bureaucracies

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.: Effective Bureaucracies and Independent Justice Systems: Key to Nation Building

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Native Nations Institute
Year

In this informative interview with NNI's Ian Record, Leroy LaPlante, Jr., former chief administrative officer with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a former tribal judge, offers his thoughts on what Native nation bureaucracies and justice systems need to have and need to do in order to support the nation-building efforts of their nations. 

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Citation

LaPlante, Jr., Leroy. "Effective Bureaucracies and Independent Justice Systems: Key to Nation Building." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 12, 2010. Interview.

Ian Record:

"Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I'm your host Ian Record. On today's program, I'm honored to welcome Leroy LaPlante, Jr. Leroy, who goes by "JR" to many, is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. He worked as chief administrative officer for his tribe for three years from 1998 to 2001. Around that time, he was named ambassador of the tribe by the then-chairman, a great honor. And he currently works as an attorney working with tribes on a number of different, in a number of different areas including economic development and housing. Welcome JR."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Thank you, Ian."

Ian Record:

"We're here today to talk about a couple of topic areas relevant to Native nation building and governance, those being tribal bureaucracies and then tribal justice systems. And I want to start off with tribal bureaucracies. And I'm curious to learn from you, what role do you feel bureaucracies play in advancing the nation building goals of their nations?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well I think it's really important for Native nations to have a strong infrastructure in order for them to really accomplish their goals. They've got to have, I think, one, they have to have a strong legal infrastructure, but I think they have to have a strong infrastructure where they can deliver services and their programs are functioning in an effective manner."

Ian Record:

"So what, in your experience, do Native nation bureaucracies need to be effective?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well I think, for one, there needs to be, I think, a good system in place: policies, procedures, ways to measure outcomes. There also needs to be a very good financial accounting so that performance on a lot of tribes function under grants, federal grants and so forth. And so there's a big need for tribes to have a way to make sure they're performing well on these grants and so forth. But you know, in my experience as the administrative officer for Cheyenne River for three years, we had the privilege of having a good tribal controller who kept us on track financially, and we had a good planning office and we had a good grant oversight. But for me, what I think was really important -- and we grew exponentially in those years that I was, that I had the privilege of working as the administrative officer -- but the key was we had a separation of roles. The administrative or the executive branch of our tribal government, we knew people respected what we did and they trusted us to do what we did. The tribal council, the legislative branch of the government, they had an understanding of their role. And I think that that's really, really key. If you can have that, I don't want to call it separation of powers necessarily, because it's more so, I really see it as the government having different roles. And I think that's what resonates with Indian people, more so than powers. So I think that was key, to have this sort of hands-off approach and letting us really manage the programs and let the programs do their work."

Ian Record:

"We've heard others who either serve or have served in positions like you did for your tribe, draw the distinction between those who make the decisions and then those who carry out the decisions. Is that essentially what you're talking about?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Absolutely, that's exactly what I'm talking about. And I think that if you have a tribal council that tries to micromanage a lot, I think they can get in the way of what we're trying to do. And because, you know, the daily decisions that we make in government, you know, especially when we get caught up in personnel issues and those sorts of things, it can really bog down government. And when government gets bogged down, government gets slowed down, we all know that the real losers, in that instant, are the people. And we're there to serve the people, we're there to provide services to the people, we're there to provide critical services to tribal members. So it's important to just let those programs function freely."

Ian Record:

"So what happens when -- and granted it sounds like during your tenure there wasn't a lot of this going on, but based on your experience perhaps working with other tribes -- what happens when that political interference in the carrying out of programs, in the delivery of services, and just the day-to-day bureaucracy of the tribe, what impact does it have within the bureaucracy itself?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, I think the immediate...I think there's immediate impacts and there's long-term impacts. The immediate impacts are, you get this...the services aren't provided in an equitable fashion, you have this favoritism towards certain, maybe employees where you have some...so nepotism can come into play in terms of hiring. They get...if there's this micromanaging, there's this...it can interfere with personnel decisions. And also, just decisions in terms of where these programs need to go in terms of their planning and so forth. The long-term effect that it has on it is it does affect long-term planning, and I think that if they would just let the programs function and plan out their work like they're supposed to, then things will work out accordingly."

Ian Record:

"We've seen instances among nations where formally, there was that situation where there were elected officials interfering in program delivery and administration, bureaucracy of government. They make the necessary changes and that micromanagement stops or at least is reduced to the degree where the elected leaders suddenly find that they have more time to focus on, ideally, what they should be doing."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well that's what I meant, Ian. I kind of misspoke on the last response to your question, but that's what I meant by the long-term effects. I think there's a short-term effect and that the interference, it prevents those programs from functioning the way they're supposed to, it prevents them from hiring the way they're supposed to, making personnel decisions the way they're supposed to, making fiscal decisions the way they're supposed to. But I think the long-term is it detracts from what their job really is, and that is to plan long-term for the tribe. To think where, you know, the bigger decisions. So you kind of have this hierarchy of needs in a tribal government; you have these everyday, daily operations. And, you know, who decides, you know, what to purchase with a particular program budget is a very small matter. But when you have legislators and tribal council members making those kinds of decisions, obviously, that's going take away from the bigger things they should be doing, which is planning for the tribe's future, creating laws that are going to be implemented for the improvement of the tribe. And so it does detract from those bigger things and those are the things that they're likely to do. And so that's what I meant by a short-term effect and a long-term effect."

Ian Record:

"And it also has a direct effect on the people who've been charge with administrating the decisions that the elected officials make, does it not? The program managers, the department heads, the administrators?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"I think it really does, because you're hired to do a job and you want to...in terms of developing that leadership, in terms of utilizing those people for what they're hired to do, it does stunt their growth, in a sense. So that's...it does have an effect in that regard. But here's one of the saddest things that I see happening when you have talented people, tribal members that are doing these program management jobs or whatever, filling these tribal positions. I think when you get this interference from tribal council, it can get really discouraging. We hire people who are capable, we put our, everybody that applies for a tribal position through an application process, and we feel like we hire the best person. What happens I think with people, people get frustrated, they feel like they're not, [don't] have the freedom to do their job and so they end up, we end up losing I think some very talented people. So I think one direct effect is that it does maybe impact and where we have somewhat of a brain drain on the tribe. I mean, if you get hired to do a job, you expect to be able to come in and freely do that job."

Ian Record:

"So then...what role then should elected leaders play in ensuring an effective bureaucracy to carry out the wishes and priorities of the nation?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, I've never been an elected official. And, you know, I think, I don't know if I'm qualified really to speak to that. I guess I could, I guess I'm qualified enough to say what they should be doing, or what we'd like to be doing. So in a perfect world -- and of course we all know it's not a perfect world -- but in a perfect world what you would like to see elected officials do is really put the people before themselves. And put the interest of the tribe as a whole, collectively, before themselves. I think, too many times, people that are elected to tribal council or to an elected position sometimes have their own agenda. And I think it's important that -- it may be a good agenda -- but I think that it's important that they try to serve the people first and carry out those duties. Now again, elected officials have different roles. And I think it's really important. A long time ago, Indian people had different roles in our society, and you even see that today. If there's somebody in our community that makes drums, for example, that's that person's role. People respect that. And anytime somebody needs a drum, they go to that person to make a drum. And I think that those roles in tribal government are very similar, and I think that that's where we can import some of our traditional ways of perceiving what we do is that you have a role.

The problem I think, Ian, is that sometimes when people take a position in the tribe, they don't what that role is to begin with and so when they come in, I think, there should be some sort of orientation process. There should be some sort of time where they're brought in a transition period and they're saying: this is what we understand to be your role as an elected official, as an elected councilperson, as a tribal secretary, as a tribal treasurer. And you know, it's really, you know sometimes we're a little too hard on elected people because I think that we assume that they know what their role is when they're hired or when they're elected and I don't think we should make that assumption. I think we should, if we assume anything I think we should assume that they could use some mentorship; they could use some instruction.

So that person comes in, they take that elected office, and then they don't perform or they start micromanaging or they start doing something other than what we think they should be doing. But it really should come as no surprise, "˜cause they're walking into a position that they have no formal training for. And so I think that we need to really be understanding of, you know, and if you look at a majority of elected people in tribal government, they are people that don't have a lot of formal training. They are people that are from the community, that people trust, that are respected. You know, the qualifications of an elected person in tribal government is different from an elected person in state or in federal government. There's an emphasis...or in the non-Indian world, in dominant society, there's a great emphasis placed on education, there's a great emphasis placed on experience, and so forth. Maybe they were a former businessperson, maybe they were law trained. But in Indian Country, the emphasis on qualifications for elected officials is how well do they understand their culture, how connected are they in the community, how strong are their kinship units and, you know, how committed are they to helping the people, did they, how long have they lived on the reservation? And those sorts of things.

And so, I think if we're going to assume anything about people that are elected, I think we should assume that they probably could use some training. But with that, if that training's provided up front, I think what I would expect of an elected person is that they, if you're elected to council, obviously, I believe that first and foremost you need to represent your people as a whole and what's in the interest of the tribe as a whole. Set your personal agenda aside and really try to fulfill your obligations to uphold, number one, the constitution of the tribe, the laws of the tribe, and that includes our policies and procedures, and to do what's in the best interest of the people. And not just for what's going get you elected for the next term, but what's best for the people five, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now.

The other thing I would expect from elected people, Ian, is that I think we have a commitment to...as Lakota, as Sioux people -- I speak specifically to our tribe -- we talk about our [Lakota language], our lifeways. We talk about our traditions. We talk about everything we do is for that seventh generation. We try to plan that far ahead. I think it's really incumbent upon officials that are in a position to make laws, that are in a position to make policy decisions, it's really incumbent upon those elected officials to plan ahead, and to really walk that talk. Not just talk a good talk to get you elected, but really live out those core values of who we are as Lakotas. And I think that in and of itself would drastically change the landscape of tribal politics."

