public education

Paulette Jordan: Engaging the Nation's Citizens and Effecting Change: The Coeur d'Alene Story

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Paulette Jordan, citizen and council member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe in Idaho, discusses the importance of Native nation leaders being grounded in their culture and consulting the keepers of the culture (their elders) so that they approach the leadership challenges they face with the proper mindset and tools. She also shares a story about she helped to mobilize tribal citizens and non-Indians in her community to support a tax levy in order to preserve adequate funding for local public education.

Resource Type
Citation

Jordan, Paulette. "Engaging the Nation's Citizens and Effecting Change: The Coeur d'Alene Story." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 7, 2013. Presentation.

Herminia Frias:

"Our next presenter is Paulette Jordan and she is a tribal council member from Coeur d'Alene Tribe and she is going to be presenting her experience in citizen engagement and effecting change."

Paulette Jordan:

"Well, good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate this opportunity. It feels like a homecoming because I was here back in 2009, right Renee [Goldtooth]? And so it feels like home, and I really do appreciate the hospitality and the good nature that I've always been given. I started out here for the Emerging Tribal Leaders Seminar just when I was just elected on to the tribal council. And so it's always a learning process, but you just have to run and go. There is no college or any type of education that you can go through really to really prepare you for tribal leadership. It's one of a kind, it's all on its own. You can go and get any specific degree and your MBA, your doctorate, whatever, your law degree, but none of that really prepares you for the challenges of what you're about to face when it comes to the people with domestic violence issues or meth issues -- as we heard here -- and housing issues. There's always a concern and how you manage that with your own people really is based on how you base your culture within your own heart and your empathy to understand your people and not judge them.

And so that's always been my big learning curve...is thankfully being raised by the elders, they've always said, "˜As long as you hold your heart out in your hand, that is how you approach your people,' and so that's always been my strategy is just to listen first and foremost and so that's why I come here to you all and offer myself just more so as a student. So whenever someone tries to put me up on any pulpit or anything like that I just say, "˜I'm just a humble person. I was just someone who was just raised on the reservation who just wants to come back and help make my community a better place.' And so whatever title or whatever someone wants to put on you, you just have to remind yourself where you come from and that's one thing my [Coeur d'Alene language] always said. So all the challenges that I've faced, even the ones that I'm going to be facing tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that, I have to remember my grandmothers and they always said to never forget where you came from.

And I mention that because I've pretty much learned over the years where the necessary places for us as tribal peoples. Now how many in here are tribal leaders, sit on your tribal councils, your tribal government? We've got some good representation here. As tribal leaders, what I've learned is we face a lot of conflicts, a lot of challenges, and in those approaches we have to build relationships. It's your job and your duty and your responsibility not only to build a relationship with your people but those surrounding communities, whether you live within a certain county, within a certain state and just being in the U.S. You have to go and meet with the President, with the Congress, with your city council, with your county commissioners, etc. and you have to develop those positive relationships for your people. So you have to be able to communicate to express the nature and the value of your citizens. And so for me, coming in as a young tribal leader learning that we had to promote our own people, promote our own issues, they're all unique, but to me as a Coeur d'Alene woman coming in, the vested interest in me was that we had to tell our story so that our concerns would be addressed at home and that meant building these relationships with the non-tribal community. And so that's what I've been doing and that's been my goal. That's also the reason why I ran for a state representative position in the State of Idaho as a Democrat in a very Republican state. But the point of doing that was in a very racist state, we live 30 miles south of a KKK [Ku Klux Klan] compound. So Idaho is a very not only Republican state, but very white supremacist-natured state, so we have to deal with these issues. But it's...everyone, every state has their issues so no one's better, no one's perfect, no one's more challenged than the other. But that's something I raise today because that also helps to build up [to] what I'm about to get to.

And so I talk about how the white supremacy group comes in and why it is that I decided to step up to some of these challenges, because each and every day I've learned -- whether I worked in D.C. or came back home and worked or even sitting on the tribal council -- that it always comes down to not just telling your story, but being those rooms, the meetings, doing the work, getting there to tell the people, the non-tribal people that this is what you're about, that you're not here to be an enemy, but more so a friend and how you can work together, how you can build those partnerships. Not just for you and that other person in the room that you're sitting across the table from, but for your communities at large and how that's going to benefit both the tribal and the non-tribal aspects.

So that was one of the first challenges that I've faced being on the tribal council and I just wanted to reflect that, because to me for us to get better as communities we have to look at who our friends are and that has to be everybody. We can't just think, "˜Oh, we're sovereign nations, we're going to move forward on our own.' That's not going to happen and that's really more of a pie-in-the-sky and wishful thinking but in all reality, yes, that's great, we're sovereign nations and let's act as such. Let's practice our traditional ways, let's continue to get out there and dig our roots and gather our berries and hunt our game and our wildlife, but yet still we have to know that we are one aspect in the larger picture and we are a small function in the greater world. But as my uncle always says, "˜We could still be a leader in this world based on how we walk our talk even as small nations.' Something I wanted to share, he's one of my greatest mentors, I probably should [have] mentioned this before, but I wanted to share that, how he has always stated to me that "˜the dollar is not the Almighty.' And again I'll say that, "˜The dollar is not the Almighty.' '...And that we must always remember to be humble before the Almighty God, to take care of our children, our elders, our people, our employees and our communities, to walk our talk and lead by example and in doing so,' he said, "˜we can improve our societies and show the world who we truly are as a nation. Our humanity is all that matters at the end of the day and how we look upon one another as relatives.' And he stated, "˜Once we can understand why and what it is we hold sacred, we can truly move mountains.' And so that is a quote that I wanted to share with you from my own uncle, who really helped advise me to the business woman, the leader that I am today.

Still, I just consider myself again a student, so I'm constantly learning from my elders. But it's always stated that you have to talk to your children. Arlene [Templer], she mentioned how you have to mentor each other, you have to mentor your children into these stages. Consult with your elders, your statesmen, your tribal leaders to build this historical knowledge to help prevent you from making the same mistakes that they made and then learn from their experiences because they all have great ideas, but people tend to write them off and want to move them into elders' homes when that should never be the case, that yes, they're in their golden years, but it's golden years for a reason. They're these treasures within our society that are the greatest resource that we have and I've seen within every tribal community that people tend to think more so towards and lean more so towards the western society and less to a cultural education. And so the problem with that to me is when we go all the way back to the United Nations, we talk about the Indigenous rights and the whole purpose of us fighting for that is basically to keep ourselves as a unique society within the world, to have this general understanding that yes we exist and we have these rights as Indigenous peoples, but to have those rights you have to practice those rights. And so that's the whole point is if you're going to practice it, then really walk your talk and go out and do those things of your people, your traditions and then teach your children.

And so with that being said, we have to be the change that we want to see. So I have a story to share and I know I was asked to come in and share some of my stories and I said, "˜Well, there is one recent one that really kind of strikes me that I think would be good for people to know,' because I've kind of been sharing this up in the northwest quite a bit. People ask me, "˜Well, geez, Idaho...' for example, is 47th in the nation when it comes to education, we're 49th in overall ranking. We're just poor as it can be, but again it's a Republican state. We have so many challenges to deal with, but one is education, but to our tribe, to the Coeur d'Alene tribe, we value education as the utmost priority. So to me, it became a problem when the school district within our reservation cut funding and then they were going to close that school when that school teaches around 70 to 80 percent of our students who are tribal students. So just to give an example of how we can engage our citizens and how we can unite with one another for the common good is what I'm getting to here.

It started with a levy, and I'll try to do my best to keep the story short because it's a long one, but it started with a levy. And basically the state said, "˜We're going to cut funding to the school and most of the schools throughout the state,' but our school was the only one who failed the increased funding basically to keep the school open. So it was going to lose its accreditation, lose its sporting programs, lose kindergarten, preschool programs, cut teachers and even good, great teachers, ones who were dealing with math or language arts, music, primary functions I would think for young development. And when that was going on, the tribe wanted to play a role, but the tribe played a role in more of a political sense. For me, I was just coming off of my own state campaign and I felt really worn out because to me it was a challenge about...it's more about educating people to again, telling our story, what tribes really are, how we impact our local economy, socially and economically. And again, we're the number-one employer in the region, so we do quite well, but we don't brag or boast about it -- that's just not our way -- but we like to have other people tell that story. So again, the whole past six months of my life was spent trying to tell our story and educate people about the good that we do and how we want to work together to provide better resources to grow the economy, to create more jobs, to better the educational system, and to help those within even our smaller rural communities.

So after all this was going down and then the levy comes up, we thought, "˜Okay, everyone will vote for the levy. Why not, it's supporting our children, supporting education?' But then that failed and it failed miserably and the tribe became frustrated, the local non-tribal community was extremely frustrated, and sadly people were just ready to give up: the teachers, the students, everybody. So people were thinking, "˜Okay, where do we go next? Where do we go from here?' In a small community where that's checkerboarded [land] tribal and non-tribal, you get a lot of people thinking about their lives. What are they going to do next, where do we go, do we move, do we find a better school system? And this is a reservation and us Indian people, we don't just up and move to where we find a better life. This is our land; we have a sacred relationship with our land. So we don't just call it quits and move on and pack our trailer and go. We have to find a way to make it work. So a lot of the non-tribal people, they knew my plight and what I was trying to do and so they had approached me, the superintendent, the principal, and a lot of the teachers and I was kind of shocked by that, but they came to me and asked me...again, I'm just a tribal citizen in the community and they said, "˜Help us. We need your help. You know how to get out to the people and we think you can unite because we're going to need tribal and non-tribal votes to get this levy passed.' So you can imagine I was burned out and I really don't like politics. I really don't. I didn't like those forums and debates or really getting into the issues, but I do love helping the people and if I know that it's going to better the people overall, that makes me feel good about things.

So when I said to that superintendent of the district, I said, "˜Well, give me a week. I'm going to be here and there, but I need some time to think about it because I'm also a mother, too, and I know this is going to be another commitment and I already have a full plate.' So it came down to basically me seeing the school board panic. They panicked and then they had to cut everything and I felt bad for that school board and a few of them were tribal and I thought, "˜This is what they have to deal with. They have to deal with the state legislature who cut educational funding and it's trickling down to the people.' And so the rural county, the rural society, they're having to put the economy on their shoulders. So these are people just like you and I who have bills and families to feed and they...everyone has issues, they have a real...reality, basically to deal with. And so whatever that was, I thought, even my neighbors. I looked at their struggles and I thought, "˜It's just tragedy overall if we do nothing about it.' So this is what it comes down to, how do we engage our citizens?

