Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (P.L. 638) 1975

Rae Nell Vaughn: Tribal Court Systems in the 21st Century: The Choctaw Tribal Court System

Producer
Indigenous Peoples' Law and Policy Program
Year

Former Chief Justice of the Mississippi Choctaw Supreme Court Rae Nell Vaughn provides a detailed overview of the growth and evolution of the Mississippi Choctaw's governance system and specifically its justice system, stressing the importance of Native nations providing a fair, effective, culturally relevant forum for enforcing tribal laws and resolving disputes.

Resource Type
Citation

Vaughn, Rae Nell. "Tribal Court Systems in the 21st Century: The Choctaw Tribal Court System." Indigenous Peoples' Law and Policy Program, College of Law, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 16, 2009. Presentation.

"Thank you for taking time out today to come and meet me and listen to what I have to share: my experiences and expertise in tribal court systems. Our topic will be the "˜Tribal Court Systems in the 21st Century' and my point of reference, of course, will be Mississippi Choctaw. How many of you have ever heard of Mississippi Choctaw, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians? A lot of people at home in Mississippi, when you say that, the first thing that they equate it to is gaming, casinos, Silver Star, Golden Moon, the bells and whistles of gaming, and they tend to forget there are people and there is a government, a society there. As Ryan [Seelau] said, I served as Chief Justice for the Supreme Court for the tribe. I worked with the judiciary for 11 years. I served for the tribe...I worked with the tribe for a total of 23 years in a wide variety of areas -- in health, education, in culture -- and so I'm kind of like the full-package deal. And so having the opportunity to serve the people as a judge was the most humbling invitation for me to have been offered and to have accepted and it was such a traumatic experience for me. I'm a tribal member. I'm a member of the tribe. I lived there for the majority of my life. I was a bit of an Air Force brat for just a short period of time, lived in Massachusetts. My father was stationed at Otis Air Force Base. Came back home to Mississippi and then we went off to Kansas for a bit and then came back and been there ever since. Where's the southern accent, you may ask? It's there, it'll creep out sometimes when I start really rolling along and you might hear a "˜y'all' after a while, so just be looking for it.

What I want to begin talking about is the history of the tribe. As you know, with all tribes across Indian Country, there were a lot of treaties and agreements that tribes went into. Well, our tribe went through such a process as well, and in 1832 we signed our final treaty. We signed. It wasn't like we wanted to sign, it was more or less, "˜You are signing. Here's the pen and here's the line. Sign on the dotted line,' of giving or seceding all our lands to the government. That was the final secession of our lands. However, we did have a number of people who refused to move, to remove and go on the Trail of Tears and we are the descendents of those tribal members who refused to go. Early in the 19th century, the tribe was hit with an influenza epidemic and our membership, our people got down to under 1,000 in the early 1900s. We had no support from the state. We were living in very terrible conditions, working as sharecroppers in the cotton fields, losing a lot of who we are or who our identity was, living in very poor conditions and again, with no help from the state or from anyone. Yet in 1945, applications were made to become federally recognized and we were successful. And in 1945 that happened, we became recognized as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. However, in my language the name of our people is 'Chahta,' and that is the name of Choctaw and of course, with the non-Indians translating it to 'Choctaw' is how that came to be.

And so with the establishment and recognition as a federally recognized tribe comes what? The development of a government, the establishment of a government, and one of the very first things you have to do in establishing a government is looking at your laws, your foundational laws. And what's that? That's the constitution. And of course, this is not to say that our own tribal structures were not good, but we were being forced to look at models or not to look at it, we were told to. Okay, let's just put it out there. We were told to do it, that's what it is. It is what it is. And so we adopted an IRA constitution and once that happened, then began the function of the government. Now this government is a two-[branch] government, an executive branch and a legislative branch. They went through a lot of challenges because of course, as you know, you've got the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] agent there assigned to you and he pretty much was trying to run the show, basically trying to tell the government what to do.

I don't know if you are, and you probably are...for those of you who are familiar with Mississippi Choctaw, Chief Phillip Martin, who has for the past 40 years led the tribe. And I had the opportunity to read his book because one of the things...and he is my role model, he has been my mentor; he's known me all my life. It took him forever to finally call me -- once I got married -- call me by my married name. It was always, 'Rae Nell Hockett,' 'Rae Nell Hockett.' I'm like, "˜Chief, I'm Rae Nell Vaughn now. I'm grown up.' It's not that snotty-nosed little kid runny down the dirt road. So anyway, I had the opportunity to talk with him, to read the book, and it gave me so much insight about who he was and how he came to be as a leader, and how important all the experience he had led him up to how he was going to lead. Of course he had the boarding school experience, he had the World War II experience having gone to Germany -- all these different experiences molded him into who he ultimately became to be. And so during this period of time, once the tribe began its structure of government and getting government rolling, Chief Martin then became involved in government. I promise you, this is not going to turn into a Chief Martin story, but he's so interwoven into the tribe I would be remiss not to talk about him. So of course, there's this constant butting of heads in regards to what the people want and what BIA wants or they don't want to give you. And so Chief Martin and the other members of the government began taking control, began pushing back, began looking at the things that they needed to do to help the people and to help the people prosper. Like I said, it was a very tough time.

Ryan and Ian [Record] and I were talking a couple of days ago, and in my memories I have flashes of what I remember. I'm 45 years old, so a lot of what has happened has happened during my lifetime and the things I remember, I do remember being in the cotton fields with my grandparents and family, I do remember lining up to go to the outhouse and that was the last time at night, if you didn't catch it then you were on your own, of living in a home with no heat, no running water. Now think about the time frame I'm talking about here: no transportation, no employment, nothing, very rural, very isolated area, very spread out. Communities were very far apart from one another. It was a very challenging time. A friend of mine said, "˜But you know what, Rae, you never really know how poor you are until someone tells you you're poor.' And I can remember during that period of time growing up and being around my grandparents and my great-grandparents. I had the good fortune of having my great grandmother still with me -- who is a renowned basket weaver and has her pieces out in the Smithsonian -- but having that family network, that family connection was so very, very important and you'll see how it's interwoven in what I'm talking about, the close knit-ness.

So his charge, Chief Martin's charge as a member of the community was to get the government up and going and they began doing that. They began making their way to [Washington] D.C., trying to get additional dollars, trying to get assistance. Now let me tell you, the BIA agent did not like this at all. He's like, "˜I'm the big dog here. I should be the one going up there. If anybody's going to go up there, that should be me.' And so there again was that butting of the heads, of people stepping up and taking leadership. Now you know as well as I do that there are ramifications. There could be ramifications for that, and also think about where we are -- rural Mississippi -- at a time where there's a lot of racial tensions and issues and problems going on. And here we are, this small group of Native Americans, the only group of Native Americans that are recognized in the State of Mississippi and yet we're just an afterthought for anyone. They began strengthening the government. The government then [was] able to receive federal dollars from a program called CAP, and what the acronym stands for fails me at the moment, but it was a very important stepping stone for the tribe to begin laying foundations for infrastructure in the sense of services to the people. I promise, we are going to talk about justice systems but I really want you to understand where we were to where we are now.

So, in the midst of that, people are getting enrolled with the tribe. No one's rushing to do that. So you had maybe by the "˜70s maybe a membership of 2,500 to 3,000 people enrolled. And of course our enrollments were skewed like everyone else. There are some people that are enrolled that are blonde-haired and blue-eyed, but knew the agent and got enrolled. So they're tribal members. We do have a group of people down on the Gulf Coast who are mixed but are questionable, but it is what it is. So as the government began to exercise governing, the population is growing. Then came the need of law enforcement, of services, and then ultimately of courts. In the early "˜70s, we had the establishment of the CFR courts, which fell under the regulations of the BIA. Now this was more of a misdemeanor court, is a misdemeanor court; it was handled by one tribal member judge and one clerk. That was it. One clerk, if you could get a clerk, if you could find a clerk. Temporary housing all over the place, just wherever you could find a spot and it could be shared facilities. They barely had actual physical buildings in the governmental area, but it's just wherever you could find a spot. And so that's how they operated court and that's how they enforced law enforcement. Now let's back up with law enforcement. You had only maybe two officers having to patrol large areas and I know that there are some tribes even today that continue to struggle with law enforcement issues. And so we had this structure set up in the early "˜70s and technically it worked, but it didn't work as well as it could. Of course we were reliant on funds from BIA, so we did the best we could do.

Then, under the leadership of Chief Martin, moving from a member of the council, which he was -- and I failed to state that -- then, ultimately becoming identified as the chairman. At that time, through the governmental process of the council, council members were elected in. Then the council itself voted amongst themselves, identifying who the chairman would be. So Phillip Martin then was voted in as the chairman. And so under his leadership, they began looking at industry once they laid down this foundation of infrastructure. It was a long road, a very long road. There were moments of prosperity early on in the mid...late "˜70s with the establishment of Chahta Enterprise. One of the very first companies that they developed was the construction company Chahta Development, which was the flagship, which was what brought revenue in, which is what supplemented the tribal government. And then as that company took off, they began going into other ventures. In the early "˜80s, we then went into the automotive industry. Under Chahta Enterprise, we did work with Ford, NavaStar -- and I'm talking about companies, I know Ford -- but they did a lot of wire harnessing-type assembly, blue collar work, but it was work. However, in the mid "˜80s, as some of you may know from history, we had issues, we had problems with the economy; even then the automotive industry was up and down. And so the tribe was riding on this wave of prosperity and then the wave would dip, but money was coming in. And so then, as more money began coming in for the tribe, and also you have the [Indian] Self-Determination Act, which also kicked in as well and kicked in additional resources, the tribe then took on managing its own services, managing itself under Public Law 638. One of the very first areas that we were able to manage were the courts, law enforcement, and detention. Now mind you, it was a phased-in process because ultimately you have to find personnel, space, operations, and management. And it was during this period of time that we had a lot of exterior things going on that the tribe was dealing with, for example, in regards to the court. In regards to the court, you had the [Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v.] Holyfield case, which I'm sure some of you may be familiar with. This is the adoption case of the tribal, two small tribal children who were adopted off reservation, and this case was the test for ICWA [Indian Child Welfare Act]. And then came 1994, when the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians opened its doors to gaming: Silver Star. Just to give you a sense of how successful it was at the beginning, we paid out our loan in six months, of the money that we borrowed to build this facility -- six months. And let me tell you what I heard Chief Martin had said: "˜Well, you know what, if this doesn't work...,' because really we were looking at, "˜Well, is this going to be a bingo hall? What is this going to be? Is this really going to go?' He said, "˜You know what, if it doesn't take off, we'll turn it into a manufacturing plant.' Well, it didn't happen. Silver Star expanded maybe three or four more times after that and they thought, "˜Well, why do we need to expand? Why don't we built another piece of property across the street?' And in early 2000 I think it was, we then opened the doors to the Golden Moon.

