May 2011 Archives

Dr. Carol Ann Davis retired on April 4, 2011.   Carol is an enrolled Turtle Mountain Chippewa. She has given a lifetime of service to educating tribal members including 40 years of service to Turtle Mountain Community College.  Please join me by congratulating Dr. Carol Davis as she enters retirement.

Only a few people know that it was Carol Davis who is responsible for the funding that started the college.  It happened in 1971, on a return airplane flight from Seattle, writing on napkins, Carol composed a proposal for a federal grant that eventually resulted in the funding.   Carol had paid for the trip to Seattle with her own money.  Without a doubt this created a financial hardship for her young family.  Carol knew it was important that someone argue for the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe before a group of national educators who were meeting in Seattle to create a consortium of newly established tribal colleges.  Not surprising Carol was convincing and the group gave their support for a tribal college at Turtle Mountain.  One year later, in November 1972, the Turtle Mountain Community College was established by tribal resolution.  Today, 40 years later, hundreds of tribal members have successfully attained a college education and are enjoying good jobs and a better life because Carol Davis had a vision, and because of that proposal she wrote on airplane napkins 40 years ago.

Carol has been a leader in many aspects of TMCC planning, development, and implementation.  During the formative years either acting alone or by applying her ability to work with others she helped to secure a unique legal relationship between TMCC and the tribal government.  Later she helped to build essential relationships with the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, with federal agencies, and accrediting associations.

When Carol joined TMCC in the mid 1980's as its Vice President she quickly engaged herself in accreditation, improving quality of instruction, and by service to students and community. Over the years she marshaled the writing of numerous successful proposals.  Her contributions are many including the first fully accredited elementary teaching degree at a tribal college and a 4-year secondary teaching degree with an emphasis in science and mathematics education.

I had the honor to serve TMCC for about 33 years and its president for about 27 years.  I left the college in 2005.  Carol would have been an excellent choice to become the next president.  This did not happen and she subsequently left the college and was immediately hired by North Dakota State University as the EPSCoR liaison to tribal colleges.  In this capacity she has been assisting students who are pursuing 4-year and graduate science and engineering degrees and with developing research potential at tribal colleges.

Much more can be said about her work.  Carol has been involved in several important state and national education initiatives, has given many public presentations, and has served on numerous advisory boards. With her many professional accomplishments Carol and her family have earned the right to be proud of each one. Telling her story would fill a book.  When a comprehensive history of Turtle Mountain tribal education and of Turtle Mountain Community College is written the book will include the many contributions of Dr. Carol Davis. Carol would be the first to acknowledge the hard work of those with whom she has served, the boards and staffs at the college, those in the schools, and the people of the Turtle Mountain community.  Carol, we wish you well.  

Enjoy the time with your husband Lynn, your children and many grandchildren.  Thank-you for everything you have done.  You are truly a remarkable-visionary leader and will continue to be a role model for young woman and men.

Good Afternoon

Spiritual Leader, Drum, Dr. Vermillion, Dr. Ressler, Ms. Desjarlais, Graduates and your families, Tribal Chairman Murphy, Tribal Council, Board of Directors, Faculty, Staff, Dignitaries, and Guests.

It is with great pleasure and humility that I stand before you today. I came to share a message of congratulations and encouragement for the graduates. Today is your day. You have worked hard and sacrificed your time, energy and resources to get here. I am sure as you think back on your academic journey, you recall hardships that you endured and the sacrifices you made. And, your families recall the decisions and sacrifices you made. There were times when you had to make the choice between recreation and studying. Obviously, you studied.

            I feel a special connection to Standing Rock. I share grandchildren with some of your families. We share a granddaughter with Daisy Cadotte. Her name is Natalie. Our son, Danny, is married to Spring Left Hand's daughter, Courtney. They have two children, Elliot and Karsen. And Lynn and I lived her for six years. You might say we honeymooned here. We came in 1965. We did not have children when we arrived. We left 5 ½ years later and we had four children. And, of course, during those six years, we found lots of friends. Some are in the room today.

