NNI "Tribal Constitutions" seminar presenters, panelists and participants Robert Breaker, Julia Coates, Frank Ettawageshik, Miriam Jorgensen, Gwen Phillips, Ian Record, Melissa L. Tatum and Joan Timeche field questions from the audience about separations of powers, citizenship, blood quantum and other critical constitutional issues.
Breaker, Robert. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.
Coates, Julia. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.
Ettawageshik, Frank. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.
Jorgensen, Miriam. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.
Phillips, Gwen. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.
Tatum, Melissa L. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.
Timeche, Joan. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.
Ian Record (moderator): "If we can have our panelists from the last couple days and speakers come up to the front. We have Julia [Coates], Frank Ettawageshik, Miriam [Jorgensen], Joan [Timeche]. We're also going to ask two other participants here to join us who have a great deal of expertise in the area of tribal governance and constitutions and constitutional reform. We have with us Melissa Tatum. Melissa is the new director -- she's actually been with the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the Law School here at the University of Arizona for three or four years -- but recently was promoted from Associate Director to Director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program, and she's got a great deal of expertise in this area, works with a lot of different tribes on these sorts of issues. For several years, [she] served on the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals, and so she has a lot of experience in the area of dispute resolution and why that is so critical to effective governance. Bob [Breaker] is a long time friend of the Native Nations Institute and is a former First Nations leader, or, I would argue, still a First Nations leader. He consults with a number of First Nations up in Canada on these sorts of issues. Gwen [Phillips] has now joined us, so we've got a full panel here, and you guys can just swing the microphones depending on who the question is being addressed to. We're just going to open it up for questions now. We've got some expertise here in the room, that if you guys have any other questions based upon what you heard from each other. I feel like after listening to your feedback in this last session, some of you ought to be up here as well talking about some of these issues. Anyone have any opening questions, or are you going to leave it to me to pepper these folks?"
Gwen Phillips: "Let me start with a comment actually. I was mentioning to Ian just during the break there that I've really, really tried hard and I try hard to follow appreciative inquiry. So when someone says to me, ‘How are you?' I used to say, ‘Not bad.' And then I thought, ‘What am I doing trying to be bad? I'm not bad.' So I try to say ‘pretty good,' keep to the positive. Now I was challenged because, maybe it's because I come from Canada where we had King George and his gentlemanly ways and it was a different situation down here with the Indian wars, etc., and maybe it's because the Canadian national anthem speaks about our home...and down here it's bombs and things, I don't know. But I'll tell you what I noticed. We've been grappling with concepts that are foreign in my culture. We've been talking about separation of powers, not about separation of responsibility or function, and that, people, creates a whole different paradigm in your mind. Power. Who doesn't want power? Well, I don't, because I know what it really means. It means responsibility. Then you have to actually have the ability to respond. I want us to start thinking about unpacking some of those varied terms, because we hear this concept of cultural fit, and when I asked about the concept of power with our cultural elders they said, ‘That's spirit. Power is spirit.' We've heard pipe and politics don't mix. So I'm suggesting, let's put politics aside and bring governance, because the pipe does fit with governance, it fits with ceremony, and when we bring our culture and customs back and we start talking about function and responsibility, it's a whole different conversation we perhaps can have, and maybe that goes back to the where do we start. So it was a really challenging time for me as I kept hearing about separation of power, separation of power, because I tell you, you give people power, they assume that role, so it might be just a thing for us to think about the words we use and how we bring them to life in our communities."
Record: "Gwen's comment calls to mind Governor Rich Luarkie from Laguna Pueblo, who we've been inviting to events like this to share how they govern. They have a very traditional governance system, much like Cochiti Pueblo, and Regis Pecos shared with you a lot about how they govern yesterday. And he said, ‘You know, when I was chosen to be governor, I wasn't given power, I was given great responsibility.' And I think this echoes what Gwen is saying is that when you think about how do we make sure that our governance system and our constitution reflects who we are as a people, reflects, protects and advances our culture, you've got to reconceive everything, because the federal government has spent the last 100, 150 years redesigning that paradigm for you. And it boils down to terms, it boils down to words, and you've got to start at the very, very basic foundations and kind of with a clean slate and not presume that everyone understands what separations of powers means. I've worked with a number of tribes where every campaign season that word, that term gets thrown around left and right, left and right, and I can tell that a lot of people that are throwing it around as they run for office, they have no idea what they're talking about. They have no idea what separations of power means. Usually, for them it means we're going to try to separate the current elective leadership from their power and then I'm going to have the power. We have a question over here in the back, I believe."
Frank Ettawageshik: "I wanted to expand just briefly on what I just heard, and that is what was shared with us earlier about the pipe and politics, and I like the way you put that. The pipe and governance do fit, and I think that's the, that's something that we really have to be aware of, because there are a lot of people who say we have to choose to be traditional or be involved in tribal governance, one or the other. Well, the thing is, our traditional governance was traditional, it was the spiritual part, all of that was involved in it. And so to me it's an important thing for us to think about, that perhaps the way that we perceive politics today certainly...I think back on a cartoon I used to have on my wall. It was one of those Ashley Brilliant cartoons. It had this...it was this cabin at the side of this big valley and there was a porch on it and there were two rocking chairs on it. And the sun was setting over the hills in the distance and these two older men were sitting in the rockers rocking back and forth. One leans over to the other and says, ‘You know, anybody who will do what it takes to get elected, is clearly unfit for office.' Well, to me I think that that sort of builds on what you were saying, and I really wanted to build on that because what we're really talking about, what I've gotten out of this conference has been the idea that it's not only a good idea, but it's essential that we tie what we do in our reforms of our governments, that we tie that to our traditions, and in some cases it's tie it to a thriving tradition. In some cases, we have traditions that are evolving or traditions that are being resurrected or strengthened again. But we have to keep that as the foremost reason behind us, because it really is what our identity is, it's where we come from, it's who we are, and that is essential to our inherent sovereignty. So I always feel that those are important things to think of and I wanted to expand on that briefly while I had that thought in my head. Thank you."
