Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC)

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: Roy Sampsel

Producer
Institute for Tribal Government
Year

Produced by the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University in 2004, the landmark “Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times” interview series presents the oral histories of contemporary leaders who have played instrumental roles in Native nations' struggles for sovereignty, self-determination, and treaty rights. The leadership themes presented in these unique videos provide a rich resource that can be used by present and future generations of Native nations, students in Native American studies programs, and other interested groups.

Institute for Tribal Government Director Roy Sampsel is convinced that tribes have unique skills as natural resource managers. Sampsel often serves as a bridge between tribes and federal, state & local agencies. His past positions include Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Interior for the Pacific Northwest Region, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Policy, Department of Interior.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Institute for Tribal Government.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Sampsel, Roy. "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" (interview series). Institute for Tribal Government, Portland State University. Portland, Oregon. 2004. Interview.

Kathryn Harrison:

"Hello. My name is Kathryn Harrison. I am presently the Chairperson of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. I have served on my council for 21 years. Tribal leaders have influenced the history of this country since time immemorial. Their stories have been handed down from generation to generation. Their teaching is alive today in our great contemporary tribal leaders whose stories told in this series are an inspiration to all Americans both tribal and non-tribal. In particular it is my hope that Indian youth everywhere will recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by these great tribal leaders."

[Native music]

Narrator:

"Roy Sampsel has had a decade's long fascination with fish, water, forests, oceans, wildlife and the rights of Indian tribes. More than a fascination, he has maintained a steady and creative commitment to the sovereignty of Indian Nations and the protection of their natural resources. As a policy advisor to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission he has worked to protect, enhance and implement the tribal fishing rights of the Warm Springs, Yakima, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes. Convinced that tribes have unusual skills and abilities as resource managers, he has worked behind the scenes and in front of the scenes to make sure tribes have a very solid seat at the table in the complex natural resource negotiations among federal and state agencies, tribal nations and other interests. Roy, who spent his early years in Broken Bow in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is both Choctaw and Wyandot. His is a member of the Wyandot Nation. When his father went into the Navy in World War II, the family stayed with Roy's grandmother, a storyteller and a savvy strategist in conducting business with tribes on the reservation. She would often take Roy down to a tribal gathering place, one of the old creeks on the reservation on whose banks Roy says, ‘still stands a huge cottonwood tree.' The Sampsel family moved from Oklahoma to Tulane, Louisiana, then to Portland, Oregon, where Roy got the spark for public service from professors at Portland State University and from Oregon political leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties. After working at the Oregon Legislature, Roy had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. where he served from 1971 to 1976 as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior for the Pacific Northwest Region. He was responsible for assisting the Secretary in developing and implementing departmental policy for federal resources and for a liaison with tribal and state governments and federal agencies throughout the region. From 1977 to 1979 he served as the first Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. He returned to Washington in 1981 serving as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs for the Department of the Interior. In this position he worked on Indian rights protection and natural resources policy including timber, fish, wildlife, oil, gas and minerals. He also worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on putting into action the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act of 1975. He relished participating in a great time of legislative accomplishments on behalf of Indian people. Roy Sampsel is known as a generous, openhearted leader. Helping people figure out how to solve problems is a pleasure for him and he will often say in reference to periods of challenge, difficulty or accomplishment, ‘I can't even tell you what an absolutely wonderful time that was.'"

Roy Sampsel's family lived in Broken Bow and Tahlequah in his early years. When his father went into the Navy for World War II, the family stayed with Roy's grandmother

Roy Sampsel:

"My mother was the youngest of 13 children and I was the youngest of all of the grandchildren so we had a great sort of time with my grandmother. She had a great deal of influence on my life at the time. She was a great teacher and spoke all of the Indian languages for the civilized tribes in Oklahoma: Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole and Chickasaw. She was an interpreter if you will for a lot of people who were trying to figure out how to do business or have dealings with the individual tribes. She was a fascinating woman. I can still remember her asking me how old I was as I was getting to be tall and taller than she was. And so I can remember when she took my hand, and I didn't think very much of it at the time, but kind of pronouncing that I was a man now, I was no longer her little boy. Of course that was the youngest of all of her grandchildren that she'd had. I had a lot of uncles that were gone before I was ever born of course because they had died in the first World War and I can remember granny saying to me that two of the saddest things that had ever happened was one, losing me as a baby cause I was now a man, and living longer than most of her sons."

Roy's father became a psychiatric social worker and the family eventually moved to Portland, Oregon. Roy had a variety of school experiences from Broken Bow to Portland.

Roy Sampsel:

"When we were in Broken Bow it was an Indian school in Tahlequah. I'm not sure if it was a state school or an Indian school but it was all Indian students. And then in New Orleans we lived in the student housing section at Tulane, which was a relatively wealthy section of New Orleans at the time. So it was not unusual to go to school in New Orleans and have classmates delivered there in their family limousine. So it was relatively...I wish I could remember the, there was a Mexican student. Anyway, he and I fought every morning with all the other kids. So it was kind of fun. Finally got a teacher who said, ‘that's not really a cool thing to do.' Franklin High School was a place where I decided; it's where I kind of developed my political student government interest, that type of thing. I was always better at politics and student government than I was at school itself, which was one of the things that was fun about Franklin. It was a place in which I got a lot of encouragement both from other student leaders that had been there prior to me getting interested and a faculty that was encouraging folks for that type of participation."

Roy learned from his professors at Portland State and from political leaders like Senator Mark Hatfield and Oregon Governor Tom McCall

Roy Sampsel:

"Dr. Garboni had one of the greatest and funniest lines about me ever. There was a student/faculty committee that they were appointing students to participate with faculty on the committee and he was advocating that I be one of those students and he was talking to his other faculty members at the faculty meeting and said, ‘Roy Sampsel is the smartest C student I've ever had.' That was kind of the classic reference to me. I was always the smartest C student that a bunch of these guys had ever had but we had a great time together and we got to be very, very close friends. And the University and the students that were there at the time had that opportunity to have that great sort of dialogue of politics and public service and communication at the same time."

After honing his skills in a job at the Oregon State Legislature, Roy went to work for Secretary of the Interior Roger Morton

Roy Sampsel:

"In the early part of the Nixon administration and he'd been the first kind of easterner that had been named Secretary of the Interior and we had...so they were looking for somebody that had a little bit of public affairs experience but who also understood some of the Western politics to work with him and Roger C.B. Morton. So Rog Morton was the Secretary of Interior starting in '71. He had actually got...I guess he started in '70 but in '71 they said, ‘We'd like you to come and work as part of his communication team,' and that was done primarily because of the political context. We did not know each other. We'd never really met. But some of the western Republicans were a little bit nervous to have this east coast guy running the Secretary of the Interior. And that was a great opportunity for me cause it kind of reintroduced me back into Indian affairs at a political level and at a level in which we had a lot of changes taking place. So here I was this basically Indian kid who had left Oklahoma, came out to Oregon, got involved politically in those types of public affairs types of discussions, had gotten involved politically both in terms of Democrat/Republican politics, now going to work for a Secretary of the Interior who had huge Indian issues on his plate. At the same time you had U.S. v. Washington taking place. So those were very high profile Indian treaty fishing cases. At the same time you had Wounded Knee going on, Alcatraz, the takeover of the BIA building in Washington, D.C. A very good friend by the name of Louie Bruce who was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. Louie Bruce was...ended up being a very great friend but was a person who had...they teased him when he first got in by saying that he was the only Republican Wall Street Indian they could find. Louie had worked in public affairs and worked in advertising and kind of the fame and fortune of creating the slogan for Miller Beer, ‘The Champagne of Beer,' was very well written and had been successful both financially and business wise, came in to be the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the time as the Commissioner when it was exploding with AIM and Wounded Knee and ended up being perhaps the only person during that period of time that could have held things together. He ended up...he's passed away now but he ended up being a great friend and everybody remembered him as probably the Commissioner of the 20th century for that period of time."

Major fishing rights and environmental issues came to the fore in the early 1970s

Roy Sampsel:

"So the environmental issues were huge. Legislative wise, you're at a period of time in which a small, relatively small group of people are working with a Democratic Congress to figure out how you're really going to implement, NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act because it had just been passed a little bit earlier and now you had huge issues like what was the NEPA requirement to build something like the Alaska pipeline? Well, part of the excitement of the time was that with all of these issues, all of which touched each other, the environmental issues touched each other, the treaty right issues had tremendous implications to what it would mean in terms of the fishing relationship between Canada, the United States and Alaska because you had those fisheries all of which went into the various jurisdictions, none of which had been resolved yet. You had major pieces of legislation that were being passed. Indian Self-Determination and Education, the Nixon administration came out with a major Indian policy, hadn't had one in literally decades and it said, ‘Indian self-determination without termination reversed the termination policy of the ‘50s; major, major policy statement of fact. But with everybody kind of struggling about how would you implement that, what did it mean in relationship to AIM and the real poverty and problems that are taking place on Indian reservations? What did it mean in relationship to those environmental concerns that are now becoming very, very sensitive and key both to the treaty and legal obligations that the United States had for Indian tribes? So we were passing things like Endangered Species Act, same time frame. Clean Air, Clean Water Act, implementation of NEPA and then how are you going to co-manage between tribes and non-Indians, major resources like the fishery resources that had been in the courts. So it was within that sort of context that not only did I get the opportunity to work with the Secretary of Interior but with the other assistant secretaries that were dealing with these issues, all of which were pushing this sort of environmental Indian awareness climate together with some very significant changes that were taking place both within the Congress and within the administration. So an exciting five or six years."

The excitement of converging issues, Native treaty rights, the environment, economic development

Roy Sampsel:

"I think it was the sense that there was great change taking place and that no individual change, act or personality was insulated from the other. Nat Reed was an assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Nat had kind of an Ichabod Crane character about him because he was thin and came out of Florida and he had wealth. He essentially was one of those people who had served on a number of commissions and a number of positions in government basically for a dollar a year because he had this great sense of social responsibility. And so in this Nixon administration he came in with this wonderful sort of environmental ethic that had been gained during this period of time. I can still remember Nat trying to understand the relationship between the Native rights in Alaska and his concern for building parks and refuges and how was he going to do that with this Native Indigenous subsistence right. It didn't seem to fit. So here was this wonderful person wrestling with what his job was in relationship to this overriding responsibility that he had...you couldn't learn it in school, you hadn't been taught it, there wasn't a place to easily pick I up, with an administration who said, ‘Hey, Indians have rights and Indians have their right to be self determined and educated.' This sounds a little silly to be doing that in the latter part of the 20th century but in fact this is when it was starting to come together or back together again in this sort of awareness. You also had a political climate in Alaska that said, ‘We don't want reservations. We don't want this settlement of this lands issue and the building of this pipeline which is very, very important to us economically to be hampered by the fact that we're creating reservations in this state.' Therefore you ended up with something called the Native Claims Settlement Act which essentially changed the character of Native people by creating corporations."

The Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 was a money-land settlement with Alaska Natives establishing regional corporations and terminating certain rights

Roy Sampsel:

"Thirteen regional corporations, village corporations, that would be given land and resources from the oil revenues as the means by which to insure that there would be success or assimilation of Native people into the broader society without what was perceived to be the inherent failure of the lower 48 reservation Indian situation. So when you asked what was there, you had all of this coming together at a time in which it hadn't been sorted out but you knew that this was, that period of time was in fact going to be a major change and if you can get involved with pieces of it maybe you could help make some of those changes better."

As special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior he had frequent contact with tribal communities

Roy Sampsel:

"In Alaska I probably went to I would say at least half, maybe 60 percent of all the villages and it was a timeframe that was just absolutely fascinating. I had not spent any time in Alaska before doing that so getting a chance to meet the tribal leaders, getting a chance to meet all the people that was very, very exciting. In the lower 48 the answer is, yeah, I got to spend a lot of time talking to tribal folks about a range of issues and the...I think probably some of the most tense times were when we were dealing in Sioux Country around the Wounded Knee timeframe. Up in Red Lake; that was during a period of time in which all of this was taking place. You had Roger Jordain under a tremendous amount of fire from the dissention within the tribe and its own people. So yeah, I spent a lot of time with a lot of folks. The difference in doing it at that particular level is that you were essentially talking to leadership about a issue of the moment as opposed to where do you want to be in a few years, where do you see the change taking you and that was kind of the exciting part about dealing with specific issues cause you could actually sit down with the folks that were involved in the fish commissions or getting involved in the fish commissions in the later ‘70s. And they had a vision of where they wanted to see things go and what they were trying to fight and protect for."

Tribal leaders of the recent past, Roger Jordain, Red Lake, Chippewa Cree; Wendell Chino, Mescalero Apache; Bob Jim, Yakima; Lucy Covington, Colville

Roy Sampsel:

"Respect for each other but they disagreed a lot on a lot of things and they were grand leaders of their time. They were cutting edges in a time in which the things that they had had to fight for were changing a little bit. They were very distrustful of government and what it was trying to do but also very demanding that government had a responsibility, that those treaties meant things, that there was a trust obligation of the United States that extended beyond the Bureau of Indian Affairs and that it wasn't just based upon the land, the treaties talked about education, it talked about healthcare, it talked about those things that were a piece of the federal trust responsibility. Yeah, they were very articulate spokesmen and they had visions for their people. I don't know that anybody will ever really understand what Wendell Chino did but he was a rock and there was no question about it, there was that sort of presence. When he was there to make a comment and to talk about things, you knew it was worth listening to and you knew it was serious. There were a number of people during that same period of time that we're going at. Yakimas had a...Yakima tribe in Washington had Bob Jim. Bob was a wonderful, strong Indian leader. When the Native people in Alaska were wrestling with how they were going to deal with the Native Claims Settlement Act, Bob Jim went to his council and said, ‘We need to help these people.' The Yakima tribe loaned the Alaskan Native leadership $250,000, which was a lot of money in those days, a lot of money today but a lot of money in those days, so that they could get organized to deal with the federal government because he believed it was that important. I was dealing with a water rights issue at the time because I was working in Interior. And we called all of the tribal leadership and tribal attorneys together to deal with this particular question and a lot was going on, it was a two day meeting. We were into the second day and I can still remember Bob Jim standing up and saying, ‘Well, Roy,' he said, ‘I really enjoyed the fact that you've been doing this today.' He said, ‘I'd like to ask all of the non-Indian folks that are here just if they wouldn't mind leaving for awhile so some of us Indians can get together and talk about this a little bit.' He was very courteous about it and at the end of that they...of course people started picking up their things and leaving cause they respected Bob Jim's desire. And about...as they were starting to leave he said, ‘Now, Roy, I want you to stay.' He said, ‘I want you to stay.' So he got in there and he shut the door and he said, ‘I want you to understand what water means to me and what it means to...' and he went around the room because he said, ‘I think you're dealing with this in too much of an abstract legal sense. There are attorneys to deal with it legally but this is what water means to us.' It was dynamic and these were people who understood what it meant to be Indian, understood what it meant to be Indian in a time of conflict and controversy."

The Indian Self Determination and Education Act of 1975 gave tribal governments increased control of their affairs and funding for education assistance

Roy Sampsel:

"What I think the legislation that changed the character, that represented a major shift if you will in federal policy was the Indian Self-Determination and Education Act. Not because of the detail of the act but for the recognition that tribes were in fact not going to go away. That the termination and the assimilation era that had been in the ‘50s and early ‘60s was not where we wanted to be as a nation anymore and that there was a recognition that tribes had the ability to not only run but operate their own form of government. So the significance was this major change. The other piece that was significant about it is that this came about during the timeframe in which you had guys by the name of Forrest Girard who was working on the Indian committee with Senator Scoot Jackson of Washington. Scoot Jackson had been one of the architects of the termination period and here was this man, chairman of this committee, with Forrest Girard an Indian person working on his stand, working with the administration to create this piece of legislation. It was a significant turnaround and Indians seizing upon that as the means by which to identify how they chose to do business with the federal government and how the federal government were going to have to respond to them in the future."

Working in the administration of President Richard Nixon

Roy Sampsel:

"It would be wrong to characterize him as a person who had this great passion for Indian self-government and the rest of it. What he did is he understood that there were people who did and he let them move forward in a way that I think speaks well for his overall leadership. It was a time that it may have happened anyway regardless of who was president. I don't want to give too much credence to some of these things that just are necessary and are evolving anyway. So if you look at the Nixon timeframe, he did things like return Blue Lake to the Pueblos, his tremendous culturally significant event because he knew that Indian self-determination and the right for tribes to have this sort of... required specific actions that would demonstrate there was in fact a change."

Roy returns to the northwest to work with tribes keeping old friends and allies

Roy Sampsel:

"I decided that there were a couple of things that needed to happen. One, I wanted to work closer with the Indian issues on a specific basis and I was fortunate enough to be in the northwest and the fact that you had a few things that had been achieved in the federal courts didn't mean that they were being implemented and the question was, ‘Could you implement a court treaty right? Could you make it work?' And we had the advantage of having some great Indian leadership at the time and some pretty gutsy folks that were sitting around trying to figure out how to make that happen. And tribes had understood that they were gaining in terms of their management responsibility and that they weren't going to go away. A guy by the name of Wyman Babby had been back as a young Indian person working with Louie Bruce. Louie Bruce, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, first chairman of the Nixon administration and he had ended up being the area director for Aberdeen, Wounded Knee, young Indian man basically beat up by that period of time. I brought him on my staff in Portland, Oregon, in the Secretary's office because quite frankly he didn't have any place else to go. He was looking for...he still wanted to be active so I take Wyman Babby and let him go work for Don Hodel. During this period of time Don Hodel says, ‘Gee, there's this treaty thing going on with Indian fishing rights and we're right kind of in the middle of it, aren't we?' And the answer is, ‘Yes.' So this is a period of time in which Wyman Babby, because of his education and the opportunity to work with the Indian people out here, has determined that maybe what Don Hodel ought to do is be the one who leads the charge. So during that period of time on the Columbia River you've got Don Hodel working with the tribes to reach the first agreement between the treaty tribes and Bonneville Power Administration that they have a seat at the table to deal with these issues."

The Columbia River Treaty Tribes, Yakima, Nez Perce, Warm Springs, Umatilla

Roy Sampsel:

"That memorandum of agreement between the four tribes signed by the Bonneville Power Administration really broke things open because it made the state very nervous and very unhappy. So that agreement was then modified and was signed also not only by the four treaty tribes and the Bonneville Power Administration but the Governor of Idaho, the Governor of Washington and the Governor of Oregon. The Governor of Oregon at the time was a guy by the name of Bob Straub, Dan Evans in the State of Washington and Cec Andrus in the State of Idaho. And so during that period of time is when you get the commissioned organized, that's when you get the tribal Indian commissions organized, you get this sort of expansion if you will of that authority, get the negotiation between the Puget Sound tribes on the U.S. v. Washington, the Bolt decision timeframe because the administration wanted very, very much to have a settlement of that court case. So there was a formal negotiation with the tribes, the State of Washington and President Carter had three cabinet officials as part of that team, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Interior. While all of this is taking place within this context about how do we begin to implement a court case and what is the United States' responsibility not only to file the case and to win it but then to implement it to make sure that the intent of that court case is in fact carried out, how much resource in terms of money is needed so all of this is being debated. How much authority do tribes have? What does co-management really mean?"

The strengths of the Pacific Northwest Tribes in the negotiations

Roy Sampsel:

"The one thing you can say about the tribal people at the time is that they never blinked. They knew exactly what it meant to them and they knew exactly what the United States was going to have to do. Now, we're still working to try to figure out what that means on any given day and how it still needs to be applied but during those late ‘70s and into the early ‘80s, there was this sort of commitment that we have won this right in the courts and the federal government needs to now step up to the plate to make sure that those rights are able to be implemented and that there is no further erosion."

Roy served as the first Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission from 1977-1979. The Northwest Indian Fish Commission in Puget Sound had been formed in 1974.

Roy Sampsel:

"I can still remember the meeting in which they asked if I'd be willing to come and be the Executive Director. We were meeting at the Portage Inn up in Dalles and the tribal leadership was up there and our tribal attorneys were involved and I said, ‘Well, let me just think about this for a minute.' And they said, ‘Well, you don't have too much time to think about it cause we've got a lot of work to do.' And so I said, ‘Okay, suppose I said yes, what would my first job be?' They said, ‘Well, you would have to go to Washington, D.C. and get some money cause we have no way to pay you.' And so that was sort of the...kind of the humor if you will about also and the importance of how would you actually put one of these commissions together? The commission in Puget Sound had been operating for a few years and it had gotten started a little bit earlier and we were still wrestling with those issues. Now, in comes the new administration and President Carter wants to try to figure out if they can figure out how to negotiate an agreement, a settlement to the disputes and the court cases in Puget Sound. So while we've started the Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, I'm not its executive director and being asked by the Puget Sound tribes if I will be their lead negotiator in negotiating with the State of Washington and the federal government during the supposed settlement negotiations. It was absolutely a fascinating timeframe. Now, why would a executive director from the Inter-Tribal Fish Commission on the Columbia River be asked to be the negotiator for the Puget Sound tribes? And the reason is because the Yakimas were a party to both cases and saw the need for somebody who they trusted to be a piece of this negotiating team and all of this earlier sort of experience that I'd had doing all these things, there weren't a whole lot of Indian folks that had actually worked in the administration and worked politically and so it was that sort of...all of that background experience now became a useful tool in how could you start to implement a treaty right. And what type of skills would you bring to a negotiating table? Okay, Roy, you can go negotiate but your job is to give away absolutely nothing and the State of Washington had hired a negotiator, a gentleman by the name of Bill Wilkerson. Bill then goes on later in his life to become the Fish and Wildlife Director for the State of Washington. And all of us in those period of times were trying to sit around and figure out how could you craft certain types of agreements that were consistent with what the court had said and consistent with what the tribes wanted and needed in order to be able to implement their treaty right."