Ian Record:

"You made reference to this, essentially this need to plan for the seventh generations forward. And seventh generation planning, strategic planning really; when that strategic planning process has been undertaken and there's really no end to it, but when the nation and its leadership has done that hard work to forge a strategic vision, put a plan in place to get there, doesn't it make the day-to-day bureaucracy work that much easier because those people that are in charge of carrying that out, understand clearly where we're trying to head and does this decision that's performing today, does it contribute to that or does it detract from that?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Right. I mean it's very...you put that very succinctly. I think that that's exactly what long-term planning does. I think, when you have a strategy in terms of where, and a vision of where you want the tribe to be, you know, generations from now, everything works toward that end. And so people, it does give program managers more focus and it does...but you know, that example being set by elected officials is so critical. Because if they're setting that example, then it trickles down to your administrative personnel, it trickles down to your program managers, it trickles down to your tribal employees -- that there's this conscientiousness that what we're doing is really for the betterment of the people not just here, today, but further down the road. But in order for that to happen...we really talk a good talk. I think Indian people, we're very eloquent and I think that there are words that we have in Lakota or in our Native language, our Native tongue that when they translate to English, they're very beautiful concepts. And when the outside world hears them, they're very impressive. But do we really live by them? And I think that that is really, that's really the test. And if we do, if we're really committed to them, what you will see in a tribal government is you will see a structure. And that structure will have, it'll be a system in terms of how we go about our business. And it'll start, you'll see it in a way that we conduct council meetings. You'll see it in a way we...you'll see it in our organic document. You'll see it in our policies and procedures. You'll see it in our day-to-day operations. There'll be this structure in terms of how we go about doing our day-to-day business, and so you...and that's the infrastructure that I'm talking about. That you've got to have that infrastructure in place, because it's one thing to take a vision and philosophies in terms of how we want to be, but you got to have the practical policies and infrastructure that get us from point A to point B."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned earlier the importance of serving the nation as a whole, essentially treating citizens fairly and consistently. How can Native nations achieve fairness in service delivery and within the bureaucracy of government?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"That's a big challenge for tribal government, because I think that tribal governments are already kind of up against the wall because they got to overcome the perception that they don't provide services in an equitable fashion. And there's always these horror stories about nepotism and all these other things that we have to overcome. You know, I think one of the ways you make sure that our services are being delivered in an equal fashion to everybody is I think you have to have transparency in your government, and I think you have to make sure that you have sound policy, and you have sound procedure. That when you draft these laws and you draft these policies and procedures, that you don't deviate from them, and I think that's the key. I tried to engage in a policy and procedure revision in my tribe, and I think the plan sat on the table for the full three years I was there. You find that you don't have the time, but the key is that you got to work with what you got, and as long as you're consistent with those policies, and they may not be perfect, but utilize them and force them, stick to them, and don't deviate from them. You've got to have a rule that you go by. And of course, and this is true with the community as well. You've got to have a rule of law where people understand that this is what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. The same thing in tribal governance, you've got to have policies, procedures, you've got to have ways of operating so that...and you've got to stick to them."

Ian Record:

"In one of the areas where we commonly see deviation, as you put it, or inequitable treatment from a policy or something like that within the tribal government is around personnel issues -- hiring, firing, other sorts of issues like that. Where should...where and how should those issues ideally be resolved? Or if there's disputes around personnel, where should those issues be resolved?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"It's going to differ from tribe to tribe, Ian. And I think the important thing is that whatever process you set up, that it be a fair process and that you follow it every single time, and again, you don't deviate from it. When I served as the administrative officer for my tribe, there was so many things I wanted to do. I wanted to engage in economic development planning, I wanted to...there was so many other grants I wanted us to look at and really decide whether or not we should even apply for certain grants because there are some...as an administrator you don't want to apply for everything, but sometimes you do it because you have an ambitious program director who writes a grant application, but you want to be able to look through and make a sound decision to make sure it's in the interest, in our best interest. And those are those big decisions, right? And you want to focus more on areas, departments that are weaker and get them stronger. Those are the bigger issues you want to deal with as an administrator. But I spent, I would say, roughly 75 percent of my time bogged down in personnel issues. And so one of the things, I would say, is your administrator has a role. That role is to administer the programs of the tribes. I wished I was never involved in personnel issues as an administrator, because I didn't see that as my role, but council did. The problem was was that a lot of times council would get involved in that. So we had system where if a personnel action was taken, the immediate supervisor would take action. The appeal process was that you were allowed to go to a program director. If there was a department chair, that was another level in the appeal process. I was included in the process, and then of course we had an elected personnel policy board that was the final say on all personnel issues. Now, sounds like a great system, but if you add up the time frames an employee had to appeal, you're looking, you could be bogged down in a personnel issue for 45 to 60 days. And if council got involved, it could stretch out for several months. So, I think, you really want to try, what I tried to do is streamline the process as much as I could. I recommended to council on several occasions that I be removed from the process because I wanted to focus on some of the more important requirements, job requirements of an administrator of a tribal government. We had over 75 tribal programs, we were managing over 50 federal grants, we had over 600 tribal employees -- there's just a tremendous amount of responsibility. But that's the system my tribe went with, and so the next best thing is to try to train your employees, your supervisors, your department chairs, your program directors. I couldn't say much of the policy personnel board, but our HR [human resources] person did a good job of training the board, making sure they knew how the system worked. And just trying to make sure that people follow that process as closely as they possibly could and just try to get a personnel issue through that process without it getting bogged down somewhere. And if we all kind of stuck to the process and followed it according to the books it would usually go through smoothly, but the x-factor was always council."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned that your nation -- when you were working in this administrative position -- had more than 75 programs operating at once. And among many nations, the number of programs is often hard to count. And a lot of that is a legacy of federal grant programs and things like that, which some have pointed to as a major source for what is commonly called the 'silo effect'..."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Sure."

Ian Record:

"...Where you have all these different programs kind of operating independent of one another, don't really communicate with one another, and then there's in turn, often a negative impact on the use of typically limited tribal resources. Do you see this silo effect at play in your own nation? Or perhaps have you seen it in other nations? And what do you think are some of the consequences or the drawbacks of that situation."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, I don't think there's anything positive about the silo effect, obviously. I think, you'd like to see a department chair or a program take ownership of that job and really grow that program, but I think the negative downside of that is you could get a program director that is, that does become too territorial. And so it does infringe upon our efforts to be more cooperative and to share resources where we can, but more importantly I think there are some real, I guess if, I'm not sure how to put this, but there are some areas, some issues in tribal life, in tribal government that we, there's environment. There's, where I'm from it's, there's management of land resources, social services, education. And I think that what I try to do, when I was working for the tribe, is that I tried to identify those areas and the more we could get programs to work cooperatively, collaboratively, to address those needs, the better. The silo effect, as you call it, really prevents those programs from doing that and it does have...and it does have an adverse effect. The other thing I will say about the grants is that sometimes as tribes we can get too dependent on those grants. I think early in the '90s, mid-90s, in the '90s period, it was an era where there was a lot of application for grants and tribes that were good at it, you know, they were getting grants. It was, you know, if you had a good track record, it was pretty easy to get certain grants and so forth. But sometimes we can get too dependent on that. I think what you want to see eventually, and again this is where if you free up time for an administrator, in my role, you can do more of this planning where you're not so dependent upon these grants."

Ian Record:

"I want to switch gears now to another topic that you're very well versed in and that's tribal justice systems. And I think it's no coincidence that in this era of Indian self-determination, this federal policy era of Indian self-determination, we're seeing a groundswell of attention by tribes to strengthen their justice systems. And I'm curious to get your perspective on this question of what sorts of roles can tribal justice systems play in rebuilding Native nations?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well I think they're critical, I think they're foundational to nation building. You know, I think the creation of your own laws, the promulgation of those laws, the adjudication of cases, the creation of case law -- all of that is so important to strengthening tribal nations. I mean, our tribal courts is probably one the most fundamental exercises of tribal sovereignty that we have -- the creation of laws and enforcing them. But the thing is the courts...if courts are effective and judges are performing their jobs in a good way, and the courts are functioning in a way we would like them, it gives the perception to the outside world that we're very good at resolving our matters in dealing with internal matters. But not only that, but we can also deal with any matter that comes through our courts on our reservation."

Ian Record:

"What, in your view, does strong, independent justice system look like? What does it need to have?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"I think a strong independent justice system, first of all, is tribal. I think it should be tribal in a sense that it knows how to deal with tribal issues and yet it's diverse enough to handle and adjudicate all matters that come before it. I think you should have conmpetent judges. I think you should have strong advocacy for clients and it must have a way of measuring its performance. But yeah, a strong tribal system should be tribal in nature. In other words, what I mean by that is it shouldn't just be a boilerplate replication of what a state court looks like and promulgate those laws, but those laws should be traditional in nature, it should reflect our customs, it should reflect our customary law, our traditional laws, and we should know how to deal with those and inject those viewpoints in our decisions."

Ian Record:

"It's interesting you bring that up, because I've actually heard that from several other tribal judges that I've had an occasion to interview. That in many ways, the tribal justice system and the tribal court in particular is the most direct, concrete way that a tribe can convey its core values, its cultural principles, not only to the outside world, but its own citizens. Is that something that you feel is accurate?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Oh, absolutely. You know when you think about the types of cases that come before our tribal courts, you know you're dealing with a lot of domestic cases, domestic violence cases, family cases, so the courts have the opportunity to resolve disputes between tribal members. And so there's a tremendous opportunity for our tribal court system to really bring into that process some of our traditional ways of resolving conflict. You hear a lot of tribes speak of a peacemaking court and so we don't have to necessarily engage in an adversarial process with tribal members, but you can actually promote some sort of peacemaking where people are, where we promote restitution and restorative kind of justice, which is more in line with our traditional values."

Ian Record:

"So we touched on this issue of political interference and bureaucracies. And I'm curious to get your thoughts about political interference in tribal jurisprudence. What are some of the impacts of political interference in court cases, for instance?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, obviously, you want your courts to be able to make decisions without any fear of consequence from an elected official, tribal council. You want them to be able to adjudicate matters in a way that is just and do so freely, and without any free of retribution from anybody. But unfortunately, in instances where council do get involved, it does create some hesitation on the part of tribal judges to really deal with matters as like they're trained to do. And unfortunately, the result of that is we've seen a lot of good judges come and go out of our court system. I think that, you know, your courts are, you have to have judges with good experience, if not law trained, with great, good experience, with sound awareness of tribal law, and some experience with handling a diverse number of matters. But you know, when you have this turnover of tribal judges because they end up not being able to stick around very long because they're doing their jobs properly. It's detrimental."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned this issue of transparency with bureaucracies, and the delivery of services. Isn't that equally important when it comes to the administration of justice in Native nations?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Yes it is, and I think that there needs to be a sense of predictability when people come to, when they're coming to tribal court, there needs to be this sense that they know what to expect; there's not going to be this 'kangaroo court' process. And so, you know, we want to make sure that people know what to expect when they come into tribal court, that they know they're not going to have any surprises. And I think that's...that not only has an impact upon plaintiffs and defendants in tribal court, but here's another aspect of this, it affects who practices in tribal court, you know, because one of the things we lack in tribal court is sound advocacy. You know, we don't just want lay advocates practicing in our tribal courts. One thing that lends credibility to our tribal courts is the fact that a licensed attorney who practices regularly in state court and federal court has no hesitation to come and represent a client in tribal court. We want more participation from the state bar, wherever you're at, whatever state you're in, but we want more participation from lawyers and the state bar in tribal court, because what that does is it improves the perception of our court systems, it improves the advocacy in our court systems. And so you want that transparency, you want to know exactly what to expect when they show up in tribal court, that we have consistent, strong, civil procedures that we're going to follow, criminal procedures that we're going to follow, that there are going to be no surprises."