Melissa Tatum: "And could I expand on that a little bit further, because one of the things that I feel very strongly about is that tribes need to consciously claim the language of sovereignty when they're reforming their government, and that means using separation of powers if it's appropriate, if it's a cultural fit, adopting some other means of allocating responsibility and government functions depending on the tribe. But it also means being conscious of how certain words and phrases are viewed by other governments. For example, the three that I often use as examples are in the United States, tribes talk about membership and who's a member of a tribe. But private clubs have memberships, country clubs have memberships, governments have citizens. So we should be talking about citizenship and who are citizens of the government. One of the things that's used a lot -- I work a lot with tribal courts -- there's a movement to develop tribal common law, or it's sometimes called ‘custom and tradition' and then when lawyers, Anglo-American lawyers, hear this phrase ‘custom and tradition,' they're like, ‘Oh, how quaint. Custom and tradition.' But yet if you look at the definition of Anglo-American common law, it's the norms of society. That's what custom and tradition is. So simply instead of talking about custom and tradition, talking about common law triggers a different response in outsiders, even though it's the same thing internally. But the other example I use, since I work a lot in the tribal courts and the criminal justice system, is in the United States there's been some discussion in recent years about ‘banishment' and about tribes using banishment. But every government on this planet has a method of removing people who misbehave from their society. It's just usually called ‘deportation.' And so we need to be conscious of the words we use and the labels we put on things, because words do have power and do have meaning and we need to be conscious not only of internal fit, but how those words are received by the outside world, too."
Record: "We have a question in the back here."
Q: "I just asked Frank a question out in the hallway, and I'll sort of repeat it here for everyone and maybe get other perspectives as well. I was asking a little bit about the process of implementation, so that if perchance at White Earth or other nations are faced with the fact where we pass a constitution by referendum vote, then how are the different ways that implementation of that constitution might happen so that we can do that in the best way possible with hopefully the least amount of upheaval?"
Ettawageshik: "One of the things that we did is that we put a clause in our constitution that said that after it was adopted through election, it wouldn't go into effect until the officers that were going to run that government were elected and were sworn in and that that's the point when it would go into effect. It's really important to provide for that transition. Otherwise, you can end up with a real mess of who is responsible, who has...what duties do they have, and it can really be a mess. And so I really recommend that in any time that you're doing, to do amendments -- particularly ones that have a fundamental change in the structure of the government -- that you need to be sure to have something like that in there. The other one we put in was a clause that acknowledged all prior actions of the government. Basically it said that all prior actions of the government will remain in full force to the extent that they are compatible with the new constitution. So that leaves it open to interpretation. Someone can say it is, someone can say it isn't. What I said, what that does is it gives the court something to do for several years as you go through that process. But those are two things. From an implementation point of view, we went, it was important to us to... we'd been holding internal discussions, but it was important -- you know how they say an expert is somebody who's at least 500 miles away from home -- well, we had to hire somebody from at least 500 miles away to come to talk to us about this. But what we did is we brought them in and we gave them a copy of the constitution, we had them read it -- it was a couple of people that did this -- and we had them read it and we said, ‘We don't want you to tell us what's wrong with this. What you're here to do is to tell us how we implement this.' In other words, ‘How do we appropriate money under this, what kind of actions, describe the kind of actions that we're going to do,' so that we hear from someone else, and we had all of the council, the existing judges, we had the key staff, the tribal attorneys, everybody was in the room for this session that we went through where we had a period of time. And in our case, we did a full-day session on Saturday and on Sunday we swore in the new officers and had the constitution there. But for several weeks prior to that, we had taken, at council meetings we had passed certain things that would need to be in place that could exist under the old constitution and the new but would have to be in place. So we had a period of transition and it took several months to do that. So I would think that you need to anticipate that, you need to sort of think that process through and give some time, so that you don't just switch overnight from one to the other. Those would be what I would say, I'm not sure what other people may have to say on that."
Phillips: "Depending upon what constitutional reform you're doing, you may actually be able to do an incremental implementation, and for us that's been key, because we're talking about a whole big nation-rebuilding process, two years to get a vision adopted, two years to declare what our values are, etc. So what we've been doing is as we've confirmed something, we turn it into a regulation of some sort. It becomes a code, it becomes a policy, it becomes something, and then as it becomes complete, it's accepted, it becomes the norm. Then it's a lot easier to migrate those things that people can accept already into the master document. So if you look at an overall reform process that's going to take you ten years, pick the pieces you really need to have in place so that you can get comfort to move through those processes further and try to get some support for those incremental pieces and then migrate them to the master document later on."
Record: "Gwen brings up a really good point -- and Miriam, maybe you can speak to this, and I think she's getting ready to -- but I've seen some examples where tribes have staggered implementation of certain reforms, where in a referendum vote by the people they'll pass a certain number of reforms but those reforms don't all take place at the same time. There's a gradual acclimation process, which I think is very purposeful, where they want to do certain changes first and have those take effect first so people can begin to acclimate to the new way that things are going to be done."
