code of ethics

Using Indigenous Standards to Implement the CARE Principles: Setting Expectations through Tribal Research Codes

Year

Biomedical data are now organized in large-scale databases allowing researchers worldwide to access and utilize the data for new projects. As new technologies generate even larger amounts of data, data governance and data management are becoming pressing challenges. The FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) were developed to facilitate data sharing. However, the Indigenous Data Sovereignty movement advocates for greater Indigenous control and oversight in order to share data on Indigenous Peoples’ terms. This is especially true in the context of genetic research where Indigenous Peoples historically have been unethically exploited in the name of science. This article outlines the relationship between sovereignty and ethics in the context of data to describe the collective rights that Indigenous Peoples assert to increase control over their biomedical data. Then drawing on the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility, and Ethics), we explore how standards already set by Native nations in the United States, such as tribal research codes, provide direction for implementation of the CARE Principles to complement FAIR. A broader approach to policy and procedure regarding tribal participation in biomedical research is required and we make recommendations for tribes, institutions, and ethical practice.

Resource Type
Citation

Carroll Stephanie Russo, Garba Ibrahim, Plevel Rebecca, Small-Rodriguez Desi, Hiratsuka Vanessa Y., Hudson Maui, Garrison Nanibaa’ A. Using Indigenous Standards to Implement the CARE Principles: Setting Expectations through Tribal Research Codes. Frontiers in Genetics. Vol. 13. 2022. DOI=10.3389/fgene.2022.823309. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fgene.2022.823309

Northern Cheyenne Constitutional Reform

Year

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe is a sovereign nation. It is a federally-recognized Indian tribe with powers and authority to govern the activities of its members. The Tribe is governed by a Constitution and Bylaws first adopted on November 23, 1935. In the early 1990s, in order to meet the demands of the expanding population and economic growth of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Tribal Council determined that its constitution needed to be amended. A Constitution Revision Committee was established to facilitate this process. The Committee was assigned the task of coming up with proposed constitutional amendments, hold public hearings and present their findings and recommendations to the Tribal Council. Finally, on May 10, 1996, a set of constitutional amendments was voted and adopted by the membership of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. The amendments were divided into three parts: Governmental Reform, Separation of Powers, and Code of Ethics...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Gourneau, Norma, and Ian Record. "Northern Cheyenne Constitutional Reform." Red Ink: A Native American Student Publication. Vol. 8, No. 2. American Indian Studies Program, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2000: 63-66. Article.

Catalina Alvarez and Robert McGhee: What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Tribal leaders Catalina Alvarez (Pascua Yaqui Tribe) and Robert McGhee (Poarch Band of Creek Indians) field questions from seminar participants on an array of topics ranging from codes of ethics to creating mechanisms for transparent governance.

Resource Type
Citation

Alvarez, Catalina. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 10, 2012. Q&A session.

McGhee, Robert. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 10, 2012. Q&A session.

Audience member:

"Robert, coming from a similar small tribe and situations I can relate a lot to what you brought up as far as what you're dealing with. I just had a question as far as the transparency. I agree with that and I know that it's...I'm sure it's a work in progress. What has worked and what hasn't as far as are there limitations as far as how transparent each governmental entity is for tribal members and do you get a lot of backlash when they ask for a document or want to see something that they're just not entitled to?"

Robert McGhee:

"They're entitled to every document that we have, able to see [them] as long as it's not employee related, if it's not involving certain employees or certain individual members themselves. What we do is...and one of the things, we do an annual report. We put money aside every year, we publish a book and the book goes out to every tribal member, it's talking about our current financial status and we put a letter in there asking them to keep it amongst themselves and this is for you and your household. And then two days before it goes out, well, about a week before it goes out we actually have a large community meeting that goes over the annual report and explains it page by page. So we go through all the funding issues, we go through ‘this is where all the money went, this is what's left, this is what we're we agree...' We'll tell them, ‘We wanted to build a capital reserve account to protect future assets and this is how much we're putting in there.' So that's the best way we handle it and if we have any documents that we're concerned, because we do have council members who do like to talk and they're social people. We have one council member, all he does, and this is not to be disrespectful but he's always at the funerals and someone who's going into the hospital, which I respect. But we tell him and it's like, ‘You need to tell them that you're coming on behalf of all of us because we can't all go to...' But he loves to talk and I don't think he means it disrespectfully, I really don't, but he just loves...so now we take any information that is valuable at the council meeting, if we want to have a private discussion, I actually take it back up from all the...they'll agree to me, 'You can have...I don't want mine.' Because if they have it in their hand they're more apt to share it and give it away and we'll be the first ones to say, ‘I don't want mine, you take mine back,' ‘cause then we'll just collect all the information from the tribal council, we'll have it destroyed and it's easier that way on some regards because it can be sensitive topics that they really shouldn't be discussing so we do take up some of those things. But the transparency is, it's difficult but it's a double-edged sword."

Audience member:

"But more positive than negative as far as being open to the community and there's no...because leaving that expectation or leaving people to their own ideas or what's going on behind closed doors. You're kind of alleviating that to an extent?"

Robert McGhee:

"I think so. They have the opportunity...every council member, we have...every council meeting, we have two a month, what we've done now though is our first council meeting is actually business and the second council meeting we have every director rotate in every entity come in and give financial updates and updates of who's been hired, who's been...like how many employees we have and things like that so that helps a little bit. If we can alleviate where they don't have to ask us a question or they don't have to...then we'll try to do it."

Audience member:

"Thank you. And just a final question for the two of you, as far as going forward as far as governance, economic development, sitting, being chairs and different committees, how important is it for leaders to be educated and be able to provide that additional information that if you just...all you know is the rez, all you know is that immediate community, you haven't lived off, you haven't experienced any other let's say tribal entities or network, how important is that to be able to move forward for the futures to come?"

Catalina Alvarez:

"Yeah, I think that's a...you have to be...where nowadays, we're not this small reservation, we're not this small tribe. We're running with a lot of and dealing with a lot of millions of dollars and you need educated people that are going to be making those right decisions for the tribe. A lot of times we would have...you still have those mindsets of the older generation that feel that they don't need those kind of people or sometimes they're like in his case as well -- I'm going to pick on Marcelino [Flores] over there -- we have some people that are very educated and that know a whole lot and we have a tendency not to...I think we have to have a balance of where we get the educated people but also having the previous council, the old founders of the tribe also respect and embrace the knowledge that he does bring because I know that a lot of times like I've talked to Herminia [Frias], at least have the sense that if you don't know where you're at as a council to know and to ask that you need to find the right people for those positions because otherwise, like with us, I know I've told some of the council, we are still in the process of trying to get back the gaming board, because a lot of us feel we are not capable of running a gaming institution by any means and that's where it becomes difficult, that you have a council that still wants to be in charge of everything. And is it beneficial for us? Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't. We were burned also with the gaming board and finding the right people because sometimes you get burned by those same individuals on the gaming board. There's a balance that you have to find educated people, also people that are practical in knowing what needs to be done."

Robert McGhee:

"I think the key is if you're not...if they don't have the say...we educate as much as we can across all areas. It doesn't necessarily have to be college educated. It could be business education, tribal law, business literacy. We've actually had people just come in even to the council and teach debits and credits so they can have a better understanding if tribal gaming...because there was a distrust issue too amongst...you have a board over here and we have a top management staff and they're presenting this and it's overwhelming what they're presenting to you. And now though they have to go through it step by step by step and it's an easier process but I encourage if you can put any type of, in place, training and education at your council level, please do, I would recommend that you do it. But also do it for...what we've just started doing for all of our directors and program directors and executive directors is we have sent them through intensive leadership training and they have really...they said that was the best thing that the council has ever done. We felt that they were a part of the organization, that we were listening to them and now they're going to offer it, we're going to offer it to even all the employees because it wasn't fair we felt when I said, ‘we went through this,' and let... It's called 'Lead by Greatness.' We went through this training and it wasn't really fair for us to have the training and not the people who run our programs. And so we've actually...that just started this past year and they're enjoying it and now it's getting down to all the employees. And all the boards and committees like I pointed out before, they're all...all tribal members have the opportunity to serve on those but they have to submit an application and the application actually has to say, ‘Why do you want to serve on this board?' If it's the Cultural Authority, ‘Why do you want to serve here? Is it because you have something to give or do you just want to learn more? Why do you want to serve on PCI Gaming?' Because we realize, like she said, we don't have the expertise to run all of these economic development properties that we have. But you've got to make sure that your job descriptions and you've got to make sure that your...are strong job descriptions and things that get people in the right places to do that for you. We have mentoring programs for our tribal members so they can serve under leadership positions, to learn that way."

Audience member:

"This is in regards to how you deal with or listen to tribal members. There's kind of a two-part question that I heard and I don't know what your responses are, maybe your suggestions on how. The first thing here is congratulations and I think we all know it's a blessing in disguise to be an elected official. So how do you kind of keep a happy about hearing that, ‘Congratulations, you're on council.' And then the second part seems to be, ‘Well, I think you guys should be doing this or you need to do that and I voted you in.' And how do you listen to the community, how do you respond to those questions?"

Catalina Alvarez:

"I'm not sure, like, how do you...the first one that you said, that people just congratulate you and still smile after you know what you got yourself into? Yeah. You have to at least...you're always going to be in that position I think either way, no matter where you're at. We all put up a front even though we're not...maybe we're not happy inside but at least we...we'll just...we portray a different image by saying we're fine and we're good and everything, but I think when tribal members come and expect things of you and are asking you to do things differently, usually when I get asked a lot of things and mostly complaints of things are not doing or I was left out of the process, before I would normally, being a first-year council [member] I would automatically just get it and run with it and not really hear the other side of the story. Now, usually I would ask them, ‘Well, what would you do in these positions? Give me some feedback on what it is that you want accomplished and we'll see what we can do,' but I'm not going to...I always tell them, ‘I'm not going to promise you that it can be done because of course I'm only one voice of other 11.' So it's very important for the community to know that it might not happen and it's okay to tell a community member no. But you've got to watch out that you don't say 'no' too close to elections! [Laughter]"

Robert McGhee:

"One thing she did say was right on that it is okay to tell a community member 'no.' But what happened is that I think the way I handle it is...I wanted to serve. I've wanted to serve as a council member since I was a child. That was...I wanted to come back and do that. I think now though it's when...when someone looks at you, ‘Well, I want this,' I'm like, ‘Well, you tell...why, why do you want that? Does it benefit just you, is it benefiting the family or does it benefit all of us as a whole?' Because I'll let them know in a heartbeat that if that program costs $2 million to fix or a million dollars to fix, you're taking away $2 million or something from another program that we need to look at. So it's almost, you provide me the solution. If that's a problem then, okay, how do we fix it? I think if you throw it back on them that way, because sometimes they have a tendency to put you here and they remind you that, ‘Oh, you think you're up here?' Well, I throw it back down on them and it's like, ‘No, I'm here with you and I do not know how to fix that problem. So how do we fix that problem together? Or why don't you come to a meeting and present solutions.' And they actually...some of them like that because then it gives them...they're involved again and they can make those...be a part of the decision-making process or at least come up with some great ideas that we actually have considered and moved forward with. I'm with nine people but you have 3,000 other people out there, they have some great ideas and I think if you take the opportunity just to challenge them though to say, ‘Well, why do you want that and does it benefit everybody? Because our job as nine is to benefit everyone and it takes a majority first to support it. And have you talked to the other nine? And if the other nine believe in it then that's actually something we could probably do.'"

Audience member:

"My question or thing is when I got in office I ran for chairwoman last term and I didn't make it but I had all these ideas and now that I'm here, how...because a lot of people aren't educated as...when they get on council. They finished high school but they did other things and there was no really like ethical issues that occur, understanding and following policy and procedure within the business frame and then the constitutional issues. How do we follow our constitution yet do our ordinances and all those? But my main thing, my main question is -- and you said you go to, you have training and stuff like that -- is the ethical issue is that when we know there's a relative, a friend, somebody that we have a conflict with we're not really up front to say, ‘I'm not going to be in this discussion, I'm going to step away.' How do you get those values across to your council members so that there is transparency, because the people out there know who's related to who and who's friends with who and all that stuff."

Robert McGhee:

"I know that sometimes what we have to do is you have to remind council members that there is actually a possible conflict and impropriety, there's a...what's the terms that actually gets...an appearance of an impropriety. So as long as we feel that there's an appearance, we will actually let the other council member know. We challenge, it's like, ‘I don't know if you should really be involved in this. You may not know this but this actually impacts so and so,' and we provide them the relation. We tell them the relationship. So maybe some of them do know it but they just needed someone to challenge them to say, ‘I think it's best that you step out, do we all agree that so and so needs to step out,' and they do. What happens is the majority of them will do, once you've just shown where the relationship is and usually you're doing it because of...and don't do it attack-tive. You do it, say, ‘I think...isn't so-and-so in that program or isn't...did so-and-so apply for that job, isn't that your sister-in-law...,' because you are related but there are so many things sometimes you do get confused on even what is a nepotism. Is sister-in-law, is my aunt, is my sister? We know some of them are but then you have, well, your grandparents but they take care of that child. So there could be the possibility of that. So I think if you point it out, we've done that in the past, we just did it or you have your legal department if they're in the room, too. Our legal department's always with us. We'll lean over and say, ‘I think there's a...' and we'll, ‘Hey, that's why that person gets paid the big bucks, you need to go tell that there's an appearance here and maybe it's best to not be...you can be here and maybe just not be a part of the decision.'"

