Eva Petoskey: Empowering Good Leadership Through Capable Governance: What My Leadership Experience Taught Me

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Native Nations Institute
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Eva Petoskey, citizen and former council member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB), discusses her experiences as an elected leader during a pivotal time in GTB's history. She also stress the importance of Native nations developing capable institutions of self-governance in order to empower their leaders to think strategically, engage in informed decision-making, and focus their time and energy on achieving their nations' long-term priorities. Finally, she provides a detailed history of GTB's development of its revenue allocation ordinance.

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Petoskey, Eva. "Empowering Good Leadership Through Capable Governance: What My Leadership Experience Taught Me." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 3, 2013. Interview.

Ian Record:

"Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I'm your host, Ian Record. On today's program, we are honored to have with us Eva Petoskey. Eva is a citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and served as an elected member of the Grand Traverse Band Council from 1990 to 1996. She also is the better half of John Petoskey, longtime general counsel of the Grand Traverse Band, who is serving as Indigenous Leadership Fellow with the University of Arizona's Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy. Eva, welcome and good to have you with us today."

Eva Petoskey:

"Thank you for inviting me."

Ian Record:

"As I mentioned in your introduction, you served a total of six years as an elected council member of your nation during a critical time in the nation's growth and development. Can you briefly paint a picture of what that time was like and the kinds of decisions you were confronted with as an elected leader?"

Eva Petoskey:

"Sure, but first I think I'll introduce myself in our language because it is our custom when we're asked to speak, especially for our tribe or our experience with our tribe to do that. So [Anishinaabe language]; that's my Anishinaabe name and my clan. So now I'm in a better position to speak."

Ian Record:

"Okay. So I appreciate that and I was remiss -- I usually ask folks to introduce themselves when we start, but I'm curious, you and I have sat down a couple of times this week to talk about your leadership experience and you came into elected office at a really critical time and you mentioned a story that when you started in office the council actually met in a pole barn?"

Eva Petoskey:

"Well, actually our casino was operated in a pole barn and our council chambers were a very small room that we met in and so yeah, we were a much smaller operation and 1990 was two years after we finally adopted our constitution. We did receive federal recognition in 1980, but it took about eight years to get approval of our constitution because it had a lot of complicated issues. But once we had a constitution, we had elections and I was in the second cohort of elected tribal council members after our federal acknowledgement. So at that time, in 1990, our tribe employed about maybe 50 people, maybe that's on the high end of the estimate and currently we employ about 2,500 people. So you can see over the course of 25 years -- well, it isn't quite 25 years, I guess it's 13...I don't know, I can't do the math, whatever 1990 is from our current time here. I guess it is almost 25, 23 years, yeah -- so we've had a lot of growth and those six years that I served was a time when there was tremendous development.

We...I think...during that time, we signed the first gaming compact with the State of Michigan. Of course the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act had just been passed I think in '88 so we were among the new gaming tribes. We had a small gaming operation that was operated out of a small pole barn and it was making money, but after we entered into the compact and even before that time we did some gaming development locally and expanded our casino development. From the time I served from '90 to '96, we went from a small pole barn to two upgrades in a facility within our Leelanau County reservation, Grand Traverse Band Anishinaabe town reservation. And then later in 1996 -- at the end of my time of service -- we opened the Turtle Creek Casino, which is a large operation. So a lot of expansion in gaming, a lot of infrastructure development. I'm not a gambler; I really knew nothing about gaming, so a huge learning curve for me and other council members. Some of our council members had worked within the gaming operation so they knew more about the operation of the casino. I was totally new to that. I had come to it with about 15 years of work experience in human services, social services, education so I was not...that was a big learning curve for me and I think for all of us and a lot of the policy infrastructure that we had to develop.

In terms of other developments...do you want me to continue on? We had huge growth again in terms of health care. At the time that I was elected, we were operating our health clinic out of a modular building, a very small clinic that served primarily the Anishinaabe town community and we had a six county service area. So it was difficult for our members from other areas to come into the Anishinaabe town community because sometimes it was as much as a 60-, 70-mile drive to come to the clinic and that was the only tribally supported, Indian Health Service-supported clinic that we operated at the time. And so now over the course and during the time period that I was in office, we built a very large health facility using primarily gaming revenue, a few other grants, and some support from the Indian Health Service. But the Indian Health Service dollars were never enough and probably will never be enough to provide the support for health care and both health and behavioral health services that we provide through our clinic now. During that time, those six years we built this fabulous facility and have been operating it ever since, so that's another area of really substantial development.