Ian Record:

"You know, it's interesting, we've been talking about tribal bureaucracies and tribal justice systems and a lot of the criteria or components you need for each to be effective are similar, are they not? And isn't it very difficult, for instance, to have one without the other? Specifically, in our experience, we're working with a number of Native nations and it's very hard to have an effective bureaucracy, for instance, if you have a kangaroo court system, as you talked about. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, I think that it is very important that you have some predictability, that you have that infrastructure, legal infrastructure, if you will, a strong tribal code where people can have a remedy for whatever, an issue that they're, a legal issue that they're involved in, that there's good procedure that we follow. Bbut in addition to that, I think it's important that we have, that we document our case law, that we...and so people know what to expect. I've received calls from people that will say...practicing attorneys that are members of the state bar that will say, "˜Is there a case on point in your tribal court on the following issue?' I'd like to be able to respond, "˜Yes, and I can get you a copy of that opinion.' And I think that that's the transparency, that's the kind of infrastructure that you want, where people can say, "˜Okay, when I go to Cheyenne River and practice law, I know what to expect when I go there.' And so yes, it's absolutely...in fact, if it's...I'm not going to say it's more important, but it is absolutely, at least, equally important as it is...to have that, those types of infrastructure."

Ian Record:

"So, to generate that infrastructure, to create that infrastructure, that takes funding, does it not? And essentially, an approach on the part of elected officials, or those who set the budget of the nation, to treat it as not just another -- the justice system, the courts -- not just as another tribal department, but as kind of a stand-alone, larger, more encompassing branch -- that may not be the best word -- but branch or function, fundamental function of government, does it not?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"I think at least our tribal officials need to recognize our court system as a stand-alone entity that has a specific function, a very important function."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned this need for tribes to ensure that the infrastructure's in place for the court system, the justice system overall to function effectively and essentially, act as the nation's protector, as its guardian. That infrastructure, achieving that infrastructure takes money, does it not? And perhaps a realization on the part of elected officials, or those who control the purse strings of the nation, to treat that system as more than just another department, but to actually treat it as a fundamentally critical function of government."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Right. And it takes time to educate and to help our elected officials understand that. And I don't think it's a matter of our elected officials not knowing that it serves an essential function of government, but I think that they have to understand and it takes time to educate them that what the courts do is so vital to tribal sovereignty, it is so vital to self-determination, it is so vital to us. You know, if we want to engage in any type of regulatory authority on the reservation, you know, our courts have got to be equipped to be able to carry out, you know, adjudicating any matter. And so yeah, it takes a while to get them to prioritize, I guess is what I'm trying to say, Ian. I think they understand that it serves an important function, but for them to understand that it should be up here on the fiscal or the financial fundraising list is another matter. So, sometimes it's just about...I would like to see elected officials just take a run through tribal court and just to see what they do on a day-to-day basis. I think you have committees and tribal council that obviously understand that and who hire judges and hire tribal attorneys and they're well versed in the importance of that. But unfortunately, when you look at the tribal budget, Ian, there's just so many other needs. And how do you say...it's like trying to pick your favorite child, so to speak. It's really hard. And so that is a problem with courts. And I think one way is to maybe look at some of the available federal funding that's out there, but again that takes planning. And it's being able to have that foresight to see when those opportunities are going to come down the pipe."

Ian Record:

"Isn't it important for the connection to be drawn not just for elected leaders, but also citizens that when you have a strong, effective, independent judicial system, that empowers you as a nation to tackle those other needs through restorative justice, through healing people, through healing families and things like that."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Yeah, and it does. I think people...the thing about the law is it doesn't get a lot of publicity. When a case is decided, even if it's an important, an appellate case in tribal court, when it's decided it doesn't get a lot of fanfare. The people that pay attention to it are people like myself, but as far as a general public, there may not be any publicity about an important case that our tribal court decided that's going to have some sort of ripple effect across Indian Country. But there is this general understanding by tribal members that the courts serve a special role, but I don't know if they really see the long-term effects of that. For example, Cheyenne River just had a case recently that went all the way to the Supreme Court. I don't know if people see that and how that impacts. And if that case would've been decided favorably by the United States Supreme Court that would've changed our civil jurisdiction authority over non-Indian people on the reservation. Unfortunately, it wasn't decided favorably, but it could've had that kind of impact. And so yeah, I think people are starting to see it more and more. And you mentioned some of the benefits. The other thing is when we have a solid court system and we have remedies, especially in civil matters, it does encourage things like economic development and corporations coming on to the reservation and things like that. So, and again it goes back to council. Is council willing to do a limited waiver of sovereign immunity so that these matters can be resolved in our tribal court? Because I think the courts are ready to do it. I think the court, I have a tremendous of confidence in our courts that they're willing to take on any issue. We have a very strong appellate court that's willing to hear these matters, but is our council...so I think that that appreciation for our court system, I think, really starts at the top. And I think our appreciation for any of this stuff and appreciation for improving tribal governments really starts at the top [with] your leadership.

Ian Record:

"You mentioned this issue of investment and the role of courts in that. How does a strong, independent justice system create an environment of certainty and competence for investors -- not just financial investors, but people willing to invest their own human capital in the nation and its future?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, I think, you just...I think the main thing is that you want to be able to, the tribal court, you want to be able to have a statement that says, or a law that says, or a code that says that matters of dispute will be resolved in tribal court. And I know, people that come into contract with tribes, they want to be able to say that if we...if things don't work out with this specific contract, we want to be able to enforce this contract somewhere. And hopefully, we can say it can be resolved in tribal court. Like I said, I don't think it's a matter of the court not being able to handle those matters, but again, it's whether or not the tribes and the tribal council feeling confident enough to be able to open themselves up to that sort of court action."

Ian Record:

"I want to follow up quickly on this issue of sovereign immunity, and this is an increasingly critical topic. What we're seeing is more and more tribes approaching that issue strategically, whereas before it was kind of this blanket response of, "˜We don't want to waive sovereign immunity because we're sovereign,' as if those two things are the same. And more and more tribes are coming up with innovative approaches and doing exactly what you say. 'We'll waive our sovereign immunity through this contract into our own tribal court system.' Isn't it incumbent upon tribes to really approach that issue in a very calculated, deliberate manner of, "˜Okay, this is a tool that we can use, but it has to be used wisely'?"

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, and I think, to answer...I guess I'll answer it this way. Yeah, I do think tribes need to be very deliberate with that approach and I think maybe the reluctance would be again...you got to have a competent court though. And so what I think we're seeing with some tribes, they may -- I think we talked about it today -- some tribes have considered setting up a separate business court where you might have special judges come in and hear these matters. Because I think there's this perception in the outside world that either, you know, you're typical tribal court judge can't handle a very complicated, contractual issue. So set up a separate contract court where those issues are heard by a special judge that would come and hear those matters and is well-versed in that area of the law. So there are some very unique ways that tribes can try to address this and to improve the outsiders' perception of how we conduct business on the reservation."

Ian Record:

"I want to wrap up with I guess you would call it a personal question. Last year, you were selected to be a part of the first cohort of the Native Nation Rebuilders program, which is a program that was developed by the Archibald Bush Foundation out of Minneapolis in conjunction with the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona. And I'm curious to get your thoughts on the program. You're almost a full year through the program now. I'm curious to get your thoughts on what the program is about, the potential for the program moving forward, and how it's empowered you to contribute to Indian Country."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, I...first of all, it's just an honor to be a part of the program. It was an honor to be selected. And, you know, since I came on as a Rebuilder, you know, I've been through a couple trainings, which I thought were absolutely fantastic. I think our first training was tribal governance and, I think that, being able to participate in those courses, in those training courses, it just kind of gave me some hope that there are resources out there for tribal governments. I've been law-trained and I've taken courses in Indian law, tribal law and different other things pertaining to Indian Country. But a lot of -- like I said earlier -- a lot of our elected officials aren't well equipped to do their work. And I think a lot of our tribal officials could use a crash course in federal Indian law, a crash course in tribal bureaucracy, a crash course in tribal governance. And being a part of the Bush Foundation has exposed me to those resources and hopefully those resources -- more people will take advantage of them. My overall impression of being a Rebuilder is really is it's opened up doors, because I meet so many people from across, from other tribes. It's given me some good tools to do my work."

Ian Record:

"One quick follow-up: As part of this Rebuilders program, you were asked to go through a distance-learning course on Native nation building. I'm just curious to get your thoughts on that course and what it could bring to Indian Country."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Well, I think it's...I hope our elected officials take advantage of it. You did a really good job of putting it together, Ian, I know that you worked very hard on that. And, you know, it's easy to maneuver your way through the online course and the material is very well researched. But what I gained from it mostly was just hearing other tribal leaders and other members of tribes and citizens of tribal nations that are doing a lot of the same work that I'm doing. Hearing their stories. I think Joe Kalt said today that he's just kind of a pipeline, where he's gathering the stories and kicking them back out to Indian Country. And I think that's a good characterization of what Native Nations [Institute] is about and what the Bush Foundation is doing through the Rebuilder program. We're taking this information, we're funneling it through, we're getting it disseminated out to the people that need to hear it. And those stories are inspirational and if anything else, what it does is it says, you know, that nation building is taking place and it's being done very effectively."

Ian Record:

"Well, JR we really appreciate your time and thanks for joining us."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"Thanks, Ian. I appreciate it."

Ian Record:

"That's all the time we have for today's program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute's website at nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us. Copyright 2011. Arizona Board of Regents."

Karen Diver: Nation Building Through the Cultivation of Capable People and Governing Institutions

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Native Nations Institute
Year

In this informative interview with NNI's Ian Record, Chairwoman Karen Diver of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa discusses the critical importance of Native nations' systematic development of its governing institutions and human resource ability to their ability to exercise sovereignty effectively and achieve their nation-building goals.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Diver, Karen. "Nation Building Through the Cultivation of Capable People and Governing Institutions." "Leading Native Nations" interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 17, 2009. Interview.

Ian Record:

“So I’m here with Chairwoman Karen Diver, who is the chairwoman of Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. And previous to that, she served as Director of Special Projects for Fond du Lac, so she has a wide range of experience, which is precisely why we’re having her sit down with us today.

The first question I’d like to ask you is a question that I ask everyone I sit down with and that is, how would you define Native nation building and what does it entail for your nation?”

Karen Diver:

“It’s almost straight out of the textbook: aggressive assertions of sovereignty backed up by capable institutions. You come into tribal government and it’s at different phases in its growth. And given that most tribes have really not been self-governing for that long, often times, we’re plugging the gap or reformulating. But if the basis of your decision is always putting self-governance first and self-determination, generally you can always plug in the gaps of your institutional capabilities along the way. But it’s the legitimacy of the actions and then backing it up with the way to actually implement them.”

