UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA SITUATIONS [CONTINUED FROM PRECEDING PAGE]
VERY WEIRD DOINGS INDEED:
As I've indicated, my last several years at UND were extremely unpleasant: marked by much hostility from some administrators and from within my department -- by a couple of Anglo faculty [in our three full time person department].
Native students, and many non-Native students, were consistently supportive of me at every point.
There were a number of things -- among them: attacks on my class sizes -- large because I was a very popular teacher; an end to the departmental field practicums, which I mostly handled and which well served the student, tribe or agency; the curtailment of special independent study arrangements [tutorials] of which I handled many; substantial manipulation of the Indian Studies curriculum to my disadvantage.
Of course, I fought back.
And then there was this:
In the Fall of 1992, I decided to apply for a conventional, paid sabbatical the following academic year -- '93-'94. [I came to UND in 1981 and, normally, a faculty person takes a leave after seven years -- so I was long overdue.] I made application for the leave, it was approved at preliminary levels , but then-President Kendall Baker -- for whatever reason -- dallied in giving approval in February, 1993. By this time, I had, for a number of quite good reasons indeed -- including fervent requests from a number of students that I stay for the following academic year -- very serious second thoughts about the desirability of the leave. Consequently, I rescinded, on March 2, 1993, my not-yet- formally-approved request.
And then, in something that as far as I know was quite unprecedented at UND, I was informed that I could NOT withdraw my request for a leave! [Indeed, in some previous UND situations, faculty whose leaves had been completely approved were always able to change their minds -- even at the very last minute.] But, apparently, not I. Of course, I stood firm. In a bizarre and continuing scenario, the courses that I then projected for the academic year 1993-94 were held in abeyance -- blocked -- in such a fashion that no student was able to sign up with me! This was the case through March 1993 to the very end of April -- the prime period for course registration. At one point, a key administrative enemy -- Dean Bernard O'Kelly -- convened a meeting of the Arts & Sciences executive committee to address the matter of "allowing" me to rescind my request for a leave. Not surprisingly, Dean O'Kelly and the chair of Indian Studies, Mary Jane Schneider, voted not to allow this -- as did three other members of the committee. Only one person, Lynn Lindholm, chair of Religion and Philosophy, supported my position.
This very strange "proceeding" of the Arts & Sciences executive committee had no basis in law or known precedent. It was, in fact, extremely reminiscent of a Mississippi judicial event back in the "bad old days." I continued to vigorously maintain my position. Many students and former students, Native and non-Native, wrote letters and signed mass petitions and made calls to the UND president -- as did nationally prominent Indian people. My union's lawyer provided assistance. Finally, after weeks of uncertainty and confusion, my leave request was indeed rescinded and my courses duly offered to students. And a vast number of students then signed up for 1993-94.
But for two major course registration months in 1993 -- March and April -- UND students were blocked from signing up for my courses!
It worked out -- my 1993-94 courses were jam-packed full as soon as the surreal UND administrative blockage was ended -- and it worked out because of Student Solidarity.
The leave issue was ended but not the consistent hostility. There was even an attack on my very popular Racism and Hate Groups in America course which I had taught quite successfully -- with very large enrollments from many majors -- a number of times. Eventually, to offer that for Spring 1994, I had to teach it outside of the Indian Studies Department! An extremely popular course of mine on extraterrestrial phenomena which consistently drew more than 150 students -- one of the very largest elective courses in the history of UND -- concluded its career in the Fall 1993 as Psychology 494, drawing both undergrad and graduate students. [I taught it in addition to my regular Indian Studies courses and advisement load.]
In many respects, my tenure rights were rendered functionally meaningless.
Thus my classes were extremely large that final year, '93-'94. [Even Federal Indian Law, an exceptionally demanding course at every point, was filled with dozens of students -- mostly Native.] I finished up all continuing obligations to students and to others -- and officially "retired" effective Summer, 1994. At that point, my salary as a full Professor [$36,500] was the lowest in that category at UND -- and even lower than many UND Associate Professors. Since North Dakota ranks 50th in university salaries in the United States, my concluding salary was probably the lowest for a full Professor in any state institution in the country.
I was in my teens when I read John Dos Passos' great American trilogy of social protest, USA. In the final section, "The Big Money," there is an excellent bio of the fine Minnesota-born Norwegian-American radical economist, Thorstein Veblen [The Theory of the Leisure Class and much more.] He was consistently treated shabbily by his academic colleagues and administrators but appreciated by students and many indeed beyond the barriers of his academic prison. John Dos Passos headed the Veblen biography as "The Bitter Drink."
Here is Dean O'Kelly's report of the Arts & Sciences executive committee vote on my attempt to rescind the leave request. And here are two of a great many support letters -- both from former students of mine who are members of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Nation. Ms. Alta Bruce has served for years as an extremely effective staff member of the Turtle Mountain Nation -- and Mr. Terry Jerome is very widely recognized in alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment programs.