And so in the midst of all of this, you had not only your population increasing of your tribal membership, but you also had an influx of people, non-Indians coming through the reservation, vendors, customers. You had a major highway that ran right through the tribal lands, Highway 16. And so in 1997, the tribe then reorganized again and restructured the tribal court system. And I'll get to the specifics of that a little further into the slide, but one of the other things that happened in 1997 was an accord that was signed between the State of Mississippi and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. And this is very historical and it's very important because this accord recognized each party as a sovereign to say, "˜I recognize you, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. You are a sovereign government and we need to work in partnership.' Some might say, "˜Well, this is just the olive branch, this is just the PR,' but it's significant because once this accord was signed, it opened doors, it began opening doors, doors that we weren't able to open. And I've always said, when we've had positive impact, positive experiences, when the tribe has had the opportunity to see progress, it's always been about who the players are and the timing. And it's key; it's key. And so this was an accord that was signed between the late Gov. Kirk Fordice and of course, Chief Phillip Martin. And it was, it was very historical and we have several historical moments throughout the history of our tribe.

I talked about the organization and structure of the previous court, and I think it's important because one thing that you will learn as practitioners is the importance of support of your court and the makeup of your court. The CFR court structure, as I said, was one tribal judge and one clerk, and then of course in the "˜80s and mid "˜90s, you had a tribal court judge, a member, a tribal member who served on the bench. And then you had a special judge who came in to deal with more of the complex cases that would come before the court and he was a law-trained individual -- I know him -- Judge Vernon Cotton, who's now on the circuit court with the state. Two clerks, a probation officer, and then you had tribal member associate judges who kind of came and went. We never really had a lot of consistency and we'll talk more about that as we go on.

This is the current overall organization of the tribal court system and you'll find that in your handouts. As I shared with you earlier, tribal Choctaw government is set up as two branches and the tribal court is a statutory court, which falls under the umbrella of the Judicial Affairs Committee, which is the oversight committee. They do not participate in the day-to-day operations of the system. We work with them in regards to issues such as budget and code development. They also are the ones who, when there are issues of violations of canons of ethics, things of that sort, they are somewhat of an ad hoc committee on discipline as well. You have the chief justice, who is also the principal judicial officer for the system and is the administrative liaison between the two branches. One of the distinctions of this court or the uniqueness is that we have the ability to create individual divisions of court. So you had a criminal court, you had a civil court, you have your youth and family court and you had -- which we'd never had before -- our traditional form of court, which is the peacemaker court, Ittikana Ikbi. "˜To make new again' is what that translates into. Prior to the Supreme Court, establishment of the Supreme Court, you had what was called the 'Court of Appeals,' which was made up of course of the judges who did not preside over that court, so you had a three-panel court of appeals. But because of the increase of cases that were coming to the court, there was a need to have and develop a separate tier. And so, as Ryan said, that court was established in early 2000.

The Supreme Court consists of course of the chief justice, two associates justices. During my tenure, I had the great fortune of having sitting with me on the bench Frank Pommersheim, Professor Pommersheim as most of you know, and also Carey Vicenti. You don't know the wealth of information those two men bring to the bench: the analysis, the logic, everything. I was just very fortunate to have had the experience of working with those two gentlemen and think very highly of them as well. We also had a pro tem justice who is a tribal member; her name is Judge Roseanna Thompson. She's a linguist, graduated from Penn State and wore two hats: she ran her language program, but she also worked with us in the court. A wealth of experience and knowledge as well; love her to death. Aside from the judiciary, the bench itself, you have the administration of court. Once, of course, you issue a ruling, what happens with all of that and who are all the players that are involved? And this was an expansion of the system itself because we saw more of a need, that the court needed to be more involved and it needed to be more defined and more developed.

And so we established a Department of Court Services and within that service we have a director, school attendance officer, adult and juvenile probation officer, diversion coordinator. The diversion coordinator's responsibility was the development of teen court, which some of you may or may not be familiar with. That's more of a sentencing court for juvenile delinquents. Once they went through formal court and were adjudicated as a delinquent, if the judge felt like the offense wasn't as severe and this young person might be just right at the line of either he's going to go down that road or maybe we can correct it and get him back on the right path. We sent him to teen court. Our very first experience with teen court was amazing. Of course, as you know, with teen court it's made up of their peers, young people who are sitting in different capacities as prosecution, as defense, sitting as a juror, sitting as a bailiff. The only adult in that courtroom was the judge, which could be a member of the community, which could be one of the practitioners of the bar or one of the other judges. I've sat several times in teen court. And so we had our first case and it was a breaking-and-entering case. And it's just like what you may have heard time and time again. They were ready to give this guy a big sign saying that he was guilty of his offense. They wanted to put him out on the road and let everyone see what he was guilty of. They wanted to give him beaucoups of community service hours. And so we had to kind of reel them back in just a little bit, but we had told them and talked with them about how important it is for the juvenile delinquent to understand the offenses that they're committing. That it's not so much against you as a community member, but it's against the tribe, and in essence it's against yourself. And so you have to make this right with the tribe. It's been a very successful program. And that's one of the things with this system that we're looking at is looking at other alternatives to provide justice for our communities in Indian Country.

We also have a youth court counselor who works with juvenile delinquents once they get into the system. We had a receptionist, administrative assistant, custodian, of course, your clerks; we had seven clerks and a file clerk and they are the heartbeat of your system. They are the ones who make the system run. Yeah, the judge can sit up there and drop the hammer, the attorneys come, they argue and there we go, but it's those clerks who make the system run and who cannot allow the system to run. So as practitioners, I strongly suggest you get to know your clerks. You just wait, for those of you who probably are already out there practicing, you know what I'm talking about because you piss a clerk off and you're not getting anything timely, if at all. I assure you. I have seen it. I have received complaints on clerks. So I know. And then again, and I'm not going to belabor the point, but this is the overall structure of the tribe and the court falls here as an independent agency with the tribe. However, yet it continues to be under the executive branch and I want to talk a little bit about that as well.

'Independent agency' -- words are sometimes more cosmetic. A lot of courts in Indian Country are set up the way we are. They're statutory courts, and sometimes aren't given the respect that they should be given. Let me assure you: tribal court is not a program; it is not a social program. It is a form that is established to protect the people and enforce the law. But for whatever reason -- and there are many I'm sure -- there continues to be this tendency of a perception that these are just programs. "˜Tribal court is nothing more than a program like social services, like legal aid, it's just a program.' And until we can, as practitioners, begin changing that mindset...and we have to. We really have to. I'm not quite sure the audience I'm talking to, I know you all are students, the majority of you are and maybe end up working for your tribe or if not for another tribe or for a sovereign nation -- whether it be here or abroad -- but one of the things that, one of the messages I hope to get out and that I hope you take with you is that there needs to be respect for that institution, that it is not a program. And it gets lost in translation in the big scheme of things with tribal government. Tribal governments struggle. You have some governments that are running well, you have others that have a lot of strife going on, but having the ability to exercise your sovereignty by operating a court and providing law and order and justice is one of the very key elements for government. And you, as a practitioner, possibly as an attorney general for your tribe or as just general counsel, you need to keep that in mind, and also protecting your tribe, protecting that sovereign. And it is. It's a term that's used in many senses and much sense abused. We've had that discussion about pulling the sword of sovereignty and wanting to use both sides of it, using it all the time. And I've always told...like I tell my children, "˜You need to pick your battles. You can't fight every one of them. You'll never win the war.' Everybody's heard this but, of course, I'm not going to belabor this. You guys are law students, you know what this is all about, what sovereignty is. If we can go on to the next because I know my time is going here.

And it does, sovereignty begins at home. Again, talking about the exercise of it. And it is truly in a fragile state for Native people. Socially, we have a lot of issues that a lot of these tribes are dealing with and the majority of the time this ends up in the well of the court. That's where a lot of these things are handled. And again, stability and consistency of a good court system is key. You have a high dropout rate of students, high suicide, you have increase in violence -- and this is just speaking in generalities -- you have poor health conditions at times, high poverty rates. They're also factors that we must remedy. And that again goes back to that close knit-ness of the community, of how we can create a more healthy and stable community for all our communities in Indian Country.

Again, exercising the sovereignty and it does, it belongs to the people just like as American citizens it belongs to us. How do we exercise those rights? Vote. I used it. It worked. I'm happy. At the tribal level, tribal members delegate those powers to tribal councils through voting and with electing a chief, which in 1977 the tribe amended its tribal constitution to elect the chief. Chief Martin ran for the very first election of chief and guess what? He lost; he lost. That was during the [gerald] Ford administration, I remember because right after the Nixon administration Ford had a hard time getting things going again and so did this, the first chief, the first identified chief had a difficult time. And then after his four-year term was up, Chief Martin then ran and was successful and was elected the second chief of the tribe. The tribal council then delegated and established the tribal court, as we talked about earlier within the issue of the reorganizational slide that I showed you.

Principles of the expression of sovereignty: the fundamental expression is the formation of tribal government and the determination of tribal membership, which continues to be a pressing issue for all tribes. We've seen it in California of where people get disenrolled. We've seen it in various tribes, even within my own tribe. There have been informal discussions about dropping the blood quantum. Our constitution says a half or more and they'd like to see it drop down to a fourth. Will that happen? I don't know, but it is a strong discussion that's taking place right now. And membership is key. Membership: I have a really big issue with membership because membership, as defined by the federal government, is based on blood quantum. Well, if I'm a full-blooded Choctaw, my family relocated to Chicago, grew up there, never came back to the reservation, don't know the language, don't know the ceremonies, but I'm full blood based on what my papers tell me, aAnd then you have a child who is a quarter Choctaw, family lives on the reservation, family's very well known in the community, they participate with the tribe, they know the language, they speak the language, they're fluent, they're involved in ceremonies. So why is it that we look at a document that tells me that this person isn't qualified to be a Choctaw? What kind of weight does that have? As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't. It holds no weight, because it's who you are as a Choctaw person, who you are as a Navajo, who you are as Eastern Band of Cherokee. It's who you are. There are big conversations, like I said, concerning membership that [are] taking place and it's a hard call, it really is. It's a very hard call.

And then you have the legislative expressions, adopting tribal ordinances and laws, which they do. The tribe meets four times a year, holds their regular business meetings as well as special called meetings. Throughout my tenure with the court, we've developed new codes in regards to domestic violence, having a code that addresses that specifically, and even within that code there were issues concerning who we are as Choctaw people and having to look at these models that we were given and 'Choctaw-izing' it because some of the things that -- which you may or may not agree with --hindered or conflicted with culture. And that's not to say that I'm sitting here a proponent of domestic violence, that's not it, but it's trying to get this message out that when an offense is committed, for example, concerning firearms, because that was the issue at hand, as a tribal man you went out hunting. And so if I am found guilty of domestic violence, I can no longer have a firearm, which interfered with their hunting which is a part of the culture. And it was a really big issue, that code was tabled so many times because it went back and forth, but it finally was passed. They made amendments to it. Instead of not ever allowing them to have a firearm, they penalized them for five years. I, for one, did not agree with that and wanted to stick with what we had laid out at the beginning, but I knew it was a cultural question. And these are hard things, these are hard things and this is just an example of what councils have to deal with. That's just one part of it, that's not even the business aspects of it. And then of course you have your administrative portion of it where your tribal leadership has an administration, which basically deals with the day-to-day operations and execution of social programs and services. And then you have the judiciary, which is the tribal courts, the enforcements of unwritten law and written law.