So what I did was talked with all of our local folks. We had our education director, talked with our chairman. Basically I had to make this a grassroots effort and turn it into a community-wide, strong movement because they all had to come together. I said, "˜Even our students are willing to help and our teachers are willing to help, our elders, our tribal leaders, anyone and everyone needs to get out and vote.' But they're not only just responsible to vote. They have to get up and show up to these meetings and keep everyone educated because that was the reason why the levy lost in the first place. It always comes down to how you educate, how you tell your story and the people said, "˜Well, I don't really want to go door knocking. I don't really want to have public meetings. Why should we do this?' And I said, "˜Well, let's talk about John Deer, for example, who is a local business owner. He voted 'no' because he thinks that you want to basically bear this burden on his back as a local property owner. You're going to increase his taxes. Whether that's a minimal tax or a large tax, it's a tax and a local business owner does not want to be taxed any further than they already are.' But how do you tell that story? I says, "˜Well, speak from your heart. I'm teaching these young students here to tell their story and how it applies to their neighbors in that community.' I said, "˜And I learned going door...' It's really humbling to go door knocking, by the way, if anyone's done that or not. But I learned that if you want to win these elections and tell your story or have a vote in the broader forums, you have to get out there and tell people who you are and why you're running or what you're there for and how you can help them. And so I said to these students, "˜You're not here for yourself, you're here for your neighbor and you're here for their future because you are their vested interest. They're investing in you and you are the future.' I said, "˜When I went to school, my elders...' as much as I wanted to go back home to the reservation, I stayed in private school, but I said, "˜Only because I knew that my elders would always be with me,' and I knew that when they said, "˜Your education belongs to us. Your dedication, everything that you do belongs to the tribe,' I wholly believed in that. "˜So what you're doing today, this belongs to your community and you're bringing that back to invest a greater interest.'

And so that's what the youth said. They understood that. They said, "˜Yeah, we know, we get that.' And then they told their stories from their heart and that's what it came down to and that's, I think, how we won because this is a happy ending because people were ready to give up and call it good and throw in the towel and move on. And then of course the tribe is stuck footing the bill because people thought, "˜Well, the tribe obviously should be expected to pay this bill. We should be able to hold up that fourth leg to keep it standing.' But it's not the tribe's responsibility. We don't have a leadership arm in the school district. It's the state and it's a state-funded school, but the state was not doing its job and it was withholding money from local communities. So to me that's a travesty, but also it's against the law because they were not upholding an Idaho State Supreme Court decision and it's a law that every child in the State of Idaho is guaranteed a free and good public education. So they weren't upholding the needs of the people and again, it's not the tribe's responsibility, but the tribe was willing to do whatever was necessary. But I said, "˜Wait a minute. This is not the tribe's responsibility, but we're all about community here. We want to build up our community just as the next person.' And so a grassroots effort -- you have to really get out there and tell your story if you want to make change. And so being the change you want to see is about walking your talk, sharing your message, being that voice. Each and every one of us has a vision and we are blessed to have those visions because not everybody is granted that ability.

You're here again for a reason, so you just didn't stumble through that door and decide, "˜I'm going to listen in on Paulette and Arlene here.' You have a good reason to be here. So I'm hoping this story is helpful because to me that really opened my eyes, because when I was in that room I was directing the command center at the last day on voting day and I didn't have the tribal council or the chairman, I was...I said, "˜You know what, this is best left aside from all politics. This is about the children.' So I put the children at the helm and I said, "˜This is their doing. They're the ones who got out and educated the community. They went door to door,' as shy as they are, some of them are the most shy people, but I think after that experience it's going to turn them into strong nationwide leaders because they are young warriors. And I said, "˜You have just been inducted into basically what is kind of like our Indian Way Leadership Academy. You have stood up and counted coup against this levy.'

And so that day was neat because in our tribal headquarters we had all of our youth, we had a lot of our tribal citizens, we had non-tribal people and the most amazing point of the day to me was when we had some non-tribal ladies joking with our tribal people and they were joking like we were all relatives and I've never seen that before. I've never seen tribal and non-tribal and again, we still have a lot of race issues, we still have that line there that we need to get rid of, but I think that line is not as bold as it used to be after that moment. And so for those race relationships we really helped one another, and I think that people will remember that day and they'll see that we came together for each other's children. And so people are starting to see that tribes are not enemies but we're friends and we want to be good relatives and good neighbors to one another and so we showed that by example. And so again, we walked our talk that day.

That was the story I was asked to share and I wanted to come down and express that much to you and I do hope you take something from that. But again, it is...engaging your citizenry is about being humble and having that vision and really I think having diligence and just being honest with your people about what the issues are and what the concerns are. Really tell them, if there's a problem, you have to tell your elders and your people and not be afraid of that backlash because, yeah, they're going to criticize you and I know it's hard to take, but just realize it's constructive criticism that will help you in the long run. I know I would, as the youngest person of the council, I used to develop and hold elders' meetings and I was the elders' liaison and the elders were considered the tough ones of all the bunch in our community. And so they said, "˜Oh, put Paulette over there, she can talk to the elders.' And they thought they were setting me up good "˜cause I was the young one and I got vetted for that job. And I said, "˜Well, I see that as an honor and a privilege. Thank you.' And all the elders of the council, they're all in their 60s, 70s, and so here I was at 28 and so I really seen that as an honor, but my first step was to engage them wholly and we had an elders' listening session and yes, that first session was great. All they wanted to know is that they were being listened to and that you were going to do what they said and not just throw it into the wind. So I followed up after those listening sessions and we had them yearly and so they became very productive. And I thought, "˜I wish we did this more often.' But I would have them once yearly and so trying to keep that tradition going. But that's all it's about is talking to your people and not being afraid to be disciplined and you know how that finger may be waved in your face or challenged in some way or form. So thank you. I appreciate this time again and I appreciate all of you having me and listening to me, especially after that good lunch we had. [Coeur d'Alene language]."

Walter Echo-Hawk: In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Producer
Indigenous Peoples' Law and Policy Program
Year

Walter Echo-Hawk, legendary civil rights attorney, discusses his latest book In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stressing the need for Native nations and peoples to band together to mount a campaign to compel the United States to fully embrace and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Echo-Hawk, Walter. "In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." Indigenous Peoples' Law & Policy Program, James E. Rogers College of Law, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 20, 2013. Presentation.

James Anaya:

“The Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program is pleased to host a range of thought-provoking speakers in multiple settings over the course of each academic year as part of our multi-faceted program of learning and outreach. This evening we are especially privileged to have with us one of the truly groundbreaking advocates and thinkers of recent decades on issues concerning Native Americans in the United States and abroad, Mr. Walter Echo-Hawk.

A citizen of the Pawnee Nation, Walter Echo-Hawk is a distinguished lawyer who for years was one of the leading attorneys of the Native American Rights Fund, a former justice of the Supreme Court of the Pawnee Nation and now the Chief Justice of the Kickapoo Supreme Court, an author with numerous influential books and articles, and an activist whose energies extend to innovative initiatives to support Native American arts and culture. His vast legal experience includes precedent-setting cases involving Native American religious freedom, prisoner rights, water rights, and rights of reburial and repatriation. His work litigating and lobbying on Native American rights goes back to 1973 and much of that work occurred during pivotal years when America witnessed the rise of modern Indian nations. As American Indian tribes reclaimed their land, sovereignty and pride in an historic stride toward freedom and justice, Walter Echo-Hawk worked at the epicenter of a great social movement alongside tribal leaders on many issues, visiting Indian tribes in their Indigenous habitats throughout North America. He was instrumental in the passage of numerous important laws like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act amendments in 1994.

As a scholar and author, Walter Echo Hawk’s numerous published works include his acclaimed book In the Courts of the Conquerors: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided. This is an outstanding and insightful critique of the evolution of federal Indian law doctrine and its social implications. This evening we’re privileged to hear Walter talk about his most recent book In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this book, Walter explains how the harm historically inflicted on the Indigenous peoples in the United States still commands attention because of the ongoing affects of the past on conditions today. He helps us understand why justice requires confronting the combined injustices of the past and present and he points us to tools for achieving reconciliation between the majority and Indigenous peoples focusing on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations as such a tool.

This UN declaration is an expression of standards grounded in fundamental human rights and a global consensus among governments and Indigenous peoples worldwide. It was adopted in the year 2007 by the UN general assembly with the affirmative votes of an overwhelming majority of UN member states, [and] expressions of celebration by Indigenous peoples from around the world who had been long advocating for the declaration. At the urging of Indigenous leaders from throughout the country, President Barack Obama announced the United States’ support for the Declaration on December 16, 2010, reversing the United State’s earlier position and he did so before a gathering at the White House of leaders of Indigenous nations and tribes. In his wonderful new book, Walter Echo Hawk shows us the seeds of change in the Declaration. “With the Declaration,’ he tells us, ‘we are in a rare moment of potential transformation, of a tectonic shift toward a new era of human relations that extends the promise of justice beyond the boundaries set by the past. It is a move farther along the path of greatness for which America yearns.’ This book inspires and moves us to seize that moment. Please welcome, please join me in welcoming Walter Echo-Hawk.”

[applause]

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Well, thank you so much Professor Anaya for that very kind and generous introduction. I have admired Professor Anaya for many, many years. We first met in the mid 1970s when Jim was the General Counsel to the National Indian Youth Council [NIYC] and I was on their board of directors, and at that time he was deeply involved in civil rights litigation on behalf of NIYC and international litigation and international tribunals as well way back in the early 1980s. I’ve admired your work and your groundbreaking career for many, many years in the field of international human rights law and I think that your work has really opened new vistas for our Native people here at home and I’m very, I think, indebted to you also for writing the foreword to my new book In the Light of Justice and I’m grateful for that. It just put a lot of pressure on me to do my best because I have respected your work so much over the years.

