Obama appoints NMU alum to National Advisory Council

Von Lanier

Former NMU student and current Chairperson of the Chippewa Indian tribe of Sault Ste. Marie Aaron Payment has been appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education.re1-AaronPayment

“I have been looking forward to this appointment and contributing as a team player to improve the education trajectory of American Indians.

Education as an opportunity has been huge in my life,” Payment said in an interview with Native News Online.

The delegation was made on Aug. 26, and with his newly acquired forum, Payment made it clear that he wants to help facilitate other Natives to have such opportunities as he’s had with his own personal success.

He has an extensive history in furthering higher education, such as holding various positions at several universities including Lake Superior State University. He’s earned a B.S in sociology and also a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from NMU.

Payment said he believes in affording other Native Americans and disadvantaged people opportunities to overcome adversity and he is active in campaigning to remind Congress of the Federal Trust responsibility to uphold the obligations contained in the treaties between the United States government and tribes.

During his time at NMU, Payment worked as a dean’s assistant in the Dean of Students’ Office and as minority retention coordinator at NMU from 1989-90. He helped to start the Initial Retention Program on campus and was also an academic student advisor for Alpha Kappa Phi.

Before graduating, he competed with his entire graduating class for an internship in the Institutional Research Department.

Payment and one other student were chosen for the job as a researcher for the alumni employment survey.

In an interview with the North Wind, Payment attributed his interest in research and statistics to what he said was real world experience.

“We got to do every aspect of the job,” Payment said.

The Chippewa Indian Tribe of Sault Ste. Marie has been his primary focus for his whole life but Payment faced many educational barriers as a Native. He said the public schools of Anishinaabe were less than welcoming to Payment and his identifiably different visual appearance.

He described it as a rather unwelcoming community so he went to a public school that was predominantly Native.

Because he was in a disposition due to poverty, Payment stayed labor intensive rather than in the classroom. He as well as other Native American students were exposed to an open-concept experiment known as choice education. Payment believed that this freedom to choose between staying in the classroom during school hours and doing what he thought was best for him at the time should have been limited. He said this freedom of choice ultimately caused the school system to fail him as well as many other Native children because it made them educationally deficient and unprepared for a high school career. Angry at the feeling of being intellectually inferior, Payment dropped out of high school and pursued a G.E.D where he could learn what he needed to know at his own pace. The state of the public school system motivated Payment to not only improve his own situation but others as well.

“I wanted to make things better for other people like me so I dedicated myself to a career of helping people,” he said.

In addition to his new appointment, Payment is currently a secretary for the National Congress of American Indians and he serves on a tribal advisory board for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He is completing two programs through NMU’s School of Education, Leadership and Public Service: an MBA in educational administration and an education specialist degree. This is through a joint program between NMU and Central State University.

“My education at Northern very well prepared me for the challenge. I will be relying on the NMU Center for Native Studies for input on any educational issues,” he said.