border tribes

Invisible Borders of Reservations, Tribal Treaties, and Tribal Sovereignty

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Arizona State Museum
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This 3-part discussion about the invisible borders of reservations, tribal treaties, and tribal sovereignty is led by Dr. Miriam Jorgensen, Research Director of both the University of Arizona Native Nations Institute and its sister organization, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development; the honorable Karen Diver, former chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and current director of business development for Native American Initiatives at the University of Arizona; and Dr. Kelsey Leonard of the Shinnecock Nation, assistant professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo.

Native Nations
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Jorgensen, Miriam, Karen Diver, and Kelsey Leonard. "Invisible Borders of Reservations, Tribal Treaties, and Tribal Sovereignty" Webinar. Arizona State Museum. Oct. 23, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1KyaGdRzR4

Webinar: Rebuilding Native Nations and Strategies for Governance and Development

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Native Nations Institute
Year

The Indigenous Governance Program (IGP) at the University of Arizona has long been at the vanguard of delivering Indigenous Governance Education. To do our part at this critical time, IGP was pleased to offer our January in Tucson Courses in May event free of charge, live streamed via Zoom to participants seeking non-credit courses for professional development.

As partners of Indian country, we understand the difficult challenge facing all Native nations and Indigenous peoples across the world. We are also mindful that as the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, developing leadership capacity and governance skills is more critical to Indian country than ever before.

Since we announced this first-of-its kind resource, the online course opportunity reached capacity within five days, drawing registrants from the State of Vermont to Perth, Western Australia.  However, anyone interested in the event was eligible to participate in a free one hour webinar on MAY 27th at 12pm PST covering the principles of Native nation building and their relevance to Indigenous peoples in a time of global pandemic. Guests panelists included Karen Diver, Director of Business Development, Native Nations Institute; Miriam Jorgensen, Research Director, Native Nations Institute; Joan Timeche, Executive Director, Native Nations Institute; moderated by Torivio Fodder, Manager, Indigenous Governance Program, Native Nations Institute. 

Resource Type
Citation

Native Nations Institute. "Webinar: Rebuilding Native Nations and Strategies for Governance and Development" Indigenous Governance Program and Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 27, 2020

Native Nations Institute. "Webinar: Rebuilding Native Nations and Strategies for Governance and Development" Indigenous Governance Program and Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 27, 2020

 

Tory Fodder:

Everyone thanks for joining us, this afternoon wherever you're zooming in from. We're glad to have ya. Before we get started the first thing on our agenda, we'd like to acknowledge the land on which the University of Arizona sits. The University of Arizona is located on the traditional homelands of the Tohono O'odham Nation of Arizona and is the current modern-day homelands of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, so we just want to do a brief acknowledgement of the land. This afternoon we've got kind of a full, full program so we're going to try to get through it as quickly as possible but...

 

My name is Tory Fodder. I manage the Indigenous Governance Program at the Native Nations Institute. NNI, we've existed for um 30 years 30 odd years or so and our mission is to help strengthen indigenous governance you can see on the slide a bit about what we do, but this, this event is hosted by the Indigenous Governance Program, and we offer our January In Tucson courses, which is sort of a comprehensive curriculum devoted toward the Indigenous Governance

education. And out of that program that we offer both on a not for credit professional development basis but also as a master's degree program that we've recently launched at the University of Arizona and as a graduate certificate program.

 

So again, we're glad to welcome all of you. We hosted our first may in Tucson session a few... a few weeks ago I suppose... um, but um, we were… we were glad to do this as a service to Indian Country to... make some of our curriculum available particularly in this critical time. When we need

strong indigenous nations. And uh... I’ll be the moderator. I'm going to introduce our… our panelists. Karen Diver, former Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe. She's our current Director of business development at the Native Nations Institute. Miriam Jorgensen is our Research

Director for the… for the Native Nations Institute, formerly of the Harvard Project on American

Indian Economic Development. And last but certainly not least, our Executive Director of the Native Nations Institute. Joan Timeche is here with us and they're going to go over kind of key principles of Native Nation Building, but also looking at a lot of other kind of contemporary topics that have beset tribes in our research. And then we'll... after, after our panelists give remarks, we'll move into a Q and A portion. So, if you could, any questions you have please add them…

 

(inaudible noise)

 

please add them to the chat and we'll... uh, we'll carry on from there. okay, I will turn it over... uh, to Joan.

 

Joan Timeche:

(Greeting in Hopi) Thank you for joining us here today. We wanted you to... as you begin to listen to the presentation and you're going to see Miriam, myself, and Karen going in and out to... out the… the rest of the hour and... um, what we wanted to do is have you think. Do a little bit of thinking as we share with you this information. At NNI, we think about indigenous governance and government... indigenous government all the time everything that we do is all on that. And... but right now we are... in unprecedented times. You know, with the COVID pandemic... COVID pandemic. It's really just elevated the importance of tribal governments and having good governance. So... um, so as you think about, as we proceed through this presentation think ways that good governance is evident within your own communities. So, you know, our work in this

content focuses entirely on Native nation building. So maybe folks can put in the chat box, you

know, some of the... you know what comes to mind when you hear the term nation building. So, if you can just drop in some of those comments, we would appreciate that.

 

Here's our definition of Native nation building. We believe that it refers to the processes by which a Native nation enhances its own foundational capacities, the governmental capacities for effective self-governance, and self-determined community and economic development. We know that you know some of us have written constitutions and some there's still a few of us that have unwritten constitutions as well where they're all oral rules that have been passed on. But you know, we wanted to share with you our research findings and so I’m going to turn it over to Miriam to tell us about the first finding.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Sorry about that I was muted. Hello everyone. It's great to have you here. It's exciting to see so many folks online joining us for this. It's just going to be kind of a quick introduction and overview. And hopefully, a chance to take some questions and have a bit of conversation

The first sort of principle of Native nation building and I know many of you are acquainted with the principles, but we wanted to… to provide them just in kind of quick succession with some examples that we see from Indian Country that hopefully will spur some ideas for… for you all in the work that you do in... out, in the... in... in communities and with the organizations and tribes that you... you work for.

 

So, the first principle of Native nation building is practical self-determination, and as you can see on the slide this is really the idea that the nation itself is calling the shots. It's the one that's making the major decisions on the Nation's land, for its citizenry, and around the issues that are important to it it's getting out there and exercising its jurisdiction it's kind of in the driver's seat evidence shows that native nations that have been willing to exercise self-determination, that are willing to really exert their sovereignty, are the ones that are really making significant gains toward moving toward the kinds of communities and nations that they desire. They're the ones that are achieving the goals that they've set for themselves. To give you one example of this... if you could go to the next slide. Thanks Joan ...of this exercise of practical self-determination.

 

This is an older example, and any of you who know Brian Cladoosby the former Chairman of the Board for the National Congress of American Indians... I will recognize this is an older photo of him... but I think it demonstrates that nations have been involved in the nation building process now for more than 30 almost 40 years. And so, here's an example that came from the early part of the 2000s, but it's still reaping benefits for the nation today. The Swinomish Indian tribal community...

uh, was... is in a wetlands area. It's... uh, in an area it shares the geography with Washington state, and it's in an area that is right above the ocean, and is... uh, is... uh, an area where water is

coming off the mountains and meeting the ocean, and it's a very delicate environmental situation. It shares the geography not just with Washington state but with the sub... sub state county of Skagit County, and Skagit County wanted to be the one that was permitting development in the area and then Swinomish Indian tribal community said "No" this is our reservation. We want to within the external boundaries of the reservation be the one to do any permitting for development.

 

So, there was a fight that developed between the county and the tribe to resolve this, after some mediation and some good thinking, the tribe basically said why don't we both ensure that we're permitting but we're going to follow exactly the same rules. So why don't we sit down and agree what those permitting rules are and Skagit County you will enforce them, and we will enforce them. And if somebody wants to do development in this area whether or not they're on tribal land or on fee simple land that's under the county's jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservation. They could come to the tribe for a permit if they wanted to... um, instead. So, the tribe was exercising its jurisdiction by saying we're not ceding our sovereignty we're going to be exercising our jurisdiction by being the permitting authority here, but by the way we have the same rules as the county because we've agreed what to do. And the tribe got really good at this. They got very good at being the permitting authority and in fact became quickly known as the entity that if you wanted to get worked on within this particular land area, you're going to get it done more quickly if you went to the permitting office of the tribe. In a more clear and clarified manner and that way the tribe also was the one making the rules.

 

So, after much many years now of this working the county and the tribe are still happy with the process, and it's really making sure that the tribe has its imprint of what it wants to see go on in terms of development within the exterior boundaries of its reservation. So that's one example. I'd like to go on to some other examples and Karen's going to give the next one.