Well, what is tribal law? For us, in our general provisions, we have our customary law, we also have the tribal code and then when the code is silent we go to federal and state law as well. And if I'm blocking anybody please tell me, I will move myself because I know I can be a big gray blip on the screen. We also have -- as I stated earlier -- a peacemaking code. And I'll tell you, it wasn't very well embraced at the beginning because at that time people...and people in general, in general society, they want their time in court. They want to be before that judge and they want to tell you why that person is guilty, but what does it really solve? Does it really solve the issue at hand? Because sometimes the issue that's brought before the court is just the very tip of the iceberg, you're not really getting the full story. When we began looking at the development of this division of court, we had the opportunity to go down to Navajo Nation and to visit with their peacemaking court and the communities knew this and we brought that information back. And so then we began operating the court. And there was a lot of comment, "˜Well, this is just Navajo court. You're trying to operate Navajo court.' But it wasn't because, as we know historically, living in a society, living in a community, you had rules, you had laws. It may not have been written, but there were laws and rules of your society that you knew. For tribes, it was oral; you knew it, it wasn't written down anywhere, they told you, they talked with you, you listened. And so we got this peacemaker division going.

You'd think we would have had the opportunity to have a case that was just minimal, just real basic. Nope, not the case. There's a family in one of our outlying communities, major issues, very dysfunctional family. The father was a very aggressive...he was a bully, he was a community bully and also an alcoholic, which doesn't mix well either. And he was stirring up issues and for people to tell you that they're afraid to be at their home, that they didn't feel safe in their community is hard to imagine, but you had people feeling like that. He was having issues with another family, the Hatfields and McCoys almost, and it was getting to that point. What ended up tipping this entire issue and bringing it to court was that these young boys from this particular family, the bully's family, went into the home of an elderly person, an elderly woman, hurt her, stole from her and vandalized her home. Well, let me tell you, the charges started flying. We had cases being filed, counter filed, it was just loading us up, and it got to a point where we had to sit down and talk with the community because we weren't going to be able to get down and resolve the root of the problem. And so it took some time -- it took six months. It took a long time to finally get a lot of the people in. There was about a total of 35 people were involved in this entire issue and I applauded the peacemaker. He was very diligent and he got...he made it happen. And I think one of the other things that helped him was that he was a minister. But it happened and they sat down and they talked.

As much as people said, "˜Well, this is Navajo court,' and it wasn't. And I respect Navajo court, don't get me wrong and I'm not putting Navajo court in a poor light or anything, but we Choctaw-ized this process and it was a process we already had, but it was a more structured process. We were able to bring in people who would also help facilitate this issue. Six months of going back and forth, of talking, letting people vent, and it does escape me at the moment, but whatever the issue was, it was minimal, it was so minimal, but it grew arms and legs and it took off. And I know how some people can be, they don't forget. They don't forget in the sense of they're angry and upset with you, but they can't remember what it was they were angry and upset about and because my grandma was, I am too. I don't know why she was, but I am too. And so it was getting down to those root issues. And that's how it was very therapeutic, very therapeutic for the community. Another side note to this though: the bully continued. So, unfortunately, we ended up excluding him from the tribe, but we had the support of the community and that's a hard thing to do. You certainly don't want to be excluded from your community, but if you're a detriment and creating an unsafe community, there are no alternatives and that is a part of our code as well, which makes our code unique as it does with other tribes as well.

Of course we have the written laws, constitution, our ordinances, codes, we have opinions and decisions that we have for our tribal courts and is available for review. And then of course the additional laws, written laws that we have are peacemaker resolution orders, which in this instance they do hold the strength and power of an order of court, of formal court, which is a very unique thing. Okay, if we can go on. I want us to have time to talk so you have the handout. These are pretty basic pieces of information that you're very well aware of and I'm not going to go over those things, but these are the types of cases that Choctaw court deals with: of course child adoptions, protection and custody issues, alcohol-related crimes and other social crimes, domestic violence, commercial cases. We have a very strong civil court, which deals with a lot of the cases because of the economic development that the tribe is involved in. One of the first things -- and as practitioners you need to know -- one of the first things that lender is going to ask the tribe is, "˜Well, if there's a dispute, where is it going to be heard? Where is it going to be heard?' And time and time again they say, "˜It will be heard in tribal court. It will be heard in Choctaw tribal court.' Now, if you don't have a stable and consistent court system, and let me tell you, you know as well as I do, our legal community is small. Information goes from one end of the coast to the other. Information goes faster now with internet. If you don't have a stable system, they're not going to do business with you. They just won't do it. We also have, of course, repossession, which falls under civil, you have youth court issues, traffic, and of course our peacemaker issues.

So what's on the horizon? What's on the horizon for courts and for governments? We must be aware of the upcoming policy changes. We know that there can be negative impacts on governments, specifically on courts. We struggle yearly as to the types of funding, well, what are we going to get? As a system, how much money will we get from the federal government? How is this particular act going to affect us? There was the issue of the Tribal Justice Act back in the "˜90s. Sure, you put an act together, but you didn't give us any money and it had a lot of good pieces in it, of strengthening tribal justice systems, but when you don't fund it, it's only as good as whatever the ink you used to sign the thing with. And as we know, federal policy has been characterized by dramatic shifts and you have these here. And of course the Self-Determination Act, which followed after termination. So I say all that to say this: it is critical that you're aware as practitioners of what's happening out there in the landscape because what affects one will ultimately affect us all. And so you must always look at any type of policy development with the backdrop of the tribe, of tribal sovereignty, of the federal trust responsibility, of the government-to-government relationships that have to occur, and that have to be cultivated and have to be perpetuated and continued. And that laws and policies have to be unique and specific for Native Americans. I say specifically for Choctaw because that's the tribe I'm representing.

So, in closing, we must continue this pursuit of self-determination. We have to encourage this with our governments, with our people, with the courts and the protection of our sovereignty not only within our courts, but also outside of our courts is very important. Again, building collaborative relationships within tribal, state and federal governments, through inter-government agreements such as the accord that I talked about and then here on the federal level with the ICWA.

A story I'd like to share with you. When I first came on the bench for the Supreme Court, I sat down with one of my mentors and I said, "˜I want to make a difference here. I want us to take this system to a level of respect because we, like everybody else, got beat up. "˜Kangaroo court! They don't know what they're doing! We need new people!' What is it that we can do?' And we had a really good brainstorming session in talking about the things that I wanted to do. Now, let me again remind you, I live in the State of Mississippi, and we've never had a strong and positive rapport with state government. One of the things I had wanted to do was to open a door and to have dialogue with our counterparts, which had never ever happened. And in early 2000, the chief justice of the Supreme Court for the State of Mississippi came down to Choctaw with his associate justice and we sat down not so much as judges, but as people and talked about a lot of issues. That one conversation sparked a lot of other activity. We began having these exchanges, having the opportunity to go and speak to the judges of the state, having their justices come down and talk to our bar and talk to our government. And it's those types of relationships that many tribes don't have the opportunity to develop for whatever reason.

Also, we worked very diligently with our U.S. District Attorney. Now as some of you may recognize, those are very difficult relationships to have and sometimes you may have a U.S. District Attorney who just doesn't give a crap, isn't going to work with you, who could care less. But we had the good fortune of having a U.S. District Attorney by the name of Jack Lacy who was phenomenal. He retired recently, but he left such a great legacy in the sense of working with this tribe and we were able to have many cases that may have been...that may not have ever been brought before the federal court happen and go through and it was because of his own diligence as well. But it was having that relationship, cultivating that relationship, and that is very important for those of you who may end up working with tribes. It's very key.

And then lastly but not leastly, learning from other tribes and sharing successes and challenges. As you can tell, I love to talk and I love sharing this story and I love sharing other stories, but we learn so much more from these exchanges that we have. And sometimes we're all on the same page, we all have the same passion for the people and for working for the people because these investments that we make, and it may sound like a cliché, is for our future generations to come and it's laying these strong foundations for them. But it's also cultivating this generation that's to come to lead us and they need to have the proper tools, they need to know that there is a strong government, they need to know that there is a strong form of court, they need to understand what it means to vote, what it means to stand up for what's right, and it's having that ability to share these types of things with other tribes, what their successes, what their challenges are and working together because what we fix or are able to do for one has far reaching effects for all of us across Indian Country and it's important. It's important.

So with that, I leave you with this. It's always been my philosophy, the tribal courts are guardians, we are the guardians, we are the gatekeepers, the protectors of the sovereignty, of our children, of our families, of our communities, of our tribe. The strength, respect that you give this system speaks volumes, it creates an atmosphere of trust for the people that it serves and also the respect of those from the outside as well. But more so, it's for the people to feel that when they walk through the door of that justice complex, they know that they have a fair forum that they're going to."

Honoring Nations: Carolyn Finster: Pine Hill Health Center

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Pine Hill Health Center Clinic Administrator Carolyn Finster shares the story of how the Navajo people of Ramah capitalized on Public Law 93-638 to take over the education of their children and then their health care through the Pine Hill Health Center, which among other things has introduced mammography screenings into the community in culturally appropriate ways. 

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Finster, Carolyn. "Pine Hill Health Center." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. September 18, 2009. Presentation.

"Good morning. First of all, let me thank you for inviting us to participate in this wonderful symposium; we are really learning a lot here. And we hope to share our story with you that you may take it home and want to talk to your health people too, to maybe start something similar. I will introduce myself. I am Carolyn Finster and I am the Clinic Administrator for the Pine Hill Health Center with the Ramah Navajo community. I'm also the Acting Division Director for Health and Human Services. And with me today is my colleague, Ms. Glennetta J. Kineo, who is our Women's Health Case Manager, and the point person for the story today.

The Ramah Navajo community consists of about 4,000 people, Navajo people, living on non-contiguous land some 75 miles south of the Navajo Nation in western New Mexico. It has a history of independence and self-determination. Back in the 1970s, the Ramah people lost access to the public schools in a neighboring town when the public school was closed for building violations. Since the school was not scheduled to reopen, the Ramah community felt that they certainly did not want to send their children off to boarding school; they'd already had that experience. A group of citizens sat around a kitchen table one evening, the kerosene lamp was burning late that night as they talked among themselves. What options did they have for education?

