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Leaders - Contemporary Tribal Leaders - Part 2

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Contemporary Tribal Leaders - Part 2

PAUL LITTLE 1979–1980

Paul Little
PAUL LITTLE. (Photo courtesy of
Lenore Alberts)

Paul Little was born on May 11, 1930 at Crow Hill, and was educated at Fort Totten, St. Michael’s, and Standing Rock Boarding Schools. During his early years, he was an iron worker in Minnesota. He later attended the University of Minnesota and worked with them to develop a Dakota language course.

He was vice-chairman of the Tribal Business Council, and became chairperson when Carl McKay resigned. During his term, the tribe was dealing with land concerns and farming. Under his leadership, the tribe secured piping for the reservation irrigation system and funding for housing units. He worked along with others to support bilingual education for the community. His administration worked on a 10-year-old case to determine the tribe’s ownership to the lake bed of Devils Lake.

After he left tribal politics, he served as a member of the tribe’s Repatriation Committee and the State Repatriation Committee for 12 years. He was a strong advocate for the Dakota culture believing that individual accomplishments of the people should be honored and recognized. A strong traditional man, Paul Little believed in education as a tool for survival today. He promoted both contemporary and traditional forms (Indian way) of education. He taught Dakota language and culture in the Fort Totten School system, and during his personal time, he traveled, participated in traditional ceremonies, drummed, sang, and crafted pipes. He also spent his time as an artisan. He died in the winter of 1996.

DAN DUBOISE 1980–1982

Dan Duboise
DAN DUBOISE. (Photo courtesy of
Dennis Brusven)

Daniel J. Duboise was born in Ft. Totten on November 23, 1921. Up until the 9th grade, he attended school in Fort Totten. He graduated from Maddock High School in 1960, and spent several years in Cleveland, Ohio. After returning home in 1971, he attended the police science program at United Tribes Technical College.

Prior to becoming chairperson in 1980, he served two terms as district councilman for the Ft. Totten District (1976 to 1980). In 1980 he served as vice-chairperson. When then Chairperson, Carl McKay elected to return to the University of North Dakota, Mr. Duboise filled Mr. McKay’s unexpired term until 1982. During his term, the tribe secured a paving project for the entire reservation. He also testified to secure $14.8 million for the new school which was then sixteenth on the list. He continued advocacy for Senate Bill 503, the Indian Land Consolidation Act, begun by former Chairman McKay. The Act was to preserve the Spirit Lake Tribal land base. The Act was passed and Mr. Duboise was invited to the White House for the signing. He also worked to secure small business set-aside status for Sioux Manufacturing Company.

From 1988 to 1990 Dan Duboise served on the council as a representative for the Fort Totten District. He worked for the school system until 1990, and then moved to the Dakota Reserve at Sioux Valley, Canada. His long term vision was to build a tribal resort on Devils Lake. He believes in the importance of the tribe to reestablish self-sufficiency, as a legacy to children.

ELMER WHITE 1983–1984, 1995–1996

Elmer White
ELMER WHITE. (Photo courtesy
of the North Dakota Department
of Public Instruction)

Elmer White was born in Fort Totten in 1936. A lifelong resident of the St. Michael’s district, his mother was the great, great, granddaughter of Chief Waanatan I. He was raised by his grandparents. He attended school at both St. Michael’s mission and the Fort Totten school.

He served as Tribal chairperson from 1983 to 1984. His administration was responsible for retiring a tribal debt of $4.5 million. He advocated for the final settlement of the Joint Tribal Advisory Committee which negotiated claims and settlement for lands taken by the Pick-Sloan (Garrison Dam) Project. Part of the settlement included the construction of the McClusky Canal, a plan to transfer Missouri River water to central North Dakota and the Fort Totten Reservation to create a rural water system for the tribe. He negotiated the tribe’s ownership of the buffalo ranch and ushered in the their involvement in tribal gaming by authorizing the creation of the Dakota Bingo Palace at St. Michael.

After leaving the tribe, he became housing director and later served as Dakota language teacher at the elementary school where he worked for seven years. He was one of the first Indian educators in the state of North Dakota to be named Indian Educator of the year by the North Dakota Indian Education Association.

In his early years, as a hobby, he began announcing at high school basketball games, an experience which has led him to a career as emcee for local rodeos. This eventually led to a 25-year career as emcee for pow wows and celebrations, becoming known both nationally and internationally. From 1992 to 1995, he has served as bilingual resource teacher for the Tate Topa Elementary School where he taught tribal songs and the Dakota language.

In September of 1995, he suffered a stroke and in November of 1996, he resigned as chairman. He currently lives at home in St. Michael, North Dakota.


