Aurelius H. Piper, Jr. (Chief Quiet Hawk - Council Chief) is the eldest son of Chief Big Eagle.
Chief Quiet Hawk, along with most of the Tribe, has personally experienced the troubles of the minority community within the urban cities; and, since a child, has been determined to improve his own life and the plight of his people.
As a child Chief Quiet Hawk spent much of his time being educated by his father about his Native American heritage and survival in the urban society, as well as being prepared as a Native American in today's world.
When Chief Big Eagle determined that the Golden Hill Tribe's only chance to preserve its culture and history was through federal recognition, he appointed his son, Quiet Hawk, to the position of Council Chief, with his primary responsibility being to obtain federal recognition and to preserve the culture and history of his Tribe. Since Chief Big Eagle was getting on in years and experiencing some medical problems, Chief Quiet Hawk was also assigned the responsibility of handling all day-to-day business of the Tribe.
Chief Quiet Hawk did not look upon his decision to take over as Council Chief and leave the field of social work as turning his back on a lifetime commitment; instead, he saw it as an opportunity where he could do greater good for his people and a larger society.
Following is a personal account of the events that made Chief Quiet Hawk determined to do all he could to improve the plight of his people.
My interest in social work began early when I was a child. My mother was divorced when I was about five years old and with another child who was one year younger than I was, we were forced to go on welfare. Since this was the beginning of the 1950's, for a woman, especially a black woman, the job market was virtually closed. We, the three of us, lived on a state allowance of $125.00 a month until I was old enough during the beginning of the 1960's to enter the Marine Corps and was able to supplement my family's income.
However, until that time we were subjected to the degrading policy of the state welfare institution. This policy was one of frequent visits day or night by the state's social workers, checking to see if a man was there or any evidence that one was living in our house. They checked furniture and other materials to make sure there wasn't anything new, and if there was, they wanted to know how it was obtained.
Included in this policy was stopping me or my brother away from home to ask if my mother had a man living with us and also to secure any information pertaining to whether my mother worked or not. This policy also included questioning neighbors on all of these subjects, which left me and my brother with a somewhat low self-esteem when it came to interacting with our peers.
Even then I thought that these kinds of policies were unfair and took away the dignity of the people. The institution and the social workers were supposed to help in order for them to live with some sort of dignity. I had often thought, even in those days, that a social worker could have conducted those sessions with compassion and integrity, thereby leaving the family with some dignity and self-esteem. I wanted to become a social worker then because I thought there was a better way of helping the poor and the helpless. When I mentioned this in a composition in college, the professor stated I had confused social work with the ministry. I knew she was wrong then and I still do today. For the record, my brother is now a minister and a pastor of his own church. We have both, in our development, grown to believe in the service of mankind and to the greater good of all men.
During my tour in the Marine Corps, I had traveled around the world. What I saw was every act conceivably that people perpetrated to make the low lower, the helpless more helpless and the powerless less powerful. When I returned to the United States, I found the same deplorable conditions that I had witnessed in most economically and democratically deprived nations of our world. This was the atmosphere in which I decided to make a commitment to advocating and protecting the rights of those who could not, and to try and change the policies and attitudes inside the institutions of both the private and public sector that closed their eyes to the social and moral injustice that it was creating.
My expertise became one of knowledge of the street, the poor, the homeless and the norms and values that they build their somewhat fractured lives on. But most important, I could feel what they felt and why, because I had witnessed and lived through what most of them were going through and what others would still have to face. The urban committees and the myriad of complex problems that existed in them became the tasks for which I now knew that I had been trained for informally and formally by non-educational and educational training.
My most influential work experience was my involvement in a residential detention and treatment center for adolescents. At the treatment center where I was employed, I was called upon to do administrative work as well as counseling. I conducted group therapy sessions with the children and their families, prepared cases for presentation in court on the children's behalf mostly with the psycho-social history of the adolescent and the family. It was at this time I was offered a series of jobs at the children's complex, including one of assistant director. I reluctantly turned it down due to my full-time commitment to finish my formal education.
It was at this time I became increasingly aware of the problems of the elderly and decided to enter formal training for a Masters Degree in Gerontology. I was doing field work in a long-term care evaluation and assessment unit by the way of being a member of a home health care team. This is when I began to see the necessity for a higher degree in social work.
My work resulted in my being appointed by the governor of the state to become Regional ombudsman for the Elderly. As Regional Ombudsman I was responsible for the care and treatment and the civil rights of all the elderly assigned in my area, which was the central area of the state of Connecticut that comprised 72 cities and towns. I found that the work as an Investigator, care giver and care provider to the elderly was the most challenging experience of my lifetime. It allowed me to look at the way social problems and social ills transgress from birth to death. It gave me a unique understanding and ability to create programs and systems -- both economically and socially, to help maintain the greater society for the benefit of all. The key thing I learned working as a Gerontologist and Regional Ombudsman is that time and age are the great equalizer of discrimination and class struggle. Understanding that, it allowed me to focus and learn about society as a whole, and not parts of.
Ifeel my social work practice and work experience, as well as my service in the Marine Corps, brought me to a unique understanding of my Tribe, my people and the larger society. I believe that good social workers have a God-given ability to help others and a God-given responsibility to use their talents to help others. All these things cannot be learned, they have to come from within side the human being and he/she must genuinely feel a need to pursue the greater good of all men. I believe that I have always possessed that unique ability that made me a good social worker, a good father and a good husband and it is the foundation of my chieftainship.
My ability to assess the problems and needs of the community and the larger society in any capacity -- to plan, organize, and carry through to solve the problematic task, has given my professional standards and my standards as a Chief credibility among my people, my community and my family.
In whatever capacity I have filled, whether as a social worker or as Council Chief of the Golden Hill Indian Tribe, my goal has been (a) to create an avenue to allow people to live, raise their families and enjoy the abundance this county has to offer with dignity and respect; (b) to allow those less fortunate a road or a path to enjoy the prosperity that so many of us take for granted; (c) to raise the intellect of our children so they may enjoy not only the prosperity of our society, but the prosperity and joys of the world; and finally, (d) to create some level of ideals that we can all come to understand, that living with equality not being just a statement of society, but the norm of our society.