 

Karen Diver:

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, this is actually pretty newsworthy... um, they were worried about the spread of COVID within its borders, so it actually enacted checkpoints on a federal highway. And a state... a co... co state highway wanting to make sure who was coming in was absolutely necessary so if it was vendors or delivery people that was fine but... um, you know not random visitors or people driving through. And immediately upon exercising their own self-rule over who comes into their homelands and in order to protect their citizens the governor of that state, Noem, challenged their authority to do that. And they rightfully cited to her their ability to self-rule under treaty where it was very explicit. The tribe is in great legal standing in this because this was litigated once... um, I believe it was in the 90s, or so. So, they… they actually you know aren't trying to reinterpret an 1850 treaty in modern day. This has already been an argument that they made so they knew what their authority was... um, to protect their own citizens and they've been very clear that they're doing this in the absence of South Dakota taking care of them as citizens of South Dakota. That they had to exert their own ability for self-rule, so this has been actually really interesting to watch. Partly because they're getting a lot of support. Really mainstream of saying, you know, they have a right to protect their citizens when the

gov... broader government is willing to do so.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

So, you can... Thanks Karen... um, you can already get a sense of this next principle of indigenous nation building which is tribes that go out there and assert their sovereignty seek to exercise self-determination. Also... um, need to, to take that second step, which is to back it up with the creation of capable institutions of government. To really exercise that self-determination and say we're not just talking about doing it. We're getting it down into the brass tax, into the nitty gritty, and do this work. For a lot of Native nations some of this work gets caught up in the really critically important task of creating a government. Writing, re-writing constitution, or a new one revising it putting in place the government that it wants to have. So that's kind of the biggest picture of building capable institutions but it's also useful to think kind of beneath the surface a little bit... So, Joan could you go on to the next slide... and that's the next level down which is it's not just creating that that upper level how does government operate, but then saying what are all the laws, policies, regulations, and protocols that we need to put in place too because those specify the structure of agencies, departments, programs, the kind of hiring you want to put in place even the sorts of grants that you would go after. So that next level down is creating that administrative and legal structure necessary to fulfill the assertions of self-determination and here we've just shown you a couple of pictures of how some tribes have done this even by codifying those... those... um, ideas into law. Karen is going to share another example that really talks about how her nation the Fond du Lac Nation has been able to do this in a particular way.

 

Karen Diver:

So Fond du Lac when it was first allowed, so to speak, that the federal government allowed us to compact tribes... to compact we didn't have any health services. We had an IHS clinic that was closed down in order for the border town to get one of their own hospitals and so we had no healthcare. So, one of the first two hires they made under self-governance was a dentist and a nutritionist, and it was really to respond to... um, the need to get... get a handle on what was wellness, and you can tell a lot about a person's health from dentistry, and we also knew that

we were losing our elders too young, and we wanted to be able to have some information about how to do an elderly nutrition program and increase wellness through diet. So, we weren't focused on... we were focused on long-term health outcomes not just treating symptoms. This grew over time to add actual physicians and other... um, nurses, nurse practitioners. Totally building on increasing what was available underneath the… the roof. So much like any other tribe the money

for referral purchase and referred care it would run out, right. So, what we learned was the more we put under the roof we could bill for that and we could preserve our ability then to say purchase and refer care for specialty care. Through that we also learned that it was this rotating funding structure right and so then we needed to learn how to bill because as the reservation was growing, we offered our own health insurance plan and so we were building our own health insurance plan.

And then we learned that, that money came with less restrictions than the IHS money. Then we learned that you know some of our folks were eligible for Medicaid at the time, but they weren't going and signing up you know because they view anything having to do with counties as "the man" so how do we protect them and their right to privacy but still get them the services that they're... um, able to and entitled to. So, we work with the county to bring intake into our own clinic, so it was our own staff doing intakes for Medicaid. But that gave us a billing source for folks without insurance. And so, and then with that money we built out more spaces, added a pharmacy... um, care services, child protection services to fully implement ICWA... um, from that we learned that wellness... we started looking holistically at what is really wellness. Wellness is also about... um, you know, taking care of children and making sure they have safe places and culturally competent care. Wellness in a family is removing stressors around summer childcare so we started adding a summer camp.

 

So really looking at that broad spectrum of community wellness and saying that that's a health care issue, a public health issue... um, so it just was growing and growing and growing. And then we had a need to really look at our own regulatory systems. Many tribes are faced with the lack of foster care families that are within the tribe so that you can maintain that children's contact within the tribe... um, and the counties were having a tough time understanding our families. So... um, the tribe passed an ordinance that allowed our health care facility through a board. An advisory board made of tribal members to license our own foster care families. To do emergency placements with families and then do long... long term licensure, and then also we expanded that and started under our own authority licensing off reservation foster care families. So that we could get to the border towns and to Duluth which is about 20 miles away. But a different county than the southern part of the reservation so we could start to meet that need off reservation and not keep losing our children. Joan if you could advance, please. We continue to look at... um, you know... so not one tribal council member is a physician. We're not social workers... um, you know, we're not... we're not dentists... um, you know, we really had to kind of check our own authority as tribal council members and say, you know, if we're going to build a capable governing institution then we need to let the experts be experts. But our job is to make sure that they are serving the needs of this community. So how we inform them is really making sure that they are staying grounded in what the needs of the community are and voicing those from what we're hearing from our tribal members, and helping them prioritize their growth and new initiatives, but it's also to challenge them upon occasion about what does that holistic wellness look like. And one of those examples was our supportive housing facility. The human services division would say, well we don't do housing we have a housing department, and housing would say well we don't do services but yet we had a chronic and long-term homeless population because of our lack of capacity. And it wasn't always around lack of housing. Sometimes it was really around social issues, chemical dependency mental health... um, what we call dual diagnosis... um, and they need a spot... or leaving domestic violence, and they needed a place to get on their feet... um, and that was stable enough. And so, it was the tribal council then who work with that institution to say... um, there's a lot of stressors that come with homelessness you can't manage chronic health conditions, you can't make sure children are safe. That wrapping around supportive services and behavioral health in a stable housing environment these are the same clients in both of those divisions, and you really must work together to provide some of our neediest tribal members. And so that started happening and... and the... the clinic

got used to understanding housing issues and how that contributes to public health outcomes,

and public safety outcomes, and the housing department learned that a more stable tenant and dealing with all of those other issues made them much more likely to come into the housing program and be more successful at it. Rather than having to get... um, kind of kicked out in six months because they couldn't manage all of the other social issues. But we also delegated things like workforce development strategies and recruiting dentists, and… and doing... um, loan repayment programs so that we could attract the workforce to our rural community. Where it's really hard to get technical... um, help sometime, and letting them know that they were going to be as a part of a holistic health care system that was integrated. So that we have a combined medical record... um, that you're a part of looking at that overall long-term wellness where you're going to deal generationally.

 

And that appeals to a lot of folks... um, Financial stability... um, we do Medicare and Medicaid subsidies if people are in the state exchanges to access affordable care act. So that we keep that billing strategy for Medicare part B and D for our elder folks. We pay those premiums. Once again, it's cheaper to pay the premiums than carry unpaid co-pays and pay through that through our Indian Health Service and then also looking at partnerships within the tribe to help expand. Bringing our clinic into our community centers. To do WIC appointments and wellness checks and helping us run our youth programs so... you know, it's the capable governing institution is giving yourself a bit of permission to think entrepreneurially about service delivery and not just taking over substandard service that the Feds do. And thinking about how it needed to meet our own community's needs. So, thank you.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

That was awesome, Karen. I think you can really hear in that story both the asserting sovereignty, asserting the exercise of self-determination, and then figuring out a way to really do that capably and well. But you also start to hear in it the third point which is the third principle of nation building that of cultural match. That it's not just about asserting self-determination and then backing it up with a capable governing institution. That institution to be effective also needs to be accepted by the community as one that's achieving its goals, is making sense to the nation, that fits within the expectations of the people about how this job gets done. And that's this notion of cultural match. Does this institution, and the way it's operating, and the goals that it's moving toward, make sense to the people. Is this how authority ought to be organized and exercised? And you really heard this on what Karen was talking about too. This is about putting in the... the community, the nation, the tribal view of how to get work done and you could hear that when she was talking for instance about the holistic health care and how they conceived of supportive housing. Joan's going to give us another example by taking us way up north and giving us an example of some... a community that she's worked with some and how they approach the... um, cultural match issues.

 

Joan Timeche:

Actually, we're going to...

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

oh sorry. So, I got, yes.

 

 Joan Timeche:

We're going to go up north next... on the next point.

 

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Sorry, Joan.

