Tribal Leaders Serve Colleges and Tribes

Feb 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 17-3: Heroes of Today, Tribal College News

Ron His Horse Is Thunder, former president of Sitting Bull College (SBC, Fort Yates, ND), has been elected chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He resigned his presidency to take over his duties for the tribe in October 2005.

Although unusual, the move between tribal college leadership and tribal leadership is not unique. He is believed to be the second tribal college president to become a tribal chair in the 38-year history of the tribal college movement. Thomas Atcitty served as president of Navajo Community College (now Diné College) from 1972 until 1977. From 1995 through 1998, Atcitty served alternately as vice president and president of the Navajo Nation.

In the 1999 school year, John Blackhawk served simultaneously as chair of the Winnebago Tribe and interim president of Little Priest Community College. Several other tribal college presidents have served on their tribal councils.

Another tribal college president, Della Warrior, served as chairperson and chief executive officer of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe prior to becoming president of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA, Santa Fe, NM) in 1998.

Warrior retired as IAIA president Jan. 1, 2006. The college is conducting a national search. She will continue to work for the college as a consultant. During her eight years as president, she raised millions of dollars, rescuing the institute from a financial abyss. She led IAIA to full accreditation for its 2-year and 4-year academic programs. The new campus has a national reputation for its “green,” environmentally friendly design (see TCJ, Vol. 17, N.2).

During his nine years as president of the college, His Horse Is Thunder and his staff started several entrepreneurial programs, including Sitting Bull College Construction Company and a computer installation and service company. The college received accreditation for a 4-year business degree and led the successful effort to get National Scenic Byway designation for a highway through the reservation.

As chairman, His Horse Is Thunder intends to continue his focus upon economic development as well as language and culture. The tribe and the college are working together to establish an entrepreneurial center.

Laurel Vermillion (Hunkpapa Lakota), Ph.D., is the acting president at Sitting Bull College. Previously the vice president of operations, she has worked at the college since 1995.

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