Ian Record:

“You mentioned 'legitimacy in the actions,' and the Native Nations Institute and Harvard Project research holds that for Native nation governments to be viewed as legitimate by the people that they serve, they must be both culturally appropriate and effective, which is a double-edged challenge for a lot of nations, particularly those that have not governed, essentially been in control of their own governance for a very long time, and had that determined by outsiders. So how do you view that assertion that for governments to be legitimate, they have to be not only effective, but also culturally appropriate?”

Karen Diver:

“I think for tribes, we’re not as removed from government; government is very personal. Tribal members can walk in at any time, we employ our tribal members, we’re related to one another, so it’s not impersonal in a way that I think traditional government is. And when you’re decision making, the actual impact on real people in their real lives really has to be primary. And for that to work, you have to take into account the circumstances in which they live. It could be as simple, for us, making sure that our policies and procedures account for the ability to participate in cultural activities like wild rice leave, for example, is actually in our personnel policies. It’s a week-long endeavor; people need to do it when the crop is ready. Or it can be as broad based as, what do your family leave policies look like? Recognizing we have extended, large extended families, the grieving process is a community process. So just giving a bank of leave time might not be something appropriate. You might want to have some flexible use of leave to take into account that our families are large, complicated, and primarily their employment serves to take care of them and their families. So you have to have that balance. So cultural traditions matter, and to balance those with the needs of both governmental and the economic entities that we serve; that’s the only way we’re going to have a successful workforce.”

Ian Record:

“So I want to next run a quote by you that we reference often and it’s a quote by a Native leader who once said, ‘The best defense of sovereignty is to exercise it effectively.’ Can you speak to that statement?”

Karen Diver:

“To me, that really means once again building up those capable institutions. Everybody likes to know, ‘What are the rules that we’re playing by?’ Especially if you’re dealing with outside entities that you do work with, whether it’s governmental or through your economic development efforts, but also that you’re defining what those rules are and whether you’re dealing with a local unit of government, the feds, bankers, auditors, they don’t get to define the playing field. You’re defining the rules, you’re communicating them, and you’re saying that, ‘Your work with us is going to be defined by us.’ A lot of that is understanding the tenets of Indian law and explaining it to people and making distinctions between, ‘Who are we as a race?’ versus our political status and those are often confused by many people. So as long as you keep your political status separate than our cultural traditions and who we are historically and currently as a people. To me, that’s real basic and that’s really one of the main elements of sovereignty."

Ian Record:

“You, as I mentioned at the outset, you have served your nation both as a senior administrator and as currently, as chairwoman. I was curious to learn, what, based on your experience, do tribal bureaucracies need to be effective?”

Karen Diver:

“Well, that’s real key. We all know when it goes wrong. It’s the deviation from what is normal and it’s viewed as political graft or having a brother in power so to speak and that’s where…for the average citizen they feel that tribal government isn’t really serving them; it’s inequities in service delivery or access. And sometimes that happens at the service delivery level or the program level or institutional level with hiring and things like that. I think for tribal government, monitoring those activities, putting those systems in place, building accountability and transparency of the rules ends up being key to having equitable service delivery and equitable systems. And for our band members, the expectation that it doesn’t matter who you elect, the level of service you receive and your opportunities are the same.”

Ian Record:

“So it essentially supports stability and expectations among the people when they don’t…they see consistency. They see fairness and they can see consistency across administration so it’s not just, ‘Oh it was this way for this term,’ and then the new term comes in, new administration comes in and things change.”

Karen Diver:

“Well, you’re proving capability in government, too, because the reason you would elect people changes then it becomes about their effectiveness and their skills and ability to do the job rather than your personal connections and how you might gain from that. So it changes peoples’ I think reason for how and why they may vote for tribal leadership.”

Ian Record:

“And being a chair of a nation, you must experience this firsthand, this challenge of the dependency mentality. Where the expectations, at least on part of the citizenry, is rooted in, ‘What can the government do for me?’ or, ‘I’m going to go to the government and get the goodies,’ rather than really viewing that government as serving the nation, as advancing the nation’s long-term priorities. Is that something you struggle with and how do you do you work to overcome that?”

Karen Diver:

“Yes, I’ve struggled with it, but I’ve struggled with it in terms of, once again, how do we build those systems in place so that they serve the needs of our citizenry, but also changing the expectations of our citizenry? And the current tribal council has been a part of kind of changing the mentality of, ‘What our citizens should expect from their tribal government?’ And I usually say to folks, ‘Don’t ask me for a handout. Ask me for a job, or if you’re not ready for that yet, why don’t you tell me what you need to get there?’ And the framing of it is fairly simple. What I tell people is, ‘I care about you enough that I’m not going to put a band-aid on your issue because it’s going to come back. Unless I know what’s going on, we need to create or refer you to something that creates a long-term fix because I don’t want you to have to come back.’ And I really feel that promoting dependency within our own community is a part of the reason why we haven’t been able to move as forward as we could be yet because I’ve turned into a social worker now instead of an administrator, instead of someone who assures that there’s good systems. And I also think it’s not fair to our people to say to them, ‘The way that you get services is by telling me a lot of your personal problems that are going on.’ I need to know them to the extent that I need to identify any gaps in our system, but I also shouldn’t put my own people -- if I care about them -- in the position of having to beg, and there is a difference. I’m not doing it to satisfy my ego because I can feel really good about what I’ve done for you. I care about you enough to say, ‘Let’s look at a long-term fix instead of a short-term band-aid.’”

Ian Record:

“Right. So it’s essentially, ‘Let’s look at the root cause of your problem or your challenge,’ versus just simply addressing the symptom, which will be sure to reoccur at some point.”

Karen Diver:

“Right. And it helps me identify where we might have gaps in service, whether it’s combined case management, stabilizing your housing, where you really need some service delivery, whether it’s health issues, we should make sure that each of our systems are coordinated enough that there is a holistic response to the issues people face in their day-to-day lives.”

Ian Record:

“You mention this issue of building a holistic response, or the capacity to do that, to whatever issue is at hand or that you’re facing. And this really gets to this issue of developing a systems-based approach to service delivery, which we hear about more and more, and we see a lot of that sort of activity in Indian Country with nations saying, ‘The status quo is not working. We’ve got our programs and services going a million different directions, they often duplicate one another. We’ve got to take a systems-based approach that gets at these root causes that you discuss.’ Is that something that you’re working to do, take care of?”

Karen Diver:

“Oh, actively. And both as a staff member and then once I got elected. I’ll give you an example. One of our projects that we’ll be breaking ground here within a month is supportive housing. Supportive housing is what transitional housing used to be. It’s for folks who have had a hard time getting on their feet and for every step forward it might have been two back, chronic homeless, multiple episodes of homelessness. Well, homelessness isn’t the lack of a house, it’s a circumstance, a set of circumstances going on that are preventing people from being stable. In order to do supportive housing, you not only have to build the housing, but you also have to develop service delivery that looks at what are the needs of the family and they may be multiple. You’re also committing to staying by them whether or not they take that step forward or step back, and that’s why they call it permanent supportive housing, because unlike transitional housing the two years are up whether you’re ready to be independent or not. And what it really does is say, in terms of case management, what does the whole family need and it’s self-determined by the family. So much like for tribal government, it’s saying for families, too, to say, ‘What are my needs right now?’ and their needs might be simple in the beginning. It might be having adequate health care and getting their diabetes under control so they’re not facing chronic health issues. It might mean helping the family say at some point that they’re chemical dependent, coming to the realization that it is fueled by underlying mental illness, but there’s a safe place to be able to say that and get at the root causes of why people anesthetize themselves with drugs and alcohol. And what you’re trying to do is reduce the episodes of homelessness and instability in the family so that children can stay in longer, the same school longer, they can maintain their level of health care and what you see over time is school social workers are talking to mental health case managers. We know that health outcomes are affected by the lack of housing; we know that school performance is affected by that. Working together stabilizes the need for service delivery by multiple systems, but they all have to be at the table and integrated together. It’s a model that’s been shown to work outside Indian Country, not yet being implemented to a big extent within Indian Country. The model’s perfect for us because we know our families best. We need to be talking to each other and the family will be the one that hopefully will move forward because of it. So it’s an example, but we’ve built silos in Indian Country, much like we’ve bemoaned in larger systems that are out there, but we’re better contained within ourselves to actually break those down.”

Ian Record:

“So you mentioned you know your families best. And hearing you describe this approach of supportive housing, that requires an intimate understanding, intimate awareness of what’s going on in your community, what their needs are, what their challenges are, what their priorities are, what they need from the tribe in order to be made whole, or put them on the road to self-sufficiency, whatever it might be, that’s not an approach that an outsider can develop and implement. Is it something that has to be done at the local level by the people who it’s designed to serve?”

Karen Diver:

“Absolutely, because at any given point in that service delivery or that plan that the family develops, you’re going to have to have culturally competent service delivery. You’re going to have to understand that for a family to break their cycle of chemical dependency that it might be isolating to them for some of their other family members, and that’s a hard thing to do. So you’re recreating family systems and showing them a healthy way in a way that doesn’t deny their ability to still remain a part of a larger community. It’s understanding that children are served best when they’re with their families and an easy fix isn’t putting them in out-of-home placement, but intensive services for their extended families. It’s building even the actual facilities in a way that understands that we tend to congregate together and you never know when you might have a niece coming to live with you, and it shouldn’t upset your household composition because that’s what your housing rules say. So it requires us to be flexible. And I think that’s one of the beauties of self-governance is when you determine your own rules, you can be flexible enough to meet multiple demands, but in a way that’s also accountable so that everybody has the same access to that flexibility.”

Ian Record:

“As I mentioned, you were once a senior administrator of your tribe and now you’re the chairwoman. And I was curious to learn, having served in both of those capacities, can you speak to the importance of delineating clear, distinct roles, responsibilities, authorities for each of those key decision makers, implementers? And what happens when those roles aren’t clearly defined?”