Jorgensen: "I wanted to reflect on two different nations that we've seen kind of go through this sort of wave process. When you first do, implement a set of reforms, you're kind of going high and then you may slip back a little bit and you keep pushing forward. So anticipate that rush forward, pull back, rush forward, pull back thing. That's just the way implementation takes place, and know that that's going to occur. But I did want to talk about two nations, Osage Nation and Northern Cheyenne Tribe, which have had some mixed success but also have managed to do some reforms. Northern Cheyenne was done in the 1990s. They attempted a separation of responsibility, which for them they actually called their separation of powers ordinance, so that was a place where that term had meaning to them in a different way than power this way. They had a constitutional change and then they backed up that change with an ordinance in the way that Gwen has been talking about, to sort of clarify it and regularize sort of the agreement that was the constitutional-level agreement. And then they really tried to live that and they consciously lived it and here's what I mean. That when you would go there -- and I was doing some research at the time in the criminal justice area -- so I was spending a lot of time talking to the court and a lot of time talking to the legislature and a lot of time talking to the president and they would say, ‘Well, I can comment on that, but we don't make those decisions, because we have a separations of powers, here it is in the ordinance, here it is in our constitution.' They were very consciously engaging with those documents and publicly stating how they lived it. And so you talked to the folks on the court side and they said, ‘Well, I can speak to that and give you my opinion, but we do not do that. We have a separations of power and that's the job of the legislature.' So they were kind of embracing that. I think what's really interesting is that if you read -- and I'm not sort of saying this from a sort of Western hierarchical viewpoint but from rather looking at another tribe changing its constitution -- when you look at the early founding of the United States, a lot of the folks that we call our founding mothers and fathers had this notion as well for the Americans, that they said, ‘We're going to try to really live what we wrote down in those documents.' And they created in their writing and their public declarations that reference back to documents of change. So that was one of the things that Jefferson and Madison and folks like that were trying to do for the tribe of Americans who had just won their independence from the British.
And the third example I want to give is the Osage Nation. Two things that I think were interesting for implementation. First off, every time the new Congress of the Osage Nation under their new constitution passed a law, that the executive branch and the president's office, or I guess the chief's office, had to implement and the chief actually had to sign off on the laws -- that was part of their constitutional procedure. And sometimes he felt those laws were unconstitutional and he actually had to specify in a long note back to Congress why it had to go back to Congress to be fixed. And he had to refer in that memo, or his staff did, whoever wrote it for him, saying, ‘This is why I am not signing it,' and it had to refer to the constitution, the use of the constitution and why it was true. So again, that's that living the document. When I was watching, we took a class field trip down for a course that I teach down to Osage Nation and watched their Congress in action and the congress had actually hired a clerk to assist the speaker of the Congress in implementing the constitution, to say, ‘Okay, can we do this now? Is this what we do next?' I liked that because it didn't say, ‘Suddenly we passed a new constitution and every single member of our legislature or our council is suddenly an expert in the constitution.' Their clerk was their expert in the constitution, and that clerk made it their job to know exactly what to do, and if they didn't they were going to refer to advisors who would help them interpret their constitution. So it helped the Congress implement in a way that didn't assume that they, ‘Oh, we've got a new document, now we just implement it.' So they were trying to adopt these ways to live through their new documents."
Record: "One other thing that we've seen a few tribes do is approach it with the mindset -- and we've heard allusions to it this morning -- of saying, ‘We don't have to do everything that we think we might need to change at once.' I worked with one tribe where they did a lot of the right things. They put together a constitution reform committee that was independent of the political leaders, that represented a cross section of everyone in the community. They had elders, young people, traditional people, folks with Christian backgrounds -- all that stuff. They left them alone to do their work, do their deliberations. They had come to an agreement on several really important changes, things like creating a strong and independent court system, which you've heard over the last couple days is absolutely critical. But they got derailed because of one thing, which was a requirement for all elected officials to speak the language of the tribe. And because of that one conflict, it derailed the whole process, and to date that tribe has not been able to ratify reform, to ratify change, when they had so many other changes, critical changes that would have made their governing system incredibly more effective, [they] were not able to do that because of this one conflict. Because there were people on that constitutional reform committee that contemplated a future in politics who didn't speak the language, were deeply committed to the Nation, but didn't speak the language and said, ‘I'm not going to sign off on something that's going to preclude me from ever running for elected office.' So that's something to think about. I realize it's a very difficult challenge to consider when you think of the urgency of reform in many Native communities."
Tatum: "Could I just add one more thing to that. A lot of the comments are things to anticipate. I think one thing that has to also be anticipated when you're drafting a constitution is that unanticipated things are going to happen. There are going to be crisis points, and a lot of times having a process, an agreed-upon process or an agreed-upon manner of either who's going to resolve it or how it's going to be resolved is critical to making sure progress can continue, even if it's in waves. We heard a little bit about this this morning with Cherokee Nation. There have been several crisis points in the Cherokee Nation, but yet there's always been some sort of process come through, that the Nation was able to agree on a process and that kind of process is really important. So be thinking about that as you're drafting the constitution as well."
Record: "I had a question to follow up on this citizenship discussion. Gwen and I were talking actually before we started this session about what are the role of citizens in this new government you're trying to create? And should you be explicitly addressing the roles and responsibilities of citizens, not just your elected leaders and the people who are in charge of the government, but your actual common citizens? What is their role in the future of the nation? And how do you articulate that? And I know, Frank, you and I have had long discussions about this, and I know that your nation went to great lengths, for instance, to reconceive, ‘What is the role of government in the life of the nation?' And also in so doing trying to reconceive for the citizens what is their role in the life of the nation."