Catalina Alvarez:

"For us, I think the first time that I got into council we actually passed an ethical ordinance and I believe with the new council you're given all the ordinances that have like a fiscal ordinance and the ethical ordinance so you can go back and read them. And it's a way also to challenge, for council to hold each other accountable. That's kind of worked a little bit. I laugh because Herminia used to be our chairwoman the first time that I got into council and of course there was a...it was used against her. She brought the issue into us as ethical ordinance and it's just...the council saw it as a way, ‘Okay, this is how we're going to use it against her now.' But it in essence the...why we decided to do an ethical ordinance was really just to hold each other accountable and making sure that the community knows that we are not going to be in those situations where nepotism does occur and that we're all on the same playing field."

Audience member:

"This question kind of piggy backs off of the last question, but as elected officials and members of council how are you able to effective work against factionalism in council? I think that in a lot of tribal communities relationships ties, family ties run really deep. And so in spite of council and elected officials assuming integrity in their positions, they're always subject to sway. And I think that you see that in a lot of council where many times members will kind of group together on certain decisions and push legislation, ordinance or policy a certain direction when maybe it's kind of not based on the content but more on maybe who they're talking to and who they're being influenced by. As leaders, how are you able to combat that or at least address it within your councils and your communities?"

Robert McGhee:

"I've pictured...I've painted this like perfect council up here and we are not...by no means perfect. We do have our issues but with 3,000 there's definitely a difference between 3,000 members and say a 10,000 member tribe where factions can change elections. There's no doubt. One of the things that we have done is...it's funny, when we know certain people are getting together on a vote, we'll be like, ‘Well, I really don't care.' We won't be a part of it because it depends on what the issue is. If it's something about, oh, we're going to...it's like if we want to spend money here for this program, well, if I don't have a say or a personal attachment to it or something like that, we'll be like...but they've worked up this whole, us five support it or...’Well, have at it and if it works that's great and if it fails, I'll be the first one to let you know that failed,' but I won't be...but we won't do it...we don't air it to the rest of them. I think that if it comes to stuff that is...we have a strong and hopefully a lot of you do have an ethics code and the ethics code was the hardest thing to get passed. That was the hardest. It went to a vote five different times over a year because...and we kept...when we would challenge our tribal council members at the table, ‘Why are you not supporting the ethics code? Are you unethical?' But what happened was even our general council members who are looking, who are at these meetings and seeing so and so quit, he's not or she's not supporting the ethics code, not supporting the ethics code. It all came about though, the reason that individual was not supporting because the appearance of the impropriety. He was so scared of that word because of like you said factions or your council member's brother on another side of the family would be like, ‘Well, hey, he was a part of that decision that...' And so there's an appearance there and he was terrified of that ‘cause he was involved in business himself. And so we were like...so we made it stronger where the appearance, we gave it a little bit more teeth into that document to help him support it. But I think when it just comes to the factions I would...we don't have strong factions, we know that board and committee...it's funny it's only on board and committee appointments because they want Johnny in that position and they'll go meet and we'll say, ‘Well, which ones did you guys...who do you think you're going to choose today.' ‘No, we didn't do that yet.' Call them out on it. We do. But we've got a pretty good close relationship because we've spent so much time together in retreats and workshops and I do not...we do not have a problem calling each other out and one of the things that we had learned from one of these retreats that we went to, they pretty much told us, ‘Call them out. If they are not being the leader that they're supposed to be or if they're not supporting something...say it. Why are you not supporting this initiative? I need an answer.' And we couldn't have them flip-flop anymore either, that was the other thing too. We'd be in a workshop and we'd go around and just do a roll call. It was like, ‘You support it, you support it, you...' and then we'd get to a meeting and, ‘I don't support that.' Made us look like...that only happened a few times. So then we had another leadership, together, Kumbaya saying, ‘I get angry when you do that.' It was almost like a social therapy session. ‘I get angry when you do this. That's not appropriate ‘cause you're giving me your word and all that I feel that you have is your word. That's what makes you a credible person to me is your word and your actions and your actions are going against your words.' So now they actually will tell us, ‘Okay, I'm just going to be honest. I'm not supporting that.' Or if they're about to flip, because they've done it, we'll have another workshop, ‘I want to change my vote.' ‘What? Why?' And then I said, ‘Well, you told us before that from now on you're going to stick to your vote or stick to your decision,' and I called him out. He's like, ‘Yes, but I did tell you that if I changed I would let you know beforehand.' I'm like, ‘You've got me, you're right.' And he changed. He went in that council meeting and his vote changed and I'm like, ‘Well, at least you let me know beforehand.' I was leaning over to another council member, it was like, ‘We lost that one.'"

Catalina Alvarez:

"I think we're still trying to figure that out. You're always going to have I think, at least since I've been in council we have not had like this kind of council that can just sit down and talk, but we always had those kind of factions and we know that they're, sometimes they're influenced. The last...we haven't, this council since it's barely starting, we haven't gotten to that point but the previous council, we knew something was up and the committee knew what was going on and council members would pull in of course all their family so you were kind of pressured to vote in that direction. One of the things that took years and it still has been an issue was like that in the [Adam] Walsh Act, I couldn't believe how difficult it was for council to say that we want to first have the same kind of stuff...that we were going to opt into it and then where we were going to put our note...to notify the community, in which methods. It became so...I'm not even sure, well, I'm assuming that a lot of...in council you would have a sexual pedophile as a family member, that's the only reason why I thought that they could...they thought that I thought that they would be so hesitant in securing our community, but not until we actually had a switch in council that that...we were able to figure out where we were going to post the sexual pedophiles and what kind of notice was going to be given out to the community. But I think a lot of times that [faction], it's always going to exist because we're a tribe of 16,000 or 17,000 and we're always going to have that [faction]. We have council members that are related to each other and you know that they're going to pass ordinances and policies that are going to benefit their families or friends and it's very difficult to find out, at least for us right now. We're still....we're in the stage of trying to figure out how we can...how to resolve that."

Audience member:

"Just a couple of questions here. I'm busy scribbling things down. In today's world of course we live...we all live in two worlds and that is we live in America but at the same time we live within our tribal nations. And quite often, we have a clash in cultures and cultural values and we need somewhat to reconcile some of the things that we do. And was mentioned earlier the idea of nepotism. In the white world of course, that's a no-no. You don't do that, that's unethical behavior. At the same time, as a tribal member, we're taught form a very early age that our responsibility is to our family. Our responsibility is to our relatives, our responsibility is to our community. That's where our citizenship is, that's where our allegiance and where we should be focused. And we also understand that when someone close to you, a relative or whatever, comes for your assistance, you are not supposed to refuse because they're the ones who are going to support you when the chips are down, when you have a tragedy, when you have a sorrow, when you have a great need, you depend upon your family, yet and this job as tribal council is going to be gone in four years, but you still have to face that family member. And that's a difficult thing because you want the betterment of your nation, but at the same time when you're close relatives or clan members, clan fathers, whatever it is comes to you and needs something, how do you reconcile that? I know that's a challenge, ‘cause we have to keep our cultural values alive but we still have to work and thrive in the modern day era. So that's one of the things I think that has to be reconciled.

Another is with our traditional ways as you've mentioned earlier, to call them out. I think from a traditional mindset we're taught not to do that ‘cause we choose avoidance over confrontation whenever we can. And when we have a conflict with somebody, that's when we give direct eye contact, that's when we have that confrontation with them and we go full force. But we don't like to do that but rather we avoid confrontation whenever we can. If that means going on the other side of the street or not returning a phone call or not showing up for a meeting, for many of us, that's the proper thing to do rather than call them out. That's more of a modern day, white man kind of a thinking, at least I think. Utilizing our elders is another traditional way where we as tribal leaders or whatever we are think we're all it and leave out that segment of decision making or reliance upon our tribal elders to utilize them.

And I think what I'm gathering as part of what's happening here is to rebuilding nations is really about going back, going back. It's not building the tribal nation, it's rebuilding and it's remembrance and keeping a lot of our cultural values alive, of the form of governance that was thrust upon us. And if we look at those things, I do have a question specifically for you guys or anyone can answer this and that is, what would happen if salaries were not paid to elected council members and only expenses were paid, what kind of people would we have in there? What would we gain, what would we lose, what would it look like if we went back to that traditional sense of governance where these were not paid positions? Looking forward to your responses."

Robert McGhee:

"Just want to touch on a couple things there that you stated before. Yes, I have an allegiance to my family but I was raised to have, mostly from my mother, my father was a military man and things, but my mom, there was something about honesty, there was something about humility. And what bothers me is say when I have a larger family, not the nucleus but the extended family come up and ask me to do something that is inappropriate. I don't have a problem asking them, ‘Why are you asking me to do this? This is not...' because right now when you sign, when you run for council it's no longer mom, dad and my brother and my nephews and my grandparents, it's my...it's the 3,000 other members. Now every council member in here may have a different idea of that. That's mine. I represent all of them, the ones that you don't want to represent, the ones that still will call you by not your real name, any other name, the ones that still have some varied problems that we need to address. So I always know that I can go back to my family once I'm done serving my terms if I choose not to get elected because my dad doesn't allow us to speak tribal politics in our house either whenever we have an event or anything like that because he used to serve there. So he's like, ‘No one's allowed to come up to each other and talk to me about this or that or why did you do that?' He posted it on...he actually has a sign, he writes and he puts it on the door, ‘No politics are going to be discussed today,' which is helpful because sometimes you do...all of us here, you do get tired of going to certain events because you know someone's going to come up and ask a question or question you about this so at least I know it's...in the house, dad's house, it's off limits even at my brother's house ‘cause he served too. So he's like, ‘We don't talk about that.' To get back to your calling out question, I think I put that, yes, when I said calling out but keep in mind that we do it respectfully. It's one of those things of when I know...I don't necessarily have to call you always out in front. If I know you're upset, what I'm going to do though is have a conversation with you somewhere to ask why because I don't think me personally that we can move forward until I know what your issues are.

The full-time council...I agree with you on the...our part-time members...about four years ago we only got paid a stipend of $50 a meeting, five years ago. However, though, I would say the difference between that was there was also a different leadership at that time, too, so the council wasn't involved...a lot of them were involved but they just didn't feel that they had the time because there were some things going on where, ‘We're going to have a meeting today at 10:00.' ‘Well, I can't make a meeting today at 10:00. I'm working.' And until you got this...until you can change where you know that the leadership or whoever, the chairman, is going to respect if it's either a part-time council or a full-time one to know that we'll work around various schedules. I meant they do it for us now. We ask them, because like I said, two of us are part-time so we only have workshops on one day a month, all day. I actually use vacation time to do that. But the rest, they're welcome to attend their committee meetings. The committee meetings that I serve on, I'm allowed to determine when those meetings are so I think it could work as a part-time, but I don't think you would have the problems that you do. But keep in mind when you're full-time too, I think there are added pressures where a lot of the general council members now are looking at qualifications of putting somebody in office because they're paying them this much money. So that's actually a good, I would say a good side to it. Now, individuals are having to run on their qualifications because they're making salaries that are...that the program director or so and so, I make this and I have to have a master's in this or I make... So what are you bringing to the table as a council member that you're worth that much money? And so I think that's a good thing to it. It's stepping up to get other individuals involved that have qualifications or whatever those qualifications are it just could be not necessarily educational, it just could be serving on various committees or boards or things like that. And we have a cell center, just so you know, and that's where all our seniors hang out, all our elders hang out and I'm there probably...I eat lunch with them once a week to twice...to hear what they have to say. And we play bingo with them in the area and that's the best time to do it is when they're all gathered and just, ‘Well, what do you guys want us to see or where did I screw up today,' and they'll let you know quickly where."

Catalina Alvarez:

"I think as...and you're right, as individuals we're taught from the beginning our roles, our female roles and male roles and where you stand and even how we should address our elders. I think one of the things with the previous councils and when I first came on to council is we have our cultural leave availability for employees to do their cultural participants and participate in their culture activities. And I think as I talk to elders as a council, when we would get into discussions and I had one of the councilmen go, ‘You're supposed to respect your elders all the time.' It's true, but as a council, you guys are all equal, we are all equal at least my response to them because you were all elected by the people and they expect you to have a voice like any other individual on council. That was my response to him. And I think that more and more the council understands that we all should have a voice in how we do things and even elders in our council, they're always constantly...and I point out to Mary Jane [Buenamea], ‘They'll keep us in line as well,' but I think they're open to know that we all can share our own ideas and still try to move forward on some of our activities. I know that the last council since I was the only female, they would not include me in some of the discussions on cultural and even like on stipends that we give for our festivities, which I would get upset because I'm like, ‘as a council, male, female, I'm here as a voice to the people that voted me in. So you can't hold that against me that I can't give my input on what's going on.' But I think as we move into a full-time council I think if they weren't...if we wouldn't receive a stipend, it would be very difficult to move as fast as we have I think. As a council it allowed us to pass a lot of and meet more frequently to get things done within the tribe."

Audience member:

"I had my question for Robert and I wanted to know...you talked about the three sides that have to be heard. Could you just tell us very quickly what those three sides of any issue?"

Robert McGhee:

"Your side, the other side and the opinion. There's always this side, this side, but then there's also just what's the opinion out there of this problem. There's a lot more of those than there are the opinions themselves.

NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell (Part 2)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In part two of his Indigenous Leadership Fellow interview, Grand Chief Michael Mitchell of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne touches on a wide range of nation-building topics, notably the importance of clearly defining the distinct roles and responsibilities of leaders and administrators working on behalf of Native nation governments, and the need for leaders to refrain from micromanaging the day-to-day activities of Native nation administration. He also discusses the need for Native nations to invest in the education of their people, and then to provide them opportunities to contribute to those nations onc they have completed their education.

Resource Type
Citation

Mitchell, Michael K. "NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell (Part 2)." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2008. Interview.

Ian Record:

"This is our second interview with Chief Michael Mitchell, the first Indigenous Leadership Fellow of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. What I'd like to ask you about next is this question about defining moments. We see across Indian Country in the work that the Native Nations Institute does these defining moments where Native nations essentially say, "˜Enough is enough. We're tired of the federal government or the state or whoever, whatever external force it might be dictating to us how we're going to run our nation, how we're going to determine our future and we're going to take charge.' And I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about when that moment came for Akwesasne and what that moment was."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"It wasn't long after I had become Grand Chief that I began to notice that the [Canadian] government has their hands in everything. Anything you want to know about education, health, social, housing, you had to ask somebody from government. That's how it was set up. And they had a system in place and the reporting system was directly...the final say always came from them. The other thing I noticed is there was a huge deficit within the community because they didn't have control of their budget. They couldn't forecast to the way that would be to the satisfaction of the community.

So probably within the first month, I got a pretty good reading and I went and secured a meeting with the Minister of Indian Affairs and I told him, "˜In my opinion, the people are not involved in the governance.' In theory, in literature, in all the stuff they write, governance for the people, but the way their system works, everything is going back to them. So the big thing for him was this, "˜How do you deal with this deficit?' Because the day that I got elected they sent in a guy from Indian Affairs to come down to Akwesasne and he said he had two mandates. One was to run the election because it was...elections were run under the Indian Act and Indian Affairs conducted the elections. The second was...he says, "˜I really came down to lock up your administration buildings because of this humongous deficit.' So this is what the Minister and I were talking about. He looked directly at me and he says, "˜How are you going to deal with that deficit?' I said, "˜I'm going to deal with it by setting up a whole new management regime. And in this regime, I'm going to separate the politics from the administration. And the second really depends on you, Mr. Minister. I want you to recall all your people and I want to hire my own people from the community that have the skills to do the administration. We'll set up a transparent governance system.' And I guess it kind of surprised him because he says, "˜You think my people are responsible for your deficit?' I says, "˜Yeah, you are. You don't give a damn how funds are allocated and if it's...they're always short of their goal. They never realize that there's no satisfaction then people don't care. People that come down from Indian Affairs to service the community, they don't care. It's not their house, it's not their school, it's not their roads.' I says, "˜You need to involve people in governance who are going to have a direct involvement in impact, they're going to be impacted by what you do.' And curiosity they say killed the cat, but this man says, "˜I never had that question posed in that way before.'

So he gave me a year. He gave me a year to put all these things in place. We're considered a large reservation and once he gave the go-ahead and pulled his people out, then the rest was up to us to try to find people to come home. They were either working in Washington or Syracuse or Ottawa or Toronto, Albany, New York City, but I had a list of people and I started phoning them up and, 'I'd like you all to consider coming home and let's do something for this community.' And it was a challenge. I made a plea to find the right people and they all came back. They left their jobs and they took time off and they moved home and we had a team, I'd say a core team of about 20 that head up all the different departments and in a team meeting you ask, "˜What is it that we have to do that hasn't been done before?' Well, for one, the people don't get information on what council's doing. They don't know your deficit. So we set up to give quarterly reports and at the end of the year an annual report, very carefully put together that deals with almost every aspect of governance, with stories that went along with it. But in the beginning, we also asked people to, from the community, to get involved in the governance and help us. So they got on various boards from the health board to legislative to justice, police commission. These were all things that weren't there before so they were new. That's what the adventure's about. Not dealing with the government, but dealing with your community because the authorities came from external. You have to look at what has to be done to get people interested in their governance and we thought of different ways.

Within the first few months, we made a community flag for Akwesasne and we put that in all the schools, just to put our identity in the community. And there already was in existence a nation flag for the whole Iroquois Nation. So we made a community flag to fly alongside the nation flag and beside Canada's flag. And this is when I went to the customs and all the government buildings and I said, "˜I want this flag flying alongside.' And it did a lot to stir up involvement, interest, pride and along the way, very early, we started changing the name of the St. Regis Band Council, and as I said a while ago, we... everything was "˜band.' And it was done for a purpose, not many people think about it. They say, "˜I'm from the Ottawa Band' and 'I'm from the Chippewa Band.' Over here they all say tribe, it's the equivalent, but it's a government terminology. But they forbid you to say nation and in my meetings I says, "˜Whatever happened, we were once nations. We belong to a nation.' So I started using that and nation thinking and in the community people, even the chiefs along the table that were veterans, "˜We don't talk like that.' I said, "˜I know, because the government trained you not to talk like that.' Anyhow, we made a game of it. We decided that we're not going to use the word "˜band' in the community anymore and had nothing to do with our finances but it had everything to do with pride. And so there was no more 'band office,' there's no more band programs,' there's no more 'band administrator.' Everything...it went around the table, everybody kicked in with ideas and I says, "˜Well, that's...all these things is what we're not going to say. We're going to give new names.' "˜Well, what about the St. Regis Band?' "˜Well, we're going to change that. Our traditional name is Akwesasne and we're a territory, we're not a reserve, we're not a reservation.' So with everybody's help it became the Mohawk Territory of Akwesasne. It just grew.

Some of the older ones on council that had been in the system for a long time, they didn't kind of like go along with this right away and it's hard to deal with a mentality that has been there and they left it up to me. They says, "˜Look, you've got to find a way that we all go in the same direction.' Well, I wasn't about to tell somebody older that, "˜You're saying things wrong, your terminology is wrong.' So we made a game. Put a coffee cup in the middle of the table and said, "˜In our council meetings, anybody that refers to anything in the community about Band, if you say that, you're going to drop a quarter in here.' And they said, "˜Why?' I says, "˜That's just to remind you not to say it.' So when it became a game, it removed the tension, it removed the threat of direct authority. "˜Okay, let's do that.' Pretty soon, even when I'm not there, they were watching each other and months later they all had it, but I didn't realize that it influenced the program and service department and so they did the same thing and they're catching each other and everybody's laughing. Nobody's saying, "˜You can't tell me that.' And then they said, "˜Well, when government people come to see us, they better address us the right way.' Now they're growing in confidence and so whenever we had to meet with external governments, Department of Indian Affairs and provincial governments, authorities, etc., they sat at the table, we explained to them, "˜We don't want to hear that anymore and so if you say that, you're going to start donating.' And to everybody else on the table, "˜Yeah, [you] better do this.' And we would catch them. But attitude changed. The mindset changed. You start looking at your community differently. And that was the positive part. But trying to pull everything together that the staff would think different, that your council would adopt a different attitude, you've got to think community. So that was some of the initial things. It's still going on 20 some years later, just introduce new council members and they tell them, "˜These are certain things we want to watch out for in terminology. They're going to...external government's going to come and talk to you, you better watch for these things,' and all. So I'm noticing...and then it affected community members at large. Nobody says "˜band' anymore in the territory. If they do, if you say it inadvertently, somebody will catch you. That got everybody pretty well thinking on a collective basis.

Now going back to the governance part, we started having more public meetings, put out a newsletter to report on council activities and in the first year, any issue that was controversial, "˜Okay, let's go have a public meeting.' And mostly it was me going to the community saying, "˜This is what you need to know.' There was a big turnaround and leadership; Indigenous leadership goes in different format. Some are accustomed to doing things in a closed manner. The secret to success is you start opening up and report what you can. And as I... I'm explaining this because there are some things like let's say social welfare. Well, you don't have a public meeting about somebody... what they're going to get for welfare, if they're going to get a social job of some sort. So there's a need to keep confidential and we tell them, "˜There's things that we can't tell you but there's things we can.' And people understood that. After a while they would ask questions because in a community you're wide open, they'll ask you anything and that's why a lot of councils don't like to have public meetings. We have a radio station in Akwesasne and I make full use of it. Any kind of announcements, put it on the radio. Want to report something about a meeting, get on the radio. Get that information out there. And soon after it became settled in, that that's what leadership was about. It's subtle, it's not any secret or it's not any formula that's magic, it's just common sense and you see the turnaround in the community when they recognize the sincere efforts leadership is making."

Ian Record:

"Well, I think too, from what you're saying, they get on board, they jump on board that nation-building train when they feel like they have stake in it. Finally, after all these years of having no voice in governance, they have a voice again and the leadership is working with them to make sure that that voice is heard."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Well, in the training I can offer this. There's always opposition, you always have opposition no matter whether you're well off or you're the poorest, and once they get an opportunity, people in the community, that they have a voice, you're always going to have a few that's going to be at every one of your meetings and they're going to grill you, and I've seen a lot of that happen. Most of the time you'll see people that all of a sudden, "˜Geez, I can ask questions. I'm going to come to the next meeting.' So in the leadership training, you have to know how you're going to address them but always make time for those people who come to the meetings who didn't get a chance to ask a question, because if it comes up that they feel somewhat of elitist themselves, they start hammering the council members and that's what a lot of council members are afraid of is, "˜I don't want to get hammered like that. I don't want to get insulted like that. I don't want to have a shouting match.' Well, you don't have to and now it's ingrained in leadership that you owe it to report your activities as a leader and they're not going to go back to any more closed-door sessions. And that's what separates good leaders from bad leaders is their willingness to say, "˜This is the way it's going to be.' And for young chiefs, young leaders coming in, sometimes they say, "˜I got elected to have more housing here and that's what I'm going to do.' "˜Well, I'm sorry, but there's 20 other things that also has to be done for this. We've got to worry about the roads, we got a lobby to our new facilities, there's a lot of other areas of responsibility.' "˜But I got elected on...I made that promise I would improve that.' You're always going to run into that.

So how you get people on side back home...it was sort of a tradition with the Head Chief that everybody went to him. Well, on council we have 12 district chiefs. Everybody was assigned a portfolio. If I'm going to go look for money and I take a portfolio with me, whether it's education or housing or economic development or justice, policing, whatever it may be, is that I don't have to take the whole council. I'll take the portfolio holder, I might take the staff, I might take an elder from the community and we'll go out for a few days to deal with the meetings. We bring a report back of those meetings, the results of those meetings, and then council deliberates it. And everybody has always to be ready to go out. So public speaking becomes a requirement. You can't just sit on the table and say, "˜Well, let him speak.' You have to learn how to present; very important to be a leader that you can stand up and make a report, deliberate, talk to government, be a public person. If you weren't that when you got on council and you're only going to do that one thing, you better think different. And that's what makes for good teamwork because now you're part of a team. And in the council makeup, they all have to think like that. This is a team and it's not just the council that's a team. Your team extends to your administration, to your staff. It also extends out to people in the community, that you're going to see that they're going to be able to...that we're part of this layers and layers of team and we're in there somewhere. They all have to be able to have an avenue to talk to leadership and that's why you have meetings and different portfolios. Anyway, it's...a lot of it was common sense. A lot of it was based on tradition.

One of the things that really didn't work for us, and it wasn't working when I became chief, was the term; we had two-year terms. And most tribal councils, chiefs, councils both in the States and in Canada, you'd be surprised, they still operate that way, two-year terms. And then you hear them, "˜I just got used to how I'm going to be developing, how I'm going to contribute to council, I have an understanding...' Boom. Time to have a...go back on the campaign trail. 'I've got to make a lot of promises, I've got to spend council's money.' How do you maintain a certain level of responsibility? How do you keep a level of your target that you want to hit, not this year, but you've planned that for three years, five years down the road, because you're going to have to have a joining of other ideas, other funding sources, so it doesn't happen right away. So what we did is we wanted to get out of Indian Affairs-controlled election, and so very early we opted out to develop a custom community election. And for the most part of that first term they went door to door and sat with people. And they had a discussion and I told them why a two-year term is not working under the Indian Act and if we opted out, do you want to see a three-year term or four-year term, a five-year term and also you had all that, people were commenting and at the end they settled on three years. And if the leadership is good, we can always go back, because now it's ours, if we want to extend that to four years the community will decide that. So we kept telling them, "˜It's your decision.' And then we had a massive vote after the first term and they brought it home.

Now back home there's a traditional side and they don't vote. So we got a letter from their council, the traditional council, that they liked the idea that we would bring an elected code, election code back home that would belong to the people, no longer controlled by government. And so those people who are always protecting, filing injunctions, "˜I want to go to court. I should have won. I want somebody to hear this. That guy cheated,' whatever it is, fine. We now have our own court, file with them. Matters will be decided here. If the community sees that you're way out of line, you'll also know about it. And so this is how our justice system became important to us, our courts became in handling these kind of situations. Now all of that is important. There's no one magic formula. It takes a combination of ideas to get people involved and that was some of the things that was done back home."

Ian Record:

"The title of this program is 'Leadership for Native Nation Building.' If you had say 10 minutes sitting down with newly elected leaders or young people, young Native people who are thinking about getting into a leadership position somewhere down the road in their lives, contributing to the nation building efforts of their own nations, if you had 10 minutes with them, what would you tell them about how to be an effective leader?"