Karen Diver:

“It’s an over-used phrase, but I think many people have heard it. If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you take. I think that for both tribal government and tribal administrators, it’s all about the plan. Where do we plan to get in two years, five years? I’m a big fan of strategic planning. I’m a big fan of understanding who is responsible for the items in the strategic plan. Who’s monitoring the outcomes and making sure that we’re holding staff accountable? Has there been community input to the plan so that we’re actually serving them and going in a direction that they care about? And we are just starting to undertake now a whole community-wide strategic planning process that will inform tribal government and it’s a difficult transition. Last year I thought, ‘I’m just going to get the staff kind of primed and say give me a few goals and objectives for the year,’ and I almost started a mass revolt. I had the flurry of emails saying, ‘What did you mean by that?’ ‘Well, I want to know what you plan to do next year. This is not a trick question, what do you plan to do,’ because at the end of next year I’m going to say, ‘Did you accomplish what you had planned?’ And you’re actually going to maybe make presentations to tribal council about that. Also understanding your role, there’s a plan and each department should understand who their stakeholders are. Human Resources, for example, they think of the applicants and employees as their stakeholders, but they don’t necessarily think of their other divisions that they do the work for as their stakeholders and at the timeliness of their work and the quality of their work can have a big affect on operations. So right now, our tribal council has three of our members were in administrative positions before so we were on the other side of the tribal council table. It’s made a huge difference in terms of our understanding of the importance of their work, not frittering it away, making meeting time productive time and they’re happy. They’re happy because being accountable to us is different. It’s in terms of decision making, not necessarily these huge processes that takes up a lot of their time but doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything. So very important on both ends to understand, ‘What is our role?’ We’re an approving role, they’re doing the work and they’re bringing us their recommendations.”

Ian Record:

“So it’s essentially -- and this gets to what my next question’s about -- what are the respective roles of elected officials and those administrators and bureaucratic employees because you’re seeing it less and less, which I think is a good thing, what you see in some Native communities is still the mentality among the leadership where they have to do it all, and a reticence perhaps to delegate authority. And I’m curious to learn from you how you envision the roles and the separation of those roles and where does one’s work stop and the other’s begin, perhaps?”

Karen Diver:

“I think we’re fairly typical of every tribal government and it comes up during campaign time and when we have our open meetings with our citizenry, they say, ‘The reservation business committee, they micromanage.’ And what I tell people is, ‘You expect us not to micromanage, you want us to take big picture, our appropriate role is in policy making, procedure development, setting vision and long-term direction of the reservation.’ I said, ‘But you want that until the issue involves you, then you expect us to micromanage and fix your problem, and if I go back and tell you you have the ability to provide a grievance or you can talk to the program manager and resolve conflict that way,’ you say, ‘you’re not taking care of my issue.’ So it goes back to that, how do you balance the personal aspect of tribal government, because we are all interrelated, we’re a community, a tight-knit community with the ability to put good governance systems in place and good business systems in place and there’s no perfect science to that, because first of all you’re never going to develop a policy where you’re going to expect to hit every possible outcome or gap. That’s why your policies are a work in progress and need regular review and updating. Also people come up with some really personal circumstances that you may want to accommodate. So I think that there’s a balance there.

The delegation of authority ends up being a lot about control and hiring capable staff and letting them do their job is really key in getting all of the work done because tribal government has a breadth unlike any other form of government. We are corporate, we are government, we are like non-profit service delivery agencies, environmental, education, health. We have to rely on content-area experts. However, I also think being a context expert, they don’t always recognize the big picture they operate in because they’re looking at it from their silo of expertise. So I think tribal government role -- if you look at it in terms of dialogue and challenging each other -- we can help them see the big picture, they can help us understand the peculiarities of their particular area of expertise. That’s where you come up with the win-win. It’s when it’s directive or when you impose upon them, but if you set up the right processes, we often say government-to-government consultation, well we need to have consultation within our organization as well so that we can come up with the best possible scenarios up front and tweak them along the way and see where we may have missed something.”

Ian Record:

“So you mentioned in part of your previous response about the expectations of citizens, particularly come campaign time. For instance, where internally between elected officials and administrators, bureaucratic employees, you may have a clear understanding of who should be doing what, but then there’s the citizen’s expectations that are always causing friction against that. How important is public education about the separations of authorities, about the checks and balances, about the delegations, about who does what? That it’s incumbent upon Native nation governments not just to have a clear internal understanding, but also to make sure the community understands so that it allows you to keep your momentum going?”

Karen Diver:

“It’s a difficult process, I’ll be very honest about that. And one of the ways I characterize it in some of the one-on-one conversations I have with tribal members is if all of my wishes could come true for our own people, one of them would be that it really didn’t matter who you elect, because it didn’t have relevance in your day-to-day life. That as an individual and as a leader in your family, you were able to get and/or acquire those things you need to meet the needs of your own family, whether that’s through employment educational opportunities, social services, that you knew what was out there and you could access it and you were using those resources to build your own self-sufficiency to the point where once it came to the ballot, it was much like traditional forms of government. Who has the skills to do the job? Do they have the background? Do they have a plan? And it changes your expectations. So I think that’s something that comes over time. But also, when people understand that in their best interest, they can self determine their own needs and you’re creating the systems for that to happen, I think it’s going to change the dynamic of what individuals expect out of tribal government.”

Ian Record:

“And isn’t that where strategic planning is very important because the community understands, ‘There’s a larger goal at work here. It’s not just about the now, it’s not just about what I need personally or what my family needs at this moment, but it’s about where we’re trying to head as a community.'“

Karen Diver:

“I think the economic crisis has really changed that a bit. I think in Indian Country -- especially for tribes who have been building a private sector economy within their borders and really using that as a surrogate tax base -- you’ve been able to plug in some of the gaps and funding in order to create programs or supplement them and access other sources of funding. And I think that the downturn really let people know that it’s not a given that tribal government’s going to continue to grow, it’s not a given that the things that are here now will remain. And we’re a per capita [distribution] tribe, so that’s one of the things we’ve been able to do purely as a poverty reduction; nobody’s getting rich off it. But people understood that maybe that isn’t a given and that we have to be smart about our resources, and maybe the best use of tribal government time is looking at economic and governmental stability and not necessarily the day-to-day issues that arise in tribal council’s life. They’re taking a little bit more ownership and more what we’re doing is more information and referral, ‘Did you know that this is available to you and this is available to you?’ rather than direct service, one-on-one."

Ian Record:

“So I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about economic development. And a lot of what the NNI-Harvard Project research looks at is the two polar opposites when it comes to economies that we see in Indian Country. One, you have essentially the dependent economy, which is largely born of constitutions and governments that were imposed or systems of governments that were imposed by the outside. And then you have productive economies, which we’re obviously seeing more and more of as tribes take control of their own affairs, as they begin to launch and build diversified economies. I was wondering, from your perspective, how do Native nations move from a dependent economy, heavily reliant on outsiders, the federal government, to a productive economy where they themselves are in the driver’s seat of economic development? And in that process of moving from one to the other, what are some of the most important building blocks?”

Karen Diver:

“First and foremost, social capital. You need to develop your own citizenry to be a part of that. Talk to a lot of young people and say, ‘What are you going to school for? Liberal arts? Great. We need people to do services to our own band members, but gee, do you also know we need accountants? We need internal auditors; we need dentists and healthcare delivery people, teachers.’ So I think building that social capital so that the cultural competency comes from our own people serving our own community is real key. We can’t always use neighbors and people who aren’t familiar with our own community because then you miss that cultural competency piece. A lot of good people in Indian Country who are Native, but we really need to grow our own and provide the role models. The other part of it is purely regulatory. Do you have the systems in place where economic development can thrive? One of the gaps in our own system right now is we don’t have uniform commercial codes. So that’s kind of on the block. Developing systems of conflict resolution that are transparent and you know who’s rules you’re operating under. Once again, the tenets of Indian law, if you’re working with outside parties, do they really know what dealing with a sovereign is and the context with which this business relationship will be taken out? Regulatory control is also things as simple as what’s your background check policy? Are you going to be able to meet outside commitments that you’re making, for example, under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act? Do you understand their rules? If you’re in a banking relationship, what are their rules, their operating on and how do you mesh that with your own? So I think that a lot of homework goes into building a community where economic development can thrive. And part of it is do you understand your role in it and the role of your people and all of your different departments? For example, if you’re going to work with an outside agency that’s looking at some resources within the reservation, like mining, do you have your regulatory capacity there to look at environmental issues, for example? So, identifying those initiatives and seeing what you have within tribal government that needs to be involved, having them all on the table up front, and identifying your gaps, and either developing it or bringing in consultants who have it so you can have informed decision making.”

Ian Record:

“You mentioned this issue of, or the importance of investing in social capital, particularly among your young people. Not only finding out what their interests are, but saying, ‘Hey, we have needs in this area.’ That’s, but that, isn’t that the first step because then you have to make sure that the opportunities that are available are stable, that they’re consistent? That you’re not going to have the political turnover, ripple effect where the administration comes in and they clean house, which our research has shown causes this horrible problem of brain drain where people say, ‘I’m not going to invest my time and resources in the future of the nation because I can’t be certain I’m going to get a return on that investment.’ So I was wondering if you could speak to that issue of making sure that those opportunities are stable and that the environment in which you’re asking them to participate is reliable.”

Karen Diver:

“Once again, I think if you start to change and really have a conversation with your community about what do they feel is the appropriate role in tribal government in their day-to-day life, that then starts changing the stability of the workforce. And you’re right, we’ve invested heavily in education, both by creating our own institutions and through scholarship funds and telling people, ‘There’s a big world out there. Go learn things and bring it back home.’ Only for them to not be able to have the ability to worry about their sacrifices of their own stability in their family, and that’s sad. It’s sad and it’s unfortunate because you’re right, it creates brain drain. With the capable institutions, and with some emotional maturity and changing your expectations of what tribal leaders should be both personally and professionally, I think you get towards the bigger picture of, ‘If I’m here to serve my people, that means also dealing with my political detractors, as well as my political supporters,’ and they still end up being tribal members and deserve service whether they like you or not, whether they care about you or not, or whether they believe in you or not, you do your best by them. And I think it’s developing some political maturity to say, ‘Yes, I may not be meeting your expectations, but over time, can we find your place here within this community as well?’ So I think it’s a little shortsighted. We think we want to be surrounded by loyalty, but that’s a moving target. On any given day, you’re going to make a decision that may affect people in a way that they may not want, but it’s whether or not your transparency of government helps them understand why you’re doing it, that it’s not personal, that you were going to make this decision because it’s good for the whole and yeah, it might not work for everybody. So I think a part of it is just your skill at the politics of communicating why decisions are made and whether the transparency was there in the decision making so people understand why and then don’t take it personal.”

Ian Record:

“And doesn’t that really get to this issue of rules? The NNI/Harvard Project research clearly shows that rules are more important than resources in terms of building vibrant economies. Can you speak to that issue?”