I belong to a book club made up of Indian people from across the state. We read good books and come together to discuss them. One of the books we read was called The Genius of Sitting Bull - Thirteen Heroic Strategies for Today's Business Leaders. It is a book that relates how one of your heroic leaders, Sitting Bull, out smarted Custer and it outlines the leadership strategies he used. As I thought about the graduates, I realized that a message about leadership is very appropriate for tribal college graduates because you are the future leaders of this tribe. And, this being Sitting Bull College, I felt his accomplishments are appropriate to explore. Today I will use the 13 Heroic Strategies used by Sitting Bull when he defeated Custer to provide a framework as you move to the next level and on to leadership positions here at Standing Rock using the education you have received here at Sitting Bull College.

The first strategy Sitting Bull used was to...

1.     Create Commitment:

Book: The outcome of the battle of the Little Big Horn was a result of the two leaders' basic attitudes toward commitment. Sitting Bull lead through commitment to others. Custer led through commitment to himself.

Example: As I searched for an example of creating commitment at Standing Rock, my thoughts rolled back to the beginning of your college in 1971-1972. At that time, I was the State Talent Search Director that was headquartered out of the University of Mary. In that role, I had the good fortune to work with the creation of Turtle Mountain Community College and I worked with the people at Standing Rock who were developing your college. Here are some of the people who I recall were involved in those very early years:  Minard White who became your first President, David and Bob Gipp, Jack Barden, Emma Jean Blue Earth, Jerry Silk, Glen Eagle, Tom Buffalo Boy, and Melvin White Eagle who was your chairman. We had a similar crew at Turtle Mountain. I spent time mainly with David Gipp and Jack Barden in those early days scheming and planning for how we might launch these two tribal colleges that became remarkable tribal institutions of higher education.

Student Message: To the graduates I suggest that when you have the opportunity to do something for your tribe, create commitment and figure out how to help all of the people in the way the founders of Sitting Bull College created commitment.

The 2nd strategy used by Sitting Bull was to build trust. As you prepare to become leaders, think about how you will build trust among your stakeholders.

2.     Build Trust: Sitting Bull had to build the trust of the Sioux Nation as he brought the chiefs together to fight Custer.

Example: I'll share another example. It was in the Fall of 1971 and no one had money in those days. We had found a friend at Pine Ridge named Birgil Kills Straight who was working there to create the Oglala-Lakota Tribal College. He contacted me to tell me there was going to be a tribal college organization meeting in Seattle at the National Indian Education Conference. In those days most people didn't have travel money. Our two North Dakota groups lacked resources to get to that meeting, so I bought myself a plane ticket and flew to Seattle. You can imagine the trouble I got into at home when Lynn found out I drained our bank account. When I got to Seattle, I followed people around the meeting and just couldn't get invited to the tribal college meeting that was happening until I met Pat Lock. She directed me to Gerald One Feather from Pine Ridge. He told me that they wanted to advocate for Title III implementation funding for four tribal colleges and they wanted to give two planning grants--one to  Standing Rock and the other to Turtle Mountain. After some serious discussion, Gerald and the Title III people at the conference agreed to consider all six of us for implementation grants. Gerald asked if we had proposals. I lied and said "Yes. They are ready to go!" He told us to show up in Phoenix in two weeks with our proposals and we were in. I got in touch with David Gipp and the people here to share the good news. We got our proposals together and showed up in Phoenix. Stanley Red Bird from Rosebud and helpers led a yuwepi ceremony. I remind our leaders that the tribal college movement, before any money was laid on the table, was created through ceremony. They are sacred institutions. As a result, Standing Rock Community College, which later became Sitting Bull College, and Turtle Mountain Community College became two of the six original tribal colleges that formed the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

Graduatte message: I offer this to the graduates as an example of trust. Lots of us trusted one another as we took our first steps. We did not second guess one another. This is an example of how trust can help build dreams. As you build dreams, you may have to trust the people you work with.