Values and strengths on which he drew in these times

Roy Sampsel:

"That's the beauty of grandma and mom and dad who...granny who had that great Indian wisdom, mom and dad who survived the Depression and going to Indian boarding school in the ‘30s. The political teachings of Frank Roberts and all of those folks and so basically the people that had been teaching me how to do specifics had also taught you how to deal with opportunity and controversy and the challenge. The leadership that wouldn't allow you to fear failure or to understand that there was even an option to quit, how could you possible do that with people who hadn't quit in their entire lifetime or in the lifetimes of their parents or their grandparents. This was not something...it was not casual and it wasn't just political, it was very, very significant in terms about the culture and the religion of those people. You could not...you could not not do what was needed. It wasn't allowed. It wasn't an acceptable alternative. So what you didn't know you learned and what you didn't know you created. Blind luck, a lot of it."

Serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs under Secretary of the Interior James Watt

Roy Sampsel:

"He was one of the people who probably did more to damage himself than anybody could have done for him. And I say that because he had a sense of what it needed to be, he didn't really understand what it was and he understood that self-determination was really a piece of how you turned Indian reservations and Indian tribes around was the ability to have great economic independence, greater economic independence from the federal government. He didn't quite understand the relationship between the tribal government doing that and what was necessary. And I have known every Secretary of Interior since Stuart Udall who served in the Kennedy administration and without exception most of the Secretaries of Interior have left their position disappointed that they were not able to do more in relationship to their tribal and Indian responsibility and part of that is I think because none of them truly had an understanding of what it would take to implement a trust relationship with tribes. This particular Secretary that we're dealing with now in this administration, Gale Norton, working for the Bush administration inherited a hundred year old failure of federal government to deal honestly with trust assets of individual Indians and tribes. Now, how...can you imagine that happening in any other avenue of society in the United States of America in which you would have 100 year of failing to deal with fiduciary responsibilities associated with dealing with individual Indians and tribal resources, cash, real dollars going to real accounts not being able to be tracked or understood? Gale Norton didn't do that but she is the lady in charge of that department now. So for 100 years Secretaries of Interior in the federal government fail Indian people. And when you get back to an individual Secretary, they each understood pieces of it but never understood it enough to take it seriously as a responsibility to fix the deficiencies which allowed for...Jim Watt speaking about the need to create Indian wealth while his department was managing billions of dollars of Indian monies and not being able to figure out that that was a primary responsibility that he had as Secretary. So pieces of this are still weaving themselves together into a fabric that I think will speak well for where Indians end up at say the mid point of the 21st century."

A perspective on tribes from the future

Roy Sampsel:

"You have to remember the time and schedule that tribes are on are a little bit different than the tribes and schedules that others might be on so they're going to be here for a long time and as many of my Indian friends will tell me, we're not going anywhere. We have our homes, we have our lands, our reservation, we have our homeland that we're...so you can change, society can change, it can change but we're going to still be here. So these sort of fixes that we're talking about will in fact take place. We don't know exactly what the picture of Indian America will look like another 50 years from now but I will tell you there will be an Indian America and the picture will be brighter than it is today, perhaps even superior to other societies that have failed to live with both their culture and their religion and their beliefs."

Leadership in Indian Country and the examples of the late Joe de la Cruz (Quinault) and Lucy Covington (Colville)

Roy Sampsel:

"I think Indian leadership will be enhanced by understanding that there have been previous great Indian leaders and that the ability to see that may encourage people to pursue it. I guess I would say the same thing about...Indian leadership is part of a tribal political process as well as a cultural process and if you're well grounded in your roots and the culture and the history of your people and your tribe, then you have to make a decision about whether or not the politics of it is something that you want to pursue and endure. What makes a great United States Senator? I would be hard to draw that profile. What makes a great President? Maybe the fact that he or she was a great Senator or a great Congressman or a good Governor or maybe it's just the events in which they find themselves and how they respond to the crisis of the moment. Would Lucy Covington have such an important place in my sense of history if she hadn't jumped off that tractor as a farmer in Colville and decided there was no way they were going to terminate her tribe? I don't know. If they hadn't been trying to terminate her tribe, would she have jumped off the tractor? So when you start looking at pieces of this, part of it is events and part of it is the fact that there is this sense of responsibility. And I don't know how an individual tribe or an individual person emerges to take on that level of responsibility but it's a personal thing. It's something that they are willing and want to do. Joe de la Cruz who was...there was never a meeting that Joe de la Cruz wasn't willing to go to. He was willing to participate at all levels because he was in some sense afraid not to for fear of what might happen if there wasn't that presence there. But I don't think there is an easy way to say, ‘What is...why did certain tribes have great leaders at this moment?' Well, they may have had spectacular leaders 200 years ago and we just don't know about it."

Tribes and Washington, D.C. politics in late 2002

Roy Sampsel:

"I don't see this administration being in a position or having as a priority great changes that would increase dollars and wealth to Indian Country and Indian tribes. Nor do I see it in a position in which it would be advocating additional resources for natural resources types of issues that Indian tribes are concerned about. I think the greatest sense that I see about Indian tribes and this particular Congress that's coming up and with this administration is that you have the growth of Native American caucuses in both the House and the Senate who are increasing in membership and are bipartisan. Now, that tells me that there is an understanding that the federal trust responsibility to Indian tribes and that special relationship is better understood now than it has been in the past and it is bipartisan in nature, not partisan in nature. I don't know of a Democratic or Republican way to improve Indian housing, to improve Indian health services delivery. There are ways in which it can be done but for the most part it's pretty well understood that those are responsibilities that need to be met. Now will the resources be there? More likely when you have greater money and you probably get a better response out of Democratic Congresses more than Republican Congresses but we'll have to wait and see. I don't see a major change coming about because there is a party in charge of all three. I'm encouraged by the fact that we see a bipartisan approach coming out of both the House and the Senate, Native American caucuses and I think that will have an influence on the budgeting that the President puts forth in future budgets. I think that I am more concerned about the Supreme Court now than I have been but anybody that's been tracking Indian affairs over the last number of years have been concerned about the Supreme Court for the last decade and a half and unless there is a legislative redefinition of federal responsibility and as a result of that the Congress defining the rights and responsibilities of Indian governments, I see continued erosion of that, regardless of which court is in there. But I don't see anything happening positive with this Court now or in the immediate future."

The changes in Indian Country and what's ahead

Roy Sampsel:

"A couple of these may surprise you. I think there are more people willing to say they are Indian now than there were 30 years ago. I think there is a greater personal pride in being an Indian person. There is I think a greater sense that...from the general population that Indians may have a unique wisdom that maybe wasn't appreciated as much 30 or 35 years ago as it is now and that the logic of taking care of the land and the water and the, if you will the cultural and religious significance of that Indian people is having a rebirth in non-Indian thought and pattern. I think that individual Indian entrepreneurship growth in terms of economic self sufficiency and development is what's going to be the most exciting thing to observe over the next couple of decades."

Roy has a reputation for goodwill and generosity: his comments

Roy Sampsel:

"It doesn't have to be big, it just has to be real. You've really got to care that this individual or this action or that type of activity will in some way be of value to something beyond what is now and certainly beyond who you are, that it isn't enough just to be right and to give the speech, it has to work and has to work over time and that requires the persistence and the diligence to make change happen."

The Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times series and accompanying curricula are for the educational programs of tribes, schools and colleges. For usage authorization, to place an order or for further information, call or write Institute for Tribal Government – PA, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, Oregon, 97207-0751. Telephone: 503-725-9000. Email: tribalgov@pdx.edu.

[Native music]

The Institute for Tribal Government is directed by a Policy Board of 23 tribal leaders,
Hon. Kathryn Harrison (Grand Ronde) leads the Great Tribal Leaders project and is assisted by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, Director and Kay Reid, Oral Historian

Videotaping and Video Assistance
Chuck Hudson, Jeremy Fivecrows and John Platt of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

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Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times is also supported by the non-profit Tribal Leadership Forum, and by grants from:
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Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
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Mohegan Tribal Council
And other tribal governments

Support has also been received from:
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Bonneville Power Administration
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This program is not to be reproduced without the express written permission of the Institute for Tribal Government

© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government  

 

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: W. Ron Allen

Producer
Institute for Tribal Government
Year

Produced by the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University in 2004, the landmark “Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times” interview series presents the oral histories of contemporary leaders who have played instrumental roles in Native nations' struggles for sovereignty, self-determination, and treaty rights. The leadership themes presented in these unique videos provide a rich resource that can be used by present and future generations of Native nations, students in Native American studies programs, and other interested groups.

In this interview, conducted in June 2003, longtime Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Ron Allen discusses the role he played in his tribe gaining federal recognition and his work with the National Congress of American Indians. Allen thrives on challenge, greatly expanding the economy of his own small nation while simultaneously working on the national level with NCAI and other intertribal organizations.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Institute for Tribal Government.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Allen, W. Ron. "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" (interview series). Institute for Tribal Government. Portland State University. Portland, Oregon. June 2003. Interview.

Kathryn Harrison:

"Hello. My name is Kathryn Harrison. I am presently the Chairperson of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. I have served on my council for 21 years. Tribal leaders have influenced the history of this country since time immemorial. Their stories have been handed down from generation to generation. Their teaching is alive today in our great contemporary tribal leaders whose stories told in this series are an inspiration to all Americans both tribal and non-tribal. In particular it is my hope that Indian youth everywhere will recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by these great tribal leaders."

[Native music]

Narrator:

"Ron Allen, a citizen of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe was born in Sequim, Washington in 1947. With his three brothers and parents he enjoyed a small town life full of the outdoors and sports. Ron notes that he was a wild child during his teens and was not overly fond of school but he also had a curiosity about people and a zest for work and eventually developed a zest also for studies earning accounting and technical engineering degrees from Peninsula College and a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Washington. Ron Allen's interest in his tribe was sparked in the mid "˜70s when he was unable to get a replacement tribal ID card. He had not really been following the tribal story or its politics. Trying to get his card, the tribe told him that the Jamestown S'Klallam was no longer a recognized entity by the federal government; but S'Klallam means "Strong People". Ron decided to pitch in with the effort to make the tribe's strength a present day, not just a past reality. He was asked to serve on the tribal council and by 1977 had become chairman. Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe was restored to federal recognition in 1981. He became its executive director in 1982 with responsibilities for the tribe's programs including education, health and housing, economic development, natural resource management and cultural/traditional affairs. He remains chairman and executive director today. In the tribe's quest for self sufficiency Ron has led it in establishing enterprises that include a seafood operation, art gallery, construction company and a tribal casino. Profits are plowed back into the tribe and the local community to create jobs, school improvements and health services. But one tribe alone cannot meet the many challenges Indian nations face. He is committed to alliances such as the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. He is one of four U.S. commissioners on the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Commission. The organization he holds to be most crucial to tribes is the National Congress of American Indians. He has served as president, vice president and treasurer. Not shy to speak and speak out, Ron has provided congressional testimony numerous times and has actively engaged in media and public relations to educate the public about tribes. On all levels Ron Allen is passionately driven to protect and fight for the sovereignty of tribal nations and treaty rights. He was a leader in a 1994 historic White House meeting with President Clinton and tribal leaders from across the nation. In his home state he helped develop the 1989 Centennial Accord between Washington and its 26 tribes. The University of Washington awarded him a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001. His travels have taken him not just to tribes around the U.S. but to other parts of the world. The condition of Indigenous people internationally is a growing concern. Though he thrives on his work and calling he is also dedicated to his two children, his garden and his wife whom he says has exerted a strong influence on his life and work. The Institute for Tribal Government interviewed Ron Allen in June 2003."

