‘A loving brother to us all’

Illustration by Tomas Karmelo Amaya

Rick Hill's memorial services begins Wednesday in Wisconsin

Known as one of the most respected and prominent leaders of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin, former Chairman Rick Hill died on Dec. 13. Hill was 66-years-old.

“He was a skilled negotiator, politician, leader, and jokester. Most importantly, he was a loving brother to us all,” the tribe said in a statement. “The Oneida Nation circle of generational leadership will be greatly impacted by the passing of one of our most respected and prominent leaders.”

Hill was elected as chairman in two non-consecutive terms, first serving in the role from 1990 to 1993 and most recently from 2008 to 2011. He also served as councilman and vice-chairman over the years. 

During his first tenure as chairman, Hill led the tribe through some of their most progressive years, including the signing of the Oneida Nation’s first gaming compact with the state of Wisconsin.

At the same time, Hill was chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association in Washington, D.C., where he helped develop minimum regulatory standards and policies for tribal gaming.

Jacob Coin, Hopi, is a former executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association who worked with and became good friends with Hill. Coin described Hill as a genuine and compassionate leader.

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“Rick was a visionary - a genuine, compassionate and old-style tribal leader with a core belief that even the least of us had something to contribute; and he sought our input,” Coin said via email. “His life was a demonstration of the significance and power of Native traditions, culture, humanity and spirituality. We are all better off for him having lived.”

Upon retiring from Oneida politics, Hill pursued a number of interests and ventures. He formed two companies: The Hill Group, LLC and RGH Holdings, Inc.

According to the statement from the tribe, The Hill Group consults “with various entities to identify economic development projects and partnerships in Indian Country” and RGH Holdings “assists and develops real estate both on and off reservations.”

Hill’s latest project before his passing was working as an executive producer on the movie, “Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story.” Hill was committed to telling the true story of Thorpe and replacing the 1951 film, “Jim Thorpe - All-American,” with a more accurate story told through a Native lens.

Pictureworks Entertainment’s team were headed to South Dakota where Hill was “really looking forward to connecting to old friends and seeing the Lakota youth competitions.”

The company said he maybe would have “wanted to jump in and play some hoops and at least give it a whirl.”

“Pictureworks Entertainment is dedicated to continuing to work on this film in truthfulness and integrity to honor both of these strong Indian warriors, Rick Hill and Jim Thorpe,” the film company said in a statement. “Forever Rick, you will be with us in our hearts.”

For those looking to pay their respects, wake and visitation begin Dec. 18 at 9:00 p.m. CST at the Oneida Nation Longhouse at W370 Reformatory Road, Seymour, Wisconsin.

Chairman Hill will be laid to rest at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery on the morning of Dec. 19.

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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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