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Leaders - Three Affiliated Tribes - Contemporary Tribal Leaders, 1936 - 1960

Traditional | Contemporary

Intro | 1936 - 1960 | 1960 - 1986 | 1968 - Present

Contemporary Tribal Leaders, 1936 - 1960


Mandan/Hidatsa, 1936–1938

Arthur Mandan, chairman

Arthur Mandan, Woman Spirit, was born in 1882 to Calf Woman and Howard Mandan, Sr., Scarred Face, who was one of the first Mandans to go to an Indian boarding school in Santee, Nebraska. As a young man, he attended school at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania where he was a member of the school band, a skill he continued throughout his adult life. He returned to Fort Berthold Reservation in 1908. Hereditary chief of the Mandan, he was the first tribal chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes to serve (September 1936 to August 1938) after the Three Tribes accepted the Indian Reorganization Act. He represented the district of Independence.

A civic-minded man, Arthur Mandan was a liaison and interpreter for early ethnographers such as Beckwith and Bowers. In addition, he was a musician in Washburn, North Dakota for a number of years and was in a band that played at many reservation functions. He also drafted the bylaws and constitution for the Three Tribes, establishing credit programs, and negotiating claim and dust bowl recovery programs. He spoke fluent Mandan, Hidatsa, and English and served as interpreter for many years. He was prominent among Catholic parishioners on the Fort Berthold Reservation, interpreting sermons and speeches into Hidatsa and Mandan and translating Catholic hymns into the Hidatsa language. He was the first Indian teacher in Washburn, North Dakota, where he taught music. He was appointed as a tribal judge, and was well known as an announcer at many public functions. He announced at the last celebration at Elbowoods before the flooding of the bottomlands for the Garrison Dam.

In January of 1938, he accompanied and interpreted for Drags Wolf and Foolish Bear when they went to New York City to the Heye Museum to recover and return the sacred bundle of the Waterbuster Clan to the Hidatsa. On their return, they met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. (“Indian Tribes,” 1853). He married Anna Young Bird in 1913, and they ranched at Independence. They also had a home at Lucky Mound where their children attended school. They moved to Mandaree in 1953. (“Anna Mandan” 1983) He died in March of 1955 at the age of 73. (Mandan, 73, Indian Leader, 1955)


Hidatsa, 1938–1941

Martin Levings, chairman

Martin Levings, Ah-pa-hi-si-pi-sas “Black Cloud” was born to Hard Horn and Looking for Medicine on October 14, 1892. He was a member of the Knife Clan. He and his wife, Ruth, adopted two children and ranched in the western part of the reservation.

He joined the Army in 1918, was injured in Europe, and was discharged in 1919. He moved to Wibaux and Livingston, Montana. He married Vincentia Ring and for a number of years was a rancher and farmer in the Shell Creek area. (Martin Levings Obituary, 1974)

After the death of his wife, he moved back to the reservation. Martin Levings represented the community of Independence on the Tribal Business Council and served as chairman from 1938 to 1940. He moved to New Town in 1960 and for several years he was an active member and commander of the American Legion Post No. 300 of the Little Shell District, and a member of the Mandaree VFW. He died October 27, 1974, at the age of 82. (Legion Post Names, 1962)


Sahnish, 1940–1942

Albert Simpson was born in 1888. Albert’s father, White Breast, whose Indian name was Sayedda and his uncle Thomas H. Suckley or Kawhat, whose Indian name was Bow Legs, were two of the first nine Fort Berthold students to attend Hampton Institute. Albert’s stepfather was George Wilde. Simpson attended the government boarding school at Fort Stevenson for five years and Fort Berthold for two years. He was sent to Hampton in 1898 and left in 1901. He graduated from Carlisle School in 1907. He enrolled in the business department at Haskell Institute, Kansas from 1907 to 1909. In 1911 he was appointed postmaster at Elbowoods, North Dakota and in 1914 was blacksmith in the Elbowoods area. (Hultgren, 1994) Albert Simpson served on the tribal business committee from 1940 to 1942.


Sahnish, 1942–1944

Peter Beauchamp Jr., chairman

Peter H. Beauchamp II was born on June 15, 1877 on the Fort Berthold Reservation. His Sahnish name was Big Rock. His father was Peter Beauchamp Sr., and his mother was Woman Goes Out. He married Adeline Z. Powell, a missionary with the Congregational Church, and was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a school teacher at Shell Creek. He was an interpreter and recordkeeper for the tribes. He was instrumental in establishing the reservation educational system, sports programs, and implementing the allotment program. He served as a teacher and farm boss. Fluent in Sahnish, Mandan, Hidatsa, and English, Beauchamp often served as an official interpreter on behalf of the tribes, traveling to Washington, D.C. on numerous occasions. In those days, funds had to be raised from community resources. He was an interpreter for Melvin Gilmore on the Arikara Genesis. He maintained a detailed diary of his business and accounted for his expenditures and his time. (Hall, 1977, p. 47) He helped develop several Fort Berthold land claims.

He was a leader of the Tribal Business Council for many years serving as chairman from 1942 to 1944. Under his leadership, the tribe secured pensions for 148 young Sahnish men, who were scouts and dispatchers for the U.S. Government. He organized the Old Scouts Society, and provided for the designation of the Old Scouts Cemetery at Like-A-Fishhook Village.

