Carlos Hisa and Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia: Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship

Native Nations Institute

Carlos Hisa and Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia from Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP) provide an overview of the approach that YDSP is following as it works to redefine its criteria for citizenship through community-based decision-making. They also share the negative impacts that adherence to blood quantum as the main criterion for citizenship has had on the Tigua community.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Garcia, Esequiel. "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship." Tribal Constitutions Seminar, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2, 2014. Presentation.

Hisa, Carlos. "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship." Tribal Constitutions Seminar, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2, 2014. Presentation.

Carlos Hisa:

"[Pueblo language]. Good morning, everyone. Like they said, my name is Carlos Hisa. I'm the Lieutenant Governor for Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. I've been sitting in this role for 14 years, started when I was 12. But our issue didn't really start off as a citizenship issue. It started off more as an enrollment and blood quantum issue. I guess I can start by giving you a little bit of a history of where we come from and who we are as a people. Back in...we're Pueblo people. We're originally from the Albuquerque area. We're one of the furthest of the Pueblos [from] Albuquerque and New Mexico.

Back in 1680 there was a huge revolt. It's called Ysleta...Pueblo Revolt, where the Pueblos united and fought against the Spaniards. During that battle we were relocated to what is known as El Paso, Texas right now. It wasn't by choice, but we were captured and we were relocated down there so our Pueblo has been there since the 1680s. Throughout that time, a lot of different things have happened. I'm not going to go into a huge history, every tribe has their history. I'm just going to touch on the points on why we are where we're at today. The State of Texas became a Confederate state, so during that time the feds were not allowed to come and check on us and see how we were doing so they wrote us off as being extinct, that we weren't in existence anymore. But our people thrived. We were still in the location; we were still being a community, being a tribe, and living our way of life. Because we were identified as extinct, we had to fight for our tribe to get recognized again. In 1968, we were federally recognized, but the trust responsibility was given to the State of Texas. The State of Texas was struggling financially. So in 1987, they went ahead and passed us back to the federal government. The responsibility was shifted from the state back to the federal government. But throughout that time, the State of Texas learned a thing or two about working with tribes and in our case dealing with us.

In order for us to get recognized -- and this is something I believe through the stories that I've been told through my family and other past leaders -- is that the state forced us to get recognized, but with certain limitations and requirements, two big ones. Gaming, we cannot engage in gaming was put in our restoration act. So when we were recognized as a tribe in [1987], we were forced to agree not to have gaming in our lands. Second one was a blood quantum requirement of one-eighth. Our leadership at that time accepted that and we went ahead and operated under that criteria for many years, but soon after this was forced upon us, our leaders realized that the blood quantum was just a way of sort of pushing us out of existence. It wasn't going to work for us so they started many efforts throughout the years to try to change this law by lowering...

The solution back then was lowering the blood quantum one-eighth to one-sixteenth. When I came into office the struggles were...and I was familiar with the struggles because I was involved. I've had different roles in the community. I've always been there so I knew what the issues were. When I came in these efforts were continued and became a priority to the tribal council that I was working with back then. So we pushed the same language that was created back there to lower the blood quantum from one-eighth to one-sixteenth. You've got to remember, El Paso grew around us and so we were...our blood quantum was fading away pretty fast. So when these efforts were being pushed we weren't successful, but one day for some reason me and a tribal attorney got together and said, ‘Why are we asking for one-sixteenth? Why don't we push it to the limit? And we need to be a sovereign nation, we need to practice our rights as a government and let us determine who should be a Tigua. What is going to be that criteria?'

So the language changed from...changing it from one-eighth to one-sixteenth to letting the Pueblo determine who is going to be Tigua and what we're going to set in place to determine who's going to be Tigua. In 2012, President [Barack] Obama...well, we managed to pass it and in 2012, Obama signed the bill where it allowed us to go ahead and determine who our citizens are going to be. We were getting calls from everywhere. The pressure was mounting on council because people thought that as soon as that bill passed that they could come in and be part of the community and be recognized as Tigua. But we sat down as a council and said, ‘We've got to do this the right way.' We have a history of enrollment issues, even from enrolling individuals that weren't tribal. We had to come back and disenroll them and those individuals became part of the family already so we didn't want to go through those struggles anymore. So council said, ‘Let's do this the right way. We want community involvement. We want this to...we want to hear from them to see how far they want to lower the blood quantum, what are going to be the responsibilities of being Tigua, what are responsibilities of the community to the people?' So it became a whole project of identifying citizenship now and determine that criteria. So that's where we're at right now.

When we look at the blood quantum and in my generation and what was going on, we created different classes, a division amongst ourselves, and it was terrible. I'm just going to give an example. I've got three daughters. I started when I was 12 as well. I have a 20-year-old right now, a 16- and a nine-year-old. All three of my daughters have always been involved. They are proud to be Tigua. They're there with me. I think they've done a lot more for the community at their young age than some of the elders that have more of a blood quantum recognized by the federal government, but yet my daughters refuse to take part in the summer programs that we have available to the community, after-school programs, Easter giveaways and stuff like that because the individuals in their age bracket would always tell them that they weren't Tigua because they didn't have the blood quantum, they didn't meet the blood quantum requirements. So that forced my children to stay away. And that wasn't just with my children, that was something that was going on within the community. So it's something we needed to address and end and stop because that's not who we are. As a people, as a community, we need to embrace everybody and provide for everybody and not have that separation. So that motivated us more to try to get this bill passed and it became more of a priority and then to have this change implemented.

So as a council, we got together and we decided to go ahead and have the community involved in this. We also wanted to make this a community decision. We didn't want it to be a tribal council decision, because we hear the stories about individuals being disenrolled from their tribes because of political reasons, per capita reasons, that type of stuff and it's scary and it's out there and exists. So as a council, we decided to make this a community decision. We're going to have a vote. We need to hear what they want, how they want it done and we need to let the community vote because we believe that the council shouldn't have this power to go in there and determine and make changes on the rolls overnight. It needs to be brought back to the community and we need to make changes. So that's what our goal is and that's what we're trying to do.

This is where Zeke [Esequiel Garcia] was tasked with the responsibility of this project that he named Project Tiwahu, and he'll show a slide of where he goes and everything else. And we asked him to go out there and get feedback from the community to see where the tribal council needs to go out and make the changes so we can start enrolling our tribal members. And when this project was assigned to Zeke, he came back to me and said, ‘One of the things we need to identify is what is going to be...who's going to be a citizen. What are the roles of a Tigua?' So it changed more from enrollment criteria, from a blood quantum thing, to more of a citizenship. Where are we going to go from this? What does the community want? And he has started the process. We're moving along. [I'm pretty sure...did I move too fast? How much time do I have? Five minutes. Okay, well I'll donate them to Zeke.] So this is where I'm going to introduce Zeke and let him take over so he can show you what we've been working on, how we're doing it to get the input from the community so we can move forward on there. But, Zeke, the floor is yours. Thank you very much."

Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia:

"Good morning. Our efforts down at the Pueblo, as the Lieutenant Governor was saying, in 1984 we did...we're not a constitutional tribe, we're oral tradition, but in 1984 when they restored our federal recognition we did inherit some very restrictive language that was within that restoration act and it had to do with enrollment. Soon after...for many years we had been submitting bills. In 2011, when we submitted HR 1560, which is the bill that was enacted in August of 2012, the council called me into their office and they said, ‘We need a plan of action. We need to have a way of how we're going to proceed from here forward.' So we put a plan of action, it's not my plan. It's a plan that's inclusive of our council. The first order of business that we ended up doing was -- and it's in your packet -- we passed a tribal council resolution. And in that resolution we set objectives, specifically what Project Tiwahu -- even being sensitive to our culture termed it with a cultural name -- and we set those objectives, what we were setting out to do.

One of the objectives was to establish a board. It wasn't an appointed board, although there were some appointed members, but we did go to the community. We sent out a letter to community members living on res as well as out of the state, and we got a good response and some of those community members were selected.

The second objective was to, of course, knowing that the enactment of HR 1560 and doing away with the blood quantum, we knew we had to do revision to our enrollment policy so that was another objective that we put in our resolution. Most importantly -- as the lieutenant governor was saying right now -- was to garner community input. This wasn't going to be my decision -- although the responsibility fell on the enrollment office or tribal records office, it didn't fall under the tribal council office as well -- but it needed to be a community decision and that was one of the biggest things that we set out to do.

Not because the lieutenant governor is sitting next to me do I want to score brownie points, but one of the things that I really admire about our current council, as well as previous councils, is that in no way did they relinquish power, authority by handing this over to the community and making a decision. If anything, they incorporated a team effort or inclusive in reaching out to the community. So that's one of the things that I really admire about our leadership.

The other thing was...the other objective that we set out was to assess our tribal programs. As he was mentioning earlier, we receive federal monies and those federal monies are there to serve an enrolled population and we have a descendant population of course, those that were less than the one-eighth. For many years we have...our office has been tracking that information. Our Pueblo has this practice on an annual basis for our enrolled members to come and update. When they do their update, we give them a questionnaire and we get information: education, financial, household compositions -- we just get a lot of information from them and what we lacked was the descendants. So in 2010, even before our bill was passed, it blew me away, our leadership sent out an executive memorandum to my office and said, ‘You need to start issuing out descendant ID cards to our descendant members.' And with that, that was our way to capture the information on our descendant members.

So in assessing our tribal programs, we need to determine what needs were out there, what services we were providing to our descendants, what services we weren't able to provide because of restrictions within those federal monies to an enrolled population. And we...actually not we, I wasn't even...well, my office indirectly was a big part of it in providing the information that I was collecting, but Linda Austin and her efforts and the council put together a budget impact and that budget impact is also on your packets there. And what we were able to determine there is if we were to project the numbers that we had on our descendants and we were to enroll them and begin providing services, what impact would be on our budget, our current monies for each of our programs. So that was very instrumental, that budget impact. It really opened up our eyes; it opened up...it gave us a better understanding of our descendant population. For instance, we were able to determine that we had a younger population within the descendants as opposed to enrolled members, which were much older.

The other objective that we resolved on the resolution was a citizenship campaign, and because we were dealing with descendants -- that as the lieutenant governor mentioned that had distanced themselves, even those living within the res, those that were living out of state were much more disconnected because of course maybe annual visits, they would come to the reservation during our feast days. We had to do a...our board and the facilitators that were helping me out, we understood that we had to have some kind of citizenship campaign, an awareness, an educational component to it to where we would give them information.

One of the results from that was this informational guide. I believe this informational guide is in your packet. And through this guide we were able to educate both our enrolled members as well as our descendant members, what this whole citizenship...the process that we were going to take. We were able to give them historical information regarding the tribe, how we came to be if you will, and also a portion of the budget impact was also given out. We wanted to give them the statistics on our blood quantum, how many numbers, how we were being reduced, and all that good information.

Within that citizenship campaign, we also conducted internal research -- the facilitators, myself, Linda and another intern that we have within the tribe. We were able to conduct interviews to have a better understanding of what had transpired in our enrollment office, what resolutions had been passed since the restoration act, what issues our enrollment was faced with and that was a very eye opening experience for us. As we conducted interviews with key individuals that were involved with the federal recognition or restoration, we would hear the same things from each one in a different perspective and it really opened up our eyes to better understand again, we're looking at making a decision for our future, we need to understand what we did in the past and that was a great thing that...that was very important and instrumental and now that as we go forward and we're looking at making these decisions, it gives us a better understanding on how to proceed.

The other thing that came with those interviews was an internal report. It's not in your packet. Like Ian [Record] was saying, it's kind of lengthy, but that internal report was...Linda and myself were able to work on that and that was more of a historical...as the lieutenant governor was giving you the story, we also felt we needed to put it on paper and more or less educate our membership as to our history, how we came to be since the early years of 1682 that we got established there in Ysleta, Texas.

These are some of the steps. Where are we at right now? This past December, we issued out a Pueblo-wide questionnaire, a survey, and this is where we're getting the input from the community. Right now currently, we're in the process of analyzing those results, but that survey, of course it's not in your packet because it's a lengthy survey, but it's a very...these are basic questions. We have four parts to it. The first one was identity. How do our tribal members identify themselves as Tigua? Is it the services that we rendered or is it something...your culture, your practices, if that's what it makes them.

So we asked those questions. We asked questions about enrollment, whether we wanted to keep a blood quantum, whether we wanted to get rid of a blood quantum, whether we wanted to reduce a blood quantum. In 1984, a very important issue, when the base roll was created, there were some people that were left out and now this day and age how do we want to deal with that issue? Do we want to extend enrollment to them? And this is what we need to...the kind of feedback that we need from our tribal community. That survey is very instrumental. It also...because of if we do extend enrollment to descendants that means that our population would double. Right now our enrolled population at Ysleta del Sur is 1,732 and our descendant population is just right there. There's just an eight different...and they're out there. I know they're out there because for whatever reason they haven't made their way into our office. So I can more or less estimate about another 200 individuals that are out there.

So our descendant population has already surpassed our enrolled population. And how are we going to proceed? If we do enroll these people, if we do enroll our descendants that would mean that we have more people. According to the bill that was signed, we were in agreement that we're not going to receive any extra funding from the federal government to provide services, so how do we manage that? And this is what the community needs to know as well. We that work within the tribal government, we have a good grasp of what it entails, but our average tribal member out there, they may have an idea, a slight idea, or they may not have it. We want to make sure that we convey that information to them because ultimately it does impact us that are enrolled and it impacts those that would be enrolled as well.