Karen Diver:

“Yeah sure, it’s interesting because when I talk to folks and I’m in the unfortunate position of having to tell them I can’t do something for them, one of the things I usually preface it with or end with it is, ‘I know you want this, but one of the rules we follow here for this tribal government is if we can’t do it for everyone, we can’t do it for one. And so if…do you think if I ask the tribal membership if we should do this for you, what do you think their answer would be? Would they be supportive of this decision?’ And generally, when you put it in that context, people will understand that you are making rules for all, not the few. On the other hand, sometimes you come up with one where you say, ‘Geez, we should do something about that and would we be willing to do it for everyone? Maybe, maybe not because the circumstances matter, but it’s justifiable and you knew if you put the whole circumstances out there, our community would say, ‘Yeah we don’t maybe don’t want to make that a practice,’ but in this instance, for their set of circumstances, it’s the right thing to do because we do care about our community. But it’s justifiable in a way so you almost have the litmus test of community voting. And you’re saying, 'How would people think about this?' And if you constantly keep that in mind, and the fact that it doesn’t matter who’s in your office, assume you’re telling everybody because everybody will know. Your actions are public and if someone asks, ‘What’s going on with tribal government?’ you have to be willing to tell them. That transparency is what keeps government honest. So day by day, you take it as it comes and take each circumstances, but if you use that litmus test of, ‘If I put it to a referendum vote, or no matter who walked through the door, would you behave the same?’ generally, you’re going to get pretty close to what you need to a capable government whose rules are not only transparent, but consistency ends up being the biggest key.”

Ian Record:

“And when you have those consistent rules in place that are consistently enforced, isn’t that liberating for you as an elected official, because you then are in a position where you can say no to someone and have it not be personal? And say, ‘Here’s my reason. We have, for instance, a hiring and firing dispute, which I’m sure you encounter in an economic development entity of the tribe or within tribal government. You say, ‘Hey, we have a personnel grievance process for that. I’d be overstepping my bounds as an elected official to take on this issue, to even consider your complaint.’”

Karen Diver:

“Very much so. It is liberating in a way and it’s something that the current tribal council, in terms of building our own capacity to govern and also for our own stability in making sure we’re all behaving in the same way even when we’re not in a meeting, when we’re having different interactions, is to actually have those conversations with each other, have a set of board norms, take some planning time and say, ‘here’s something that you don’t necessarily need a policy for, but it’s something we’re confronted with. How do we behave? Let’s be consistent, all get on the same page.’ Your answer then can be, ‘Gee, I hear you and I understand but the council made a decision that this is the way that we’re going to handle it,’ and speaking with one voice. A lot of this goes to whether or not you’re building a capable board that’s cohesive and all operating off of the same page, so speaking with one voice. You have those arguments. It’s kind of like mommy and daddy, you argue, but you don’t let the kids hear you kind of thing. We have that time where we work things out amongst ourselves but once we come to talking about them in a public way, whatever answer prevailed, we all stick with and support and so a lot of it goes to good governance from an internal perspective as well. And you’re right, it is liberating. It gives individual members a way to say, ‘We all stick together.’ You can’t go from one to the other and try to get a different answer because we’re all going to talk about it and then give you our decision as a whole rather than an individual.”

Ian Record:

“One final question I wanted to ask you, and it was interesting, we were interviewing another tribal leader earlier this morning, and he likened being an elected leader of a Native nation to drinking from a fire hose, which I’m sure you can identify with. I was wondering if you could talk about, how can leaders manage the often overwhelming pressures they face, in order to lead effectively? How can they manage that load, forge ahead, implement that strategic vision, guide that strategic vision, so that the nation can achieve the future it wants?”

Karen Diver:

“I think it’s management principles, and I think as we develop our own folks and they decide to serve through elected leadership, they’re going to bring different management capabilities to the table. And I usually tell new managers or people who are also feeling that -- because it happens all through the organization, not just at the top -- is prioritize, delegate and advocate. You prioritize. I liken it to going to the casino’s buffet. You only get one plate at a time, but you have all those choices so you pick that first plate carefully. When things are going well, you might even start with dessert, but when they’re not going well you might start with your meat instead of your salad. So you prioritize and pick that first plate very carefully. You put out the fires, but you pay attention to what precedent are you setting. Don’t just make it go away for going away’s sake 'cause you’re setting precedent, but you put out the fires first and you kind of look at your organization methodically. Right now we’re lucky; we have no fires. So what we’re looking at is that middle layer of management that is actually broader than the emergencies, but has more long-term impact. Does our organizational structure fit the service delivery we need to do, are there gaps, are there efficiencies to be found so you prioritize and you clip your way through it. Delegating is you don’t have to do it all on your own. You have a hierarchy in place. Make sure the hierarchy is working for you. Use content-area experts; hire them if you need to. I think one of the biggest failings of tribal government is to not admitting what you don’t know and asking and listening to those who do. I couldn’t have done a lot of the work in the last year without listening to my environmental staff, my education staff, my health staff. In many ways I take my orders from them. What are your priorities? What do you need me to talk about? Who do you need me to call? And let them do their jobs. Advocate ends up being important, because a lot of I think doing with tribal government work is educating people around and within you of the role of tribal government. What are our boundaries? How do we get partners in to do our work? We’ve been so busy building our self-governance, we forget we have allies out there, different funding sources, the legislatures, building relationships with townships and counties, which I think is actually going backwards lately because of cuts in local government aid and the economy and they see tribes not as partners anymore, but how do we get into their pocketbooks. So maintaining those relationships and advocacy sometimes happens in a crisis, sometimes in a proactive way, but really saying, ‘Hello, we’re still here, we have an impact, we have a role to play. It might not be the one you define, but there are areas of win-win, let’s talk about those,’ and telling that story. And if you can slowly clip through it that way, it becomes a little bit more manageable. What I usually tell people is tribal government, we’ve only really been self-governing in any meaningful way, probably for thirty years. We’ll continue to get better at it and we’ll make mistakes along the way, but it’s what works and so we have to prove that. So prioritizing and making sure you’re hitting those things and trying to prevent them from becoming those fires ends up being really important.”

Ian Record:

“Well Karen, I appreciate your time today and thanks for sharing your wisdom and your experience with us.”

Karen Diver:

“Thank you, my pleasure.”

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "What Effective Bureaucracies Need"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders offer their perspectives on the key characteristics that Native nation bureaucracies need to possess in order to be effective.

Native Nations
Citation

Brown, Eddie. "Tribal Service Delivery: Meeting Citizens' Needs" (Episode 7). Native Nation Building television/radio series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy and the UA Channel, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2006. Television program.

Ducheneaux, Wayne. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Spearfish, South Dakota. April 11, 2012. Interview.

LaPlante, Jr., Leroy. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 12, 2010. Interview.

Luarkie, Richard. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 1, 2012. Interview.

Penney, Sam. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 20, 2010. Interview.

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"You know, when you have a strategy in terms of where, and a vision of where you want the tribe to be, you know, generations from now, everything works toward that end. And so people -- it does give program managers more focus and it does...but you know, that example being set by elected officials is so critical, 'cause if they're setting that example, then it trickles down to your administrative personnel, it trickles down to your program managers, it trickles down to your tribal employees. That there's this conscientiousness that what we're doing is really for the betterment of the people not just here today, but further down the road."

Sam Penney:

"With most bureaucracies, there needs to be roles and responsibilities, there needs to be clear lines of authority, policies and procedures need to be in place. That can save a lot of time over the long run. I think what was important for our tribe is when we adopted our strategic management plan that goes to all levels throughout the tribe, and that communication/coordination among the tribal departments and programs can always be improved. We are a pretty large entity, and I think that just by simply adopting a strategic management plan that is tribal council-approved goes a long ways in providing the day-to-day direction for your staff."

Wayne Ducheneaux:

"I think it all falls back to a solid policies and procedures, something that...a handbook, a guideline that everybody can look at and distribute equitability amongst everybody. It really helps to have the support of your elected officials when you're carrying out the day to day. That's one of the things that I've found has really been cool about my job is of the 15 tribal council people, I've had every one in my office come in and visit with me, ask for advice. I've asked them for advice and what we need to help keep that going is the trust from elected officials, but a clear policy to follow so we make sure everything's fair."

Eddie Brown:

"It's building a good solid foundation of making sure that you have your regulations in place. When we talk about foster care programs or child welfare programs, they have a lot of rules and regulations and standards to ensure the protection of the child as well as the parents. Those kind of things -- having good regulations in place, hiring competent staff, providing training for those staff, pulling together management information systems that allow them to track and to evaluate the kind of program or the impact of the programs that they're having. I think all of this -- it's a tremendous challenge for an administrator today at a tribal level, because there are so many things that need to be done with limited dollars, and a growing expectation of tribal members toward the tribal council to begin to act in a full essence of what a government is, and that is a government's role is to care for the wellbeing of its citizens."

Richard Luarkie:

"For Laguna, I believe what makes our system work well, our bureaucracy work well is the ability to authorize those that are in decision-making roles -- like directors and supervisors -- to make certain levels of decisions. That way everything is not coming to the governor's office, everything's not coming to the chief of operations, and so when you can begin to build quality staff, great systems, the system will take care of itself and you don't have to sign off on every little document. So having that type of environment in place is very critical and I think definitely helps with the bureaucracy. On the tribal side, same thing with the...on the tribal government side, same scenario where the tribal council has delegated to the governor's office and to our staff officer level certain signing authority so we don't have to take everything into tribal council. As an example, we just had a request for filming. There's a movie that's going to be filmed at Laguna and starring Jennifer Aniston and they wanted to come and film for two days and it was two hours per day. So as opposed to taking that into council, that's something that the governor's office can just sign off on. So it allows the council to focus on the big issues and not have to worry about, do we authorize somebody to come film for two hours and we end up debating that for two hours. So it becomes critical when you can begin to delegate certain responsibilities out and so that helps in our bureaucracy."

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "The Role of Bureaucracies in Nation Building"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders discuss the critical role that bureaucracies play in Native nations' efforts to achieve their nation-building and community development priorities.

Native Nations
Citation

Giff, Urban. "A Capable Bureaucracy: The Key to Good Government" (Episode 6). Native Nation Building television/radio series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy and the UA Channel, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2006. Television program.

LaPlante, Jr., Leroy. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 12, 2010. Interview.

Mankiller, Wilma. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 29, 2008. Interview.

Pico, Anthony. "Building Great Programs in a Political Setting." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 10, 2004. Presentation.

Urban Giff:

"Well, I once equated that to and compared it to the older customs of tribes, my tribe included as well as other tribes, in which the villages of the tribe were safeguarded by sentries and warriors that were away from the villages and they sounded the alarm in case there was danger and they were effective in safeguarding the tribe, the people, their assets. I equated that and compared it to the modern-day tribes. We still need warriors and sentries, but in the field of accounting, in the field of law, in the field of human resources administration, in the field of management, all the functions that a government has to operate under, and that we need qualified warriors in those areas and that's what will benefit the tribes. As the ancient warriors did and benefited their tribes, we still need warriors today."