 

Joan Timeche:

It's all right no problem... so um, this is... um, an example from the Tohono O'odham nation... and... um, as many nations across the United States have that you may have an economic development corporation, an authority in this case. And one of the things that... um, that happened in its development... um, as... as the board was determining what it...how do we want to approach development in across the nation. And Tohono O'odham has over 2 million acres of land. They have 11... sub-political districts, and those 11 districts wield actually quite a bit of power. In that they have to approve any type of development that might occur, and the economic development authority was set up like many other development corps where they were expected to change the economy to help contribute to job creation. And hopefully to be able to generate revenue back into the tribal coffers. Well, when the development of the Tohono O'odham economic development authority was set up. It... it... um, didn't have any rights... um, over the land because of how it... how they were structured within the Tohono O'odham Nation. So, one of the things that became critical at the onset was for the board and staff to recognize that whatever development occurs on this nation it has to be hand in hand with the local communities and with their political districts. These 11 who actually then have coun... their own council... they have to review, and they have approval authority over any development. And one of the other things that also came into play here was that... that no... none of the work that... or any of the development work that the authority was going to be involved in, whether it's a purchase of a business or whether it's from the ground up, whatever the case may be, that it could not harm the "Himdag" of the nation. And that's their culture. That was something that we all agreed upon as board members saying that... you know, we're just a entity that's set up, and a mechanism that's set up, to do the development. But again, it was very important that we got community buy-in and projects that were being developed. The other thing that also we made a decision about, which sometimes this was difficult for us... in terms of financial feasibility, was not to compete with... um... um... a nation's district because some of them own their own business... um, or either individuals. And that's at times has come back to bite us but... um... in... um, but it's actually worked for the betterment of the community. So again, it's recognizing that there are that there are values here in place and being respectful of it and making sure that... that you... um, are following that as well.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Thanks, Joan. I think that that's such a great example because it reminds us that this notion this third principle of nation building of cultural match. Isn't just about organization... you know, it says culture is a guide to organization, but it's also a guide to action. Exactly what you do. So, how you organize to do things and what you do. Culture should be taken into account... um, in order to have that legitimacy for what government is up to. I want to go onto the fourth point to the fourth principle in the nation-building model, and that's having a strategic orientation. You can certainly feel how these pieces are woven together. You're asserting self-determination as a nation, you're backing that up with institutions that are effective and culturally matched, and you're doing so with this strategic orientation that decisions are made with the long term in mind. And with the... the visions and goals of where the nation wants to be going and what its values are in mind. So successful Native nations tend to approach development and the decisions... um, about what it needs to kind of do next in order to move in the direction it wants to go. These are not just about quick fixes to say, poverty, or other... um, issues that are entrenched in the community. They're not trying to kind of just put a band-aid on things. They're about trying to figure out what it is that's not working and then build a society that works.

 

So again, as I mentioned these are knitted together. So, the example that Karen gave... um, when she was discussing building... um, effective institutions, which is principle two. You, as I noted, you could feel a lot of principle three of cultural match in that, but you could certainly feel principle four in it too. Of not just kind of going for the quick fix. Remember how when she was talking about how in developing their health care system, they ultimately thought about the fact that they needed to involve their housing system too because they were dealing with an issue of homelessness and the interrelated client pools. Well, that certainly wasn't a quick fix notion. That was thinking with the long view in mind and saying we're not just about trying to get somebody housed for six months. We're about trying to build a society that works, and therefore creating a situation... um, where we can house those people and keep them healthy for a long time. Because that's the kind of society we want. I'm going to turn... um, first to Joan and then again to Karen. So, I’ll have Joan... you take off to Karen. To hear a couple other examples of this long-term strategic orientation and working on behalf of the values and mission and vision of the community.

 

Joan Timeche:

So, the Native Nations Institute had an opportunity to work with an Alaska

Native community the Ketchikan Indian Community...

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

See, I told you we were going to go north I was just wrong about when.

 

Joan Timeche:

(laughing) Yep, so we're up in Alaska up in northern part of the U.S.

and so, one of the things that they had started to do... It's a very small community... um, they are also um... um, checker-boarded in that they've had to as part of their tribal facilities and their headquarters is in the right in the city of Ketchikan, but their residential areas are on the border outside of the city limits and so on. So, it's... you know, they have buildings all over. All across the... um, all across the city, and one of the things that they were wanting to do was begin to really think through how do we meet the needs of our citizens. As many as many of us experience in our tribal communities, we're inundated with all kinds of issues whether it's environmental, social, economic, political, whatever the case may be, and so they begin to tackle this process. So, they engaged... um, they've been... they've been doing this for a while, and so we had an opportunity to work with them a couple of years ago. And one of the things that they did is they developed their strategic plan. Actually, starting from the council based on some previous work that they had done with the community, and began to really try to get their staff to begin to think about, how are we going to achieve some of these goals? And initially they started out with... um, in... kind of in a silo approach where every department had their own goal. They were thinking... you know, a lot of it was based on meeting... um, the… the criteria of federal funding sources. And so, they were writing a lot of that information as their goals, and what ended up happening is after the council and the directors had met a couple of times, they realized that what they needed was an overarching goal. And for them they decided that they needed... what they were really wanting to work towards... was working towards a healthy citizen and having a healthy tribe. And so, if you go to their website, it has all of these four categories and you know what came up as important to them were living their culture, the building the healthy tribe and the citizen, which actually was overall, but it's listed as a category here. Making sure that they exercise their sovereignty so that they protect their rights, their lands, and that they have economic self-sufficiency.

 

So, the... the process worked. So, everybody... um, each of the departments were required to then figure out, how does my department as the health department or as education contribute to any one of these four pillars? These became... um, in a sense a mechanism for the council to hold them accountable. They set up together with department staff and the council. Set up... um... deliverables and measures that they both could live with. So, if our goal is to infuse culture in all aspects of operations, what does that mean in a year's time? How will the council come back and reassess that? And how will citizens know that... um, those are being achieved? And so, they created this fantastic program that set up these desired outcomes, and that were actually measurable for their citizens, and they continue to work at it. And every time I go back to their website, I see that they plugged away a little bit at some of these programs. So, it's just another example of one nation taking what might have been done orally, but now... is now doing it in a more western style. If you want to call it that, in that... you know, a lot of have of us have grants and we have to be able to provide services to our programs, and it's helping the council understand what the goals are. Holding their staff accountable... uh, the departments know what the... what the council expects from them, and then so do the citizens. So, it involved all of those facets within the community. So, I’m going to turn over the next example to Karen.

 

 

Karen Diver:

So, you might see... um, the... on the photo there. So that is wild rice... um, it's actually a grass feed that grows in the water. So... um, it was a part of our prophecy that we needed to move where the food grows on the water, and that ended up being our sacred "Manoomin" or wild rice. And... wild rice ends up being a real indicator of environmental health particularly in water, and it needs a very particular growing environment. And it's very much impacted by human stressors... um, you know, sewage... you know, non-compliant systems, upstream pollutants from mining activities, and we had seen within the borders of the reservation that... um, our wild rice was greatly, greatly diminished. And from our elders we knew that the range of where we were able to get it was being diminished. That waters that used to have it where they used to go, and gather were no longer. So, we started building up a water quality department and actually started promulgating... um, regulations... um within the borders around... you know, what was impacting, and that was sulfides, and that was a lot from non-compliant septic systems. So, we ended up having to really work with other jurisdictions and create innovative partnerships, but we also had to exert our sovereignty and our right to... um, set water quality standards within our borders. We… we received... um, treatment as a state status from the EPA. So, we could... um, have authority and participate in permitting decisions not only on the reservation, but in our seated territory which is all of northeastern Minnesota. So, we would know when new industry was coming in that would impact water quality... um, we had... um, science... um, because one of the things that happens when other jurisdictions don't like tribes exerting their jurisdiction, and their authority, and their self-governance, and saying that their culture matters, and... and... and cultural patrimony matters... um, is they use western science. So, we had western scientists on staff so we could say... um, you know, why... um, these things were impactful... um, that we knew that it was coming from non-compliant septics, and that we were going to enact an ordinance that everyone even non-natives had to comply, but we could help them do that. And we could look at large mining project... projects upstream and say to the army corps of engineers how this impacted a traditional food. Partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health that says that exercising treaty rights and cultural activities is a part of spiritual wellness, but also that as a staple in our diet that it was a healthy part of our diet and contributed to good dietary.