Those are our efforts that we're doing right now at Ysleta del Sur. I'm very pumped with this whole issue. I have seen nothing but support both from our council and from our community members. You have to keep in mind that this topic has been a big issue since our restoration back in 1984 and people, our tribal members, are willing to talk about it. When we have our quarterly Pueblo juntas that we come together as...a town hall meeting, if you will, and we come together as a community, we've talked about those issues and now that this bill was filed and now that we have this Project Tiwahu underway, tribal members are...you see them more giving their input and wanting to share and it's a hot topic right now within our tribe and we just look forward to coming to some resolution by this year. If not, we're in no rush. That's one other thing is that the bill was enacted in 2012; we're in 2014. The whole thing here is that we're going back to the community, we're informing them, we're letting them know what's going on and whenever our grandfathers feel that it's a good time to make the decision, we'll make that decision and we'll proceed."

Sharon Day, Shawn Frank and Deborah Locke: Disenrollment (Q&A)

William Mitchell College of Law

Panelists Sharon Day, Shawn Frank, and Deborah Locke field questions from the audience and a few participants offer their closing thoughts on the question of tribal citizenship and identity. 

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

Resource Type

Day, Sharon. "Disenrollment (Q&A)." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Frank, Shawn. "Disenrollment (Q&A)." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Locke, Deborah. "Disenrollment (Q&A)." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Matthew Fletcher:

"My wife, Wenona Singel, wrote a paper where I think I've learned more from this paper than anything else I've read and she...two points about the paper I think that are important. The first is...the paper's called "Indian Tribes and Human Rights Accountability" and it seems to me that there is a -- seems to her and I agree -- that there's a gap in human rights coverage and the gap applies to Indian tribes. International law obligates nations to guarantee minimal human rights and there are things in the United Nations Declaration [on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], for example, that include these kind of principles, but they don't apply to sub-nations like Indian tribes and so tribes ostensibly have no outside accountability for some of the things they do. That's one of the reasons we have the lack of federal court jurisdiction over things like tribal membership issues is an issue. The other thing is the question of sovereignty and Indian tribes assert sovereignty over tribal membership decisions and if you think about sovereignty, the same kind of arguments that tribes are asserting now when they're defending themselves from challenges on questions of disenrollment are exactly the same things that the southern states made when they were challenged over slavery prior to the Civil War. And if you read the Dred Scott case, there's a long rambling dissertation in there about sovereignty, how internal governance matters should be left to the states alone and outsiders shouldn't have anything to say over that. So I just wondered if you wanted to... if that inspired any commentary from anybody."

Shawn Frank:

"I just think in terms of the sovereignty issue -- maybe I shouldn't answer this since it's framed versus an exercise tantamount to endorsing slavery -- but I think the tribes do have that authority and they can take actions pursuant to that authority. I think the question becomes of whether or not they should, but I certainly...one of the things I do believe is that tribes have to exercise their sovereignty in certain regards because what good is being a sovereign nation with independent authority in certain instances if you're not willing to exercise it? And I think that in issues of membership, that's an important exercise of a tribe's sovereign authority. And I think kind of getting back a little bit to kind of one of the themes of Sharon's [Day] presentation was I think Indian nations are in an interesting position because you have these traditional notions -- not notions, that makes it sound quaint -- these traditions of clans and kinship and where things were really fluid and loose, but as tribes became more like western governments and they adopted constitutions and laws, the tribes now are required to follow those constitutions and laws and sometimes they don't allow this sort of traditional healing, community togetherness concept because there are specific criteria in the specific things that tribes have adopted. So it's kind of a desire sometimes to get back to more kinship and inclusive thing, but the tribes by their own adoption of some constitutions and some other ordinances have really prevented that from being able to happen."

Sharon Day:

"But sovereignty also means that they could do that as well, they could move in the direction that I was referring to if they so choose. That's sovereignty, that's exercising sovereignty."

Audience member:

"After hearing everything that was presented today, I often wonder what the 570-some tribes throughout the United States that are going through enrollment issues, that if there could ever be a conference or a reunification of Indigenous tribes here, not just the continental United States, but the South American, Canadian come together and look at what has...so that there'd [be] a standardization hopefully maybe within the tribes, so that we'd send a message say to the federal government, to the Department of the Interior that we all have the same standards, that's what we're going to abide by. I think we're all going through the decolonization as Sharon was saying and we're still gun shy in what we do. Why? Because we're only one tribe amongst nations of many others and to set a precedence, not just for our tribe, but other tribes here have different things. For instance, they were talking about citizenship and that presentation. Well, if you don't reside on a reservation you don't get any of the benefits. And there again the question was, well, you get benefits, but you have pride in being a tribal member. And often we all say that what's good enough for one tribal member is good for all whether it be the benefiter or etc.

And so I think as a short-term goal probably within say even a year is try to get the message out to all the tribes in the United States, come together somewhere say centrally located, Oklahoma, Nebraska, whatever, come together and have a large summit. That would be a dream and if we go with the clan systems or a way of life, which our people followed many years ago that...whatever, it'd work out to be the best because...me and Willard went to Las Vegas for an enrollment issue and listened to that and we hear different perspectives on enrollment; you hear good stories, you hear sad stories, you hear pondering stories. You're like, 'Okay, I've got my head scratching, I'm thinking,' but you have to know your people also. Ms. [Deborah] Locke was talking about what happened to her and that could very easily fit a lot of tribes throughout the United States and nobody likes to open up Pandora's box to what legalities would come out of that. But the big thing is I'd love to see a summit because if we make these changes today, we're going to leave a legacy for our children and I still think that our children will still be looking at this issue down the line going into the 22nd century. [Anishinaabe language]."

Sarah Deer:

"Any other questions or comments for the panel? I guess we have a lot to think about. Well, let's thank our panel for speaking...for joining us today."

Audience member:

"Well, actually before we clap I guess, we're hoping to get a copy of your article because we'd like to..."

Sharon Day:

"I'll send it to Colette [Routel] and she can send it."

Audience member:

"...Because we'd like to include that into our newsletter and I think...I really enjoyed your presentation..."

Sharon Day:

"Thank you."

Audience member:

"...As a member of the lodge, it's good to have our grandmothers stand up and remind us of the different things that we have. And it's...one of the things I've always enjoyed about when I worked at White Earth is that even though it's a different place there's the common teachings that exist and it's good to know that, John Borrows talked about when you identify your clan you have that connection, so for us in the lodge is that understanding because one of the things that they teach us is the unconditional love, it's to be able to accept them as they are and respect all ways. I guess I do have a comment.

So one of the things I hope that...I hope for not just as a tribal attorney, but as a tribal member is that there is an effort to try to educate our tribal members to understand...someone presented about tribal civics and we talked about this in some of the council meetings, we've talked about this on the reservation about having an opportunity to teach ourselves what our government is like, because there's such a distrust that's come from this federal model and that people who are afraid of trusting authority automatically attack our tribal model and that undermines us because it's...but for the fact that we have these treaties that exist because there's no such thing as an individual sovereign, there's the idea of tribal sovereignty. People will attack our governments because they don't like to be told 'no,' but they don't know what to do to try to get to 'yes.'

I think sitting at this table...I try to remind our council...because I studied this when I was a kid growing up. My dad was someone who was very vocal and involved in this type of work and then when I went to college and I went to the Marine Corps, I went to law school, you keep the sense of identity of who you are and it attaches to your tribe, but more for me it was attaching to who my family was. I'm a junior so I carry myself in the way that knowing that my actions reflect on my dad, but they also reflect on my family and that's a teaching that we have in our lodge and that. So for me citizenship is kind of really difficult for me to understand because I'm always going to be a member of my family and [Anishinaabe language], means 'all my relations.'

And so when one of our family members walks on in our lodge, and I know this is taught in other lodges, someone else needs to stand up and do their work because that work needs to get done. And so that's what I envision and that's what I've seen growing up on the reservation, me and Willard. We've kind of been joking with him the whole day about trying to get him to speak, but I grew up with Willard and as we get older we take more of these responsibilities and among the people that I grew up with we say, 'It's our time. It's our time to do this work now. It's our time to look to our elders like Gordon and Rusty and the ones who've opened up this path for us. It's time for us to pick up that...' Well, they probably don't want to drop it right now, but they're ready for us to start doing this work and helping them carry it that much farther so that our children have an idea of where they come from. But we have to start...I think we need to do more to trust the governments that we have and trusting them by understanding what their role is, understanding where the root of the idea of sovereignty comes from, understanding what the role of the government is supposed to be so that just because you get a negative decision, and I don't mean that in reflection of anything that's been said today, but you understand the purpose of what it is. You have to protect the identity and the protection that we have as a collective group because for every negative instance we have there's a positive instance of a negative action from a government. And I say that as a lawyer.

But people...some tribes sell their memberships and they sell it to people who can pay whoever is on council to do that or they sell the right to go hunt and fish and those are things that are not intended as those treaties were done. My dad used to...my dad told me, 'One of the major things about the treaties was Article 5 of the '37 Treaty.' He said,  ''42 was the best one negotiated for the Ojibwe's, but Article 5 is the one that encompassed us the right to hunt, fish and gather as the way we understood that because hunting, fishing and gathering was the instrument and the means for us to get the deer, the wild rice, the fish and the plants and the medicines for us to have our ceremonies. And for us to have our ceremonies allowed us to go from birth to passing with all the ceremonies that go on in between there and that allowed us to keep our connection between our ancestors and we have something to give to our grandchildren. And that maintains our identity as Ojibwe and as Anishinaabe.' And so when I get an opportunity to teach in the schools I talk about that, but I try to put a face on that.

Gordon was the chairman for our tribe when we had the void litigation that opened up this idea of reaffirming our rights in the 7th Circuit and also in the Western District of Wisconsin. Rusty has been a 20-year veteran in the Army. And so we need to do more to recognize the contribution of our individual members and when they sit on council it's not just 'f*in' council did this' or 'f*in' council did that.' What it means is that we have people who have made a sacrifice of their personal selves to put themselves in a leadership position to take the responsibility of what happens and then respect them for their contribution instead of saying, 'Well, their family did this or their family did that.'

When I took the job as the tribal attorney, I stood in front of the council and said, 'I will let go of my responsibilities as my family and not carry the grudges going forward and I will serve my council to the best of my ability to carry that forward,' and I've tried my best to do that. You've got pressures that come all the time, but I think if we're going to really have a serious conversation about what citizenship is, whether it's the political discourse or membership, whether it's belonging to that group, you have to have an idea of what is your responsibility to contribute and not just expect something in return, not just to say, 'Well, I get to go hunting and fishing because that's my treaty right.' That treaty right came at the sacrifice of thousands of people who had to sneak in the woods at night because there was people who were trying to take that away from them. I read the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] reports, I've seen the game warden reports from like 1910 when they confiscated the fish and the deer from this old elderly couple from Lac du Flambeau and the father...the male died in custody and they made the mother walk home from the lake that she was at. You would never even think about doing that now. You would never, ever contemplate doing that, but that's a sacrifice that they did so that...we need to remember those stories and they did that because...they did that to survive, but I bet you their children knew how to hunt, fish and gather and they knew how to speak their language and they understood those seven principles that come from your teaching in the lodge and they understand what the seven fires are.

And I hope that if there's some day that we have that conversation so there is a thread that connects us so that we never forget the sacrifice of who we are and what's been done to give us that chance. And I hope that we are able to make that same sacrifice so that our grandchildren can look back and say, 'Well, there was this fat guy at a conference one time who said...kept jabbering on, everybody wanted to go home...' but at least we keep that connection alive. So that's what I would say. And I say [Anishinaabe language] for your teaching."

Sharon Day:

"[Anishinaabe language]."

Sarah Deer:

"Thank you." 

Jill Doerfler and Matthew Fletcher: Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy (Q&A)

William Mitchell College of Law

Panelists Jill Doerfler and Matthew Fletcher fields questions from the audience, and several participants offer their heartfelt perspectives on the complicated cultural and social dynamics surrounding citizenship and identity in their respective Native nations and communities. 

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

Resource Type

Doerfler, Jill. "Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy (Q&A)." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Fletcher, Matthew. "Defining Citizenship: Blood Quantum vs. Descendancy (Q&A)." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Sarah Deer:

"At this time again we'd like to open it up to questions and comments. We have a few minutes before lunch and we'd like to have some dialogue based on what the speakers had to say.

Audience member:

"Has there been any talks with the state level officials or any federal officials on how they view what an Indian is and at what point...or what do they expect of Indian tribes? We've been talking about funding, we're talking about land being taken back. Okay. I know in Wisconsin we had a meeting with a state representative and he didn't even know we had 11 tribes in the state of Wisconsin. He knew that all the tribes in Wisconsin were per cap Indians. That was his perception and he was from the southern part of the state. And so a lot of times when we...we struggle with this blood quantum issue is the end game that what does the federal government and Chairman Bugonaghezhisk hit it right on the head though. At some point they don't want to pay no more. And of course I speak for myself that they can never pay us enough for what they've taken from us. And I notice that when I look in the appropriations inside the Department of the Interior. Parks and Services get more money than the tribes do and why is that? And so these are some of the questions on the other side of the line is what does the government...what is their end game? The gentleman here talked about...Mr. Fletcher was talking about that at some point all they want to do is wipe the slate clean and mainstream us into society with no debt to the Anishinaabe people."