I want to thank Professor Tatum, Melissa Tatum, the Director of the Indian [Peoples] Law [and Policy] Program here, Professor Mary Guss also as well for your kindness in showing me around town, making my presence possible here this evening. And lastly, I thank each and every one of you for coming tonight to be with me here. It’s certainly my great honor and privilege to be here at the Law School. This ranking law school is well known throughout Indian Country and among my colleagues in the practice of federal Indian law as being an important center for Indian law and policy. Some of the very brilliant scholarship that has emanated here from the Law School with folks like Professor Anaya and the other faculty, all-star faculty that is assembled here at the Law School including Professor Williams, Rob Williams, have truly opened some major vistas for Indian tribes and my colleagues throughout the nation. So I’m very glad to be here, very honored to be at this center of knowledge here. I feel like I’m very at the fount of knowledge if not very close to it.

And so I’m very honored to give a presentation this evening about my book In the Light of Justice, and this book is about a brand new legal framework for defining Native American rights here in the United States. The book does basically three things. First, it examines the landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Professor Anaya mentioned. This is a landmark international human rights instrument that creates a very comprehensive stand-alone legal framework for defining the rights of Native Americans as well as Indigenous peoples worldwide. As Jim mentioned, this UN declaration was approved in the year 2007 by the General Assembly. It was endorsed by the United States government in the year 2010 so it’s technically a part of U.S. Indian policy and today 150 nations around the world have also endorsed this UN Declaration, making it the new order of the day it seems to me. Secondly, this book goes on then to compare our existing law and social policy with regard to Native Americans to these UN standards, these minimum human rights standards that is established by the Declaration to see how well our domestic law stacks up against these human rights standards. And then thirdly, the book urges our nation to undertake a social and legal movement to implement these UN standards into our law and social policy.

What I’d like to do tonight is to basically cover three areas with you this evening. First, I’d like to talk about why I felt compelled to write this book. Secondly, I want to describe briefly this declaration and this new human rights framework for defining Native American rights. And then thirdly, I want to discuss some of the findings that I made in my comparative legal analysis and some of my conclusions that I drew in this legal analysis of the declaration and especially to talk about the need for implementing these standards in our own nation here in the United States, including some of the implementation challenges that our generation or this generation will face in implementing these UN standards into our law and social policy. But before I begin, I need to add a caveat here and that is that I am not and don’t hold myself out to be an international law expert. I haven’t gone to the UN, I haven’t gone to Geneva, I did not participate in the making of this declaration and the book simply examines this declaration and its implications purely from the standpoint of a domestic practitioner of federal Indian law to look at the possibilities of this in terms of strengthening our existing law and policy. So with that, I think after I hope we’ll have time for some questions and answers and then we’ll be able to sign a few books afterwards and I think this’ll be a rare opportunity especially if James joins me in signing some books. So you’ll have the signature of both of the authors of this book. So it should be a collector’s edition for you book collectors out there.

But at the outset, I’d like to just begin with the premise of this book and that is this -- that I believe that this is a historic time for federal Indian law and policy and of course we know that federal Indian law is our current legal framework here in the United States for defining Native American rights and we know through our experience in the modern era of federal Indian law that federal Indian law basically has two sides to it. On the one hand, it has some very strong protective features that are protective of Native American rights that arise from the doctrine of inherent tribal sovereignty and the related protectorate principles that was articulated in Worcester v. Georgia, and within that protective side of federal Indian law in the last two generations our Indian nations have made great nation-building advances in this tribal sovereignty movement and we can look around the country and see the fruits of that effort all around us, and it’s been described by Charles Wilkinson as giving rise to our modern Indian nations rivaling the great American social movements, the environmental movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement in American history. But on the other side of the coin, federal Indian law also has a dark side to it as well with some very clear anti-Indigenous functions that are seen in a whole host of nefarious legal doctrines that were implanted in the body of federal Indian law by the Supreme Court many decades ago, in numerous unjust legal fictions and a significant body of the jurisprudence of racism as defined by Webster’s dictionary book can be found in some of these Supreme Court decisions that are still the law of the land today. So this dark side to federal Indian law holds us back as Native people, it makes us vulnerable and it also keeps us poor. And so we have these two sides of our existing legal framework.

But today as I mentioned is a historic time because we can now clearly see two legal frameworks for defining Native American rights. Our old legal framework of federal Indian law and then out on the horizon we can see this brand-new human rights framework out on the horizon and it reminds me of an old Pawnee song about a spotted horse that we see way far away and it’s coming our way and it makes us feel good because we know it’s bringing good things for us and that’s how this declaration is. And so we can clearly see these two frameworks now and we stand at a crossroads today between these two legal frameworks here in the United States and I think that the challenge of our generation of legal practitioners and tribal leaders and Native American peoples is to basically work to save the very best from our old framework, our most protective features and to merge that with this new human rights framework to create a stronger body of law that is more just and to make it a seamless…to merge the two frameworks into a strengthened and more just legal framework for the 21st century in a post-colonial world.

So I want to turn to my first task tonight and that is: why did I write this book? I was motivated by three reasons, the first being the need to strengthen federal Indian law. As I’ve alluded to earlier, although we’ve made great strides under our existing legal framework, I feel like we have stalled out in recent years because there’s been a gradual weakening of federal Indian law since 1985 with the U.S. Supreme Court trend towards trimming back hard-won Native American rights beginning with the [William] Rehnquist Court in 1985. Court observers tell us that Indian nations have lost over 80 percent of their cases into the present day, in some terms losing 88 percent of our cases, and that frightening statistic means that prison inmates fare better before the high court than our Indian nations. That’s caused some of our leading legal scholars to ask, ‘Is federal Indian law dead?’ And then we have this dark side to our body of law that I mentioned earlier and that compounds this problem it seems to me. Scholars have thoroughly studied this dark side to federal Indian law. They’ve identified these factors there that make our rights vulnerable today. These nefarious legal doctrines have been traced to their origins in medieval Europe. These internal tensions that are found in our body of law between self-determining peoples that have [an] inherent right of tribal sovereignty on the one hand being hostage to these doctrines of unfettered colonialism, conquest and colonialism. You can’t have these two conditions, they’re mutually incompatible so we have these inherent tensions that struggle…are pitted against one another in our body of law. And so that’s not questioned today in the year 2013 in any serious way, but we’ve lived with this body of law since 1970 at the inception of the modern era of federal Indian law. Our litigators basically took this legal framework as we found it. We didn’t create federal Indian law, we simply took this legal framework as we found it and tried to make the best of it. We tried to coax the courts into applying the most protective features of this legal framework and then simply living with this dark side. But it seems to me that now in recent years we have stalled out. I think we’ve faltered in recent years. I think Indian Country is huddled against an assault by the Supreme Court for its further weakening our legal rights and we’ve stalled out it seems to me at the very doorstep of true self-determination as that principle is broadly defined in modern international rights law and it may be that our Indian tribes have come as far as we can go under this existing regime and to go any further we’re going to have to reform that legal framework. I think there’s an axiom here and that is that a race of people can only advance so far under an unjust legal regime and that there’ll come a time where they have to turn on that legal regime and challenge it to go any further in their aspirations. And I think we may have rode our pony as far as we can and to go further we’re going to have to focus for the very first time on challenging some of the dark side of federal Indian law and strengthening our legal framework. So these problems in the law have troubled me as a lifelong practitioner of federal Indian law and I felt that federal Indian law today is in deep trouble. It needs a lifeline and perhaps this UN Declaration is that lifeline. So I felt it well worth my while to examine this new legal framework.

The second reason that motivated me to write this book was if you look around Indian Country today and in our tribal communities, we will see numerous, hard-to-solve social ills that stalk our tribal communities today. Despite our best efforts to redress these social ills, we see these shocking socioeconomic gaps between Native Americans and our non-Indian neighbors with the lowest life expectancy in the nation, the highest rate of poverty, poorest housing, serious shocking gaps in the medical treatment, mental healthcare, highest rate of violence in the nation, highest suicide rates, unemployment. These ills have lingered for so long in our tribal communities that they’re seen as normal and they threaten to become permanent. How do we account for these shocking inequities? Social science researchers tell us that these are unhealed wounds inherited from our…as historical trauma from [the] legacy of conquest; dispossession, subjugation, marginalization created these open wounds and they haven’t healed yet in the year 2013, despite our best efforts. These are the end products of our current legal regime, our existing law and policy, and I believe that this declaration is specifically designed to redress this inherit…the inherited effects of colonialism through a human rights framework. It’s a prescription for the social ills, and so I therefore thought it was worth my time to examine that framework in this book.

The third reason that I wrote this book is that the UN approval of this declaration in the year 2007, which was done in a landslide crowning victory for over 20 years in the United Nations of work by Indigenous pioneers who accessed the international realm for the very first time in a couple hundred years. This landmark achievement was basically unheralded. It caught the United States by surprise; it caught Indian Country by surprise. I feel like it caught our tribal leaders and our tribal attorneys [who] were unfamiliar with it. We hadn’t read it. It caught us with our chaps down, so to speak. And so since that time, and especially since the year 2010, Indian Country has just begun to read this document for the very first time and our tribal attorneys to read it and educate ourselves. It’s been the subject of a Senate oversight hearing. It’s been the subject of conferences at the federal bar, at NCAI [National Congress of American Indians], at tribal leaders' forums and law school conferences. And as we study this document I felt that it would be helpful to provide some baseline information about this declaration to help our self-education process on this new human rights framework, to look at some of the implications, to provide some baseline information about it, some reconnaissance-level legal analysis and that’s what this book attempts to do, to assist Indian Country and our nation in looking at this new legal framework for defining the rights of our people.

Let me turn now to: what is this UN framework? And let me just ask you, if you’ve read this raise your hand. If you’ve read this declaration, raise your hand. By golly, I’m glad James has read it. That’s a pretty nice substantial fraction. But many places where I ask that question, very few hands will go up.

So I just want to make about seven fundamental points about this new human rights framework. The first, the point is that it…in 46 articles, it lays out the minimum standards, minimum human rights standards for the…protecting the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples worldwide -- that includes Native Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians. As Professor Anaya mentioned, it was approved by the UN in 2007, it was formally endorsed by the United States in 2010, 150 nations around the world as well.

Secondly, this document contains the authentic aspirations of Indigenous peoples in large measure because they wrote it and they negotiated it through the UN human rights framework. And if you read it as a practitioner of federal Indian law, you’ll see that all of the issues that our clients are concerned about and that we’ve litigated on and towards are contained in this document.