Treaty fishing, inland hunting, we had a lot of continuing issues related to exercising our treaty rights to fish in the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan within our treaty territory. We were in a transition from using gill nets to trap nets. It was an enormous transition for fishing people, men and women, because the gill net is more of a traditional way of catching fish and to try to change your whole equipment and upgrade, all these...it's very complicated. It's very complicated and a wide array of issues that we dealt with: land acquisition, putting land into trust, those are some of the...we developed a lot of housing during that time. We also had I think only one tribal house that we had built in 1990, maybe there were a few more, but now we have tribal housing in all surrounding service area, out of all six counties I think five of the six counties now have tribal housing."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned health care and the fact that some of the gaming revenue that you had generated -- which rapidly grew during your time in office and certainly after -- went to healthcare and went to housing and so forth. And that involved the establishment of the revenue allocation ordinance, basically the tribe creating an ordinance in conjunction with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to determine how the money that they were generating through gaming was going to be used by the tribe. And as you've shared with me, that was quite a long, drawn-out, contentious deliberations process. Can you sort of paint a picture of what that process was like in terms of coming to a decision about how the money was going to be spent and actually putting that into law and just what the revenue allocation is?"

Eva Petoskey:

"Sure. Before I do that, though, I'll say that we...even prior to the development of a revenue allocation ordinance, we did have a budget procedure and it was in policy. And so we had a transparent budget process where every...we developed an annual budget and we hold public hearings for the members to have input into the budget process and to review the priorities for the budget. So we already had that in place actually. And it was fairly new. We'd developed it during that time. I felt...for me that was one of my top priorities that we have a transparent budget process and that we have...that members have the ability or citizens have the ability to be involved in developing some of the priorities. So I'll say that first. We also were a tribe that...we kind of took development slow. We were trying to pay as we go, we didn't want to get into a big loan agreement with someone and so we were saving money. This was prior to the development of our per cap discussion...internal discussion on per capita distribution, so we had quite a bit of money saved, several million dollars. We were hoping that we would be able to use those funds to do gaming expansion without going deeply into debt. But somewhere around maybe 1993, a group of tribal members -- called themselves the Tribal Members Advocacy Group -- which actually normally I would be all for, because I think it's really important for citizens to have input into their governmental decisions, and in a way I was all for it except I was on the wrong end of the issue on the per capita distribution at that time, myself and...we had a seven-member council, four of us were not for the per capita, at least initially, and three members were. So we did have a majority to keep the per capita discussion distribution at bay. However, after a lot of internal debate and dialogue there was a petition drive to put the per capita distribution on the...as a referendum. And when I saw the petition, it was shocking to me as an elected -- I don't call myself a leader -- elected official of the tribe because everyone that I knew, all of my friends, all of my relatives, with the exception of my mother, had signed the petition for the per capita distribution. And I think my mother would have signed it possibly had she not been my mother. So there was a...it was a huge move, it was a huge movement, there really was no stopping it. So to me, it came down to the question of did I want to remain in office because I think had we dug our feet in? We probably wouldn't have been and that would have delayed the process, but I don't think it ultimately would have made a difference; the momentum was just too great. So I just say that for other tribes and other people in similar situations, not to say that you should necessarily make that choice, but it is an option and it was an option that I chose to eventually vote for the per capita distribution partially, probably in large part, so I could be part of the process of putting together the ordinance that would control how we would use the money and how it would be distributed. So if I'd have been removed from office I wouldn't have had that opportunity to participate in those policy decisions so it was a conscious decision on my part, a huge compromise. But those are the things that I think are the difficult challenges in leadership, especially if something... it didn't sit right with me. I made the statement in one of the public meetings that one of the challenges with the per capita distribution was that we would be in some...in a lot of cases, the people who could benefit most from the resources in terms of their income, people living in poverty or well below poverty, who were currently eligible say for food stamps or other benefits, health benefits, Medicaid, would lose those benefits. So in a way it was a wash. We were basically paying the money out to the federal or state government and while that was true and the facts supported it, it was really an unpopular statement because no one really was wanting to listen to reason at the time. So it was quite a learning experience. It was not a rational...particularly rational process, but that's politics and that's leadership, learning to set up the most rational system you can and then when the decision making isn't rational, learn to sort out with some degree of wisdom or insight as to which way to go, so we did put together a revenue allocation ordinance. I think we were probably one of the first tribes to do so, and right or wrong to avoid being held hostage by the momentum in the community we allowed, at that time it was up to 50 percent of your net revenue from gaming could be allocated to per capita distribution and that's what we did."