Parents, brothers and childhood

Ron Allen:

"My early childhood was primarily just a small town, rural, middle class community. My father and mother were as middle class as you could probably get. My father was a mechanic; my mother was a waitress. So they were definitely very people-oriented type of personalities. And we grew up in Port Angeles in very small neighborhoods. When you think of the Norman Rockwell kind of childhood, that's kind of what my childhood was about. My mother was just as outgoing a personality as you could ever imagine, classic waitress and everybody loved... She knew everybody and she was just a veracious reader. Even though she didn't go, neither of them went beyond high school, she was just incredibly bright and we'd get into almost any kind of conversation that we wanted. They were very avid Democrats, even though they weren't active type of Democrats but they were just as loyal to the Democrat Party as you could possibly get. And when I went into college and I ended up shifting more into Republic philosophical perspective. My mother had the hardest time with that. That was kind of an interesting development. But as far as values go, we just lived a very classic life, a classic rural life I guess and I just enjoyed it thoroughly. I just have nothing but fond memories from grade school all the way through high school.

Ryan's parents and the world of Indian issues

Ron Allen:

"My father experienced a lot of racism and my father was more on the fair skinned side as an Indian. And it was always interesting; as he grew up he ended up buying booze for his friends and relatives because he could get it with less hassle than his colleagues. My mother was Scottish-Irish so half of my heritage is from my mother's side. They just weren't very active. My father's father, my grandfather was very active. He was a former chairman of my tribe and very active with the lands claim settlement and so he was very much a part of that aspect of the tribal politics. But my dad just didn't get into it and neither did his brothers. He comes from a large family and there were seven of them. But none of them got interested in it, dad never got interested in it. I was always interested in it when I was a kid. My grandmother was one of the last speaking S'Klallams in our village and I remember her speaking it and I was asking her to try to teach me the language but she had absolutely no interest in it. She felt very firmly that it was dying and that I just needed to learn English well and that was her attitude towards it. So they just weren't active. My mother was very interested in it. She used to listen to the stories that my grandmother used to share about the experiences of the village and her memories of her mother and father, my grandparents of course."

Preparation for leadership did not necessarily begin in Ron's youth: Play, work and the Vietnam issue

Ron Allen:

"We used to party and drink a lot and basically do those kinds of things so I was...I think I was known as a bit of a wild child in high school days. In fact I was such a wild child that during high school I basically got picked up a great deal, a minor and possession. It ended up being one of the reasons why I did not go into the military. When I graduated in 1966, actually '67, '66 is when I was supposed to graduate, I was always in so much trouble by the time '66 came around most of my colleagues at the time were graduating, moving on and the guys were all going to the Vietnam War. And of course I had one more year to go and '67 we were still immersed in the Vietnam War and by that time I'd already been picked in minor possession 19 times and I had a couple of assault charges, getting into fights and things like that. Often they weren't necessarily fights that I incited, they were just things I was defending people that were friends of mine, and you're at the wrong place, the wrong time. And that was a lot of my story back in the high school and post high school years. And so I was not really being much shaped as a leader. I was always interested, I was always vocal but I was not necessarily shaping my leadership skills at the time. And when I got out of high school and of course the Vietnam War was moving along and I got my draft notice. I remember going in and passed the physical fine and then you have to sign up all this stuff that you did and I had to tell them all these minor possessions and the assault charges. And I remember the recruiter was looking at it and kind of going, "˜What is this?' And I said, "˜Well, you know, I kind of had fun during high school.' And I put all the stuff down because I was not really interested in going to Vietnam. My friends wanted to go there, paratroopers and what have you, and I was not interested in the war at all. I did not like it, I did not feel good about it, everything I read about it I didn't like it and so I told the guy, the recruiter, I said, "˜I'm not interested. If this keeps me out of the military, fine.' And I got a notice months later that gave me a 4F and a little note on the side attached to it and the recruiter says, "˜Well, bub, this is the best I can do for you.' So that kept me out of the military. I always had mixed feelings about that as I grow older and think about my friends who did serve and sometimes I wish I would have and did, I wish I did do that but I just didn't. And that's just the way it goes and I don't think twice about it and don't look back at it and think lesser of myself because I didn't do it. I am proud of my friends and those who have actually served in the military and am very appreciative of them doing that. But after high school then I started getting, I tried to go to college and it didn't work. I was not interested in anything, I couldn't stay focused, my grades were just terrible cause I just...I was not interested in school. I was always, all the way from grade school all the way through, well, my whole life; I've always been a worker. So because we were really a poor family, we didn't have much, anything that I wanted I had to work for. So I remember even as a teenager when I was 15 and 16 years old, I went up to Alaska and fished on a commercial seiner up in southeast Alaska and I'd come home with a lot of money. I had a lot more money than most of my friends just cause I had a little connection and I worked hard and I made money and then when I was in high school I always worked. I remember working as a mechanic in a bowling alley all the way through high school. So I'd go to work at 7:00 or 8:00 at night and not get off until 1:00 in the morning and then go to school the next day. So working was never a problem for me. As a matter of fact, when I was grade school and junior high I used to have three paper routes. They didn't want you to have three paper routes but one paper route wasn't making enough money for me so I figured out a way...we had three different papers at the time so I had all three routes in my area so I'd make a few more bucks. So I was never...I was always working and never was afraid of working."

The 1960s: Skills emerge in the counter culture experience, as does a fascinating with people

Ron Allen:

"So then my organizing and management control skills started emerging. I was always the one who handled the money for all my friends. If we were going to do anything, if we were going to...just manage everything from the household responsibilities to special events and we lived on a big farm out in the field and we would throw these small little mini rock festivals. I was the one who organized it, I was the one that put everything together and organized getting the beer and getting the bands and making sure the bandstand was all organized and figuring out how to hook up, make sure all the electricity was there and so forth and orchestrating who could park where and that's pretty much the world I came out of. And I was searching for something higher and searching for understanding of life without really knowing it. And then I was driving a logging truck and making pretty good money and all of a sudden I found myself reading a lot of magazines. I was just kind of fascinated with what it took to understand the people around me and people's personalities "˜cause I was always fascinated by people and wanted to understand what made them tick and why they acted and responded in a certain way, where their disposition led them as people. So I was trying to understand those issues. So then when I started reading and studying these different topics I just realized that driving a logging truck was not going to be a good enough deal for me. That was not the kind of vocation I was interested in. I was interested in something much more than that so I decided to go back to school."

Playing basketball in Indian tournaments, Ron gets carded

Ron Allen:

"I would always at the rebound and that was my main job, go get the ball and then get that thing out in the fast lane and I'd rough people up pretty good. And then pretty soon people were wondering about me cause I have fair skin, probably taking more after my mother, the Scottish-Irish side of my family. And they kind of went, "˜Who's this White guy out here? Is he really Indian?' I'm going, "˜Those are my brothers over there. You're not questioning them,' "˜cause they were more darker skinned than I was. And so they said, "˜We don't care. We want to see your ID.' And of course I didn't have it because I'd lost it on a fishing trip. I just loved basketball too much, I wanted to play so I went back to the council and said, "˜I need my ID, can you get me another ID?' And they said, "˜Well, actually we can't. The BIA has decided to no longer recognize our tribe and we are in the middle of reestablishing our standing as a tribal government and being recognized as a tribe.' That was the mid "˜70s, like 1974 pretty late in the fall cause we were playing basketball. So I was going to school and I was playing basketball and then all of a sudden that's when my whole career with the tribe emerged. I says, "˜Well, what's the deal with...how do we get the cards?' And they said, "˜we have to get recognized and there's a process called the Federal Recognition Process that they're...and we have a lawyer that we've hired,' through an organization the tribe was a member of called the Small Tribes Organization of Western Washington.'"

Ron is invited to fill a slow on the tribal council as he continues classes at Peninsula College

Ron Allen:

"So the guy says, "˜Well...' I said, "˜What does it mean?' And he goes, "˜Well, you just sit on the council and help us make decisions on what the tribe needs to do in terms of getting recognized and try to build up our ability to serve our people.' I went, "˜Okay, so I'll do that. If that means I can help get this card,' and that's all I was interested in was getting the card to go back and play basketball. So they appointed me to the chair or to the vacant council member in 1975. And then I started working with the lawyer and the anthropologist in terms of putting together the petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Meanwhile I was going to school at Peninsula College and all of a sudden those two simultaneous tracks started in my life, which kind of changed what I was doing. All of a sudden I became interested in what the tribe was doing and started asking questions, "˜What do we do, how do we provide services, where do we get our revenues?' We didn't have a land base. We didn't...we would meet in people's living rooms or at the VFW in Skwim and so that was kind of how we would orchestrate ourselves. Our files were...whoever was going to keep the files in their trunk and bring it to the meeting and that's pretty much how we handled business. The second two years at Peninsula College I was much more interested in politics and I became the president of the student body and then became only the second person to ever be the president two years in a row and was just very active on the campus and got more and more active with the tribe. And next thing I know by 1977, I was well into the engineering program up at PC, into the politics, and by that time I got elected the chairman of the tribe. Then all of a sudden my tribal career took off."

Jamestown Village was a cohesive community, which Ron got to know through his grandmother

Ron Allen:

"She always wanted me to come down and stay with her and so I did. I used to...summers I would go down there and stay for weeks on end. We used to have this little tiny hut on the beach. It was basically a two room place with an outdoor toilet and it didn't even have a shower. You had this little tiny bathtub in it. I mean it was the dinkiest little thing you could ever imagine. It's a good thing I was small back in those days. But I used to spend time with her on the beach and so I knew the community quite well. In those days what we referred to as the Jamestown Road was just all Jamestown people with a couple of non-Indian farmers around us. Today, because it's such a beautiful beach, it got bought up by a lot of very wealthy people and eventually pushed out a lot of our people. The prices of land taxes went up and it got exorbitant for many of our community. And so we really only have about a dozen or so of our members that actually still own land down in the original Jamestown Village. We're working hard at preserving more and more of that property and picking up pieces here and there to try to restore it as much as possible, but it's pricey for us. So we're doing that. But I was down there and was very much a part of the village. I didn't really realize that we were not an organized tribal entity. Before I became aware of it, I knew that there was a tribal police, there was actual IHS, Indian Health Service assistance that was made available down there, we had our own Shaker Church and it was just a very organized village and I guess you just didn't think about it. So I never thought much about it either and then all of a sudden all those factors became factors with the petition."