Dana Logan:

"Hi. My name is Dana Logan from Grand Portage. My question regarding the lineal descent is if the government has wanted to, like you said, wipe the slate clean, get rid of Indians? So if you are going to go to...are thinking of going to lineal descent and I'm going to use the Cherokee Nation, going to lineal descent and I've seen their blood quantum as being at one-3000th. So at what point if tribes go to lineal descent are we no longer going to be identified as Indian tribes and we're going to be so what the government might say is diluted, there aren't no real Indian left? And so that I worry about a little bit in identity and what the government thinks of us. Myself, I'm enrolled in the Chippewa tribe. I have children who are Northeastern Oklahoma Indians enrolled there at a ome-eighth requirements. They're half, my husband is a full blood Indian. Now, look at their CDIB, they're Grand Portage, they're Canadian on my family's side, they're Cherokee and they're also part Shawnee and Eastern Band, and then in the Cherokees, split you up on what kind of Cherokee you are. So you have all of these things that we do to ourselves but yet we have to protect ourselves as a group of people...I don't like to say a racial group either, but we do need to keep our identity so that the American government doesn't say, "˜You people aren't here anymore and you don't matter.' Thank you."

Matthew Fletcher:

"I'd like to just toss out something. I think the way that the self-determination policy has worked in the last couple decades along with the Supreme Court has looked at Indian identity is to really rail and recognize a tribe's decision as to who is a member, who is not. So if you look at a lot of statutes that Congress and state legislatures have passed prior to the "˜80s really, they all talk about blood quantum, they talk about half blood, quarter blood, who's an Indian, who's mixed blood. The U.S. and most state legislatures even have moved away from that. And so for example a year or so ago the Department of Justice, Fish and Wildlife Service in the U.S. government said, "˜Well, we're going to recognize anybody who's a member of a federally recognized tribe. Blood quantum is irrelevant. Whatever they decide, they are able to with their citizenship card they can carry an eagle feather. We're not going to give them any crap for that.' So that was the policy floating around. What it means is, they talk about tribal membership. Whatever blood quantum is, it's up to the tribes and I think that's a really good development. But that's the politics right now. 50 years down the road, maybe John Roberts type people, and he's the one who asked the question in the Baby Veronica case, "˜Hey, the last time that this kid and dad had a full blood Indian was during the time of the American Revolution in their ancestry.' It was important to him and so maybe that will change over time. But right now, now is where the federal government is deferring to tribal prerogatives on tribal membership, whatever that might be, and I think it's a good time to take advantage of that."

Jill Doerfler:

"Yeah, and there's lots of prevailing arguments as well that blood quantum and this racialization was meant to destabilize politics. The U.S. and native nations have a nation-to-nation relationship. It's not a relationship between a nation and a race and so there's also lots of arguments there that treaties that form a big part of that government-to-government relationship there primarily are not racially based. They're governments making agreements with other governments. The U.S. government racial...the race of Americans is changing over time. We're going to start to see the white race decline and we're going to start to see white people becoming a 'minority' in the U.S. Does that mean if the race of America changes, does that mean that those political agreements are null and void? Most people would argue no because it's still the same political system that's in place. The makeup of the people might be changing, but you still have that government structure."

Audience member:

"So I guess to touch on another one of those stories that we carry with us from our relatives, one of the things that I was taught was if you wonder about who you are, think about yourself when you're done with this world and who is it the ones that's going to take care of you to help you on your journey to the next place. And sometimes that is the defining characteristic, because when you're left by yourself and you're completely dependent upon the people who are supposed to take care of you, sometimes that defines who your identity is. What we have based on these discussions is a converging of social, cultural, political type of discourse -- I guess for lack of...for a more intelligent English word -- but...and how that convergence comes into play. I mention these things and the things that come from me that I work with when I work with my people in my tribe is we never lose that connection we have to our relatives. And that's difficult sometimes, especially when they're adopted away and they're taught these different types of...different ways of doing things.

And so when I was in school there was people who were sympathetic, these non-tribal people who were sympathetic, but they wanted this and they always said, "˜Well, how do you...' -- I used to joke with them and tease them because there's some things you don't share with people you don't know -- I said, "˜Well, if you want to know who's Indian, go ask them what happened to their grandparents,' because almost always you can find a story about the boarding schools. My tribe and my relatives all have the same stories about where our grandmothers went and grandfathers and how we can't stop in...when we travel back and forth and Janesville with my grandma.

And so one of the things that I'm proud of as Ojibwe and as Anishinaabe is the treaties that we have going back to American or Federal Indian Law 101 is the four purposes of why treaties are made. Well, there's a fifth treaty, too, that helps define the contents or your...you reserve the rights of your own identity. And for us, for the Ojibwes and among the Lake Superior Band, our 1847 treaty -- one of them gets overshadowed because that was Bugonaghezhisk's allotment that he got over by Wadena -- but the other part of that 1847 treaty is a separate one, which was the recognition...forcing the United States to recognize that Ojibwes did not recognize mixed blood or half breeds or whatever they called us back then and that all of the people who were among our communities from wherever they came from were considered part of our family. And that's a teaching that we have that...we have these cultural bonds that go across there and so a lot of my [Anishinaabe language] are non-tribal. And for those who don't know what [Anishinaabe language] are, it kind of translates to like 'godmother' or 'godfather' or 'god-relative' that is supposed to help you take the place or help assist your parents in raising you or your family in raising you. And then as we include them as our [Anishinaabe language], we also name them so that the Creator can understand them in the Ojibwe that is the predominate method on how we're conducting ourselves. And so even though we use this more dominant language or English to kind of define our interactions and to articulate these views, I still from the time I was born until the time I pass and I sit there with my grandmothers again and my grandfathers and tell the story of my life as part of our teaching. Ojibwe is the means that identifies us because it doesn't set parameters, it gives you the method to teach you how to come back home. And so that is...the prevalent thing that comes through this is the language. We call that...that's the gift from the Creator. Our work is the land that was given to us or the responsibilities that attach us to the land.

But there's still, I guess, and I'll finish this real quick I guess, but the other part that kind of makes our blood boil and all of that is when we have the people who create these manufactured senses of identity of what it is to be Indian and then they come back and they bring these different concepts. Even though I'm a lawyer and trained just as Professor Fletcher is in speaking English in terms of interpreting our laws, the constitution that we have is probably one of the most detrimental and damaging things that we've done as a tribe because it tries to codify what the idea of a good government is or how to run your people...how to organize your people to do certain things and that gives a tool then for those who disagree with our ways of life. Our grandmothers have prominent places in our society, but it's not recognized in the constitution or when people identify their laws and say, "˜Well, you're not a member because the constitution doesn't say that,' even though my [Anishinaabe language] grew up on the reservation and has done as much for me as anybody else, she's not from Lac Courte Oreilles.

It's a dangerous double[-edged] sword that I think that -- and I'm going to get slapped by Robert here if I'm not careful how I say this -- there's people who take this idea of spreading democracy as President [George W.] Bush had said when he was justifying these incursions and sending among others some of our Native youth into Iran and...or I mean Iraq -- whew, there's a Freudian slip -- in Afghanistan and to these different countries is they're trying to spread democracy back to the tribes in that they want to change their constitutions so that they have these things that are not...don't necessarily arise from us, but they come from this idea that we're going to have participation, that we want representation from different areas and the model that they use is the United States, but yet how can that be a positive model when we have something like the Tea Party that's disrupting the government or we have the idea of democracy and we've got the idea that corporate citizens are now or corporations are now people. And so that just...it makes me nervous and I think it's the responsibility of those who really want to be part of that community to be diligent, to hold true to what your ideas are and to not...if you're going to bring something else in there, bring in also with the open mind of coming into the community and listening to what that is.

I know that there's criticisms split between on reservation and off reservation and it shouldn't be that way because the reservations were something that was given...that was forced on us by the American government because we're actually in the area -- and this is going to get me probably slapped by the Dakota in the room -- this used to be Ojibwe country and there was an 1825 treaty that kind of demarcated this line. It wasn't ours like in exclusion of other people. It was our shared responsibility to take care of this land and take care of these resources. And so this idea of possession is something that got forced into us so that the dominant society could figure out a way to kind of [figure out] who to talk to instead of having to talk to everybody, they picked who they wanted to speak with. And so when they come back with these people with these ideas of changing the constitution so that it incorporates more people, I think that's such a dangerous topic because you're incorporating it under the wrong premise. There's other ways that could be done and that needs to be incorporated into that. If we're really going to have binding, logical extensions of ourselves codified in the constitution, it should be in the language, it should be in the way that those words were intended and it should be representative of the practices of who we are.

My grandma told me -- and my grandma told me a lot so I could go all day -- she told me, she says, "˜When you pass, one quarter of you doesn't go somewhere else, one quarter doesn't go to this other spot. It goes to where you think your family is because that's the teaching that the Creator gave to you. And so when you go up and you say your name, your name is like one slice of your life over the time that you've been given this time on this earth. And so when you hear that and they ask for you, you know where to go to.' And I don't mean to disparage people with different beliefs because I've seen people who are strong in their beliefs and I believe them. The major tenet of me and my lodge is you respect all ways and it just...sometimes though when we respect all ways the first way that seems to get diminished or get erased is the Anishinaabe way and we just...I can't allow that. [Anishinaabe language]."

Robert Durant:

"I won't hit you. I want to shake your hand. Again, my name is Robert and I just want to talk a little bit...no disrespect to all the efforts that White Earth is going through and I'm on the council in White Earth. I too, I have always been afraid of this. The new constitution that's been written, I feel there's so many things that take away from the future and also removing the past on where we're at and what was done and closing the door on so many other issues. And then when there's issues that are talked about, how are we going to deal with this here with programs -- whether it be housing, whatever -- and all the other issues that comes along with that and maybe being censored from working one way or working another way if this thing passes? Then it's said that, "˜Well, we'll tweak it out.' Well, tell you what, that's not what people are kind of voting for. I'm not going to say 'yes' to where you're going to change it anyway so what good is it? Things like that, it really gets to my heart. And then when we talk about to opening these doors to rewrite a constitution that's taken decades of interpretations and decisions and ordinances and then to me it's really sad, because to me it's like the modern day of being fleeced by using enrollment. I get afraid of that. I'm afraid of that. Remember the stories of our tribal nations being fleeced? And then sometimes when we talk about the enrollment laws...I remember listening to some old men talking about [Anishinaabe name] or 'Hole in the Day.' He only would...during the removals come to White Earth, he talked about only the half breeds could come with him. We all know he was killed, but there's a lot of other histories, I read about other leaders they wanted, for reasons, whatever that was. And that's what I think about, but they disappeared in life and who was always behind it, it was always the government. So it's really difficult for me...when I think about this, I'm doing it right now, I'm shedding a tear because what are we doing to ourselves and what are we allowing to happen to us? It's not easy, but everybody is not being taught.

We sent out as a lesson for everybody, White Earth sent out...there's 18,700-and-some members under the last roll that we took. That list was used to mail out a constitution. I asked, "˜Well, if you're going to mail that out, at least have some fairness and mail out the one that we've been dealing with that was revised in the "˜60s.' Well, no it wasn't done because I was intercepted and it wasn't done, so it wasn't fair because people on both sides ain't getting a chance. So when you go for this here in other nations, realize that because we're stepping into something that we do not know and it's scary. I can say that because my children, they're tribal. But I can understand they may make a choice not to be with another tribal or their children, but the thing is I need to have that responsibility to show them who they are too. But I made that choice. Why am I tribal? There's a lot of teachings.

I want to tell you a little story, too, before I quit here because it really gives me an insight. I got a gift, again, there's a lot of gifts. I received a packet of writings done by tribal members; I'm going to share that with you Jim. They wrote manuscripts of...100 years ago they wrote this. I had my administrative assistants type it all out because the paper was frail and it was written beautifully. And they told the stories of what it was. They told stories. Imagine 120 years ago someone 84 years old saying...writing the story of the modern Indian. It makes me angry when I read that, but it was the truth. This topic is really tough and I'm not the only one that feels that way. These are lessons we listen, lessons from our elders, real lessons. Not just a story, but this time as being told...these were handwritten. [Anishinaabe language]."

Sarah Deer:

"I think we have time if you want to respond unless someone else in the audience wants to make sure we get you on record. There we go."

Sam Strong:

"It's not really a response. [Anishinaabe language]. I think for me it wasn't actually in any response to Terry's comments there, but basically when I think about being Anishinaabe, when I think about being Ojibwe, when I think about being from Red Lake, what does that mean to me? It means a way of life. It means living that [Anishinaabe language]. It means being a part of a community that has been centuries in the making so it's understanding that you're a part of that history. That's something for me that I'm very proud of. I'm an enrolled member. I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud of my heritage. I'm also proud of...I'm mixed. I'm proud of everything that made me and that's part of being Anishinaabe, that's part of being Ojibwe is understanding who you are and being comfortable with that and then living that lifestyle in all facets of your life.

