"The goal at that time was to train Indians and other minorities in guidance and counseling," said Eric LaPointe
"Dr. Tom Gooden initially got the first federal grant, and it was in the school of education."
The program started with 20 students, who, after two years, graduated with their master's degrees.
"It was the first time we ever had that number in South Dakota graduate with that degree," he
As LaPointe was finishing up work on his master's degree at the University of Montana, he was asked to work on creating a satellite program that would offer educational opportunities at USD, the University of North Dakota, Eastern Washington, the University of Washington and the University of Montana.
"The concept was that every summer, the students would come to the center here at USD
, and I was the center director," LaPointe
"At one time, from 1977 to 1983, the center satellite program had faded out so everything was here at USD
"We were averaging at least 10 to 12 graduates every year with their master's in those disciplines, and at the same time we were able to get some funding so that some students could back here and receive their doctorate degrees."
Today, LaPointe works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Idaho, in part because federal funding that allowed Native American education programs to flourish at USD began to dry up in the 1980s.
Young Native American people still have the same quest for education.
"You need that advanced degree because you then come better prepared to work with students.
The motivation is there, and we're about at the point where we need to try something like this again," he
said young Native American people are now "spreading their wings" so to speak, and seeking education opportunities in a wide variety of fields, from law and medicine to education and social work.
"I'm staying busy this weekend, telling young people to not set their goals too short.
They need to think big, and not shortchange themselves," he