 

So, we had a mainstream... um, organization the Minnesota Department of Health saying that... um, you know, that this was an important food and important to preserve for Anishinaabe people, my people. So, all of it was guided by... um, our traditional values our traditional culture... um, hunting fishing gathering... um, but then we even took it a step further. And people would say, well, when you want to preserve the environment... you know, it impacts our jobs and our... our way of life, our mining way of life, or our economy. So, we work with vendors and actually put a value on what a healthy water ecosystem in northeastern Minnesota how that contributes to the economy. So, we use all of these things very broadly, and a part of it is… is we know that we will cease to be who we are without access to traditional ways. So, you're in this for the long haul, right. And so, then you have these minor skirmishes along the way, and you have setbacks, and you just persevere. And we know this because our language and culture and spirituality are all tied... um, to our caretaking for the land and the water. So, our natural resources department and our resource management is staffed... and... and guided by elders who teach young Native tribal people who have fancy western educations, and fancy titles, and their scientists that they marry those things with traditional knowledge. So that they can be good stewards over time because it is a really a generational... um, issue around land management. So strategic orientation is that your government whether you write things down and have ordinances that it reflects who you are as people. And that's that... that cultural match, but it also gives you the kind of that long generational view of taking care of for your children and your grandchildren.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

So, I think in everything that you've just heard you could also feel the importance of the fifth principle of indigenous nation building, which is the important of public-spirited community serving servant leadership, which is really working toward building a nation... um, building an indigenous society that really works for that people. And helps it sustain itself over the long term. Here's a beautiful picture of Chief Oren Lyons who is an Onondaga man who exemplifies these characteristics of nation-building leadership. Over almost 90 years he's worked... um, on behalf of his nation and other indigenous nations, and he's been one of those people who helps recognize need for fundamental change. And can engage with his community to make it happen, and in fact has engaged with many commun... indigenous communities around the world in helping be an indigenous nation builder. You know, one of the things that we recognize is that indigenous nation-building leaders public-spirited leaders oftentimes are elected leaders, but they don't have to be elected leaders... Joan can you go on to the next slide... um, I wanted to kind of put an aside here that says there is a way to use your tribal codes, your tribal ordinances, and some of your protocols and expectations on behavior to help create public spirited leaders. To help kind of put... create lanes for people to operate in... um, and many nations are starting to do this through ethics codes. By on... on one hand maybe they're some... sometimes they have some punitive language like don't do this, but... um, we're starting to see a lot of tribal ethics codes go the other direction, which is really saying here's what... what good leaders in our society do. Here's what... how they... how they operate and how they behave... um, and so that's an opportunity to kind of put that sort of expectation out there... Joan we'll go down to the next slide... and that would affect in many cases elected leaders.

 

And here's another... um, picture of another Haudenosaunee leader Mike Mitchell who's an example of an elected leader who really set the standard... um, for his nation of how to behave in a nation-building fashion. And exemplifies a lot of those kinds of principles of serving the community. I wanted to tell a little bit of a story that Mike Mitchell tells about himself when he was a younger man, and first elected to be Grand Chief of his nation. He's an interesting guy because he was essentially told by the traditional leaders of the nation the two folks who tended to not seek elected leadership but exercised their authority through those more traditional channels. He was told by them. "Hey, you were raised in the longhouse, you're a traditional guy. We need you. Somebody like you over there in elected government so that we can make these systems work more harmoniously." So, he went there he... he got elected. He ran, he got elected, and he began a real campaign within the elected system to say, this is... we're going to make this ours. We're not going to be some mimicking Canada system, or mimicking the U.S. kind of system. We're going to make it ours and we're going to start to use our kinds of terms and language. Even down to the... the... the way we talk about ourselves has to be ours. So, we actually took and put a coffee cup in the middle of the table and when the council would gather to meet... um, he would say there are certain words we're not going to be using. We're not going to be talking about ourselves as a band, we're not going to be talking about the... you know, our authorities under the Indian Act. This is again a nation that shares its geography with Canada so a set of laws there that are different from the U.S. laws. He said we're not going to talk about our reserve. We're going to talk about our homeland.

 

So, we had these words that were off limits in order for them to assert their sovereignty and practice their self-determination, and he was leading them through his example. And every time somebody used one of those off-limits words, money would go into the coffee cup and people began to speak in a wholly different way. And really start to think in a different way and behave in a different way from that little piece of public-spirited nation-building leadership that he was demonstrating. Sure, enough pretty soon they had money to go buy coffee, but they were also able to behave in a way that was quite different. So that's elected leadership behaving in a public-spirited fashion. But I also want to give one final example and that's the picture at the bottom right of your screen. Here are some women who are involved in a really important project at the White Mountain Apache tribe, which is a suicide prevention program. We all know that suicide, particularly youth suicide, has been a really prevalent problem across lots of Native communities, indigenous communities worldwide in fact. And the White Mountain Apache Tribe didn't wait in a sense for, "Hey tribal council to do something about it." Social workers nurses... um, school... uh, schoolteachers, other people involved in education, and critically elders stepped in and took a public-spirited nation-building leadership role to address this issue. They got engaged with some outside researchers from Johns Hopkins University. They created programs that came from their traditional knowledge about how things would work. They tested some things, tried some other things, and have now over the course of about 15 years created one of the most successful suicide intervention and prevention programs there in Indian Country. And that came not from elected leadership but from people within the community. So again, nation building comes from lots of different places. um... I just wanted to go on and re-summarize about the kinds of things that we've found. That for Indigenous nations to be successful on all their measures culturally, socially, politically they have to be given the opportunity, and then seize that opportunity to make decisions for themselves. And that's the way they'll reach their visions. This is underscored by lots of research that's quantitative and qualitative, and by the demonstrated experience and testimony of many folks working in indigenous communities. So, I think a really critical question we want to leave you guys with is, does your governing system create an environment that can support development of the kind that you want and that you imagine really is needed for your people and for your nation? In other words, do you have the right tools. Here's just a summary of the nation building principles. And because we're down to our last 12 minutes, Karen, I’m going to just make an executive decision and skip that last little bit of your presentation because I think we'd really like to get to our questions... um, and maybe some of the things that we're going to talk about will come up in the Question and Answer period. But just to summarize we've talked about these five principles of nation building. These are the kinds of things that in our indigenous government program we... we drill down into through a lot of our courses and classes, but hopefully we've given you some examples of how they can apply and inspired you to think about that question... you'v... we've raised of what are some of the things you'd like to see done in terms of nation building in your communities? Tory has been minding the chat box where he's also asked people to raise questions that they have them. And so, I’m going to turn to Tory to ask some questions, and I’m going to primarily rely on Joan and Karen who are kind of subject matter experts... um, to respond to some of these questions that have been raised in the chat.

 

Tory Fodder:

Great! Well, thanks to our...our panelists for sort of an engaging overview of the Native nation building principles... uh, there are a few questions in the chat box and a lot of comments which are most appreciated. We'll get to those... um, in just a second. Let's start with the questions. And we'll kind of... I’ll work in reverse order because I think the... the last question that was asked that was an actual direct question is... is interesting. Someone writes... um, a second question, can... what... what are the examples of differences regarding a deputized government versus being micromanaged by a tribal council?

 

Karen Diver:

This is Karen... um, so anybody who's worked for tribal government would say that you know the council gets involved in decision making they should let their staff do their jobs, and... and exercise their expertise... um, when we were looking at Fond du Lac's human services division, the Health Division. I was talking about bringing intake workers... um, to take Medicaid applications. There was more than one tribal member who said, "well, I shouldn't have to sign up through health care through the state... um, you know, this is a... a treaty right... you know, that I shouldn't have to try to find funding sources for the tribe." The politically expedient thing on the part of the tribal council in the day would have been to say you know this is causing conflict... you know, just serve them, just go ahead and serve them, don't make them... um, you know fill out this application. What was best for the tribe as a whole, however, which meant absorbing some of that conflict with tribal members. Was to say our health system will be better and be able to provide more robust services and be more financially stable when we promote that self-sufficiency... um, and personal responsibility... um, and say that this is good for the whole tribe. And as a citizen you have a duty... um, to help us be the best that we can be. So, the micromanaging... um, and... and the

self-governing, and the deputizing is to say,

you know, the health clinic requires this. This is

their policy... um, the tribal council has approved it

and we're not going to get involved in it. So, by

way of answering your question I offer you that example.

 

Joan Timeche:

I would like to also add a couple more. I think one of the ways that you might be able to overcome some of the politicism of it all is to... um, include those authorities in some of your codes. Like you know, Department of Natural Resources might be authorized to go out and do X, Y, and Z, you know... um, and so you... you write them in there. So, it doesn't matter who the person is and who's in counsel at the time. You're just giving authority to a department with the ex... you're setting out expectations. That did they... they do X... um, Y and Z for the benefit of the nation. Same thing can be done in corporate charters for some of your development authorities. If you lay out what their authorities are, and make clear the distinction between when the tribe can be engaged in some of the decisions, and when not to. It'll help set... um, clear roles will be identified there.

