Governor's Interstate Indian Council

Wichita Urban Native History Tour

Governor's Interstate Indian Council

Wichita, Kansas 67203, United States

Created By: Wichita History Walk


1968 marked a pivotal year in Native American history with President Lyndon Johnson’s proposal to end the termination policy. The termination policy was a federal initiative originating in the 1940s that aimed to dissolve Tribal sovereignty and end the Federal trusteeship with Tribal Nations. This policy, part of which included the Indian Relocation Act of 1956, had devastating effects on Native communities, leading to increased poverty, lower academic performance, and higher dropout rates among Native students.

Amidst this backdrop, the Governor's Interstate Indian Council (GIIC) emerged as a beacon of hope and collaboration. Created to unite tribal and Indian affairs officials, the GIIC aimed to address common concerns within the Native community and support proposals beneficial to tribal communities. The 21st annual GIIC conference, held at Wichita’s Lassen Hotel in 1968, became a historic gathering point. Tribal officials from 25 states convened over three days to tackle issues plaguing Native communities, such as poverty and unemployment. This conference coincided with a rescheduled Ceremonials of the Drum Powwow at the WSU Fieldhouse, adding cultural significance to the event.

Kansas, with its four Native American Tribal Reservations and a significant urban and rural Native American population, played a crucial role in this conference. Organized by Wichita Native Community leader Charles Shunatona, the event saw participation from tribal officials across Kansas, highlighting the state's commitment to addressing Native concerns.

In the years that followed, there were tangible strides towards improving the lives of the Native community. In 1972, the American Indian Council was established, offering economic, cultural, and educational support to Natives in Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. This included GED and college tuition assistance, marking a significant step towards academic empowerment.

Moreover, the enactment of the Title VI Indian Education Act in 1972 by Congress aimed to provide Native students with resources and programs that promoted cultural education and academic excellence. By 1974, USD 259 had established its own Indian Education department supporting an initial 485 Native students. Today, it is known as the Title VI Native American Indian Education Program, supporting over 1,400 Native students who participate in a variety of academic and cultural activities.

The conference also set the stage for future governmental collaboration. Indian Affairs Commissioner Robert Bennett (Oneida) expressed optimism for the future of Native education and leadership. Kansas Governor Robert Docking's announcement to appoint a Native Affairs Advisory Commission, although not immediately realized, paved the way for future appointments, including Brad Hamilton of Hoyt as the director of the State’s Indian Affairs commission in 1999.

The 1968 GIIC conference at the Lassen Hotel was more than just a meeting; it was a turning point that catalyzed significant changes for the Native community, with lasting effects that continue to resonate. Through collaboration, cultural celebration, and legislative advancements, the conference underscored the importance of unity and advocacy in overcoming the challenges faced by Native Americans. The hotel building still stands on the southwest corner of Market and 1st Streets.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Wichita Urban Native History Tour


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