels and the panelists themselves -- have really done a wonderful job of not only telling us what their projects and programs have been and how they're contributing to their particular tribal nation and community, but also how they are really reinforcing that infrastructure which is really critical to all of our lives, as the Chief [Oren Lyons], I think summed it up so well in terms of the world and the future and the generations to come, the seven generations.

I'm a Lakota, a Hunkpapa Lakota. From Standing Rock is where I'm from, from North and South Dakota. And I'm President of the United Tribes [Technical College] in Bismarck, North Dakota. And one of my chiefs, the Hunkpapa, was Sitting Bull, and he was a man who believed in nationhood. He didn't believe in signing treaties and he never signed one to his death in 1890, just shortly before Wounded Knee. And I talk a little bit about that, because you raised the question of what would his generation say about us today and what would they say about even our remarks and our outlook on life. And oftentimes, I listen to some of my leaders out in my region of the country talk about being treaty tribes and bragging about it, when I know that Sitting Bull disdained the signing of treaties because he felt that was the first step towards defeat, the first step towards losing what we call sovereignty. And as you say, we did not have a word for that but other than our nation and the Lakota nation in our word, which was both 'friend' and 'ally' in terms of our translation. And so we look at that and look at the era and the times and how they have changed, and now we look at what happens with U.S. policy and how that continues to affect or disaffect us, I guess becomes the other part of the question.

But I look at the projects today and we know that they really are exemplary. They are the proactive things that we are doing among ourselves, and the creation of good things among ourselves to look at success, because indeed, we are constantly wrapped up with the issues of all of the problems that are out there -- methamphetamine, jurisdictional issues between our states and our tribes, and who takes precedent over whom in terms of how we enforce the laws of our own lands, and how those things are going to be affected, and the fact that we have not enough law enforcement officials on any one of our reserves, any one of our territories. You go to my place at Standing Rock, I think we have six officers full time, seven days a week if you will, to cover about actually, 2.3 million acres of land, similar to your territory in Hopi, similar to our friends at Red Lake. And the issues that are faced there constantly, day in, day out with the lack of adequate, just plain police protection of our own, by our own. And so these are the conditions that every one of our people face back home and have to live with on a day-to-day basis.

I listened to one of my councilmen from Standing Rock recently talk about the issues of gang and how they affect and disaffect rural reservation areas, and how you have to wait hours for a policeman to get there on the site when an incident occurs, and how the community is in fact disenfranchised from itself, and how mothers and fathers and elders are intimidated by those kinds of actions. And we talk about the Mexican influence of methamphetamine, and coming into our communities, and taking advantage of our women. Those are the disparities that we talk about every day.

But what is good about these projects, the Honoring Nations projects, is that they demonstrate clearly what we can do in our own communities by our own tribal nations, and how we can take, if you will, the bull by the horns and begin to reshape what we have in our communities, and do them in successful, in proactive, in positive and in constructive ways that can demonstrate what's so important to our youth and to our elders and to all of the rest of the adults in our communities. That we can create, in fact, our own role models, that we can create our own kinds of models themselves -- whether they are financial in nature or whether they are behavioral in nature -- through the courts or through education systems.

I've been in the business of tribal college development and university development for close to 34-35 years. I've been president at United Tribes [Technical College] for 30 years now, or better than 30 years. We serve nationally about 30-35,000 students around the country, among the 35-36 tribal colleges that are out there today. When we started out, we started out with six tribal colleges. Navajo Nation was at the forefront of creating, at that time, Navajo Community College, now Diné College, and was one of the leaders to help create the movement, if you will. And in North and South Dakota, the core of the tribal college movement began there, and emanated out to places like Montana and other parts of the nation, if you will. But when we started out, many, many academics said we could not do that, (A) because we didn't have enough educated people to educate ourselves, (B) because we didn't have the resources. And the U.S. government testified against us, in the first Senate hearing in October of 1975, and said, ‘Tribal colleges weren't necessary because we already had three institutions funded by the federal government and operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.' We said, ‘No, we want to do this ourselves for ourselves, by ourselves and through and with, and through Indian nations, and to reinforce the sovereignty of Indian tribes.' And some among us even challenged us saying that that is not what we were doing. We prevailed, if you will. At that point, in 1974-75 we had about 1,500 tribal students across the country. We have tribal colleges that are not only doing the two-year programs, but they're doing four-year programs and they're doing, beginning graduate programs. We're moving from a two-year to a four-year institution in the course of three years now -- one in the area of public health, the other in the area of business, a third in the area of law enforcement, because of the disparities that we see across the land, and the fourth dealing with leadership itself, and what tribal leaders need to know.