Wilma Mankiller:

"When I think about developing communities in a real sense, not in an abstract sense, but taking a community and developing the economy, or developing water systems or community buildings or health care or whatever, what I think is that you have to have a strong enabling center to do that. The people who do community development and develop the economy can't go out and do good work unless they have a strong enabling center. And so, again, it's important to have a good accounting system, a good administrative system, and a strong tribal government in order to do that work."

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

"You gotta have that infrastructure in place because it's one thing to take a vision and philosophies in terms of how we want to be, but you gotta have the practical policies and infrastructure that get us from point A to point B."

Anthony Pico:

"As Indian nations increasingly take over management of social and economic programs and natural resources on our reservations, as we undertake ambitious development programs or government tasks become more financially and administratively complex, our government infrastructure becomes more essential to overall success. By infrastructure I mean those bodies and directives that help keep the fire lit while the hunters are on the trail. It's the glue that keeps things going when the leadership changes or there's a political crisis. It means attracting and keeping loyal employees and developing and retaining skilled personnel. It requires establishing effective civil service systems that protect employees from politics. It means putting into place solid personnel grievance systems and that decisions are implemented and recorded effectively and reliably. It ensures that businesses and future government officials do not have to reinvent the wheel or lose momentum, but rather are able to build on the success and avoid the failures."

Native Nation Building TV: "A Capable Bureaucracy: The Key to Good Government"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Guests Urban Giff and Joan Timeche explain that good governance requires effective, transparent and accountable bureaucracies. The segment demonstrates how clearly defined organizational structures and roles and responsibilities help make things work and get things done, and how their absence actively hinders Native nation governance and development efforts.

Citation

Native Nations Institute. "A Capable Bureaucracy: The Key to Good Government" (Episode 6). Native Nation Building television/radio series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy and the UA Channel, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2006. Television program. 

Mark St. Pierre: "Hello, friends. I'm your host, Mark St. Pierre and welcome to Native Nation Building. Contemporary Native Nations face many challenges including building effective governments, developing strong economies that fit their culture and circumstances, solving difficult social problems and balancing cultural integrity in change. Native Nation Building explores these often complex challenges in the ways Native Nations are working to overcome them as they seek to make community and economic development a reality. Don't miss Native Nation Building next."

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Mark St. Pierre: "On today's program we examine a critical aspect of Native Nation governance -- bureaucracies. We'll look at how clear bureaucratic organization roles and responsibilities contribute to effective governance and how ineffective bureaucracies can stop Native Nations dead in their tracks. Here today to explore the importance of bureaucracies are Urban Giff and Joan Timeche. Urban Giff, a citizen of the Gila River Indian Community has served as Community Manager at Gila River since 1986. As one of his Nation's chief administrators, he's been directly involved with managing incredible growth his community has experienced over the past decade. Joan Timeche, a citizen of the Hopi tribe is Assistant Director of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. She also spent eight years serving as Director of the Hopi Tribe's Education Department. Joan, Urban, thank you for being with us today. Let's jump right in. What is bureaucracy's fundamental task, Urban?"

Urban Giff: "Well, I once equated that to and compared it to the older customs of tribes, my tribe included as well as other tribes, in which the villages of the tribe were safeguarded by sentries and warriors that were away from the villages and they sounded the alarm in case there was danger and they were effective in safeguarding the tribe, the people, their assets. I equated that and compared it to the modern-day tribes. We still need warriors and sentries, but in the field of accounting, in the field of law, in the field of human resources administration, in the field of management, all the functions that a government has to operate under, and that we need qualified warriors in those areas and that's what will benefit the tribes. As the ancient warriors did and benefited their tribes, we still need warriors today."

Joan Timeche: "And I think the only thing that I would add to that is it's basically just trying to get the job done, whatever the council, the government, the people decide or their long-term vision, it's the everyday task of just accomplishing that."

Mark St. Pierre: "This is for either one of you. Why is an effective, efficient bureaucracy so critical to Native Nation building?"

Joan Timeche: "In the early 1930s or so, many of us were forced to adopt modern forms of government. We traditionally had very effective forms of governments and bureaucracies in place prior to Europeans, but because if we were to receive and be recognized by the federal government we had to have a new modern form of government in place. And during those times, the federal government made a lot of decisions for us, the Bureau of Indian Affairs made those decisions for us. They basically set these councils in place and they, in many cases, often served as rubber stamps and the government made all the major decisions. But as time has evolved and over the years and particularly since the '70s and '80s, tribes have begun to take a major role in determining where it is that they want their societies to be moving towards and they've become the key decision-makers. And because they're the decision-makers, it's important for them to be the one to set that strategic, long-term vision of where it is that they want the tribe to be moving towards, and having in place this effective bureaucracy that gets the job done and helps them move towards accomplishing their goals." 

Mark St. Pierre: "Urban, would you want to comment on that?"

Urban Giff: "Just to the effect of that enables the tribe to really better understand its opportunities that [are] available and can be made available to the tribe -- not just the entire tribe as a whole, but to individuals of the tribe, the families of the tribe. That's the essence of the value of having bureaucracy in place that have the knowledge to bring these opportunities and not necessarily to do it for them, but to provide the opportunity that will enable the tribal members to move on."

Mark St. Pierre: "Well, we all know that some Native Nations, some First Nations, have ineffective, inefficient bureaucracies and that those tribes find it difficult to move forward. What are some of the key ways to set up an effective, efficient bureaucracy?"

Urban Giff: "I would say that probably the important thing that comes to mind right off is to have a better understanding among all the players, all the decision-makers as to who has the resources to do what, and that's where the bureaucracy comes in. The bureaucracy are there, the bureaucrats are there because they have qualifications in their respective areas. The politicians are there because they have rapport with the voters and they have the vision for the tribe. And if you put those two together, the politicians with their vision of what is to be done, what they're striving to get done, and the bureaucracy and the bureaucrats of how it's to be done, that can't help but win for the tribe. So no one segment can do it alone. They have to work together as best as they can."

Joan Timeche: "Well, I think one thing that I would add to that, it has to do with clear a clear separation of roles and responsibilities. I was very young when I started to work for my own tribe, and to have that role delineated of what the legislature is responsible for, to what program administration is responsible for -- 'cause we're the ones that get the job done -- was very important for me because I needed to know to what extent powers, what powers I had and what I didn't have. And of course it was a very political environment, so you had to get accustomed to understanding what the rules were internally, and I think that those are two key important points, having stable rules, consistent rules so that irregardless of who the administration is at that time, the elected leadership, that there's going to be some -- when turnover occurs -- there's going to still be the same rules in place that we might be able to understand how to still accomplish our jobs."

Mark St. Pierre: "In helping your...in looking at young people as they come up through the bureaucracy, are there things that you've done at your tribe or at Hopi to help these young administrators, these young bureaucrats achieve the skills that they need?"

Urban Giff: "What I would refer to is in the job descriptions, the written job description that delineate what that position calls for in terms of responsibilities and authorities that may be assumed by the person that's hired to handle that position, but it also identifies the qualification requirements for that position and it's really gauged against that person's educational level, experience level and what not, and the selection process would then pick the best-qualified candidate who has applied. And so it's not based on who they are related to, but really on their qualifications and what not. And it really does a lot to the ego and to the wellbeing of the individual to realize that they were chosen because of their qualifications and requirements and that they were expected and required to carry out those duties and responsibilities, however difficult they may appear. But that's where...I think it's a key thing to help the young people realize the opportunity that they could have."

Mark St. Pierre: "There's always the chance that a tribal employee, a program director for instance, might do something that would get them in trouble politically. How do you create a buffer between the bureaucracy, the people that actually run the tribal programs and the elected officials?"

Joan Timeche: "Well, I think that comes in the form of good rules and this clear delineation. I can give you one example from when I worked with my own tribe and it has to do with our scholarship program. Our education department was a K [kindergarten] through post-secondary ed programs and we...coming in as a young program administrator who'd recently completed my degree, I knew the weaknesses of our grants and scholarship program and how little they were able to support a person such as myself get their education. So because I had young staff, we decided that we would revamp the scholarship program but we had a process within which to do it. We had to go to our 12 communities within the...on the Hopi Reservation. We got their input, we prepared the rules which would govern the program, making different types of options available, setting out the rules, but we had to go back to them and get approval. And then our tribe has a standing committee, an oversight committee that then has to review and approve of it before it goes on to the council for adoption. Well, one time what happened to me and in regards to that was I got a call from the tribal chair and he asked me to report to his office. And when you get those calls, you're there pronto. They don't tell you why you're there, they just say please come to the chairman's office immediately. So you go scurrying. I went scurrying across to the other building and went in and found out that he had been approached by a family -- I'm sorry, a community member who had a son that was going to college and apparently the son had received the notice from our office that he was not going to get funded for his grant, he was not going to get a grant to go to school and she was really irate and she demanded that -- she had been a long time supporter of him, reminded him that she had a large family within the community, a large constituency which could impact his future as a politician and said, 'My son deserves this grant and I want you to get it.' And he basically told me to reinstate it, receive the grant right then. And I told him, I said, 'I can't do that. I have these rules that were recently adopted, we set them out. Let me go back and find out what the situation is about the student.' Well, I went back, came back later on that day and found out that within the rules, we have some basic criteria. You have to have a C average, you have to complete the required number of credit hours. He was a full-time student, so it was 12 credit hours per semester. He'd received funding from us before, but he didn't fulfill those criteria so we put him on probation, allowing him to receive another semester of funding to be able to meet it at the end of the two semesters. It still didn't work, so we told him, 'Go back to summer school, bring your grades up, meet our criteria again and we'll re-fund you.' But he did not comply with our rules so we had to say, 'Sorry, you're not eligible until you bring up your grade point average and complete your credit hours.' And I tried to explain this to the chairman and he said, 'Go out and do it or I'll fire you.' And I says, 'I'm sorry, I can't fund this student.' I says, 'I have too many students out there who are probably in the same boat and if I fund this student, it's just going to open the flood gate for everyone else and our rules will have no meaning at all to that. All they have to do is go to the tribal chair, complain a little bit, cry a little bit and get their funding reinstated and then out the door goes our rules.' Why have rules if you're not going to follow them?"

Mark St. Pierre: "So did you get fired?"

Joan Timeche: "No. Luckily I didn't, but I was forever on his black list for his term and he actually ended up getting re-elected for a second term, so it was very difficult years for me."

Mark St. Pierre: "Urban, at Gila River how do you create that, in a sense, protection for your bureaucrats that are doing their job?"

