Honors Ceremony Introduction (Youtube)
Honors Ceremony Speech (YouTube)
Born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Charles “Chuck” Trimble is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. He received his elementary and high school education at the Holy Rosary Mission Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota in 1952 and began his college studies at Cameron College in Lawton, Oklahoma. He transferred to the University of South Dakota in 1954 and received a B.F.A. degree there in 1957.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1957 and was honorably discharged in 1960. His entire overseas duty was served in Germany as an Infantry Operations Intelligence Specialist, achieving the rank of SP4. Following service in the Army, he did further studies in journalism on the GI Bill at the University of Colorado.
From 1961 to 1967 Trimble was a master scheduler with the General Dynamics Astronautics Division’s Atlas Missile program, then with the General Dynamics Electronics division on the TFX (F-111) program. Moving to Colorado in 1966, he worked with the Ball Brothers Research Corporation’s solar research projects for the Harvard College Observatory and the Naval Research Laboratory experiments on the Apollo Telescope Mount project.
In 1968 he began working in American Indian rights with the Mayor’s Commission on Community Relations for the City and County of Denver. There he became involved with the White Buffalo Council of American Indians, the Denver urban Indian organization, and edited and published the organization’s newsletter – the Denver Indian Times, which he converted to a full newspaper.
As published of the Indian Times, Trimble found it difficult to get any news regarding Indian policy development and tribal affairs. Most of what he was able to garner was from the mainstream media, which carried little news about Native people, except when Indians were demonstrating against the federal government. In 1969 he secured a small grant to pull together a meeting of editors of Indian news periodicals, representing a tribal and regional cross-section of the country, to discuss the common needs of Indian media, and the possibility of forming a national organization to represent them and to provide them with news services.
In 1969 he was principal founder of the American Indian Press Association, and served as the organization's Executive Director until 1972, when he was elected Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. In his tenure, the NCAI is generally credited with having effectively lobbied for enactment of the Indian Financing Act, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the Indian Self Determination Act, the Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act, and unprecedented return of land to Indian tribes.
Trimble was involved in international affairs for protection of indigenous rights and human rights in general: In 1975 he represented U.S. Indian tribes at the charter meeting of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1983, he served as a U.S. delegate at the U. N. Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1985 he was a U.S. delegate to the Human Rights Experts meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Accord) in Ottawa, Canada.
Trimble served on the Board of Directors of the American Indian National Bank in Washington, DC, from 1975 to 1986. He served as president of ARROW, Inc., and on the Board of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.
Trimble has an active interest in western history and served from 1991-1997 on the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Historical Society, the last three of those years as President. He also served on the Board of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, and as a member of the State Historic Preservation Board. In 1996, he was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to the American Folklife Center Board of Trustees in the Library of Congress.
Trimble has long been interested in education for Native American students. In the 1960s, he served on the Board of AID, Inc., which sponsored summer Indian leadership workshops for young Native Americans. In 1970, he was an instructor in Native American affairs at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, and in 1988-91 he taught a course in contemporary Indian affairs in the University of Nebraska-Omaha College of Continuing Studies. He has also taught in the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Nebraska Institute for Teachers. In 1999, as president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, Trimble established the Institute for Vision and Learning, a summer workshop in literature and writing for Native American high school students. For five semesters during the 2004-2007 academic years, he served as interim Director of the Institute of American Indian Studies at the University of South Dakota.
In 1998, Trimble received the Pioneer Award from the Nebraskaland Foundation at its Statehood Day Dinner in the Nebraska Capitol Rotunda. In October 1999, he was honored by the University of South Dakota with its annual Alumni Achievement Award, and in October 2003 by Cameron University in Lawton, OK, with its Distinguished Alumni Award. In December 2000 he received an honorary Doctor of Cultural Sciences degree from Creighton University; in May 2002 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wayne State College; in 2008 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of South Dakota, his alma mater; and in 2012 he was awarded an honorary degree in Lakota Leadership from Oglala Lakota College.
Up to his retirement in 2001, Trimble was president of Charles Trimble Company, a national consulting firm specializing in economic development on Indian reservations. Concurrently he served as president of Red Willow Institute, a non-profit corporation he founded to provide technical and management assistance to Native American non-profit organizations.
Trimble is retired and lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with his wife, Anne. They have one child, Katherine “Kaiti” Fenz-Trimble who lives in Colorado.