Thirdly, these standards as I mentioned earlier are comprehensive in nature. They address the full range of our Native American issues and aspirations. Our property rights, political rights, civil rights, economic rights, social rights, cultural rights, religious rights, environmental rights; it’s all there in this framework. And the interesting thing about it is the rights that are described in here are described as inherent, inherent human rights and I think that that’s very significant because an inherent human right means that the UN didn’t give these rights to Native people. These are rights that we already have.

So these are inherent human rights that nobody gave to Indigenous peoples, but rather they arise from our Indigenous histories, our Indigenous institutions, but were beyond reach by Native people in their domestic legal forums. What the United Nations did here was basically look to the larger body of modern international human rights law and simply pulled the norms and the human rights treaty provisions, pulled it out of this larger body and put them into this declaration and it’s showing the 150 nations of the world how to interpret this larger body of human rights law in the unique context of Indigenous peoples so that Indigenous peoples have the same human rights that the rest of humanity already enjoys. Further, these rights that are described in here, it is said that they’re supposed to be interpreted according to notions of justice, equality, good faith, democracy, a very just foundation for these inherent human rights, more just foundation than that found in the dark side of federal Indian law. Moreover, related to that, these rights are not considered to be new rights or special rights, but simply as I mentioned earlier just simply rights that are drawn from the existing body of international human rights law.

Next I’d like to talk about some of my major finding about these rights that I… conclusions that I drew in this book. Firstly, that these UN human rights standards are largely compatible with our U.S. law and policy in its finest hour. And at its very best and in its finest hour ,our federal Indian law in the 10 best cases ever decided about Indians show a fundamental compatibility with many of these standards. And those standards, if they were to become part of our body of law would simply make the very best in our legal culture more reliable and more dependable, but at the same time I also found, secondly, that many areas in our existing law and policy simply fail to pass muster under these standards, they don’t comply with these standards. And the book goes on to lay out these many, many areas that we need…where we need to uplift our existing law and policy so that they conform or are compatible with these minimum human rights standards.

The sixth point I wanted to make about this framework is that the Declaration is not a self-implementing instrument. It’s not legally binding law that federal courts must enforce, but rather the Declaration asks the United States to implement these standards in partnership with Native people, that the United States and all these other 150 nations are supposed to work with Native people to implement these standards, to provide technical assistance, to provide funding, to go forward in a nation-building kind of an effort to implement these standards. And so I think that that is a call to action to Indian Country to sit down with the government and see how we should go about implementing these standards in partnership.

I’d like to begin winding this lecture down here by looking at the need for these standards in our own country here. I think that the threshold question for all Americans of good will, including our tribal leaders and our tribal attorneys, is why do we need these standards in our own country? Aren’t we the leading democracy? Are you saying that we have injustice in our midst? Many Americans of goodwill will admit that yes, our nation was birthed on the human rights principle and we’ve got a very proud heritage of human rights that have always animated our nation from the very inception down to the present day. We’ve gone to war to protect human rights, to punish those who violate human rights, and it may be true that we haven’t always lived up to these core American human right values throughout our history in terms of our treatment of Native people here in the U.S., but are we responsible for healing a painful past when we didn’t personally have any hand in these appalling miscarriages of justice? It’s unfair to come to me when I had no part in that and ask me to heal the past. Others will ask, honestly ask, ‘Is an international law ineffective and unenforceable?’ That’s a myth that I once believed in as a dyed-in-the-wool practitioner of federal Indian law. Besides, many people just don’t like the UN. We don’t want to be bossed around by the UN or international law. Other Americans of good faith, goodwill, will say, ‘Why can’t we just rely on our existing law and policy to address these problems? After all, we have the Bill of Rights. Why not just apply the Bill of Rights and treat everybody alike and nothing more? We’ve got a comprehensive body of federal Indian law already. Why not just rely on it to fix these problems?’ And as advocates we must be able to answer each of these questions in a very persuasive way at the outset, otherwise we should fold up our tents and go home. So this book tries to answer those questions about the need for these standards in our nation. It explores answers. It looks at…it basically sees four reasons regarding the need for these standards: legal reasons, political reasons, social reasons and environmental reasons. And I hope that after you review these reasons in the book that you’ll agree with me that we do have compelling reasons and a compelling need to implement these standards here in the United States.

The first reason being a legal reason. As I mentioned earlier, to strengthen our body of federal Indian law, to reform that dark side of federal Indian law and root out the law of colonialism, the doctrines of conquest, doctrines of racism, all of these dark sides of our existing framework that have anti-Indigenous functions, to resolve our internal tensions and we have to remember that as I mentioned earlier or maybe it was later today that right now in our existing legal framework if you read our Supreme Court decisions in our foundational cases you will see that when it comes to defining Native American rights that the Supreme Court expressly eschews looking at ‘abstract principles of justice’ or ‘questions of morality’ when defining Native American rights. So this has produced an amoral body of law that is bereft of the human rights principle and I think that that has led to an amazing prevalence of unjust cases in federal Indian law. And so there is a need to reform federal Indian law to try to inject this human rights principle. I know as a litigator whenever you’re able to inject human rights into your issue, your position is immediately strengthened, and we found that when we were making the NAGPRA [Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act] statute that we were stymied in our negotiations, stalled out because of self-interest between the scientists, museums and the tribal communities until we agreed to follow the human rights principle and that kind of cracked the case and led to the passage of NAGPRA. And you can imagine if your client’s right to self-determination was considered an inherent human right, your client’s right to culture, your client’s right to accountable public media and so on and so forth, rights to protect Indigenous habitat were deemed to be inherent human rights, that’s going to put you in a much stronger legal position. So we have a legal reason here.

Secondly, we have social reasons, that is this inherited legacy of conquest that I talked about earlier, and the need to finally try to solve these hard-to-solve social ills. These are root problems that we’ve inherited in our tribal communities, cry out for healing in a national program of reconciliation and I think that this declaration is the antidote for those social ills and will enable our nation to solve them at long last and then move forward.

Thirdly, we have these political reasons to implement this declaration. Our nation has long been plagued with the Indian question or the Indian problem, ever since the United States first embarked on colonizing Indian lands and peoples. The political question has always been, ‘What do we do with the Indians once we’ve colonized everything? What do we do with them?’ And this has long perplexed our nation and historically…well, it’s a universal problem that all settler states with a history of colonialism have had to confront. How do we bring the Native people into the body politic? What’s the best approach for doing that on a political basis? And we’ve tried many approaches here in the United States. We’ve tried this Worcester framework of inherent tribal sovereignty for domestic dependent nations operating under the protection of the United States. We’ve tried Indian removal, to remove the tribes from our body politic. We’ve tried to exterminate Indians at the zenith of the Indian wars. We’ve zigzagged back to guardianship and Christianization methods to bring Native people into the body politic. We’ve tried self-government under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. We’ve swung back from there to termination to make our Indians disappear and then in 1970 swung back to Indian self-determination. So we’ve had these zigzagging policy shifts in U.S. history trying to figure out the best way to bring Native people into the body politic. The problem is that the normal mode for assimilating immigrants into our free and democratic society simply doesn’t work for Native people because we already inhabit the nation and we want to retain our Indigenous rights. Well, this declaration shows us how to do that. It tells us that we want to bring Native people into the body politic using the self-determination principle with our Indigenous rights intact, basically saying that we got it right with our Indian Self-Determination policy of 1970, that we should stay the course and do whatever we need to do to bring Native America into the body politic with all of their Indigenous human rights intact.

Fourth reason that is discussed in this book is environmental reasons. I think that there’s a healthy byproduct in recognizing and protecting Indigenous rights and that healthy byproduct has to do with this environmental crisis that our nation is confronted with. We have a growing environmental problem and a crisis that is a worldwide environmental problem that threatens human security. We see it in the mass extinction of animals and plants, the pollution of Father Sky, Mother Earth, our waters, our oceans. We see it in this climate change. We now live in a warming world thanks to the industrialized nations emitting these gases into the atmosphere. And this has caused…this crisis has caused scientists to fear a catastrophic collapse of some of our important global life systems. And so the scientists are sounding the alarm, but no one is listening. This crisis continues to get worse and not better. We can’t solve it without first getting a land ethic and [an] ocean ethic that can guide us, a moral compass to show humans and our modern society how we should comport ourselves to the natural world. And as far back as 1948, Aldo Leopold urged America, ‘Get a land ethic.’ But it’s never taken root in our nation yet. Why? We don’t have any clear guidance from our Western traditions, the Western religions, science or technology. They don’t tell us how humans should comport to the natural world. We have to look to Indigenous peoples for that, into their value system, our primal tribal religions, our hunting, fishing and gathering cosmologies and those value systems, which were the first world views of the human race that were wired into our biology as humans spread across the planet, and in that set of Indigenous value systems I think our nation will find the ingredients for an American land ethic. Without that ethic, we’re not going to be able to solve this environmental crisis and we’ve placed ourselves on the path of failed civilizations. We can’t solve it, the problem, without an ethic to guide us. It’s just simply too expensive. The problem is too severe. It costs too much money and we lack the political will to address and solve this problem. So we sorely need a land ethic and I think that there is a congruency between protecting Indigenous habitat and Indigenous land uses of Indigenous land, Indigenous cultures, empowering the Native people to protect their ways of life so that they can come to the seat at the table and maybe share some of their traditional knowledge and their value system and help us forge a land ethic. If you look at the Amazon forest, the remnants of that forest exist because of the Indigenous peoples that reside in these habitats that have been empowered to continue to live there and to defend those areas. Were it not for them, that forest would probably have long been gone. So there is that relationship between protecting and empowering Indigenous peoples and their environmental rights and addressing this environmental crisis.