Michael K. Mitchell:

"I would tell them that language is very important. We've had two generations of external forces telling us we've got to get an education. "˜Your language and culture, tradition is not important.' So we're the end product. Young people now don't speak the language anymore so they're not aware of the traditions and then there's elders and there's community and there's people that all has steps. If you're going to be a leader, always support the culture and tradition of your community. And the wisdom that comes from the elders in the community, when they give you support and they recognize that you're going to be respectful of your traditions, then support comes and follows after that. And don't be a person who is going to talk it, but don't walk it. You have to show community...and you do it by a number of ways. If you don't speak the language, then try to say the most important things. In my language it's [Mohawk language]. "˜Hello, how are you, how are things going?' And you learn the basics and let people know that those are the first things that you're going to offer back is culture, tradition, language. Know the history of your community, know the history of your nation, because you're expected to know that if you're going to be a leader. Know it well. If there are things you haven't learned from the dances to the history to the songs, then support it. They don't have to be all that instant, but it certainly helps to support things that are Native. And there are times when you have to speak out, learn how to speak well. And if you can't speak in your own language to your own elders, you're going to hit a bump right off the road, so communication. And the most important part isn't coming from Harvard or some other place and come home, "˜Now I'm going to be a chief because I got a degree.' The most important thing is what's in here, what's in your heart, what's in your mind, because that's what's going to go out. And within six months, people will know what kind of leader you're going to be. If you're dedicated...

The chief that got elected for saying, "˜I'm going to get more housing,' there's a set thing in place that's already pre-decided what you're going to get. Unless you have a magic wand or you've got a lot of money you can throw to the community and say, "˜Here,' it requires teamwork. On any issue it requires teamwork. So you have to work with different people, you have to work with your staff. Don't bully the staff. They know what they're doing and you're going to need their help to pull things together, to plan, to write a proposal, to write a report, to prepare a strategy of what you're going to say when you get out there. Don't be ashamed to take your staff with you when you have to travel somewhere, you have to negotiate something or you have to sell something. And that teamwork is very important. We had a leadership course just a few days ago and I heard one example after another, staff's not respected, they don't listen, and then they're polarized. Secret for success for new chiefs: recognize the abilities of people that are there.

And the other thing that's always important, especially for the younger ones, for some reason reservations right across the country, territories on the Canadian side, small or large, we all have our enemies, we all have people we don't like, so don't take that with you if you're going to be a leader. You have to serve all the people. You have to let them know by your decisions that you have looked all over and you have served them well. It might not reflect right away but people will know that you're going to be a leader that's going to be for the community. Not just your family, not just your friends, not just the faction that you belong to or the people that say, "˜We got you in.' But when you're in that spot, make sure you're speaking for the whole community and expressing thoughts of the whole nation with respect. You don't go to school for that. They'll teach you...elders will teach you to have that kind of respect and so always have respect for your elders. Know the way to the temple of your nation, how far the way things are going because you can spot them. You don't have to be a politician to know there's factions, there are Hatfields and McCoys almost in every reservation and as soon as you get on, make sure that you pronounce yourself, "˜I'm here for the community.' And they might not like it, but by your decisions people will have respect for you.

The ones that say, "˜I've got a certain thing I've got to do here and that's all I'm going to do,' most times they will last one term, maybe two terms and that'll be it. Or they'll leave, they'll exhaust it because a lot of frustration, if you're going to look at things in an individual basis. See, everything with us is a collective. We're a collectivity. I don't know if that's proper English, but that's how I look at it. Sometimes I make up my own words in English, but our treaties have to benefit the collectivity of the nation. Our rights are for all of us, not just an individual, not for you to say, "˜I'm going to make money off my right,' because I see a lot of that happen in my time. You have to ensure that the benefits are equal. That's on any given subject -- opportunities for education, opportunities for employment, a vision for education, for a school, for an arena, for recreation, for elders -- but it's the collectivity and that's the mark of a young leader when he sees that, that's the nation I'm thinking about."

Ian Record:

"You've talked...you mentioned this chief from your own nation who kind of came in on this campaign platform of housing, "˜I've got to get housing for the people,' and was kind of taking that narrow view of what his job was essentially. In the work that the Native Nations Institute does cross Indian Country, we see...we see this mentality that often incoming councilors have, incoming chiefs have, of "˜I've been elected by the people to make decisions.' And that's kind of the extent to which they view their job and when it's really much more than about, "˜I've got to make all the decisions, I've got to have my hand in everything.' From what you've been saying in terms of what's really powered nation building at Akwesasne, it's a much broader view and a much more multi-faceted view of leadership in terms of what leaders have to be in order to serve their people and their nation."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Don't be ashamed to say, "˜I got stuff to learn to be a politician and I might take the first six months and learn my leadership craft well. I need to consult with more established leaders, I need to talk to the staff, I need to go seek feedback from community people, from elders.' You spread yourself out there and tell them you're not here to make decisions right away, because if you don't know what kind of decisions you have to make and you're making decisions, it's liable to be wrong, it's liable to be selfish and it'll come back on you. So give yourself a little bit of time to know what people...what things are in place and what people are feeling, what's on their mind. And for a good leader, he'll always go around the first six months of his term and listen. And it's not a crime to stand up and say, "˜I've got a little bit to learn here and I see some chiefs here that have been here for awhile. I know some people here that used to serve on council and I'm going to make sure I learn my craft well.' You get a lot of respect in the community if you can say that. On the other hand, yeah, I've seen the ones that pounded the table, say, "˜I'm here, I was elected, I'm going to make decisions.' "˜Well, you go out there and you look for money then.' "˜Well, the staff should be doing that. I'm going to tell them to go.' It doesn't make for that teamwork building that you're going to do. You might be mean, you might be tough, but six months down the line, people can't stand you. So what do you do after that? You're always on the outside because now you isolated yourself. So be a team player when you come into leadership, the most important thing."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned earlier this issue of when...essentially the crux of the defining moment of when Akwesasne really went down this nation-building path was when first of all you took control. You said, "˜We're not going to let these external forces dictate to us how we're going to lead our lives,' but then you did this important institutional step, which is you said, "˜We're going to separate politics from the administration of our governance.' And essentially what you're talking about and it relates back to this point of leadership, which is leaders can't micromanage. It's not an effective way to do things and achieve our priorities and our goals and objectives. I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit more about first of all the importance of that, separating the politics out of the administration of tribal government. And then second, what kind of message that sent to the community."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"You know, the sad truth that sometime in the history of leadership, could be any community, you're going to have leaders around the table who have come from the staff, who have come from some program, who have come from school and have moved back home and that now they think they know what it's going to take and when they sit around the table, that's when you start hearing, "˜I'm going to go over there and I'm going to do this. I'm going to make sure that I'm watching that guy. I think that's not being done right, I'm going to be going over there and making sure that gets done right.' You're not a leader anymore and the word is micromanaging when you do that. If you catch yourself and you say, "˜I shouldn't be doing that because if I'm going to be a leader, those people can report. I can ask for a report to come in, I can look at it, as a council we can look at it, see how things are going,' but if I'm going to stand over the shoulder of somebody who's going to say, "˜I want to see what you're doing,' that's micromanaging. If there's programs that you have an expertise and that could be in any capacity, finance, you're over at the finance every other day watching. "˜I'm going to be watching how you're spending money.' That's not what you're elected for. People want to see you make decisions and they want to see you do things that are going to benefit the community at-large. Read those reports, look at and be able to write reports, make sure those reports are going to be going out in some way that's going to reach the community. But when I meet leaders, that's the biggest complaint, members of council, somebody's always in there, running over there and it's sad, but we have to appreciate in all walks of life you've got people coming back either from a job outside and they're home a little bit, they run for council and because they don't like something or they come home from school and they say, "˜I want to get on council here because now I have an education, I'm better, I know more than anybody. I got a degree, I got something.' And that usually triggers off the wrong message and certainly you don't intend to be a micromanaging chief, but ask yourself six months down the line.

Now what do chiefs do then? If you let the staff do the administration part and let the people do the finance part, they know the system, you direct that to say, "˜We will expect a report on this,' and you'll have it, but you no longer have to be running over there, chasing after people, looking over somebody's shoulders. You now have time to look at the politics of your community and start doing...analyzing the reports that are coming in, do some forecasts, do some three, five years, 10 years, 20 years. Where do you want your community to be in 20 years? That's a good leadership question. And how are we going to get there, what is it going to take for us to get there? What kind of population would we have then? So what kind of infrastructure are we going to require down that line? Because we have to start planning. Community planning is very important. So there's enough to do for political leadership not to be running over there. There's always people on every council that's going to be like, unfortunately, but that's a fact of life. And the more that people can be groomed and told and kind of guided and given responsibility, it slowly turns around. Sometimes the chief, the veteran chiefs will say, "˜What in the hell's the matter with you? Get down away from there.' Or it could be them that's always going over there, but the general council has to be aware that good planning requires good teamwork and good planning will get you down that line when you have a vision that you can look further down the road where you want your people to go. Because if you only got about 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, then work with your staff that's going to say, "˜Where are we going to be forecasting 10, 20 years down the road?' Then you can start planning.

We've got things that affect us from the outside. It could be anything from the state, it could be from the town, from the municipalities. You could be trying to create good relations with them, it could be defending a land claim and how are we going to use that. There's an endless amount of things for good leaders to sit around and say, "˜Boy, we've got a lot of work to do.' You don't have time to be micromanaging. Unfortunately, though, it's very particular...I guess it impacts most councils, because I hear it a lot and on one hand it's sad and on another hand it's a fact of life and so when you can recognize it, if it's you, if it's your council, all you've got to say is, "˜Let's not go there. Let's not get into that rut that we know is going to happen.' But unfortunately, somebody comes from a teaching background and they're going to be on council, so right away they say, "˜I'm here to make sure that those education...it's going to change over there. I'm going to be going over there and I'm going to be watching them,' or some other. You've just got no time for that. Good leaders start from the day one and they ask, "˜What are the things that we have to be concerned about?' And teamwork works best."

Ian Record:

"You and I both know that the governance challenges facing Native nations seem to get more and more complex from one day to the next. And what it sounds like you're saying is that teambuilding as you've mentioned several times is not just a goal, should not just be a goal, it's in fact a necessity if a nation's going to really move forward in an effective way. The idea that essentially councilors can't do it all by themselves anymore."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"I tell you why I like the word 'nation building.' You live on the reservation, you could be Lakota, Sioux, you could be Cheyenne, whatever nation you belong to, but there's seven, eight other communities that you belong to the same nation further recognizing you're not the nation. So you look at that and say, "˜But if I'm in a nation-building mood,' and I would always consider the whole nation first, 'I will impact for your benefit the nation. I will do things and make efforts to bring goodness and pride to everything that we're going to do.' Selfish thinking is, "˜Well, what do I want to get out of this in my time? What can I do for myself?' So nation building prepares you right off the bat that if you're going to be a nation leader, you have to think of everybody and the decisions that you're going to make has to impact for their benefit.

Leadership on a nation basis is that collective thing that I was talking about, it impacts the general benefit and it's the general interest of everyone out there. And it's not easy because nowadays we're like this: Some people have a casino, they've got good revenues coming in, good streams of revenues, they lease land, they've got good income and capacity building. You can have that very important ingredient in between that calls for good leadership mind, that's good planning. But let's say you don't have any of those things and you don't know where all your money's going to come from. Can you still have good leaders? So we're here and we're here. Yes, you can. And I think the true test of a leader is when you don't have all those things and you set those goals, you set those targets and along the way you find, yeah, there's something over there, there's a little bit over there and there's a little bit over there and as you collect them and as you develop teamwork, all of a sudden things start to move. But if you're a council that's going to be arguing all the time and those arrows are flying back and forth and sometimes it lands on your back, most cases it might happen, it could come from your community, it could come from your council, it could come from your staff, but the true test of a leader is to consider the farther, greater majority and do some community planning.

If you're shortsighted and it's that same guy that's going to say, "˜I was elected to do this,' well, it isn't going to happen. And we've seen it too many times in past events that they come and go. But there'll always be a spot for people like that and it's up to the other council members to influence them and say, "˜Here, we've got a lot of things, you're welcome to come and work with us and let's share some of this responsibility,' because portfolio, you may be the head of education, but other chiefs may come and help you with that. You may be the head of justice, but you can have another group that's going to work with you. It's not a one-man operation. Nor is the...sometimes you call them the Grand Chief or the Head Chief, the 'big chief,' whatever people would be referring to, it's just a man, it's just a woman and got a lot of responsibilities and for the Head Chief, he's got to hold everything together, he's got to make sure he's not the king, he's not the queen. It's a responsibility that is shared and that's the secret to good success."

Ian Record:

"From what you've been saying, Mike, one of the keys to Akwesasne's success over the past 25 years or so has been instilling transparency and accountability in government where none essentially existed before. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the importance of transparency and accountability to empowering a nation's leaders to do their jobs well."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Sometimes a chief will feel he's got to do everything so that he can get the credit for it and he'll want to have hands on personal charge of something. The secret to good leadership, if...let's say you are that person that can do it well, you can speak well, you can write well, you can articulate, then pull other people in with you. And the staff, there's got to be somebody in that particular area that you're talking about that will fit. You introduce the topic and allow for other chiefs to contribute, allow an elder or a staff person to be part of that team, because if you want to do everything yourself and you think that's the only way it's going to get done -- unfortunately that's very true with a lot of our people -- it doesn't always work because your own team will begin to feel like, "˜Eh, he's a big show-off. He's a know-it-all. He's the only one that can do it.' You're not part of that team and sometimes we don't see that. You go home thinking, "˜Boy, I sure gave it to them. I sure made a good speech. Boy, they must have liked me for things that I was able to say,' while in reality they probably said, "˜That guys was hogging the whole...wasn't a team player and he spoke way too long and he's very selfish in his attitude,' etcetera. So you have to analyze the situation and put yourself in the place where what do you want to do with the gift that you have.