Ila Rae McKay
(Photo courtesy of
Lenore Alberts)

Ila Rae McKay was born on July 24, 1959 at Devils Lake, North Dakota. She is the daughter-of William F. McKay and Hermenia (Rainbow) McKay. Her ancestry is that of Cut Head and Ihanktowana. Her ancestors were scattered throughout the Dakotas and Canada as a result of the Dakota Conflict of 1862. She is a descendant of Chief Little Fish and Chief Sleepy Eye. She was raised on the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation.

Ila attended elementary and high school at Devils Lake Public Schools, and graduated from Central High School, Devils, Lake, North Dakota. She attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota where she received a bachelor of arts degree in Public Administration/Indian Studies.

She worked for the Indians into Medicine Program at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine for four years. During that time, she worked for student support services.

When she returned home in 1985, she was employed as Health Educator for the tribe. She was instrumental in the development of health and wellness programs on the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation by raising consciousness of prevention against diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and alcohol and drug abuse. In her work she developed a K–6 curriculum on diabetes prevention.

On June 23, 1990, in a special election, she was appointed to replace Carl McKay as Chairperson after he resigned. In 1986, she was chosen as an Outstanding Young Woman of America for her work in the areas of community organization in health and wellness. A strong advocate for Native women, she believes the woman to be the strength of the Dakota. Ila Rae McKay is currently a tribal planner for the Spirit Lake tribe.


Peter Belgarde
courtesy of the North Dakota
Department of Public Instruction)

Peter Belgarde was born September 26, 1944 in Fort Totten, North Dakota. He is a descendant of Waanatan II. Red thunder and Waanatan II were brothers. Except for the years of 1990 to 1994, he lived all of his life in the St. Michael’s District. He attended his first years of school at Fort Totten, and then moved to St. Michael’s Day school, “The Sister’s School” He attended high school at Flandreau Boarding School in Flandreau, South Dakota. He returned home and graduated from Maddock High School in 1964. After high school he relocated to California, where he was drafted. He entered the service in 1966 and served in Vietnam from 1976 to 1978.

Upon his return home, he became involved with law enforcement, a position which he held for 14 years. In the early 1990s, the tribal council hired him to work with a troubled court system. Confronted with difficulty in getting action from the federal government, he approached the Bureau of Indian Affairs for assistance. With no response, he closed the jail and took issue with the management of the situation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs central office in Washington, D.C. Through the assistance of the state’s congressional delegation and the news media, it was an important victory for the tribe.

In 1990, he was approached by tribal elders to run for tribal chairperson. From the traditional standpoint, and he could not refuse. He ran and won. During his terms, his efforts were focused at reducing the tribe’s debt and establishing a tribal financial accountability system. His administration established a recreation program for tribal youth and expanded cultural programs. The result of the efforts of his administration created more than 200 additional jobs on the reservation, through the establishment of the tribe’s Dakota Casino. Funds were allocated for youth scholarship programs. He committed the tribe’s involvement in repatriation efforts and brought back artifacts and remains from the Smithsonian Institution that belonged to the tribe.

His personal goal for the tribe was the development of honest government and leadership. He envisioned the tribe establishing a dialysis center and a family development center. A strong opponent of substance abuse, he was one of the first Dakota chairpersons to provide drug free leadership.


Philip “Skip” Longie assumed the chairmanship of the Spirit Lake Nation on May 25, 1999. His parents are Philip Longie and Mary Jane Little Ghost. He is fluent Dakota speaker.

Longie’s early education included the Flandreau Indian School, Flandreau, South Dakota. He worked in Chicago for a number of years, where he met and married Shirley McCloud and raised a family. He returned to North Dakota in 1967 and subsequently worked as a finance director for the Spirit Lake Nation. He attended North Dakota State University and received a BA in accounting.

Prior to assuming the chairmanship in 1999, Longie served as president of Dakota Tribal Industries, one of the two large manufacturing ventures of the Spirit Lake Nation. He also worked for Sioux Manufacturing, Inc. He also worked for a time with the North Dakota Tax Department as a certified public accountant.

Longie has a strong commitment to tribal sovereignty and maintenance of the Dakota language and culture. During his administration he worked to assure and maintain communication for the Spirit Lake people. He held weekly radio reports, and supported the creation of the KABU FM radio station of the Spirit Lake Nation. His office was responsible for easing local tensions and forging agreements with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the North Dakota Department of Transportation brought about by the rise of Devils Lake throughout his administration.

Myra Pearson
courtesy of Dennis Brusven)

Losing the tribal election by 39 votes in May of 2003, Longie continues his leadership as a private consultant.

MYRA PEARSON 1995–1999, 2003–Present

Myra Pearson assumed the chairmanship of the tribe in December of 1996. She did so after Elmer White, former chairperson, resigned after suffering a stroke in the fall of 1995.

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