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Renowned Native leader to be honored for service

Amelia Schafer

ICT + Rapid City Journal

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Arlouine Gay Kingman smiled bashfully, flanked by her granddaughter and son, as her name was announced during the Rapid City South Dakota Hall of Fame gathering on May 2. Dressed in a ribbon skirt with a beaded blazer, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe citizen represented her people as one of the few Indigenous people in the room.

Kingman, executive director of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, has made a massive impact on Indian Country over the span of her six-decade career and doesn’t plan on stopping soon.

“My life has always been to work for the people and do whatever I can do to protect our sovereignty, that’s the main thing,” Kingman said. “I’ll never be out of a job because protecting our sovereignty is ongoing.”

Of the 782 Hall of Fame inductees, about 45 are Native American, said South Dakota Hall of Fame CEO Laurie Becvar.

“We’re so happy about Gay’s (induction),” Becvar said. “Gay is known for her hard work and results-driven approach, she’s a trailblazer.”

A. Gay Kingman (third from left) poses with son Charles Robertson, granddaughter Kona and Hani Shafai at Shafai's home in Rapid City. (Photo by Amelia Schafer, ICT/Rapid City Journal)

Before she was fighting for Native American rights in Washington D.C., Kingman was an educator. She taught for eight years, spending time on the Cheyenne River Reservation where she grew up, in Oglala, South Dakota and in the Minneapolis Public School System. After which she was a principal, a superintendent and a college president. After 26 years, she moved into a career in public service.

Kingman served as the recording secretary and later the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. Four years later she helped to found the National Indian Gaming Commission, revolutionizing Indian gaming. Kingman served as the NIGA Director of Public Relations for five years.

“Everyone was against tribes gaming in those days,” Kingman said.

In 1993, Kingman recorded the infamous clip of Trump saying, “They don’t look like Indians to me,” in reference to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe before a House subcommittee.

Trump was opposed to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe’s Foxwood Casino, which was established in 1992. The tribe’s Foxwood Resort and Casino is one of the largest resort casinos in the world and directly competes with the Atlantic City, New Jersey, gaming industry of which Trump held a major stake.

“I had taped the hearing, especially that part, so I ran over to the studio, the TV studio and they took that excerpt and ran it on the five o’clock news,” Kingman said. “It played all over the country. We dubbed it as part of the ‘Donald Trump Protection Act.’”

Later on, Kingman was approached to find a way to form a dialogue among the leaders of Great Plains tribes. In 2002, Kingman founded the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association was formed. The 501c3 operates under the Indian Reorganization Act, similarly to a tribe.

“I’m constantly impressed by our leadership. They deal with so many things and carry the weight of the people on their shoulders,” Kingman said. “Years ago all of the Sioux tribes were together. … Now there’s daily communication. If there’s grants I send out the grants for them to apply to, it’s that kind of communication they wouldn’t get from a newspaper or anything else.”

A. Gay Kingman | Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe – executive director, Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association

Recently, the association purchased a two-story building in Rapid City, the former Veterans Affairs clinic. With the help of Rapid City-based civil engineer and developer Hani Shafai, the building will be renovated into an office space and meeting place.

This location will allow for easier in-person communication and collaboration, Kingman said.

With a massive legacy behind her, Kingman plans to continue her work but is looking to relax a bit.

“I do want to train somebody else,” Kingman said. “I want to write about all of these things that have transpired.”

Kingman along with nine others will be formally inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame during the weekend of September 13, 2024.

This story is co-published by the Rapid City Journal and ICT, a news partnership that covers Indigenous communities in the South Dakota area.

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