They decided to take matters in their own hands and run their own school. Further discussions amongst educators with the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] and the public schools brought no resolution. They formed a committee and decided to go to Congress for a special appropriation. The story continues as one of self-determination. One of the founding board members, it is said -- after a very long day of trudging from one office to the next office, to the senator, to a representative -- finally sat down in the senator's office, closed the door behind her, she sat in front of the door. The senator was at his desk. The committee of citizens were beside her. She spread her Navajo blanket in front of her and said, ‘We are not leaving until we have the money for our school.' Under Public Law 93-638, they were entitled to a school. That took the senator by surprise and before long Bertha Lorenzo had in her blanket a written promise for a congressional appropriation. Over $100,000 was given at that time for seed money for the school.

In 1976, the Ramah Navajo School Board was formed and established. The BIA finally came around and a contract was signed for the operation of a school, kindergarten through [grade] 12. After the school was designed, built and occupied -- of course the first year they lived in tents, the schools were in big army tents because the building hadn't been built yet, but the school was started -- the community realized that the children in the community needed to have their own health care nearby as well, because they were certainly being poorly serviced by the one-day-a-week clinic, 30 miles away from the school -- by the Indian Health Service at that time. Because the Ramah Navajo School Board had been given the responsibility of education, health and community services from the Navajo Nation Council through the Ramah Navajo chapter, the board soon contracted with Indian Health Service for most of the ambulatory medical services as well as the medical emergency services.

In 1978, the Pine Hill Health Center was established as the first health center to be contracted under 638 provisions controlled by Indian people. Humble beginnings were a 5,000-square-foot clinic. Today, over 35 years later, we have 15,000-plus square feet with 65 employees. We have 24-hour ambulance service. We have a family practice outpatient clinic -- Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 -- with full pharmacy, dental clinic, optometry, laboratory, audiology, psychiatry as well as our department of field health, which handles public health nursing and our community health representative program. In addition, the health center has grants and contracts that provide a wellness center, center for health promotion with special cardiovascular disease prevention programs, and behavioral health services. The staff has grown to 60 full-time employees, including four physician medical providers, two dentists, two pharmacists, two nurses, five CHRs [Community Health Representatives], and many ancillary employees. We graduated our very first bachelor's degree nurse about four years ago from the University of New Mexico [UNM] and she is the supervisor for our field health department. We are looking forward to our first pharmacist in maybe five years. We're sending a young lady who works at the clinic and goes to school part-time as she prepares to be a pharmacist. And this summer in the summer student program, one of the young ladies who had worked last summer in the clinic came to me and she said, ‘I would like another job this summer, could I have one?' And I said, ‘What are you doing?' And she says, ‘Oh, I'm taking pre-dental.' And so we're going to have a dentist in the community as well in a few years. So of course she got a job. The behavioral health department provides certified, licensed family counselors and substance abuse counselors.

The community is located in western New Mexico in a rather isolated area with one paved road 25 miles long. And you can see beautiful sunsets from it. The Navajo people live mostly in scattered housing with some 50 percent still having no running water or electricity. Other roads are mainly dirt and gravel. In addition to the isolation of families, we unfortunately have about 65 percent level of poverty, the largest employers being the Ramah Navajo School Board for the school, the health center and ancillary programs, and the Ramah Navajo chapter. Other forms of employment opportunities are over 65 miles away to the town of Grants or Gallup.

Our community story regarding the Women's Health Initiative -- which we call the Mammo Day Project -- started over ten years ago, as the staff of the health center participated in some discussions with staff of the Albuquerque Indian Health Board and the faculty of the University of New Mexico School of Public Health. We have a longstanding relationship with the Albuquerque Indian Health Board, as one of the founding tribal groups that make up the board of non-Pueblo tribes in the Albuquerque service area. Our staff members had attended some public health classes sponsored by UNM and were eager to learn more about how to work on health issues. After several preliminary meetings with clinic and community staff members, there was a desire to learn even more about how to address public health issues in our own community. Soon the board of trustees became interested parties and together we took part in a CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] community readiness pilot survey. These meetings precipitated much discussion back and forth, and with the UNM researchers, and until the researchers finally understood that the CDC surveys presented to our tribal members simply did not fit tribes. We sent back a lot of information and a lot of concerns to CDC saying that tribal readiness is much different than urban readiness in terms of knowledge, skills, community resources, cultural sensitivity.

After many months of discussion, there was a request by the board and the committee that was talking that we conduct a community health profile. And in fact, when other groups in the community found out we were going to do a community health profile, they said, ‘Can we jump on the bandwagon too? We're getting little surveys for Head Start here, surveys for roads here, surveys for housing here.' So the community health profile became a community profile, as the team felt that health cannot be separated from education, housing, schools, roads, law enforcement, emergency services, language, traditions and cultural beliefs, nor that the local government agencies representing the community; a holistic approach was really needed. The community had had too many individual agency surveys in the past and wanted to put them altogether. After the questions were agreed upon by the committee -- and they met twice a month for about five months -- the survey then had to be translated into Navajo. The surveyors got together, the group got together a small people, who became our translators, and then we ran it past some university survey people so that we would get it in the right set up and we could get some really pertinent information as a result of this. Some 284 homes were randomly chosen for the survey giving us a large community base. To make a long story short, health care was identified as an important area of concern and there was a particular growing concern about cancer.

As clinic staff became more knowledgeable in health issues and understood how to develop programs based on community needs, there was a decision that's women's health and in particular, concern about breast and cervical cancer should be addressed. Several prominent women in the community wanted to work on the issue with the health staff due to their own family stories. Community capacity within the tribal community had been launched. We worked with the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board and followed a model they'd been using with various tribes. A four-part model that follows the medicine wheel or, in our case, the Navajo basket -- number one, building relationships; number two, building skills; number three, building interdependence; number four, building commitment. A Women's Health Task Force was put together of interested clinic staff, including several men, the Albuquerque Indian Health staff, and UNM School for Public Health. We also became partners in a Coleman Foundation grant, in conjunction with the Albuquerque Indian Health Board, and it was soon decided to work on our dismally low mammography rates.

As you know, Native American rates for women's screening are considered pretty poor -- about 47 percent in the Native American population back in 2003. But when Pine Hill stopped to actually do a statistical survey of our own rates, we had only 5.5 percent [of Native women] going to have mammography screening services. Part of the reason for that, at that time, was, first of all, to get a mammogram, you have to travel 45 to 65 miles away. Second of all, the state health department and an x-ray group out of Albuquerque had quit the mammography van that had been coming around quarterly. And most important, were some of the cultural stigmatisms of having certain exams, the fear of exams, and lack of knowledge. In order to listen to the community more carefully, we instituted a series of focus groups to talk about cancer. Two focus groups for women and one focus group for men. We thought that maybe the men would have some ideas about how to get their wives, their girlfriends, their grandmothers, their daughters to go for much needed health services if they could also talk in their own private setting about how to handle these things. So we talked about cancer and particularly, mammography. And it turned out lack of health knowledge, inaccurate knowledge about cancer, the problem of women feeling isolated, the feeling of no support for women and health problems, and the most difficult part of the discussion, was to get around the taboo of using a word about disease that might bring it upon you. Because so many of the women over 40 speak only Navajo, about 50 percent, there was a difficulty in even discussing the word cancer -- a word that was never developed in the Navajo language. Even today, Navajo have to translate the word as ‘the sore that does not heal.'

Following the focus group analysis, the Women's Health Task Force came up with a plan. Number one, provide culturally relevant information on breast and cervical cancer. That lead to a small professional video made using our script, our community members and our locale to tell the story of the importance for women to have a women's health exam. More local pamphlets were necessary also, with local logos -- and we have brought our logo today, a few of these pamphlets will be up on the table later today, this shows our logo. The other idea was to improve relationships with local hospitals. The Zuni Indian Health Service Hospital at that time did not have a mammogram machine and they were sending somebody to be trained. And they soon got a mammogram about that time, mammography machine. The other hospital we developed relationships with was the RMCH, [Rehoboth McKinley Christian] Hospital, in Gallup, a private hospital. The other part of the plan was to improve relationships with the state breast and cervical cancer project because they would provide reimbursement for certain women who did not have insurances of Medicare and Medicaid.

Also, the special project came about -- we wanted a special project to help reduce this disparity. And that special project became the Mammo Day Project. It had to have a group of...we felt that women should go to their mammograms as a group, as a feeling of support. We felt that there should be a local member of the community to be the translator. We felt that transportation was obviously an important feature of getting people to their medical appointments, and so we would provide transportation. We felt that we should not just take people for a screening exam without education. So how are you going to have education in a hospital setting? We decided to take the women for a lunch, a light lunch. One group of women in the morning would go; another group of women would come in the afternoon. They'd meet at the lunch spot, have lunch, have an hour of health education, showing a video, talking amongst themselves about their experience in the morning and also cancer awareness. And then, on the way home, the women could chat with themselves in the van and they experienced a social engagement, so there was camaraderie between women. And that was the birth of our Ramah Navajo Mammography Day Project.

We have to identify women. We have to do recruiting, which has been somewhat hard over the last three years, but is beginning to get easier as the word gets out that these women are having fun -- it doesn't hurt, they're having a little meal, they even get a little incentive for going. The women's health case manager arranges for group appointments. We had lots of work in getting relationships set up with these two hospitals so they would take groups -- a block of appointments at a time -- rather than one by one. There's a lot of paperwork to get together. The reimbursements and the insurances you have to, as you all know, you have to follow the rules of paperwork. And the health education was a vital part of this program.

What has been different between say a couple of years ago and now? Four years ago, we had women going for mammograms only maybe each quarter; that's when our mammography project started. We are now taking women once a month to these appointments, so we have increased our rates three times over in the last two years. We had a part-time women's health case manager a few years ago, now she's available full-time in the clinic, and she's even asking for help. So, with recurring appointments, there are more people that need to get there, there is more paperwork, more explaining, more follow up to do with the women. And we are encouraging continuing outreach. Our CHRs have been extremely important in helping to explain and get women to go to their first appointment -- sometimes it takes two or three visits to a person's home. Many people do not have telephones, you can't just call them up and say, ‘You have an appointment next week.' So the CHRs go out, explain the process, talk to the women, and encourage them. We have a story of one woman who last year, had her very first mammogram. This year she called Glennetta up and she said, ‘I'd like to make my appointment for my annual mammogram and I'd like you to make an appointment for my daughter, too. We're going to go together.' So these are the good stories.

Commitment of staff and community: this program has grown from a pilot project to an expectation of our health clinic. The women of the community are becoming more and more knowledgeable about their health. They want to know more. We're moving now into understanding cervical cancer. And in turn, this is now moving beyond women -- it's moving to men's health. Just as we incorporated the men in our focus groups for women, we're going to be starting some focus groups for [women] this coming season where they will talk about some of the hindrances of why men do not go to the doctor to get their annual exams. So what's good for women is also good for men.