In later years, he was a road foreman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and court judge for the U.S. Indian Service. He was a rancher, farmer, and superintendent of the Sahnish Congregational Sunday School at White Shield. He died August 27, 1960. (Beauchamp Obituary, 1960)


Mandan and Hidatsa, 1944–1946, 1950–1952, 1952–1956*

Martin Cross, chairman

Martin Thomas Old Dog, Sr., was born on May 8, 1906. His father was Chief Old Dog and his mother was Many Dances. He and his wife raised six sons and four daughters. He attended school at Flandreau Indian School in South Dakota and Wahpeton Indian School in North Dakota. (Bureau of Indian Affairs, Enrollment Records) He was a fluent speaker of Hidatsa and Mandan.

In 1942 he changed the family name from Old Dog to Cross. He was commander of the Joseph Young Hawk Post at Elbowoods. He served his first term from 1944–1946 representing the district of Elbowoods. He served two additional terms, from 1950–1952. During his third term in office, 1952–1954, the constitution of the tribe had to be changed before the 1954 election. The Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted the election. Not enough people turned out for the election, so the elected tribal council stayed on for the four years during the transition.

He was founder of the North Dakota Council of Indian Tribes (NCAI) serving as its president in the early 1950s. (Cross Heads, 1954) He was among the original founders of the National Congress of American Indians and served as their vice president in 1953. He was re-elected to the Executive Council of NCAI in 1954. (Indian Congress, 1954)

He was actively involved in efforts to halt the construction of the Garrison Dam. His administration saw the distribution of the final payment of remaining funds due the Three Affiliated Tribes from their settlement with the government for losses sustained by construction of the Garrison Dam. He was also closely involved with reorganizing the tribe after the construction of the Dam. He opposed the termination movement in the mid-1950s. He died on April 7, 1964. (Martin Cross Obituary, 1964)


Sahnish, 1946–1948

George Gillette, chairman

George Gillette was born October 29, 1902, on the Fort Berthold Reservation. He attended Bismarck Indian School, Flandreau Indian School in South Dakota, and Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. He studied carpentry at Haskell Institute, graduating with the class of 1926. He married Evelyn Wilkinson in 1930 and lived at Beaver Creek where he farmed and ranched. They raised two sons and seven daughters.

Gillette was elected in 1946 representing the Beaver Creek district. He served as chairman during the critical period when the Three Affiliated Tribes negotiated with the U. S. Corps of Engineers over the Garrison Dam. (Gillette Recalls, 1973) During his career, he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was a lay minister for the United Church of Christ, and was a member of the North Dakota National Guard and the Dead Grass Dance Society. He was tribal judge for eight years from 1974 to 1982. He died on October 3, 1985 at the age of 82. (George Gillette Obituary, 1985)


Mandan/Hidatsa, 1948–1950, 1956–1958, 1962–1964

Carl Whitman Jr., chairman

Carl Whitman Jr. was born near Elbowoods on March 6, 1913 and was reared by his grandparents. At an early age he was sent to a government boarding school. After completing his elementary years, he attended the State School of Science at Wahpeton, North Dakota where he obtained a degree in Business Administration. He returned to Fort Berthold where he raised cattle and ranched. He participated in rodeos near Lucky Mound. He worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at Elbowoods for years. He married Edith Lykken and had six children.

In 1948, at the age of 35, he was elected chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes representing the Lucky Mound district. He served from 1948 to 1950. From 1950 to 1956, he served on the Tribal Business Council. In 1956, he was re-elected as tribal chairperson. In 1962, he ran again and was elected for a third term.

While chairperson, he also served as president of the National Congress of American Indians, advisory board member of the Greater North Dakota Association, the North Dakota Economic Development Commission, the North Dakota Governor’s Manpower Commission, the Advisory Committee of the North Dakota Stockman’s Association, and was a three-term president of the Greater Lake Sakakawea Association. (Whitman to Seek, 1963) He was involved in the formation of United Tribes Development Corporation, and served as its secretary and executive director.

Upon leaving tribal government, he worked as a teacher at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, and was a field coordinator for its Vista program. In 1981, he retired from public life and pursued a path of spiritual renewal. In his role as a tribal spiritual leader he participated at sun dances and attempted to revive the Mandan Okipa Ceremony. He spoke Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish. (Salter, “Fort Berthold loses,” 1995)

He was an inventor and talented musician. An eloquent spokesperson for his people, Whitman died January 19, 1995.

JAMES HALL (Iron Bear - Nagh Bitsi Usahas)

Hidatsa, 1958–1960

James Hall, chairman

James Hall was born June 24, 1895, to Edward S. Hall and Celeste Malnourie at the trading post they owned and operated at White Earth. He married Sarah Adelia Fredricks on January 6, 1916. They farmed and ranched along the Little Missouri River, where they raised a family of five sons, four daughters, and two adopted grandchildren. In 1951, they moved to Mandaree, North Dakota. (James Hall, Sr., 1977)

James Hall served 10 years as a councilman beginning in 1946 representing the West Segment on the Tribal Business Council. He became chairman in September of 1958 and served until August of 1960. He traveled often to Washington, D.C. to negotiate terms concerning the construction of Garrison Dam. (Tribes Name, 1958) He also was an original member of the Tribal Housing Authority Board. A quiet man, he died in 1977.

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