So I’ve spoken too long and I want to just simply close with some quick concluding observations about the challenges in implementing this declaration and I think that I would direct your attention to James Anaya’s report that he submitted to the United States in his capacity as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In the year 2012, he conducted an official mission to the United States to consult with the United States government, to consult with tribal leaders to identify the human rights situation of Native Americans and barriers to implementing all of these human rights standards and he compiled this report in August of 2012. It’s entitled The Situation of Indigenous Peoples in the United States of America. And I would urge you to go to your computer and download it, and in fact I think we may have copies here this evening alongside my book tonight, our book I should say, in which Professor Anaya gives recommendations to the United States for steps that our nation must take to implement these standards. He concludes that we have a significant challenge in doing that, in rectifying and addressing our legacy of conquest here in the United States and it calls for changes, fundamental changes in all three branches of the federal government -- Congress, the President and the Executive Branch and our courts -- and these are fundamental changes that he is recommending that our nation take. And so it lays out a big task it seems to me for our generation and the next to implement these challenges to…I think this report is one of those rare policy analyses that come across from time to time, once in a great while, that can become a catalyst for change and so this report is a good starting place to download it and read it and I think you’ll agree that it does lay out a big task for our generation. And there’s a role for our law schools, our law professors, our law students, Native people, Americans of goodwill to come forward, our tribal leaders to come forward, to reach out for these human rights standards and work to implement them.

And I think the first step here is a…there’s a need for a focused national dialogue on the nature and content of human rights for Native Americans. And our nation has never had such a national dialogue of that nature in the same way that we looked at…our nation looked at Black America and the need for equality under the law for Black America. That was serious national conversation, but we’ve never had one when it comes to talking about human rights for Native America and our legal framework has no human rights judicial discourse in it at all and so we need to have a national discourse to understand the need for these standards in our country, to debunk the reasons not to act and I think that that’s a first step.

Secondly, I think we have to build a national campaign to implement these standards, to coax the government into developing a national plan of action through a national program of reconciliation to implement these standards in partnership with Native America. To do that…unless we do that, nothing’s going to happen and these human rights standards will remain beyond reach. So we need the internal machinery to set that in place for a campaign complete with guiding legal principles to develop this seamless new framework, employing some of our finest legal minds in our ranking law schools to help us do that, strategies and a focused public relations and public education campaign to educate the public about this, very similar to the campaign that Black America engaged in for 58 years to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. There’s lessons to be learned there in that campaign. There’s lessons to be learned from our tribal sovereignty movement that could be helpful in guiding a campaign to implement these standards in the 21st century.

And so with that brings me to my final point that this campaign has to also develop some philosophical foundation, some philosophical principles to motivate social action, social justice action and to guide our campaign into the light of justice. I don’t think we have to look far for that philosophical foundation for this campaign. We only have to look as far as to our wisdom traditions of the human race, remembering that from day one of the history of the human race has been one of atrocity, acts of genocide, warfare, catastrophes brought about by man’s inhumanity to man in the whole course of human history and along the way our ancestors developed some wisdom traditions that come to us from the world’s religions that teach us and tell us how to heal historical injuries, injuries of the kind that we have perpetrated on other people. These wisdom traditions work as sure as the rain must fall and they tell us it’s just five steps, it’s not rocket science. The first step being an injury has taken place and here we’re talking about this legacy of conquest that is still seen and felt today.

The second step is whatever tradition you come from your finest and highest teachings tell you that when you’ve injured somebody you must go to that person and apologize, prostrate yourself and ask for forgiveness. It’s a very hard step to do because we often demonize the people that we have harmed, wished them ill and it’s inconceivable, unthinkable to then go to them on bended knee and ask them to forgive us. It’s a hard thing to do, but our wisdom traditions teach us that we have to do that to relieve our guilt, to relieve their shame, to begin clearing the air for a healing process.

And that brings us to our third step in this healing process and that is to accept the apology and forgive; also very hard to do. I think one of the indicia of a traumatized community is simply they’re unable to forgive those who have trespassed against them. It’s hard to do, but it’s important that we forgive. Only the strong can forgive. It’s probably our highest, strongest human spiritual power that we have to forgive and all of our traditions teach us that we must forgive.

That third step then leads us to the…once peace is made it leads us to the fourth step in this process, acts of atonement. The burden shifts back to the perpetrator’s community to perform acts of atonement, to make amends, to wipe the slate clean as best as humans can do. We know we can’t turn back the hands of time, but we can do everything within our power as humans to make things right and I think these acts of atonement and this process are laid out in that declaration. It shows us what we must do here.

Once that step has gone through, it brings us to the last step and that is healing and reconciliation and at that point we’ve done everything that humans can do to heal, taken that high road to heal a historical injury in our midst regardless of the cause and from there we sit at the center of human compassion and we can honestly say at that point that I am you and you are me and we are one. We’ve been reunited and we can go on from there. And so I think that these wisdom traditions work in even the most heinous situations and I think we only need to look that far as a philosophical foundation for a campaign to guide us to that promised land so that we might all stand in the light of justice.”

[applause]

James Anaya:

“Walt has agreed to take a few questions. You have about five, maybe 10 minutes.”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Okay. I was hoping to filibuster so that we wouldn’t have to do any questions, but as long as they’re easy ones but please…yeah, five minutes, questions and then we have some books compliments of the campus bookstore. Anyone? Sir.”

Audience member:

“I think it was wonderful to hear you. And you have talked about how the United Nations Declaration can help the United States of America and do you have anything in the United Nations Declaration, which could be taken from the United States? I mean is there some teachings of United States Native culture, which is endorsed by the United Nations Declaration?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Well, I feel that it’s very important for the United States to take a leadership role in implementing these standards in its own backyard. As President [Dwight] Eisenhower said, ‘Whatever America wants in the rest of the world first has to take place in our own backyard,’ and we hold ourselves out to the world as a human rights champion. We’re always running to the UN to have humanitarian intervention, to get support of the UN, and so I think that we don’t want to be the last nation on earth to implement these standards. We want to be among the first and the rest of the world is already embarking upon implementing these standards and that train is leaving the station and we need to be in there because I think that we are a very strong world power, we have influence around the world and if we’re able to successfully implement these human rights standards here in our own land, in one of the hard-core settler states or settler nations, then that would provide, I would hope, precedent for other nations to do the same thing around the world. It’s getting to be a smaller globe and we need to look across our boundaries to other lands. Certainly that’s what happened in the making of this declaration when Indigenous peoples came together and went to the UN. But I think it’s important for America not to be the last country on the planet to fully implement each and every one of these standards, that we should be among the first to try to take a leadership role to redeem our place as a champion of human rights worldwide because we use this as a tool in our foreign policy. Human rights is an important tool in our foreign policy and so we need to get matters fixed in our own backyards before we can do that in a legitimate way. Ma’am?”

Audience member:

“What suggestions could you give us in regards to getting such a national campaign you’re calling for moving, to find who needs to listen, who can move things and basically who can do what? Do you have any suggestions of how to achieve this, how to support and contribute?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“I think that…well, I have a couple, two chapters in the book that’s devoted to that, chapters nine and 10, so you’ll have to read it. You have to buy the book and read it. I think we have to mount a social movement, maybe a mother of all campaigns. To do that we have to internally put in place the machinery to do that, we have to go to our tribal leaders, ask them to get out of the casinos for a little bit, uplift their vision to see this new framework. We need a cadre I think of tribal leaders that can lead us into the light of justice. We need to staff them with some of our best attorneys that we have that are versed in human rights law and we need to have a lot of ingredients internally to vet some of these remedies that we’re talking about. We want to be sure we’re not going to make bad law or we’re not going to weaken our rights as Native Americans that we already have, rather we want to be sure that we strengthen them. Then we have to develop a strategic law development strategy and guided by astute political strategists with a…armed also with a very vigorous public education campaign. So I’m talking about the entire race of people and all of our assets and I think that we’re in a much better place to do that, Native America, in the year 2013. We’ve come a long way. We’ve got the experience, the capability and the resources to do that. Our survival, cultural survival depends on it. And you can look back to when the national…the NAACP was founded in 1910 and they were trying to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson and they had enormous hurdles in front of them at that time and yet it took them 58 years, but they did it. And I think we’re more poised now, Indian Country, to do that, but it’s going to be…take a lot of work. I think our young attorneys have to talk…learn the parlance of human rights, international human rights because we are now in a brand-new era of federal Indian law, a human rights era. And when President Obama endorsed this declaration, it ushered in a brand new era for federal Indian law and I think that the task for this next generation is to implement that declaration. Just like back in 1970, our goal at that time was to implement the Indian self-determination policy and it took a couple generations to basically do that in full measure. As I say, I think we’ve made big advances, we’ve come as far as we can though and now we’re in this human rights era of federal Indian law and policy and I think it’s incumbent upon you younger people, it’s easier for me to say, to take that up and carry it forward. Sir?”

Audience member:

“I was wondering, you mentioned some domestic examples like NAACP sort of leading the way for Black America. You also mentioned we should be sort of the leader as the United States in implementing human rights. Are there any…the declaration granted in 2007, are there any countries that sort of set a good precedent for us to follow?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Yeah, I think…was it Bolivia or which country…? It just simply passed a statute incorporating the whole declaration in one fell swoop, but I think Jim may have a better idea on that. But there’s other countries. I think each country is unique. They have their own Indigenous issues, they have their own legal cultures that they’re looking at and I think we can look around the world and benefit from the experience in other countries in implementing it and the book kind of does that in a few limited examples. But I don’t know if you have anything to offer, Jim, from your perspective? Sir, in the back.”

Audience member:

“In your perspective, what is self-determination? Is there a timeframe of that since 1970 to now or further?”

Walter Echo-Hawk:

“Well, I think that in the United States we reached our low point in 1950. In the ‘50s it was the termination era. It was a low point in Native life in our country it seems to me. The policy was termination, to make Indian tribes disappear as quickly as possible. And our activists and tribal leaders in the 1950s and in the 1960s worked as best they could to resist immediate and wholesale termination by the federal government. And their work…in the ‘60s, Vine Deloria was the Executive Director of NCAI and Clyde Warrior was the President of the National Indian Youth Council. They were articulating, especially Vine was articulating this self-determination principle to set our Indian tribes on a different path to the promised land in the civil rights movement, which was implementing Brown v. Board of Education. He articulated the self-determination policy to -- ultimately, that was approved in 1970 by President Nixon in a historic message to Congress -- and that Indian self-determination policy broke from termination and forced assimilation to transfer power back to the tribes as much as possible. And so from that point, from 1970 to the current date, I think that’s been at the center of our tribal sovereignty movement and I think it will continue to be. The UN Declaration, at the very core of this declaration is the self-determination principle, and so it shows us that our nation is sort of on the right path here with our self-determination aspiration, self-government, Indigenous institutions, tribal cultures, the right to culture. All of these are related to our self-determination or sovereignty -- political sovereignty, cultural sovereignty, economic sovereignty. And so I think that this, as far as I can see, it’s still…and it’s the centerpiece of this UN Declaration and that’s why it’s pretty compatible with our existing U.S. policy and we need to continue on that path by just simply uplifting these different areas where our existing laws fall short of the UN standards.” 

