Gerald One Feather Passes OnAug 26th, 2014 | By tcj | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive
Gerald One Feather (Oglala Lakota) passed away this past weekend in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was 76. One Feather was a giant in the history of American Indian higher education: he was one of the founding fathers of Oglala Lakota College (OLC), the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, and the tribal college movement as a whole.
One Feather was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on July 10, 1938, and was the oldest of five children. Upon finishing high school, he attended Dakota Wesleyan University, but eventually transferred to the University of South Dakota where he studied political science. One Feather’s college experience would play a central role throughout his life.
Firmly grounded in Lakota culture and spirituality, One Feather would go on to serve his tribe as a council member, secretary, treasurer, and eventually chairman, a post to which he was elected in 1970. The youngest tribal chairman in Pine Ridge history, he advocated for sovereignty over law enforcement and helped establish the tribe’s public safety commission. It was also during his tenure as tribal chairman that OLC was founded.
“Mr. One Feather has been a lifetime advocate of higher education for the Lakota people,” stated Thomas Shortbull, current president of OLC. “Due to his vision, the college was created and is thriving today.”
An advisory board member at OLC, One Feather was instrumental in the creation of the college’s Lakota Studies Department and in the incorporation of Lakota culture throughout its curricula. Two years after OLC was established, One Feather helped launch AIHEC, which consisted of the first six tribal colleges: Diné College, OLC, Sinte Gleska College, Turtle Mountain Community College, Sitting Bull College, and the now defunct DQ University.
Through his efforts in the 1970s, the tribal college movement gained traction and would not be where it is today. As AIHEC president and CEO, Carrie Billy, stated, “He’s one of those giant trees, whose falling shakes the entire Earth.”