David Gipp, a UND graduate who become a giant of the Tribal College movement and who led United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck for 37 years, died on Friday, Sept. 11, at his home and with family members present. Gipp passed away after a long illness.
An enrolled citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Gipp was recognized nationally as a strong voice and outspoken advocate for Native People, particularly in the field of tribal higher education.
Gipp attended UND and earned a degree in 1969 in Political Science. He was a founding member and first president of the UND Indian Association.
As a tribal planner at Standing Rock, he worked with North Dakota’s tribal leaders when they formed the initial programs of the inter-tribal training center at Bismarck, N.D., which became United Tribes Technical College. In 1977, he was chosen to lead the college, and he held that position until 2014.
Gipp’s early professional work coincided with the advent of the “Tribal College Movement,” a grassroots effort to establish colleges and universities that were governed by tribal people. As a planner, he helped envision the start of the community college at Fort Yates that is now Sitting Bull College.
Gipp was the first full-time executive director of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, headquartered in Denver, Colo. He played an instrumental role in the national legislative effort to establish policies and laws for tribal college recognition and support.
Under his leadership, UTTC became an accredited college offering two and four-year postsecondary programs, along with career and technical education, and workforce training. His vision led to expanding the campus and adding new buildings and facilities to give tribal students from across the nation a better chance to be successful.
“Each face and family arriving here steps toward a new life on the road to independence,” he wrote about incoming classes at the start of a school year. “Each day is a new beginning, filled with the promise of new and better lives throughout Indian Country.”
Over the years, Gipp’s professional initiatives were many. He served on the AIHEC board of directors, three times as president. He was on the National Indian Education Association board and was twice president of the American Indian College Fund board.
Former Gov. John Hoeven appointed him to the North Dakota Workforce Development Council, the North Dakota Commission on National and Community Service, and the North Dakota Quarter Design Selection Committee.
He was a founding delegate and past president of the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges; a board chair and charter member of UNDs “Indians Into Medicine” program; and a delegate to White House Conferences on such topics as Indian Libraries, Indian Education, Workforce Development and Justice in Indian Country.
In 1990, his contributions to tribal higher education were recognized with an Honorary Doctorate in Laws from North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota. In 1991, he received the “Living the Dream, Let Freedom Ring” award from the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday Commission. He was inducted into the North Dakota Native American Hall of Honor at the State Heritage Center in 2017.
A rosary and funeral mass is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Fort Yates, N.D. The rosary begins at 9:30 a.m. (CT) with the Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m., followed by lunch; limited seating available. Burial will take place at 3 p.m. at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery south of Mandan.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in the name of David M. Gipp to St. Peter’s Catholic Church or the American Indian College Fund.
The information above is drawn from David Gipp’s obituary page at DaWise-Perry Funeral Services in Mandan, N.D. For more information and for remembrances of Gipp’s life and many connections to UND, visit UND Today.