Honoring Nations: Darrell Hillaire and Sharon Kinley: Semiahmoo Project

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Darrell Hillaire and Sharon Kinley from the Lummi Nation and its Semiahmoo Project discuss the unfortunate circumstances that prompted the creation of the project, and how the Lummi are using the project as an opportunity to re-engage their culture, elders, core values, and language. 

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Hillaire, Darrell and Sharon Kinley. "Semiahmoo Project." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 10, 2004. Presentation.

Darrell Hillaire:

"We at Lummi, we feel quite honored to be here today. I also have Leonard Dickson here with us today and Greg Amahli, that are here representing Lummi. And it's, this is a place that we think carries a lot of prestige, but that isn't why we're here. We also recognize the agenda and recognize a lot of names of great leaders that are in attendance here, and we get kind of excited here about coming here to share some time with them. But I think, most importantly, we come here because we've established some pretty good friendships over the years. Joe Kalt, and we take his advice in the things that we try to do with our businesses and we're thankful to him for that. Andrew Lee, who's taken the time to come spend some time with us at Lummi and learn about us a little bit more, and it gives the program that we're working on together more meaning, and we thank Andrew for doing that. And of course our elder, Oren Lyons, who's been a friend of previous leadership at Lummi and continues to be our friend today and someone that we look up to with a great deal of respect. And that's the most important reason why we come here, to share some of our ideas with you and ask for help in some of the things that we're doing because we know that as we continue to grow, we're going to be making mistakes, and maybe you've seen something that we haven't seen.

We probably have a lot of things that we can talk about today. You know, we have the infrastructure issues that we work on, our water, our roads that requires partnerships not only within the Lummi government, but also other governments, state and local governments. We probably could talk about our casino and how we've set up the distribution of funds from our casino to the different programs, most importantly, education and to our members. But I think today we're going to talk about using financial and human resources wisely as it relates to a specific incident. That sometimes we talk about as a project and sometimes we talk about it as a program, but really, what it is, it's about the recovery of our ancestors. And what had happened four years ago is that, within our homeland, at a place called Semiahmoo, over 65 of our ancestors were disturbed, and removed, and disrespected, and located in other cities and in other homes. And it was very tragic for us to learn and understand what had happened and we had to respond with a sense of urgency to this crisis. After we got over the hurt, after we got over the anger, there was a lot of work to be done, and that work continues today. And this work is simple when we as a people follow the protocols of the old people, the work becomes simple, but it's hard when we come up against inevitable development, and talk about money and talk about politics and talk about political decisions, you know? And I think we're doing that because I think it goes right to the heart of who we are as people. When you think about it that way, when you think about standing up and fighting for the integrity of your nation and your people, then this work has to be done and those bridges have to be crossed, and we have to learn about that because at the end of the day it defines who you are. So that's why we felt that we needed to talk about Semiahmoo today as a project, but it's much much more than that.

So with that, I'd like to introduce Sharon Kinley. She's the dean for the Coast Salish Institute at Northwest Indian College, which is located on our reservation. She's also my relative, and she's also been with Semiahmoo from the beginning, for four years. We've been through three chairmen since this has occurred, and Sharon and ten other people have been there from the beginning and they're still there. And I sense that they'll be there until the work is completed. So with that, I'd like to introduce Sharon Kinley. Thank you."

Sharon Kinley:

"Good morning. My name is Sharon Kinley, I'm from the Lummi Nation. I am the director of the Coast Salish Institute, which is an institute that our new president, Cheryl Crazy Bull, has introduced to the college for the preservation and the revitalization of the Coast Salish cultures in our area that we serve. Last week -- I've done this presentation hundreds of times, but it never gets easy -- last week, I saw Darrell in the hallway and he said, ‘Gee, I'm going to Harvard to do this presentation and I decided that you should come and share what we've been doing at Semiahmoo because it really fits into the way that they lay out the honoring of nations.' And so I said, ‘Yeah sure, okay. I'll come.' And when I read the agenda on the plane over here and when I listened to you talk this morning, now I know why I'm here.

At Lummi, we have a very long history in Puget Sound, and the Georgia Basin, what is now called the Georgia Basin Watershed. We have for hundreds and hundreds of years, our old people, our [Lummi language] have fished and lived, raised their children, buried their dead, and all the areas that surround the Lummi Nation and all our neighboring tribes. And what we know about all these old villages and these old people is that where they lived, they buried their dead. One of the things that we're particularly interested in at Lummi at the college, is being able to reconstruct and to write about the history of reef netting, which is a technology that exists amongst the Coast Salish people, especially in our area, which extends across the Canadian border, and doesn't exist really, in any other culture in the world.

As many of you know, in 1855, the Lummi Nation, amongst others, entered into a treaty with, what is called the Point Elliott Treaty with the United States. As many of our elders have told us over the years that after those promises were made in the Point Elliott Treaty, the late Pateus used to say to us, '...and then they said,' to us, ‘go this is our land now.' In 1973, when I was a lot younger, the City of Blaine decided to construct a sewer plant -- not a wastewater treatment plant, but a sewer plant. And in that, the rules of development were very different, and 1973 was before a lot of the laws that have been established to protect cultural resources wherever written or certainly, ever followed. In 1997, as a result of the treatment plant, of the sewer plant, being constructed, Western Washington University, in conjunction with the University of Washington, had to come into the area and do what anthropology, what archaeology calls salvage archaeology, which is archaeology that you do ahead of the bulldozer. You're just going in to collect what you can in a very short period of time. And that report, when we read it all these years later, by Dr. Grabert, what we know is that what he collected there, he could determine was at least 3,000 years old. This site -- as it's located on the boundary exactly between the United States and Canada, in Puget Sound -- is probably the most well documented site in all of Puget Sound.

It was only in 1980, after all those years of trying to get their ancestors repatriated without any of the NAGPRA [Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act] laws, the Lummi were successful in doing that, brought the ancestors that were collected in the salvage archaeology home and reburied them at the Lummi cemetery. There was a lot of talk in the community by the elders at that time, because our belief is that the most important thing to do in these situations is to rebury our dead where they were originally dug up. In this case, the elders in their wisdom decided that we would rebury them at the Lummi cemetery because they just didn't think to rebury them at Semiahmoo would protect them. And they were right.

Probably over the course of this project, I personally and a lot of our staff has learned more about engineering studies, more about the permitting process in Washington State, more about NAGPRA, Section 106, and all the historic preservation laws. And what we know is that consultation with tribes takes place at the end of the permitting process, at least in Washington State. I don't know about Massachusetts, but in Washington State there's a whole phase of development that takes place that's called pre-permitting, where people, if it's your development, have spent a lot of money. They spend a lot of money on engineering studies and all kinds of things, and then they enter into the permitting process. And in that very long, complex permitting process, tribes are at the end, in consultation. By the time the developer and the city council make consultation and contact with the tribe, they'd already made up their mind that they were going to continue this project.

And in August 1999, through a very long story, we arrived out at the treatment plant only to find that what was supposed to be an expansion to the sewer facility actually was an acre excavation site that was 18 to 20 feet deep. And as you see, in the excavation site here, it was solid shell midden from the top to the bottom, which is thousands of years of habitation. It was solid shell midden from the top to the bottom. And we said that day, one of our cultural directors said that day to the people, to the construction people who were working there because they had come across a burial. And he said to them, ‘I'm so glad that I happened to show up today to be here while this burial was being disturbed.' And the guy who was kind of running the machine said to him, kind of offhandedly, ‘Oh well, that's nothing, you should have seen the 26 that we took out yesterday.' And we just froze. And so, it took us a day of people's attorneys calling other people's attorneys, our attorneys calling the sheriff, to get a stop work order in place. And as we were doing that, they continued to dig.

This is just a shot of the excavation site itself, where over 400 truckloads of fill were taken offsite to a local landfill site and deposited there. And this local landfill site, the gray area that you see, is the shell midden that came from this ancient cemetery. This is private property, probably about seven miles away from the treatment facility, and as we arrived there that day and walked that site, there were ancestral remains that were physically on the ground everywhere. And so, at that point in time, we had ourselves, the Lummi Nation, as a jurisdiction, the private property owner, the City of Blaine, the county, the developer, and USDA and Rural Development. We have multi-jurisdictions standing there looking at each other, wondering what they were going to do. And we knew right from the very beginning that we had many obstacles. Certainly externally: permitting processes, jurisdiction, unrelationships. And certainly, in those very first days, how we felt and, for the most part, when I stand here, I can still feel how we felt that day. We couldn't talk. We couldn't even talk to each other. And, internally, amongst ourselves, over many years of being affected by residential school and other federal policies, we did not agree in how to handle it. We did not agree what was the best method, what was the best road to take, in all of our diversity. And we knew we had no money. We didn't have money for cultural resource, or NAGPRA, or repatriation, or any of those things.

After long discussion with the tribal council, with our elders, with many community people, with our youth, the tribal council issued a resolution immediately that year to the city, the county, to the [unintelligible] office. And they said, 'We will recover our ancestors. We will take care of the gravediggers, our own people who are going to go out there and recover our ancestors. We will protect this site from further desecration, and we will make sure that this never happens again to anybody, not just here.' We decided, we made a conscious decision, and not all projects do, but we made a conscious decision that this was going to be a culturally driven project. And we went to the couple that you see here on the right, and we said to them, 'What's the first thing that we should do?' And they sent my daughter to Vancouver Island, in B.C., to a little tiny island off the coast, you have to take two ferries to get there, and we went to this elder that you see on your left, the late Rose James because she, at that time, was the oldest ritualist in this part of the country that has the responsibility for caring for the dead. And we went and got her and we asked her to help us, and she came, and she lived in my house for four years. And she got up every morning and she went with all the young people that we had taught to screen this material, the 400 truckloads of fill. This old woman, over 80 years old, got up every morning, faced the daylight and said prayers for us and our ancestors.