3.     Increase Power: When we review the third strategy used by Sitting Bull, you find a desirable leadership strait. He empowered strong leaders, tapped their strengths, and together they defeated Custer. He believed that only weak leaders hoarded power. He studied the Sioux Chiefs and used their strengths where they were needed. Crazy Horse became the fighter; Red Cloud helped to reinforce the culture and traditions of the Sioux; Gall provided the planning and structure for the effort; Four Horns kept the initiative sensitive and personal for the people.

Example: Looking at Sitting Bull College today, your leader, President Dr. Vermillion, possess this trait. She has three Vice Presidents who are the best at what they do and Dr. Vermillion will tell you that she has confidence in their leadership. Dr. Koreen Ressler is known as one of the most competent leaders of academic programs among tribal colleges. Other tribal colleges call her when they have questions; Julie Desjarlais is known as a hard working savvy Student Services leader who is among the best among tribal colleges; when she sees a way to address the success of students, she is on it! Leonica Alkire has a reputation for knowing finance and runs an enviable business office and she is called upon by tribal colleges and organizations to train others. Dr. Vermillion knows Sitting Bull College increases in power when each leader is allowed to apply their skill and knowledge.

Graduate message: When you are in positions of leadership, remember that Sitting Bull spent time fitting the task at hand with the person most capable of carrying out the plan. This might not be your best friend or your cousin. And, don't hoard power. It won't work.

4.     Live the Experience of Your People:  

In strategy four, Sitting Bull made an effort to understand the people--their fear, anger, and willingness to put their lives on the line as the military put more and more demands on the people. Living the experience of the people helped him understand how they would react to the stress of the pending battle and he was able to help them face the hardships they would endure.

I would like to use one of your tribal members as an example of someone who assessed her situation and made some right decisions based upon what she knew about the reservation system. In about 1965, I was working here in the BIA employment assistance office and kept hearing about one of your tribal members--Marie Claymore-High Eagle. What struck me about this young person was that she was a single mother who had moved with her four little boys to Aberdeen, SD to attend a business college. Shortly after I arrived here, I heard she was graduating and coming back to Standing Rock to accept employment at the BIA. The day she reported, I went over to introduce myself and we became friends immediately. I knew I was meeting a special person. She had met the challenge. I can only imagine the hardships she faced as she put these little boys in school, found baby sitters, dealt with illness, lack of resources, and loneliness. Yet, she did not give up. She stayed right there knowing her sacrifices would make life better for herself and her children. Marie went on to hold some very impressive positions in her career and everyone who works with her says she is smart and hard working. Today, Marie is the Administrative Officer at the McLaughlin Clinic. 

Graduate message: Graduates, if you are a single parent who wants to transfer to a college away from the reservation, I would suggest visiting with Marie. She is aware of the challenges you face and may have good advice for you. Or, when times get tough, think of Marie and how she did not give up and went on the have a great career.

5.     Be a Healer: In strategy five, Sitting Bull gladly accepted his role as protector and healer. He lived with the people and had their respect.

Example: To move our people forward we must take responsibility for protecting and healing within our families and communities.  I remember some very strong women from the day when I lived here. Marilyn Keepseagle, Shirley Plume, Leona Claymore, Margaret Teachout, Margie Dunn, Philomine One Feather, Alvina Grey Bear, Elaine St. John, Elsie Martin, Theresa Martin, Eunice Gipp, Zona Thunderhawk--these are some women that I admired. They got involved and were not shy about having input into what was happening.

Graduate message: Graduates. Think about your leaders and I think you will identify those who are just plain caring and nice people. They use their positions to help the people. Now, hold that thought. When you are in that position of leadership, protect, heal the wounds, and help those you serve.