Phillips: "So the investigation I was looking at giving some conclusion to is, are there any constitutions that begin with rather than ‘We the people,' that begin with ‘I the citizen'? And the reason I say that is because in the work we're doing in defining our vision statement -- strong healthy citizens and communities, that component of it -- we're getting a pretty clear picture of what a strong, healthy Ktunaxa person is. So once we know that, who's obligated? Is it the government's responsibility to shape the citizen, or is it the citizen's responsibility to shape the government? Well, I think it's the latter, that it's the citizen's responsibility. So as soon as we put...but we've also, as I say, concerned ourselves with having the ability to respond, not just saying it's your responsibility but do you have the opportunity, do you have the comprehension you need, do you have all the variables. So I was suggesting that as we have this picture we needed to describe our government as being, ‘I am the citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation, I have a responsibility to insure I do the best I can with my life to not burden my people with my legacy of ill health and all that other crap that we bring to the table at the end of it all, and expecting somebody to come out with a big box of band aids and fix me.' So as we're having this conversation at home, people are saying, ‘Yes we have, yes we have.' And we're putting in these various actions. Somebody said they got a lot of action going on to battle diabetes but again, that's government creating a program to take care of a condition rather than saying, ‘Hello, whose condition is this?' So, I'm just interested to see where this might go as far as, and I'm going to take it home with me for sure and see if we can't work it from that place, ‘cause I think it is really an empowering...I don't know how many of you have the ‘us and them' thing going on at home, where ‘us' is the people and ‘them' is the government and how we reform the government either in the community government or at the nation level, it becomes the ‘them' and the ‘them.' The ‘them' is them at the community level and then there's the ‘them' at the...it's weird. But there's never the ‘I' in any of that. It's always the ‘we' and the ‘them' and the ‘us,' so I'm thinking it might be time to put the I's back into place."
Ettawageshik: "The simplest way that I think about this is to say that the government isn't the tribe, the government serves the tribe. And so on any given day, most of the tribal members are cooking and eating and working and having birthday parties and getting married or getting divorced or doing this or doing that or doing something else, and they're all going through their lives doing things and they don't really say, ‘Gee, I wonder what the council's doing right now? I wonder what the executive assistant to the chairman's doing right now?' Very rarely those thoughts are there. And so what happens is we -- those of us who are in the government -- we get so involved, there's so much pressure, and we get so overloaded with all of the things that are going on, and then we see the importance, these long-term things we have to be working on, and there's all this stuff we can't get to that we want to because we're too busy doing the things that we have to do right then. And there's all this stuff going on, and it's really easy for us to just forget that we aren't everything that's going on and so you get this very sort of view with blinders almost sometimes, the leadership. Plus, then we also have all of the tribal citizens coming in insisting that we do a bunch of things that maybe we shouldn't do. Maybe when they come in and say, ‘We want you to do this,' we say, ‘Well, that isn't my role, this is what the constitution says I'm supposed to do.' But most people will say, ‘You know, I'll look into that. I'll look into that and get back to you.' And so then they run off on an investigation doing something that maybe they really shouldn't be doing or however, and what happens is that our citizens, their expectation of the government, we have to really work on making sure that that matches what our documents are, so there's an education in this. But we have to be real careful to not think of the government as the tribe, and remember that the tribe can generally get along without us a lot of the time. They need us every now and then and when they need us they really need us, they put us out front and we do what we're supposed to do, but the rest of the time, we just sort of have to stay out of their way and let them be who they are and let the tribe do what it's going to do. We're not responsible for educating every child. We're not responsible for growing all the food or buying all the food. We're not responsible for that. We're responsible for helping to create an environment in which our citizenry can do all those things for themselves and that's really what the thing...and that's where the I's start coming in, that the people have that, ‘cause they expect the government to do too much. And we can't pander to those thoughts. So when they come to us, we have to be really careful, and so a big part of what I considered in my job as a chairman was to talk people out of doing things that were sort of, probably not in their best interest."
Julia Coates: "I have so many thoughts about this conversation, because I'm coming here today, to this whole event, with a great deal of deep pain and deep grief for what has recently happened in my government, because we have had all of this, everything. To me, we've been moving so energetically with all of these thoughts for the past 12 years under leadership that has been reelected over three times and this message of the government, ‘I'm not supposed to do all of this for you, some of this you have to do for yourself.' There's been a backlash to some extent. There's been a very strong backlash, and there has been an individual who -- and pander is exactly the right word -- has pandered to that backlash greatly in the whole situation. And the government, the tribe could go on without the government, but in my tribe at least we've got very clear evidence of what happens when the government isn't there, because the government wasn't there for much of the 20th century and we were plowed into the ground by federal policy. And the government may not be primarily a social services agency, it needs to act as a government, but part of its role as a government is to stand between its citizens and those forces that are coming at them, that the citizens themselves are not equipped to hold off necessarily.
The process of education is one that I'm extremely interested in with everything that has happened. This is where all of my efforts are going to be going for the next few years, because in reflection when I think back about, ‘What was the mistake? What was one of the major mistakes of this government that was working? All of the books on development that you all have put out and everything, I teach those, I would read those and I'd say, ‘We're doing this, we're doing this, we're doing this.' It was textbook and it was working. I'll tell you, in eight months we have taken 20 years off of that progress, and it's sickening to me what is taking place right now, and I just think the educational process has got to be, it's got to be part of it. It's got to come from the people, but it's got to come from the government as well. I don't think it's one or the other. I think there's got to, at some point, be a place where they meet up and they begin to have this dialogue. And in reflection, that may have been one of the greatest things, is that while I sat in as part of the government on a lot of conversations about vision and all of these kinds of statements, apparently that didn't get communicated to the people, we didn't get communication from the people about it to the extent that we thought we had. I was out there teaching it, a number of other people were but, and I don't know if it's just a matter of we're so big that it just is going to take a long time to get out there but..."