Juggling school, work and the rules of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Ron Allen:

"Cause I pretty much had exhausted what educational assistance I could get from the tribe I had to basically earn my way through. So I used to work on a graveyard shift from 11:00 to 7:00 in the shipyards as a ship fitter. I worked down at Lockheed and there was one other company I worked for early on but basically that's what I did for four years. Then I would go to school during the daytime and then I would run over and deal with the tribe in the afternoon, come back usually on the ferry at night. So I'd go over the Skwim two to three times a week and come back and basically it was one of those sleep fast kind of periods for me where I just had to figure out where I could find 15 minutes to sleep, on the ferry. It's one of those things, you're exhausted so you just sleep that half hour and somebody's knocking on your window telling you to get off the ferry. And so it was kind of intense for me. But I had high energy and so I just kept chipping away at earning a living, making sure I had money to pay for school and living expenses with myself and my wife -- I got married in 1981 -- and going over to the tribe and managing the tribal affairs. During that time when I went to the University of Washington in '79 we were finally getting to where we got a handle on the federal recognition process and so the BIA, cause part of our problem was the BIA kept shifting the rules, kept shifting the standards, which you had to meet; the criteria, standards and criteria that you had to meet in order to be qualified, to meet their criteria and be recognized as a legitimate government. And we had full support, we'd gotten full support from our sister tribes, Lower Elwha S'Klallam Tribe and the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe and then also the surrounding tribes. So the support was really, was well established. When the process actually emerged they actually moved us up on the wait list, and so we went from I think #19 up to #2 behind the Grand Traverse Tribe up in Michigan. And so that was a fast track for us. That happened in 1980 and then all the anthropologists and all the BIA teams started coming out and visiting us and going through our documents and visiting the tribe and making sure that we were "legit". So we got recognized in February. We passed all their tests and criteria. And February 10th, 1981, we were recognized. The summer of '81 we got a $30,000 grant from the BIA to help set up our governmental operation. By October of '83 we received $180,000. So now we were opening up shop. We had opened up a small little two-room office in Skwim, in this place called the Boardwalk Square. And so that I was coming over and actually dealing with tribal affairs; I was hired as the executive director in the summer of '82 and that's when I became the administrative head for the tribe. So that was the pattern. And then in '83, a year later, while I was working half time as the administrator for the tribe I finally graduated so just everything kind of happened. In the summer of '83 my wife and my newborn baby, my oldest son Joe, we moved back to Skwim. And during that time we were able to also secure a HUD grant. So we had put together a HUD grant and bought a little two-acre piece of property. Couldn't do it in Jamestown because Jamestown was designated a flood plain zone so you couldn't spend federal dollars there. So we ended up finding a site near one of the other village sites on Skwim Bay, it was the best we could do and we said, "˜This works.' And so that's how we actually got located where we are because we had to move fast and we found a site that worked on the Bay. And then on that particular site was a little house and I moved into it and just basically lived the tribal politics ever since then."

Response of surrounding communities to the tribe's restoration

Ron Allen:

"Indifference; indifference without a doubt. I think that the local community really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to us. The local Skwim community knew us as the Jamestown Village and knew the families that lived there and lived in the Skwim community. They didn't pay any attention to us. They didn't ever even think of us as a government. It just never crossed their mind. They were just "those Indians" who lived on the beach who were here forever and we like them. Most of our people were very likeable people and if you asked some of the old pioneers of the community they would say, "˜Yeah, I knew the Jamestown. I knew Lyle Prince real well, I knew Bill Allen real well, I knew Bill Allen's dad Joe. Yeah, I remember him.' County commissioners, they didn't pay much attention to us at all and just shrugged their shoulders. There was actually...there wasn't all that much engagement with the Lower Elwha S'Klallam Tribe and they just didn't pay much attention to them. So they weren't going to pay attention to that reservation that was well established since the 1930s then they certainly weren't going to pay any attention to us. And so we were not on their radar screen for many, many years. I think that when we first got on their radar screen was after the settlement. There was a settlement in 1985 for the land and we purchased some property and one of the pieces is actually where our casino is at right now. But on that property we ended up selling fireworks and that got their attention. Okay, now there's this Indian fireworks stand. So that's the first time they really started resonating that, um, we've got to deal with these Indians and that respect that they had no control over what we did on our property. That annoyed them but we were still so small, we were only a tribe of 250 people, they didn't pay much attention to us. And as we started developing businesses, I think that they started developing a confident level of who we were and how we interacted with the local community. They looked at us...I think many would look at us with a jaundice eye or a little bit of a skeptical eye but many said that, "˜Well, actually they're doing quite well and they're taking care of themselves. They're being very resourceful and very independent,' which is a very strong characteristic that we always took great pride in. S'Klallam means 'Strong People' and so...we took a lot of pride in the meaning of our people's name. So I think the local community actually developed a positive attitude towards us. We were always very progressive and we were never afraid of pursuing businesses off the reservation or out of the area. Often in reservation communities the people want to see the businesses where they actually can see them, they can know where the business opportunities are, job opportunities are, and the idea of owning businesses out of sight, off the reservation is something that creates a bit of anxiety and distrust. We never had that problem at all so we had a number of businesses that started off the reservation, out of the area altogether and we managed them to develop business credibility."

Strategies for economic development

Ron Allen:

"Our fundamental philosophy was to go slow, go after capital intensive businesses, get them solidified and strengthened and then step off of them to go after labor intensive businesses that create more job opportunities for our tribe. And as we moved along we had more successes than failures. We had a couple of failures, disappointing but we had far more successes and we made it work and I think the community opened up to us with strong reception that we are part of the community. I still don't think that they thought of us as a government. I think they thought of us as a business entity, kind of like a little association and that they have this unique authority to engage in businesses as an association. That's the way I read their attitude towards us. So I think it worked quite well and as time went along our businesses became more and more successful and all of a sudden we became one of the stronger employers in the community. Then we raised the eyebrows of the political sorts and the general public realizing that we made a huge difference. But also at that time we started raising the attention of those who were basically the anti-Indian sentiment, the people whose mentality was, "˜We defeated these Indians, why do they have these special rights, why do they get these special opportunities and why do they not pay taxes.' And so all of a sudden you started seeing, people started throwing rocks at us because of jealousy and envy."

The 1855 Point No Point Treaty made clear that the signing tribes retain the right to fish, hunt and gather. The 1974 Bolt decision affirmed equal fishing rights

Ron Allen:

"We're fish people. We grew up being fish people. We lived on the rivers, we lived on the beaches, fish and shellfish, that's our way of life and that's who we are. And it was true for the Jamestown S'Klallam people too and that is how we basically lived. I remember grandma telling me how they used to go get crabs and go eat Elkin clams and load it up on a wagon and actually take it to Port Angeles to sell to make a few bucks. So when we got recognized then it became evident to me that first things first, we need to make sure that we intervene in the Bolt decision, that we have equal fishing rights. So that was a huge issue. The Point No Point was the vehicle that we should be organized to manage the fishery and enforce the fishery and provide the fishing opportunities for our community. And of course the Northwest Indian Fish Commission was the collective entity that the 20 signatory tribes, including us at Jamestown, was organizing to deal with the state and deal with the federal government. In those days there was just five commissioners. It was organized by treaty area. So there's the five treaty areas: Point No Point, Point Elliott, Quinault and Macaw and Nisqually, Medicine Creek and that's how it was organized. And we had representatives in that forum representing the Point No Point treaty council. Then I started getting involved in that forum as well and became much more involved in reorganizing the Northwest Indian Fish Commission and I got more active in both forums, Point No Point and Northwest Indian Fish Commission reorganizing. So I started spending a lot more active energy in fisheries itself trying to help protect our interests and make sure that we were carving out our fair share. That included we, that Jamestown needed to make sure that we were preserving our unique exclusive areas, which is in front of our village, inside the Dungeness Spit was a very tense and still is a tense discussion because our sister tribes have their exclusive areas, the Gamble Bay for the Port Gamble S'Klallam and Freshwater Bay over there in front of the mouth of the Elwha River in front of the Lower Elwha Tribe."

How to balance work for one's own tribe with work for multiple tribal issues

Ron Allen:

"That's not an easy question to answer. If you're out there in the political forum, whether it's in the local regional level or the state level or the federal level, there are political issues, policy matters, that affect your rights, your political fishery rights, whether they're legal rights or whether they're just policy matters, and you have to protect and/or advance your interests in those forums. Your tribe has an interest but somebody has to take the lead to champion our interest in those various forums. And so when you're doing one you're doing the other. If you're a part of an aggregate that really means that you're championing your interest as a tribe but it just so happens you're wrapped up in the interests of your colleague, your sister tribes. And so that's true at a local level like Point No Point among the four tribes, it's true at Northwest Indian Fish Commission with regard to the 20 tribes, it's true in the Northwest if you're dealing with the northwest issues in the multiple forums. And some of the best examples are the Pacific Fishery Management Council forum where they manage the fishery from Puget Sound all the way down the coast, up the Columbia River and down the coast of Oregon or the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Commission forum where you're dealing with the management of harvest management of fisheries from Alaska all the way down to the Oregon coast and up the Columbia River. So that's a very extensive area and in each of those forums you have an interest because the fish do not know any boundary, they don't know borders, they don't know do they belong to this tribe or to that non-Indian or to this Alaskan and so forth. So what you have to do is you have to go out there and negotiate and try to manage a fair share in terms of even defining what fair means to each respective party and you just get very involved in it. So while you're doing that, you're advancing the interests of the collective good. The collective means you're inside it, inside you're affected by it so you look at that with a very close eye to make sure that your interests are being protected as well. But you happen to be, because you're an active tribal leader in those forums, you're in a very fortuitous position to protect your tribe's community's interest in those forums."

Ron has participated in many fish forums and is one of four U.S. commissioners on the Pacific Salmon Commission, which represents treaty tribes from Washington and Oregon

Ron Allen:

"And actually since 1985, I've been active in the U.S.-Canada Fishery forum and eventually I became active on what's called the Frasier River Panel that actually actively manages the Frasier River Sockeye and Pink Salmon which was a big fishery for our people, the S'Klallam people and the Jamestown people. And so I was very actively involved with that for eight years. And then you take those issues and move them back to Washington, D.C. where you have the Magnuson Act and other fishery legislation whether it's being passed or whether it's being amended or whether it's being proposed and then you have to be back there championing those issues including the appropriation process that allocates budget for managing fisheries, protecting the habitat, advancing enhancement programs and so forth."