So we used to go out to this site and we used to work until noon, these old people, and after three or four months of my not being a morning person and being tired, doing this work and then going to my job, we would look at her and she just, she never faltered. And we thought, ‘Gee, if she can do this stuff, so can we.' And she used to say to us every single morning, ‘You can do this. You can do this.' And we used to look at 400 truckloads of fill and think, 'How are we ever going to do this?'

This is just a shot of some of the artifacts that we have recovered to date. We have artifacts, we have more artifacts in our possession presently than the university. We have artifacts in our collection that the archeologists in our area have never seen. The other thing that we knew that we had to do was, because this is a culturally driven project, we decided that the people that were going to do the work, was us. We were going to do the work. And after that, we went to the university and asked Dr. Campbell, who is the lead archeologist there, to send us two of her best graduate students. They had to be technically sound in archaeology, they had to have real good writing skills so that we could work out all this, all this permitting process, all the reporting that we had to do to the state because remember, Semiahmoo was not, was no longer our property. It belonged to the city and the county. And so in order to even work there we had to apply for a permit to the state to collect ancestral remains. And we told her, 'Send us your best graduate students and they're of no use to us unless they can teach. Unless they can teach us, they're no good to us.' And so we had 20 young Lummis and our elders, and these graduate students came and Dr. Campbell, and we started. And our elder used to say, ' You just get up every morning and you put one foot in front of the other.' And every morning she got up. She was over 80 when she first came. So I thought, I even thought we could do this.

The other thing that we did after a couple of years of screening material, and we are probably, in four years, we are probably not halfway done. In four years. And the other thing that we did is we decided that we had to look at this whole permitting process, we had to engage it, we had to become the most knowledgeable at it, we had to be able to interact with the county, the state, and all the other jurisdictions, and all our other neighboring tribes in a very different way than what we were used to. We created our own [unintelligible] office, we created a contract service office, which is archaeologists and our tribal people and we said to all the largest development people in the area, 'When you are going to develop within our Aboriginal territory, you come and ask us to do the survey and site work. You come and ask us first.' And we also have set up in, recently, the Repatriation Office, which is not just to respond to NAGPRA, but it's to respond to all the inadvertent discoveries that happened all the time in our territory. Last week, we handled five inadvertent discoveries in three separate counties, all affected by human remains, all cemetery or burial ground disturbances. And we developed Title 40, a code of law that we developed within the Lummi Nation that not only helps people who have been working in the surrounding counties and jurisdictions know how to work with us in these situations, but it also helped our own planning department. It helped us interact with our own land use plan, so that we could know when we were putting in a road, where not to build it.

We decided too, that -- I don't know how well you know us, because I don't travel a lot -- but we, we know how to be Lummi aggressive. What we decided was that we had to learn more about being proactive and assertive in a very different way. We realized that we had to build relationships and so we set out to do it very deliberately. We met, and we worked with the Watcomb County planning office, with the Watcomb County Council. We meet regularly and work closely with the State [unintelligible] Office. We work with San Juan County, Skagit County agencies, private industry in our local area. We also learned real quickly that we had to develop relationships with the media. We had to meet with editorial boards. We had to educate them about who we are. At Northwest Indian College, when we set out to expand our college and to build new buildings, we went out and hired a firm who went out and interviewed the county. And she came back and she met with the president and the faculty and she said, ‘Nobody knows who you are. Nobody even knows you're here.' And so, very deliberately, we then felt that we had to educate not only ourselves internally and be able to work together, but the surrounding our neighbors, and our neighbors' children.

The other thing that the tribal council did a lot anyway, but did a lot for us, was begin to work on very deliberate relationship building and agreements with all of the agencies that are doing and are affecting development in our area. USDA and rural development, we're the funders of this treatment plant. In the beginning, they had already put a couple of million dollars into this project when we said, ‘Stop.' We've also very deliberately over...yesterday, my husband met and worked on an inadvertent discovery with the Nooksack Nation in a burial disturbance that took place right on what we call the traditional boundary of both of our reserves, and so we work a lot with the neighboring tribes, both in our area, and in British Columbia.

We have learned about how to align our resources, how to use education as a tool to educate our people in archeological methods, hopefully to get them to think about going on to four-year universities, at least get them into Northwest Indian College, where we can give them basic skills and a really good two-year degree. And we have learned, I have personally learned more about the legislative process than I ever thought I would have to know. We knew every senator, every chief of staff, every secretary, we knew everybody. And we knew when to call them. We also knew that it costs a lot of money, and in the beginning we didn't have any, and so the tribal council made a very, a very difficult decision. It put $200,000 into this project in the very beginning. It was a very difficult decision, internally because one of our core values is to protect the graves of our ancestors, but we also need money for youth treatment and intervention, for the education of our children, for health care, and they were very difficult decisions that the tribal council had to make.

The last thing that we're going to show you that we worked on is...one of the things that we've done at Northwest Indian College, well two of the things that we're doing, is that we are utilizing the technology of GIS mapping, where we are actually teaching our young children the technology of GIS mapping. And I can't even articulate it to you because I don't understand it. And all of my kids are computer literate, but we are teaching them to actually map in the cultural resources. We've had long conversations internally about this, because the elders are very uncomfortable with it. And at this point, we're actually doing the work, but we haven't made those decisions about who we share it with other than ourselves. The other thing that we did was that we set up a whole program at the college where we would train our young people how to collect and learn their own history. And to collect the oral histories, to record the language because our elder, the late Rose, said to us the very first day that she came, 'Language is the most important thing. You have to turn to your culture for the answers.' And that's what we did. You have to turn to your culture for the strength, and that's what we did. And so we took all of these young people and we trained them in the technology of oral history, in video production...this is actually, looks like a laptop, it's actually a very expensive editing machine. And they go out and they interview the elders, they create biographical sketches that we then are turning into material for our curriculum that we are writing, on history, and at the same time, they are building relationships with their own grandparents, the people that they go and interview."

Darrell Hillaire:

"And where we go from here, well, we just settled with the archaeologist Gold and Associates. We had to take them to court via a class action suit, which meant we had to bring together the people to sign on to...would be very complicated for them to understand in legal terms, but they did it. And, as a result of that settlement, we were able to realize about $4.2 million that's going to help us continue the work. And this compensation that we receive for the people is not payment, but it's a thank you for having them standing with us; for those who are leaders in a traditional way and also for those such as myself who represent the government. We all stood together, and it's important for us to note that, if we stay true to ourselves these things can happen. And as the judge said, he said, ‘The court has never lost track of the fact that the money is the most inconsequential aspect of what we're dealing with here. This was a tragic event. It was something that never should have happened. The court recognized the fabulous job that the Lummi and its attorneys played to get recognition and acknowledgment to provide a solution to the tragedy.' He stated he believed that he hoped this work would 'prevent anything like this from happening in the future, for all tribes, not just in western Washington, but throughout the country, and even into Canada, where this case has resonated.' He commented that he hopes the Lummi feel that the American system of justice, which has let them down so many times in the past, didn't let them down this time. He stated that this result made him feel very, very good.

And I think as we went through this, I really can't even describe it as a process, but we had to have our time with a number of people, not only Gold and Associates, but the City of Blaine, the Department of Agriculture, the state historic preservation office -- all these people we had our time with -- and at the end of that time I think we had some things resolved and we came away with some friendship. And today, with the City of Blaine, their city manager, whom we fought hard with four years ago, today he was an auctioneer at an event we had for raising money for the Freedom and Liberty Bowl. He auctioned off some of our arts and crafts to the people. So that's how far we've come in this relationship, and we need to continue that. But today, you know, as Sharon said, we need to get involved with the permitting process. But I think, more importantly, we need to get involved with the planning process. And share our vision for our homeland. At Lummi, we've been invited by the City of Bellingham to join in the planning for the development of 139 acres right on the waterfront in Bellingham. To them, they'd like to see a replica of a traditional longhouse built right on that waterfront, and to us, that represents where my great grandfather lived. So some of these things can happen, but it means we have to get involved in the front end, so that's where we have to go from here. So, [Lummi language]."

NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Rae Nell Vaughn (Part 1)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Rae Nell Vaughn, former Chief Justice of the Mississippi Choctaw Supreme Court, discusses the critical role that justice systems play in the rebuilding of Native nations and shares how the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has worked to develop its justice system to reflect and promote its culture and meeting the evolving challenges that it faces.

Resource Type
Citation

Vaughn, Rae Nell. "NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow (Part 1)." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 15, 2009. Interview.

Ian Record:

"What role do tribal justice systems play in rebuilding Native nations?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"It's been my experience that it plays a significant role in regards to tribal government. One thing that I have found within the 11 years of my judicial experience is the fact that tribal governments as a whole have had to play a role of catch-up, fast tracked. In regards to Mississippi Choctaw, we established our constitution in 1945 at a point in time where we were living in very oppressed conditions. Of course, as you know, historically the tribe was removed to Oklahoma and we're the descendants of the members that chose to stay. No federal or state recognition at that point up until the time of recognition and the development of our constitution, and it was a building process. You had a number of leaders who would step up and were wanting to form a strong government. Of course, the justice system itself came in years later, but overall they've had to try to fast track a government in order to provide the people with services, and it was a struggle, it was a definite struggle. And of course ultimately, a justice system was developed under the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], a court of regulations, a CFR [Code of Federal Regulations] court, and that had its challenges all on its own because you have the mechanisms but not the resources to provide law and order. And your reliance was on the BIA and it was a definite struggle during the early years of this system. You had a membership maybe at that time of close to 3,000 possibly.

