Sam Pinky Dupris
Sam E. “Pinky” Dupris, the son of Helen Traversie Dupris O’Neal and Sam Dupris was born at the old Cheyenne Agency Hospital, Cheyenne Agency, SD as the great depression was coming to an end. This was an especially hard time for Native Americans. His father was employed by a US Government Federal Relief Program driving a truck to different areas on the reservation and often took Sam with him. As they were sometimes gone overnight, they stayed with friends or relatives before returning home. It was during these times that Sam learned some of his native language, however, the Lakota language was forbidden to be spoken at school and, like many of his friends, he “lost” the language.
The first 3 years of Sam’s education began at St. Joseph Catholic Indian Mission School in Chamberlain, SD, followed by 2 years at the St. Francis Catholic Indian Mission School in Rosebud, SD. This was followed by 6 years at the Cheyenne Agency Boarding School in Eagle Butte, SD.
When our country needed help during the Korean Conflict, Sam answered the call to duty and volunteered to serve in the US Army. He was wounded and spent several months in an Army Hospital in Japan. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his contributions to his country and was honorably discharged. Upon his return to South Dakota, Sam became a path finder and role model for Native Americans, particularly so, when he chose a career in Aviation. Again, he led the way and left a legacy for the Lakota and all South Dakotans to be proud of when he was inducted into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of fame on August 17, 2001.
After his discharge from the Army, Sam completed Flight School in Fort Worth, TX using the GI Bill. Upon completion of his flight training, he soon learned there was not a great demand for Native American pilots in the Airline passenger aviation business. So, he began crop dusting in the Arkansas cotton fields where he honed his flying skills and learned about “maximum performance” flying. Following several years of crop dusting in the Mississippi Delta, Sam flew for “Air America” ( the CIA’s secret airline) in Southeast Asia. It was there that Sam’s experience and an adventure of a life time for both him and his wife, Sammie. Following 3 years in the Far East, he returned to the United States and spent the next 25 years of his aviation career with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) where his duty assignments took him to Alaska, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the entire United States. During his career with the FAA, Sam was the only Native American ever, to be employed as a pilot in the FAA. He rose through the pilot ranks to become an Aircraft Commander (Captain) and eventually, as an Operations Officer (Chief Pilot).
While stationed in Minneapolis, MN he became an active advocate for the employment of Native Americans, particularly in the field of aviation. He was appointed to serve on the Minneapolis Federal Executive Board, Minority Affairs Committee, from 1982-1984. He spoke at Native American Schools and functions, where he encouraged students to join the FAA team or any field in the Aviation industry. He felt strongly about being a role model for Native American children. He encouraged them to set their goals high and that with hard work and determination, their ambitions could become reality.
While stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, Sam was instrumental in development of a ski program for Native American children and reached out to promote and encourage their interest in skiing, as well as in aviation and other social activities.
During the 1980’s Sam was temporarily assigned to the FAA’s Office of Aviation Education, FAA Headquarters, in Washington DC. Sam’s primary assignment was to assist in creating an “Indian in Aviation” education program designed for Native American students. After 27 years of faithful service in the Federal Aviation Administration, Sam retired on May 1, 1994.
While Sam and his wife have spent most of their adult lives away from their South Dakota reservation home, their roots and heart remain in South Dakota. Regardless of where their travels have taken them, many of their fondest memories are about the gumbo hills along the Missouri River and the endless gravel roads that lead to small towns on the grassy plains. They reminisce and gladly share their stories about their life in South Dakota with friends and to any one willing to listen.
Sam is extremely proud of his Native American heritage and his South Dakota roots. He is a fifth generation descendant of Frederick Dupree (Dupuis) who was a well known early settler on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. Fred is recognized and credited for saving the Buffalo from extinction. Sam works diligently at keeping the Fred Dupree/Dupris family history alive and well for all of Fred’s descendants by organ;izing and managing the annual “Dupree/Dupris Family” reunion. The reunion is held in Eagle Butte, SD during the Annual Labor Day Indian Fair and Rodeo.
On August 18, 2001 by Proclamation, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe paid tribute to Sam for his accomplishments and for representing the Lakota people in a most positive manner by proclaiming “August 18, is to be forever known as Sam Dupris Day.” Sam was inducted into the Sioux Warrior Red Feather Society , an honor bestowed upon warriors who were courageous in battle and wounded. Red Feather Society members are the only individuals given the honor and privilege of wearing a Red Feather.
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