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King Day celebrated at UTTC
16 January 2012

BISMARCK (UTN) - The Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday offers the opportunity for teachable moments – ones that have meaning across the cultures and in the educational setting.

David M. Gipp
David M. Gipp

      That's the reason students and staff at United Tribes Technical College don't have the entire day off for other pursuits. The college uses the Federal and North Dakota State Holiday to raise awareness about the life of the slain Civil Rights leader, draw parallels with the historic and contemporary Native American pursuit of justice, and hopefully inspire a new generation of leaders.

      The January 16, 2012 public program, organized by the college's Culture Committee, attracted over 150 participants, who viewed an inspirational video, took part in a meaningful skit, and listened to speeches containing common threads that connect them to the Civil Rights experience.

      "We use our celebration of the holiday to educate about King and what he contributed," said David M. Gipp, United Tribes President, in a welcome talk during the event. "We do that for ourselves and others, and to learn what diversity is all about. This is a significant day because it helps us realize and appreciate one another from our various cultures and backgrounds."

Chase Iron Eyes
Chase Iron Eyes

      Gipp recalled a time from his youth in the late 1950s, living briefly in the south, when he saw segregated drinking fountains in stores. He told the mostly-student audience that it might be difficult for them to imagine the separation that existed between people of different races. But it was part of daily, accepted life back then, he said.

      "When we think about our freedoms they can be as minute as getting a drink of water [in a public place], or expressing ourselves and our rights to a job or an education," said Gipp. "And presumably we've overcome a lot of that. But we know we have further to go. If you are a person of color, you know that you are going to be discriminated against at some point in time in your life. So, it is incumbent upon us to always respect one another and care for one another."

      United Tribes was founded on those principles and still is "assuring that we protect our rights, individually and as tribal nations," he said.

Martin Luther King/Diversity Day at UTTC

      Keynote speaker Chase Iron Eyes, a Native American attorney and writer, sketched a parallel between civil rights activism and American Indian activism.

      He talked about Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr., told the story of Rosa Parks and recited rap lyrics about her refusing to go to the back of the bus. He described the justice work of American Indians in groups like the National Congress of American Indians and the American Indian Movement. And he asserted that the very first "Occupy" event in the United States was the occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay that began in late 1969.

Martin Luther King/Diversity Day at UTTC

      He said the fundamental difference between activism of Native Americans and that of other groups is the tribal attachment to the land.

      "As indigenous people we have more responsibility," said Iron Eyes. "We are blessed and burdened… with a responsibility to protect the land. The land is where we derive our identity… We come from this continent."

      Iron Eyes grew up at Standing Rock, lives in Bismarck and practices law in the Dakotas. Recently he launched the website "Last Real Indians" (www.lastrealindians.com), featuring an indigenous perspective on subjects that impact Indian country and the global community at large.

      Also attending the event and making brief remarks was U. S. Attorney for North Dakota Tim Purdon. A traditional meal followed the event.

Click here to listen to a short audio clip from Dr. David M. Gipp's Martin Luther King/Diversity Day talk (MP3 audio file, 562 kb, 1:35)

Click here to listen to Dr. David M. Gipp's Martin Luther King/Diversity Day remarks in their entirety (MP3 audio file, 4 MB, 11:45)

Click here to listen to a short audio clip from the talk of Chase Iron Eyes (MP3 audio file, 605 kb, 1:42)

Click here to listen to the entire keynote talk by Chase Iron Eyes for United Tribes Martin Luther King/Diversity Day (MP3 audio file, 18.8 MB, 53.25)


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