Tatum: "Could you add just a word or two about your work as an at-large representative and how the Cherokee approaches that, ‘cause you'll be out here again on Saturday."
Coates: "The Cherokee Nation has under the previous administration -- the present administration is doing something different -- but we had an initiative where we were able to identify areas where we had concentrations of our tribal citizens, mostly urban areas in the west, and we undertook a process of actually organizing them, because when you've got 3,000 households of Cherokees in Los Angeles -- where there are 15 million people -- how do they ever find each other becomes the first question. So we actually, as a government initiative, we actually started putting them together and helping them to form what we called their satellite organizations and we have 22 of them now, one of which is in Tucson and we have one in Phoenix also. And we began a process of strong interaction between the government and the citizens, but under the present administration again this is all being sort of derailed into politics. They saw these -- the people that I represent tended to be very, very strongly supportive of the previous administration, so my interaction with them is seen as a threat. They're trying to cut me off basically from being able to interact with my constituents. They're trying to place people who are basically cheerleaders for this administration into positions of working with them even though those people are not qualified to be doing this particular kind of work. So it's an initiative -- which rather than seen as something to build and strengthen the nation -- is something that is presently being regarded as the at-large people and their organizations are kind of a political football, have become that and have been made that, unfortunately. Very, very rapidly all of these things are taking place, and I just think about how long it takes. I mean we're talking here about years and years and years of building constitutions, and how hard that work is, and how long it takes to do that, and just watching how quickly it can be taken apart is so dismaying on the other hand as well.
But I think the educational process...we have recently started -- myself and a couple of other people -- our present tribal government is actually prohibiting us from teaching a tribal history course right now, because it is perceived that its emphasis on sovereignty is undesirable. They think we should go back to emphasizing culture, and there's nothing wrong with that, but who teaches sovereignty? Teaching cultural and social things is actually the more typical thing we find that is done in teaching tribal history. To teach a history of legal sovereignty, who does that? It's been tremendously effective, and that's the threat, that's the great threat. So it's even things like this that are coming apart. So we've started an initiative that we're going to have to fund somewhere else, we're going to have to try and build this as a really grassroots thing, which is hard, but we're calling it Education in Sovereignty, or at least that's the little behind he colon name of the project and that's what it's for. And it's just basically developing a number of workshops to help people understand how the government functions. How do you read a budget? Why is it important that your government doesn't run your businesses? Because we're heading back in that direction very quickly. All of these kinds of things that the people just don't understand, and the message that, ‘We're going to give you this, we're going to serve you in this way, you're going to get this program, you're going to get that house, you're going to get this' -- it really played well with the people unfortunately, and that was not the message of the previous administration and to some extent they went down because it wasn't the message."
Timeche: "I'd just like to follow up on some of the comments that were made earlier about individual versus tribal responsibility, and I'm always reminded about, constantly about our own upbringing in our own communities -- a lot of what Regis Pecos shared with us yesterday morning about core values, remembering who we are, remembering our identity. I was fortunate in that I was able to be raised in Hopi values that we're to be self sustaining, contributing members, citizens of our society and that we as individuals, we have responsibilities. Yes, we have rights, but with those rights come responsibilities. And I think that sometimes we take those things for granted, they're not written, they're taught to us by our parents, our Elders, our grandparents and our societies that we may be part of. Those are all engrained in us and we don't necessarily see it on paper, and we forget that it's there because we're bombarded by everything coming at us from all sides, and just the world as it's changing, quickly changing every day. So I think that if you think about some of the message that Regis was sharing with us yesterday, it's going back and taking that time to find out and remember and reinforce or reiterate, ‘Who are we? What do we believe in? What are our core values and who bears that responsibility to do that?' Because nobody is going to do this for us except us. It's going to be me, it's going to be people individually in my family. Each one of us bears that responsibility, and so we may write them in our constitution -- that was one of the proposed revisions in the Hopi constitution, this latest version, is to include an extensive list of a Bill of Rights. But there was no mention whatsoever about what our responsibilities were as individual citizens. So I think that's something -- I would really like to see that being added to my constitution."
Robert Breaker: "I just wanted to...I came as a participant, so I come from the north just to get replenished in regards to nation building. I do a lot of work with [First] Nations in Canada, and one of the exercises I always facilitate for leadership is to consider where you came from, what your original story is, and really have them articulate the journey that they've traveled to the current, and most times it's the same, absolutely the same. And so today, we talk about our rights. There's two types of nations that I come across. One is proactive nations that have taken the tools of constitution to establish their rights as a nation including their citizens. Others are reactive nations that haven't established those critical tools that they have had from the past and reenacted them in the formation of their clans, their societies, etc. And at the same time they're losing language, and always the question is, ‘If there is no more speakers of the language, can we call ourselves an Indigenous nation?' That's the dialogue that's occurring.
But I also have gone, more so in my nation...I would almost consider it a miracle. We have a young man that lives a good life and he goes and he fasts and he was given gifts and one of the gifts is our language. So here's an individual that through family not using the language, he lost the language, and so now he has that gift to not only lead ceremony, heal people, but also speak the language and I just say, ‘Wow. There is hope in relation to affirm, I guess, who we are through those processes whatever they may be.' But also at the same time, citizen engagement. A lot of nations are challenged when they look inside and they see a lot of dysfunctions, so always the thinking is, ‘The only happy people are the people that are healthy, that can think healthy, that can make healthy decisions.' So the biggest challenge in regards to citizenship engagement is to find ways and means to get our people healthy again and that way we can insure the continuance of our nations into a good future.