 

Tory Fodder:

Great! Thank you both. Following up on with another question... um, and this is sort of a... this is also very interesting... um, one individual comments. Nation is a Western term. So, it seems as though it's an element of sovereignty, but it also has some assimilative interaction with Euro-Western culture. I think this kind of gets it to a better bit of a deeper critique of the term nation building in general... um, what's in an eye's response to that... um, and how does it kind of fit within

the framework that was outlined today.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

So, I’ll jump in and... um, just say a few things. I think that one of the challenges is to find a word... um, across many different indigenous languages and indigenous world views and... um, uh, continents even of what, what... what word would capture kind of this notion of peoplehood... um, and moving forward as a political collective... uh, so political scientists, you know, front use words like nation to capture that... um, but in indigenous nation building we really try to recognize that we're looking for a word that more or less fits, but then encourage as part of that self-determination process for... for nations for political collectives, for indigenous communities to figure out what it is that works for them. So of course, many nations already have a word like this um Navajo the word is Diné, right, which is the people..., uh and so... um, so nation building is kind of like strengthening Diné and through indigenous governance. We've seen a couple of communities, one of indigenous nations tribes in the United States... um, the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, which doesn't talk really about nation building at all. It talks about Tigua work and an-tiguaizing their efforts to do all of this work. And they've tried to put it in language for terms that... uh, make sense to their community and to their people. The same thing we've seen in Australia. The "Radri" people talk a lot about... um, the... in... in their own language. The... the terms about what it means to... in a sense be a good Radri, and create community, and build nation, and create and govern a political collective that's theirs. They're still pretty early on that pathway, but one of their first steps has been to say how do we... how do we claim this as our words again? We use nation because it's... um, a way to… to talk more generally, but we encourage communities to figure out terms that work for them.

 

 

Joan Timeche:

And I think that it's a better word than calling us a tribe because to me tribe implies you know a

cultural... has a cultural sense to it, but a nation to me means also that we are citizens. We have responsibilities back to... you know, not just rights from an entity, but we have responsibilities back to the society and to the community in general.

 

Tory Fodder:

Great! I don't want to cut off conversation. Karen did you have anything to... anything to add or...

 

Karen Diver:

I'm good?

 

Tory Fodder:

It's... um, I’ll go to our last... uh, sort of comment. I think is... um, actually a question but... um, the actual definition of Native Nation Building... uh, early on one person noted that I guess for Navajo it's about creating livable healthy communities through k... relations and kin for your children, elders, and families... um, and I guess maybe, if there is a question, it's you know, about Native Nation Building as a definition, and the kind of the scope of the language that we use... uh, in in our definition. Whether it's sort of more flexible, or… or maybe even more broad?

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Well, I'll kick start and then I’ll quickly pass off to Karen and Joan to close things out. But you know... um, the definition that we put up on the screen earlier comes from a book that I edited and called Rebuilding Native Nations which is a textbook that we use in a lot of the work that we do. And this whole notion of strengthening the foundations...  um, for governance is... uh, kind of where we come from... uh, in our perspective. Joan kicked off by saying we think about tribal governance all the time because we think that if we... and we think that research points to the fact that Native nations need strong governance and successful governments, effective governance, competent governance. I mean that comes from both tribal governments and the sort of cultural surround of that in order to get to those dreams. In order to get to those goals that they set for themselves. So, you can't kind of get to that outcome that people want to build, the kind of society they want to build, without putting those firm foundations in place. So, for us at Native Nations Institute, when we talk about Native Nation Building. What we mean by that is strengthening those foundations of tribal government of Native nation government, so that that political collective can achieve the goals that it sets for itself. And other people will define it in other ways, but that's what our focus is.

 

Joan Timeche:

And it's going to be different. You know, what that looks like is going to be different for every nation. You know, because of how we're organized and how we recognize authority to be exercised. So not every nation is going to look the same and to me it's a general definition that can apply to many nations but allowing each one to determine specifically what that means for them.

 

Karen Diver:

And for me, this is really about... um, day-to-day resiliency of indigenous peoples because we had natural organizing principles long before the first settler ever showed up. You know, we had organized groups. We were in... in clans. We were in bands. We were in tribes, and although we had different language for it at that time perhaps. We did know how to organize ourselves. We did know how to resolve conflict. We did know how to make decisions. We did know how to work intergovernmentally across tribes and across these clans. And the modern-day version of that may be structured different, but it's going to be informed by that past, right. And what fits well for the needs today, and... and that's really a part of our resiliency. Is our adaptability in the face of all of these years of colonization. The practice matters more than the words.

 

Joan Timeche:

So, we're up...

 

Tory Fodder:

Go ahead.

 

Joan Timeche:

Okay, so we're up to... um very close to our close here and I just wanted to point out that we hope that you found... um, the session useful... um, to you. We we're sorry that you were not able to participate in one of our May in Tucson courses. We are going to have another session that's coming up in January. We hope you'll consider registering for one of those courses, but in the meantime, we have a number of resources that are available to you. Much of these are also free. We have our Indigenous Governance Database. Once we get this cleaned up, we'll have this... um, put out... um, likely put on our database as well.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

For this session is what you're saying.

 

Joan Timeche:

I'm sorry, yeah, this session we will put it out on our database... um, our Constitution's Resource Center for those of you that might be contemplating either moving from an oral... um, governmental forum to one that's written, or either to just updating and revising to reflect some of your needs. We have that in place. We have of course our Indigenous Governance Programs. You can go to the website. If you go to our website, click on any of these tiles. It'll lead you right to that. We also have an online courses. It's based off of the book that Miriam edited and mentioned previously about Rebuilding Native Nations. It's nine modules. They're self-paced, and they're for non-credit... um, we have services that we provide on a fee-for-service basis, and although COVID-19 is...

limiting us to online only. We do normally go out and work on the ground with Indian Country. There might be some interviews out there that you might be interested in... um, you know, on tribal leaders talking about some of the challenges that they face. Our sister organization, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. This allows you to get to them and hear about all of these wonderful examples. Some of the ones that we shared. And then we have a number of resources for students, whether it's youth camps, youth workshops, such as an entrepreneurship session we're going to be offering in June, or either for graduate students who might be doing research on a nation-building topic. So, we greatly appreciate your time with us and here's our contact information. And Tory, I don't know if you have any last words to say...

 

Tory Fodder:

You know, just on behalf of the Indigenous Governance Program at the Native Nations Institute and our colleagues at the Indigenous People's Law and Policy Program all at the University of Arizona. I just want to say thanks for joining us. We've had folks from around the world call in across the

United States... uh, really glad you could join us and thanks so much for your time. We'll look forward to connecting with you, and yes, we will make the PowerPoint available take care all.

 

Joan Timeche:

Thank you.

 

 

Michael K. Mitchell: A History of the Akwesasne Mohawk

Producer
Native Nation Building: Governance and Development undergraduate course
Year

Grand Chief Michael Mitchell of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne offers students a broad overview of the governance history of the Akwesasne Mohawk and the efforts his people have made during his time in office to exercise true self-governance and rebuild their nation.

Resource Type
Citation

Mitchell, Michael K. "A History of the Akwesasne Mohawk." Native Nation Building: Governance and Development undergraduate course (faculty: Dr. Ian Record). American Indian Studies program, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 31, 2008. Presentation.

Michael K. Mitchell:

"[Mohawk language] What I said in my language is it's an honor to be here and I'm very nervous anytime I stand before a class that seem to be at the university level that have garnered so much knowledge from books that I don't quite know how I could relate, but I'm going to try.

I come from a territory that got dissected by the U.S./Canadian border. Half of Akwesasne is located in upstate New York and the other half is in Canada. Three quarters of what's in Canada is in the Province of Quebec and a quarter of it is in the Province of Ontario. So we have five jurisdictions on the outside perimeters of our reservation.

As I'm going along, I may be asking you some questions because I'm working on almost like an autobiography of my upbringing and political experience and a question I have is if any of you already know, what year did the American war of Independence end? Does anybody know? I should have you on Jay Leno. In the late 1700s, right? Because later on, it lead into the War of 1812, but around that time was when they put the international border. And for some reason it split our Mohawk community in half. So part of us became Americans and the other part Canadians. So you have brothers and sisters, one's American and one's Canadian at least by the standards on the outside.

We always consider ourselves to be nation members and citizens of the Mohawk Nation. And I don't know how much you would learn about the Iroquois in your American Indian studies but the Mohawks are part of the Haudenosaunee, Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Six Nations. And the nations that make up the Iroquois Confederacy are the Mohawk, the Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Senecas and Tuscaroras. At the time, what we called the 13 Fires or the 13 Colonies, when Europeans were starting to settle in North America [want to break for a minute?] they met and got permission from the Iroquois Confederacy and established relationships with the Haudenosaunee as to where European settlers would take up residence. It started with the Dutch, Germans and later the English and each group that came, each group of settlers that came made treaties with the Iroquois.