I think about the past, I think about Red Lake and one of our first leaders, once we started with treat making and all that, his name was Peter Graves and he actually wasn't a Red Lake member. Our first real leader wasn't even a member. He was an Ojibwe person that had moved there. He was mixed, he was half, and you think about the contributions that he made to Red Lake. We consider ourselves unique. I'm sure all tribes consider themselves unique. But we're a closed reservation. We're the only tribe that never ceded control of their land. We're proud of those aspects of who we are, but at the same time you look at today what people are...how they're living and what's going on in the communities and we're disconnected from who we are. So I think it's important to identify that in looking at citizenship. Your community is going to look at where you're at today. What does it mean to be a Red Laker today?

Our chairman always tells this story as kind of a fearful indication of where the community is at. He was at a meeting and one of the guys...it was a forum for an election or something like that and one of the kids stood up and he took his card out. He said, "˜This ID card, what does it mean for me?' And everyone's like, "˜Well, what do you mean?' And he said, "˜Where's my check? Where's our per capita? We have all these casinos. Where's my money? What does this card mean for me?' I don't think that's the prevailing thinking that most of the community members have, but it's out there. That's kind of how the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] would want it. They would want to see us as dependents. They would want to see us as people that our identity is putting our hand out, but that's not who we are and I think understanding that there is...there's that divide. What we have created and who we are are so different from one another.

You think about the teachings and the people that I listen to and that I learn about myself and my culture and some of these people, if you met them on the street, you might think they were Caucasian, but the reality is these people are carrying on the culture and the language. They're not all enrolled members, but these people have dedicated their life to understanding our culture, our language, our traditions and they're carrying that on for our tribal members. And you think about all these people that have helped us get to where we're at today and all these community members that have contributed and it has nothing to do with the percentage of blood that you had. It never has and it never will, but the reality is our communities have become dependent upon the resources from the BIA, from the federal government, so on and so forth and people have started to look at membership as what's going to be put in my hand for free?

And I think the only way to change that -- we're looking at constitutional reform right now -- and you pose this question to Red Lakers, you're going to get a lot of angry people. We're a closed reservation. We've maintained control of our land, so what happens when we open up to lineal descendancy and we have people that are totally disconnected from our land base? Would they potentially put us in a position where we would lose ownership of the land, where the tribe would make a decision to sell it? I don't think so, but at the end of the day, these are the fears that the tribal members bring up when we talk about changing our enrollment criteria. How do we address those?

And to me, it's one of those things...it's obviously mathematical genocide. I think all of us can agree that the current system doesn't work, but how do we move forward in a responsible way, in a way that allows for the people to also grow and the only way to really do that is through teaching your people about your culture, your language, doing all the things that we're talking about here, but it's not a one-day change. Even if you were to make the change from lineal...to lineal descent or whatever it may be, that's not the important piece. It doesn't matter what the criteria are if your community isn't carrying on the values and the traditions of who you are. That's the way it was always taught to me is that the way you live is who you are.

Another teaching that I always was told is, coming into today's world you see the troubles of today with the environmental degradation and all the social ills of the communities and our elders say that our ways are the ways that are going to bring this world back into a better place. That's been our teachings. And how can we do that if we can't even include people that are living in our communities in our traditional ways? You have to think that...what's the long term? The long term is obviously that we need to be inclusive and teach our ways and share those values, but in the short term we have to focus on ourselves. We have to get to a point where our own people understand who they are and their lifestyles. Without that, it doesn't matter how you identify yourself. In 100 years what will our communities be? So to me it's...without the identity the rest is...it's almost impossible to even solve that so it's not to make the...and we're going through the same process so I ask this of all the members of our community when we go out. We have a constitutional reform committee and so they're asking these same questions as well. But the reality is, I don't think it's a one-year thing, I don't think it's just change the criteria, it's what are we doing as a nation to hold onto our identity, to create a better quality of life in our communities and to create for...something that everyone can buy into, not only our people but all Ojibwe people.

I always brag about Ojibwe people because I consider us to be the largest tribal nation. I think from a land base perspective you could make that case pretty easily. But today you see tribal nations that are 100 miles away from one another that are fighting with each other. You have racist communities in between that we just ignore and then we have what you would think would be supportive nations down the road and we're not even on the same page. So who are we as a nation even? Have we forgot who we are as Ojibwe people? Have we forgot who we are as Anishinaabe? When I say 'Anishinaabe,' I mean all Native people. I was hearing some of the speakers earlier and they were talking about what that word meant and for us in Red Lake it means free people, people that live in a good way and I think when you think about what we all...all of our ideals as Native people, it's very similar. So why haven't we come together? Why haven't we come together as a people, as a nation and even as Red Lake Nation? So you've got to start somewhere, but at the end of the day...I think sometimes we focus on all these issues and we forget about where the people are at today. For me, living in Red Lake and seeing it and seeing the suicide, the drug use, the...all the social ills of my community, you would just hope that we would focus on the things that would start to change that and create that pride in who we are and all the other stuff will fall into place. But without that, all the rest is for naught, in my eyes at least. [Anishinaabe language]."

Sarah Deer:

"Thank you. Thank you very much. This has been an incredibly rich and deep conversation, and I'm very grateful for all of the participants." 

Bethany Berger: Citizenship: Culture, Language and Law

William Mitchell College of Law

University of Connecticut Law Professor Bethany Berger provides a brief history of the federal policies that have negatively impacted the ways that Native nations define and enforce their criteria for citizenship historically through to the present day. 

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

Native Nations
Resource Type

Berger, Bethany. "Citizenship: Culture, Language and Law." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

Sarah Deer:

"Our first panel this morning is really designed to develop a foundation for the rest of the day: discuss culture, language and law as it relates to tribal citizenship; historical overview of the laws that have affected tribal citizenship; and what our culture and stories tell us about traditional concepts of citizenship. Our first speaker will be Professor Bethany Berger. All of our speaker bios, by the way, are in your materials, your program for today, so I'm not going to go through and read each line of everyone's bio, but I did want to say a few things about Professor Berger. She is a widely read scholar of property law and one of the leading federal Indian law scholars in the country.

She is a co-author and member of the editorial board of the Felix Cohen Handbook of Federal Indian Law, the foundational treatise in the field and co-author of one of the case books, American Indian Law: Cases and Commentary. After law school, Professor Berger went to the Navajo and Hopi nations to serve as the Director of the Native American Youth Law Project of DNA Peoples Legal Services and there she conducted litigation challenging discrimination against Indian children. At the University of Connecticut, she teaches American Indian law, property, tribal law, and conflicts of Laws. She has served as a judge for the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals and has been a visiting professor at Harvard and University of Michigan.

Our next speaker is Professor John Borrows, who is at the University of Minnesota Law School, a professor in the area of international law and human rights. He was appointed Professor and Law Foundation Chair of Aboriginal Justice in Governance at the University of Victoria in 2001. Prior to that, he taught at several other places including the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia-Vancouver. He received his Ph.D. in 1994, an LLM in 1991 and a JD in 1990. He has been honored with a Trudeau Fellowship for Research Achievements, Creativity and Social Commitment with an achievement award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation for Outstanding Accomplishment in the fields of law and justice.

And finally, our panelist professor Stephen Cornell, who is a professor of Sociology in Public Administration and Policy at the University of Arizona, also Faculty Associate with the Native Nations Institute. He is the Director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, Professor of Sociology-Public Administration. Also Co-Director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, a program headquartered at the Kennedy School of Governance. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and taught at Harvard University for nine years before moving to California and then to Arizona. All of these speakers today have had a profound impact on my scholarship and I think have really done an incredible amount to try to articulate how federal Indian law has impacted the lives, the real lives of Native people today. So I'm very excited to introduce the panel. Please join me in welcoming them this morning."


Bethany Berger:

"So I want to say what a pleasure it is to be here and how sorry I am I can't stay for the rest of the day. You guys are doing really important and hard work here. And in my remarks, I'm going to focus on large overall trends mostly in federal Indian law, so it's not necessarily going to speak to your tribal choices, but some of the factors may be the same. And I also want to say what a pleasure it is to be on a panel with Professor Borrows and Professor Cornell, and Professor Cornell in particular helped shape the way I look at federal Indian policy history.

So we talk about tribal citizen choices in historical perspective, mostly focusing on the federal trends, but I also want to say that tribes have always engaged in boundary drawing and those boundaries have always relied heavily on descent and clanship, but they've also always made room for incorporating people that weren't born with that descent and clan. So this is from a frieze in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. This is an image of Pocahontas supposedly saving Captain Smith. Whether it's apocryphal or not, one of the suggestions about it is that this was actually an adoption ritual, that in order for an outsider to be adopted into the Pamunkey they had to go through a kind of play-acted process of attempted threat and saving. And this kind of adoption has gone on throughout history.

The Navajo Nation, the Diné -- where I've worked -- have the [Mexican] clan from the Mexican people, the [Red House] clan from the Zuni people and many other clans that reflect people that were not born Diné. In the Great Lakes, intermarriage was often a tool of diplomacy. If you could marry somebody in, you could build a relationship with them that would have important political impacts.

And this process of boundary drawings continued after contact. Just the 1827 Cherokee Constitution -- something that the Cherokee Nation created in a spirit of defiance -- to some extent engaged in this boundary drawing and some of the interesting things you see in it is that they'd already changed some of their traditions saying that children of Cherokee men, because this is a matrilineal tribe, Cherokee men with non-Cherokee women could become Cherokee, but they're also making rules about those of negro and mulatto descent. And so these kind of decisions are shaped from the outside, from the inside in multiple levels.

So federal boundary drawing: federal government has always been interested in drawing boundaries about who is Indian, who is not, who is part of a tribe, who is not. From very first Congress, we passed the Trade and Intercourse acts providing that non-Indians could not be on Indian land, that there were certain punishments, providing jurisdictional rules. And one question is, does 'Indian' mean tribal citizen or not? And relatively early on in the case of U.S. v. Rogers in 1846, the courts essentially decided Indian means whatever the federal government wants it to mean, that a white man who had married a Cherokee woman becomes a citizen of the nation, had actually traveled on the Trail of Tears. He was not Indian for purposes of the federal law, because basically they didn't think Congress wanted that kind of tribal power to change jurisdictional definitions. So this is continually a problem that tribes face, that there is room for making tribal citizenship decisions, but that room can be clamped down on by the federal government.

Process of treaty making and putting people on reservations obviously involved lots of questions about who is a tribal member and who is not, because annuities became really significant once you were on a reservation, once you couldn't engage in the practices that had sustained your people on a greater piece of land. And in fact, annuities would be taken away if you didn't conform to the rules that the agent on the reservation imposed.

One interesting aspect from this area that involves the conference on the Dakota War that William Mitchell [College of Law] put on last year, the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux were deprived of all of their annuities and deposed from their reservation as a reaction to the Dakota War even though they had not been involved at all and there's an 1867 treaty saying, "˜Oops, you were the wrong group to deprive annuities from.'

Another thing that comes up in these annuity treaties is, and the benefits from treaties, what about people that are the products of intermarriage with people outside the tribe? And quite a lot of these tribes...these treaties around this time have either half-blood or mixed-blood scrip saying...some of them saying, "˜We want to provide for these people,' some of them not necessarily including that provision. And a problem we see in the...from a number of these treaties -- including significantly the 1854 treaty with the Lake Superior Chippewa, kind of an amalgamation of a whole bunch of Ojibwe peoples -- was that the federal government kind of thought anybody with a little Chippewa heritage might be eligible for a mixed-blood scrip and got people applying for their 80 acres by just finding somebody that they could convince was a little bit Chippewa to sign up. And you may be aware of all the scandals that arose from that. But these are just ways the federal government is drawing these boundaries that may not necessarily have to do with the way tribes are drawing boundaries and how it affects tribes going on.

Allotment -- huge impact on tribal citizenship choices. You know this both in treaties in the 1850s on, but particularly after the Dawes Act in 1887, federal government is dividing up reservations, providing allotments to members of the tribes and any land that wasn't allotted out was considered surplus and sold off. And so part of the process, the federal government is creating rolls. Who gets the allotment? And this is a big moment in which tribes...in which individuals are just saying, "˜I'm a member of this tribe and getting it recorded.' Another big moment like that is when other tribes are applying for claims for the improper taking of their land and that's another moment we get these rolls. And it's important to see that these rolls are not really created for tribal purposes. They're created for intimately federal purposes as well, even though they're fundamental to a lot of tribal citizenship requirements today.

So what does this mean for tribes besides the creation of the rolls? Tribes are watching land and money go out to the people that are on these rolls and there's a concern. What if these individuals that are getting our allotted land are not really people we consider part of the tribe? So there's a pressure on tribe to say...to start excluding some people and we see that throughout Indian Country.

Another key thing is that allotment by selling off surplus land to non-tribal members, so that's about two-thirds of the land goes out that way plus the land that was allotted, restrictions removed from it so that could be sold or taken for payment of debts or taxes, sometimes fraudulent. A lot of that money goes out to non-tribal citizens and about three-quarters of land on reservation goes to non-tribal citizens. And under federal law, very difficult to kick those people off. So if you think about the border disputes that the United States has about people coming in, Indian nations can't really enforce that border in that way in part because of allotment so that's changing some citizenship choices.

Another thing -- so this is a picture of a boarding school. Look at all those kids looking just not happy and you know why. But towards the end of the 19th century we get this massive increase in federal services and federal services, they cost money so the federal government is starting to say, "˜Hey, we want to limit the people that are eligible for those federal services,' and one of the laws that they passed to do that says, "˜If you're less than one-quarter blood and we think you're relatively civilized, you're not eligible for these services.' We don't have those specific laws in effect anymore, but we see a lot of their echoes in federal laws today trying to limit the people that can be eligible.