Ian Record:

"So the...and I know there's been some minor tinkering with it over the years and we'll get into one of the recent developments around it here in a second, but how does the per capita distribution policy currently work for adults and then how does it work for minors? And I know you've shared with me that the minors' trust accounts was a very contentious issue at the outset."

Eva Petoskey:

"Yeah, it was contentious, but let me say generally that the per capita distribution is half of the net revenue goes to individuals and the remaining half is split...well, I guess the remaining portions are split: 25 percent goes to tribal government operations, which would include all services and the operation of government itself. And then 15 percent to -- I always get these two wrong -- 15 percent to long-term investment and I think...or I think it's 10 percent to long-term investment, 15 percent to economic development, so that there were three other funds set up: tribal government operations, long term investment and economic development. So that was the whole pie of the...our revenue...I don't like to use acronyms -- so the revenue allocation ordinance. When it came to how the per capita distribution was to be, the 50 percent of per cap, that was very contentious and I sat as the chairperson of the committee that put the revenue allocation ordinance together. There were about maybe 10 or a dozen of us on the committee from all factions including people that were in the leadership of the TMAG, the Tribal Members Advocacy Group. So we all sat together and I think I told you this earlier when we were discussing this, I'm kind of a storyteller so forgive me if I start...I could be here for probably hours, but I'll tell the short story. I decided that we needed to use...try to come together. So we did this in a talking-circle format using some of our ceremonies, just simple...the smudging and then using an eagle feather that I had brought to kind of help us come together as a community to figure out how we would, now that we'd made a decision, how we would carry that decision out. So we had a lot of discussions and some of them were heated and well, I don't know if they were heated, they were... ctually they were quite civil I should say, they were quite civil, but a lot of difference of opinion expressed and...one of the things I brought up, I asked the group, "˜Many tribes, ours in particular, has a long history of kind of disruption, enormous disruption due to loss of land, a rapid kind of economic change, the whole culture over the last, we call it the '150[-year] Anishinaabe abyss period' and we certainly were emerging from that.' I think we're emerging from that now, but certainly was a very dark period in our history I would say from the 1850s forward until probably in the 1970s when we started to reclaim our place and through the law, which has been a good tool for us. But as a result of that abyss period, we have many of our people who were put in boarding schools, my mother went to Mt. Pleasant Indian School, my husband's parents went to Mt. Pleasant Indian School, all of that generation, people in our parent's generation and many in our generation either went to boarding school...my grandmother went to Carlisle, so it goes back several generations. So people were... had their lives disrupted in many ways. So we always bring this to the table in our deliberations because this is who we are. Many of us are people who have suffered enormous loss in terms of our family relationships, our cultural identity, our language, our ability to speak the language in our community. The generation that spoke the language is...many have passed on, but my mother's first language was Anishinaabe or Odawa. All of my family members could converse and I grew up hearing this, but now in this generation that's not the case. So I go into...I just say that because this is sort of who we are as we sit at the table together. We are all of these people that have...all of these humans that have brought all of this collective history to the table when we have a discussion and this particular discussion on how to distribute this money that we had, which most of us had never had, was a difficult one. So I did ask the group how many of us...because one of the issues that was very contentious was whether or not children should have an equal portion in the distribution and some of us had the position, including myself, that felt -- and a number of the group felt -- that everyone should have an equal share. There was another contingency that children should not have a share and that the money should go to their parents and then there would be more money just go for people 18 and older. That was probably one of the most contentious complaints and other smaller things about how frequently the distributions should be made, etc., but the one over who receives a share and what type of share was really a contentious discussion and in the end we made a...we agreed on a plan where everyone would have an equal share, but it was a painful discussion and at one point in the discussion I did as the group around the table just to tell you about not only our tribe, but the circumstances of many tribes and maybe...probably as many...maybe more so in our region of the country, I don't know how the impact of boarding schools and some of those effects were out here in the southwest. I'm not as educated about that, but in our part of the country many people were raised outside of their family, not by their parents, either through foster care, adoption, or through boarding schools and in our group of people around this table discussing our per capita distribution, only two of us had been raised by our parents, myself and one other member, one other citizen. So that was a sad commentary on where we were, where we are still. I think the impact of that..."