And that is why I think the beginning kinds of curriculum that we see here, that's been developed through the Harvard Project on American Indian [Economic] Development, are so critical. And all of the things that we're doing in our tribal communities become so, so relevant to what needs to be taught at, and through, and in our Indian communities, whether we have populations in rural reservation settings or in urban Indian settings. We must not forget the fact that we have a large concentration of our populations living in places like Minneapolis or L.A. or Phoenix, Arizona, or Albuquerque and on down the line. We must not leave those young people out of the equation because they are part of us. Some of them are your relatives; some of them are your brothers and sisters. They want a part of Indian Country and they want to be a part of Indian Country, but we must go back and begin to teach them the issues of values, the issues of language, of culture and of what community is about. And that I think is what is epitomized by the projects that we heard today, in all of the panels, in every one of them. Some doing it with resources, some with doing it with few or no resources, but nevertheless doing them and that was how we began the tribal college movement. What was significant about it is that the U.S. government opposed us all the way. And that's when I think of Sitting Bull who said, ‘I will do what I will do and I will prevail.'

I watched this Emmy-winning movie that was produced about Sitting Bull and, quite frankly, it was one of the greatest misrepresentations, at least the film version, of Sitting Bull. Fine that they used Indian actors -- and I'm glad that Indian actors were used as far as part of getting a bit of employment and perhaps some notoriety -- but the story was one of the greatest misrepresentations of who we are: Lakota people, Hunkpapa people, in particular. Some of the story lines and some of the things that were said in that movie were absolutely untrue. I remember the scene in that movie when Major McLaughlin appeared with Sitting Bull and told him that, ‘You will be educated by my schools.' And while that may be truth, in terms of the policy itself, it was a statement that McLaughlin never said, because Sitting Bull demanded his own schools. He had traveled the world, literally, to Europe in the Wild West shows of Buffalo Bill Cody. He came home and he went to one of our beginning, if you will, boarding schools back home in a place called Kennel, South Dakota, on the Standing Rock, and he talked to the children of that school. And what he told them was that they needed to learn the words of the white man, the wasicu. They needed to know how to use them and write them and construct them because he said, ‘If you don't, you will not survive.' He said, ‘I've been out there and I've seen them coming,' and he said, ‘there are so many you can't count them.' He meant like the ants and like the locusts. He said, 'There are so many that are coming.' He said, ‘You will never believe how many there are.' And he said, ‘If you don't learn these ways and these things, you will not be able to defend yourself and you will not have the life that you want.' I know those words were true, because one of those little children in that school was my grandmother and she knew what he meant. Don't give up your ways, but you need to learn and constantly take in all of these other things, and you must not forget who you are, but you must always be sure that you use them in a way that protects you. The adage that he used was, ‘If you see something in the white man's world and on the road, pick it up if it's good. But if it's bad, make sure you throw it away and don't use it, because it's not relevant to you and you'll lose your way.' Part of that is the issue of things like methamphetamines and the alcohol and all of those so-called things that are not a part of our life, because they were not part of our life, at least not among the Lakota, not originally. Now we're battling new kinds of battles.

So I look at what we're doing with the Harvard Honoring Nations, and indeed it's a great honor to have sat with this board and to look at the various projects, because then we get to see all of the wonderful and great things that are coming from America in terms of all of our own people, our own Native American Indian tribal nations. This is a good thing. And so you're at a good table, and there are good things in our road and we can continue to make those good things. That's what I observe today as I listen to all of the wonderful remarks. Yes, challenges, some of them difficult, but nevertheless I think every one of them things that we can use in good ways and make that road a good road, a good red road. We talk about it in the way that we say [Lakota language]: We're all related; we're all connected. There's not one of us that isn't connected. No matter what your language, no matter what your heritage, no matter how you understand your way, we're all connected and that's the way we have to be."

Robert F. Kennedy's Legacy with First Americans

Author
Producer
Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education
Year

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s address to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Bismarck, North Dakota. I was in high school then. My memories are that of tribal leaders who came together from throughout the nation to discuss key issues of the time–challenges that are still with us today. The leaders welcomed him with accolades, but also with a great hope that he and his brother would lead us all to a better condition. They inspired great hope in us to overcome so many obstacles...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Gipp, David M. "Robert F. Kennedy’s Legacy with First Americans." Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education. November 29, 2013. Opinion. (http://tribalcollegejournal.org/robert-f-kennedys-legacy-first-americans/, accessed October 20, 2023)

Indian Pride: Episode 110: Indian Education

Producer
Prairie Public Broadcasting
Year

Indian Pride, an American Indian cultural magazine television series, spotlights the diverse cultures of American Indian people throughout the country. This episode of Indian Pride features David Gipp, President of the United Tribes Technical College, and focuses on the topic of Indian Education. (Segment Placement: 1:07 - 15:11)

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Topics
Citation

"Indian Education." Indian Pride (Episode 110). Prairie Public Broadcasting. Fargo, North Dakota. 2007. Television program. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH5a6SP80rE, accessed July 24, 2023).