So throughout this process, tribes are having to make choices about who is in and who is out. The big moment when this is formalized in constitutions -- and when there is federal pressure, we really want to see these choices -- is in the Indian New Deal period in the 1930s, when the federal government is encouraging tribes to enact constitutions as part of the process of, to some extent, self-determination that the Indian New Deal represented, and saying, "˜We're going to insist and demand that the people that are included by your constitutions are those that you really want included, that have significant affiliations with your tribe, because this is who the federal money for your tribe is going to go to.' And so this research is from Kirsty Gover and most of it published in a great article from 2009 in the American Indian Law Review and this shows...this is 1936, this is 2003 and just shows how many constitutions, tribal constitutions are adopted during this period and I actually created this one -- she didn't include 1936 because it would just be off the chart -- and so like 30 constitutions are adopted in this period, a whole bunch more in the "˜40s. And then we see in the "˜60s, that's when this process of constitution adopting starts again, kind of goes up again and this is when we're kind of getting into the self-determination period. So this is somewhat more tribal choices to adopt the constitutions. They weren't forced on them before, but there was more federal pressure to do it.

And so what kind of citizenship requirements do we see in these? And it's from the very early period almost 90 percent have parental enrollment requirements. More than 50 percent have residence requirements, that your...either parents have to be residing on the reservation or you have to, or your parents have to be members, you have to be residing on the reservation. Somewhat under 50 percent have Indian or tribal blood requirements and very few have lineal descent requirements. And what this shows is that a number of tribes over this period that require parental enrollment, that goes way down. Residence, that goes way, way down and the Indian or tribal blood requirements and the lineal descent requirements go up. And something this chart doesn't show is that the...what kind of descent is required is shifting from being somewhat more just Indian blood to being tribal blood. This is blood of the nation. And this... so this period, this is what tribes are doing on their own. They're not getting a form constitution or set of membership requirements from the federal government so what is creating this process?

So let's think about what happened after the 1930s. One thing, we get World War II and Native people serve in significant numbers and even more significant numbers -- they go off the reservation to work in the defense industry. And so that's bringing Native people off the reservations. Another factor, relocation, 1950s, federal government is saying, "˜Hey, just leave the reservations; by the way, we don't want reservations anymore, we don't want to pay for people on the reservations. Come to the cities.' And we see that very much in the cities here. We see that in Denver, we see that in Los Angeles, across the country, and so that's also dispersing the population off the reservation.

Something else: Indian gaming. And so this is the poster from the NIGA conference that just happened, this beautiful Sandia Resort and Casino, which creates wealth and questions about how it's going to be distributed, some similar questions to those we saw with allotment.

Other factors: so something important in this area and also in the Northwest, treaty fishing disputes in which tribes are given the power to regulate fishing within their treaty-protected areas. And there's a question, who gets that power to fish, to be considered a member of the tribe and to fish under the treaty? And the tribes are deciding that. So if they limit who can be a member of the tribe, then there can be their relatives that can't participate in that treaty fishing or hunting.

Another factor, these federal laws that create distinctions between tribal power over Indians and non-Indians, members and non-members. So we know '78, Supreme Court says tribes have no criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. Does this apply...deny them criminal jurisdiction over non-member Indians? The Supreme Court originally said 'no' in 1990, Congress immediately turned around and said yes, but still there's some constitutional questions about that. More important, limits on civil jurisdiction over non-members, and it's not fully resolved, but I think the pretty good argument that tribal jurisdiction is very significantly limited over non-member Indians as well as non-Indians. So somebody is not a member, you may not have jurisdiction over them.

Another factor: Indian Child Welfare Act. Now there's something else in 1978 and Sarah [Deer] talked about the importance of having custody over your children. If somebody is not either a member or the child of the member eligible to be a member, they can't...you can't exercise that jurisdiction under the Indian Child Welfare Act. So that's something pushing towards a broader definition of who is in and who is out. Huge factor that may push in different ways, publish challenges to the idea of Indianness. If somebody who doesn't anything looks at you and says, "˜Do you look Indian to me or not?' what is the impact of that and we just saw that in a really painful way in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl in which this man...this child Veronica was taken away from her father, Dusten Brown, because they found that they were not entitled to the protections of the Indian Child Welfare Act under this particular set of circumstances were quite complicated under this statute. And I think it's probably a stupid reading of a statute, but the thing that really tried to...that really influenced the court was this idea that she wasn't Indian enough, that they said, "˜This case is about a little girl who's classified as an Indian because she is 1.2 percent, 3/256th Cherokee.' That's not why she was classified as an Indian. She was classified as an Indian because Cherokee Nation says, "˜Anybody that's a descendent of historical members of our tribe, she is eligible for enrollment in the Cherokee Nation.' That meant that he was...he actually was enrolled in the Cherokee Nation, she was eligible for enrollment.' In fact, the determination of blood quantum has to do with those historical federal rolls, it was probably totally inaccurate, but there's that kind of factor of defining what does it mean? Are the people you define to be a tribe... what are outsiders going to say? And so this all creates these kind of push and pull factors that affect these really hard questions that you guys are dealing with today.

So this is just a picture of violence that occurred as part of the political dispute that arose from the disenrollments of members of the Chukchansi Tribe in California where not only has it really, really messed up their government, they've also disenrolled one of the last Native speakers as a result of this determination of blood lines and stuff. So tremendous impacts of this stuff for your governments, for your people, for your children. So this is again hard work that you're doing and thank you for doing it."

Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)

Native Nations Institute

NNI "Tribal Constitutions" seminar presenters, panelists and participants Robert Breaker, Julia Coates, Frank Ettawageshik, Miriam Jorgensen, Gwen Phillips, Ian Record, Melissa L. Tatum and Joan Timeche field questions from the audience about separations of powers, citizenship, blood quantum and other critical constitutional issues.

Resource Type

Breaker, Robert. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.

Coates, Julia. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.

Ettawageshik, Frank. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.

Jorgensen, Miriam. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.

Phillips, Gwen. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.

Tatum, Melissa L. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.

Timeche, Joan. "Constitutional Reform: A Wrap-Up Discussion (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 2, 2012. Presentation.

Ian Record (moderator): "If we can have our panelists from the last couple days and speakers come up to the front. We have Julia [Coates], Frank Ettawageshik, Miriam [Jorgensen], Joan [Timeche]. We're also going to ask two other participants here to join us who have a great deal of expertise in the area of tribal governance and constitutions and constitutional reform. We have with us Melissa Tatum. Melissa is the new director -- she's actually been with the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the Law School here at the University of Arizona for three or four years -- but recently was promoted from Associate Director to Director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program, and she's got a great deal of expertise in this area, works with a lot of different tribes on these sorts of issues. For several years, [she] served on the Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals, and so she has a lot of experience in the area of dispute resolution and why that is so critical to effective governance. Bob [Breaker] is a long time friend of the Native Nations Institute and is a former First Nations leader, or, I would argue, still a First Nations leader. He consults with a number of First Nations up in Canada on these sorts of issues. Gwen [Phillips] has now joined us, so we've got a full panel here, and you guys can just swing the microphones depending on who the question is being addressed to. We're just going to open it up for questions now. We've got some expertise here in the room, that if you guys have any other questions based upon what you heard from each other. I feel like after listening to your feedback in this last session, some of you ought to be up here as well talking about some of these issues. Anyone have any opening questions, or are you going to leave it to me to pepper these folks?"

Gwen Phillips: "Let me start with a comment actually. I was mentioning to Ian just during the break there that I've really, really tried hard and I try hard to follow appreciative inquiry. So when someone says to me, ‘How are you?' I used to say, ‘Not bad.' And then I thought, ‘What am I doing trying to be bad? I'm not bad.' So I try to say ‘pretty good,' keep to the positive. Now I was challenged because, maybe it's because I come from Canada where we had King George and his gentlemanly ways and it was a different situation down here with the Indian wars, etc., and maybe it's because the Canadian national anthem speaks about our home...and down here it's bombs and things, I don't know. But I'll tell you what I noticed. We've been grappling with concepts that are foreign in my culture. We've been talking about separation of powers, not about separation of responsibility or function, and that, people, creates a whole different paradigm in your mind. Power. Who doesn't want power? Well, I don't, because I know what it really means. It means responsibility. Then you have to actually have the ability to respond. I want us to start thinking about unpacking some of those varied terms, because we hear this concept of cultural fit, and when I asked about the concept of power with our cultural elders they said, ‘That's spirit. Power is spirit.' We've heard pipe and politics don't mix. So I'm suggesting, let's put politics aside and bring governance, because the pipe does fit with governance, it fits with ceremony, and when we bring our culture and customs back and we start talking about function and responsibility, it's a whole different conversation we perhaps can have, and maybe that goes back to the where do we start. So it was a really challenging time for me as I kept hearing about separation of power, separation of power, because I tell you, you give people power, they assume that role, so it might be just a thing for us to think about the words we use and how we bring them to life in our communities."

Record: "Gwen's comment calls to mind Governor Rich Luarkie from Laguna Pueblo, who we've been inviting to events like this to share how they govern. They have a very traditional governance system, much like Cochiti Pueblo, and Regis Pecos shared with you a lot about how they govern yesterday. And he said, ‘You know, when I was chosen to be governor, I wasn't given power, I was given great responsibility.' And I think this echoes what Gwen is saying is that when you think about how do we make sure that our governance system and our constitution reflects who we are as a people, reflects, protects and advances our culture, you've got to reconceive everything, because the federal government has spent the last 100, 150 years redesigning that paradigm for you. And it boils down to terms, it boils down to words, and you've got to start at the very, very basic foundations and kind of with a clean slate and not presume that everyone understands what separations of powers means. I've worked with a number of tribes where every campaign season that word, that term gets thrown around left and right, left and right, and I can tell that a lot of people that are throwing it around as they run for office, they have no idea what they're talking about. They have no idea what separations of power means. Usually, for them it means we're going to try to separate the current elective leadership from their power and then I'm going to have the power. We have a question over here in the back, I believe."

Frank Ettawageshik: "I wanted to expand just briefly on what I just heard, and that is what was shared with us earlier about the pipe and politics, and I like the way you put that. The pipe and governance do fit, and I think that's the, that's something that we really have to be aware of, because there are a lot of people who say we have to choose to be traditional or be involved in tribal governance, one or the other. Well, the thing is, our traditional governance was traditional, it was the spiritual part, all of that was involved in it. And so to me it's an important thing for us to think about, that perhaps the way that we perceive politics today certainly...I think back on a cartoon I used to have on my wall. It was one of those Ashley Brilliant cartoons. It had this...it was this cabin at the side of this big valley and there was a porch on it and there were two rocking chairs on it. And the sun was setting over the hills in the distance and these two older men were sitting in the rockers rocking back and forth. One leans over to the other and says, ‘You know, anybody who will do what it takes to get elected, is clearly unfit for office.' Well, to me I think that that sort of builds on what you were saying, and I really wanted to build on that because what we're really talking about, what I've gotten out of this conference has been the idea that it's not only a good idea, but it's essential that we tie what we do in our reforms of our governments, that we tie that to our traditions, and in some cases it's tie it to a thriving tradition. In some cases, we have traditions that are evolving or traditions that are being resurrected or strengthened again. But we have to keep that as the foremost reason behind us, because it really is what our identity is, it's where we come from, it's who we are, and that is essential to our inherent sovereignty. So I always feel that those are important things to think of and I wanted to expand on that briefly while I had that thought in my head. Thank you."

Melissa Tatum: "And could I expand on that a little bit further, because one of the things that I feel very strongly about is that tribes need to consciously claim the language of sovereignty when they're reforming their government, and that means using separation of powers if it's appropriate, if it's a cultural fit, adopting some other means of allocating responsibility and government functions depending on the tribe. But it also means being conscious of how certain words and phrases are viewed by other governments. For example, the three that I often use as examples are in the United States, tribes talk about membership and who's a member of a tribe. But private clubs have memberships, country clubs have memberships, governments have citizens. So we should be talking about citizenship and who are citizens of the government. One of the things that's used a lot -- I work a lot with tribal courts -- there's a movement to develop tribal common law, or it's sometimes called ‘custom and tradition' and then when lawyers, Anglo-American lawyers, hear this phrase ‘custom and tradition,' they're like, ‘Oh, how quaint. Custom and tradition.' But yet if you look at the definition of Anglo-American common law, it's the norms of society. That's what custom and tradition is. So simply instead of talking about custom and tradition, talking about common law triggers a different response in outsiders, even though it's the same thing internally. But the other example I use, since I work a lot in the tribal courts and the criminal justice system, is in the United States there's been some discussion in recent years about ‘banishment' and about tribes using banishment. But every government on this planet has a method of removing people who misbehave from their society. It's just usually called ‘deportation.' And so we need to be conscious of the words we use and the labels we put on things, because words do have power and do have meaning and we need to be conscious not only of internal fit, but how those words are received by the outside world, too."

Record: "We have a question in the back here."

Q: "I just asked Frank a question out in the hallway, and I'll sort of repeat it here for everyone and maybe get other perspectives as well. I was asking a little bit about the process of implementation, so that if perchance at White Earth or other nations are faced with the fact where we pass a constitution by referendum vote, then how are the different ways that implementation of that constitution might happen so that we can do that in the best way possible with hopefully the least amount of upheaval?"