Ian Record:

"But you used that as a counter to the contention that parents should get their kid's share because they're the ones taking care of the children."

Eva Petoskey:

"Yes and I...it didn't make me popular, but I said a difficult statement of, "˜How well were we cared for by our parents? And no offense to anyone or to any of your parents. I am in the same category.' I just had a really strong mother who didn't allow things to happen and a really strong grandmother and some other people did too, obviously. But anyway, yeah, that was why I brought the discussion up. It was a hard discussion, but it did in part bring us around to a reasonable decision, which I think there have been problems with. So since we've had the per capita distribution...like I said to you the other day, I could probably talk for several days on this because it was a long, contentious process and other tribes have dealt with it in other ways, but now that...once we had a decision about how we would distribute, there have been challenges with it. Some young people don't use their money wisely. The money is held in trust for the young people until it is paid out when they're age 19 and...over 19, 20, 21 over three payments. So some young people use their money wisely. I guess they probably...whoever, however they're using it, I think they may think it's wisely, but maybe not. And others have not used it as wisely. We do have a new law I understand, I wasn't part of developing this because I'm not currently on the council, but we do have an amendment to the revenue allocation ordinance that requires that a child have at least a GED or a high school diploma in order to receive their payment. If they don't have it, I think it's deferred until they're 21. So I think that's a very good development. I would have liked to have seen that even sooner and I know other tribes have similar and maybe even more restrictive criteria to encourage people to continue to complete their education."

Ian Record:

"I'm glad you mentioned that. And you are right, there are a number of other tribes that have gone that route that may have not had it in place initially, but saw the effects of just sort of a basic issuance of the money once they turn a certain age without any sort of conditions set on the issuance of that money. I'd like to turn now to the topic of leadership and I know I'm asking you to look back a bit because you...it has been close to 20 years since you were in office, but if you think back to 1990, when you first came to office, what do you know now that you wish you had known before you first took office in the first place?"

Eva Petoskey:

"Well, I'm 25 years older so I've lived a bit. I guess in answering that question, I'd say probably two different avenues that I could answer that. One is I think I certainly have more knowledge about how government conducts itself. I didn't have that much coming into it and I think that's the case for a lot of newly elected tribal leaders that they come in inexperienced in tribal government. Even if they've worked for the tribe, it might not have been in a position where they were required to work with policy or maybe even to understand the larger historical and political and legal context in which tribes operate. That is very common for people to walk into it. So I think, in retrospect, I had some of that because I had 15 years of work experience in Indian Country and so I had some of that. I did work for tribal organizations and so I had some experience. I knew some core ideas of self determination, sovereignty. I even knew what sovereign immunity was because I'd worked with contracts with tribes. But I think a lot of people come in without that, so I think it's very important for people to have some education coming in either before...I know there are some tribes that have instituted some training programs for people interested in running for council. I think those are excellent ideas. Certainly if your tribe doesn't have that then having some kind of orientation and education program and process once a person is elected. I think to the extent that you can use people with prior tribal council experience that is a great benefit because not only will they get the information about the complex legal structure and all of the public policy issues, they also get some firsthand experience on people reflecting on their own leadership and some of the mistakes and successes that they had or mistakes they made and successes they had. So that's one track, I guess: education, education, education, education. I wish I had more of it when I came into this, but at another end I wish I had more wisdom. I wish I'd have been a wiser person. When you're young, a few...sometimes young people are wise, but more than often we're not when we're young. We tend to be impulsive. I know I would frequently get angry. Now as I've grown older, I've trained myself. I still get angry, but I usually don't speak when I'm angry. I've learned how to tell myself to hold that until I'm not angry. So I would even say it would be good if tribes -- whatever their culture is, whatever their Indigenous world view -- is that some of those teachings could be also shared or discussed as you go into your elected duties, that the person newly elected has an opportunity to sit down with someone, an elder or some other appropriate leaders within the community to, if they haven't had that proper or appropriate education and maybe some people do, they already have that. So we have -- in our Anishinaabe way -- we have the Seven Grandfather teachings, which tell us how to conduct ourselves in our relationships with other people. I see that sometimes we put them up on a poster someplace, but they're very difficult to follow in our relationships and looking back at my experience on the tribal council, aside from all of the challenging issues that we dealt with, the complex...context in which we found ourselves in, and in our case and the people that served with me, the enormous amount of development that we accomplished and worked tirelessly to accomplish was often painful in terms of our interpersonal relationships. And as you can imagine, when you're related to many of the people you serve with, that's just normal in a tribe that even on the council your relatives are sometimes on the council and certainly in terms of your constituents, your parents, your nieces and nephews, your cousins, just every...there's a very thick set of relationships. So how you treat one another in those heated political contexts, in the heated political context will last...will follow you for a long time."

