Member of Parshall Memorial UCC photographed inside the church.


about us // leadership

Tillie Walker, Initiator of CAIM organization

Tillie Walker, a member of Independence Congregational Church, was involved nationally with the United Church of Christ and lead a movement to make change happen within the church so that funds raised by the national body could be directed to Indian ministries.

The movement that Tillie initiated resulted in a creation of an organization in 1970 called the Council for American Indian Ministry, which is to oversee all Indian ministry funds, but mainly the funds directed to the historic churches in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and a church in Minneapolis, MN. Funds are used to supplement salaries for pastor and costs of operations and upkeep.

Toni Buffalo, Chairperson of CAIM

Toni BuffaloRecently, Toni Buffalo was elected to serve as CAIM Chairwoman, previously she served 4 yrs as the Vice-Chairwoman. Toni was recognized as an honored lay-woman in the UCC for her work in community/economic development, youth ministry and music ministry. Toni continues to be more and more active within the National setting of the United Church of Christ.

Toni Buffalo is a Lakota woman from Eagle Butte, SD. She is married to Pastor Byron Buffalo and they have 4 children and six grandchildren. Toni is an educator who is presently helping students who need to improve their reading skills so necessary for their academic success. Toni is very committed to her job and her heart is truly for the children of her reservation and works very diligently to make a difference in their lives, both in and out of the classroom.

Toni and Byron still retain their traditional cultural and spiritual teaching of their ancestors and have successfully combined the two within their own lives. This has been a positive in Byron’s ministry as he seeks to bridge the gap that was created by the people that brought the Church into the Native American’s world and used it to devastate these people’s lives, culture, spirituality and souls.

Today both Toni and Byron are examples of the message that Jesus Christ has brought, to be a beacon of hope to those who are less fortunate and to be an example of his love through actions not just words.

Toni’s husband, Pastor Byron Buffalo, ministers two of the Dakota Association churches. These churches are Frazier Memorial UCC, which is located 62 miles one way from their home. The other church is Upper Cheyenne UCC which is 82 miles one way from their home. Toni and her husband Byron have been actively working to improve the living conditions in the small community of Bridger, SD in which one of their churches are located.

Toni and her husband also have a music ministry in addition to Byron’s regular pastoral duties. They travel extensively through out their reservation and have travel through out the country educating people about their culture and the conditions that exist on their reservation in South Dakota.

Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, Interim Executive Director of CAIM

Marlene HelgemoThe Board of Directors of CAIM seconded the Reverend Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo to be the Interim Executive Director of CAIM. Her duties began in September, 2006.

Rev. Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo (Ho-Chunk), Pastor of All Nations Indian Church in Minneapolis, serves as the Interim Executive Director, of the Council for American Indian Ministry

Rev. Helgemo is no stranger to CAIM. She is the pastor of All Nations United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, she has worked with their National American Indian organizations while serving All Nations. She devotes much of her pastoral ministry to the urban setting and serving on city boards and agencies that serve the native community. At the same time, she is familiar with reservation life and rural communities.

Rev. Helgemo will continue as pastor of All Nations while serving CAIM as its executive director.

Rev. Helgemo’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Representing CAIM in the national UCC settings and the local settings of American Indian Congregations.
  • Working with the Board to clarify and establish contemporary guidelines of governance for the organization.
  • Being the pastor to the pastors and lay leaders of CAIM.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23:6