The elders will say when you're born and as they've been watching you grow up and they put their hand on you and they say, "˜I saw you dance, you're going to be a good dancer. I heard you speak.' And as you're growing up, they'll say, "˜You're a good hunter. You have a gift.' And as you grow up a little bit more they'll say, "˜You're a good speaker. You'll be a good leader someday.' Use those abilities well. They didn't tell you that you're going to be the only one speaking. They didn't tell you you're going to be the only one singing because it requires everybody to sit together to make good music. It requires you to speak well and blend and carry people and work with them and that will resonate, that will have strength. In Iroquois teachings, when the Peacemaker came to the Mohawks and when they were doubting his message, he gave them one arrow and he says, "˜Break it.' So that Band councilman, he just crunches it and throws it back at him, show him how strong he is. He turned around and he took five arrows in a bunch and he says, "˜Now break this one.' So he's there trying to break it and it wouldn't break. The message that he was telling him was when you have people working together, when you have nations working together, the restraints there and it won't break. So these are things that are taught to us to say it's far better to concern yourself in working on a collective basis, working together, achieve your goal and if the nation has to fight on issues, it's better if we're all on the same side and going the same way. If we can't settle that, then we don't go fight. We manage to settle it at home. Make sure that by the time we get done we're going to go in a certain direction. So those are all important things to know."

Ian Record:

"How important an asset has an educated community been for Akwesasne as it's moved down the nation-building path?"

Michael K. Mitchell:

"What's that?"

Ian Record:

"How important an asset has an educated community, an involved community, been as Akwesasne has moved down this nation-building path?"

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Well, we covered it a while ago. It's easy to regress. When leaders...you have to allow for leadership to change. In my 25 years there were times when I left and made room for others to try it. Some will last a year, maybe they won't even complete their term but they will say, "˜That's a tough job.' But you always room for people to learn. Some are members of council. "˜I'm going to try that.' And then you appreciate how difficult it is because it's not that it's so difficult, it's what you do with it when you're there and how do you involve people and get them working together because if you don't do that, then those micromanaging minds come back again. And so with us it goes up, it goes down, it goes up. And when you have people that are fairly new, you're always going to have that problem because they're going to look at what they do well. And they will always say, "˜We need a lot of training. We need to know the issues.' But some will say, "˜We can't, we can't, we can't let people know we don't know a whole lot so we're not going to invite anybody. We're just going to drift in and we'll watch the house.' So nobody goes lobbying, nobody goes to meetings, nobody negotiates, nobody takes on the hard issues and you get to the end of the term, boy, the community says, "˜Geez, they didn't do anything here.' "˜We didn't have a crisis, we didn't get into any trouble.' "˜Yeah.' "˜We didn't go too far either.' So there's another change. So to me, it's always nice to see a blend of experienced people, new people coming in, elders, young people coming in, and with that blend you can do a lot. So I'm not going to say...and the reason I was a little stunned by your question, we're not in any degree in Akwesasne up here. It goes up and down and you learn as you go along.

I'll talk a little bit about my community. This long table, if you separate it in half, that's Akwesasne. This side is the United States, this side is Canada, and you separate what's on the Canadian side to two-thirds is in Quebec, one-third is in Ontario so that's five jurisdictions on the outside. Then you have a tribal council for the American side, then you have Mohawk council elected government on both sides. You have a nation traditional council that governs in a traditional way. So there's three governments and five governments, that's eight governments. I always think of the community, do they understand everything that goes on? And try to get as much information out. So it goes up and down and we have our share of crises because of all those borders, it's inviting for criminal organizations to say, "˜Ah...' There's the St. Lawrence River -- let me clarify -- right in the middle of our territory and for policing authorities, it's a "˜no-go' zone because these borders, the international border zigzags around islands so the law enforcement is virtually impossible on the river and people hear about that and so they take advantage of it. And people come and entice our young people to say, "˜Take things across for me and you'll make some money.' So it's always a battle to have a law-and-order society. It's always a battle to keep your young people on line.

Educated? Young kids will say, "˜Why the hell should I get an education, I'm making $5,000 a week?' Years ago, it's still going on, the greatest pride was for a high steel worker. "˜I work in New York City, I work in Philadelphia, I work in San Francisco.' Anywhere there's a big building going up, there's Mohawks on there. That's our skill. And we all aspire when we're young that that's, 'I want to be like my uncle, like my father, like my brother.' So that's the thing that's still ongoing. But now this new thing has come in that has influenced and it's not just cigarettes any longer. There's drugs going across, there's guns going across, and so it's becoming a real dynamic criminal activity and there's major players on both sides. So leadership is hard. It's hard to stabilize; it's an ongoing battle. Having said that, then knowing all that then you say, "˜Okay, well, what makes for a good leader, then?' It's all those things that you have to apply. And people go in and they say, "˜Well, that guy that got elected to look after the housing issue?' There's guys that went up on council to look after the smugglers, protect them or some other issue, and he winds up on council.

So it's...leadership is tough and it's as best as everybody else is going to work together and keep things moving. And it might be that someday be down or it could be just as hard for other leaders on other reservations, it's never easy. Historical, current, future leadership, Native Americans, never easy; but what you do in your time to be a leader, you leave a mark and if you want to leave your mark and if you've been on council a long time, how do you want that people to make their mark? It's nice for them after you've left council, people come up to you and shake your hand and say, "˜I'm really grateful that you've come home and dedicated your time and there's things that we see here that you've contributed to,' and you feel good inside. Or you can be selfish and say, "˜Well, I did my thing. I got some houses there. I did my thing and that's it,' and you have this empty feeling. So it's a lot of work, it's a lot of responsibility, and sometimes there's hardly any pay or very little of it so devotion as a commitment comes into play."

Ian Record:

"Your discussion just now brought to my mind a comment that one of your colleagues, Chief Helen Ben of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, once said. She said that, "˜My job as a leader is to make myself indispensable.' I'm sorry, "˜To make myself...my job as a leader is to make myself dispensable.' And really what she was referring to is how important it is for leaders to govern beyond their own term in office or their own potential terms down the road, however many terms that might be, to really govern for the long term. And you've talked about that. I was wondering if you'd talk a little bit more about that and how that should be foremost in a leader's mind."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Well, when you work with your staff and figure out where you're going to be in 10 years, 20 years down the line and you start planning for it and you say, "˜Our population is going to double in that time and so we need infrastructure, we have to build new roads and all, we've got to allot some land, we've got to have a community center expand, our school programs, our buildings are going to have to expand so we have to work for those things.' After you leave, whether it's one term or 10 terms, but those are the kind of things that people will be grateful for, that you've had that wisdom and you'd had that long sight to say, "˜We've got to look at the future as well.' It is so important for leaders to gauge the present and where they came from, to where they are, to where you need to go. And if you're in a community where you have neighboring reservations and you can work together on something, not compete with each other, but whether it's solving a land claim, having an arena you can share, or a justice system you can share and the more things that you do, it extends beyond where you live. If your cousin, relatives are close by, there's eight reservations and you're all the same nation, then do that long planning, "˜What could we all do together?' Because maybe as a result that the collectivity of all those territories, it might be 40,000 and then in your planning you say, "˜Well, what do we need for 40,000 now?' So maybe we need a judge that's going to be trained or a number of them that'll be able to go around and hear cases for all of us and then we can all have a justice system, we can all have our court system, we can all have those laws that'll be for our people to provide for that law and order. But on my own, "˜I've only got 800. I can't afford to do that. But if we all chip in, what could we do?' So when somebody says, "˜I dispense myself to this community and to around,' that's what I see, the ability to well, work on issues from your community to your own region, your own area to national and international because you can go to a national chiefs meetings, National Congress of American Indians to Assembly of First Nations and you get to know the issues. It's always time well spent. What are the national issues that are affecting us? And to have that experience, to know it well and before you go, what are they talking about over there. So I'll just do a little bit of reading to know what's all the stats in regards to education, what are the funding, what are the national housing dollars, health situations and if you don't have it when you go up there, make sure you go around and you ask for that information so you can bring it home. Knowing data, have information on the national trend. Even if it's how many of our people make up the prison population? How many of our own people are dropping out of school, suicide rates? A leader needs that information because wherever you're going to go talk, you have to be able to quote statistics. You have to be able to know how we're impacted. Know the other side, too. A lot of our people are now going to school and graduating. A lot of people are now coming home. They're our doctors, they're our lawyers. Well, how many is that? How many from our area? What's the national trend? Those are things that leaders have to know, it's good to know to have in your pocket so that when you're talking to a government person on the side and he says something, there's no greater satisfaction if you can put him in his place with statistics. But if you know what you're doing, it'll certainly help."

Ian Record:

"So essentially what you're saying is it's critical as a leader to know your community and not just know it well and systematically, so you know for instance what problems and challenges your community faces -- whether it's drug use, alcohol use, whatever it might be -- but also on the flip side knowing what your assets are, knowing how well educated your community is, who those recent graduates as you said are. That can be critical as you try to apply those resources towards what your goals are."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"That long-term planning is knowing how many of your children are going to be coming back from college, university, having...all this time, how many are in a certain level and their career planning and you reach out to them. "˜Don't forget, we'll have something in place you can come home to.' The saddest part for all of us is that we have nothing to offer them when they get an education and the other sad story is that they graduate and they keep going and they say, "˜Well, there's nothing for me at home. So I'm going to marry off the reservation, I'm going to live off the reservation and I'll still maintain...I'll come home once in awhile,' and you get disconnected. So maybe not here, but maybe that other reservation needs a doctor, needs a lawyer, they need something. That's why I'm saying, make sure that on a collective basis you know what your stats are, what your numbers are, and where people are going and what they're learning and amongst yourselves create that team. The team isn't just around the council, isn't just around your community, it's your whole nation and even beyond and knowing the organizations that are out there. Could our children land in some institution, some organization that they could work for that would still benefit us, because they're always just a little jump to come back home."

Ian Record:

"Really what you're describing, and we see this in so many Native communities on both sides of the border, is this issue of brain drain, where your best and brightest young people go off, get their educations and then when they finish there's no opportunity for them. And what we've seen is where leaders, where nations do the due diligence of creating stability in their nation, stability in their governing systems, it tends to foster those opportunities where those young people can then come back and become a part of the community again and not drift away."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Yep. Let me point a few things out from experience. This is for young leaders and I'm thinking, "˜Well, I want to be a good leader, what should I do?' You get on council, get a list of all your students that are out there in college, universities that are far away from home. Write to them, tell them you're on council and get their thoughts, get their opinions. Tell them, "˜Your council would like to know and they'd like to keep in touch.' You don't know how it impacts a student that's far away, that's going to keep going unless somebody goes out and say, "˜Hey, I care and we're thinking of you and we're hoping that when you get an education, we hope during that time you're getting an education that you're going to maintain contact with us.' And it's never a bad idea for leaders to go and visit the schools where their students are going to school. Activities. Those students will probably have, if there's a bunch of them, will have some kind of a Native student activity going on. Leaders should go to those things. We only look at the statistics. How many people we lose, not dying, not suicide, not drugs. We lose our nation members because when they get outside and they learn and they don't want to come home because we haven't maintained contact with them, we haven't kept in touch with them, we haven't told them we care about what they do. And so they marry off, they marry somebody in the city and then they come back home and they say, "˜Hey, you're not one of us anymore.' And all those other things start coming into play. So the wisdom of a leader is gauged not just what goes on in his community, but with the youth and what is going to impact them down the line and that connection part. Sometimes we only concern ourselves when a person comes home and they're married to a non-Native. And it's, "˜Ah, damn it, they have no rights here. They just want our gaming revenue, they just want our education fund, they want our status.' And nobody maintained any contact and that's not exactly a welcome home. There's elders around and we haven't made that connection. So there's all kinds of reasons, pros and cons, but isn't it better to be proactive and maintain contact and tell them...your young people you care and give them that traditional and cultural and spiritual support so that they value who they are and they know who they are and that they will come home?"

Ian Record:

"And also creating the opportunities for them to come home, to follow those careers that they went off..."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"You want to be a good leader? Well, let's see. Let's build another school, a higher level. We need teachers now. What about our health institutions? We need our own nurses. We need our own doctors. That's the challenge of being a leader is what institutions can be facilitated and be homegrown and communications with your young. If you trained for this, there's something for you at home. And then when you do those things, well, then somebody's got to build those schools, somebody that's good with their hands has to build those schools so there's jobs at home, so a lot of community development."

