In Memory: Dr. Arthur Taylor, UNITY Alumnus and Supporter – UNITY, Inc.

In Memory: Dr. Arthur Taylor, UNITY Alumnus and Supporter

Dr. Arthur Maxwell Taylor, Jr., (Ta-Wits-Pal-Lu) passed away on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28, 2013. He was 48 years old. Arthur was the second child born to Veronica Mae (McCormack) Taylor and Arthur (Charlie) Taylor, Sr. He was born Saturday, February 6, 1965 in Lewiston, Idaho.

Arthur was a Lapwai resident and a member of the Nez Perce Tribe. He was proud descendent of the Chief Joseph Band of Wallowa, Oregon and Chief Eagle in the Light. He grew up on the Nez Perce reservation with a passion for education and his Nez Perce tribal culture.  He attend Lapwai public schools and was a proud advocate for public education and community involvement.

In 1980, as a young student, Arthur attended his first of many conferences in Washington D.C. as the Nez Perce tribal youth delegate to the United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) conference. This early exposure to national Native youth, culture, leadership and education would later become the center pieces of Art’s passion for making a difference.

At Lapwai High school, Arthur was involved in sports, the arts and scholarship.  He participated in track, baseball, basketball, 4-H, journalism, choir, band, Indian club, the Future Farmers of America, and Honor Society.  He served as Class President and his senior year as Student Body President.  He represented Lapwai High school at Idaho Boy’s State and was a member of the McDonald’s All State Band. He graduated with honors in May 1983.

In the fall of 1983, Arthur began his college education attending one of his favorite alma maters, Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.  This was the beginning of his pursuit of higher education degree’s and other personal accomplishments. At WSU, Arthur continued to strive for excellence and participated in many extracurricular activities, including but not limited to, the Honors Program, the Student Assembly, the WSU Marching band, the Ku-Au-Mah Native American club, the Russian Club, and the WSU Men’s Volleyball Club.

In 1994, shortly after receiving his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Foreign Language & Literature from WSU, he accepted a position working at the Nez Perce Tribe Cultural Resources Program.  Arthur utilized his knowledge of language preservation to help strengthen the Nez Perce language and cultural programs. He worked at the tribal community level with both the tribal elders and youth.  These relationships gave rise to a call for him to run for Tribal Council. In 1996, he was elected to the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC). He went on to serve two three-year terms and held officer positions of Secretary and Assistant Secretary.

As a Tribal leader, Arthur thrived on community outreach and sought to address the day-to-day and cultural needs of the people.  He served as both the Education Liaison and Senior Citizen Liaison.  As an avid fisherman, he advocated for the continued legal protections of tribal traditional fishing, hunting, and gathering sites. He was Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and served on the Pacific Salmon Commission where he helped negotiate international salmon harvests for the Nez Perce people. He also was responsible for coordinating the Nez Perce Tribal Youth Council coming full circle from his early exposure to the need for youth leadership development.

While serving on NPTEC, Arthur continued his educational pursuits on a part-time basis and commuted to Spokane, Washington to attend Gonzaga University.  In 2000, he received his first Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.

In 2002, after his second NPTEC term ended, Arthur expanded his horizons to explore new opportunities   He moved to South Bend, Indiana to work as the Assistant Director of Multi-Cultural Program and Services at the University of Notre Dame.  While working at Notre Dame, Arthur continued his life long pursuit of education.  He began to attend Loyola University Chicago, via their on-line program.  During this period, Arthur also served as Adjunct
Faculty at Indiana Tech in South Bend, where he taught professional communication and Organizational Behavior classes.  He was very proud to support the “Fighting Irish” and brought his parents to visit. While at Notre Dame, Arthur made a difference and encouraged all his students to do the same.

In 2007, Arthur returned to Idaho to be home with his parents and family. He started his new journey at the University of Idaho as the Indigenous Affairs Officer.  This was an innovative position that Arthur’s experience help strengthen. He reported directly to the Provost of the University and was a member of the Provost Council.

In 2009, Arthur was recognized by Cambridge Who’s Who for demonstrating dedication, leadership and excellence in higher education.  Arthur ontinued to make a difference on the national education scene as later that year, he was selected by the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar to serve on the No Child Left Behind School Facilities and Construction Negotiated Rulemaking Committee. The Committee issued a report and held national consultations. 

In addition, following in his mother’s footsteps, Arthur proudly served as Chairman of the Chemawa School Board, a private boarding school serving 400 Native American students from grades 9-12 from the western United States operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Salem, Oregon.  He was an active member of the National Indian Education Association, the National Congress of American Indians, and served on many other local, state and national committees and organization during his career.

At the University of Idaho, Arthur thrived as he developed many relationships with indigenous people all over the country and opened the lines of communication between Tribal governments and university units. As example, this past October, Arthur worked to bring the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) together with U of I to initiate a Native American education program to  collaborative to address work force and education
opportunities for tribal members.

The students at University of Idaho and other tribal youth seeking higher education were special to Arthur and had his support. He always encouraged people to get their education, regardless of their age or background. In sum, Arthur served as a advocate for Indian education throughout the state, region and nationally, it was his passion.

In 2010, three years into his new position at U of I, he earned his second Master’s Degree in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago.  His highest academic achievement came in May of 2013. He graduated from the University of Idaho with his Doctorate Degree in Education.  This achievement placed Arthur within a small group of Nez Perce Tribal members to reach this status.  He used his own personal drive to
encourage others, simply saying, “If I can do it then so can you”.

Inspired by his doctoral dissertation on Nez Perce coyote stories entitled “Iceyeeye comes to school, Nee-Mee-Poo Cultural Competency and Use of Traditional Nee-Mee-Poo Iceyeeye stories to Construct Indigenous Knowledge with Classroom Teachers for our Children”, Arthur envisioned bilingual opportunities to educate Native students with culturally relevant curriculum.  After graduation, he created the Blue Earth People Group to publish, evaluate, teach and create curriculum.  Recently, the new venture successfully published six bilingual books about the Nez Perce Tribe and its culture to be used at the Lapwai Elementary school.

On a more personal level, Arthur was the family historian and researched the family tree. When he had free time, you could find him building sweat at the McCormack family sweat house, beading, basket weaving, playing tennis or volleyball, cooking and trying new recipes, as well as teaching the Nez Perce language.  He loved singing along to his favorite songs at family weddings, or when the moment struck him.  Art also enjoyed golfing with family on Sunday afternoons at Kayler’s Bend and for the last six years, floating on the Selway during the annual “Spirit of Adventure” getaway with friends and family.  He especially enjoyed spending time with family during the annual encampment at the Chief Joseph Days celebrations in Joseph, Oregon.

Although Art never had his own kids, he was the godfather to Patricia and Sam WhiteTemple’s children and the number one uncle to his other nieces, nephews, and students.  He gave them guidance on life and education while always pushing them to pursue their goals.

Arthur loved to travel the world to meet people. He visited Australia, France, Ireland, England, and Egypt to name a few.  In 1994 he attend the Europe Horse Show in Belgium with a large Nez Perce contingent and visited the U.S. Embassy in Brussels in full regalia to meet the Ambassador. His latest trip with family was in October of 2012 to Rome, Italy where he witnessed the Canonization of first Native American saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

A larger version of Dr. Taylor’s picture may be viewed here.