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Former United Tribes leaders honored
20 October 2009

BISMARCK (UTN) - Three former employees who provided executive leadership at United Tribes in the 1970s were honored in early September as part of the college’s 40 year anniversary observance.

      Warren Means, Ron Lavadure and Juanita Helphrey were special guests during the 2009 Tribal Leaders Summit in Bismarck. United Tribes President Dr. David M. Gipp recounted some of their contributions to the organization and presented each with plaques of recognition and a star quilt.

Warren Means

      Warren Means (Oglala Lakota) served for four-and-one-half years from 1972 to 1976. He was the first United Tribes executive director to serve under unified leadership of the non-profit corporate office and the educational center.

      His work initiated many systems and standards that improved the organization’s operational functions and secured funding to help Indian education go forward.

      Means said it was truly a proud moment for him. He said he was grateful to be recognized with those who had the vision “to make Indian education a priority in the eyes of Indian people.”

      He presented a gift to the college. He brought the pen that was used May 24, 1973 by government officials to sign documents that turned Fort Lincoln over to the tribes of North Dakota. He called that “the first step in achieving the greatness that is now United Tribes Technical College,” an institution owned and administered by American Indians.

      Means is currently with Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, MT.

Ron Lavadure

      Ron Lavadure (Turtle Mountain) was among the first generation of staff members at United Tribes. He brought steady leadership at a time of organizational transition. He was executive director from 1976 to 1977, prior to the start of the college’s current leader, David M. Gipp.

      Lavadure said he was very honored to be recognized and that “forty years is a testament to a lot of dedicated people and Dave Gipp.

      Lavadure is currently a business developer in Fargo, ND.

      Juanita Helphrey (Three Affiliated) brought organizational and administrative leadership serving from 1969 to 1973 as the first executive secretary of the United Tribes of North Dakota Development Corporation at offices in downtown Bismarck’s MDU building. Helphrey later became director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission.

Juanita Helphrey

      “I appreciate being recognized,” she said. “I think we should do that for all our people. Lift them up and appreciate them, because all of us are here for the purpose of helping each other.”

      Helphrey said the few years she worked for United Tribes put her on the long road of career advancement ending in Cleveland, Ohio, where she worked in the field of anti-racism to end the use of American Indian imagery in sports.

      “Chief Wahoo’s gotta go,” she said. “Just like the Fighting Sioux.”

      Helphrey was involved in the Council on American Indian Ministries. She now ministers and resides in New Town, ND.

      Other United Tribes directors from the 1970s whose contributions were recognized, but who were not in attendance, were Dallas Brien, Dale Little Soldier and Toby Moran.