Urban Giff: "Well, one example comes to mind. This happened years ago, and we had a project that an old building had to be demolished and so we looked for somebody to do it and we had two community members that were interested and were willing and were able to do it and one of them was selected and the other one was not. The other one who was not went to our tribal lieutenant governor -- or vice chairman as other tribes call it -- and expressed concern about it as why that other person was selected. The other person, we happened to have gone to high school together, and I was the one that had to do that so I got called into the lieutenant governor's office with that complaint and I said, 'Well, yeah, I can understand that, but his quoted price was higher than the other one.' He said, 'Are you sure?' I said, 'Yes. I had them submit written quotes on what they were going to charge.' And he said, 'Do you have them?' I said, 'Yes, I do.' I went back to my office and brought it back. I think that was a big relief to the lieutenant governor because it was based on comparative prices on it and there was a considerable difference in the cost. And so he had the ability to be able to go back to him and tell him why, and the individual that went to the lieutenant governor knew that he had submitted a written price and he should have known that it probably was the outcome, but he complained and I think that reassured the lieutenant governor that these bureaucrats probably are worthwhile."

Mark St. Pierre: "You've been in the same position with your tribe since 1986 and we know that tribal governments turn over, that the politicians and the elected officials turn over sometimes in some tribes once a year and other tribes every two years and other tribes four years. Is there a role in administration providing continuity for tribes?"

Urban Giff: "At Gila River, what we have is we have staggered terms for the council. So of the 17 members, we have one-third up for re-election or their terms end every year, so at no time is the total tribal council going to change over. But that's kind of a little bit different situation with the other, the governor of the tribe and lieutenant governor because they're elected every three years. What that does though is that provides the opportunity for the staff, the bureaucrats to provide that continuity because all the staff are hired employees of the tribe and aren't subject to political appointments and they're hired and as long as they do their job and don't get fired because of cause -- that's the only way they can be fired. They can't be fired for personality difficulties or whatever else, so that's what provides us, our tribe, the stability that's there and I think that has worked for us. And also I think, well, Pimas just generally get along okay."

Mark St. Pierre: "Native Nation bureaucracies have grown in both scope and function over the past three decades as their Nations have moved to expand their development objectives. What are the implications of this fairly rapid growth?"

Urban Giff: "I think one of the things that comes to mind when you talk about rapid growth and development of the tribe is that it really has to be determined ahead of time before you start on that process of development as to how far the development is going to take. If it is not done, any new program or department that's established is going to identify other needs that before were not possible or were not visible because there was nobody there doing that work, and it's going to create and it's going to cause other things to grow. So there really needs to be a time where the decision-makers -- and I call the politicians the decision-makers -- that have the vision as to where they want the tribe to go, how far they want the tribe to go as far as the tribal government. But also as a part of that, there needs to be a place and a way in which the abilities [of] individual members and families need to be acknowledged and encouraged and fostered so that the individual members can start doing some of the things that is not being done because they didn't have the opportunity or whatever the case might be, or maybe they didn't have the knowledge of how to do it -- that is provided to them. So give them a hand up not a hand out. So that's something that I think the politicians really could be beneficial to their tribes by so doing and identifying the vision."

Joan Timeche: "I'd just like to add to that, too, because we work with a number of tribes across the nation and what we often see is as a result of this quick growth you see organizational charts that are flat, all of the departments end up reporting to one entity and it's usually, if they don't have a chief administrative officer like they do in Gila River's case, it ends up being the chief executive officer of the tribe and the growth is haphazard, everyone ends up having their own turf, they don't share, there's often a lack of communication, they don't connect. They may be serving the same client populations, the targets. Their services may be the same and oftentimes they don't communicate with each other. We were working recently with a tribe here in the southwest on strategic planning and we called like service programs to come together -- in this particular case it was their tribal enterprises -- to talk about what they would like to see happen within the nation. And as we were going through the meeting, there was an observation by one of the program directors there of the enterprise that that was the first time that they had met, ever assembled together all their ten tribal enterprises in one meeting place, and they were learning that they had common goals and they had common marketing strategies and yet had never talked to each other before. And that's one of the results of the fast growth, and if you don't plan it effectively and set up these clear roles, that's one of the things that can happen.

Mark St. Pierre: "In looking at bureaucracies, the type of bureaucracies that a tribe has -- whether it's effective or ineffective -- sends messages to the tribal members. Can you comment on that for a minute about how tribal people see their government in relationship to the bureaucracy?"

Urban Giff: "The tendency -- and I guess maybe it's human nature -- that occurs, the bureaucracy will start to looking at the procedures and the process and lose sight of the people that it's intended to serve, and you find that happen very quickly that if they're concerned about crossing this 'T' or filling in this block and what not, and it really just puts the community member to feel second place to that form or to that process or to that step-by step-procedure, and that's where the bureaucracies kind of hurt themselves by not relating to the people. And yet the people are the primary purpose of why bureaucracies exist. And so without constantly being reminded about that and being alert to those things, that can cause difficulties, and the community members can take it so much and then they start complaining and start...and cause a bigger problem. So that's part of what I would suggest that really needs to be considered."

Joan Timeche: "And that perception isn't just internal. It can go to the external markets and the people that you deal with as well. Let me just relate to you one story that I experienced. In our Head Start program, we ran five Head Start centers across our reservation and our reservation is very expansive. One time I had my program director for Head Start come to me and tell me, 'Joan, Joan, you've got to help me.' She said, 'Shamrock just called' -- and Shamrock delivers all of our milk and dairy products -- 'and they called me and they said they are not going to deliver any of the milk and we're down to our stock in all of our Head Start centers here. They're not going to deliver. I have to have a check in hand to be able to pay them. Otherwise they're not even going to send the truck out at all. I have to guarantee that they will get it.' And she said, 'I've been calling our finance office, I've called treasurer's office trying to find out where the check is, and it's buried in some stack of papers somewhere, and I can't get the check.' Well, what ended up happening is Shamrock wasn't going to come because they weren't going to get paid. I couldn't guarantee that they would get a check in hand at the time that they delivered, and we tried to call our local stores. We had two little markets on the reservation and in a very remote area, that's not a lot of milk when you're trying to serve hundreds of children. So what ended up happening is after that we had to go internally within the administrative departments and find out what the reason was, and Shamrock was going to go and tell everybody within the Flagstaff community, the Northern Arizona community, 'Do not do business with the Hopi tribe because you will not get paid for 60, 90, 120 days.' And we couldn't afford to have our vendors talking that way about us 'cause we were such a remote community. We had a reliance on those external vendors. So it's that perception of ineffective bureaucracies that also gets sent out there as well."

Mark St. Pierre: "Urban, would you want to comment on that?"

Urban Giff: "I guess just part of it -- we've had the same experience at Gila River from time to time, and a part of that I think is it's the bureaucracies sometimes get bogged down in procedures and processes and not the end result. The end result is the primary thing that should be the focus of everything and how you get to that end result of pay your bills on time and what not. So sometimes that creates problems on it I think."

Mark St. Pierre: "How in your experience does the culture of the people themselves reflect how a bureaucracy should operate?"

Joan Timeche: "In many communities, if the people don't believe in the system, whether it's the government or the rules set in place and how decisions are made, they're not going to have any respect for it at all and that's what it boils down to. They'll just totally disregard it. In many of the communities that I'm familiar with, particularly here within Arizona, a lot of the decisions are made at the local levels and if your bureaucracy, your tribal bureaucracy, doesn't account for decision-making at the local level that then transforms into what happens at the central government level, you're in a real bad situation if it doesn't account for that. My community is like that. Decisions are made at the village level and there are several large communities within Arizona -- Navajo is the same way with all of their chapter administration. So people have to believe in the system for it to be effective and for it to work."

Mark St. Pierre: "Well, that kind of leads to another question. What happens to tribal bureaucracies when you have outsiders dictating aspects of tribal administration and measuring outcomes, for instance a lot of grant programs that are designed in Washington by people who've never been to Gila River or have never been to Hopi?"

Joan Timeche: "Well, what happens there then, again, is the decisions are made external to the tribe and the end-recipient of the services doesn't get what they need or maybe they might get it, but maybe it'll be in a very different form than they had thought that it was going to be in or at a much later date and time. So I think it's very important that the tribe assume responsibilities. And a lot of times we, because there are federal strings that are attached to these federal dollars, we often don't think that we can change the regulations which we have to operate within, but that's an opportunity for a tribal government  there to exercise its sovereignty. It can set its own rules, it can create its own ordinances to be able to administer, and then it can then tell that funding source that, 'Here's our code, here's the way we believe it to be done, and we want you to take a look at it.' And you'll see that in many cases it often meets or exceeds what the federal government is doing. You see that a lot with environmental protection codes that tribes adopt. Many times they're much more stringent than what the federal government might have imposed upon the tribe."

Mark St. Pierre: "Urban, would you want to..."

Urban Giff: "Yes, I'd like to add and that is that like from the federal level, Congress passes a law, a bill, and it has certain statements in there and the intent of that law is very crucial. Then the appropriate agency then develops regulations on it and then that's applied to the Indian tribe. The tribes have become accustomed to going by, 'That's what they said, they want it done...' but yet have found that it not always meets the needs of that tribe, and now it's realized that if it's stated one way in the regulation, that can be changed and you don't have to go all the way to Congress to change it, because that can be changed at the department level and it's maybe just a matter of...and it doesn't change the intent of the original legislation. And so that's the area that really is important and the more recent trend is before the regulations are completed, there should be some consultation with the tribes to make sure that it captures what the tribes are in need of and how they can best fulfill the need. The difficult thing, of course, is that there are so many tribes and each one may have different approaches to the same regulations under the same statute. But that's a challenge that's worth pursuing, because otherwise it becomes a disservice to the tribe that may not have their needs met because the regulations have a certain process or certain statement of how it's to be done."

Mark St. Pierre: "When tribal bureaucracies grow and they reflect federal programs, grant programs, needs that are perceived and then one need begins to identify another, how does the tribal bureaucracy prevent becoming a dependency agency for tribal members? In other words, how do we know when a bureaucracy has assumed some of the responsibilities of an individual family or an individual tribal member and in fact increased dependency?"

Urban Giff: "That's part of the elected, the politicians, the politicians and their vision of how they want their tribe to prosper and whatnot. And what I... personally I'll use that term to describe, there's a lot of rhetoric and a lot of discussion by all of us about tribes, especially politicians, about self-sufficiency and about self-determination and that type, but yet there's very little actual applying that at the local level to provide each individual member or a family their abilities to be self-sufficient and to self-determine. And so that's kind of a difficult thing to do probably for the elected officials, because they're relying on their constituents for the elections is to put forward the ideas that they need to do for themselves and not expect the tribe, the tribal government to do everything for them. But I think that's the only way that the self-sufficiency and self-determination can really be realized."

Mark St. Pierre: "We want to thank Joan Timeche and Urban Giff for appearing on today's edition of Native Nation Building, a program of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. To learn more about Native Nation Building and the issues discussed here today, please visit the Native Nations Institute website at www.nni.arizona.edu/nativetv. Thank you for joining us and please tune in for the next edition of Native Nation Building."