In the years of fish negotiations, the most difficult decision

Ron Allen:

"Persuading the tribes that...it basically is two fold. In the PSC forum, Pacific Salmon Fishery forum, in '85 there was lots of people who really believed that this was a bad deal for us, that it was a bad deal for the tribes and I believed that it was a good deal because even back then with limited experience and expertise and knowledge about fisheries and politics, it was evident to me that we were in a fish war and that war had to be stopped and we had to try to...we had to stop the bleeding of the decimation of our fishery. And that treaty was the vehicle to make it happen, to start forcing some actions. So I was pushing real hard to make that happen and likewise it ended up having its problems in implementation and lack of definition. And back in '85 we ended up negotiating another settlement, a revised and amended settlement of that treaty in 1999. And that was very difficult because it was not just the 20 tribes, which included my tribe, but it was the four tribes of the Columbia River that we had to persuade this was a good deal for us and we needed to move it forward and trying to make something happen that satisfied everybody was impossible. There were many others that were similar, shellfish negotiations or negotiations of exclusive areas even for my own tribe among the Klallam tribes. It's about trying to find some sort of common ground. And in every community you have a set of positions that can be the extreme and you can't...you can never settle any dispute on any end of the extreme. It just can't be done so you have to find that common ground and I've done it in countless forums. Sometimes people have accused me of being the negotiator of the middle ground and that that's to the detriment of the interest of the tribes. I don't agree with that at all. I agree that if you're going to lead then you need to lead and provide a path which you're going to be able to build and then if you make adjustments because you were not observant about one factor or another or a key issue then you go back and try to correct it. You work hard at trying to correct it because you now have more knowledge and more information with regard to that matter in terms of making some adjustments to improve it."

How resistance to tribal fishing rights changed over time

Ron Allen:

"The non-Indian community, over the course of the last 20-25 years, really has shifted its attitude towards the tribes as managers, the tribes as experts. The last, oh, gee, 5-7 years it's been real interesting because the state and federal government are essentially robbing our staff in terms of getting better staff. So for...from the "˜80s, early "˜80s all the way through to the mid "˜90s I think that we probably had among the best staff, the best technicians, best managers in the northwest. And then in the mid "˜90s then there became new problems. The ESA Act emerged and other kinds of problems emerged on its heels and there was a need for more and better expertise. And so they started providing the tribal staffers with better opportunities, more salary, better benefits and so forth and we had a tough time competing with them. The good part is that we trained them and they understand our rights and who we are and they have a stronger propensity to work with us. But on top of that, politically, the different organizations who represent different interest groups, the sport groups, the commercial groups and so forth. They started realizing that we are a friend and an ally and that we're really working closer together. And so you found us actually working on solutions in that forum, in the political forum in Olympia and in Washington, D.C. mutually going after resources to do a better job for management, to do a better job for enhancement and habitat protection. The alliances started shifting dramatically. There were still a number of very negative biased and racists personalities and organizations that are out there, they're still out there today. Some are even getting stronger in their organizational capacity and trying to be very clever in how they're spinning their attitude and the general public's notion of the tribe's unique rights."

The Rafeedie decision, one of the most significant advances for Indian fishers since the Bolt decision

Ron Allen:

"Particularly, in light of the fact that shellfish became the new core fishery program as the fin fish continued to diminish and the market continued to diminish, the shellfish industry for gooey duck and crab and shrimp, sea cucumbers, started to emerge. So that Rafeedie decision was a huge deal for us and now we're still in the middle of settlement. We're just now closing that settlement out in terms of clarifying the relationship between the tribes' rights and the growers who also were acknowledged in the treaty days and so we had to work out some sort of a compromise and we're doing just that. The Bolt decision dealt with only the fin fish, the salmon. It did not deal with the shellfish, the crab and the gooey duck, the little necks and manila clams, which was an introduced clam to the northwest area. And it made it real clear that we preserve 50 percent of the harvest of the shellfish. So that made it real clear to the state that they had to co-manage the fishery with the tribes for those fisheries. Because those products became very marketable and increased stronger than the fin fish, it became more important to the Indian fishermen because they shifted their gear and their ability to harvest from fin fish to shellfish."

Elected officials in the State of Washington: friends and enemies of tribes

Ron Allen:

"For the longest time it was either hot or cold. Either you were supportive and sensitive to the tribes' rights and interests or you just were dead against it and you just, philosophically, did not agree with the tribes' rights. Over the time we've had a lot of different personalities out there. The former senators Magnuson and Jackson, they were strong supporters of the tribe. They unequivocally were supporting our rights and were huge champions, well liked by many tribal leaders and they had a very strong relationship. Then you move forward and then you had a series of different kind of players out there but Senator Slade Gorton was one of our deadly enemies, no question about it. He just philosophically...it's not that he...I don't think he hated Indians. I just think that he philosophically did not believe that the tribes should be dealt with differently and specially and that the treaties did not mean that they have special rights. Philosophically he didn't agree with that and he did everything he possibly could to object to that. From the time when he was the attorney general in the appeals to the Bolt decision and he lost all those appeals all the way to the Supreme Court to the time he became a Senator and tried to introduce legislation. We've had numerous congressmen in the area trying to introduce legislation that would undermine the tribes' treaty rights and they worked real hard at it. Fortunately we had a lot of friends and from the senators, Jackson and Magnuson, to today Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell -- I'll come back to Maria Cantwell in a second here -- but they have been good friends to us and we have worked well together. We've had numerous congressmen led by Norm Dicks who actually used to work for Maggie as the chief of staff and moved into Congress himself and has become quite powerful as a ranking Democrat in the House and has been a very, very strong supportive. We've had numerous congressmen who started off being against the tribes and being supportive of the non-Indian constituency and always being influenced by their contributions to their campaigns and so forth and advancing legislation that was detrimental to the tribes and trying to undermine the tribes' legal standing and rights. They lost a lot of battles and they started realizing that the tribes' political clout and knowledge or skill at fighting political fights in Washington, D.C. was ratcheting up dramatically and we had become, tribes in the northwest, including tribes across the nation, had become very good at watching what's going on in Congress in these different forums and spotting these riders that are being slipped into these various bills and generating support to oppose them or get them removed. In state politics for years and years a lot of the politicians didn't realize that they had absolutely power over the unique federal tribal relations that the authority over the tribes' unique right was at the federal level, was in Washington, D.C., it wasn't in Olympia. And they would try to pass pieces of legislation that was absolutely illegal that would get thrown out by courts left and right because they had no authority over tribes' jurisdiction. One, a Republican Representative currently, a job named Jim Buck, he's from my area as a matter of fact, and he was very much against the tribes' unique rights and thought that they should be changed. But this is where Billy Frank entered into the picture and really persuaded him, "˜Well, read the treaties and then if you still believe we don't have a right, then let's talk about it.' So he did. He actually sat down and read the treaties, read the unique relationship between the tribes and read the Bolt decision and all of a sudden came out, as conservative as he is, he's a very conservative, not a right winger but he's a very strong heavy to the right conservative Republican and he flat out believes that the tribes are right, that they're absolutely...they're co-manager and he's become convinced that we're good managers and that the state benefits from our collective efforts and has become quite knowledgeable about the truth of harvesting and protecting the fishery, which is a high interest of his."

The impact of Washington tribes on the Senate race of 2000

Ron Allen:

"Slade Gorton had been a senator for a couple of terms and introduced countless pieces of negative anti-Indian legislation and we had to spend a lot of energy and a lot of money fighting those bills and those riders that he was introducing and beating them. We finally said, "˜Well, we can either keep fighting him in those forums or we can fight him in the political election and just flat out tell him, we don't like you, we don't agree with you philosophically and we don't want you to be our senator anymore.' And so the tribes got more actively involved in that particular election in 2000 and I was an early proponent of Maria Cantwell. I remember her as a former congresswoman. She'd dealt with the Tulalip Tribe and was very fair and understood their position and was probably a good candidate. There were a couple others out there that we were interested in but she's the one that resonated; she's the one that rose to the top from my perspective. So we did two different things. One, we started generating money for her to help her campaign and number two, we started getting our people registered and we kept convincing our people that we have 100,000 Indians in Washington State and if we can just get half of them, if we can get 40 percent of them in the elections and to vote it's going to make a difference. And so we initiated some vote registration campaigns throughout the different communities, different people took responsibility for it, we held different meetings to get people enthused about it and help with Maria's campaign in terms of getting signage up and doing whatever we could to help the campaign resonate and that worked out quite well for us and we stuck by our guns. I remember that I had conversations with Slade Gorton's chief of staff, Tony, but his comment to us was, "˜Well, we're going to win and when we're done we'll talk about Indian rights and Indian issues.' His comment was, "˜You don't understand us.' I says, "˜Well, actually we do understand you. We understand when you're advancing legislation that is terminating our rights, that is eliminating our unique authority and that's undermining our governmental status,' I says, "˜we know exactly what you're doing. So I don't care how you want to rationalize it, you can do that all you want, but you're against us and we know it.' So we championed that legislation, excuse me, that campaign and we won. And in the end the 2000 votes, we contend were Indians votes. If those Indian voters, we got an additional we think somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 voters out there, if they'd stayed home, Maria would have stayed home too and Slade would still be in office. We chalked it up as an Indian victory, no question about it. Yes, when you're talking about the two million votes that are out there, that a lot of people contributed to it, no question about it, but without the Indians they didn't win the election and we think that was a statement from the Indians to politicians that we're not afraid of you, that we're willing to weather the consequences of any kind of retribution that you may want to levy against tribes. And I remember talking to a lot of my colleagues and they were very, very skeptical of doing this. They thought, "˜No, he's going to come back, he's going to win and he's going to nail us.' And I went, "˜He's nailing us now so what difference does it make, so stand firm, stand strong.' And we've started to get much smarter about that in terms of getting our people out and voting and getting our people motivated to contribute money to campaigns and we're getting smarter about how we contribute. We just don't dump money into a Democratic or Republican Party. We want to know, what is it you're going to do with this money? How is this money going to be able to benefit our community? How are you going to spend money to help us get more of our people registered and get engaged in politics? And how are you going to reach out to the tribes and so forth? So tribal politics has shifted in the "˜90s and now in the 21st century. You're now starting to see tribal people become more players, you're starting to see fundraisers and tribes being much more active. The numbers are rising because the tribes now have money because of the success of the gaming industry primarily, that has made a big difference in our ability to participate in the political process at all levels. I think the Republican Party really does want to try to mend fences between them and the Indian communities and its leadership."