I do not regret the many years we spent in North Dakota and the University. We made countless friends and fought many worthwhile social justice battles. After leaving UND, we stayed in Grand Forks where I continued to maintain close contact with community people all over the Northern Plains and with many of my former students. I still do so. We remained at our North Dakota home until the massive flood of 1997 and its aftermath -- actively involved in multi-faceted human rights work in the whole region -- before returning to my native Mountain West in the late summer of that year. Now in Eastern Idaho, we continue the fight for Native rights, civil rights, and union labor with every personal resource at our command.
There are no persons anywhere into whose eyes I cannot look in comfortable and candid fashion.
Two fine and typical letters of support from Native students and good friends indeed:
The UND Department of Indian Studies, with now very substantially faded enrollment and significantly reduced stature, is far from impressive. For a time, top UND officials and a few Native leaders from around the state, talked wistfully and ritualistically of building the struggling and bogged-down university into the "premier" Native studies institution nationally. But this turned out, of course, to be pure Pie in the Sky. Its long gone better days are bones on the trail.
Nothing impressive can ever be built on injustice and,
at UND, the heritage of injustice against individuals is as thick, long-standing,
and as oppressive as Kudzu vines in Mississippi. And those vines are found in every
closet and corner of the University of North Dakota. And, more and more, they're
reaching -- ever reaching -- out into the open.
[My UND/and regional social justice activities are indicated in several sections of this Website. However, see this directly related and very relevant link, But Some Very Good Words.
And also http://www.hunterbear.org/narrative.htm [personal narrative, contemporary]
THE SURPRISE TRIBUTE:
This Tribute -- its fine words and thoughts by all and everything connected
with it -- has been extremely welcome in every conceivable respect. For
us -- our family -- it's indeed a major mountain peak. And it does continue
to grow on its own volition. http://www.hunterbear.org/special_tribute_page_for_hunter.htm
THE ELDER RECOGNITION AWARD:
See the 2005 Elder
Recognition Award -- a great honor for me. From
Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. This
is one of several awards voted by the Caucus [board]
of this organization of writers, storytellers, film
makers, and journalists.
[The last recipient of the Wordcraft Elder Recognition
Award was Maurice Kenny, Mohawk, teacher and playwright and poet, who received
it in 2000.]
CONGRESSMAN BENNIE THOMPSON'S WORDS TO U.S. CONGRESS:
Here are kind remarks recently brought to my
attention that were made awhile back by Congressman Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi. [I have posted them on the Tribute.]
---- Hunter Bear
56. HONORABLE BENNIE G. THOMPSON, U.S. CONGRESS, MISSISSIPPI
TRIBUTE REMARKS HONORING JOHN HUNTER GRAY -- BENNIE G. THOMPSON
(February 10, 2004)
PLACED IN THE UNITED
STATES CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
- BENNIE G. THOMPSON
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize Hunter Gray, a civil rights activist involved in the southern movement from the summer of 1961 to the summer of 1967.
Hunter Gray, formerly John Salter, took the name of
his Native American
family some years ago and has been one of the Nation's most ardent advocates on behalf of Native rights. He was recently diagnosed with a severe and possibly fatal case of lupus that has also brought on a bad case of diabetes.
John Salter was very active with the Jackson, Mississippi, NAACP and boycott . He was in the trenches with Medgar Evers and others during the civil rights movement from 1961 until Evers was assassinated. He also wrote a book titled, Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism (1979).
Hunter Gray's commitment to civil rights has continued throughout the years. He and his wife Eldri, who has been a partner in the struggle for equality for 40 years, now live in Idaho. He has been hospitalized several times over the past few months , and his medication and hospitalization costs are very expensive. Many of his friends are organizing a testimonial and fund-raiser to let him know how grateful we are to him for his many sacrifices and contributions to civil rights, Native American and labor causes.
For further information on Hunter Gray, I refer you to his widely read Web
Hunter Gray has left a formative mark on the shape of
I thank him for his service to civil rights and to Mississippi. I ask that
you keep him in your prayers and meditations.
BENNIE G. THOMPSON
Again, check out the just done [2004-2005] massive, surprise Tribute to me -- Hunter Bear -- for which we are extremely grateful to all of the great many participants and contributors: http://www.hunterbear.org/special_tribute_page_for_hunter.htm Covers my life to date. Recollections, statements, poetry, essays, stories and photos. Much social justice material. Regularly updated and still growing.