Now in making these agreements there was one particular agreement that we know very well that was made in Albany, New York. It was called the two-row wampum because our people recorded our history in wampum belts. And this is a story that our people talk about in our earliest relations with European settlers. There was a belt that had two rows and our elders said that at that time it signified two ships, two vessels. One was a ship and one was a canoe and what they told the European settlers is that, "˜On this ship you came to this land to escape from religious prosecution, from not being able to practice your governments the way you would want to be represented and so in this land we're going to give you that freedom to do so, speak your language, practice your traditions, your culture, everything that you would like to be as a people will remain on that ship and in our canoe will be the same thing. Our governance, systems of government, our languages, our cultures, our traditions, our ceremonies, our religious beliefs will be in our canoe and they will go down the river of life together in parallel. I will never make laws, my nation will never make laws for your people and you will never do the same with us.' So it was that kind of a relationship. "˜But throughout time, we'll always be there to help you.' And as it was in the earliest times, Europeans were not aware of their surroundings, they were not aware of the many types of foods that they could cultivate and eat. So the Native Americans were the first ones to show them, the first time that they would ever have experienced squash, pumpkin, corn, beans and down the line, as well as medicines. In this exchange, Europeans showed them how to hunt, utensils, farming equipment, etc., so there was this exchange.

Anyway, in those days where they came from they told a story about being ruled by kings and queens, nobles, barons and peasants, religious prosecutions. So one of the earliest historical leaders in this country was Benjamin Franklin and in his earliest writings he talked about sitting at the council fire of the Iroquois and he watched how they governed their people, for it was something drastically different than what he was accustomed to and he invited others to come and observe when nations got together and talked about governance.

Their leaders were called [Mohawk language], chiefs. And contrary to the way politics are run today for both of us, because I'm an elected leader, usually have a term of three to five years. But in those days a Native American chief would be put up by the women of his nation. We all had our own clans. I belong to the Wolf clan. Among the Mohawks there's three major clans, the Wolf, Turtle and Bear. And so it would be the women of that nation is was said that would watch men form the time they crawl on the ground to the time they walk to the time they hunt to the time they marry, the women of that nation would know and judge the character of a man; how he provides, how he related, how he conducted himself as a human being, as a family person. If he was a good hunter, if he was a good speaker, if he knew ceremonial, cultural things that belonged to his nation, then they knew he would be a good leader. And so he didn't have to make promises to say, "˜I want to be a chief.' The women already had made up their mind that he would be a good leader.

And so when they picked a man to be the chief, the women had a fair notion what would make for a good leader and in them days, and we still have that system of governance today, a man had three chances in his lifetime, in his adult life, in his leadership life to be a good leader. If he did something against what would harm the people of his nation, the women would come to see him three times and straighten it out. He would have three chances to retain his chieftainship. And on the third time, they would have a head warrior with them to take his title away. It was considered a disgrace if a chief ever had to have his title taken away.

And with our tradition, a man who was a chief was given a headdress that had deer antlers and he carried that, he wore that in council meetings and in ceremonies and important events when they met with other nations. And so that symbol of office, if there ever came a time that he would be removed from office, there was a term called "˜de-horning a chief.' They would take his title away by taking his antlers away from him. He would never be recognized as a leader again ever in his lifetime. And so that was the system of governance for us. Then European governments came and said, "˜We have a better system.' And I'm going to talk about my experiences on the Canadian side, but there's parallels on both sides.

In Canada in 1867, they created a federal legislation called the Indian Act. It had three major objectives or principles. One was to Christianize the Indian nations, make farmers out of them, and educate them; what they call educating the Indian-ness out of them, make them non-Indians. And so they set up these residential schools. They would round up all the Native kids off their territories, send them hundreds of miles away in a church-run school and those kids wouldn't see their parents until eight, ten years later they would be allowed to come home. That was a system that ran and stopped probably around 1971, '73, they started closing off the so-called residential schools in Canada.

Did it work? Many times it did, for our people returned home strangers, no language any longer, no awareness of their customs and traditions, cultural values, can't speak the language, but they were educated. And the thing that happened with many is that they were lost. They couldn't mingle with their people, associate with them, but they couldn't survive in the cities, outside the reservations because now they had lost something very important, their spirit as Native Americans. So for many to get home, they had to relearn or get re-educated as to who they were. The churches played a strong part de-Indianizing of our people because all these schools were run by religious institutions.

Some significant things that happened is that when they started catching on as to the effects of residential schools in that just under a hundred years in Canada, is that suicide rates, social conditions prevailed on the majority of people who came out of residential schools. Suicide rates are high. In Canada there's 30 million people, population in the country. We form the majority of the prison populations in Canada because one other factor that was crucially important, alcohol wasn't meant for our people to touch. In the time that they drank they became...they lost their memory, they committed a crime, they killed somebody, they robbed something that would land them in prison, lifetime, 20 years. And so that became a big social impact in our development, progress as people.

We are now starting to realize the consequences because the values that we were taught as Native Americans, as Mohawks in nation for us, the virtue of what makes for a good person was in our cultural teachings, and when they took that away from us and tried to make us into something else, we couldn't adjust there, either. And so in Akwesasne, those that are on the Canadian side wound up in a school strange enough called 'Spanish.' On the American side they wound up in a residential school, which escapes me for the minute. Anybody ever hear of Jim Thorpe? What school did he go to? Carlisle [Indian School], that was the school where they sent our people on the American side, and a lot of our elders went to school with Jim Thorpe.

So they would return home. Now there are some people that use their education and they did make something of themselves but in between that was a sad story. So those of us that got an education within our community, there was a fight all the way through. I was raised by my grandparents and they gave me the cultural teachings, the language, ceremonial songs, what makes for a good person. Many of the stories of the nations that I find myself now being an elder in a community of sorts and as strange as it is, the governance that I told you a little earlier about how people get put up, my mother is a clan mother and they are the ones who put up leaders. And so I would say from the time I was small being raised that I had retained all these teachings that I was going to be a traditional chief, where the women would put you in office.

In the 1970s to "˜80s in our community, there was always turmoil between the elected leaders and the traditional people. And then for us there was elected leaders on the Canadian side and there's elected leaders on the American side and there was the Mohawk Nation traditional chiefs. So if it wasn't bad enough to have five governments on the outside, we had three inside the reservation. And like the Hatfields and McCoys, the elected leaders were usually the Christian leaders and the traditional chiefs were people who they called them the Long House people. They were the people who maintained the ceremonies, the language and the customs and traditions and they adhere to a traditional form of governance as I had told you.

Anyway, as in any society when they don't get along there would be skirmishes. So the nation people said, "˜We want to find a way to exchange our cultures in the event that maybe we could make for a better world in the next generation. So we're going to exchange some of our people.' So they send me over to the elected side and in 1982 I became, I was elected as a chief in the elected system and at that time I was probably the first one. We were referred to as pagans because we weren't Christian and the church taught them that if you're not a Christian you must be a pagan. So that was a very catchy name on council by my peers, to have a pagan chief. Not that I really knew much about it, so it didn't really bother me. But as I later found out, some cruel things. The priest in our reservation was a Mohawk from another reservation and so when you get somebody believing in something really hard, they espoused a lot of hatred and that existed in my time growing up. If you weren't a Christian Mohawk, then you were something of a lower class. My duty and responsibility was not only to be a good leader, but to change that whole image and that whole attitude of what makes for a good Mohawk person.

So two years later...they've only got two-year terms; we had another election. In that time, I looked at our elected governance, chief and council, the way they conducted their business. They didn't have any public meetings, they didn't show the community any of the minutes of their meetings so they know how much education dollars, how much housing dollars and welfare and house...so it was all like a big mystery. And usually it's a favorite; some people get catered to. If you elect a person and you represent so many of a large family, you're looked after. If they didn't think that you were supporting particular people on council, you didn't kind of work your way up the ladder.

So it was that kind of governance I wasn't really used to. So I started taking minutes of our meetings and I would show them around. Finally I did a small newspaper, I would ship them out into the community. I became very well versed on information that had to get into the community. So I took it upon myself -- because that was my tradition -- to take this information and provide it to the community. Now for some reason, the community liked having this information even though I was traditional and the next year they wanted me to become the Grand Chief of the reservation.

Now I'm going to go back a little bit. The first time I went for elections and I was put up, our traditional people don't vote. So I had to get elected by the other side. I still don't know how that happened, but it did and I got in. So the second time around when I competed for the Grand Chief position, a Grand Chief is elected among the general populace. A District Chief is elected from his own area. So I thought I was safe there. And to jump in that short time was a little difficult...and it was rough for somebody that came from the traditional side of the community. I got beat up going to work. The office that I had was occupied by protestors who didn't believe that the Grand Chief should be traditional. My life was threatened. And so it didn't kind of work out at the beginning, but if you have a thing in your mind that you want to try to govern, I had to mix my upbringing into my politics. So I found different avenues, different venues where I would get information to the community, "˜This is our situation.' And as I'm trying to fight off my opponents, I also had to fight off the governments on the outside. So I got together with the chiefs and we had some sessions, normally like you would anywhere else where you decide to get everything out in the open. And I convinced them that we're here for the same reasons -- to have effective governance.