6.     Communicate on Many Levels:

Book: Strategy 6 addressed effective communication which was essential as Sitting Bull communicated with other tribes and camps prior to their trek to Montana and throughout Little Big Horn immediately prior to the encounter with Custer. It was vital to the success of the mission.


Example: How do we communicate our message today? It isn't always verbal. When I travel to the facilities at Sitting Bull College, it communicates the value for students and staff held by the college leaders. When funding and accreditation agencies visit your campus, they use the facilities as one indicator as they evaluate your college. Your college facility message is a positive one--one that demonstrates hard work and commitment by those involved.

Graduate message: To the graduates I hope you will always appreciate the college. Your administrators work very hard to provide the facilities and services to help your tribal members achieve. They sometimes make it look easy and we end up thinking that just anyone can do their job. But, believe me. I've worked at a tribal college. This is a hard job that requires many hours of commitment and dedication. If you have an opportunity in the future to support the college in some way, I hope you will be there to help.

To be successful, you must think strategically.

7.     Think Strategically: Strategy 7 required thinking and planning strategically. We have all heard of strategic plans and we don't often think of Sitting Bull as a strategic planner. Sitting Bull planned for the welfare of you in this generation. Custer planned for a moment of personal glory (and failed).

Example: If you review the strategic plan of Sitting Bull College, you will see that their science department goals are being met by a highly qualified staff.  The four PH D's in your science department are an example of putting together a team that is capable of strategically meeting your instructional needs in science--Dr. Gary Halvorson, Dr. Jeremy Guinn, Dr. Mafany Mongo, and Dr. Dan Buresch. And, I believe Linda Different Cloud also joined this team. It is always great when our tribal members are part of a successful effort. Linda brings traditional knowledge into the research program which is unique. The work done by this team is recognized throughout the tribal college movement not just for their instruction, but for research. I am very impressed with how Sitting Bull College has teamed with your tribe to answer environmental questions. This is what research universities do all over the world. They team with their communities and stakeholders. It is very impressive that it is happening here on the Standing Rock Reservation.

Graduate message: If you are going to move an idea forward, do the necessary planning. As Sitting Bull College moves towards becoming a research university for your tribe, think about what they are doing. As this unit grows, more jobs will be created in the future that will enable more of your tribal members to work in research and more of your tribal members will seek PhD's in order to be here helping to answer reservation questions for your tribe. When you think about the questions we have on our reservations, we realize that there is a big job waiting. This is an area where jobs can grow on the Standing Rock Reservation for those of you who go on to a master's degree or doctorate. The field is endless. Here are some research questions: For education researchers: Why do some students stay in school while others drop out? For business majors: What are the purchasing trends of the people on the Standing Rock Reservation? For Social Science majors: What characteristics contribute to positive self-esteem as the tribe seeks to combat suicide among young people? For agriculture majors studying the environment:  If you supplement your cattle's diet with a type of amino acid and nitrate can you reduce the methane gas produced without jeopardizing the cattle's productivity or the quality of their meat and milk?  Remember graduates. Research is waiting for you to help answer questions for your tribe. But, you must plan your professional career by using strategies that will help you achieve your goals.

We don't often think about the strength of our competition. We just want to win. But, ....

8.     Respect Your Competition: Sitting Bull respected the enemy in strategy 8. He studied them and knew what he was up against when the fighting started at the Little Big Horn.

Example: Tribal colleges in their infant stage, were not respected by mainstream colleges and universities. Those who were affiliated with us wanted to micromanage us. Those who accepted our students in transfer picked student transcripts apart. But, look at Sitting Bull College today. You are a fully accredited tribal college that offers five bachelor's degrees and a special education endorsement in teacher education.