Ian Record:

"Where we've seen this issue of brain drain really rear its ugly head is when you have a high level of political instability, meaning one administration replaces the previous administration and the new administration fires everybody and they put their own people in and very soon the message is clear to everyone in the community that -- and particularly those that have gone off to get their education -- if they've come back, they've invested their education, their skills in the community and suddenly they're out of a job. They say, "˜Why am I going to stick around for this?' We see that so many places and I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit. You're starting to laugh I see."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Man, I've seen enough of those. I guess I could cry. You feel bad about seeing those things. I've seen them at home. Fortunately, it's recent past and as we develop more, there's less and less of it happening, but it still happens and attitudes like that. And so nowadays you always have to have a balance from the youth and family and elders in the community that is going to have to say, "˜We need good leaders.' It is who you put in, because the ones that get on and unfortunately somebody has an idea, he might either buy his way on, he'll garner the votes, he'll get on and he'll take the community to a certain direction. I look at it say, "˜Well, it goes on, it's like that all over the world. You have leaders of nations that are like that but why do we have to be like that?' And I guess it's just dialoguing, it's just communicating. When you give an example like that, you tend to turn around and say, "˜Not my community, we're not like that.' And you get home and you say, "˜Well, we were like that five years ago. This council's like that but do we want to be that way.' It's a lot of thinking, a lot of soul searching and when you hear of things like this, you tend to think of your home community right away. "˜What are we like over there? How much of this nation thinking goes on at home?' And that's the most important message. And it's controlled a lot by the people that don't even have that recognition or the thought that, "˜We're the ones that are in power here.' And we could take them out of power if they don't behave. But they don't go vote, they don't want to get involved. They're sick of the way the leaders are, but they don't do anything. So it's a society thing. But those thoughts have to be transmitted and I always try to go to the younger ones that are saying, "˜You can impact it. You can go home and...' "˜Well, there's nothing to go home to.' They say, "˜You ought to see my leaders where I come from.' Well, then, how about changing it. So I've heard all the different views, I've seen a lot of situations like that and sometimes I'm asked to sit with them and just by communicating they kind of recognize where they're at. You see them at national meetings, where a guy's up there and he's talking about how sovereign he is and then he goes home and he does his BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] thing. He falls into the system. How do you get out of that system? Nation building allows you to think on a broader scale. When you're thinking of the whole nation, you're thinking of the young people and the elders and the families, you're thinking of your community, you're thinking of your nation and then the challenge goes on from there. Man, there's lots to do for a leader without having to micromanage, without having to have bad feelings against one person or another or a group or to represent just a few. But let's face it, in reality it's like that."

Ian Record:

"Really what you're speaking to is that while it is really important to elect good people that have, as you said, in their heart the entire community in mind when they make decisions, it's also jobs...the job of effective governments to put in place those rules that either discourage or punish those bad leaders for acting in ways that only advance their own interests and not the nation's."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"In about our second term, we started recognizing that that might be a situation with certain leaders coming down, whether they're on council now, or we've seen this happen or you'll say, "˜We don't want it to happen.' So we put together a code of ethics for chief and council, how they're going to behave. One of the things that you don't do, and if you do, what does the community have to empower to take you out or discipline you or suspend you or remove you from office? And we went out in the community and got all that feedback and then they put it together. So when you are installed into office and you sign a commitment to the community, your pledge, you also sign a code of ethics that you're going to be a good leader. That's what I was saying a while ago that we've seen it and we learn from experience. If we don't want to go down that road, put things in place in your community so that when you have situations like that and all that is based on something that may have happened before, you see it, or you even have a fear that you don't want to go down there and you put things in place. And when leaders go into office, they will make a commitment that "˜this is how I'm going to serve.' They won't be embarrassed to say, "˜Yes, I will sign a pledge, I will sign a commitment, I will sign a code of ethics how my conduct will be while I'm in office,' and I've seen a few people taken out of office when they violate that, but that's the rule. And if there's communities that need to work on things like that, involve the community, they'll give you a lot of good ideas."

Ian Record:

"What would be your advice to nations, Native nations both in the United States and Canada who, for example, have been operating under either Indian Reorganization Act governments or Indian Act governments where it's essentially created this system where outsiders are calling the shots, where they're kind of stuck in this dependency mode and are searching for a way out or searching to begin to rebuild their nations as nations. What would be your advice to them in terms of where they might begin?"

Michael K. Mitchell:

"Sometimes you are impressed by something you've heard out there, it could be a national chiefs' meeting, it could be a regional meeting, it could be out there or another tribe that's, groups that have made a presentation and you bring it home. I guess the first point of contact is if you find people out there, bring them and introduce them to your council. If you have a thought that you say, "˜Geez, that's different thinking. They talk of different ways than we're doing,' invite them. And it's that thought that it's not just you because it's frustrating when you're the only leader that wants to change and everybody else is locked in. We call that the Indian agent mentality or the mode. If you find people that have these ideas or you've learned of some community that has done things a certain way, invite them or go visit them. Take a delegation, go visit them and bring that information back. It's productive. It can do wonders because a change in attitude, sometimes they don't know and they've got consultants, they've got lawyers running their business. There's nothing more adventurous and more satisfying than to have a community try something or leadership try something and say, "˜It'll get us far better results. Tradition, we haven't been doing that. We haven't gone down that way.' Well, there's always room for leadership to try something. If you've got an idea, bring it to council and if it's something that you can try...nation building is, sad to say, is still new. People are engrained in a certain mentality, locked in a certain way that they're going to do business. It's hard to change them. And as younger people come on and the more they see the outside and they have a broader perspective of things, those are the ones that will say, "˜We'll try it.' How do you change it? I guess we just have to try to advance more people out there, spread the word more. But there's...yeah, I know what you mean. There's a lot of councils out there that are still locked in and it's very unfortunate, but I get a lot of letters from chiefs across Canada asking about the same thing. "˜Can you direct us somewhere or somebody could come you can recommend?' And I recommend a lot."

Ian Record:

"So really what you're saying is, it's learn as much as you can about what other nations are doing in nation-building ways so you can then start a dialogue within your own community, because it's not going to happen overnight."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"As we were developing, in the first couple terms in Akwesasne, I started signing agreements with First Nations and they weren't just Iroquois communities. West Bank in British Columbia, that's at the other end of the country, we signed an agreement with them to exchange information, to share resources, to exchange thoughts on leadership, on issues, land claims, nation-building ideas, and as far as we have been separated we're always exchanging ideas. And they're one of the very few communities in Canada that have settled a self-government process with Canada and they created a constitution, a charter that was drafted by the community and now they're trying to, understand this isn't easy, with all kinds of things in here that are accountability factors that we haven't done before. Sometimes they'll say, "˜Can you fly up here and talk to our community?' Or if they're in Ottawa and I invite them to come and visit us. And they're not the only ones. There are others.

We had a trade treaty with Mayans in Guatemala. I heard what was going on with a tribe over there and they had finished a 30-year war and when they got home they got about a tenth of their original territory, they had no economy, but they're in a warm climate, they had access to coffee. We flew down there and said, "˜We'll buy coffee from you.' But I went to the government and I told them, "˜We're buying coffee from them. We don't want you to come in here and say I'm going to take the percentage off because I want to do this treaty with them that's going to say fair market.' And it ran about five years and it went quite well. A lesson we learned is, when is the proper time to take something like that and turn it over to a private entrepreneur and let him take that off? You've created the opportunity, but our council was saying, "˜Gee, that's our idea. We control that.' Well, it was up there, a lot of nice things being said and everything, then it came crashing down because as leaders changed they don't know what's going on, they're not so committed to it anymore. It was a wonderful idea. I advocate trade amongst First Nations, among Native American tribes and it was a longstanding tradition. It's like that for all of us. What could we do to improve our economies? What could we do for our youth to have, secure good employment? So it's something that's not on the table, but I would advocate to any nation-building group to think of those things because you share resources, you develop resources, you develop good nation people and they'll stay home, you create opportunities. I just throw that in there because that's something that's starting to scratch the surface.

I went through the Supreme Court in Canada on trade. All they asked me, the government in Canada, "˜Can you prove that you have an aboriginal right to trade by some treaty or some Aboriginal right? If you can prove in a Canadian court, we'll accommodate you, we'll implement it, and we'll negotiate the exercise of that right.' So we set up a test case. Four or five years later, it finally gets to court and I win everything. The government is so thrown back. I says, "˜You asked. This is a test case and now you have it recognized in a Canadian court.' Well, six years later, ministers have changed, government people have changed, your justice people are paranoid to no end. "˜We've got to appeal. We didn't think you were going to win here.' Well, it went to the next level. I won there, too. So now a new government is in place and they don't like it. "˜Well, we don't know who made that commitment,' but isn't it typical of our history? "˜Oh, that group made that treaty with you. We're no longer responsible for that.' So they went to the Supreme Court and then they altered, restructured the argument. So I lost on a 'no' decision. They didn't take the right away that we could cross back and forth, they didn't take the right away that we could cross with our own goods duty free, tax free. The only thing we were concerned about was the trade, with that decision you could threaten the sovereignty of Canada. With that decision you could threaten the financial institutions of our country because you could set up all the reservations with goods crossing back and forth. I says, "˜That's not what the argument was about. The argument was about the right for Native Americans to conduct trade amongst themselves. It can be regulated. It can be controlled. We can do it across the table from you but we have that right.'

So I got gypped, as all the lawyers in Canada would say, "˜You got robbed.' So I took them to the International Court and we've had the hearing, we're waiting for a decision so the adventure goes on. It's always a good fight. It don't have to be with spears and bows and arrows or AK-47s. The fight continues when you have spirit to advance those things, but the most important part, what can be done in Aboriginal trade that would really benefit our nations? It's unknown territory and yet we haven't realized we have a lot of resources, we have a lot of potential and that's the next frontier. So we can stay in a socially deprived, in social conditions or we can say, "˜We've got to do some nation building here and we've got to take that challenge up.' And I give that message to all the young leaders that want to build. It don't necessarily have to be right from home, but you look at layers and layers of processes of nation building and it's a lot of satisfaction. If you're going to be a good leader you'll last a long time because there's so many challenges out there for leaders to think about."

Ian Record:

"So the moral of the story is think outside and work outside of those many boxes that the colonial forces have created for Native nations and begin to forge your own boxes and your own opportunities."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"I had an elders' council advising me most of my time on council. And I would always ask them what did they think of something because sometimes they [slap], "˜That's bad for us.' "˜All right, well, let's talk about it,' and we'd get a bigger discussion going. And all of a sudden, "˜Well, it's bad for us now. What do you want to do with it?' "˜Well, I don't know. I think we should build an arena to have a place for our youth to gather rather than hanging around the streets.' Pretty soon other people join in and discussions flow and the next thing you know it turns into a better idea, but you have to be able to discuss the pros and cons of anything I guess, but I always liked the idea of taking matters to elders and running it by them. And after a while, anything new I would always go to them and say, "˜What do you think of us?' and get that feedback. And sometimes they'll say, "˜Well, wait a minute. This is an issue that our daughters, the women folk should know about. This is something that the men should know about.' So we'd call a men's meeting and get that feedback, especially if it means you want to build something and you know they're going to say, "˜Well, there's employment there,' but there's also unions and there's also these other things. So it's better to have that support if you're going to go out there and say, "˜I want that employment for my people in my reservation, I want the most, I want to be able to identify how much of that can best be turned around and have our people employed.' You're never wrong if you go back to your people and say, "˜What are your ideas and what's the feedback?' And when they understand it, they'll give you a good decision."

Ian Record:

"Well thanks, Mike, for this very informative discussion. It's been very enlightening for me and I'm sure for Native nations and Native leaders across North America."

Michael K. Mitchell:

"[Mohawk language]." 

Jamie Fullmer, Rebecca Miles and Darrin Old Coyote: Our Leadership Experiences, Challenges, and Advice (Q&A)

Producer
Archibald Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute
Year

Jamie Fullmer (former Chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation), Rebecca Miles (Executive Director and former Chairwoman of the Nez Perce Tribe) and Darrin Old Coyote (Chairman of the Crow Tribe) field questions from seminar participants about how they have negotiated the fundamental challenges of being leaders of Native nations.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

Resource Type
Citation

Fullmer, Jamie, Rebecca Miles and Darrin Old Coyote. "Our Leadership Experiences, Challenges, and Advice (Q&A)." Nation-Building Strategies: A Seminar for Newly Elected Tribal Leaders. Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Mystic Lake, Minnesota. January 31, 2013. Q&A session. 

June Noronha:

"So we're going to open it up now to any questions and answers of anybody so have a question, if you have for a certain person or the panel please."

Audience member:

"Good morning everyone. I've been on a past council. I'm also retired from the U.S. government, U.S. attorney's office. And I've been called 'apple,' you name it: apple, all these names because I was the only Native American in the U.S. Attorney's office. It was kind of different. But one of the greatest challenges that the Oglala Sioux Tribe will be facing is [Public Law 93-] 638, our hospital, our IHS [Indian Health Service] medical because we all have...people are dying in our emergency rooms. We have a clinic that defer the 10th or 12th one, they cut you off, you come back another time, shortage of doctors. Okay, enough on that soapbox. So we're getting all kinds of phone calls. We're initiating it. We're getting all kinds of phone calls mainly from the workers, the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] or the IHS workers because they have to move out of their houses if this comes through. They have to move out of their housing. They're afraid of losing their jobs. One of them told me, he said, ‘Do we want to pursue this?' And as being probably one of the elders on council, this has been going on for years. Let's try it. Maybe we could get Sanford, Alvera, there's other programs out there that could come in and service our people, service our people. So that's one of the challenges you probably hear about the Oglala Sioux Tribe and I just like listening to you. There's not very many dull knives there. So when you're saying you have relatives on you...I'm from Oglala district where I'm by myself so I don't have that relative because they tell me, ‘Well, you go back to Allen, that's where you're from,' clear across on the other reservation. So I'm really lucky, I don't have that relative thing or I don't have any directors. There's not very many of us and so it's a challenge for me even getting the votes because I don't have big enough relatives to get in. I'm just lucky I got in two terms with no relatives behind me. So that's one. It's a challenge out there. We have nine districts and I don't know how the other districts, I only know mine and the council. [Native word]. Thank you."