And I always say I think those are the challenges, and so when I do work with these nations, I also understand we have comfort zones through these colonizations and I always say [that] somebody needs to develop not only treatment centers for people with addictions to alcohol, to drugs, etc., etc., we also need treatment centers to not to think the BIA, INAC [Indian and Northern Affairs Canada] is the only good thing in the world -- that type of scenario. I just think this particular session allows individuals like myself to think beyond just what was given to us or forced onto us. We need to take back what was rightfully ours and continues in the future. So always the question is, ‘What legacy do I leave my children, my grandchildren?' And that's prayer -- to know who I am, be linked back into the societies, to know the songs, to know the ceremonies and all the things that are linked to who I am. And a part of that process is to ground myself, to really know who I am and what is it that I need to do in order to sustain my future of our nation. So it's a part of the citizenship engagement. So how do I -- I'm not elected leadership -- but in my own best way, I am a leader and I always have been, so how do instill that into the children, into the future generations to sustain who we are into the future? I just wanted to make that comment."
Phillips: "I wanted to pick up a little bit on just the comment around culture and sort of the course works in culture and social stuff on one side. That's all over the place. It's like we don't dare go and teach this stuff because it's this stuff, but we're safe teaching about these things over hear ‘cause it's kind of all out there. Well, guess what? We use this thing to do this because it's the same thing. We cannot talk about sovereignty without talking about our culture. In the work I do at home, in supporting our negotiations for treaty and developing our constitution and regulations, I had the challenge put to me by, and I'm smiling because this was to me like, ‘Oh, my god, really?' by the federal and provincial government. They wanted to make sure that our documents had a cultural fit and I said, ‘But we've been writing them ourselves from our people. I come from the community I...' But it was like, it was a boom for me, so I said, ‘Yeah, how do we know there's a cultural fit?' So I sat with the elders advisory and we went through all of these things and we came up with all of this list and it was good and it was directly, of course they were all there. But I just said to myself, ‘It's so clear that when they think of culture, they think about beads and feathers, and the rest of it all is whatever.' It's so critical to us that we don't let our kids think of culture as being the language only or making baskets, that we teach them the very essence of being [Ktunaxa language], of knowing where their root is and all of those things. That's governance, that's self-governance.
The other comment I wanted to make was the reason why it took us two years to approve a vision statement is because it's not the government's vision statement, it's the nation's vision statement. And the kids in the school drew pictures of what they saw it representing. It went all over to the elders, it got translated into the language and back again to make sure there was a cultural fit. Do we actually understand these concepts? And that was where we understood what strength was. When we said, ‘Define strength,' they said, ‘That's your spiritual power.' It wasn't about physical strength, it wasn't about all of these other things, it was that piece of it. And then healthy was those other things. Healthy was the body, healthy was the other things, but the string piece was the orchestration and the meaningfulness to bring those other things together. The values that we expressed are not the government's values, and believe me it's sometimes a choke for them to live up to those values, because one of them has been translated to a principle that says ‘ecological integrity takes precedence over economic gain.' Hmm. So what we are doing is developing -- outside of the constitution -- things like, we've got a strategic framework for the nation, which includes planning and evaluation cycles for all components from work plans all the way up to when do we evaluate the competencies of our governors, when do we look at structural issues, etc. because that's going to again inform us. Now we don't embed that in the constitution, because we don't know if it's going to work right, and that's why I'm thinking these ten years of amendments or ten amendments over ten years I'm going, ‘Oh, my god, our people would never have survived that. But they will adopt a set of values, they'll adopt that and they'll embrace that so we have to have the people, it has to be the people's,' ‘cause that's what again I'm saying about it's not the government, it's the people. So as of late, when we get these conversations about the us and them start to happen, it's a real reminder. We keep saying to people, ‘When you're a leader and they come at you like that you say, ‘I was a citizen before I took this chair and when I leave this chair I am still a citizen so what makes you think I'm different when I sit here.’ So we've got to try to remember that piece of it as well. You were, you are, you will be."
Q: "I have a question, but I want to make some comments first regarding the constitution that brought up. Our constitution, when we adopted it back in '86, the three branches, they were given four powers, the legislative, to make laws, executive to implement but also have the veto power, and the judicial to interpret the laws. All the rest that were put in there, and I agree, were just duties and responsibilities that we need to carry out, those aren't the powers. Those are duties and responsibilities. I agree on that portion.
Just a question. Yesterday, I heard regarding the enrollment. We have a problem regarding our own enrollment process. Yesterday, I heard about the blood quantum, putting in a degree of blood that may drive your tribe into extinction, but on the other hand, the way we have it set up on the Tohono O'odham Nation, it's based -- as far as to become a member -- it's based on your base roll, the descendants from your base roll. And there's another section that's based on residency. So when we look at those and looking at the trend, it seems to be heading in the same direction, going into extinction, because our blood degree is just getting lower and lower in both categories. So is there another way, is there another option that we can look at as far as without going extinct?"