Don't forget about the Indian Act that I told you, because not that long ago in our community the Indian agent ran everything. He controlled the chief and council, told them how to vote, what is the important issues and how they should govern, how they should make decisions. When I was coming out of high school was the last few days of the Indian agent was around in our reservation but the effects, government policy, everything was decided in Ottawa. If the chief and council made a decision about something, whether it's a school or a health facility, anything that would benefit the community, you had to ask for permission through the Department of Indian Affairs and they would let you know if you could do it. I was very much opposed to not having the community be the ones who decide on issues and I advocated that the people had to get involved.

Now we live on a reservation as I told you that's half in Canada, half in the States. For me to come from Cornwall Island, Ontario, I have to cross through the customs to the American side of the reservation to get to St. Regis, Quebec. If I have to go to Snye, I have to go back to the American side and get back into Quebec. So every day I'm going through borders. And when we had problems crossing borders, I convinced the community that we should stand up for ourselves. After a few meetings we got people worked up, we shut down the international bridge; fifty of us went to jail. But that was the first time in "˜70s that in Canada people started, Native people started organizing themselves, speaking up for themselves, and that was the time that changes started to happen. Then we started getting in touch with our brothers on the American side.

One of the things that happened, we affected government policy. I convinced Ottawa to allow us to hire our own people because they had non-Native coming on the reservation to be our education director, to take notes in terms of social programs, to take health information back and statistics that they kept and nobody really was comfortable with that kind of relationship. In the space of two years, I was able to convince the governments on the outside to allow young people who were coming out of colleges and universities to come home and work for us, stay home. They became our administrators, they became our teachers, they became our police people, our conservation, environment...we had jobs of all kinds, but they weren't really our people that were working there. So that was the changes that came about in the "˜80s. As the changes started to happen, confidence came back to our people, that confidence and tradition.

There's something important I left out, an event that happened in 1984, which was just as I was starting my second term, my first term as Grand Chief. The Pope came to Canada and he had asked the bishops that... he was tired of the churches in U.S. and Canada every time a figure like that would come around they would dress up the Indians, put the war bonnets on and put them on horses just the way you see them in cowboy and Indian movies. That was the perception. So as easterners we were not very much aware of the prairie Indians, they still would put western headdresses on our elders and parade them around. Well, the Pope that we had passed away just a few years ago, Pope John Paul. He didn't want that. He said, "˜I want to see real people. I want to see them how they do their spiritual practices, I want to experience it.' So the priests on my reservation wrote to them and said, "˜We just elected a pagan over here so I'll send his name up.' And I got a call from the Vatican and they said, "˜Would you be interested in putting a ceremony on for the Pope?' And I agreed. I went back to the Long House and I told them what had been requested and in their wisdom they said, "˜Maybe it would make for better relations because as long as they don't understand they've got hatred in their hearts.' And so we put together a small group. We went to Midland, Ontario to do this ceremony for the Pope.

When I got there, just imagine what it must have been in Woodstock when they had this great big celebration over there, change it around, the Pope was the main attraction but there were about I'd say 70,000, 80,000 people in these foothills, cameras, everything was broadcast worldwide. And this event that he was trying to pursue was one that he was pushing for all religions to have greater tolerance and understanding of each other. And this one mission that he had in North America was to understand the Native spiritual practices better. And so I worked with the Ojibwes and the Crees in Canada with the Mohawks to put together this ceremony. And we put together a healing ceremony that consisted of smudging, sweet grass, sage and tobacco, the three main things that we use to conduct our ceremonies. I'm a singer. I sang with a group of other young guys. And so the whole event was televised and when it come up to putting the words to him and singing and putting him through the ceremonies, the Pope started to have tears come down. And when we got done and everything was translated to him what we were saying, I knew that it had a profound effect on him.

So when it was over, and by the way about 500 perhaps maybe more than that of the same people that called us down and called us pagans were in the audience out there somewhere. I know because I put buses on to get them there and I paid for their gas as chief so I know somewhere they're out there. And it was slightly uncomfortable because they said, "˜Well, now that we've got a pagan chief we know we have to go out there. The previous chief would have given us money.' Well, I did give them money and I put buses on and I helped them get there so I knew somewhere they were in the audience.

But what happened that day was, the speech that he gave at the end of the ceremony where he said, "˜The European people that came across the salt waters, the religious, the churches that came across believed that the Native Americans in this country were godless, soulless people and ever since then we have advocated to everyone that the only one way they would be human beings if they became Christians.' Then he put down his papers and he looked right at them and he said, "˜That was wrong. For I have experienced a religious experience from these people that I want to talk about.' He proceeded to lay everything out for them saying, "˜The churches have been wrong. The White man has been wrong,' he says, "˜to even have thinking that you've got to be like us.' Then he talked about the residential schools, talked about the education systems. By the time he got done, he offered an apology on behalf of the Church. And then he told everybody, he said, "˜I know there were ways that you have shown the distaste of your own practices. I'm going to ask you to go home, incorporate your traditional teachings in the Church.' And from that time on for me life became easier because the protest, the occupations, the beating have stopped and I was given a chance to govern.

We went to the churches, me for the first time, to give talks like this about peace and brotherhood, because for me in my upbringing we also had a spiritual leader. He had a name, referred to as [Mohawk language] but we only refer to him as the Peacemaker because with him he came to our people like close to a thousand years ago at a time when there was warfare going on between nations. And he advocated the great peace, the Great Law of Peace where people would put away their weapons and always find a way in whatever you do advocate a more peaceful way to live. Now you also had in the Great Law of Peace the constitution and that constitution advocated fairness in representation, fairness in governance. The people were the ones who made decisions and put their leaders up more to be like servants and so [Mohawk language], a chief was really a person who followed the wishes of his Nation. And this is when I was telling about women wound up being the ones who elected their leaders. Very interesting concept: five nations in unity governing on the basis of peace on the law that was known as the Great Law of Peace.

This was the meetings that Benjamin Franklin sat in and he brought his people along to say, "˜Look at these people making decisions and look at the way they govern and the way they advocate their governance, is that they would find a way to speak, counsel, make decisions all on the basis of peace.' And so they influenced the Constitution of the United States. I offer you these tidbits of information because I know you're going to go back and check, where did this all occur. Well, today it's pretty well a foregone conclusion that these events did happen and that there were these early influences, but with us when governments met and they came to a decision, nations would have to all unanimously agree. That's something that Benjamin Franklin said, "˜My people cannot ever do.' So they opted out for majority decision. So that was the difference in our lifestyle back home in governance.

In my time, I tried to cooperate a combination of our traditional cultural practices in a modern elected governance system. And that law called the Indian Act in Canada, I opted out of the provisions of that so that I could replace it with some strong, Mohawk-flavored governance models; giving the power back to the people. That's why in 1982, '84 I was asked by the elders to consider being a chief maybe for a term or two just so that they could turn things around and maybe politics would get a little better. And as I said a while ago, in 2006 the second time that I retired, people kept putting me back in office and they always said, "˜For one more term, until we can find and develop new leaders that will take your place.' And I began to find myself stuck to a position that I was only supposed to be there on a temporary basis. Now mind you, the excitement of governing, the challenge of representing and serving your people is a fire that is always going to be ignited inside you if you're a leader. And so I agreed to keep going.

Now I serve on the advisory board for the Native Nations Institute, but I also serve in advisory capacity to many other developments, both American and Canadian, Native American leaders. Offer them advice based on many years of experience. I wasn't...I'm not going to lie to you, it wasn't always a peaceful leadership style based on peace. When I talked about shutting down international roads and bridges, took over islands but just to get people involved in a non-violent way without guns, without clubs, but simply assert yourself. And so I started doing this across Canada and people rose and life is better when you can speak for yourself and nations can speak out. And that was a time for us that led up to 2006 when I finally made my decision to pursue a private life, more or less. Elections are coming around back home next year and they said, "˜You had enough rest. You should consider coming back.'

Well, presently I'm working on my book. Basically I made a very fast cut through of my experiences but in more greater detail of events that happened in the United States with Indian Country, events that happened in Canada, because I offer certain parallels that are very distinguishable. But my survival in politics led to my knowing my traditions and my culture and my language, taking the best of the non-Native world and combining it, pushed education a lot but the social conditions in our community has improved. But being on that border, we got famous for something else. I don't know if you can guess at it but whenever there's a border there, what's likely to happen? Anybody take a guess? Smuggling took place and in a big way because we've got 100 miles of the St. Lawrence River of islands and in the dark of night, our people know that territory inside out. And so it started with cigarettes. Canadian companies, cigarette manufacturers would reroute their cigarettes from Buffalo, New York to Pennsylvania to New Jersey to Boston and make a big circle and then would bring them back in and they were using our people to bring them across the border. It wasn't long before people caught on and they started doing their own smuggling. It's still going on. So I had that to contend with. Pretty soon motorcycle gangs called the Hells Angels in Montreal started, "˜Hey, there's a profit to be made here,' so they started enticing people to bring drugs across. And then when that started, some of that drug stayed in the community. So for us it was always an ongoing battle.

