At the Spring, 2013 University of Colorado Commencement, Gerald One Feather, longtime friend of the Boulder Friends Meeting, was awarded an honorary doctoral degree for his outstanding contributions to Lakota education and other areas.
In an additional ceremony, held by the Department of Sociology at CU, Dr. Richard Williams gave One Feather the highest Native American honor – an eagle feather and a Pendleton Blanket. Dr. One Feather thanked the University of Colorado and Quakers for their important support of his work.
In 1970, 31-year-old One Feather was the youngest person to be elected Oglala Lakota tribal president. Knowing that education was critically important for the future of his people, One Feather began the creation of the Oglala Lakota College on Pine Ridge Reservation. Working with faculty members in the department of sociology at the University of Colorado, where he had been a graduate student in sociology, One Feather established a model for American Indian education that inspired the creation of 26 tribal colleges around the country. In 1972, One Feather was also a founding member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and served as its first President.
In 1988 when One Feather accepted the invitation to join the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) staff, his tasks included the leadership of the Lakota Oyate Oaye Program, which in Lakota means, “The people moving together.” The core of the work was the restoration of Lakota spirituality, language and culture, through such activities as Spiritual Ceremonies for young people, a weekly radio show, and a language immersion.
One Feather added an international dimension to the work when he provided leadership in creating the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Annual Summits, which began in 1988 and focused on treaty rights and sovereignty issues in the United States and Canada.
One Feather was also active in the two-decade-long process of working with Indigenous Peoples from around the world in creating the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Through his work with AFSC, One Feather made important connections with people from the Boulder Meeting of Friends.
Now in his mid 70s, One Feather still serves his tribe and others. He is a member of the Oglala Lakota College Board, and he is on the graduate advisory committee. His great contributions are recognized with an endowed chair at the college in his name.
As the Keeper of the Staff for the traditional Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people of Canada and the United States, One Feather continues to work at uniting his people. This includes annual gatherings of the traditional leaders, alternatively in Canada and the U.S.