Rebecca Miles:

"Real quickly, the Nez Perce Tribe 638'd our Indian Health Clinic less than a decade ago. And I think the best thing that you could do, if you haven't done it already, is either if you have the budget to hire a firm to do some feasibility and strategic planning and do that in conjunction not just with your council but your people and your staff. Because I don't know if we did that but we have had since '04, '03-'04, 15 different directors for our health clinic and I believe that is because of a failure to plan. It's a great thing. You can...your sovereignty, you can do it and you can make your own decisions. Well, all we did...and we got a brand new building as well. It's a beautiful facility. It can even serve as like a small hospital in some ways. But all we did was build that brand new building and move our old IHS mentality and its systems into this beautiful building. We didn't change how we...I just got a denial letter before I came out here of Priority 1 and it cited the CFR. I'm just like, ‘That's not exerting your sovereignty. That's not telling me that the Nez Perce Tribe is adopting its own ways to take care of its people.' And so it's been a very frustrating thing to be...and I don't know what it is, because our tribe is a natural resource tribe but whenever you brought up health issues they were fought vigorously at the table to be defeated, any attempt to go in a certain direction and we kind of think we know what the problem is and we have a good staff member now and all of us other executives at the tribe are working hard to keep her there because all of them are ran out either by the tribal council or by the health board. And so by doing it together and recognizing...doing your SWAT analysis recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, everything, your threats, prior to making that decision is the best thing you can do or I promise you you'll end up like us where we're still swimming in the deep end and we've probably drowned a few times. It's just been very bad. The cost of that is we've had people die. We've lost people. We've not had the proper health care and that's a very serious thing. You can want to save fish and save your language and all that but if you don't have people there to live that life you're protecting, then that...that's your number one resource. And so I...that's a very good question and I would just...I would take that back and follow those steps because there's nothing wrong with going to try to fact find and your feasibility will tell you you're a good candidate to do it or you're not. How much money is the federal government going to give you to do it? Is there going to be administrative costs? And so I think it's a very good position to be in. I personally think the good outweighs the bad if you can make sure your policies, your foundation is set before you do it."

June Noronha:

"Thank you. Any other comments or questions?"

Herminia Frias:

"What we've been hearing from the tribal leaders was a lot of...sometimes the information that we give them can be a little overwhelming and even depressing. So what kept you inspired? When you were a tribal leader, what kept you inspired, what kept you motivated, what kept you driven every single day to serve your nation?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"The great meals that we would have at every meeting! I'd like to think...I was able to serve as President of Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona when Chairwoman Frias was chair of her own tribe. But the thing that kept me going -- and I think this is so important -- honestly was the idea that you could be a part of something bigger than yourself, at least for me. I used to always tell people, ‘if this was just me, I wouldn't push it. It wouldn't even matter to me. Some of the things that would matter to our tribe didn't necessarily push any of my hot buttons, but because it was bigger than me I felt like that I was playing a part in something more important than just my own life. I think that's what kept me going when I was in leadership."

Rebecca Miles:

"Probably most women's answer is, hands down, their children. Their children keep you going and keep you grounded. It didn't matter...my kids were very young when I...and I was just freshly divorced when I ran for council and so that was very hard. It was...I remember getting my first box of checks with my own name on it. But my kids, absolutely, from a negative day to going home and seeing their faces and knowing that...it's a very direct effect. Your own children are part of the tribe so that becomes very personal. So a bad decision affects you at home, too. A bad decision affects your own children, will affect their future; frivolous spending of the tribe, ‘well, what will they have?' that kind of thing. And so I think that's what kept me going."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"What keeps me going is basically the...there's so much poverty, so much depression that whatever...the change that you can bring to the people, put a smile on their face and keeping...making them happy because they like to celebrate but making them celebrate for good things. That's one of the things that keeps me going. We do a lot of praise singing like celebrations, different ceremonies where we say thank you and a lot of those is what keeps me going, enjoying life with the people. When there's something good that happens, the laughter, the celebrations, the singing and the dancing and the praise singing, that's what inspires me to keep going because there was a time where there was constant...it seemed like there was one death after another and that...coming out of that and then celebrating kind of inspired me to do things better and bringing them out of poverty. And then we just signed a big deal with a company to develop our natural resources and that was a big thing for our people. So it's looking at the people and seeing the smile on their faces, that's what inspires me to continue."

Jackie Sears:

"Yeah, my name is Jackie Sears and I'm newly elected to council from Pine Ridge, the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The question I have is as being chairs, what do you see about the tribal council...because currently we have 19 council members and we have some new ones on there, we have some old ones and we have some returning. And what we see is a lot of our older council getting hold of the younger or the ones getting back in, they go on the shirttail of someone else and they're not following the laws they make. What's your advice to the new council and have you ever experienced any of that?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"No, we never had any of that at home. We had...we dealt with it through policy. We developed a code of ethics and because we did have...I was just kidding by the way. Because we did have a lot of that where the council is self-policing, the courts have nothing to say or do with the council. So it was one thing to point fingers at one another, it's another thing when you write your name to something and you swear by it and say that you're going...that this really happened. We used to always say, ‘People don't talk about it, write it down on a piece of paper and let the whole council hear what you have to say. Put your name to it. Put your name down there.' And so we actually developed a list of I think 15 or 20 items that were punishable within the council and then it's voted on. And there's levels of intensity from suspension to removal through that code of ethics at home."

June Noronha:

"Can you share the code of ethics?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I'd have to look and see if I have a copy of it but yeah, I think as it worked I think it has helped our council to be more focused on dealing with the bigger issues. You're always going to have kind of the follow the leader kind of thing when you have leaders. But I do believe that it's helped our council to look more at the bigger picture than micromanaging an individual or program or something. They're looking at, ‘We need to set laws in place.' And I remember one of the council members said, ‘Well, we don't need to follow the laws, we make the laws.' And it resonated with me. I'm like, ‘No, we make the laws cause we need to follow it, too.'"

Rebecca Miles:

"Some tribal leaders still think that even [with that] in place, we're above the law. But it puts accountability in place. We have a similar thing, administrative procedures, which I could email to you and it's just that kind of cross...everybody including the chair. It even cites out the positions, the officers, chair, vice chair, what their roles are and if they fail to do their job, that kind of thing. So it brings some kind of accountability amongst everybody. We unfortunately just went through that process where a member had to be removed and this is what happens is when that is in place and your people will probably appreciate it. Otherwise, they're going to keep asking for an ethics board and you don't want that. You should be able to police yourselves and you should want to do that and keep the integrity high and your ethical behavior. But if you don't act, I promise you your people are watching. They know...if you adopt something and a lot of times people will say, ‘I'm going to protect my buddy and he didn't do wrong. He may have got a DUI and did whatever but he's...I'm going to stick with him.' Your people are watching that and they think...if they think you're unaccountable, it's affecting, and fortunately that's kind of what was going on with our council now is the people were very angry because it had gone on for about nine or 10 months and nothing was done. And so they finally took action but it's almost like it was too late, after so much build up. And you don't want that because that whole event then caused dysfunction from the very top down to your people when you have bigger things to worry about. I can send you a copy of ours just to build from."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Creating policy would be one of the...an ethics committee or a lot of times right now the executive branch, we have a lot of policies that we've created for different departments and then also for...as far as the executive branch, ours is spelled out in our constitution. So that's what we follow and we changed our constitution in 2001. So if it's not working I'd say it's time to change your constitution."

Audience member:

"I just wanted to say miigwetch. I'm a newly elected tribal leader. I'm one of five on the...I'm the only woman to serve on the council right now. I just want to say miigwetch 'cause it helps me better my perspective and I just really appreciate that. Thank you."

Audience member:

"Darrin, are you related to Barney Old Coyote?"

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Yeah, he passed away in August."

Audience member:

"He lived in our community with his family."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Yeah, he's my grandfather. Yeah."

Audience member:

"Oh, very honorable and respectable person. I have a question for Jamie. In your code of ethics -- or maybe this applies to all -- I know that we have a code of ethics. I've ready been subjected to it and survived and survived one recall also and facing another one. In your code of ethics is it, you mentioned administrative and Jamie, is your code of ethics administered by a separate office with a separate code with different people from the council?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"No, actually ours is actually administered through the council and our attorney general. So the council will put up it's...there's a list of specifics. For example, as was mentioned, if you're arrested for a DUI, that's a suspension under the code of ethics. So what would have to happen though is there would have to be facts, there would have to be an arrest, conviction that stated you were convicted and then a council member would bring that to the attention of the other council members. The council would hear that, the attorney general would give any legal advice on behalf of the tribal government and then there would be a decision made with that council person present. So it's really truly self-policing. The council member may be asked to leave for executive...if there's some debate that has to go on so that they're not in the middle of an argument but then the actual discussion about why the removal is happening will tie specifically to the points in the code and the actual level of...there's degrees of...as I said, there's either administrative leave, leave without pay because our council are paid, leave without pay, suspension for a period or actually removal from office. Ours isn't handled through a separate administrative process. It's in the council, but we have an attorney general that presides over or is part of all of our council meetings."

Audience member:

"I'd be interested in looking at your code of ethics. Thank you."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Yeah, I have that written down to get a copy of."

Alvin Bettelyoun:

Hello. My name's Alvin Bettelyoun. I'm a Rosebud Sioux tribal council representative from Swift Bear Community. Everything hits home here. Everything you guys are saying, I see it and I live it on a daily basis. How do you know when you're making the right decision about something? Right now I've got that funny feeling in my stomach, where it's after like a major vote like concerning the Black Hills or nursing home or even my community. How do you know when you do the right thing? You're going to get friction both ways and at the end of the day when I'm home sitting there I start... as a cop, I used to like...as soon as I'm done with my shift I'd go in there, I wash my face, I say, ‘I'll leave everything here.' But sometimes I can't. I take it home and I hear myself swearing in my mind. Somehow it comes out and the kids I know pick up on it. I've got four kids. I think...I got into a situation when I got in as Swift Bear councilman that two councilmen prior to me getting in really messed things up in our community. There's fighting, money stealing, different chairmen. Our nursing home is right in our community, that's been neglected by the council for years. I didn't know that until I actually went in. I don't want to get specific on anything but I'm just telling you what I...that's just a fraction of what I'm getting into. Last night I got a call from appellate judge, our tribal president. I can see the things that are coming. I'm down here, I can see us skipping all these down to here to bring me back up to here. These I deal with on a daily basis, not just the issues that are with council where you get chewed out by some of the councilmen that have been in there for three, four terms say, ‘You're a little kid,' more or less. ‘Behave, listen to me.' Like you said, the loudest voice has the smallest group and right now with our new council I see a change. It's the first time in years and I've been down there and I talked in front of council a lot. I've been a police officer for years, worked for the court for 14 years. I see a change there now and it's the first time I really felt good about something. So that's what's giving me my strength are the members here that actually came up with me. Some don't care, I can see. I want to make a change but how can you really do that, how can one person, one councilman? I know you guys all went through the same...how can you make that change. What do you do? I feel like there's a small majority right here, the silent ones. I get up, I talk, I put my foot in my mouth a lot of times. I did it maybe earlier when I introduced myself yesterday. I sit back and say, ‘Correct yourself.' What do you do? How do you handle all these issues? Sometimes I think, ‘Why am I in here?' Then again, I see the [Lakota language] and the [Lakota language]. They supported me to get in. They wanted me and they felt I could do it, make the change because...maybe 'cause I wore a badge every day and went around, talked to everyone in every community and I seen what goes on in every community from the first of the month to the end of the month. The drunkenness, three out of the four houses people are drinking, kids are out there with no pampers, they're running wild. Even in my community, the deputy caught 30 kids over the hill partying out there. It was like 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and in my mind I said, ‘I've got to change that, I've got to change this, I've got to do this for the elderly.' I check on the elderly's propane. Even though they've got sons to do that, I go do that. It just...there is so much, it's so overwhelming, but honestly I've got no one to talk to. I think I do, I don't have no friends, probably because I was a cop and someday I might have to arrest you or serve papers on you, the same with the court. How can I make a change? What can I do? Can you help? Give me some...I know, I'm getting ideas, but how do you do it?"