Graduate message: Look at the graduates in this commencement. Think about where you will be 20 years from now as a result of your hard work and commitment. Think about where the Standing Rock Reservation can be when you apply your skills to the needs of the people here. One more thought and recommendation for everyone in this room. Respect the thinking and initiative of your young people. The ND tribal college movement was started by a bunch of 25-year olds, many who did not have college degrees. Look at the bright young people among these graduates. Give them the opportunity to pursue dreams for your tribe. They are eager to move you into the future. Allow them to dream. Don't limit them to the same ideas and dreams of others. Allow them to come to your organizations and agencies and practice what they know. Graduates, you had that opportunity to do community service while enrolled at SBC. Continue to help where you are needed in your community.

Nothing defines a leader better than when they face a major challenge, or as it was for Sitting Bull, when he faced the enemy.

9.     Redefine the Rules of Battle: When you look at how Sitting Bull positioned the leaders--Crazy Horse, Gall, Red Cloud--he was consciously redefining the rules of battle which was his ninth strategy. He concentrated on turning the enemies' strengths into weaknesses.

Example: Sitting Bull College applied this strategy in the early days. I remember sitting in a meeting at NDSU last year where President Vermillion related her experience as a student at Standing Rock Community College. She related how she and two other students walked with their instructor, Jack Barden, through a building looking for a room to meet. Not finding a place, they sat on the floor in the hallway and Dr. Barden commenced to hold class. It would have been easy for Jack to tell the students that they could not meet because they didn't have a classroom. But, he redefined the rules. He redefined the rules of battle for higher education on the Standing Rock Reservation. And, Dr. Vermillion and the other students knew how bad they wanted an education. When they sat on that floor in that hallway, they redefined the rules.

Graduate message: Graduates. You will have opportunities to move forward with limited resources. Our tribes do not have resources to address all of our problems. Don't be afraid to redefine the rules, if it will get the job done. Don't stop working on a good project because you lack resources. Redefine the rules as Jack Barden and his students did that day when they chose to sit on the floor.

Another characteristic of an effective leader is to know the terrain.

10.  Know the Terrain:  In strategy 10, Sitting Bull took pains to learn about the terrain--the Little Big Horn. His awareness was dependent on identifying changes and adjusting his warriors in that terrain. He set standards of communication with all chiefs to assure that everyone worked together. It was necessary and contributed to success of the mission.

Example: As one of the six original tribal colleges and one of the founders of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Sitting Bull College was aware of the tremendous challenge ahead. Your board members, staff and faculty were continually reminded of higher education terrain. Funding and accreditation became the pathway on the terrain. Faculty, staff, and students became the stakeholders. The Tribal Community College Act of 1978, the National Science Foundation Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, Title III, Dept. of Ed Vocational Education Program, American Indian College Fund, Land Grant Status, state appropriation for non-tribal students--these are examples of funding opportunities that evolved through the involvement of Sitting Bull College leaders with the other tribal controlled colleges from across the country. Those leaders who worked on funding knew the congressional and government terrain. Accreditation of your certificate programs, associate degree and bachelor's degree programs demonstrates that your leadership knows the terrain of higher education.

Graduate message: The graduates in this audience will be called upon to do great things in the future and the word of advice from all of us is to know your terrain. Know what you are up against. Don't demand things because no one will care. But, when you begin to negotiate and contribute as an equal, you will find that doors will open. People will respect what you know and appreciate what you want to do. They will figure out whether or not you know your terrain and know what you intend to do. Sharpen up before you get to that level.

How about those Warriors?

11.  Rightsize your Forces: Sitting Bull knew that to defeat the Bluecoats, he had to put the right people in the right place at the right time. He knew he had to mobilize his forces in ways appropriate to meet the challenge.

Example: As I thought about this one, I recalled back in the day when Everett and Dalbert Chasing Hawk, Bill Kuntz, Bob, Bill and Darrell Eaglestaff, Wyman Archambeau, Kenny Walks, Kevin Claymore, Courtney Brown Otter, Roger Goodreau, and Albert Gipp (I apologize if I forgot someone) were the right sized force for Fort Yates High School. They were the biggest basketball talent in the state when I was here. They broke state scoring records that may still hold today. And, in later years there were comments from guys they played against that called them the most feared team in the state. My friend, Marie and I didn't miss a game and we traveled through many storms to see our team play. When Everett brought that ball down the floor and shook his head from side to side, no one knew where he would go. But, his team mates were waiting and the points flew up on the scoreboard.

