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Chairman's Award
2023 Recipient

Pete Red Tomahawk

Photo Credit: Wet Plate Photo by Shane Balkowitsch, Nostalgic Glass Wet Plate Studio

Pete Red Tomahawk, former director of transportation for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, will receive the Chairman's Award. The award recognizes his leadership and long-term dedication to the advancement and improvement of transportation and transportation safety on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and on Native American lands across the nation.

Red Tomahawk is recognized at the tribal, state, and federal level for his leadership in transportation and traffic safety, especially for transportation systems within the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) Program, now the Tribal Transportation Program (TTP). He encouraged tribal, state, and federal partnerships to improve transportation infrastructure and promote traffic safety in U.S. tribal communities. Improved roads and bridges for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the State of North Dakota, and across Native American country resulted from his years of dedication, collaboration, and hard work.

Red Tomahawk served as tribal co-chair of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) Negotiated Rulemaking Committee and the Negotiated Rulemaking Act to draft regulations to overhaul the IRR program. He chaired the Northern Plains Tribal Technical Assistance Program, the Native American Injury Prevention Coalition, and the IRR Program Coordinating Committee, established to provide input and recommendations to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Red Tomahawk worked with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to ensure that rumble strips were added to state routes near and on the reservation. He collaborated with tribal and federal officials to add reflective signage, guard rails, walking paths, and other safety features, and helped insure the tribe had a seat belt and child-safety seat campaigns.

Red Tomahawk addressed challenges faced by tribes and other rural, remote communities in the Great Plains region that lacked transportation safety features. He worked hard to mitigate motor vehicle injuries as the leading cause of death for Native Americans in rural areas.

Testifying before Congress and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in 2007, Red Tomahawk advocated for additional resources and investment in prevention and promoted the "Four E's" (education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical services) to improve safety in rural communities. He worked with FEMA and ERFO officials ensure the United States honored its obligations to the tribe to repair and restore damaged public roads and bridges following a natural disaster.

Red Tomahawk oversaw the improvement of more than 2,500 miles of public roads and bridges on the 2.3-million-acre Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. During reconstruction, he coordinated construction activities within the tribe's eight districts simultaneously. Working with the BIA, FHWA, and local banks, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was among the first to use "advance construction" financing to finance the nearly $26 million project. Borrowing against the tribe's IRR program allocation and TTP "tribal shares," funds were secured to complete the reconstruction of the tribe's district community streets and to install sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and streetlights. The project greatly improved and promoted pedestrian safety throughout the reservation. Red Tomahawk also helped educate other tribes about the benefits of undertaking large projects using this financing technique.

Red Tomahawk is enjoying retirement, but continues to advocate for issues passionate to him, such as indigenous foods and education.

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050