Rebecca Miles:

"It's just really fascinating to listen to you because you're just so passionate and you want to do...everybody wants to do the right thing. And a lot of times we think the last council did so terrible or councils before and measure all the decisions that were made. Is your tribe still alive and well? Yes. A lot of times those decisions aren't really big decisions that's going to affect your sovereignty but they may have hurt a lot of people and so that's what we're feeling a lot. I'm looking at Jaime Pinkham back there because unfortunately he was never our tribal chairman. And I had the honor of serving as the tribe's general council chair at a very young age and I got to see leaders. Jamie was one of those people that I looked up to as one of our great leaders. Had our ability to elect tribal chairmen differently, he probably would still be at home being our chair right now. But when you say change, you're not going to see it but somebody else will definitely feel it, if your heart's in the right place. And I say...bring up Jaime because had policies and procedures like our human resource manual...Jaime, our investment policy, that was all done when Jaime was serving as our treasurer at the tribe. I think, 'Where would we be?' The council would still be hiring and firing and that's the one thing is you...like for example, the water settlement I mentioned. I'm still to many people enemy number one that sold out, even though nine of us had to vote, not one individual has power. But I know that that was a good decision. I know in my heart I did all the work I needed to do, but you're not going to...you're not going to see it necessarily, the change, but somebody else will feel what you have done. And that's how I feel about the tribe and what just leaders like Jaime made, the decisions they made and what they were thinking about. And he's the perfect fit for this...doing this kind of work for all of us because you are building a nation. We're definitely in a better place based on decisions then. And so your heart is in the right place by far. I can hear it in you, I can sense and people who elected you know that. Decisions you're going to make are going to be scrutinized, they're going to say you had an agenda why you did this or you did it for a certain reason but somebody down the road is going to come back and say, ‘I remember you. I remembered what you did. Thank you for that.' It's not going to happen soon. It's a thankless job but it will happen. Change happens over time, it doesn't happen overnight and a lot of times we just want it to and sometimes we...I'm guilty of that. The other thing of recognizing a good self-awareness is you're not going to make perfect decisions, you're going to screw up and you're not going to have all the information, you're going to jump to a conclusion and that's when you realize just addressing that loud minority and not the silent majority can backfire on you. That was a bad decision, why did you do that? I just wanted to share that with you."

Alvin Bettelyoun:

"Thank you. There's a lot of times, especially when I first started, I went up to the nursing home, I talked to the workers and they said that no councilman has been in here. The same with my community, no councilman has ever did a report and told us about what's going on down there. I've been making a point to do that and keep it up throughout my term however long I'm in there. But another thing, I might have put my foot in my mouth again, was when I got up and I told the council, ‘Shame on you for doing it and letting this get this far.' I don't want them to say that about me, the next new council people. I'm going to do my best to straighten out what I can see and that's all I can say."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Just to comment on that. A lot of times you don't know when you're making change and what feels right in here for you and then later on in life when we're no longer here if people came to your kids and said, ‘Your dad did a good job,' that's when...you're never going to know today. But when one person in particular, our late chairman, when he passed away, people not only in our community and our tribe but other tribes and other communities even non-Indians, they talk about what a difference he made as a leader. They even thank his kids for doing that and he doesn't know, even today, that he made a difference and you're never going to know but in here, if it feels right in here, keep doing it because if it feels right in here you're making that change."

Audience member:

"I just kind of wanted to comment on a lot of things. When it comes to our constitutions and our governmental structure, I know at Rosebud we just...it's been five years I guess we had a referendum and we amended our constitution and we're still struggling with those amendments. But I guess I keep saying over and over to the people, our community and our council, is that that constitution and the ordinances, the rules, the regulations, the policies and procedures are all nameless and faceless. It doesn't...they don't have anybody's names in there, they don't have anybody's relatives in there and when you take the oath of office to uphold that constitution, that's what you're promising. You're not promising that you're going to give your relative a directorship. Now that's politics. But once the election's over, politics should be over and we get down to the business of governing, and that means everybody. That legal structure, that framework is supposed to work in the best interest of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, which is the people. And if you start politicking and you start firing people to uphold a campaign promise, you should be in front of the ethics committee. And that's how I look at it and that's how I look at my role. I've asked one of my colleagues, I guess it gets down to two, it always comes back to people. It always comes back to people. And so what are you about personally? What's your personal philosophy? Do you have one? Mine is one word, is consistent, consistency. I try to be that way. Now nobody's perfect. I haven't been perfect. I've made a lot of mistakes but I try to be consistent. Periodically, I have to kind of step back and take a look and say, ‘Where have I been, where am I going, do those two...are they coming together?' I've asked one of my colleagues, ‘If you ever see me straying me from that, you let me know right away,' because sometimes we get so involved that we kind of lose sight. There's a difference here, there's politics, there's politicians and there's leaders. Again, that's something you need to ask yourself. Do you want to be a politician or do you want to be a leader? There's a difference. Politicians continue to create chaos. They circumvent the rules, they allows the rules to be circumvented for votes. At Rosebud, we have probably about 800 tribal employees. They see themselves as a huge voting block and they let you know. They come from big families, they let you know. We've got situations going on right now today but that doesn't influence me because my campaign was to try to change and strengthen tribal government through education. That's what I said and that's what I'm going to try to do. I didn't promise anybody anything. I give my report to my community and we've got a waÅ¡í­Äu lady that works for one of the local newspapers so my report gets into the paper. And I talk about some of these deficiencies, so right now I'm a troublemaker because I say these things about the weaknesses and the failures of tribal government and I'm part of those failures and everything 'cause I'm in it. Again, that's the politics. But you have to understand, I think if you've been a leader you haven't been in this situation. For me being a councilman now and being subjected to a lot of...it's not new because I've been in leadership roles. I haven't been in politics so much but I've been in leadership roles and I've had these attacks so it's not new. And so it shouldn't be surprising to me and it's not because I've been there. Even all through growing up there's been...I've always been an exceptional athlete and that's created a lot of jealousy and so forth sometimes. That talent has subjected me to these things so I've had to deal with it. When you're young, right away you want to retaliate. Fortunately...and my mom was the feisty one and that's probably where I got it. Fortunately my dad, he said, ‘These are challenges. These are things that you're being tested. You can either become this or you can become that. It's up to you. You're going to have to make this decision.' And so that competitiveness -- and I love competition -- that competitiveness drives me, but I try to do it in a respectful way and in a humble way but at the same time I'm out there to try to represent, take my talent and represent all my people, too. That's what I've tried to do. I go looking for the waÅ¡í­Äu because that's where the competition was and is. I go looking for them, I try to find them because I want them to know that we are not who they think we are. So that's kind of a little bit, but I think we have to do a little introspection and find out who we are and I think that's really important."

June Noronha:

"I know there were a number of people who had their hands up. I want to make sure that everybody gets a chance to speak who wants to because some people have spoken already. Is there anybody else?"

Audience member:

"I'll try to limit it as much as I can but I had a question for the former chair and past chair. I believe there's a former chair back here also, right, Minnie? Before we started this conference I spoke about being on a council, it was my second term. The first term was quite different than my second term. My first term I made five trips to D.C. on issues involving our tribe. My second term I've been out to D.C. zero. I don't know anybody out in Washington, D.C. I don't what the heck's going on out there. I want to thank Brian over here for updating because we don't get that information. So you see two vastly different administrations and it's important as elected officials or politicians or leaders that you get involved and getting involved you'll be able to better understand and make those appropriate decisions that are going to affect the people that you're so-called 'leading.' I guess looking at the...one of the things the guy said he was talking about change. I think we're all here for a reason. I think we're all here because we want to make a change, that's why we chose to make the trek out to beautiful Minnesota to attend a meeting. But when we go home, I hope that we take that and try to share this experience with the people who are unfortunate not to be here, because this is where we should be, at places like this. I guess the question I want to just pose to you, how do you or did you control or limit those people who applied pressure for hasty decisions? And the reason why I say that is, Standing Rock, I'm from Standing Rock. I'm a proud member again to be on the council, it's an honor. But I guess I'm more honored to have a linkage, as they would say to a gentleman who was killed back in 1890 by his own people. And that linkage through my grandmother's side has brought leadership to me in a different perspective. I'm not just there to collect our whopping $40,000 that we get, to be able to travel on the people's dime or whatever, but I hold it near and dear to me because there was a saying that was said and some of you may recognize this saying that was said over 100 years ago. ‘Let us put our minds together and see what we can build for our children.' It really struck me hard that our people had an opportunity through a thing called Salazar [settlement]. Salazar had an opportunity to be able to bring our people a brighter future, maybe even a hopeful future than what we have today but because of the loudest voice -- as Jamie had spoken about  -- it causes our council to react. We're reactive people, we're not proactive people.

So I can almost guarantee in all the new elected officials here that if somebody comes in there and they start yelling at you, you're going to start shaking and you're going to vote in a hasty manner and I can guarantee you when you go home, think about it like this gentleman. I can go home every night, I can crawl into my bed and I can go to bed without knowing that my family didn't get anything, I certainly didn't get anything and the best decision that I could pull forward based on what was presented to me was made by my own judgment. But I guess going back to how things happen it goes down. So you as a chairperson, you have an opportunity through parliamentary procedure to be able to limit those type of actions from happening and I can tell you in the six and a half years, the last portion of my four-year term, this is my third year, my second term, three quarters of that we sat fighting each other on the council because we all have the answers, 17 of us know everything that goes on and we're going to make that everlasting impression on the people 100 years from now as one of our [Lakota term] did 100 years ago to say, ‘What can we do, how can we put our minds together to see what we can do for our people in the future.' So that's my question. How are you guys able to control your council from coming in and playing politics, disregarding policy? Because I think we spoke about that quite a bit that our biggest...my biggest thing is we break our own laws and we're not able to police ourselves because that's already been proven on our council that if the opportunity to police yourself we should just step down. That's policing yourself in an ethical manner, but we don't do that. Instead we find every obstacle."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"For myself to answer that question is reminding everybody there the reasons why we're there, for the people. They're the ones that put you there and every time we get together with the legislative branch to pass a bill or a resolution, that's what I remind them. When they try to [do] politics and try to change the course we're going, that's what I remind them. We're all here, we're placed here by people that wanted us to do good. If they wanted you to do bad they wouldn't put you there. It's basically...they view you as a person that's going to do right and that's why they put that trust in you and voted you. And by doing so, in turn you have to do right and remind all those people why we're there. A lot of them, all their bad thoughts are kind of playing politics, they put that aside and they, ‘What are we going to do for the betterment of our tribe?' So it's always better to remind them at the beginning why we're all there and if they feel that more or less the guilty conscience that's when it comes in and then you get them to go the way what's right. Other than that, that's what I've done and it's helped me through getting a lot of issues passed."

Rebecca Miles:

"So you're probably talking about the situation where they come directly maybe in your office and ask you to get involved in something or not just to the entire council where you can often... It's easier that way where you can police each other, but if it's one on one, somebody comes in and says, ‘My boss is really giving me a hard time' or ‘I want you to do this' or they're reporting something to you. There's always tribal members that are reporting embezzlement or they know something really bad is going on. There is a system in place. One thing I would ask -- especially because a lot of the constituents you hear from are your employees -- always make sure they're on their own personal time and not on the people's time, not on the tribe's time meaning the tribe is paying them...they're compensating them to do a job on behalf of your government and if they're going to take the time to handle their individual thing, then they need to be on their own time, not on the people's time. I promise you, when you start doing that you're going to get fewer and fewer visitors. It's not going to happen overnight, but I've pretty much eliminated people coming in asking me to do things unethically because I wouldn't do them and there's a tactful way you need to do that because your people don't want...you don't want a reputation of not listening to your people. And in our constitution, it says they can come to you for any issue. And even though there's policies in place they want to come vent about work, usually. It's usually about work or something. And so having...being able to be...their ability to vent is often a good place. But the other thing is build a reputation, is fact finding, and sometimes your own family or your friends are asking you to do something or get involved and they're not telling you all the facts and that's usually the case. And when you find out the rest, it's almost sometimes embarrassing in some situations when you find out the facts of a situation.
‘Well, you actually did this and you want me to give you a lifeline out of it. I can't do it. It's unethical of you to ask me to do that.' But it takes time because every new administration then they want to come back in and ask you to do unethical things but you can build a reputation for yourself and I would...Jaime [Pinkham] is familiar with that because I think he had that reputation, too. We knew the members that were going to get bogged down by these requests because they got involved in those issues, they didn't see the bigger picture and this is my true belief is you're a nation. You are a sovereign nation and we pound the table saying that all the time.

You are running your nation and are you going to expect President [Barack] Obama to come down and deal with some staffer out in the Park Service out in Wyoming, their little issue? No, he's leading the United States. And so you're diminishing your own sovereignty and your own tribe by getting involved in those little details and it's a message that is a constant. It's not made overnight, your actions show that."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Just to get down in the detail. The best way that...listening to the large picture, the big picture as was presented by these other leaders, I think there's some detail things that can help, just practical things. One is, what goes on the agenda for a council session? Defining, creating a policy around how your agenda is developed is so important to the flow of what information is going out each time. And then also at home we gatekeep that at the administrative level, come through the administration, administration would decide, council's secretary would decide what went on the agenda but we would have the approval -- we meaning the chairman, vice chairman -- to review it before it went to council. We would say, ‘That needs to be...that's an administrative issue, that's an administrative issue, that is a policy issue and should go to the council.' The other thing as a council member -- since most of you in there are council members -- is if you need more information to make a good decision, that's your right as a leader to say, ‘I can't make a decision today. I request this be tabled until we get more information.' You have that authority under Robert's Rules...whatever rules of orders that you have to say, ‘I need more information in order to make a good valid decision,' fact finding. And so the other piece to this I think as well is having some kind of gatekeeper in how that information flows in and through. In ours, it was the administration. There was a process. It came through administration. If the issue wasn't dealt with by our administrator, then it went to the chairman. If it wasn't dealt with at the chairman level, then it went to the council. So there was a level of effort to actually let the government deal with the problem before the legal, the legislators or the policymakers or the true power of the tribe dealt with the problem. But the government, that's where you have all these departments and that's why you pay all these department heads. That's why...I heard 800 employees...when you have that many employees somebody has to be responsible if it's a social issue to deal with it. And so to that point of listening to your people, I used to always listen to the people and call that director up and say, ‘Come up here. This is an issue that has to do with natural resources. Let's connect the dots right here in my office,' and then let them go and deal with it. But at least being that intermediary as the [Apache term] to actually control that directive."