Ettawageshik: "One of the things that we did is that we put a clause in our constitution that said that after it was adopted through election, it wouldn't go into effect until the officers that were going to run that government were elected and were sworn in and that that's the point when it would go into effect. It's really important to provide for that transition. Otherwise, you can end up with a real mess of who is responsible, who has...what duties do they have, and it can really be a mess. And so I really recommend that in any time that you're doing, to do amendments -- particularly ones that have a fundamental change in the structure of the government -- that you need to be sure to have something like that in there. The other one we put in was a clause that acknowledged all prior actions of the government. Basically it said that all prior actions of the government will remain in full force to the extent that they are compatible with the new constitution. So that leaves it open to interpretation. Someone can say it is, someone can say it isn't. What I said, what that does is it gives the court something to do for several years as you go through that process. But those are two things. From an implementation point of view, we went, it was important to us to... we'd been holding internal discussions, but it was important -- you know how they say an expert is somebody who's at least 500 miles away from home -- well, we had to hire somebody from at least 500 miles away to come to talk to us about this. But what we did is we brought them in and we gave them a copy of the constitution, we had them read it -- it was a couple of people that did this -- and we had them read it and we said, ‘We don't want you to tell us what's wrong with this. What you're here to do is to tell us how we implement this.' In other words, ‘How do we appropriate money under this, what kind of actions, describe the kind of actions that we're going to do,' so that we hear from someone else, and we had all of the council, the existing judges, we had the key staff, the tribal attorneys, everybody was in the room for this session that we went through where we had a period of time. And in our case, we did a full-day session on Saturday and on Sunday we swore in the new officers and had the constitution there. But for several weeks prior to that, we had taken, at council meetings we had passed certain things that would need to be in place that could exist under the old constitution and the new but would have to be in place. So we had a period of transition and it took several months to do that. So I would think that you need to anticipate that, you need to sort of think that process through and give some time, so that you don't just switch overnight from one to the other. Those would be what I would say, I'm not sure what other people may have to say on that."

Phillips: "Depending upon what constitutional reform you're doing, you may actually be able to do an incremental implementation, and for us that's been key, because we're talking about a whole big nation-rebuilding process, two years to get a vision adopted, two years to declare what our values are, etc. So what we've been doing is as we've confirmed something, we turn it into a regulation of some sort. It becomes a code, it becomes a policy, it becomes something, and then as it becomes complete, it's accepted, it becomes the norm. Then it's a lot easier to migrate those things that people can accept already into the master document. So if you look at an overall reform process that's going to take you ten years, pick the pieces you really need to have in place so that you can get comfort to move through those processes further and try to get some support for those incremental pieces and then migrate them to the master document later on."

Record: "Gwen brings up a really good point -- and Miriam, maybe you can speak to this, and I think she's getting ready to -- but I've seen some examples where tribes have staggered implementation of certain reforms, where in a referendum vote by the people they'll pass a certain number of reforms but those reforms don't all take place at the same time. There's a gradual acclimation process, which I think is very purposeful, where they want to do certain changes first and have those take effect first so people can begin to acclimate to the new way that things are going to be done."

Jorgensen: "I wanted to reflect on two different nations that we've seen kind of go through this sort of wave process. When you first do, implement a set of reforms, you're kind of going high and then you may slip back a little bit and you keep pushing forward. So anticipate that rush forward, pull back, rush forward, pull back thing. That's just the way implementation takes place, and know that that's going to occur. But I did want to talk about two nations, Osage Nation and Northern Cheyenne Tribe, which have had some mixed success but also have managed to do some reforms. Northern Cheyenne was done in the 1990s. They attempted a separation of responsibility, which for them they actually called their separation of powers ordinance, so that was a place where that term had meaning to them in a different way than power this way. They had a constitutional change and then they backed up that change with an ordinance in the way that Gwen has been talking about, to sort of clarify it and regularize sort of the agreement that was the constitutional-level agreement. And then they really tried to live that and they consciously lived it and here's what I mean. That when you would go there -- and I was doing some research at the time in the criminal justice area -- so I was spending a lot of time talking to the court and a lot of time talking to the legislature and a lot of time talking to the president and they would say, ‘Well, I can comment on that, but we don't make those decisions, because we have a separations of powers, here it is in the ordinance, here it is in our constitution.' They were very consciously engaging with those documents and publicly stating how they lived it. And so you talked to the folks on the court side and they said, ‘Well, I can speak to that and give you my opinion, but we do not do that. We have a separations of power and that's the job of the legislature.' So they were kind of embracing that. I think what's really interesting is that if you read -- and I'm not sort of saying this from a sort of Western hierarchical viewpoint but from rather looking at another tribe changing its constitution -- when you look at the early founding of the United States, a lot of the folks that we call our founding mothers and fathers had this notion as well for the Americans, that they said, ‘We're going to try to really live what we wrote down in those documents.' And they created in their writing and their public declarations that reference back to documents of change. So that was one of the things that Jefferson and Madison and folks like that were trying to do for the tribe of Americans who had just won their independence from the British.

And the third example I want to give is the Osage Nation. Two things that I think were interesting for implementation. First off, every time the new Congress of the Osage Nation under their new constitution passed a law, that the executive branch and the president's office, or I guess the chief's office, had to implement and the chief actually had to sign off on the laws -- that was part of their constitutional procedure. And sometimes he felt those laws were unconstitutional and he actually had to specify in a long note back to Congress why it had to go back to Congress to be fixed. And he had to refer in that memo, or his staff did, whoever wrote it for him, saying, ‘This is why I am not signing it,' and it had to refer to the constitution, the use of the constitution and why it was true. So again, that's that living the document. When I was watching, we took a class field trip down for a course that I teach down to Osage Nation and watched their Congress in action and the congress had actually hired a clerk to assist the speaker of the Congress in implementing the constitution, to say, ‘Okay, can we do this now? Is this what we do next?' I liked that because it didn't say, ‘Suddenly we passed a new constitution and every single member of our legislature or our council is suddenly an expert in the constitution.' Their clerk was their expert in the constitution, and that clerk made it their job to know exactly what to do, and if they didn't they were going to refer to advisors who would help them interpret their constitution. So it helped the Congress implement in a way that didn't assume that they, ‘Oh, we've got a new document, now we just implement it.' So they were trying to adopt these ways to live through their new documents."

Record: "One other thing that we've seen a few tribes do is approach it with the mindset -- and we've heard allusions to it this morning -- of saying, ‘We don't have to do everything that we think we might need to change at once.' I worked with one tribe where they did a lot of the right things. They put together a constitution reform committee that was independent of the political leaders, that represented a cross section of everyone in the community. They had elders, young people, traditional people, folks with Christian backgrounds -- all that stuff. They left them alone to do their work, do their deliberations. They had come to an agreement on several really important changes, things like creating a strong and independent court system, which you've heard over the last couple days is absolutely critical. But they got derailed because of one thing, which was a requirement for all elected officials to speak the language of the tribe. And because of that one conflict, it derailed the whole process, and to date that tribe has not been able to ratify reform, to ratify change, when they had so many other changes, critical changes that would have made their governing system incredibly more effective, [they] were not able to do that because of this one conflict. Because there were people on that constitutional reform committee that contemplated a future in politics who didn't speak the language, were deeply committed to the Nation, but didn't speak the language and said, ‘I'm not going to sign off on something that's going to preclude me from ever running for elected office.' So that's something to think about. I realize it's a very difficult challenge to consider when you think of the urgency of reform in many Native communities."

Tatum: "Could I just add one more thing to that. A lot of the comments are things to anticipate. I think one thing that has to also be anticipated when you're drafting a constitution is that unanticipated things are going to happen. There are going to be crisis points, and a lot of times having a process, an agreed-upon process or an agreed-upon manner of either who's going to resolve it or how it's going to be resolved is critical to making sure progress can continue, even if it's in waves. We heard a little bit about this this morning with Cherokee Nation. There have been several crisis points in the Cherokee Nation, but yet there's always been some sort of process come through, that the Nation was able to agree on a process and that kind of process is really important. So be thinking about that as you're drafting the constitution as well."

Record: "I had a question to follow up on this citizenship discussion. Gwen and I were talking actually before we started this session about what are the role of citizens in this new government you're trying to create? And should you be explicitly addressing the roles and responsibilities of citizens, not just your elected leaders and the people who are in charge of the government, but your actual common citizens? What is their role in the future of the nation? And how do you articulate that? And I know, Frank, you and I have had long discussions about this, and I know that your nation went to great lengths, for instance, to reconceive, ‘What is the role of government in the life of the nation?' And also in so doing trying to reconceive for the citizens what is their role in the life of the nation."

Phillips: "So the investigation I was looking at giving some conclusion to is, are there any constitutions that begin with rather than ‘We the people,' that begin with ‘I the citizen'? And the reason I say that is because in the work we're doing in defining our vision statement -- strong healthy citizens and communities, that component of it -- we're getting a pretty clear picture of what a strong, healthy Ktunaxa person is. So once we know that, who's obligated? Is it the government's responsibility to shape the citizen, or is it the citizen's responsibility to shape the government? Well, I think it's the latter, that it's the citizen's responsibility. So as soon as we put...but we've also, as I say, concerned ourselves with having the ability to respond, not just saying it's your responsibility but do you have the opportunity, do you have the comprehension you need, do you have all the variables. So I was suggesting that as we have this picture we needed to describe our government as being, ‘I am the citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation, I have a responsibility to insure I do the best I can with my life to not burden my people with my legacy of ill health and all that other crap that we bring to the table at the end of it all, and expecting somebody to come out with a big box of band aids and fix me.' So as we're having this conversation at home, people are saying, ‘Yes we have, yes we have.' And we're putting in these various actions. Somebody said they got a lot of action going on to battle diabetes but again, that's government creating a program to take care of a condition rather than saying, ‘Hello, whose condition is this?' So, I'm just interested to see where this might go as far as, and I'm going to take it home with me for sure and see if we can't work it from that place, ‘cause I think it is really an empowering...I don't know how many of you have the ‘us and them' thing going on at home, where ‘us' is the people and ‘them' is the government and how we reform the government either in the community government or at the nation level, it becomes the ‘them' and the ‘them.' The ‘them' is them at the community level and then there's the ‘them' at the...it's weird. But there's never the ‘I' in any of that. It's always the ‘we' and the ‘them' and the ‘us,' so I'm thinking it might be time to put the I's back into place."

Ettawageshik: "The simplest way that I think about this is to say that the government isn't the tribe, the government serves the tribe. And so on any given day, most of the tribal members are cooking and eating and working and having birthday parties and getting married or getting divorced or doing this or doing that or doing something else, and they're all going through their lives doing things and they don't really say, ‘Gee, I wonder what the council's doing right now? I wonder what the executive assistant to the chairman's doing right now?' Very rarely those thoughts are there. And so what happens is we -- those of us who are in the government -- we get so involved, there's so much pressure, and we get so overloaded with all of the things that are going on, and then we see the importance, these long-term things we have to be working on, and there's all this stuff we can't get to that we want to because we're too busy doing the things that we have to do right then. And there's all this stuff going on, and it's really easy for us to just forget that we aren't everything that's going on and so you get this very sort of view with blinders almost sometimes, the leadership. Plus, then we also have all of the tribal citizens coming in insisting that we do a bunch of things that maybe we shouldn't do. Maybe when they come in and say, ‘We want you to do this,' we say, ‘Well, that isn't my role, this is what the constitution says I'm supposed to do.' But most people will say, ‘You know, I'll look into that. I'll look into that and get back to you.' And so then they run off on an investigation doing something that maybe they really shouldn't be doing or however, and what happens is that our citizens, their expectation of the government, we have to really work on making sure that that matches what our documents are, so there's an education in this. But we have to be real careful to not think of the government as the tribe, and remember that the tribe can generally get along without us a lot of the time. They need us every now and then and when they need us they really need us, they put us out front and we do what we're supposed to do, but the rest of the time, we just sort of have to stay out of their way and let them be who they are and let the tribe do what it's going to do. We're not responsible for educating every child. We're not responsible for growing all the food or buying all the food. We're not responsible for that. We're responsible for helping to create an environment in which our citizenry can do all those things for themselves and that's really what the thing...and that's where the I's start coming in, that the people have that, ‘cause they expect the government to do too much. And we can't pander to those thoughts. So when they come to us, we have to be really careful, and so a big part of what I considered in my job as a chairman was to talk people out of doing things that were sort of, probably not in their best interest."

Julia Coates: "I have so many thoughts about this conversation, because I'm coming here today, to this whole event, with a great deal of deep pain and deep grief for what has recently happened in my government, because we have had all of this, everything. To me, we've been moving so energetically with all of these thoughts for the past 12 years under leadership that has been reelected over three times and this message of the government, ‘I'm not supposed to do all of this for you, some of this you have to do for yourself.' There's been a backlash to some extent. There's been a very strong backlash, and there has been an individual who -- and pander is exactly the right word -- has pandered to that backlash greatly in the whole situation. And the government, the tribe could go on without the government, but in my tribe at least we've got very clear evidence of what happens when the government isn't there, because the government wasn't there for much of the 20th century and we were plowed into the ground by federal policy. And the government may not be primarily a social services agency, it needs to act as a government, but part of its role as a government is to stand between its citizens and those forces that are coming at them, that the citizens themselves are not equipped to hold off necessarily.