Awareness and knowledge brings power and power brings self-confidence in one's self. This brings an understanding that we can be in charge of improving our health. And the more we know, the choices we make will be better. Even though this is just one small women's program, it's planted a seed in the community and the community members are now working together to improve the health of the whole community. It was very satisfying to hear just three months ago, at a summer board of trustees meeting, that the board spoke up and said, ‘We want the word ‘health' to be in the logo for our annual fair and rodeo that's coming up in August.' And so there was a little contest and the board settled on the logo that became ‘Rope the Future and Ride Together to a Healthy Community.'"

Native Nation Building TV: "Introduction to Nation Building"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Guests Manley Begay and Stephen Cornell present the key research findings of the Native Nations Institute and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. They explain the five keys to successful community and economic development for Native nations (sovereignty or practical self-rule, effective institutions of self-governance, cultural match, strategic orientation, and leadership), and provide examples of Native nations that are rebuilding their nations. 

Mary Kim Titla: "Welcome to Native Nation Building. I'm your host Mary Kim Titla. Contemporary Native Nations face many daunting challenges including building effective governments, developing strong economies, solving difficult social problems and balancing cultural integrity and change. Native Nation Building explores these complex challenges and the ways Native nations are working to overcome them as they seek to make community and economic development a reality. Don't miss Native Nation Building next."

0
0
1
3951
22524
NNI
187
52
26423
14.0

0
0
1
3951
22524
NNI
187
52
26423
14.0

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

[music]

Mary Kim Titla: "Today's program examines where, how and why nation building is currently taking place in Native communities throughout the United States and beyond, in particular the fundamental issues governing Native nations' efforts to restore their social sovereignty and economic vitality and shape their own futures. Here today to discuss these nation-building issues are Drs. Manley Begay and Stephen Cornell. Dr. Begay, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, is Director of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona, where he also serves as Senior Lecturer in the American Indian Studies Programs. Dr. Cornell is the Director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and a Professor of Sociology and Public Administration and Policy at the University of Arizona. For the past two decades, they both have worked extensively with Native Nations in a major research effort that seeks to identify the keys to solving the challenges to nation building. Welcome, gentleman, nice to have you here today."

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "Thanks for having us."

Mary Kim Titla: "First of all, what is nation building in practical terms?"

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "Nation building is really about how Indigenous nations in the U.S. and elsewhere can put together the tools they need to build the futures that they want. And by the tools they need, we really mean the tools of governance. These are nations in our experience with very ambitious goals, they face daunting challenges, they carry the legacies of colonialism, they are trying to overcome deficits in economic affairs, in health, in all kinds of areas. If they're going to do that, they need the governing tools that are adequate to that task and Nation building is about identifying those tools, putting them in place, being sure that they match Indigenous ideas and culture and putting them to work."

Mary Kim Titla: "Can you talk about some of the tools? Explain that."

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "Yeah. A lot of Indian nations here in the United States have governments that they did not design. That's not true of all of them, but a lot of tribal governments were designed basically by the U.S. Department of the Interior back in the 1930s. They aren't very sophisticated structures of government. Some of them have no provision for adequate court systems or ways to resolve disputes within the nation. Some of them have got unwieldy legislatures. Some of them don't have the kinds of procedures that you need if you're going to move vigorously and effectively to make good decisions, implement them, get things done. So we're talking about rethinking some of the those tools of government. What kinds of tribal courts or other dispute resolution mechanisms will serve Indigenous needs and interests? What kinds of governing structures will people believe in and support within the nation's own community? Are those structures adequate to what the nation is trying to do? So when we talk about tools, we're talking about the practical mechanisms that nation's use to organize how they go about trying to get stuff done."

Mary Kim Titla: "Dr. Begay, would you like to add to that?"

Dr. Manley Begay: "Sure. It seems from the work that we've been doing that nation building or nation rebuilding, as Steve mentioned, really began to occur with most Indian nations around 1975 when the Indian Self-Determination Act was ushered in, and since then a lot of Indian nations have begun to wrestle with rethinking their political systems, rethinking their economies and it's not unlike other nations that have gone through colonization and all of a sudden found themselves in the midst of freedom, if you will, very much like what occurred in Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union fell apart. Poland is wrestling with issues of constitutional reform, you had the European Union there, and Indian nations are in the same boat and a lot of other colonized society are wrestling with Nation building and rebuilding."

Mary Kim Titla: "Let's talk about the research. What prompted the Harvard Project and the Native Nations Institute to embark on the research?"

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "This kind of got us wondering what is it that makes some nations more successful than others, and in fact the data that we first looked at had to do in part with timber and with forestry. A lot of Indian nations have timber resources. Some of them seemed to be doing a better job of managing those resources than others and we got interested in why. And being professors, we thought maybe we knew the answers already -- typical of professors -- and so we thought, well, it'll be educational attainment or it'll be the Nations that have big natural resources will be doing well or the ones that have access to capital will be doing well. But we decided we'd better go look and we got a grant from the Ford Foundation to do some research. We spent a lot of time in the field getting stories of what was working, how did this enterprise succeed, how did this one fail, what else have you tried to do, what seems to be working here, what are the problems you're encountering. And the interesting sort of payoff to the research was it turned out that the critical elements were really political ones, that if you had your political house together, if you had some stability in the government, if you were successful in keeping political considerations out of enterprise management decisions or out of tribal court decisions -- if you could do some of those political things, then these sort of economic assets like good education or good natural resources or being close to a major market -- those would start to pay off. If you couldn't get the government house in order, then those assets tended to be wasted. So the result to the research was really to focus our attention on these political issues and the effect they were having on how these Nations did, whether or not they were able to achieve their goals."

Dr. Manley Begay: "And what was really interesting about the research findings initially was that we knew of no known cases of economic development, successful economic development, occurring without assertions of political sovereignty. And secondly, we also found that capable governing institutional development was a major piece of nation building. And thirdly, those institutions had to be culturally appropriate. And since then we've also found that Indian nations that are planning for the long haul if you will, a hundred years down the road -- what kind of society are we going to build, what do we perceive the society to look like 50 years from now --and those that have done that seem to be faring well or faring better than others that have not. Lastly, leadership is really critical. So these five components and research findings formed the basis for the work that we've been doing all along."

Mary Kim Titla: "Can you give us a snapshot of current Native nation-building efforts among indigenous peoples throughout the U.S. and Canada?"

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "Yeah, in fact there are a number of Nations across the U.S. right now that are engaged in constitutional processes. The Osage Nation in Oklahoma has just launched a major constitutional reform effort. The Crow Tribe of Montana, the Northern Cheyennes are involved in that. The San Carlos Apaches are engaged in governance reform or rethinking how they govern themselves. This is happening a good deal across the U.S. It's also happening in Canada where we see First Nations that are engaged in constitutional processes. Some of them are also engaged, especially in British Columbia, in treaty processes that involved working out new relationships with British Columbia and with Canada and that process also involves rethinking governance. So we see a lot of constitutional stuff happening there. We see some developments in tribal courts. The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, which straddles the Ontario/New York boundary, are engaged right now in trying to rebuild their justice system. They of course face some interesting justice problems because of that boundary, because they're a nation that operates in two different jurisdictions and then they have their own jurisdiction. It's a complicated situation. They're trying to develop a court and justice system that's adequate to that set of challenges. We see a number of nations like the Ho-Chunk, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, have started a corporation called Ho-Chunk Inc., which has been a very successful enterprise reducing unemployment there. They put a lot of thought into, how do you set up this enterprise so that it has a good chance of succeeding?"

Dr. Manley Begay: "And up in Canada there's the Membertou First Nation on the east side of Canada that's actually wrestled with figuring out how to develop a capable governing institution and they did that through what's called the ISO [International Organization for Standardization], sort of international standards set-up, and then also the Siksika Blackfoot Nation in Alberta have also really moved forward in thinking about nation building and is actually doing relatively well. Lac La Ronge as well. They're finding some success in promoting their wild rice not only in Canada and the United States but also overseas as well. So there are a number of stories of First Nations and bands up in Canada, tribes in the United States that have gone the extra effort to figure out how to build nations that work, and obviously one of the major success stories is the Mississippi Choctaw. And they did that without gaming. Initially they set up good governing institutions, they asserted sovereignty, really thought through how to develop a culturally appropriate political system and actually we refer to them as the Singapore of Indian Country. They did that without gaming. Only later on did they get into gaming and every day you'll see upwards of 7,000 black and white workers going on to Nation land to work. As a result, they've become the major political and economic powerhouse in the southeast and they've done that through nation building."

Mary Kim Titla: "And I've been there to Mississippi Choctaw and I've seen what they've done. It's really great with [Chief] Phillip Martin and other tribal leaders. I imagine that they must face many obstacles and of course those obstacles can get in the way of objectives. Can you talk about some of the obstacles that some of these Nations are facing?"

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "Boy, I think one of the obstacles that -- in fact I was just last week in Canada and talking with a First Nations leader and he said, 'You know, a lot of my people have been, we've learned over time to be dependent on Canada and to be dependent on federal agencies in Canada, and part of the work that we face as First Nations leaders,' he said, 'is trying to change that mind frame, trying to get into a mind frame that says, 'We can change this, we can take responsibility for what happens here.'' There's a -- Manley just mentioned the Siksika Nation of Blackfoot in Alberta. Chief Strater Crow Foot, whose the chief of that nation, he spoke at a session that Manley and I were both at not long ago and he said, 'We're trying to replace the victim attitude with a victor attitude.' He said, 'The victim attitude keeps you sitting still, the victor attitude gets you moving.' And he said, 'In my nation, that's one of our primary tasks as leaders is to change that attitude, a feeling that if we're really going to have an impact we've got to alter the way people look at the world around them, the way they think about what's possible.' So that's certainly one of the obstacles. Another obstacle, and Manley touched on this, is simply that sovereignty obstacle. It's getting the jurisdictional power to make decisions for yourself. That's something which Indian nations in the U.S., they've had a lot of jurisdictional power. It gets chipped away at by the U.S. Supreme Court, it's often under attack in the states and in Congress. Luckily, so far, much of it is surviving. In Canada, First Nations are struggling to achieve the level of sovereignty Indian Nations in the U.S. have, but that's an obstacle. If someone else is making the decisions for you, you're not likely to go much of anywhere. It's their decisions, the program represents their interests. Shifting real decision-making power into Indigenous hands is a critical piece of nation building. These nations have to be rebuilt by Indigenous people, not by decisions made in Washington or Ottawa or someplace like that. So I think the other big obstacle is that sovereignty piece. You've got to have the power to make things happen."

Mary Kim Titla: "We've talked about obstacles. Let's talk about assets. What are some of the greatest nation-building assets?"