Ron is a moderate Republican who has supported, admired and learned from Democrats

Ron Allen:

"First and foremost, I defend tribes rights, tribes sovereignty, tribes treaty rights. That's the bottom line for me. In college I developed a much more conservative philosophy towards independence of individuals and communities and the laissez faire economic development philosophies. And so I was actually quite conservative coming out of college. Since college and because of my experience in politics, watching how politics works, learning how it actually works and how you work out the differences of opinion about different philosophies and different issues that affect our communities from so-so issues to natural resources to political institutions that are important for us and so forth, it's come to my perception that my notion is still strongly Republican from economic development perspectives but I've become much more moderate. And a man who's really influenced me on that philosophy and approach is Dan Evans. I thought Dan Evans was a fabulous governor for Washington, I thought he was a fabulous Senator. He advanced a lot of legislation that advanced our issues in a dramatic way. And so his approach, his philosophical approach made sense to me. So it wasn't about your philosophy, it is about the objectives...goals and objectives you're trying to advance. And for me, my primary goal and objective was creating a political, legal environment that tribes could pursue their goals and their objectives and become truly self-determined and self-reliant on their own terms and that they could co-exist with their colleague governments that are out there, whether they exist on the same actual political, legal level or not. In other words, we primarily deal with ourselves with the federal government but we have a relationship with the state government. So for campaign purposes, it's about what do you stand for and how does your political position and platform mesh with the tribes' agenda? Are you going to be respectful of tribal governments? Do you believe we exist as sovereign governments and we have that unique relationship? Do you believe that our treaty rights are a very special contractual commitment between the federal government in our communities that cannot be broken, that holds the sacred...the sacred promise of the nation to Indian peoples or not? So the issue is if it's positive then my disposition is that you're a friend."

The need to educate the American public about tribal nations

Ron Allen:

"So I think that we really need to continue to work harder in terms of educating the society and the policy people. It's ever changing. The fundamental knowledge about who Indian tribal governments are or our communities and how we co-exist in the state, is a topic that really is developed in grade school and the middle school years. That's where the seed is really planted and we just have to work harder at shifting the curriculums and shifting the materials so that they more accurately reflect who the tribes are and what our history is because you're dealing with 250, well, actually more, 500 years of history but 250 years of history within this state, within the United States in this political relationship and most of them don't quite understand how we fit. And as you see the changing of the guard in Olympia for the state legislature or in Washington, D.C., it's about people who don't have a good fundamental educational background about tribal governments and treaty rights and the unique relationship between the United States society including Washington society and the Indian communities. So we're very conscious that we have to ratchet up our ability to change the curriculum in the educational institutions but also to work harder through the various other educational communication vehicles. It's using the media; all forms of the media -- the broadcast media, the print media, the magazine media -- every form of media that's out there in terms of getting our messages out there. Not just the controversial stuff, which is easy for them to print and cover, but the stuff that are fascinating stories, spending money to basically cause people to have a better understanding of who we are and how we make a positive contribution to our society and to our economy and to our mutual goals and objectives, and then reaching out to the special interest groups that are out there. It wouldn't matter whether it's associations or organizations of different sorts, whether it's church groups or whether it's Rotary and Lions Clubs and chamber of commerce organizations, you're reaching out to them to cause them to know who you are and staying engaged in that way while you're doing that you're educating. And you don't try to overwhelm them, you don't brow beat them but you just take a very subtle, very soft educational approach. So it's never too late but if we're going to change a society, a cultural attitude, it's more at the grassroots and more at the younger level. That's where you're going to make a huge difference. Indians can't stamp out racism faster than African Americans or Asian Americans and so forth, Latinos. It's just racism is racism out there and it's ugly roots are deep and it's going to take a long time to root them out. We're just a part of it and our focus just happens to be with regard to the Indian communities and our unique governmental relationship that the other ethnic groups don't have that unique relationship."

The extreme importance of an effectively run tribal government

Ron Allen:

"I firmly believe that the success of a leader or the success of a tribe is relative to the quality and effectiveness of their staff. You really need to have quality staff in order to get the job done. We're governments. That means that we have all the responsibilities of governments. Our community depends on it. It's easy to take shots at the governmental leadership and the governmental programs and the bureaucracy, if you will, but the bottom line is, if you're performing, you're not providing the kind of services that is expected. And as governments we have every responsibility that any other government has it just changed in scope relative to the magnitude of the size of your reservation and number of people you serve. But you have to take care of natural resources, you've got to take care of enforcement in court systems to protect the public safety, you need to take care of the educational interests or the healthcare interests, which is a very volatile arena and a very important one for us to focus in on, and housing needs and jobs opportunities and employment mobility and support systems that are important for our community, and all the family and community support systems that's important to strengthen, protecting and advancing your culture and your traditional practices with languages and stuff like that, taking care of your elders, having special programs for your youth so they are very comfortable with who they are. Those are all governmental functions and responsibilities to just mention a few. The Skwim community where Jamestown tribe is set up is very pretty, it's very rural, it's very safe, it's very comfortable and throughout the year and we've been blessed by being approached by some talent, some people who have just some talent. I've been a real strong support of women working in our environment and an upward mobility opportunity for women. So the majority of the heads of my different programs for our tribe are women. If they're the ones that get the job...I have one woman who is a high school graduate and she is just brilliant, absolutely brilliant and we've moved her up, against the objections of some people who have...who insist on higher collegiate degrees and training but this person has been able to do the job as well as anybody. And so we provide the opportunity for those who perform and produce the products that we're looking for, the service that we're looking for. So we've been doing quite well as a small tribe. We're only about 525 people right now. So that makes a huge difference. And then personally, it's about leadership and leadership is about being accessible. I firmly believe that. I've always been a high tech personality. When they first started making portable computers, I remember the first compact computer and it was as big as my suitcase. And I remember having to carry that around trying to get it on the planes and just to be able to get to where I needed to go and to get the job done. I remember Wilma Mankiller, the former chief of the Cherokee, at our big White House meeting that I helped orchestrate, she referred to me as the Cyborg chairman because I was so into technology and producing documents and briefing materials and data. So I had a lot of real strong technical skills. And in those days we didn't have a lot of money so I basically did a lot of work myself. I do a lot less now because I don't have to. I've got too many talented people around me but I review that kind of stuff myself very closely to make sure that it reflects the professionalism. That old notion, you only get one shot at a first impression, I don't even care if it's just a draft document, I want it to look good; check the grammar, check the spelling, check the format, making sure that it looks good. So I pay a lot of attention to that kind of stuff. If people call me then I call them back. If they email me, then I email them back. If I'm busy and I can't get back to them right away, I'll just leave a simple message saying, "˜I'm really, really busy. I'll call you in day or two.' And so I let them know. So they know that I got their message and that I'm going to respond to them. As a general rule I don't have to do that. As a general rule I will stop almost anything I'm doing to deal with my people cause they're my priority."

Ron's paramount commitments and concerns

Ron Allen:

"Sovereignty is the foundation of tribes, it is who we are, it's what we're about, it's our land base, it's our people, it's our culture, it's our way of life, it is the basis for our unique standing in America and it has always been under siege. We have some new challenges today dealing with the Supreme Court and its new political desire to redefine 200 years of law and interpretations of that unique relationship. So that's a new challenge for the tribes without a doubt. There's other issues that are out there that take a higher, they take high profile. Nothing's more important than that particular attack and that attack has got some momentum from the anti-Indian coalitions that are out there that are organizing themselves throughout the nation and you'll see them everywhere. You see them in Washington, Idaho, Montana, the Great Lakes area, down here in Arizona and so forth. So they're organizing and that means that we have to be better organized. I think that the importance of tribes being united is probably one of the most important ingredients to preserve our...preserve and protect our unique way of life in this society and its political, legal, cultural system."

The real tasks for the President of the National Congress of American Indians

Ron Allen:

"I learned a lot of difficult lessons as the president of NCAI for four years. One, if you're going to be the president of NCAI, it's not just dealing with Washington, D.C. and the politics, it's understanding the unique interests and issues of all of Indian Country. The Iroquois Confederacy Tribes have different interests than the Seminoles and Miccosukees in Florida. They have different interests than the Great Lakes, the Chippewas or the Crees over in Montana or the Lakota people in the Dakotas or the Northwest tribes, the Alaska Natives. Those interests and those issues are very different and the California tribes, the Southwest tribes, the Pueblos, knowing the difference with the Pueblos and the Navajo, understanding the Navajo/Hopi conflict. And that's just only just touching, there's many elements. Who knows the unique differences in the Hualapai and the Havasupai in northern Arizona down in the Grand Canyon and up on the ridge of the Canyon, what their unique problems and interests are. My good friend Billy Frank, I say one of his favorite phrases and I love it, "˜It's for the cause. It's bigger than you.' Mel Tonasket, another good friend of mine from the Colville Nation, the guy was just always, "˜the cause is bigger than you. You didn't know it was your time, you just rise to it.' Joe de la Cruz, I couldn't speak highly enough for Joe de la Cruz. Influenced me wholeheartedly about getting out there and getting involved and I used to challenge him about the international stuff. I said, "˜You know, Joe, we've got so many battles here in the United States, we're watching the Congress constantly, we're dealing with the administration and we're dealing with ONB, we're dealing with the White House, we've got to go back up to the Congress, we've got to back out to Indian Country and we've got to deal with the state legislatures, the Association of Attorney Generals, all these different organizations and you're basically covering your bases, you're trying to protect your turf.' And I says, "˜I don't know if we can deal with this international stuff.' And his comment to me was, "˜Ron, these are our brothers and sisters; they don't have what we have. We complain about not having enough support, we complain about not having the right kind of setting, the right kind of conditions because of all the economic, social and political factors that you use to measure the welfare of your society and your people. They're worse. We think that we're so low on that totem pole in measuring that criteria, they're worse, they're worse off. They've got worse conditions. They've got people killing them and genocide going on in different forums. They need our support, they need the exposure.' So I became convinced by Joe that those are things that we have to do."

What keeps Ron Allen going

Ron Allen:

"First of all, I'm always a very active personality. They always refer to the Type A personalities; I'm definitely triple A. So I've always had good energy. I've always been a runner. I've always thought my legs were Indian without a doubt cause I can run, I always could run. That was back in my basketball days cause I'd run the dickens out of them. I may not be able to out shoot them but I'll out run them and I'll beat them that way. And I think of my career the same way. I just have an ability to stay focused and don't worry about...there's lots of stuff going on, there's lots of pressures in all different kinds of forums, lots of things to do and it's just a matter of what's the most important thing you need to deal with right now, what's the most urgent crisis, deal with it and move on to the next, deal with that one and move on to the next. For the last number of years I actually didn't take care of myself as well as I used to. I was always a runner and I took very good care of myself and kept my weight down and then for about five years or six years or so I didn't and got real heavy. So I just now recently over this last year shifted and got my weight back down and started becoming more healthy conscience. I didn't want to trigger diabetes and that kind of stuff. I just felt I could contribute, I really feel I could contribute well into my 70s and 80s. And I saw some of my friends who I think a great deal of... Joe de la Cruz died at 62. Merle Boyd the second chief from the Second Flocks Nation, a good friend, died at 62. And I've had some friends having strokes and heart attacks at early ages and it dawned on me that I've got to start taking care of myself. So that's another issue that caused me to become more conscious of taking care of myself so that I can be a better servant to the Indian people, to my people and Indian people in general. And I just stay motivated; I just love doing what I'm doing. I don't know why. I really think it's spiritual, I think it's beyond me that the Spirit has caused me to have certain skills and I'm just driven by those skills. There's certain things I kind of perceive and understand and I just want to share them and want to provide it. I do have a strong voice and I think my voice should be out there."