The process of education is one that I'm extremely interested in with everything that has happened. This is where all of my efforts are going to be going for the next few years, because in reflection when I think back about, ‘What was the mistake? What was one of the major mistakes of this government that was working? All of the books on development that you all have put out and everything, I teach those, I would read those and I'd say, ‘We're doing this, we're doing this, we're doing this.' It was textbook and it was working. I'll tell you, in eight months we have taken 20 years off of that progress, and it's sickening to me what is taking place right now, and I just think the educational process has got to be, it's got to be part of it. It's got to come from the people, but it's got to come from the government as well. I don't think it's one or the other. I think there's got to, at some point, be a place where they meet up and they begin to have this dialogue. And in reflection, that may have been one of the greatest things, is that while I sat in as part of the government on a lot of conversations about vision and all of these kinds of statements, apparently that didn't get communicated to the people, we didn't get communication from the people about it to the extent that we thought we had. I was out there teaching it, a number of other people were but, and I don't know if it's just a matter of we're so big that it just is going to take a long time to get out there but..."

Tatum: "Could you add just a word or two about your work as an at-large representative and how the Cherokee approaches that, ‘cause you'll be out here again on Saturday."

Coates: "The Cherokee Nation has under the previous administration -- the present administration is doing something different -- but we had an initiative where we were able to identify areas where we had concentrations of our tribal citizens, mostly urban areas in the west, and we undertook a process of actually organizing them, because when you've got 3,000 households of Cherokees in Los Angeles -- where there are 15 million people -- how do they ever find each other becomes the first question. So we actually, as a government initiative, we actually started putting them together and helping them to form what we called their satellite organizations and we have 22 of them now, one of which is in Tucson and we have one in Phoenix also. And we began a process of strong interaction between the government and the citizens, but under the present administration again this is all being sort of derailed into politics. They saw these -- the people that I represent tended to be very, very strongly supportive of the previous administration, so my interaction with them is seen as a threat. They're trying to cut me off basically from being able to interact with my constituents. They're trying to place people who are basically cheerleaders for this administration into positions of working with them even though those people are not qualified to be doing this particular kind of work. So it's an initiative -- which rather than seen as something to build and strengthen the nation -- is something that is presently being regarded as the at-large people and their organizations are kind of a political football, have become that and have been made that, unfortunately. Very, very rapidly all of these things are taking place, and I just think about how long it takes. I mean we're talking here about years and years and years of building constitutions, and how hard that work is, and how long it takes to do that, and just watching how quickly it can be taken apart is so dismaying on the other hand as well.

But I think the educational process...we have recently started -- myself and a couple of other people -- our present tribal government is actually prohibiting us from teaching a tribal history course right now, because it is perceived that its emphasis on sovereignty is undesirable. They think we should go back to emphasizing culture, and there's nothing wrong with that, but who teaches sovereignty? Teaching cultural and social things is actually the more typical thing we find that is done in teaching tribal history. To teach a history of legal sovereignty, who does that? It's been tremendously effective, and that's the threat, that's the great threat. So it's even things like this that are coming apart. So we've started an initiative that we're going to have to fund somewhere else, we're going to have to try and build this as a really grassroots thing, which is hard, but we're calling it Education in Sovereignty, or at least that's the little behind he colon name of the project and that's what it's for. And it's just basically developing a number of workshops to help people understand how the government functions. How do you read a budget? Why is it important that your government doesn't run your businesses? Because we're heading back in that direction very quickly. All of these kinds of things that the people just don't understand, and the message that, ‘We're going to give you this, we're going to serve you in this way, you're going to get this program, you're going to get that house, you're going to get this' -- it really played well with the people unfortunately, and that was not the message of the previous administration and to some extent they went down because it wasn't the message."

Timeche: "I'd just like to follow up on some of the comments that were made earlier about individual versus tribal responsibility, and I'm always reminded about, constantly about our own upbringing in our own communities -- a lot of what Regis Pecos shared with us yesterday morning about core values, remembering who we are, remembering our identity. I was fortunate in that I was able to be raised in Hopi values that we're to be self sustaining, contributing members, citizens of our society and that we as individuals, we have responsibilities. Yes, we have rights, but with those rights come responsibilities. And I think that sometimes we take those things for granted, they're not written, they're taught to us by our parents, our Elders, our grandparents and our societies that we may be part of. Those are all engrained in us and we don't necessarily see it on paper, and we forget that it's there because we're bombarded by everything coming at us from all sides, and just the world as it's changing, quickly changing every day. So I think that if you think about some of the message that Regis was sharing with us yesterday, it's going back and taking that time to find out and remember and reinforce or reiterate, ‘Who are we? What do we believe in? What are our core values and who bears that responsibility to do that?' Because nobody is going to do this for us except us. It's going to be me, it's going to be people individually in my family. Each one of us bears that responsibility, and so we may write them in our constitution -- that was one of the proposed revisions in the Hopi constitution, this latest version, is to include an extensive list of a Bill of Rights. But there was no mention whatsoever about what our responsibilities were as individual citizens. So I think that's something -- I would really like to see that being added to my constitution."

Robert Breaker: "I just wanted to...I came as a participant, so I come from the north just to get replenished in regards to nation building. I do a lot of work with [First] Nations in Canada, and one of the exercises I always facilitate for leadership is to consider where you came from, what your original story is, and really have them articulate the journey that they've traveled to the current, and most times it's the same, absolutely the same. And so today, we talk about our rights. There's two types of nations that I come across. One is proactive nations that have taken the tools of constitution to establish their rights as a nation including their citizens. Others are reactive nations that haven't established those critical tools that they have had from the past and reenacted them in the formation of their clans, their societies, etc. And at the same time they're losing language, and always the question is, ‘If there is no more speakers of the language, can we call ourselves an Indigenous nation?' That's the dialogue that's occurring.

But I also have gone, more so in my nation...I would almost consider it a miracle. We have a young man that lives a good life and he goes and he fasts and he was given gifts and one of the gifts is our language. So here's an individual that through family not using the language, he lost the language, and so now he has that gift to not only lead ceremony, heal people, but also speak the language and I just say, ‘Wow. There is hope in relation to affirm, I guess, who we are through those processes whatever they may be.' But also at the same time, citizen engagement. A lot of nations are challenged when they look inside and they see a lot of dysfunctions, so always the thinking is, ‘The only happy people are the people that are healthy, that can think healthy, that can make healthy decisions.' So the biggest challenge in regards to citizenship engagement is to find ways and means to get our people healthy again and that way we can insure the continuance of our nations into a good future.

And I always say I think those are the challenges, and so when I do work with these nations, I also understand we have comfort zones through these colonizations and I always say [that] somebody needs to develop not only treatment centers for people with addictions to alcohol, to drugs, etc., etc., we also need treatment centers to not to think the BIA, INAC [Indian and Northern Affairs Canada] is the only good thing in the world -- that type of scenario. I just think this particular session allows individuals like myself to think beyond just what was given to us or forced onto us. We need to take back what was rightfully ours and continues in the future. So always the question is, ‘What legacy do I leave my children, my grandchildren?' And that's prayer -- to know who I am, be linked back into the societies, to know the songs, to know the ceremonies and all the things that are linked to who I am. And a part of that process is to ground myself, to really know who I am and what is it that I need to do in order to sustain my future of our nation. So it's a part of the citizenship engagement. So how do I -- I'm not elected leadership -- but in my own best way, I am a leader and I always have been, so how do instill that into the children, into the future generations to sustain who we are into the future? I just wanted to make that comment."

Phillips: "I wanted to pick up a little bit on just the comment around culture and sort of the course works in culture and social stuff on one side. That's all over the place. It's like we don't dare go and teach this stuff because it's this stuff, but we're safe teaching about these things over hear ‘cause it's kind of all out there. Well, guess what? We use this thing to do this because it's the same thing. We cannot talk about sovereignty without talking about our culture. In the work I do at home, in supporting our negotiations for treaty and developing our constitution and regulations, I had the challenge put to me by, and I'm smiling because this was to me like, ‘Oh, my god, really?' by the federal and provincial government. They wanted to make sure that our documents had a cultural fit and I said, ‘But we've been writing them ourselves from our people. I come from the community I...' But it was like, it was a boom for me, so I said, ‘Yeah, how do we know there's a cultural fit?' So I sat with the elders advisory and we went through all of these things and we came up with all of this list and it was good and it was directly, of course they were all there. But I just said to myself, ‘It's so clear that when they think of culture, they think about beads and feathers, and the rest of it all is whatever.' It's so critical to us that we don't let our kids think of culture as being the language only or making baskets, that we teach them the very essence of being [Ktunaxa language], of knowing where their root is and all of those things. That's governance, that's self-governance.

The other comment I wanted to make was the reason why it took us two years to approve a vision statement is because it's not the government's vision statement, it's the nation's vision statement. And the kids in the school drew pictures of what they saw it representing. It went all over to the elders, it got translated into the language and back again to make sure there was a cultural fit. Do we actually understand these concepts? And that was where we understood what strength was. When we said, ‘Define strength,' they said, ‘That's your spiritual power.' It wasn't about physical strength, it wasn't about all of these other things, it was that piece of it. And then healthy was those other things. Healthy was the body, healthy was the other things, but the string piece was the orchestration and the meaningfulness to bring those other things together. The values that we expressed are not the government's values, and believe me it's sometimes a choke for them to live up to those values, because one of them has been translated to a principle that says ‘ecological integrity takes precedence over economic gain.' Hmm. So what we are doing is developing -- outside of the constitution -- things like, we've got a strategic framework for the nation, which includes planning and evaluation cycles for all components from work plans all the way up to when do we evaluate the competencies of our governors, when do we look at structural issues, etc. because that's going to again inform us. Now we don't embed that in the constitution, because we don't know if it's going to work right, and that's why I'm thinking these ten years of amendments or ten amendments over ten years I'm going, ‘Oh, my god, our people would never have survived that. But they will adopt a set of values, they'll adopt that and they'll embrace that so we have to have the people, it has to be the people's,' ‘cause that's what again I'm saying about it's not the government, it's the people. So as of late, when we get these conversations about the us and them start to happen, it's a real reminder. We keep saying to people, ‘When you're a leader and they come at you like that you say, ‘I was a citizen before I took this chair and when I leave this chair I am still a citizen so what makes you think I'm different when I sit here.’ So we've got to try to remember that piece of it as well. You were, you are, you will be."

Q: "I have a question, but I want to make some comments first regarding the constitution that brought up. Our constitution, when we adopted it back in '86, the three branches, they were given four powers, the legislative, to make laws, executive to implement but also have the veto power, and the judicial to interpret the laws. All the rest that were put in there, and I agree, were just duties and responsibilities that we need to carry out, those aren't the powers. Those are duties and responsibilities. I agree on that portion.

Just a question. Yesterday, I heard regarding the enrollment. We have a problem regarding our own enrollment process. Yesterday, I heard about the blood quantum, putting in a degree of blood that may drive your tribe into extinction, but on the other hand, the way we have it set up on the Tohono O'odham Nation, it's based -- as far as to become a member -- it's based on your base roll, the descendants from your base roll. And there's another section that's based on residency. So when we look at those and looking at the trend, it seems to be heading in the same direction, going into extinction, because our blood degree is just getting lower and lower in both categories. So is there another way, is there another option that we can look at as far as without going extinct?"

Phillips: "We don't use blood quantum in Canada for the most part. However Indian Affairs tries to do it through a hidden mechanism in the Indian Act where they'll, ‘Your mother and your daddy and your...,' and pretty soon you're cut off, you're cut off through the status process. But as a nation in our treaty making, in our self-government expressions, and even prior to assertion of those things in a formal way, we've already said, ‘We don't care about status and we don't care about residency, that we as a nation will determine who are citizens.' And so we've created a number of categories, one of which is a descendancy through blood. But another one is adoption and there's another one that basically -- well, it's kind of a quasi adoption. An adoption would be sort of the formal place. But there's another one that's a recognition clause, and it's kind of in contention right now, because some of the elders, the real elders -- and I'll talk about the people that were there 100 years ago -- they'll tell us that, ‘Come, sit, let me talk to you.' After awhile -- and you were sharing these stories with us at the break -- pretty soon that person's a Ktunaxa. They think Ktunaxa, they act Ktunaxa, they speak Ktunaxa, therefore they are Ktunaxa. That's the old elders and then you get the ones that were sort of in the residential school place and subject to a lot of racism and subject to a lot of racial-program criteria and all of the above, and they get kind of, ‘Uh, no, you're white or you're this or you're that or the other.' We're coming back to that point of recognizing because of the loss of our language that it might be important for us to say, ‘Hey, you speak Ktunaxa, you want to speak Ktunaxa, you want to be a citizen?' That we might actually tie something to the language ability, because we need people to speak, and if people see a privilege of being associated with us and are willing to actually be a keeper of that language, some of us are going, ‘I don't care what color you are. If you will be an active keeper of the language, we will turn you into a Ktunaxa person.' So there's differences in opinion about what a Ktunaxa is, and as we describe strong, healthy Ktunaxa citizens, it doesn't say anything about blood. It's all about the way you behave, the things you do, the associations that you portray, etc. So there's some discussion underway right now because...and it's interesting, I was just saying to somebody, ‘Do you know what the Métis in Canada, what their symbol for their nation is?' The infinity symbol, because they have, it's all based on them just saying, ‘Oh, you're Métis, you're Métis, you're Métis.' But there's some governance interference in that right now because they're saying, ‘Oh, there's too many Métis.' Louis Riel, you can tell he was French, hey. He was an Indian, he had that French thing in there, he knew how to get a deal."