Dr. Manley Begay: "Leadership is an asset. However, it's only an asset if you can couple that with developing good capable institutions, and if you set in place the rule of law and policies and codes and constitutions. That goes a long way. You can wait for a good leader to come around, and it takes 20 years to get a good leader, but you can't always be sure that the leader was going to be good. However, if you put in place policy, rules and regulations, you can always trust those rules, and enforcing those rules becomes part of nation building, and it seems to me that that's an asset that we see, the creativeness, the innovativeness of Indian people to really wrestle with figuring out how to do this, and to do it in a culturally appropriate fashion is an asset. And it's not something that's new."

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "The other thing we have to recognize as an asset is Indigenous cultures themselves, and sometimes people who think about how Indigenous culture is an asset think of it mainly in terms of stuff you can sell -- arts and crafts or something like that -- and that's an important way to think about it. We tend to think about it, though, in terms of what can we learn from Indigenous cultures about appropriate organization, so that the government that works at Navajo is not necessarily going to be the same as the government that works at Osage, because they are different nations with different heritages, different cultures, and part of the challenge of nation building is figuring out what set of institutions in fact resonate with what people here believe about how authority should be exercised, about how we should pursue goals. We've worked with some of the Pueblos in New Mexico where you have governing institutions that are very traditional. There are no elections, there are no legal codes, no written constitutions. The governing institutions are deeply rooted either in Pueblo tradition or in several hundred years of working under Pueblo influences, Spanish influences and other things. They've been borne out of Pueblo experience. You go up to the Flatheads in Montana, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, and you'll see a tribal government that looks very different. It looks, as our colleague Joe Kalt likes to say, 'It looks like it came out of my high school civics textbook.' Well, you've got three nations on that reservation and those nations have had to find a way to govern themselves that they all can support so it doesn't look very traditional. There are three traditions there, they might be in conflict with each other. So they've had to find a set of institutions that work for them. But that link to Indigenous cultures, that ability to tap into the fact that these nations long ago solved tough human problems and maybe the ways they solved some of those problems still work today. Let's tap into that. At Navajo, their court system, their justice system today combines western jurisprudence with longstanding Navajo ways of dealing with disharmony or conflict and that makes them an extraordinarily effective court system that no outsider could have invented. It had to be generated by Navajo people."

Mary Kim Titla: "Can we talk about more of the research and the five major keys to successful community and economic development among Nations?"

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "The first finding that came out of this research really was the sovereignty finding, the fact that Indigenous nations themselves have to be in the driver's seat if things are going to happen. So there's a kind of a power issue there. Where is the power? And from a research point of view, it just underlined something that Manley touched on earlier, that we haven't been able to find a case across Indian Country of sustained, self-determined economic development where someone other than the Indigenous nation was calling the shots. So that turns out to be a necessary piece of the puzzle. The second piece that came in on the research findings was that, yeah, but that's not enough in and of itself. You've got to back it up with the kinds of governing institutions that Manley has been talking about. They've got to be capable of dealing with contemporary challenges. They've got to be stable. They've got to control, keep politics in its place. They've got to assure people that if I have a claim, a dispute with the nation, it'll be dealt with fairly. Part of the challenge for Indigenous leaders today is, how do we hang onto our talented, energetic young people with ideas? If I've got a family to support, will I pursue supporting that family at home on the rez or will I move to L.A. or Minneapolis or something like that? For tribal leaders, how do we create an environment that says, 'You can do it right here, we'll make it possible, we'll keep you'? That means a governing situation in which it doesn't matter who my family is, who I voted for, I'll get a fair shake. So that second finding was about capable governing institutions. The third was this thing we've just been talking a bit about of the cultural match piece of making sure those institutions really have the support of the people, that people believe this is our government, not an import from somebody else -- this is ours. And then these last two pieces that Manley talked about, the strategic thinking that gets people to make decisions on what's on our agenda today in terms of what matters in the long run and what does that mean for how we decide this today. And then that piece of leadership."

Dr. Manley Begay: "Yeah, to give you an example, back to Mississippi Choctaw. Initially a big portion of the population of the Choctaws were moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, so you essentially had this society that was uprooted back in the 1830s and only small groups stayed in Mississippi. But they held onto the land, they held on to who they were as Choctaws. And as time went on they went through the termination period, they went through...and here comes the Indian Self-Determination Act and they essentially wrestled jurisdiction and power and control from the feds as well as state government and began to pursue a long-term plan, and Chief Phillip Martin was sort of the main impetus for assertions of sovereignty back then. And once they wrestled a significant amount of decision-making power from the federal government and also from the State [of Mississippi], they began to think through, how do we develop a capable governing institution? And they did that basically by necessity because before they could attract manufacturing companies to the nation, they had to think about a commercial code, they had to think about appropriate policy rules and regulations, laws being put in place, a good court system, separating business from politics, and so forth so that the investor could feel safe in investing on nation land. And then the cultural match piece came in. Historically, Mississippi Choctaws really had the strong chief executive-type of political structure, but they also had a strong court system. They had a separation of powers and checks and balances set up, which allowed for them to plan well. So a lot of this was planned out years and years ago. A lot of the success Mississippi Choctaws are having now was planned 50 years ago, and so today you essentially have a zero percent unemployment rate, you have to import labor and so forth, so the strategic thinking piece came into play. And then you have good leadership, you essentially have really good leadership. So all of the ingredients to successful nation building seems to be present at Mississippi Choctaw. But we've seen it at Fort McDowell, we've seen it at Siksika, we've seen it at all of these places that we've mentioned that have built nations that seem to be working well."

Mary Kim Titla: "We do want to talk about more of those positive stories, those models if you want to call them that. I like Mississippi Choctaw, so I'm glad that you touched on that. Are there some other examples out there that you'd like to add?"

Dr. Stephen Cornell: "Well, one that we're particularly fond of is the Citizen Potawatomi story from Oklahoma. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation back in the 1970s -- this today is a very large nation, I think its population is well over 20,000 people -- but in the 1970s they had very little land that they controlled, less than 100 acres, they had hardly any money in the bank, life was tough, [the] situation was grim. Today the Citizen Potawatomi Nation owns the First National Bank of Shawnee, Oklahoma. Today they own the supermarket in Shawnee, where they sell beef grown in their own cattle herd and vegetables grown on their own farm. They've basically got a vertically-integrated food business going. They own some of the media outlets in town. And when you talk to "Rocky" Barrett, who is the current chairman of the Nation, he says, 'Well, you know, it's really an institutions story.' And I remember the first time I heard him tell the story of the Citizen  Potawatomi Nation at a conference in Oklahoma, and afterwards I talked to him and I said, 'You know, you really tell a nation-building story about governing institutions.' And his response was, 'Oh, yeah, if you're not thinking about constitutional reform, you're not in the economic development ballgame, because what you've got to do is get that political house together and then you'll be able to create the kind of economic success.' So we look at Citizen  Potawatomi, a remarkable turnaround from the mid 1970s to the start of the 21st century in that nation's fortunes. Some nations, there are these success stories out there, and some of them are about pieces of nations and we've been fortunate -- in doing this work on nation building -- you come across nations that are doing extraordinary things that you don't hear about. I think often what we hear about are the problems in Indian Country. But some of the...we've talked about the Navajo Nation court system, which is one of these striking successes. The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, another example of nations coming together and solving a difficult problem creatively and effectively. At Fond du Lac, they've got a foster care program that has solved a major problem they had with the placement of tribal kids in non-Native homes. They've come up with a way to deal with that problem. It's effective, it works. These kinds of stories are all over the place out there and in one way or another they are nation-building stories."

Mary Kim Titla: "And then trying to train the young Native leaders, I think the Gila River Indian Community has done an excellent job of that with their youth council and really they're a model for a lot of tribes around the country. Anything you'd like to add?"

Dr. Manley Begay: "The Cochiti Pueblo is another Indian nation that sort of has built these very successful economic ventures. At one point in time, Cochiti, a significant part of Cochiti, was actually under water when a dam was built, and very little seemed to be in the works for how to get out of the situation that they were in. And lo and behold they essentially began to assert a certain amount of jurisdiction and a certain amount of power and authority, and today you find a tremendous amount of success at Cochiti. They've developed one of the top 100 public golf courses in the United States. They have a retirement community where Harry and Martha from Ohio go to retire. And it's a very interesting turnaround. Here a very traditional society is doing relatively well in pursuing certain economic development projects and they've done it with, as we said earlier, first pursuing jurisdiction and decision-making power and authority, and it really resonates to non-Indian society. Often non-Indian society [has] a hard time grasping political sovereignty. The thought is, 'Well, we've got to take political sovereignty away from Indian Country and then we need to tell them what to do essentially.' However, it seems as though that it's in the best interest of non-Indian society to support political sovereignty, because in the long run when economic development takes place in Indian Country, it affects nearby communities, it affects the region and in turn it affects the nation as a whole. So it has this domino effect. So it really is important for non-Indian communities, also governments, to support political sovereignty."

Mary Kim Titla: "Well, I want to thank the both of you. We've talked about a lot of things today, about some of the positive stories that are out there, some of the obstacles that Native tribes are facing and I must say that they've dealt with adversity very well and they have a history of dealing with that. I see a bright future, so thank you for what you're doing. We'd like to thank Dr. Begay and Dr. Cornell for appearing on today's edition of Native Nation Building, a program of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. To learn more about Native Nation Building and the issues discussed here today, please visit the Native Nations Institute's website at nni.arizona.edu/nativetv. Thank you for joining us and please tune in for the next edition of Native Nation Building."

Native Nation Building TV: "Tribal Service Delivery: Meeting Citizens' Needs"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Guests Eddie Brown and Karen Diver discuss tribal program and service delivery across Indian Country. They examine the unproductive ways services and programs have been administered in many Native communities in the past, and the innovative mechanisms and approaches some Native nations are developing to maximize limited financial and human resources and improve the delivery of programs and services to their citizens.

Citation

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

Mary Kim Titla: "Welcome to Native Nation Building. I'm your host Mary Kim Titla. Contemporary Native nations face many daunting challenges including building effective governments, developing strong economies, solving difficult social problems and balancing cultural integrity and change. Native Nation Building explores these complex challenges and the ways Native nations are working to overcome them as they seek to make community and economic development a reality. Don't miss Native Nation Building next."

0
0
1
4110
23429
The University of Arizona
195
54
27485
14.0

0
0
1
4110
23429
The University of Arizona
195
54
27485
14.0

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

[music]

Mary Kim Titla: "Like so many aspects of Native life and policy, service delivery in Indian country is in a state of transformation. The era of self-determination, now moving into its fourth decade, has seen an increasing number of Native Natons taking control of programs and services once administered by federal agencies. Today's show looks at the changing state of service delivery in Native communities and the complex challenges Native Nations encounter as they work to ensure that the needs of their citizens are met. Here today to discuss the issue of service delivery in Indian Country are Karen Diver and Dr. Eddie Brown. Karen Diver, an enrolled citizen of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, is Director of Special Projects at Fond du Lac. She also was a founding member of the American Indian Community Housing Organization. Dr. Eddie Brown is an enrolled citizen of the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe and is affiliated with the Tohono O'odham Nation. He is the Director of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University. He previously served as Executive Director of the Tohono O'odham Nation's Department of Human Services and also worked in the U.S. Department of the Interior administering federal programs to Native communities. Thanks for being with us today. A primary role of Native Nations' governments is to deliver social services to their citizens. How has this role changed?"

