North Dakota tribes commend Sen. Dorgan for service
News from the United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota.

The tribes of North Dakota will miss Sen. Byron Dorgan's leadership on policy and legislation affecting Native Americans when he leaves the U.S. Senate later this year.

Meeting January 15 in Bismarck, the United Tribes of North Dakota board commended Dorgan for his service and pledged to continue working with him through the remainder of his term this year.

"We're losing a major champion here," said David M. Gipp, United Tribes Technical College president. "He's been good for Indian Country and done well for United Tribes."

Dorgan has served nearly 30 years in the Congress. Throughout the last eleven years as a U.S. Senator, he has been a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, serving the last three as its chairman.

A resolution passed unanimously by the United Tribes board lauded him for leadership on issues important to American Indians, such as health care, public safety, education, tribal colleges, economic development, housing and youth suicide.

"It's hard to measure how he compares with other Senators who've worked on Indian matters, but he would undoubtedly come out very favorably," said Gipp.

"When he first took the Indian Affairs chairmanship he said his goal was to raise the standards and levels of well being for Indian people by addressing the fundamentals - health, education, jobs and public safety. For too many years these have been underfunded or not funded at all. He knew that providing these are key to having a healthy society. And he pursued these with the idea of building up Indian Country infrastructure to where Indian people could be successful," said Gipp.

"As he enters his fourth and final year as committee chair, he probably hasn't accomplished all he set out to do, but he made a good start. He raised the level of resources to where tribes can now begin to count on the ability to carry out the basic functions of an operating society," said Gipp.

Dorgan has said that including Indian Health Care in national health care legislation is on his list of priorities during his final year in office and that his ability to get things done will not be affected by his decision not to run for reelection.

The United Tribes board pledged to support him in accomplishing his goals for the Indian committee and to work with him to further assist North Dakota tribes in their development efforts.

In particular, the tribes commended Dorgan for fighting tirelessly for funding and improvements for United Tribes, and tribal colleges throughout the United States, despite the efforts of bureaucrats and administration officials of several U.S. Presidents to eliminate or reduce the funding.

"He helped to assure the continuation of United Tribes," said Gipp. "He always stepped up, because he was concerned about addressing the needs of students and providing support for them to continue their education. As a result, thousands now have a higher education degree and a greater opportunity to succeed."

The resolution noted that Dorgan met with tribal leaders in private and public forums for many years, participated in ceremonies that are meaningful to Tribal Nations and their institutions, and was willing to offer assistance in overcoming centuries of mistreatment by the government. It said he always used his influence in Congress in a positive and bipartisan manner to follow through on his promises to help American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The board extended its best wishes to the Senator in his future endeavors.

"Regardless if he chooses to continue in public life, I believe he'll still be a friend and strong advocate for Indian people," said Gipp.

United Tribes of North Dakota represents the Three Affiliated Tribes, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyaté, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. As a group, their representatives govern United Tribes Technical College, whicih marked its 40th anniversary in 2009.

Related Stories:
Delvin Cree: Indian Country affected by Dorgan's exit (1/8)
North Dakota tribe thanks Dorgan for years of service (1/7)
Dorgan announces plans to retire after 30 years in DC (1/6)