Ian Record:

"One of the things you mentioned to me yesterday when we were chatting was this issue of consistency and in your relations with the people that you serve that the answers you give to the requests that they often make are consistent and the explanations for the answers you're giving them are consistent. Can you touch a little bit more on that in terms of being clear with the people who come to you with their hand out to say either 'yes, I can do this for you and here's why' or 'no, I can't and here's why,' and making sure that those answers are consistent no matter who's coming to you?"

Eva Petoskey:

"Yeah, this is a huge issue in tribal government. I think it...the responsibility there needs to be borne by the elected leader in term...and by the citizens. So I think...I'll talk about both of those, because I think it's a shared responsibility because if it is the norm that the council is kind of a patron system, which isn't outside of our cultural norm. See, that's one of the issues, that it's not really an unfamiliar cultural idea that you would give things away to your relatives. It's just that in the context of government, they're really not yours to give as a person, as an individual. They belong to the community. Whatever resources you have been elected and given the responsibility to be a good steward of are the resources of the community, so it really is different than giving out your own personal property, things that you've acquired in a giveaway at your home or in some kind of celebration where you're feeding everyone. That's your personal property and that is, within our cultural teachings, that's a different thing than taking the property of the collective and giving it out to your relatives. To me, that seems unethical. But I wasn't always...oftentimes your relatives would come in and expect you to solve a problem immediately, to give them some special consideration and I always gave them -- everyone really -- I tried to give special consideration in terms of listening and not shutting people off and then trying to help them problem solve where they could find a solution to their problem within our system. That implies that you have a system that helps people find a solution to their problem and that is part of developing your tribal infrastructure so that there is a known process for solving a problem, whether it's an employment problem or you felt like you've been treated unfairly, whether it's in employment or some other issue or involving your lot assignment or all kinds of controversies that come up. And we as a tribe, I'm sure others too, have...took us a long time to develop all that infrastructure so that there was a place for a person to go to get their problem solved or at least to try and they may not like the results, but at least there was a process in place. So it's both a shared responsibility on the part of the leadership to act in an ethical manner, again keeping in mind that the resources that you have been given the responsibility to be a good steward of are not yours, they're the community's, and so if you want to have a giveaway, go do it at your house with your own stuff unless it's the community giveaway and you're participating and it's open for everyone on an equal basis. And likewise, the members, the citizens need to understand that the more citizens that serve in government and in a good way, and the more citizens that come to understand how it's really a collective process and these are our collective resources and together we can build a nation and we can learn to put our...it's hard to learn to put your individual needs aside because many of our people live in poverty. It's still the case today. It's still the case. We have...if you go into the communities around our tribe, many of the homeless people are our tribal citizens. There's still a lot of people living...struggling to have their basic needs met and it's understandable why people feel frustrated sometimes. I totally understand that and yet it's an ongoing challenge for the elective."

Ian Record:

"And isn't it first and foremost a challenge of education? You mentioned that a lot of hard work has been done to build up the governmental infrastructure so that there are processes in place to help people that come with their hand out. And we've heard other leaders talk about really the education needs to begin with the elected official in that interpersonal exchange with the constituent to say, "˜Look, I cannot do this for you because we have a process in place that can address your problem. That's not my role.' We often hear leaders talk about role confusion, that they think they're a social service administrator and not a policy maker."

Eva Petoskey:

"Exactly. Exactly. Well, that speaks to understanding what your role is and in most tribes the...I know in our tribe, the role of the tribal council members and the chairperson are specified in some detail in the constitution and that serving as a social service liaison is not one of them, although it is to look out for the assets and best interests of the tribe and to provide for the wellbeing and education, health of the tribal citizens. But a lot of people don't ever read the information on what their roles and responsibilities are and I found many times across Indian Country -- I won't point just to our own tribal council, but some of the work I've done elsewhere -- that many people don't read their constitution or even if they think it was a good idea to have a constitution because sometimes you get into that discussion. "˜Why are we adopting these types of governments?' And I think it's all a developmental process. I think that in our case, I look back at those times as we began to work...I wasn't part of working on the constitution, but as I've heard the stories I'm glad that we went in that direction and I think we put some good ideas into our constitution. We do have a separation of the judicial in our constitution so we have a separate court. That's an unusual situation in Indian Country. And we have both executive and legislative functions within our tribal council and then we have specific roles and responsibilities and a lot of other things that are spelled out that took great... that were given great consideration. We did not just adopt a constitution. We had a lot of discussion about how that should be and what type of government we wanted to have."

