Former Shakopee tribal chairman is ready to take flight

Kolby KickingWoman

Tribal leader didn’t intend to be a leader and did it for his community

Charles Vig is ready to fly off into the sunset — almost literally — after decades of service, and the last eight years as tribal chairman, to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota.

Vig announced his retirement earlier this week and one of the things he is looking forward to in life after work is having more time to fly his 2000 Saratoga turbocharged plane.

“I've never had the luxury of focusing on just flying,” Vig said. “So I'm looking forward to learning more about being a pilot.”

While he worked in his capacity as chairman, Vig said he was only able to fly about once a month.

He also served as the tribe’s representative for the National Indian Gaming Association and National Congress of American Indians, was a member on the board of directors for Greater MSP and Koda Energy, and served as chairman of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

Part of Vig’s decision to retire was his wife recently retired, and they’ve talked about traveling together. He’s also excited to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.

Vig served as the vice chairman in 2012 when Stanley Crooks was going on 20 years as the chairman. Crooks’s health was in decline at the time and died in the fall of 2012. Vig would ultimately be the man to replace him.

Chairman Vig headshot
Goff Public

Vig said when he got into tribal politics he didn’t aspire to be chairman because he wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with the pressure of the job. Yet, he says in a community like the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, your name eventually ends up on the shortlist for leadership positions.

“Our community is a small community that I believe it's like a small family business that at some point your name is going to be on that list,” Vig said. “In 2012 I felt my name was on the list and I ran and took on that role.”

Throughout his time as chairman, Vig was known for his ability to build relationships on behalf of the tribe. Mayor Kirt Briggs of Prior Lake, a city near the tribal community, said their relationship started as leader-to-leader. However, it wasn’t long before the two men became friends.

“Chairman Vig is a very caring, compassionate, and understanding individual,” Mayor Briggs said. “He cares about all people, his community of course, first and foremost, but also the broader community.”

One of the major projects and accomplishments Vig and Briggs worked on together was the establishment of the South Area Water Treatment Plant, a facility that provides clean water to their respective communities.

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What Vig said he is most probably most proud of though is the building of the tribe’s new cultural center. It’s a place where visitors can be educated on the tribe’s culture and history as well as a place community members can call their own.

Another one of his goals during his tenure as chairman was to get people involved and build leaders for the future.

“In tackling that and eight years later, I think we did a pretty good job at succeeding in that,” Vig said. “We've built some good leaders that are coming up and that's part of the reason why I decided to not run for the position, to give them an opportunity to see where they can take our community for the next four years.”

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community recently held their elections and elected the tribe’s new business council. Keith Anderson will be taking over as the new chairman and the newly elected business council will be sworn into office on Jan. 31.

While his formal title may change, Vig still plans to have a presence in the community. Mayor Briggs said he is going to miss his quarterly meetings, phone calls and meals with Vig but wishes his friend nothing but the best in his retirement.

“My words of encouragement are first and foremost to enjoy it because he certainly has earned this opportunity,” Briggs said. “Enjoy, have fun.”

As for Vig, he is ready to see where the next generation of the tribe’s leaders take the community.

“If we did our job, then they should be fine.”

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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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Indian Country Today, LLC., is a non-profit news organization owned by the non-profit arm of the The National Congress of American Indians. The Indian Country Today editorial team operates independently.

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