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The Origins of United Tribes
26 August 2009

As one of the founders of United Tribes, August Little Soldier was involved in creating the non-profit organization (United Tribes of North Dakota Development Corporation) and the educational facility (United Tribes Employment Training Center) in the early and mid 1960s. Little Soldier described the origins of United Tribes in an oral history video interview with the editor of “United Tribes News” on October 23, 2006. Printed here is a portion of that interview containing his description of how he worked with Theodore Jamerson on forming the organization.

August Little Soldier
LITTLE SOLDIER: Iím August Little Soldier, member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Reservation. I was born in 1914, August 15, 1914. I grew up and spent most of my life on our reservation. Iím a full blooded Indian, Arikara and Mandan. I served 14 years on the council. I was the chairman for a couple of years. I was appointed to the National Indian Advisory Committee and had the opportunity to visit 13 areas in the United States where Indians people reside. I got acquainted with these areas and saw a lot of the problems that Indian people had in the early days. We were mostly disrespected as Indian people throughout the United States. But, now we have opportunities that the older generations never had.

      Iíve been involved in so many national committees that today I feel I am knowledgeable enough to give some of my thoughts to the younger generation at United Tribes, which I developed in 1966. I can go back to where we started the United Tribes, Ted Jamerson and I Ė good friend of mine Ė when they did away with the Job Corps center.

      Ted Jamerson and I figured that we needed to have a vocational training center for the Indian people that didnít have the educational backgroundÖnot from only one reservation but for every tribe we had contact with. So thatís how the United Tribes organization was formed, through the tribes getting together, getting involved in this vocational training center, which is doing a wonderful job with our Indian people today, the people that would have never had the chance to get involved with the outside society, like what they are today.

QUESTION: What was it like for Indian young people and for you growing up that you didnít have these opportunities?

AUGUST LITTLE SOLDIERíS FEATHERS: Kathleen Rakes, Mandan, ND, donated her late fatherís eagle feathered headdress to United Tribes. David M. Gipp accepted the gift.

LITTLE SOLDIER:  Well, in my time there were no job opportunities. The non-Indians never had much involvement with Indian people. We were neglected in any kind of job field. This is what Ted Jamerson and I were thinking about. Why should our Indian people always be lower than the other people.

      Ted and I drew up a proposal for this vocational training center. And we had a hard time convincing the Congress to have a vocational training center so Indian people could have training to go out and obtain the jobs, where they never had the chance to before. We wrote up a proposal, took it to Washington, met with Senators Burdick and Young, they were on the appropriations committee. And, we told them about the Job Corps center that they were abolishing it. So, they told us we had to have consent from the city councils of Mandan and Bismarck.

QUESTION: Was it difficult to convince them? And how did you go about doing that?

LITTLE SOLDIER: Well we met with the city council of Bismarck, back in 1966, and they were a little leery, because they couldn’t make the Jobs Corps center work, so how were we going to make it work? And this took a lot of convincing. Same way with the Mandan City Council. And we sat a long time talking. There were a lot of questions. But they were leery about how we were going to operate, how we were going to get the funds. But we didn’t tell them we were going to get the funds from the government. And, well, they finally consented. They said, OK, we’ll give you a year’s time to see if you can make it work.

      So, then we went back to Washington and told the Senators about it. And they knew us real good, Burdick and Young. I was good friends with both of them. And they respected us. And they said, well now you got everything going, hereís the money.

      And you should have seen that Fort Lincoln before we took over, it was just a shambles. The buildings had been vacated for many years. And so we had to remodel the buildings. And it took money to do that, a lot of money and effort.

      I knew Usher [Burdick] for many years. And I got involved in his Congressional deals and thatís how I got acquainted with John F. Kennedy. And Bobby Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy was the Attorney General at that time.

      So we did all this traveling during development of United Tribes. One time they had a meeting in Pine Ridge. And thatís when Bobby Kennedy was running for President. And Bobby Kennedy knew me pretty good cause I was involved with Senator Burdick and Young. And he never called me August, he always called me Augie. So we got to be pretty good friends. Thatís how I got so involved in getting some of the things that we wanted, Ted Jamerson and I.

QUESTION: So it was on your relationships with people in the government, in the Congress, and then building relationships in Bismarck, that made this come about? It was the relationships?

LITTLE SOLDIER: You see I recognized…that we were more welcome when we got involved with them, and they wanted to get involved with us. That’s the main thing. The Congressional people depended on the Indian people for their votes. So, there we were getting more involved in that, and all the tribal affairs.