Hunter Bear [John R Salter, Jr / Hunter Gray] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk
In the Mountains of Eastern Idaho
LIVING WITH LUPUS: A RIVER OF NO RETURN
[HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR] 11/10/05
PUBLISHED IN LUPUS NEWS [UTAH/IDAHO
CHAPTER OF LUPUS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA] SPRING 2006
My SLE experiences these past 2 1/2 years have been akin to traveling a
River of No Return: rough water, swift rapids, rocks. And even the few
available resting places are always marked by a necessarily uneasy
I'm 71, a Native American [Mi'kmaq, St. Francis Abenaki, St. Regis Mohawk],
who grew up in Northern Arizona and Western New Mexico -- mostly in the
Navajo and Laguna country where our ties remain very strong to this day.
And, for virtually all my adult life, I've been a social justice community
organizer: Native rights, union labor, civil rights. And often
concurrently, I have been a college/university professor.
We now know that a moderate version of SLE brushed me hard forty years ago.
But I ignored the bright red rash, extreme fatigue, perennially sick
feeling, and some other manifestations -- and kept right on keeping on. It
passed after a little more than a couple of months but, interestingly, its
memory never quite left my conscious mind.
Forty years later in the Summer of 2003, here in Eastern Idaho, following a
cunning several months buildup, SLE struck me openly and dangerously: vivid
rash, extreme fatigue, acute anemia, loss of appetite, drenching night
sweats, and a number of other obviously related difficulties. I held off on
the docs for several weeks -- but then was maneuvered by my faithful family
into our local Pocatello hospital for the first of several stays.
After several weeks and medics had passed, SLE was conclusively diagnosed.
It was obvious that it had attacked my liver, lungs, kidneys, heart,
vascular system, skin, joints, ears.
But, at least so far, it has spared my mind.
That serious crisis period of many weeks in the Fall and Winter of 2003 saw
me almost die a number of times. For months, any walking was extremely
difficult and I was unable to drive.
But I have fought hard all my life -- and we fought back against this Wraith
with great vigor: not only against the direct multi-thrusts of SLE but also
collateral dimensions: pneumonitis, the severe anemia, pseudo-diabetes
generated and maintained by heavy doses of Prednisone [which we have now
replaced with other medicines.]
And, gradually, as SLE's frontal assault shifted into the present long-haul
guerilla campaign, I began to take stock of things.
I have always deeply appreciated my life-long spouse, Eldri, and the rest of
my family, many friends, animal companions -- but now, believe me, I see
them all as absolutely priceless.
I can now do some slow-going rough country hiking -- a few miles up and down
in the steep hills that begin practically in our backyard 'way up here on
the far western edge of Poky. I can do some short driving. Ending
Prednisone has returned my weight to normal, the diabetes is gone, and
blood pressure again is naturally rather low.
I give a few speeches now and then. My voice is strong.
From the Edge of the Fog, I've done a pretty thorough Life Review of my wild
and wooly run [to date] -- almost invariably [of course] giving myself good
I have always done much writing. And I am now doing mountain ranges of
I try to be active in our Lupus Support Group and I correspond nationally
with others so afflicted -- including many Native and other "minority"
We now know that Native Americans are anywhere from three to ten times more
likely to get Lupus than others -- with Blacks, Chicanos, Asians not far
behind. Many of these are in the general high-target group: younger women.
I was recently -- this November -- privileged to speak substantially as part
of the excellent NPR program: "Lupus -- The Great Pretender". This went to
many radio stations in the United States and Canada, reaching about one
million people. In the course of my interview, I
said "I see it [Lupus] as a very real civil rights issue that cries out for
strong Federal intervention."
And through it all, I can still look up at the Sun and Stars, and listen to
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
SOME OF MY
THOUGHTS [LATE SPRING 2006]:
As a boy, I shot my huge Coming of Age Bear -- deep in the vast and
beautiful Sycamore Canyon wilderness area in Northern Arizona. At that
point, I then became a man. The fiery spirit of the Bear and its abundantly
fine qualities -- intelligence, courage, stamina, instinct -- are with me
always and have consistently served me very well and faithfully on my swift
and rocky and sometimes sanguinary River of No Return. His physical skull,
with appropriate feathers, is always close at hand.
I plan to do much more in my life -- much more indeed -- before the eventual
trip into the Fog and Deep Canyon, up over the High Mountains, and Far
Beyond to the Shining Sun in the Turquoise Sky that glows forever down on
the Headwaters of Life. And when that Journey finally comes, the great Bear
will accompany me.
Life is a Great Circle. The leaves fall but one's personality lives and
comes ever yet again. And even though much of the basic situational
geography will be similar, there are of course new vistas abounding, new
rivers to cross, new mountains to climb. New challenges. New growth.
From Virgil, translated by F.W.H. Myers in his "Essay on Virgil" [Classical
"And last to Lethe's stream on the ordered day,
These all God summoneth in great array;
Who from that draught reborn, no more shall know
Memory of past or dread of destined woe,
But all shall there the ancient pain forgive,
Forget their life, and will again to live."
I have that Will to Live. And so do we all.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR] Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´