Dr. Dowell Caselli-Smith (1959)
Dowell almost quit Central due to angry anti-social tendencies but,
close ties to relatives near Beulah provided safety. Thus, he
dropped-out senior year to work on their ranches fully intending not to
graduate. The relatives and John Armstrong eventually coached him back
Dowell met Jeanne Wells during sociology doctoral work at Boulder. Soon,
their marriage and dynamic partnerships created Oglala Lakota College
and two children out on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
OLC grew from their VISTA demonstration project into CU extension
courses and eventually into an accredited college with over 2,000
students and master's degrees. Their demonstration stimulated many
University Year for Action projects nationwide. Likewise, OLC stimulated
development of 35 more tribal colleges. Jeanne was still providing OLC
leadership in 1996 when she passed away. Dowell was commuting to a
Dean's position at Chadron State College from 1994-2000, then returned
to OLC for a third stint as VP of Instruction.
After retirement, Dowell became Executive Director at Lakota Funds-a
faltering business loan fund he had helped start. His team took five
years turning Lakota Funds into a thriving Community Development Finance
Institution replicated by 47 other Native CDFI's.
Retired again, Dowell is on Lakota Federal Credit Union's
board-chartered July 2012-the first full service financial institution
on Pine Ridge.
A life-long horse trainer, Dowell eventually learned that building trust
works better than overpowering. Dowell helps empower disadvantaged
groups wherever he can. At Chadron State he co-chaired a Diversity
Committee crafting an "exemplary" plan (as proclaimed by the Nebraska
State College Board). He married his exemplary co-chair-Rebecca Caselli
in 1998 and she brought two girls into their family.
The couple lives in Rapid City. He teaches Pilates at the Y, an
occasional college course and horses and helps out at some non-profits.
Rebecca is a licensed professional counselor.
- 1969 - Helped create, initiate and administer a demonstration
project for Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) as a joint project
of the University of Colorado and the Oglala Sioux Tribe that became the
collaborative model adopted later on for AmeriCorps.
- 1970 - Initiated and taught the first undergraduate extension
courses for what then became Extension Campus #9 of the University of
Colorado on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota thus
laying the foundation for the first accredited college on an Indian
reservation. Oglala Lakota College now has nearly 2,000 students and is
accredited at the master's degree level.
- 1973 - Initiated first internship program for students in
anthropology and sociology at Albion College while there as Assistant
Professor. Program subsequently adopted college wide.
- 1974 - Conceived, developed, initiated, and implemented
intercultural immersion program involving Hispanic, Black, and White
students living with families in the community and studying the
community from their perspective. Resulted in significant changes in the
Albion police department and schools.
- 1976 - Became President of the Michigan Sociology Association
with three hundred members across the state from fifty different
- Summers 1975 and 1977 - Implemented summer at Pine Ridge for
Albion students involving those students living with Native American
families and studying Lakota history, culture, and contemporary issues.
- 1977-79 - Back at Lakota Center for Higher Education as Vice
President for Instruction, successfully led and completed change from
being an extension center for other colleges to becoming accredited by
the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges as Oglala Sioux
Community College. Developed model governance program involving faculty,
staff, and students in policy and procedure formulation and
implementation. Cited as exemplary by evaluation team.
- 1986 - Served as member of the organizational committee for the
launch of Lakota Funds the first Community Development Finance
Institution on an Indian Reservation and a model for almost fifty
current reservation CDFI's.
- 1992 - Submitted for and gained approval for accreditation of a
Masters Degree in Tribal Leadership and Management at Oglala Lakota
- 1994 - Assumed direction and expansion of the external campus
programs at Chadron State College which included growing the internship
program from thirty to over three hundred students, the first internet
courses, a new technology in education graduate degree option, and
expanded interactive television courses.
- 1998 - Served as co-chair of Diversity Committee for Chadron
State College developing and submitting a Diversity Plan cited as
"exemplary" by the State College Board.
- 2005-10 - Served as Executive Director for Lakota Funds and
moved it to a new level of dynamic and ongoing policy, staff, and
program development and performance.
- Currently serving on the boards of the Lakota Federal Credit
Union to be launched soon on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and of
the Breadroot Natural Foods Cooperative in Rapid City, SD.