Sault Ste. Marie Tribal Chairperson Aaron Payment Earns Doctorate Degree

Dissertation committee members: Dr. Frim Ampaw and Dr. Sarah Marshall with Dr. Payment.  Dr. Derek Anderson not pictured.

Published September 27, 2017

SAULT STE. MARIE, MICHIGAN – Education is important to Aaron Payment, the current chairperson of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Already with two master’s degrees to his credit, Payment–even while serving as chairperson of his tribe–pursued his dream to receive a doctorate degree.

His journey to fulfill his dream was not always easy. Growing up on Shunk Road near what is now the Sault Tribe Reservation, Payment dropped out of high school at the age of 15. He eventually attended the Sault Tribe GED study program and within a few weeks, asked the tribal  education director if he’d set it up to take the test. After passing the GED at 16, he traveled to Florida and Colorado working as a migrant worker and waiter. Upon returning home at 17, Payment approached the Lake Superior State University Upward Bound program director and asked for assistance to enter college.

Since then, Payment has earned a bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree in Public Administration, Master’s
in Education Administration, and now, after successfully defending his doctoral dissertation on Monday, his dissertation Chair, Dr. Sarah Marshall from Central Michigan University, publicly introduced ~ “Dr. Aaron Payment.”

Next up, Chairperson Payment, will complete two courses at Northern Michigan University to complete
a third Master’s degree ~ this time in Education Specialist which is a typical credential for serving as a
principal, superintendent or higher education administrator. Payment has no plans to leave his primary commitment as Chairperson of the largest tribe east of the Mississippi, but looks forward to having an even greater impact on Indian Education at the national, dtate, local and inter-tribal levels.

Payment serves as the Board Liaison to the Education Subcommittee for the National Congress of
American Indians (NCAI); served as a Presidential appointee to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education; on the Negotiated Rule Making Team for the Every Student Succeeds Act and is the chair of the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, president of the United Tribes of Michigan, vice president of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, an executive officer for the NCAI and has dedicated 16 summers to the Upward Bound Program and 5 summers to the Anishinabe Future Leaders program because he believes in giving back.

Dr. Payment acknowledges the guidance of Joseph K. Lumsden, Rosemary Gaskin, Jack Kibble, John
Hatch, Nancie Hatch, Bob VanAlstine, Pam Williamson, Al Goodrich, Heidi Witucki, and Dr. Vine Deloria,Jr.

“No one does it alone. I am grateful for the tribe of people who pushed and pulled me alone the way,” says Dr. Payment.

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