Charles Trimble: A great leadership opportunity for Native youth

Charles “Chuck” Trimble. Courtesy photo

A great leadership development opportunity for tribal youth
By Charles "Chuck" Trimble

Recently in the mail I received a book from an old friend I hadn’t seen or heard from for almost sixty years – Gloria Joseph, known to us students at the Encampment for Citizenship as “Gittle.” The book is entitled On Time and In Step: Reunion on the Glory Road. Gloria I. Joseph, Ph.D., was a tall, gentle black lady and a faculty member at the Encampment.

In the Acknowledgment section at the front of the book is the following recollection:
“Traveled across the U.S. in the ‘70s, from New York to California, with three friends, Chuck, Floyd and Diane, in my red Buick that we called, ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ Chuck was born Charles Trimble on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota; and Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman was also Sioux. Later, as an actor Floyd played the Medicine Man in ‘Dances with Wolves.’ and Diane Wallach, a Jewish young woman from Augusta, Missouri. This integrated group visited Native American Reservations, attended a powwow, explored Grand Canyon and all during the tour neatly dealt with all types of racism in hotels, casinos, restaurants and on the road.”

That remembrance brought back fond memories of the Encampment, and of our cross-country sojourn following the workshop. Her reference to racism brought back the memory especially of one incident in Nevada – Elko, I believe it was. Although we didn’t have the money among us to do serious gambling, we thought we should go in the casino since none of us had ever been in one. A man who appeared to be a bouncer met us at the door, not to welcome us but to inform us that we were not welcome.

Thinking it was racism against Gittle, Floyd and I spoke up for her and told the man that if they wouldn’t let our black companion in, none of us would go in. “Well that takes a load off me,” he replied, “because I was just about to tell you that we don’t like Indians in here either.”

The Encampment for Citizenship hosted a "Through an Indigenous Lens" workshop in July 2014. Photo from Facebook

We faced similar situations in other parts of the country, rude waiters in restaurants, a motel we were told was full even though their Vacancy sign was on, people staring, and so forth. But, as Gittle tells, we just neatly dealt with it. Actually, it was an interesting experience for us as a group, coming out of weeks of discussion on this very thing at the Encampment.

The Encampment for Citizenship, which I attended in the summer of 1956, was an important part of my life experience. As with other Native Americans who attended the EFC over the years, the experience resulted directly in a career dedicated to rights protection and social advancement for Indian people. Others who had attended were Ada Deer, Menominee, first woman head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Isanti, activist and actor who dedicated his career to Indian rights, Webster Two Hawk, Sicangu, tribal and national leader, Amos Bad Heart Bull, Oglala, noted activist and cultural preservationist, and others.

EFC’s mail-out materials describe it as “a non-profit organization that provides leadership development for young people (ages 16-17) of many different ethnic/cultural, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds. The summer program provides youth with a compelling experience in democratic living, with emphasis on critical thinking and social action. Through this transformative experience, young people gain a deeper understanding of the key issues of our time, and becoming more informed and committed to active involvement in their community as citizens and justice seekers.”

The summer workshops are held on a different college campus each summer, and will be held at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, July 5-26, 2016. Applications are available now with a deadline of March 8, 2016. The applications can be accessed and filled out on line at

The EFC has a long history and proven track record of successful development of youth leadership that increases understanding and compassion and inspires civic engagement and social justice activism in youth from all income levels and cultural backgrounds.

It is an experience that could set your life’s plan for the good of our Indian nations and peoples, and for all citizens.

Charles Trimble, Oglala Lakota, was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association in 1969 and served as its Executive Director to 1972 when he was elected Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. His website is and he can be reached at

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