Ian Record:

"How empowering was it for you as an elected official to have that constitution to fall back on when somebody was not clear about your role and was coming to you and asking you to do something that was outside of your role for you to say, "˜Hey, look, I'm not allowed to do this and this is where it says I'm not allowed to do this'? Because unfortunately in a lot of tribal communities, leaders don't have that luxury to say, "˜Look, I'm prohibited.' It's sort of...there's so much gray area involved that they can sort of finagle it however they like. Was it...did you feel it empowered you or there was a sense of comfort there to be able to fall back on that rock-hard foundation?"

Eva Petoskey:

"I didn't use it so much in the context of dealing directly with individual citizens, but I did occasionally use it in dealing with some of the things that other council members would want to do and sometimes behind closed doors, which is where some of the really challenging discussions occur, even though we have, of course have to have open meetings, but there were certain things involving legal matters and really complicated legal matters that we did in closed session and sometimes we would have rather contentious discussions there, and I do recall on several occasions getting out the constitution and saying, "˜Read this, folks.' And sometimes people would want to fire people just arbitrarily. I hope I'm not...it's not an unusual thing. I'm not putting down my own tribe. I see it everywhere and I'd just remind everyone, 'That isn't our job. That is not our job,' in spite of the fact that maybe that person had said very insulting things to me and to the entire tribal council, but it was our job to maybe try to create a better climate so people didn't have to come in there and be that angry or have some other rules about how we conduct our business or just take it. If we weren't going to create those kind of rules. I know some tribes have now created rules about how... I'm not talking about Robert's Rules, but how...and of course tribes use those...but how...what the tone of the conduct of the meetings should be and that there must be a tone or respect. I like that idea. We don't have a rule like that currently, but I sure...if I were back...in retrospect, I would love to have a rule like that. I'd love to have those Seven Grandfather teachings not only on the wall, but somehow incorporated into our conduct so that we can hold ourselves accountable."

Ian Record:

"This last answer of yours has given rise to a few questions in my mind and the first deals with transparency. You touched on this issue a couple of times now, and in talking with your husband John and having him share with us all of the hard work that the government has done to not only build its infrastructure, its governmental infrastructure, but also build the background history of why it was developed the way it was. So you guys have gone to great lengths to document everything from council meeting minutes and making them not only...not only archiving them, but making them instantly accessible and obviously that helps for the purposes of transparency, but doesn't it also help for ensuring that folks that are in the position that you were once in can make informed decisions, can say, "˜What was the reason why we first started this particular project and what does it mean for the decision that is before us on this project today?'"

Eva Petoskey:

"Well, certainly as technology gets quicker and quicker -- at one time that wasn't possible because we'd be digging through all these old papers down in the basement of the tribal government center -- but now that it's readily available apparently our current council who actually uses that does a search, what did we decide on this and what's the history of this? And so I think that could be a very useful tool going into the future with technology as it is today. I think that wouldn't obviously be present if we hadn't have archived all that and I wasn't part...well, I guess I was part of that decision. One of the things I was going to mention that we did write a couple of tribal histories, especially some of the recent history and the early history of our federal acknowledgement and what led up to that. And so those documents are available also, but so that in the sense that you're archiving your process as you go along is a wonderful benefit to future generations because there is a record there to the extent that people are able to study it and with technology it's easier to study it. So it's awesome to do that and I think a real benefit both to the current councils and the future generations to see what people were thinking."

Ian Record:

"So another follow-up question deals with this issue of instilling culture into governance, into the practice of governance. And you mentioned that it's one thing to have the Seven Grandfather teachings written on a wall and it's quite another to figure out how do you practice it in the actual activities of governance at the elected leadership level and throughout the governmental organization. You're a big proponent of that. In our discussions you've brought that up numerous times. Can you speak to the importance of a Native nation consciously working to incorporate in a systematic way its culture into how it governs, into the crafting of a strategic vision for the future of the nation?"