Graduates message: If you are going to be a force in anybody's world today, you have to have the right combination of talent working toward your goals. Sitting Bull College has this force present today. From Boards, to the President, to the faculty and staff at Sitting Bull College, this tribal college has achieved because they embraced this strategy. Look around you. This is not one person doing it alone. It is a team of people working together to get the job done. And look at the graduates. The same can be said for each one of you. If the graduates close their eyes, they will see in their minds eye the force behind them that helped them to succeed. This is a good lesson to carry with you into life.

It is difficult to think that a leader can welcome a crisis, but in strategy twelve...

12.  Welcome Crisis:  ...when Sitting Bull's camp was attacked at the start of the battle of the Little Big Horn, he fought back with confidence. He knew he had prepared his people. The warriors stood their ground while the women and children escaped. Sitting Bull rang out words of encouragement to those in his camp and they drove Reno and his men back. As Custer approached, Sitting Bull turned to Crazy Horse to help fight. When the battle ended, the Sioux people had defeated Custer and the other Bluecoats. The heroic leader learns to control his or her emotions and view any crisis as a natural part of an effort. The heroic leader remains calm in a crises and trusts that the strength of the organizations staff will carry it through.

Example: Does this sound like your college? It appears that way to those of us who observe you. Did you know that it is easier to manage a crises when you anticipate that a crises can and will occur? This is another good lesson for students. Think about Marie when she was in Aberdeen. She was ready to face the tough challenge because she had her team organized. She will tell you that she had to call on her parents, Sam and Leona Claymore more than once. And her brothers and sisters were there to help, as well. She did not fear a crisis. She did not enjoy having problems or issues, but she was ready.

Graduate message: Some of you will transfer to universities next year. Or some of you will choose to stay here and enroll in one of the four-year degree programs. Whatever your plans, anticipate that things can and will happen. A child may get sick. You may lose a child-care provider. Your financial aid might be late. Grandma might become ill. How will you handle a situation such as the one I have described? If you anticipate that a crisis can or will occur and if you plan for what you will do in that crises, you will be in a better position to deal with it.

The last heroic strategy attributed to Sitting Bull was his ability to measure the results of what occurred. Today, we call this evaluation.

13.  Measure the Results:  Sitting Bull knew that the future of his people did not end with the bodies of the soldiers and Custer on the battlefield. Sitting Bull's greatest genius, then, may have been his ability to establish a clear vision of what it meant to be a tribal member here and his ability to set aside self-interest and address the complexity and challenges to your tribe. He left a legacy of leadership that you as a tribe can emulate.

Example: Graduates. I want to ask that you recognize your college as a good example of tribal leaders establishing a clear vision for the tribe. The college seeks to provide access to a post-secondary education for the tribal members by offering certificates, Associate Degrees and Bachelor's Degrees. In addition, the college seeks to offer GED programs for those who dropped out of high school and research to help answer questions for the tribe.

Graduate message: Graduates. Now that you have achieved your educational goal, the tribe and your families share your success. Some of you will join the labor force and apply your skills to a job. Others may choose to continue your education. Whatever you choose to do, remember that you are from a tribe that had one of the greatest leaders--Sitting Bull. You graduated today from a college that chose him as its namesake--Sitting Bull College. And he left you with an example of leadership that you can emulate into the future as you go forward to do great things!

I have reviewed the 13 leadership strategies Sitting Bull used to defeat Custer. I have given examples of these traits as I have witnessed them on your reservation. And, I tried to inspire you, the graduates to apply these strategies to your careers. We look for great things from you as a graduating class. Congratulations and best of luck.

Miigwech--thank you.


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