In 1988 Congress authorized a project called Self-Governance that allowed many programs run by the BIA to be transferred to tribes themselves. Jamestown S'Klallam was one of the first seven tribes to participate.

Ron Allen:

"In 1987 there was this big brew haw about the federal government's mismanagement of Indian programs, a huge exposé, a whole bunch of hearings and so forth. And out of all that process came a challenge by the leadership in Congress to tribal leadership. And people who I was very motivated and influenced by, the Joe de la Cruz's, the Wendell Chinos from Mescalero Apache or the Roger Jordain from Red Lake Apache and Sam Keggy from the Lumbee Nation and so forth. They were all there. And they said, "˜How about if we just...you tribal leaders go up with Secretary Don Hodel at the time under Reagan and Ross Swimmer who was the BIA Assistant Secretary, "˜You guys go figure out what's the best way for us to better serve Indian tribes and Indian communities.' And we did. We came up with an idea of how that should work. Their proposal was a terrible one. Ours was, "˜Let us move this agenda forward on our terms.' We knew that it had to be on our terms. We were smart enough to know that they were trying to out finesse us and propose legislation that absolved the federal government of its treaty obligations or its trust responsibilities to Indian Nations and we said, "˜Absolutely not! There's no way we're letting you off that hook. But, we will propose a piece of legislation that allows us to negotiate our fair share of the federal programs that serve our community, our share from top to bottom, from the Secretary's office on down to the field, and then we will absolve you of any responsibility with regard to those programs and those services and then if there's specific legal matters then we'll negotiate them too so that we have our legal counsel with us in terms of making sure that we're real clear about how we're going to move this agenda forward.' When it started in 1988, they put out a notice to see who was interested in doing this. They said, "˜Let's get 10 tribes,' and they really wanted big tribes. And I kept, I was with them and I wanted our tribe to be a part of it. Here we were a small little 225 member tribe and they kept saying, "˜No, you're too small.' And I said, "˜No, we're not.' I said, 'Seventy-five percent of the tribes in the United States are tribes that are under 1500. Who represents them?' And so I kept making the case. Well, they couldn't find a 10th tribe so then I was leveraging with Congress and a guy named Sid Yates who was the Chair of the Appropriation Committee back then, they basically said, "˜Let them in,' and so that's how we got in. We were one of the first 10 and we have been a resounding success. And since then I basically was the technician and Joe who was the spiritual leader and Wendell and Roger, they're two characters that just was a real blessing to ever have experienced because they were in your face kind of tribal leaders. They did not back off from anybody and Joe used to always talk very fondly of those two. So we got in and then I got involved. Very early on I ended up being the Chair of the Self-Governance Advisory Council for the BIA. I decided that I was not going to get actively involved in the IHS side, just let somebody else spread the responsibility around. But I still am very actively involved."

Tribes today in the self-governance movement

Ron Allen:

"Today there's about 280 of the 560 Indian Nations that are out there. Like I said, we were one of the first 10 and we've expanded now so it's...self-governance is now being advanced in all the Department of Interior so not just the BIA but all the other agencies, Fish and Wildlife, Parks, Bureau of Reclamation, etc. IHS was hot it's heels and that law got passed in 1994. It's moving very fast forward and it's now moving into other agencies and programs in HHS as well. So it's under a program called Title VI and you see self-governance being advanced in housing, over in HUD as well now. So self-governance is really being a phenomenal success. It's about governments acting like governments. You take responsibility for it. That means if you make a mistake, then you own up to it. It's your fault, nobody else's fault. You can't point to the BIA or point to the federal government, it's their fault. You're in control of it."

The cultural programs of Jamestown S'Klallam

Ron Allen:

"I'm very actively involved with in terms of helping shape out what it is we're doing, helping make sure that we're providing resources and support for people who have an interest in restoring some of the artistic skills whether it's basket weaving, carving or other kinds of practices that have been utilized historically, understanding who we are as a people and making sure the programs are there. It was through my leadership that we just got a book published on the history of the Jamestown tribe. So that was really cool that we've documented it now."

Ron has noted numerous people who embody the spirit that drives him

Ron Allen:

"My wife; always there, steadily. When we got married she knew I was active, she knew how important the tribe was and as we had kids we'd talk through it and I told her, I said, "˜Look, I'm just going to travel a lot, it's just the nature of the game,' and we've got two kids to bring up. But she was always there. Always she has such a practical insight. I would share things with her more or less just venting and she was interested in what I had to say and what was going on. But she would ask some of the most practical questions and throw back some of the most logical, simplistic responses and it wads very helpful for me. I just kind of went, "˜Doggone it, that's the answer.' It was real simple, it was right in front of me and my wife just kind of responded to me and gave me the best answer I needed. So she was always there and I can't speak fondly and lovingly enough because of what she's done to influence me to do what I'm doing."

Grooming future leaders

Ron Allen:

"As far as mentoring goes, I always think about Joe de la Cruz's comment cause he got asked this question a lot and it's not...it's a challenging question and it's a difficult one for people. They kind of want you to take your skills and experiences and perceptions and just give it to some young person who's coming along. Joe's comment was that, "˜you have to wait for the right person and the right person has got to come to you and want you to share that with them and to teach you.' And I remember it vividly in terms of trying to be able to transfer what you know and your thoughts and your approach about dealing with Indian politics at a local level versus all the way up to the national level. And we haven't had a lot of kids who are interested. Today's society is a little different generation than what I grew up out of and I'm still trying to understand. But the good news is that we've got a young woman who is very interested in tribal politics and comes to our meetings regularly just to listen and observe and participate when and where she can. So we're working it out so that she works with me and spends time and I spend time talking to her, talking to her about politics and I have high hopes for her. Maybe she will, maybe she won't become a leader. I don't know. Only time will tell and the Great Spirit will make that decision within her walk. So I think the transfer to the youth and the mentoring is about when that opportunity can happen. That's why I liked the Institute for Tribal Governance program because it creates an opportunity to share your perspectives. I think I've earned respect among my colleagues in terms of being knowledgeable about the political process at all levels and how to interact with each other. I've tried to help solve some of the inter-tribal problems and some were successful, some not successful and you've got to roll with it. If you get too wedded to some of these matters then it's a huge mistake because you...it's too emotional."

The passions that drive Ron today and a look at the future

Ron Allen:

"I guess the passion of advancing strong tribal governance is one that drives me the most, that protects our sovereignty and treaty rights and so forth, that drives me the most, wanting the tribal governments to get stronger and more sophisticated. Some of our colleagues are doing a really good job and very, very impressive and I'm just a tip of the hat and huge smile at them. Some have got a long ways to go and there's a lot they need to learn. So that's a huge issue for me. NCAI is a huge passion for me. I love the organization. I think the world of it. I think that Indian Country doesn't really as a general observation appreciate how important it is to the welfare of our people and to be able to always protect the front lines of where the fight in this war with the American Indians and Native Alaskans with our society. It's the entity that makes the difference and I really want it to get stronger, I want it to develop a presence in Washington, D.C. I really...I have a passion that we're going to develop our own Hall of Indian Nations in Washington, D.C. that people are going to drive by and be very impressed with and want to go in and see. So it's not just the American Indian Museum as if we're relics of the past. We're alive and well and doing well as a political set of entities. So that's a big deal to me. And then personally it's just about my own family. I think a great deal of my kids and my family life. I kind of one of these just strange little backyard gardeners; I love gardening. I'm a gardener. I can go out and spend hours. I can be on trips like right now thinking about plants that I'm concerned about that I planted and I want to make sure they take good root and things I want to do to beautify my little five acre track that I think the world of. So I plant what I like to plant and I know what I think it's going to look like in 40 years. I think about that when I think about those trees. In that same context that's what I think about with the tribe and the tribes collectively, what we're doing. I want to think about what we're doing makes a difference to make it stronger and make it bloom better in 20 and 40 years. In that way you feel like you really have made a difference."

The Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times series and accompanying curricula are for the educational programs of tribes, schools and colleges. For usage authorization, to place an order or for further information, call or write Institute for Tribal Government – PA, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, Oregon, 97207-0751. Telephone: 503-725-9000. Email: tribalgov@pdx.edu.

[Native music]

The Institute for Tribal Government is directed by a Policy Board of 23 tribal leaders,
Hon. Kathryn Harrison (Grand Ronde) leads the Great Tribal Leaders project and is assisted by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, Director and Kay Reid, Oral Historian

Videotaping and Video Assistance
Chuck Hudson, Jeremy Fivecrows and John Platt of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Editing
Green Fire Productions

Photo Credit:
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Ron Allen

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times is also supported by the non-profit Tribal Leadership Forum, and by grants from:
Spirit Mountain Community Fund
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Chickasaw Nation
Coeur d'Alene Tribe
Delaware Nation of Oklahoma
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Jayne Fawcett, Ambassador
Mohegan Tribal Council
And other tribal governments

Support has also been received from:
Portland State University
Qwest Foundation
Pendleton Woolen Mills
The U.S. Dept. of Education
The Administration for Native Americans
Bonneville Power Administration
And the U.S. Dept. of Defense

This program is not to be reproduced without the express written permission of the Institute for Tribal Government

© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government 

Pacific Northwest Salmon Habitat: The Culvert Cases and the Power of Treaties

Author
Year

American Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest signed treaties with the federal government in the 1850’s that preserved their right to fish in their “usual and accustomed” fishing grounds. The tribes have had to continually fight to have this right recognized. U.S. v. Washington, 1974, the Boldt decision, upheld this fishing right and ruled that the tribes were entitled to 50% of the harvestable portion of salmon returning to their usual and accustomed grounds. Though this historic court decision enabled the Indians to legally fish, the decline of the salmon has meant that the importance of this decision has been eroded. For the last three decades the tribes have worked to preserve salmon runs by protecting and restoring fish habitat. The tribes are in a unique position to advance habitat restoration on a landscape scale. Restoring fish passage in streams throughout the state is an example of how the power of the treaties can facilitate salmon recovery significantly. In 2001, they went into federal district court with a specific habitat lawsuit: the culvert case. The decision in this case has been called the most significant victory for tribal treaty fishing rights since the Boldt decision...

Citation

Brown, Jovana and Brian Footen. "Pacific Northwest Salmon Habitat: The Culvert Cases and the Power of Treaties." Enduring Legacies Native Cases Initiative, The Evergreen State College. Olympia, Washington. 2010. Teaching Case Study. (http://nativecases.evergreen.edu/docs/Brown%20Footen%20Culvert%20case%20..., accessed February 13, 2013)