Phillips: "We don't use blood quantum in Canada for the most part. However Indian Affairs tries to do it through a hidden mechanism in the Indian Act where they'll, ‘Your mother and your daddy and your...,' and pretty soon you're cut off, you're cut off through the status process. But as a nation in our treaty making, in our self-government expressions, and even prior to assertion of those things in a formal way, we've already said, ‘We don't care about status and we don't care about residency, that we as a nation will determine who are citizens.' And so we've created a number of categories, one of which is a descendancy through blood. But another one is adoption and there's another one that basically -- well, it's kind of a quasi adoption. An adoption would be sort of the formal place. But there's another one that's a recognition clause, and it's kind of in contention right now, because some of the elders, the real elders -- and I'll talk about the people that were there 100 years ago -- they'll tell us that, ‘Come, sit, let me talk to you.' After awhile -- and you were sharing these stories with us at the break -- pretty soon that person's a Ktunaxa. They think Ktunaxa, they act Ktunaxa, they speak Ktunaxa, therefore they are Ktunaxa. That's the old elders and then you get the ones that were sort of in the residential school place and subject to a lot of racism and subject to a lot of racial-program criteria and all of the above, and they get kind of, ‘Uh, no, you're white or you're this or you're that or the other.' We're coming back to that point of recognizing because of the loss of our language that it might be important for us to say, ‘Hey, you speak Ktunaxa, you want to speak Ktunaxa, you want to be a citizen?' That we might actually tie something to the language ability, because we need people to speak, and if people see a privilege of being associated with us and are willing to actually be a keeper of that language, some of us are going, ‘I don't care what color you are. If you will be an active keeper of the language, we will turn you into a Ktunaxa person.' So there's differences in opinion about what a Ktunaxa is, and as we describe strong, healthy Ktunaxa citizens, it doesn't say anything about blood. It's all about the way you behave, the things you do, the associations that you portray, etc. So there's some discussion underway right now because...and it's interesting, I was just saying to somebody, ‘Do you know what the Métis in Canada, what their symbol for their nation is?' The infinity symbol, because they have, it's all based on them just saying, ‘Oh, you're Métis, you're Métis, you're Métis.' But there's some governance interference in that right now because they're saying, ‘Oh, there's too many Métis.' Louis Riel, you can tell he was French, hey. He was an Indian, he had that French thing in there, he knew how to get a deal."
Ettawageshik: "I wanted to address that idea about citizenship. If you chose, you could become a naturalized citizen of most of the nation states in this world, and it would require renouncing other citizenships in some cases, some cases it doesn't, but you could go and you could study and you could learn and you could take a test so that you had the basics of what you needed to be a citizen. And somewhere along the line people started looking at us and thinking in terms of blood quantum, and they started to use it as a way of measuring us. And they sold it to us, they sold it to us so well that we think it's our own idea now. And we're living with it and we are, as I said yesterday and one of my favorite phrases these days is, why do we need an oppressor when we do his work so well? Well, this whole concept of tying citizenship to blood quantum is something that we're going to really have to think about in the future, because we have people who -- at home we refer to people that are -- we say ‘apples' -- they're red on the outside but white on the inside. In other words, they have, they look Indian, they maybe have an Indian name or Indian family name, but they haven't lived the culture, they don't know the language, they don't live on the reservation, and some of them don't even live anywhere near other Natives, and yet they still would meet the blood quantum requirement for being a citizen of our nation. Some people talk about when the blood quantum gets diluted we lose a lot. Well, it isn't just the blood quantum. When the knowledge of our culture and our language and the tie to our land gets diluted, have we not also lost just as much? And so somehow we have to be thinking about what it means to be a citizen and we need to think of, ‘If we were going to have a naturalized citizen of each of our tribal nations, what is it that we would require of that person to become a naturalized citizen?' Now, under all the regulations with the Bureau and all these other things, though we could never get any funding for this person, so we would have to think about what that meant, and there's all these other different issues that are out there. But we shouldn't be thinking about that as the criteria for what our citizens are, for what citizenship is, because that citizenship is really what's going to perpetuate us in the long run and we have to think about that. And we're nowhere near there, because I know across Indian Country the idea of, every tribe is doing this a little differently, and in many of the tribes there's a pecking order of who has the highest blood quantum and there's all this sort of social strata that develops in ways. But we've bought into that, and the question is, we should really seriously think about where this is going to go in the long run and how we approach this. So your question I think is a very thought-provoking one, and one that we have to address. Each of us are going to do it in a different way, but we really need to think about what is it that we need to be a citizen. And I look at it as sort of...the term ‘cultural literacy' from 20, 30 years ago, there were lots of books about this and everybody was all excited about it, but I've still been thinking about that because I read those books and I thought about ‘What does it take to be a culturally literate Odawa? And what does that mean? What things do you have to know in order to fulfill that role? What does it mean to be an informed citizen so that you can actually live up to your responsibilities not just demand your rights?' And I think that those are the kind of things that we have to do and I don't have answers. I just know that this is a question that in Indian Country and all across the Indigenous nations of the world all of us have to be thinking about this."