Eddie Brown: "Mary Kim, over the last 30 years, I think you've seen a tremendous growth of tribal governments providing their services. Under the Indian Self-Determination Act, it allowed for the first time tribes to contract out the operation and administration of programs, and since that time you've seen everything from law enforcement to education, social services -- all of the basic kinds of services that the Bureau of Indian Affairs provides an opportunity then for tribes to take over and administer those. That has also occurred within the Indian Health Service as well. So you've seen programs like the CHR program, psychological services, alcohol and substance abuse, all of these now being offered by tribes where before they were all being administered and operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service."

Mary Kim Titla: "Karen, would you like to add to that? What have you seen?"

Karen Diver: "I've seen governments really focusing on the breadth of services that they have to provide as governments. First, of course, really looking at how do we meet the human day-to-day needs and provide a safety net for our members and over time really blossoming and growing into looking at a full range of government services, everything from resource management to zoning and land use, community development, workforce development efforts in really a broader spectrum of providing a continuum of care and good governmental services at all levels, much like county and local governments did before for their citizens."

Mary Kim Titla: "Now, really traditionally these services have been designed and administered by the federal government, many of them of course still are. How has this affected the quality and quantity of services in reservation communities?"

Dr. Eddie Brown: "I think from the data that we have thus far, it has shown that not only are tribes able to administer but they're able to develop programs that are more in tune with the individual tribal needs so that the tribe has developed its management information systems and its administration systems, but it also has put in place programs that directly respond to that community's needs and has tied in then the cultural element as well of how to provide services in the most appropriate cultural way."

Mary Kim Titla: "As we know, all of the tribes and Native communities are very unique. So one blanket program just doesn't work for everybody, and I think everyone's discovered that over the years. Karen, why don't you talk about what's happening in your community."

Karen Diver: "We are located about 20 miles from the closest urban area, which distinguishes us a little bit from other Anishnaabe tribes in Minnesota who are very, very rural. We have an urban population as well as a rural population, so our challenge is how do we meet a broad geographic area, but with needs that are much different? For example, housing issues are much more scarce, a scarcity of resources on reservation, we have access to more ancillary services and complimentary services in the surrounding metropolitan community, so to speak. So we've really seen our tribe looking at inter-agency agreements with local government entities, non-profit organizations to help complement what we do, and then on reservation, really looking at what is the infrastructure we need in service delivery and continuum of care that we need to develop to meet our citizens that are reservation residents."

Mary Kim Titla: "And you touched on something that really leads into my next question, and that is some of the challenges that Native communities experience trying to make these federal programs fit their community needs. Can you expand on that a little bit more, Eddie?"

Eddie Brown: "Yes, I think it's very difficult when you're trying to work with a policy -- that one policy fits all tribes -- knowing the diversity, and so tribes have had to struggle and be very creative of how they've been able to take the funding and assure that that funding is meeting the basic community needs, but at the same time are fulfilling the federal obligation and responsibility that is set out in the rules and regulations. So again, a real challenge, but one in which the tribes have proven themselves to be up to."

Mary Kim Titla: "Can you give an example of that?"

Eddie Brown: "Well, one of [them] has to do with social services, looking at not only federal but state social services as well. How do you coordinate those programs and make them work together? Under the TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] situation, where tribes for the first time in history were responsible for or capable of administering their own TANF services, where before they were administered by the state. The tribes have taken those and developed those in a way that really met the need of the federal government but also tied in and allowed them the kind of flexibility that they needed to provide the service. So here is a situation where a federal program was given to the tribe but also with the flexibility to allow the tribe to develop and have perhaps even a little more flexibility than the states do in determining the eligibility as well as service delivery."

Mary Kim Titla: "Okay. Karen, how are you handling that? It sounds like you've done some really unique things in your community to really make these federal programs work."

Karen Diver: "Part of what's been successful at Fond du Lac is -- just as Eddie was saying -- really using our own people and other Native people who have been educated in those fields to deliver those services in a culturally competent manner. Social capital on Native communities is obviously a challenge and trying to get our kids graduated from high school through college so that we have access to those resources within our own community. Integrating outsiders into that in a way that is healthy for both sides makes non-Indian service deliverers feel a part of our community and welcome, building their cultural competency and welcoming them, and at the same time really providing opportunities for mentoring and growth opportunities for our own Band members. That being said, what we see happening in service delivery for us has been well regarded in surrounding governmental units. We have Treatment as a State designation for air and water quality -- the first tribe in the nation to get that designation -- and that required not only working with local law enforcement agencies, but the Department of Natural Resources, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], for them to recognize that we had capacity within our tribe to have a regulatory function. We had to have everything from laboratory services and monitoring to permitting processes and the ability to comment in a really technical way on air- and water-quality issues. So building our infrastructure in that way not only through the systems of government, but also through the social capital, has taken my tribe 25 years and it's something that we're still striving for today to improve our own delivery and our own capability, but then also using resources wisely both in terms of employment and education."

Mary Kim Titla: "So you've touched on some of the challenges. What are some disadvantages or costs for tribal communities, Native communities when they rely heavily on these federally funded programs?"

Eddie Brown: "Well, I think as we mentioned before, when you've got federal regulations that you've got to respond to and they're saying, 'You can have these dollars, but here's what you've got to do and here's the limitations on how you use those dollars,' have always limited the tribes in their creativity and the ability to put the dollars where they need to be. I think that has been the major limitation so that when the Indian Self-Determination Act was passed and allowed tribes to take over that, even though that there were still some strong regulations, tribes had more flexibility than they have ever had before. Now over the last 30 years now the Indian Self Determination Act has been amended that allow tribes even greater flexibility. You have then your Indian Self-Governance that allows for block grants, types of funding to tribes that allows them even greater flexibility to match the kind of need with the kind of service. So again, very exciting and it's been a very exciting time, but as mentioned by Karen, it has taken a long time because we've had to start almost from ground zero and establish those systems in place in which states and counties have had at least a hundred years to do."

Mary Kim Titla: "The infrastructure and really building that infrastructure. Can you talk about more what's happening in your community? It sounds really interesting."

Karen Diver: "Actually, not just in my community. Some of the challenges I see for some of the northern tribes that are very rural is that they're really funding themselves and focusing areas of growth on those programs and service delivery options that are fundable, and so you see growth in those areas without some long-term stability, because it is chasing those dollars a little bit. One of the things that is trying to be highly promoted in some of these communities is, what is the strategic vision for this tribe? Where do they want to be in five, 10, 20 years? And letting that guide their funding option because they're funding a whole vision rather than just a program. And that's a challenge for my tribe as well as many others of saying, 'We're a baby government, what do we want to be when we're a grown-up government?' And how do we not rely on indirect cost allocations from grants to fund basic infrastructure, but how do we be real targeted and real thoughtful in where we want to go and sell that overall vision rather than just a program idea."

Mary Kim Titla: "You talked about vision and it appears to be that there's this movement really among Native communities to gain control of how they administer these programs and what do you think has fueled that movement?"

Eddie Brown: "Well, clearly the Indian Self-Determination Act, the idea that tribes are sovereign nations and that they do have the right to establish and run and determine their own destiny, and part of that destiny is to develop your own vision, as Karen mentioned. So you see that many of us, many of the tribes are moving from an idea of, 'Well, let's see what the government has to offer,' to the idea of, 'Let's determine what our vision should be.' The Yavapai Apache Nation, for instance, here in Arizona is clearly an example of a tribal community that has developed a 25-year vision, that has put together a strategic plan and that has a clear vision of where they want to go because of the strong leadership there within the council and I think are really reflective of many tribes today that have said, 'We are no longer just going to look at our problems, we're going to look at what we want to be. Then from that, we will determine how we need to get there.'"

Mary Kim Titla: "Karen, do you see significant innovations in service delivery out there? What are tribes doing that's different?"

Karen Diver: "I know for the Fond du Lac tribe, we've seen great success with our foster care-licensing system and a lot of our child welfare programs, where the tribe has become the primary driver of Indian child welfare cases and developed the infrastructure where local county social service agencies and child protection units really defer to our tribes to handle child welfare cases involving Native children. And with our foster care-licensing system as an additional part of that, we can assure a steady stream of families, Native families, culturally competent families, so that we're accomplishing both goals of maintaining identity and culture as well as child protection and the safety of the children. And that was one of our biggest innovations in our human services is really getting surrounding governmental units to say, 'They know better than we do on this issue and by working with them we'll provide a better service to their band members,' and it's been well-regarded in Indian Country and often duplicated."

Mary Kim Titla: "Any other examples that you can think of, Eddie?"

Eddie Brown: "Well, I think on the broader scale, tribes have been forced to re-look at the way they're structured and organized. Before, with all the different federal funding, you had many different small programs all running and operating independently. So you see tribes across the nation now re-examining the way they're structured, reorganizing it to fit the needs of their community. So it starts way up at the top of the administration, even re-evaluating their constitutions as to how they're organized and structured governmentally. So you see that works all the way down to the direct service delivery of services for children and working with families. So you see the impact has been from the very top to the very bottom within tribal communities."

Mary Kim Titla: "And what about this cultural aspect and tribes really going back to their very beginnings and integrating some of that into these delivery services?"

Karen Diver: "We see that very much so in northern Minnesota, language preservation being real key, total integration into birth-to-five-[year-old] services through Head Start and continuing through K-12 education and ending up with our tribal and community college, where we have a teacher cohort agreement with the University of Minnesota to graduate fluent Native speakers who also have teaching credentials. So that lifelong learning aspect in access to language to culture services for not only the children and the students but for their families really is a model that wouldn't have been found through federal government delivery [of] services, and it makes for families a much more comfortable environment for those families who are getting over boarding-school experiences. They now own their educational delivery system and it feels safe for them and their children and strengthens that bond of community."

Mary Kim Titla: "We're going to stick with what Fond du Lac is doing in terms of really overseeing virtually all of these services offered in your community. What led to this and how is it working?"

Karen Diver: "We were one of the first tribes to follow Public Law 638, where we can control our own programs -- started in the late 70s and early 80s. I believe that the cultural competency in programming drove it, that federal programs weren't always successful in meeting our needs. I believe job creation was also a part of it, that we wanted to be able to have services provided by our own Band members and not by outsiders. It's been enormously successful. Since then our capacity to deliver programs by developing effective systems of government, administration has allowed us to take on more opportunities, so I think that once tribes are able to move into that arena they quickly gain the experience, the social capital, the staff they need to take those programs to the next level and really round them out to meet a variety of needs."