Eva Petoskey:

"Yeah."

Ian Record:

"Easier said than done, I know."

Eva Petoskey:

"Well, it's difficult because it goes to the issue of who can speak. And I think when I was younger I didn't feel as though I could speak, but I'm 61 years old and I'm not 80, but I always felt like it would be great if I could have had a group of advisors that were elders and my selection, my ideal selection of elders in our community would have been people over 80 because it seemed like the people I knew, including my own mother or other people I knew within my extended family and other people I knew in the community who were over 80 seemed to have developed a different view, even if they had some culture...if they had the culture intact, they had their language, but as you age something happens and you have a different view. You're facing that kind of eventually your own death and I think...one of our elders told me that, "˜If you have the good fortune to come close to death as a young person, you're very blessed.' And I thought, "˜Well, that's an interesting thing to say,' because usually we think of that differently. But he was saying that it gives you a different view, a longer view of life, what is really important. I think sometimes we have, I think, lost view of that. So I always wished I could have had a group of elders over 80 advising me. I did. I had my own mother so I was lucky. So I think having elders in the community, however that community defines that whether through age or through some other ceremonial leaders, I think that is wise. I think...I really believe that dialogue and consensus is culture because sometimes without that... you're growing a seed, you're growing a seed of translating your own traditional teachings and culture and language into your contemporary setting. So I always feel like people were going way too fast. I think one way to incorporate your culture into your governance is to slow it down, and maybe not in all contexts because some meetings have to be conducted maybe in a more rapid manner because you're dealing with so many issues, but there should be a time where people can talk together and maybe...then again, sometimes the constitution doesn't allow the tribal council to speak together on tribal issues outside of a meeting that's been called so that's kind of problematic, too. But maybe it's not the council speaking or talking in a formal way, maybe it's an informal meeting with the constituents, with your citizens where you can talk things through. That's what our Anishinaabe people always did, always. I observed it in my own life, people solving problems through talking it through until everyone had been heard and then what comes out of that is remarkable, it's powerful. Once everyone's been heard, all of those ideas can be used to take something forward. And if you're applying the Seven Grandfathers teachings, which are principles upon which you're to live and to treat other people that what comes out of that would be part of what we call [Anishinaabe language], which is to live a good life and that idea is central to everything that is in the Anishinaabe world view. I know that other people and other tribes have other words and concepts like that, but essentially, what it means is that it's the interdependence of all things so that you as a human being are connected to your own inner self. That's why I spoke my name and my clan. Your own spiritual and inner self, your own ancestral history, but it's not like you're standing there alone. You're in this web of relationships that are both inside you and outside of you and it includes not only all the human relationships, but it also, and this is very important I think going into the future, it includes all of the other living things on the planet and in the universe so it includes all the plants, all the animals, all of the water, the sky, the rocks, the moon, the sun, the stars, all of the ancestors, all of the spirits out in the cosmos, the whole thing is interconnected and that it is your responsibility as a human being to walk in a good way and in positive relationships with all those things. So I think in that way in the incorporation of the culture and I think as we are going forward...I know within our tribe some of us women have really been starting to talk very...amongst ourselves about the environment and how can our tribe take a position. This is very culturally relevant let's say for every tribe, and in our case it's the water, in our case in Anishinaabe worldview, women are the keepers of the water and so we...I think...so that's one way of how do you incorporate this into tribal governance in terms of setting the priorities for what the tribe does in the future and the vision of the tribe in the future, you have to have elders and people with that collective [Anishinaabe language] vision to speak up so that we're not just taking care of ourselves, which is important -- not at all to diminish that -- we're taking care of those inner circles of [Anishinaabe language], but we're also taking care of the larger circle of the planet that we live on, very important today. Every day we wake up with an acute awareness of how responsible we are and I think tribes have a lot of power in that way because I know we do. We still have...we still retain our inland hunting and fishing and gathering within the Great Lakes, within regions of the Great Lakes and within inland. So we have a lot to say about our environment and if I live long enough I'm going to continue...that's going to be one of my priorities is on the water and things like that."

Ian Record:

"Well, Eva, we really appreciate you taking some time to share your thoughts and experience and wisdom with us, really appreciate it."

Eva Petoskey:

"You're welcome."

Ian Record:

"That's all the time we have on today's program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute's website at nni.arizona.edu. Copyright 2013 Arizona Board of Regents."