When 9/11 happened, and if some of you have a good memory CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC all had giant screens with a map of Akwesasne saying, "˜Those terrorists came through that Indian reservation.' For two weeks that was going on. They were reporting that it had to be this complicated, unique Native community where they might have come through. The more they talked about it, the more they convinced themselves that that in fact happened. It wasn't until maybe two, three weeks later that they found out they didn't come through there, that they were in fact in the country. I was Grand Chief at the time and you will not know your gut, the heart, what it felt like thinking they crossed and killed so many people because of this border. And it's a border that much unlike...I went to visit the Tohono O'odham Nation here. Their reservation is the same way. Part of it is in the United States, part of it is in Mexico and they've got 85 miles of nation territory they have to watch over. People are coming over, but not to the extreme or as dangerous as people coming from Canada into the States because they have one thing in mind, smuggle something over. So now our concerns is explosives, guns, terrorism types, finding a way through our reservation.

So that became the greatest concern. So we made up our own border patrol program. We added to our police force. Now we work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Customs, State Troopers and it's a program called IBET [Integrated Border Enforcement Teams], integrated policing. And that's becoming another big part of our reputation, coincide with the smuggling concern.

But all in all, you advocate to your young people, "˜Go to school, get an education, seek something out that you want to be but come back home.' And that thing that started in the 1980s is still going on today. And so I've just given you a very fast run-through of what life is like for where I come from. I don't know how much of it you can digest in a short time, but you invited me here to talk a little bit about where you're from and what you do or what you were doing and that's the story of Akwesasne. By the way, Akwesasne in Mohawk means "˜land where the partridge drums,' and at the earliest times along the St. Lawrence you still see quite a few, I guess you call them grouse, partridges, from that family, very prevalent on the St. Lawrence. And they call our place the home of the partridges. Anyway, that's my story."

Ian Record:

"I've got a question about...you mentioned just now the jurisdictional agreements you have around law enforcement to try to control the smuggling and all that. I've had conversations with you before where you talked about the kind of early origins of when Akwesasne started really asserting their jurisdiction back over their own territory and I wonder if you could talk about that, because at least originally Canada and the provinces and even the states weren't too approving of that, were they?"

Michael K. Mitchell:

"That's right. On the Canadian side the Mounties enforce...Royal Canadian Mounted Police enforce the federal law and the Provincial Police, Ontario Provincial Police and the Quebec Provincial Police enforce the provincial laws. That was on the river and on the mainland. And they enforced the Criminal Code of Canada. And so as complicated as our territory is there was no room...we had a Native police force but they weren't giving them any respect. As a matter of fact there's a term I still remember. They called them "˜window dressing cops.' If they won't let you do anything but they were still complaining that they weren't arresting our people on driving intoxicated or speeding. They didn't keep up their quota so they had a very narrow definition of what makes for a good peacekeeper. And when I became chief, I wanted to see that change. But I found nowhere where that would happen. They had everything cornered off.

As a matter of fact, the time that I became chief our people were being arrested on the river for fishing, traditional fishing whenever they would net and have enough for their families, put away... The laws on the outside said, "˜You can't do that anymore.' So they started taking the boats, the motors, the nets, confiscating, making seizures. So when I became chief, our people came to me and said, "˜What has changed so much that we can't practice our traditions any longer?'

Well, I went to see the person who was the...the officer who was making these seizures on the river, in the middle of the river. I stopped him with a few other boats that were traveling with me, let's put it that way, and as nicely as I was talking to him asking him, "˜We don't need provincial, federal license to fish. It's in our treaties.' He says, "˜That's in the past. From now on you will learn to get a provincial license.' So I says, "˜But we don't have to.' And I was diplomatically I was trying to be...he was just squashing, didn't care about it. So I took it to the next level and I said, "˜Look, sir, if you don't tell us where the boats are that I can go get them, I might have to take your boat.' He just laughed. As soon as I give the signal, our guys are waiting, they shut the motor off and took his equipment out, tied a rope and we towed his boat back to St. Regis to the police station and we seized the conservation officer's boat.

When I got back, then I phoned Toronto, the main office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and told them what I had done and actually they said, "˜This could be an international situation, crisis of sorts so what can we do?' I said, "˜I guess we have to negotiate the release of our boats, half a dozen of them.' They just had elections in Ontario so there was new people there and they said, "˜Well, that man, the officer, is he a hostage, are you holding him in a hostage situation?' I said, "˜No. I'm holding his boat hostage.' "˜Well, is he allowed to go home?' I said, "˜Yep. If he can walk or swim, he can get back across the river, but the current is very strong, so he's going to stay here until we get our boat back.' So pretty well half the night we're negotiating back and forth. The Premiere gets on the phone, he says, "˜I want to put an end to this. I know you don't need fishing licenses to fish in your traditional territories. I'm well aware of that.' He says, "˜So I've got people looking for your boat.' As it wound up it was in Toronto. So he says, "˜We'll have them back by 9:00 in the morning.' So they returned all the boats. Naturally it helped my leadership because I was able to resolve the situation without any violence of sorts. And the same man that made these seizures was the same man that was made to bring them back the next day.

I wanted to see our own people become Conservation Officers so I went back to Quebec federal government in Ontario. "˜Nobody,' he says, "˜We never heard of that before.' Being an international community I picked up the phone, I phoned Albany, New York. They had a state troopers, conservation police training. I said, "˜Can I send some people down to be trained to become Conservation Officers?' They called back and said, "˜I don't see why not. These are dual citizens, you can do that.' So I sent two. Six months later they got home. They had the state trooper Stetson hats, 'Dirty Harry'-type .9 mm pistols, everything that's totally legally in Canada that's...they came back and they're certified police force and they hit the waters to start patrolling.

By that time we had set up our Mohawk Justice Court, we had laws that I had registered with the nation council and they started executing. And that raised in the community a perception that we could take care of ourselves, that we could have law and order and it could be done with our own people. And the attitude on the outside changed too. We didn't always have to be fighting each other. The right people came and the relationship led to us having more police under our jurisdiction, having our own justice, having our own courts and because I was able to diplomatically negotiate these things, it became a much better environment for us, on the river and on land.

I like being, talking about being a good strong advocate, a good leader, but some funny things happened along the way. Those two conservation officers that returned home, within that same week they were on patrol, they got a call from the island I was from and an incident had taken place. I'm in the main village with elders. We were talking about how we could build a new seniors' home for them and they walk in. So all the elders made a big fuss over them. "˜These are the people we've heard about. They've trained and now they're out there on the river, they're looking after our people and are giving out licenses for non-Natives and they're making them buy licenses from us. What a change! And they give them cookies and milk and everything.' They said, "˜We're really here to talk to the grand chief.' So I went over and said, "˜What's up?' He said, "˜Sir, there's been a murder on the island where you're from. We've investigated and found out that somebody in your family is involved and we need to talk to you outside.'

Geez, when you get news like that the first thing you do is boom, it hits you right here. Did somebody die in my family? Did something happen? Did somebody in my family do something? I went outside and he said, "˜There's a farmer up there who called us. We got there and found out that his pig had been killed. And the pig had piglets, six of them. They were all killed too.' And he said, "˜Chief, it was your dog that killed them. You're under arrest.' I said, "˜What?!' The first person on the reservation when they got back from training that was arrested was me and I tried to dispute it. I said, "˜Well, you got no evidence.' They had pictures. There was a trail of piglet parts down to my house, to my farm. Around the house, where he had dug up, there were piglet parts. I was raising an Alaskan malamute. So he was laying there, he had blood on his face; he had blood on his chest. They took pictures, a very thorough investigation. I had nothing I could say but the whole reservation was laughing up and down. "˜There's your conservation officers.' So they marched me across the street to the Justice and charged me and I had to go back for my hearing two weeks later.

In those two weeks, there was a lot of commotion, a lot of discussion "˜cause all I had to do was say, "˜Drop it,' or the elders would say, "˜Don't go there because how hard he's worked to get this program this far.' And people were either for or against. I went to court, I paid the fine and it was done. I said, "˜We have a very efficient peacekeeper and we all have to follow the law regardless who it is.' So that's how the law and order picked up in our community.

I just don't like telling this story but he heard it once and he always asks me about it. Anyway, thank you very much."