Ms. Gail Small

Assistant Professor, Department of Native American Studies
Lame Deer, Montana
United States

Focus Areas

Racial Equity & Healing
Indigenous Communities
Environment & Sustainable Development


Gail Small is a professor of Native American Studies at Montana State University. She joined the MSU Faculty in 2013. Small attended the University of Montana and the University of Oregon School of Law, where she studied with her mentor, Charles Wilkinson. She began her career with the California Indian Legal Services doing fishing rights, Indian religious freedom work, and adjunct teaching at Humboldt State University. She returned to Montana and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in 1984 as part of a team of Cheyenne leaders that helped form Native Action as one of the first non-profit organizations based on an Indian Reservation. Small has worked on many diverse issues over her career, including economic development issues that led to the establishment of the first bank on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. After law school, she picked up the work of a 30-year effort by young people to successfully establish the first public high school on the reservation. She has successfully drafted tribal government law and policy for a number of tribes on such diverse issues as traditional tribal burials, cultural impact statements, tribal environmental policy, banking laws, sexual assault and domestic violence and issues to strengthen tribal government and court administration. Small was elected to the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council, has taught at both Chief Dull Knife Memorial College and Little Big Horn College and, serves as the elected chair of the board for Chief Dull Knife College. She was honored with Ms. Magazine’s Gloria Steinem Women of Vision Award in 1995 and received a Jeanette Rankin Award in 1997. Montana Magazine recognized her as one of Montana’s most influential leaders in the past 25 years. She received a Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Fellowship and a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship. She was featured in the 2005 documentary, “Homeland.” In January 2015, Small was named a 2015 Leopold Leadership Fellow. Based at the Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, the program honors 20 leaders in environmental research who come from 16 institutions in the U.S. and Canada. In the coming year, Small and the other fellows will receive intensive leadership training to help them engage effectively with leaders in the public and private sectors who face complex decisions about sustainability and the environment.