Ettawageshik: "I wanted to address that idea about citizenship. If you chose, you could become a naturalized citizen of most of the nation states in this world, and it would require renouncing other citizenships in some cases, some cases it doesn't, but you could go and you could study and you could learn and you could take a test so that you had the basics of what you needed to be a citizen. And somewhere along the line people started looking at us and thinking in terms of blood quantum, and they started to use it as a way of measuring us. And they sold it to us, they sold it to us so well that we think it's our own idea now. And we're living with it and we are, as I said yesterday and one of my favorite phrases these days is, why do we need an oppressor when we do his work so well? Well, this whole concept of tying citizenship to blood quantum is something that we're going to really have to think about in the future, because we have people who -- at home we refer to people that are -- we say ‘apples' -- they're red on the outside but white on the inside. In other words, they have, they look Indian, they maybe have an Indian name or Indian family name, but they haven't lived the culture, they don't know the language, they don't live on the reservation, and some of them don't even live anywhere near other Natives, and yet they still would meet the blood quantum requirement for being a citizen of our nation. Some people talk about when the blood quantum gets diluted we lose a lot. Well, it isn't just the blood quantum. When the knowledge of our culture and our language and the tie to our land gets diluted, have we not also lost just as much? And so somehow we have to be thinking about what it means to be a citizen and we need to think of, ‘If we were going to have a naturalized citizen of each of our tribal nations, what is it that we would require of that person to become a naturalized citizen?' Now, under all the regulations with the Bureau and all these other things, though we could never get any funding for this person, so we would have to think about what that meant, and there's all these other different issues that are out there. But we shouldn't be thinking about that as the criteria for what our citizens are, for what citizenship is, because that citizenship is really what's going to perpetuate us in the long run and we have to think about that. And we're nowhere near there, because I know across Indian Country the idea of, every tribe is doing this a little differently, and in many of the tribes there's a pecking order of who has the highest blood quantum and there's all this sort of social strata that develops in ways. But we've bought into that, and the question is, we should really seriously think about where this is going to go in the long run and how we approach this. So your question I think is a very thought-provoking one, and one that we have to address. Each of us are going to do it in a different way, but we really need to think about what is it that we need to be a citizen. And I look at it as sort of...the term ‘cultural literacy' from 20, 30 years ago, there were lots of books about this and everybody was all excited about it, but I've still been thinking about that because I read those books and I thought about ‘What does it take to be a culturally literate Odawa? And what does that mean? What things do you have to know in order to fulfill that role? What does it mean to be an informed citizen so that you can actually live up to your responsibilities not just demand your rights?' And I think that those are the kind of things that we have to do and I don't have answers. I just know that this is a question that in Indian Country and all across the Indigenous nations of the world all of us have to be thinking about this."

Coates: "When I address this subject -- and again I teach entire classes about this one topic of identity and sort of how it gets defined -- the three most prominent categories seem to be the political identity of citizenship and sovereignty, and I love it that people are shifting the language away from member to citizen, and that to me is the broadest sort of category. It's the one that is inclusive. The racial category -- which is what we're really talking about with blood quantum -- is probably the narrowest. And then you go to what I would call the ethnic or heritage or cultural category -- something along those lines -- which is broader than blood degree, but is still a more narrow category than simply that of citizen of a government. Because we also have to acknowledge that there are many citizens of governments that don't have that knowledge and maybe never will have that knowledge, but who are still willing to support those who do, to take action on behalf of those who want it and who will make an investment in those cultures, in those communities, in those nations nevertheless, even though they themselves may not hold out much hope for ever learning the language or being fluent in it and who may for whatever reasons not be able to acquire the degree of cultural knowledge. But we have to understand the racial one is the one that doesn't change. Everything else can change. There are potentials. As has been pointed out, you can relearn quite a great deal that you've never started out with. Culture doesn't flow in our bloods, it's something that we take on, and that investment, that understanding of nationality and of the people and of the communities is also something else that we can take on to greater and greater degrees and make those investments. So to me, those other categories, it's not about where people are in a fixed way, but it's about what people can become, and I think that that's what we have to, we have to open the doors for those possibilities, for those potentials, because if we don't, we're just going to have people drifting away into the generations. We're not going to be able to retain anybody with these very limited and fixed sorts of categories that we seem to be holding to."

Phillips: "...It's pretty much up to you when you determine when you want to start using the term ‘citizen' versus ‘member.' It's an internal concept, really. It's nobody telling you to do that. It's about you taking that on."

Q: "It's kind of like people using ‘Native American' versus ‘American Indian' versus all these other things that we've determined for ourselves and how we want to identify ourselves. So I think you have to be in a comfort zone when you express that so ‘citizen' for me is -- it's more standoffish for me. I don't identify with that because I identify that word with the United States government. That's just my feeling."

Phillips: "Yeah. And that, awhile ago probably would have been the feeling of some of our people, because they really looked at the membership with the Indian Act as being the only sacredness they had with relationship to who they were as an Indian. But as we've ‘Nike'd up,' people are saying, ‘No, no, we determine who we are. I am a citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation, and our government has just as much authority as...' So what I've done is I've created little hierarchical charts that show, ‘Guess what, we've got the Canadian government up here and guess what, right along it we've got the Ktunaxa government, ‘cause we have just as much authority as they do.' And then I show the provincial governments and here's all the subsidiary governments below them. So our own citizens get empowered to see that, ‘No, we can confer citizenship, because we have the same authority as that other government does.' Hierarchical. So it's an evolutionary process, but what it's allowed us to do, because that's where the government has defined us as being a member, as having status, as being eligible for programs and services, as being enumerated for certain things. We've said that doesn't cut the mustard as far as our traditions go. ‘You're Ktunaxa, you're not a second-generation cut off by the Indian Act, etc., you're still Ktunaxa.'

What we've done by asserting authority off tribal lands into the mainstream region is we have actually allowed ourselves and positioned ourselves to generate funds that are not tribal funds. We get mainstream dollars for providing services to mainstream people. We provide services through street operations for street people that the municipalities can't even touch because they just don't go there. They don't want those people in their health clinics, they don't want those people. But they always find us. Our child and family agency, we've got people saying that they're Aboriginal when we know darn well they're not, because they prefer our values and our services which are positioned upon appreciative inquiry, going in and helping the family get well, rather than going in and saying, ‘This is a bad family, we've got to take these kids away.' So we actually, I've said to the province of B.C., ‘Wait long enough, we'll take you over. We'll slowly get your citizens believing in our ways of doing and being.' And it's starting to happen. We've got training by our agencies going on around the province and I've actually had to say to our director in one of our agencies, ‘Okay, you step aside, I'm taking on the minister now,' because they've issued a directive to our agency, one of our agencies that says we have to switch to this provincial standard for programs and services and we're going, ‘No way, when we used your standards we didn't have any good outcomes. When we've developed our own standards, we do things our own way, we've proven that we can succeed in your domain through your quality control mechanisms, but more importantly we've got better outcomes for our people.' So I'm ready for that. I would love to make a full public statement in the Globe and Mail to say, ‘This is what's going on, people.' So we have to consciously think about what we're doing internally, and how that impacts what goes on around us, and that's where we get a lot of support from all of those other people that, heck, we've got Niedermeyer, the hockey guy. He's standing up for our glacier, for [Ktunaxa language], so it's like, yeah."

Tatum: "One thing that I'm very concerned [about] from my perspective as an Indian law scholar is when the word ‘member,' and ‘tribal member,' started being used frequently in the U.S. Supreme Court opinions, that's when the court started drastically reducing tribal authority over its own territory, and it's the only time the Supreme Court has really started consistently reducing the authority of a government over its territory, is by introducing this word ‘member' frequently into the dialogue, and so that's one of my concerns, too."

Q: "And the reason why I asked that question was because in our constitution and by-law right now, that's the word that's used is ‘tribal member.' So I wanted to get your input on that so we can wrap our minds around it and take it back and dialogue on it and decide what is best for us."

Ettawageshik: "I just wanted to say that in our constitution that was written over that ten-year period, adopted 2005, it uses the word ‘member,' too, but we just stopped using the word ‘member' and when we have a, when we define in a law, we say ‘member' equals ‘citizen,' and then we use the word ‘citizen' all the way through everything so that we've been, that's the way we've been incorporating it into our, into the way we do it, and we nearly have everybody saying ‘citizen.'"

Coates: "Our treaties from the 1800s all say ‘citizens' of the Cherokee Nation of Indians in them, and the rhetorical writings of Cherokees from the 1800s, they commonly used the term ‘citizen,' so I think it's something pretty longstanding with us."

Q: "I was just wondering if it would benefit all of us to be standardized, and I don't know if that would benefit all because having you help me understand that really helps me think on this end to what is best for all. Thank you."

Record: "Well, thank you everyone. We are running a bit behind schedule and we need to wrap up the day and the seminar and get everyone on their way. We'd like to thank all the panelists for their wisdom and insights.

Oglala Sioux Tribe to issue IDs at tournament


For the first time in its history the Oglala Sioux Tribe will bring its enrollment office to the public.

During this year’s Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City the tribe will have a booth set up to issue tribal IDs to enrolled members who may not have the opportunity to travel to Pine Ridge to get them...

Native Nations
Resource Type

Ecoffey, Brandon. "Oglala Sioux Tribe to issue IDs at tournament." Native Sun News. November 25, 2014. Article. (http://indianz.com/News/2014/015762.asp, accessed November 25, 2014)

Tribe looking to increase enrollment


Under the direction of the appointed members of the Tribal Enrollment Committee – Peridot District Representatives Lula T. Dillon and Aurelia Rogers, Gilson Wash District Representatives Geraldine Kitcheyan and Henrietta Henry, Seven Mile Wash District Representatives Marthalene Polk and Lois R. Sprengler, and Bylas District Representative Elliot Talgo Sr., along with the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council, the San Carlos Apache tribal government is looking to increase its present enrollment of 15,393 tribal members.

“We wanted to work on increasing our tribal enrollment numbers because we found out that some children are not enrolled, especially at the beginning of the school year,” said Richard Hoffman, director of the Tribal Enrollment Department...

Native Nations
Resource Type

Rambler, Sandra. "Tribe looking to increase enrollment." Eastern Arizona Courier. August 14, 2014. Article. (http://www.eacourier.com/news/tribe-looking-to-increase-enrollment/artic..., accessed August 14, 2014)

Blood Quantum: A complicated system that determines tribal membership threatens the future of American Indians


Ryan Padraza Comes Last is a full-blooded Indian, Sioux and Cheyenne on his father's side and Assiniboine on his mother's. He will soon receive his Lakota name: "A Rope." (Comes Last raises rodeo horses and always has a rope in his right hand. He likes to call Ryan his "right-hand man.") But despite his traditional roots and his Native heritage, Ryan may be one of the last of the Comes Last line allowed to enroll as a member of the Fort Peck Tribe.

According to the tribal Constitution, enrolled members must be at least one-quarter Assiniboine or Sioux, or a combination of the two. (Fort Peck is home to both groups, who share one government.) This method of measuring Native American ethnicity by percentage is known as the "blood quantum," and most Indian tribes use it to determine who can be admitted. A few use a different method, called "lineal descent," under which applicants need only prove they have an ancestor on the early tribal rolls. Before 1960, Fort Peck used lineal descent as well...

Resource Type

Appleton, Andrea. "Blood Quantum: A complicated system that determines tribal membership threatens the future of American Indians." High Country News. January 19, 2009. (http://www.hcn.org/issues/41.1/blood-quantum, accessed March 8, 2023)

Northern Ute Tribal Enrollment May Rise, Pending Election Could Lower Blood Quantum


A tribal nation with what could be North America’s strictest enrollment criteria may soon decide on more flexible rules that might, if adopted, increase the tribe’s current 3,000-plus membership.

A pending election could lower the 5/8 Ute Indian blood degree requirement for membership in the Ute Indian Tribe, Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Fort Duchesne, Utah [“Northern Utes”], which occupies some 1.3 million acres of trust land containing significant oil and gas deposits...

Native Nations
Resource Type

Berry, Carol. "Northern Ute Tribal Enrollment May Rise, Pending Election Could Lower Blood Quantum." Indian Country Today Media Network. April 09, 2013. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/northern-ute-tribal-enrollment-may-rise-pend..., accessed February 22, 2023)

Growth a Source of Pride - And Strain - At Some Northwest Tribes

Oregon Public Broadcasting

The membership rolls at some Northwest tribes are swelling much faster than growth in the general population. Some of that increase is due to a high birth rate among American Indians. Also, rising prosperity from casinos and other businesses is luring Native Americans back into the fold. However, fast growth has strained the fabric of some tribes, while others wish they had more...

Resource Type

Banse, Tom. "Growth a Source of Pride - And Strain - At Some Northwest Tribes." Oregon Public Broadcasting, February 8, 2012. (https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=146606951, accessed May 30, 2023)