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Dr. Karen Gayton Comeau (Swisher) (1988-1996)

A portrait of Dr. Karen Gayton

Karen Gayton Comeau (formerly Swisher) is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Born, raised, and educated through high school on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, Dr. Comeau devoted her career to improving educational opportunities for American Indian/Alaska Native students.  

Trained as an elementary teacher and educational administrator at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, she taught in public schools in Minnesota and South Dakota, and a school operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on her home reservation in North Dakota, where she also served as elementary principal for four years.  She earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of North Dakota in 1981. 

Dr. Comeau served as President of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas from 1999-2006.  In addition to Haskell Indian Nations University, Dr. Comeau has higher education experience in teaching and administration at Huron College in South Dakota, the University of Utah, and Arizona State University where she also served as the Director of the Center for Indian Education and Editor of the Journal of American Indian Education.  

Dr. Comeau retired in 2006 and moved back to Standing Rock. She currently resides in Rapid City, South Dakota. Dr. Comeau is the proud grandmother of many tȟakóžas (grandchildren).