Montana State University

Yellowtail tabbed as MSU endowed chair in Native American Studies

October 10, 2006 -- Carol Schmidt, MSU News


MSU has named Bill Yellowtail as the second holder of its endowed chair in Native American Studies. Photo by Sarah Alexander.   High-Res Available

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William Yellowtail, a Crow Indian who was once was the regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency, will occupy the Montana State University Katz Endowed Chair in Native American Studies.

Yellowtail said he would develop curriculum and leadership activities that will center on the "personal Indian sovereignty" as well as the future of Native peoples in the West.

"I like to reflect forward rather than backward," said Yellowtail, who differentiates the term from the more familiar tribal sovereignty. "Part of that has to do with economics, but mostly individual sovereignty has to do with a mindset and point of view of building your own world, charting your own destiny, being in charge of your own self, your family and your future."

Yellowtail is the second occupant of the MSU endowed chair in Native American Studies. The first was Henrietta Mann, chair emeritus, an internationally recognized Indian educator and member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe. Mann is currently a special assistant to MSU President Geoff Gamble.

"Bill brings to the program a familiarity with the state and particularly state government, which we feel is significant as the department reaches out to the tribal communities," said Walter Fleming, head of the MSU Center for Native American Studies. He said Yellowtail was appointed to a two-year term sitting in the endowed chair, with a third year possible if funds allow.

Yellowtail comes to MSU from the Cook Center for Sustainable Agriculture in the American West where he was a senior project specialist. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Yellowtail will teach courses in Native America Studies at MSU as well as providing leadership in the academic and American Indian communities in the areas of research, instruction, and enhancement of American Indian cultures.
Yellowtail said he hadn't been on a college campus since 1973 and found that MSU was "unimaginably stimulating."

"I attended a freshmen seminar in Native American Studies and there was so much energy and creativity, not to mention intelligence, in that classroom," Yellowtail said. He said instead of looking back at Native history, it would be his goal to work with MSU students, harnessing their intelligence and creativity, to help the students determine "where we as American Indian people want to see ourselves and our communities a century from now."

The son of William Yellowtail, Sr., Yellowtail grew up on the family ranch in Wyola. Yellowtail has also been the executive director of the Montana Inter-Tribal Policy Board and director of human resources development and education for the Crow Tribe. He also served three terms as a Montana Senator, representing Big Horn, Rosebud and Powder River Counties. In 1993 former U.S. President Bill Clinton appointed Yellowtail as Regional Administrator for the EPA's Region 8 office, headquartered in Denver. Yellowtail was an unsuccessful candidate for Montana's seat in the U.S. Congress. Yellowtail has also worked as a consultant on western issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Burton K. Wheeler Center for Public Policy, based at MSU, as well as the National Audubon Society. He has served extensively on the boards of national, regional and state organizations.

The Katz Endowed Chair in Native American Studies is named for Sheldon and Audrey Katz of Silver Spring, Md.

Walter Fleming (406) 994-5260, wfleming@montana.edu