Coates: "When I address this subject -- and again I teach entire classes about this one topic of identity and sort of how it gets defined -- the three most prominent categories seem to be the political identity of citizenship and sovereignty, and I love it that people are shifting the language away from member to citizen, and that to me is the broadest sort of category. It's the one that is inclusive. The racial category -- which is what we're really talking about with blood quantum -- is probably the narrowest. And then you go to what I would call the ethnic or heritage or cultural category -- something along those lines -- which is broader than blood degree, but is still a more narrow category than simply that of citizen of a government. Because we also have to acknowledge that there are many citizens of governments that don't have that knowledge and maybe never will have that knowledge, but who are still willing to support those who do, to take action on behalf of those who want it and who will make an investment in those cultures, in those communities, in those nations nevertheless, even though they themselves may not hold out much hope for ever learning the language or being fluent in it and who may for whatever reasons not be able to acquire the degree of cultural knowledge. But we have to understand the racial one is the one that doesn't change. Everything else can change. There are potentials. As has been pointed out, you can relearn quite a great deal that you've never started out with. Culture doesn't flow in our bloods, it's something that we take on, and that investment, that understanding of nationality and of the people and of the communities is also something else that we can take on to greater and greater degrees and make those investments. So to me, those other categories, it's not about where people are in a fixed way, but it's about what people can become, and I think that that's what we have to, we have to open the doors for those possibilities, for those potentials, because if we don't, we're just going to have people drifting away into the generations. We're not going to be able to retain anybody with these very limited and fixed sorts of categories that we seem to be holding to."
Phillips: "...It's pretty much up to you when you determine when you want to start using the term ‘citizen' versus ‘member.' It's an internal concept, really. It's nobody telling you to do that. It's about you taking that on."
Q: "It's kind of like people using ‘Native American' versus ‘American Indian' versus all these other things that we've determined for ourselves and how we want to identify ourselves. So I think you have to be in a comfort zone when you express that so ‘citizen' for me is -- it's more standoffish for me. I don't identify with that because I identify that word with the United States government. That's just my feeling."
Phillips: "Yeah. And that, awhile ago probably would have been the feeling of some of our people, because they really looked at the membership with the Indian Act as being the only sacredness they had with relationship to who they were as an Indian. But as we've ‘Nike'd up,' people are saying, ‘No, no, we determine who we are. I am a citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation, and our government has just as much authority as...' So what I've done is I've created little hierarchical charts that show, ‘Guess what, we've got the Canadian government up here and guess what, right along it we've got the Ktunaxa government, ‘cause we have just as much authority as they do.' And then I show the provincial governments and here's all the subsidiary governments below them. So our own citizens get empowered to see that, ‘No, we can confer citizenship, because we have the same authority as that other government does.' Hierarchical. So it's an evolutionary process, but what it's allowed us to do, because that's where the government has defined us as being a member, as having status, as being eligible for programs and services, as being enumerated for certain things. We've said that doesn't cut the mustard as far as our traditions go. ‘You're Ktunaxa, you're not a second-generation cut off by the Indian Act, etc., you're still Ktunaxa.'
What we've done by asserting authority off tribal lands into the mainstream region is we have actually allowed ourselves and positioned ourselves to generate funds that are not tribal funds. We get mainstream dollars for providing services to mainstream people. We provide services through street operations for street people that the municipalities can't even touch because they just don't go there. They don't want those people in their health clinics, they don't want those people. But they always find us. Our child and family agency, we've got people saying that they're Aboriginal when we know darn well they're not, because they prefer our values and our services which are positioned upon appreciative inquiry, going in and helping the family get well, rather than going in and saying, ‘This is a bad family, we've got to take these kids away.' So we actually, I've said to the province of B.C., ‘Wait long enough, we'll take you over. We'll slowly get your citizens believing in our ways of doing and being.' And it's starting to happen. We've got training by our agencies going on around the province and I've actually had to say to our director in one of our agencies, ‘Okay, you step aside, I'm taking on the minister now,' because they've issued a directive to our agency, one of our agencies that says we have to switch to this provincial standard for programs and services and we're going, ‘No way, when we used your standards we didn't have any good outcomes. When we've developed our own standards, we do things our own way, we've proven that we can succeed in your domain through your quality control mechanisms, but more importantly we've got better outcomes for our people.' So I'm ready for that. I would love to make a full public statement in the Globe and Mail to say, ‘This is what's going on, people.' So we have to consciously think about what we're doing internally, and how that impacts what goes on around us, and that's where we get a lot of support from all of those other people that, heck, we've got Niedermeyer, the hockey guy. He's standing up for our glacier, for [Ktunaxa language], so it's like, yeah."
Tatum: "One thing that I'm very concerned [about] from my perspective as an Indian law scholar is when the word ‘member,' and ‘tribal member,' started being used frequently in the U.S. Supreme Court opinions, that's when the court started drastically reducing tribal authority over its own territory, and it's the only time the Supreme Court has really started consistently reducing the authority of a government over its territory, is by introducing this word ‘member' frequently into the dialogue, and so that's one of my concerns, too."
Q: "And the reason why I asked that question was because in our constitution and by-law right now, that's the word that's used is ‘tribal member.' So I wanted to get your input on that so we can wrap our minds around it and take it back and dialogue on it and decide what is best for us."
Ettawageshik: "I just wanted to say that in our constitution that was written over that ten-year period, adopted 2005, it uses the word ‘member,' too, but we just stopped using the word ‘member' and when we have a, when we define in a law, we say ‘member' equals ‘citizen,' and then we use the word ‘citizen' all the way through everything so that we've been, that's the way we've been incorporating it into our, into the way we do it, and we nearly have everybody saying ‘citizen.'"
Coates: "Our treaties from the 1800s all say ‘citizens' of the Cherokee Nation of Indians in them, and the rhetorical writings of Cherokees from the 1800s, they commonly used the term ‘citizen,' so I think it's something pretty longstanding with us."
Q: "I was just wondering if it would benefit all of us to be standardized, and I don't know if that would benefit all because having you help me understand that really helps me think on this end to what is best for all. Thank you."
Record: "Well, thank you everyone. We are running a bit behind schedule and we need to wrap up the day and the seminar and get everyone on their way. We'd like to thank all the panelists for their wisdom and insights.