Mary Kim Titla: "Now, Eddie, you've spent a long time wrestling with social service delivery issues at both the tribal and federal levels. In your experience, what are the major challenges tribes face in this area?"

Eddie Brown: "Well, one is just figuring out how to work with the federal government and state government, and so I think that's one that has moved forward a great deal as tribes have become more experienced in handling working with the federal government and most recently now beginning to develop inter-governmental agreements with the state that recognizes the sovereign jurisdictional issues of both parties. That has been tremendous. Perhaps now when you look at [it], it's building a good solid foundation of making sure that you have your regulations in place. When we talk about foster care programs or child welfare programs, they have a lot of rules and regulations and standards to ensure the protection of the child as well as the parents. Those kind of things, having good regulations in place, hiring competent staff, providing training for those staff, pulling together management information systems that allow them to track and to evaluate the kind of program or the impact of the programs that they're having. I think all of this, it's a tremendous challenge for an administrator today at a tribal level, because there are so many things that need to be done with limited dollars and a growing expectation of tribal members toward the tribal council to begin to act in a full essence of what a government is and that is a government's role is to care for the wellbeing of its citizens."

Mary Kim Titla: "And with leadership changes, I'm sure that that's also a challenge. Every three or four years your leadership changes and sometimes that has an impact on maybe where you proceed."

Karen Diver: "Very much so, and it's often said that politics is personal and no more so than in Indian Country, because those are your families, your clans, your nieces and nephews, and when they have needs that they view as critical and they're standing in front of you, it's sometimes very difficult for tribal leaders to think big picture and to say, 'Is my decision for the good of the all and do I sacrifice the good of the one, or vice versa?' And I think that's a constant struggle for tribal councils, it's a constant struggle for our government in terms of social capital, to make sure that our tribal leaders are really focused on what is good governmental function, and how do we make sure we have the service delivery systems to meet those basic needs and the individual needs in a competent way? Turnover in tribal government has affected a lot of the northern tribes recently, and I think that with programs like the Udall Center and Honoring Nations through Harvard, that it really shows best practices in governance and really holds up models for tribal governments to learn from."

Mary Kim Titla: "Why don't we get back to Public Law 638? I'm not familiar with that. Could you explain that a little bit more and how Native Nations have used this to assume control?"

Eddie Brown: "The impact, of course, is if someone comes to you and offers you an opportunity to not only bring a tremendous amount of federal funding to your community but also allowing you the flexibility to run and make your own decisions. I think tribes over the past 30 years are saying, 'We can do it better and we can show you how to do it better,' and [in] many situations have been very, very successful at that, to the point that now other departments within the federal government are understanding that they need to also loosen the regulation to understand that the tribes can run and operate programs. So it's really provided, I think, a celebration. At this recent NCAI [National Congress of American Indians] conference, basically it was the celebration of 30 years of Indian Self-Determination, because that piece of legislation has probably had more impact in the strengthening of tribal government in the last 100 years than any other previous legislation."

Karen Diver: "I think it's also providing ongoing challenges. Definitely celebration. What I see on a regular basis is tribes can set their big vision through their 638 contracting, but then through program delivery through the federal government, for example through Head Start for example, comes with its own set of regulations that is often in conflict with the direction set from 638 plans that are submitted to the federal government. So trying to merge big picture with service delivery that comes with a separate set of guidelines aside from its governmental functions I think can be a day-to-day challenge for tribes, but it is one that they are being creative about solving."

Mary Kim Titla: "And that was going to be my next question about limitations and how 638 in many ways being a trial-and-error process. Is that true?"

Eddie Brown: "Well, I don't know if it was so much as a trial and error as the idea of, 'Let's see if the tribes can handle it and if they can handle it, then we can see about making some more amendments to loosening and so forth.' So it has been very important therefore when tribes took over programs that they made sure that they could operate them and not retrocede or return them back to the federal government, because if in fact tribes failed, it would in fact maybe prove to what many people thought is tribes are not capable of operating as governments and running their own services. If anything has been proven in the last 30 years, it's that tribes are very much capable, they can do a better job as we've indicated. So while it is a challenge -- and today I look at perhaps administrators working within tribes have the greatest challenge than administrators in other forms of government. Having been involved in state government and federal government and comparing the challenge at a tribal level, I consider the challenge there at the tribal level much greater than what's experienced at states and federal governments because they are breaking new ground. They are having to develop from the ground up, they're having to look at the cultural as well as the more technical management information, etc., which makes it all the more exciting when we see tribes succeed particularly at the level that they're succeeding."

Mary Kim Titla: "What about need versus jobs and going after federal programs based on a need for jobs and not based on whether there's really a need for the service in the community?"

Karen Diver: "I would actually put it a little different way. We see a need for a service and we'll look for funding to fill it, and then it's who to fill those positions with, and we have Band-member preference in hiring, as do many tribes and really looking at what are the qualifications we need and how do we balance the need of our members to have jobs, because we do have high unemployment with the needs of the clients that need to receive the service, and which one should be more important. And I think it's a constant struggle for tribes to say, 'What are the minimum standards for this position and what are we willing to say to our Band members to get them?' And it's a constant educational process of saying, 'We value you, we need your input here at the tribe. There's other ways for you to be involved. We have training available, so that you can reach that level.' And workforce development systems on tribes of looking at coaching, mentoring, additional education so that over time our Band members are qualified to fill those positions is, I think, one of the highest priorities in Indian Country right now."

Mary Kim Titla: "Eddie, are you seeing anything different?"

Eddie Brown: "No, I completely agree. Making sure you have good training. If the goal is to hire tribal employees or tribal members to be employees, the idea is that they've got to do more than just meet minimum qualifications, which is [a] requirement under the Indian preference law, so that we want people that not only meet the minimum qualifications but we want to make sure that we provide training so that the employees can grow as the program grows as well."

Mary Kim Titla: "Now what about the various programs that exist and how important is it for each department head or for these programs really, the people that work in them, to communicate with each other?"

Karen Diver: "Very much so. We had a recent example on our reservation where we're trying to develop supportive housing and rather than just give people a house, it doesn't necessarily take care of all of their other needs that resulted in their initial homelessness -- whether it be chemical dependency, mental health issues, lack of jobs and training where they weren't marketable for suitable living wage employment. So we can't look at a band-aid approach of, 'You're homeless, we're going to give you a house.' We really have to look at a continuum of care to meet the multiple needs of people who really looked at several generations, multiple generations of oppression, and for those gaming nations, gaming jobs don't necessarily fix all of the hurt that came with it and the social ills that resulted in the form of chemical dependency and mental health issues. So developing continuums of care to really allow our Band members and tribal nation members to be self-sufficient means working across those borders of program lines."

Eddie Brown: "Clearly. And you've seen tribes like the Tohono O'odham Nation, Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community that have re-looked at how services are being offered and then restructured, realizing that many of the same people were working with the same families and in some ways providing some duplication of services, where if they just restructured their organizations and maybe integrated the services more, that the services provided will not only be more effective but can be done at a much lower cost as well, so that you've seen tribes lower the cost as well as improve the effectiveness of their service."

Mary Kim Titla: "Thank you both so much for being with us. You've both provided some great input and hopefully some food for thought for Nations that are out there and can improve what they're doing now. Thank you so much for being with us today."

Dr. Eddie Brown: "Thank you."

Karen Diver: "Thank you."

Mary Kim Titla: "Native Nation Building is a program of the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona. To learn more about Native Nation Building and the issues discussed on today's program, please visit the Native Nations Institute's website at www.nni.arizona.edu/nativetv. Thank you for joining us and please tune in to the next edition of Native Nation Building."

Robert F. Kennedy's Legacy with First Americans

Author
Producer
Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education
Year

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s address to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Bismarck, North Dakota. I was in high school then. My memories are that of tribal leaders who came together from throughout the nation to discuss key issues of the time–challenges that are still with us today. The leaders welcomed him with accolades, but also with a great hope that he and his brother would lead us all to a better condition. They inspired great hope in us to overcome so many obstacles...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Gipp, David M. "Robert F. Kennedy’s Legacy with First Americans." Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education. November 29, 2013. Opinion. (http://tribalcollegejournal.org/robert-f-kennedys-legacy-first-americans/, accessed October 20, 2023)

Key to Indian Development: Self-Government

Author
Producer
The Daily Yonder
Year

Beginning late in the last century, the economies of Indian nations in the United States began recording a remarkable turnaround.

Since the early 1990s, per capita income on Native American reservations has grown three times faster than have incomes in the nation as a whole.

American Indians are still poor – the poorest of any ethnic group in the nation, with 39% of the population living in poverty in 2000 and incomes less than half the U.S. average.

But the gains made among the 1.2 million people living in Indian Country have been dramatic. Something has been working in many Indian nations, according to two professors (Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt) who have studied tribal development...

Resource Type
Citation

Bishop, Bill. "Key to Indian Development: Self-Government." Daily Yonder. December 01, 2010. Article. (http://www.dailyyonder.com/key-indian-development-self-government/2010/1..., accessed August 1, 2023)

PBS "We Shall Remain": Spotlight on Sovereignty

Producer
American Experience (in association with NAPT)
Year

The federal government today recognizes 562 Indian tribes as sovereign nations within the United States. Tribal members are citizens of the United States and subject to federal laws, but as sovereign nations, tribes have retained some rights to govern their own people. The limits of these rights are constantly being re-evaluated by federal courts. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe describes changing federal policies toward self-governance in the past 20 years...

Native Nations
Citation

American Experience (in association with NAPT). "Spotlight on Sovereignty." PBS "We Shall Remain" documentary series. January 8, 2009. Television, Radio and Film. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/weshallremain/native_now/sovereignty, accessed August 16, 2012)

Exercising Sovereignty and Expanding Economic Opportunity Through Tribal Land Management

Year

While the United States faces one of the most significant housing crises in the nation’s history, many forget that Indian housing has been in crisis for generations. This report seeks to take some important steps toward a future where safe, affordable, and decent housing is available to Native people in numbers sufficient to meet the housing needs that exist in Indian country today.

This study provides first-of-its-kind analysis of a critical barrier to homeownership on Indian lands. It analyzes the success of tribes that have taken responsibility (in whole or in part) for administering the land title process on tribal lands. It also addresses the challenges those tribes have faced...

Resource Type
Citation

Edwards, Karen, Peter Morris, and Sharon Redthunder. "Exercising Sovereignty and Expanding Economic Opportunity Through Tribal Land Management." The First Nations Development Institute and The NCAI Policy Research Center. Washington, D.C. 2009. Report. (http://www.issuelab.org/resource/exercising_sovereignty..., accessed April 11, 2023)