Now going back historically, the membership dwindled down in the early 1900s to less than 1,000 because of the influenza epidemic and here we are in 2009 and have a membership of 10,000. And you talk about a flourishing economy at some point with the successes of this tribe, but you also talk about the population growth and with it coming the social ills and influences that impact a community. And so I've seen this system evolve, even prior to my interaction with it, becoming a judge. It's grown by leaps and bounds. They started off with a staff of maybe three: a tribal member judge -- when it was under the control of BIA -- and maybe one or two folks that also participated. And to this point, once...during my tenure as a judge, we were up to 32 employees. You had 11 members on the judiciary, which is so unheard of, but for me it was a signal from the government [that], 'This is important. A justice system for this government is important and we are investing in our government and in our people to provide them a fair form of justice.' Knowing where we're at, we're located in Mississippi, and the struggles that minorities have faced, Native people have faced, has always been there, an underlying issue. And so being able to have our people be in a forum that's fair for them, being judged by their peers was the most important thing. But also it was the fundamental exercise of sovereignty, operating a system, a judicial system, which not many tribes have had the ability to do and maybe not to the degree that we've been able to do it. That's not to say that there haven't been any challenges. There are, just like there are with any system, whether it's a tribal system or non-Native system, but it's a work in progress. Codes are forever changing and you have to keep your hand on...keep on the pulse of what's happening nationally because what happens nationally will ultimately affect you locally.

And so cases such as Nevada v. Hicks, issues of jurisdiction, those have far-reaching ramifications. So having a stable, consistent, and well-educated and well-trained judiciary is very important, and those are the things that I think tribal governments really have to take a look at and recognize the investment that you're making."

Ian Record:

"And I would assume that in that understanding of what's going on nationally, it's not just the judiciary that has to understand, it's elected leadership and particularly the legislators, the ones that are making those laws to say, "˜We've got to be out front on these issues so we're not stuck in a corner one day in the near future having to react defensively to something we're not prepared for.'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Exactly. We have to be proactive. It hits every area of government: economic development, education, healthcare. We have to be very diligent and we have to go the extra mile in making sure that we're protecting our sovereignty and at the same time being aware of what the landscape is looking like politically. There have been times in previous [U.S. presidential] administrations where they haven't been quite so favorable to Native Americans. And we may be here at a time of renaissance where there's going to be more participation, more of us as Native people at the table speaking on our behalves, on our own behalf. As a Native person, this is where I've been, this is what we've gone through and this is what we can do and this is what we want to provide for the people, because at times Native people get lost in the shuffle of all the social programs and issues that the federal government itself is dealing with. There are some tribes that are very fortunate to have the additional revenues to provide for their tribes and some aren't. How do we all work together to make sure that each of these tribes are able to have the type of support to be able to function and exercise as a government?"

Ian Record:

"Mississippi Choctaw's court system was recognized by the Honoring Nations program at the Harvard Project in American Indian Economic Development just a few years ago. And in large part it was recognized because of its ability to exercise or to be a vehicle for sovereignty for the nation. Based on your experience in that system, in that court system, I was wondering if you could speak to this issue of strong independent court systems and what those look like, what do those systems require to be effective?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"That's a very good question, because it's a challenge that all tribal court systems face. And let me say that the Honoring Nations program was such an excellent exercise for us, because as a system you're in the trenches every day and you don't realize the things that you're doing have such far-reaching impact. And so when we began this process of going through the rigors of the Honoring Nations project program, I was just so amazed. "˜We're doing so much here, we're looking at alternative resources and programs, we're trying to look at things more holistically versus using the American jurisprudence of dropping the gavel and that's it,' because we recognize that within Native communities we're going to be among one another. I'm not moving anywhere, you're not moving anywhere, we're staying in this community, and it's trying to ensure that we have healthy communities and using the justice system and possibly not just going before formal court, using our peacemaker court, using teen court, using our healing-to-wellness court, are other alternatives that are available to the membership and it goes back to our own Native teaching of who we are. We were never a people -- as with other tribes -- that all we wanted to do was fight amongst one another, but of course all of this takes place based on social influences and evolution of things and prosperity. And so going back to your question, it requires due diligence among both sides of the aisle, the legislative body, the executive as well as the judiciary. And it's a really hard balance because I'm a member of the community, I have children who attend the schools, I'm a voting member, I see people at the post office or at the grocery store, I attend ceremonies, I'm involved just as all the other judges are; simply because we put on a robe during the day doesn't mean that that robe ever really comes off, but we also have to be able to be participatory in our communities. And it is, it's a hard balance, even with your legislative body because we all know each other, we've all grown up with one another possibly or they've seen you grow up and know your mother and there's this tendency of picking up the phone and saying, "˜Hey, what's going on and do you know da da da da da?' And it is, it's a really hard balance because of the close ties and the close knitness of the community and it's that community mentality that you have. But we work diligently to ensure that the people recognize that this is a very independent justice system. Now granted, in the case of Mississippi Choctaw, we're a two-branch government. The court system is developed by statute and is controlled, maybe that's not a good word, but is under the oversight of the tribal council as well as the executive. There've been times where it's been challenging because you wear two hats. Not only are you a member of the judiciary, but you have to be an advocate for the system, and so there's that give and take, development of codes. How can I not be somewhat participatory in the development when I'm the one who uses that code in order to...we're creating law basically, and there are several instances where it's almost a gray area that you enter, but knowing what the spirit of the law is and where we are as a judiciary and what we're trying to accomplish I think speaks volumes because the people see the separation. And it's something that you have to work at every day. You just, you have to."

Ian Record:

"So in your role as advocate for the system in strengthening the system, do you find yourself compelled at certain points to say to the legislature, "˜Look, there's...I'm dealing with these...this area of jurisprudence, these types of cases are becoming more prevalent. There's nothing on the books that tells me how to interpret these cases. It's up to you to get out in front of this,' as you mentioned, "˜and develop law that I can then enforce in the court system?'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Exactly. One case in point is the Tribal Notice Act and that's very important, especially if you have two parties coming in and there's an issue that could possibly have a detrimental impact on the tribe, maybe possibly in regards to jurisdiction. And the tribe needs to know; the tribe needs to be noticed. And so we worked towards getting that on the books and we were successful. And it's a mechanism or a code that's been used a number of times. And so things of that sort, because you recognize or the people recognize the legislative body and executive body, they're dealing with so many different issues from economic development, healthcare, education, housing. There's not one person or one area that they're focusing in on. So I would not be doing my duty if I didn't bring things to their attention that I think could provide betterment for the system and also protecting the people as well."

Ian Record:

"So you're also, in addition to your experience, your 11 years as you mention serving on the Choctaw judiciary, you've since...you left that, your tenure with the judiciary, and you've been working to evaluate other tribal court systems. And I was wondering if you could speak to this issue. We discussed this recently about some tribes, some tribal leadership not really treating the judicial function of their nation as an independent...as an independent function, as a true arm of the government, whether you want to call it a 'branch' or what have you, but rather treating it as a program. And we hear this a lot from particularly tribal judges who lament that fact that, "˜We're just considered another program.' I was wondering if you could speak to that issue and what you're seeing on the ground."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Oh, yeah. And it's not so much with the work that I'm doing, but additionally with my participation with the national organization, the judges association, as well as my own experiences with Mississippi Choctaw. There's the thinking that tribal court systems are more situated or in the organizational things as a program, and either we fund you or we don't or...there's not that understanding of the importance of justice systems and how in regards to economic development, justice systems are key. And a lot...I've heard so many war stories about how we are treated as -- I hate to use the term -- as stepchildren. We get the hand-me-down equipment, we get the little bits of whatever is additional that we can get in our budget, but what I found throughout my work and my experiences with the judiciary is the fact that there are so many good people out there in Indian Country, members of their own tribe who want to provide a forum, a fair forum for their people and they work diligently with what resources they have. Now if it was a perfect world and we were able to get all that we want, that would be ideal, but it's not and a number of tribes who don't have the additional resources struggle, and for some of these tribes it's a really challenging thing because you're also not only at the mercy of the government, but at the community as well and there...if you don't feel that support from your government, then obviously the community's not going to support you as well and those are some key things that have to happen is to have that support. 'Now you and I may argue here, but when we step out as a judiciary and as a government, we need to be unified, because each of us as a legislative body and as an executive body and whether we're a judicial branch or a statutory court, we still have to work and maintain as a stable government,' because if your leadership is bad mouthing your judicial system, what does that say of the leadership?"

Ian Record:

"What does that say to the outside world?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Exactly."

Ian Record:

"So this issue of treatment by the leadership, by the community of the justice system as a program versus something more, among those tribes that tend to treat them as the latter -- just as a program -- aren't they missing the boat essentially on the importance of justice systems as a vehicle for not only advancing sovereignty, but also creating viable economies on the reservations and pretty much all around?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Exactly, because a lender who is thinking about doing business with the tribe is going to ask, "˜I need to know about your court system. I need to know where litigation is going to take place,' and if they can't see a system that is stable and consistent, you're possibly missing an opportunity to bring strong economic development to your area and that's key. I think a lot that has to happen is education. Now again, I go back -- I recognize there's so much that tribal government has to do. They're overloaded, they're understaffed in some instances, and they're trying to do the best they can do, but at the end of the day it's important to make sure that each of your areas of government are strong and are working together and that's where your checks and balances are. It's basic civics."

Ian Record:

"One other issue we discussed recently was this issue of...this treatment of tribal justice systems as nothing more than programs may emanate in part from this sense of, "˜Well, that's where the bad things happen.'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Oh, yes."

Ian Record:

"...That's where, kind of the social ills bubble up, that's where the kind of the underbelly of the community, the negative parts. "˜We don't want to deal with that. It's too painful,' or 'We don't...we're at a loss as to how to resolve these issues.' How do you get beyond that mentality? How do you get to a point where -- as you've told me -- where the people, the community, that the leadership will treat the justice system as a vehicle for not only restoring, as you say restoring health to the community, but also as a way to, for instance, teach the values of the people to say, "˜This is how we operate, this is how we resolve disputes.'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"One of the bad things or the negative side of the judicial system is the fact that a lot of things happen in the well of that court and at the end of it all, "˜It's the court,' "˜It's the court's fault,' or whatever it may be because it's surfaced, it has bubbled up as you said, it's surfaced and there it is black and white, right there in the well of that court. And ultimately it's the judge and their discretion as how they rule or decide or what it is that they end up doing for that particular case, whether it be a habitual offender, whether it be a family in need, a juvenile delinquent, a vulnerable adult. All of the social ills of your community hits right there and it is challenging more so again for your legislative body and your executive because what do they do, what can they do? We've developed so many different social programs, but we're not going to cure every ill, and unfortunately a lot of those things surface through court. And as I shared with you earlier, that's why we were looking at, in regards to Mississippi Choctaw, of other alternatives. We recognize these are social illnesses. This is not working, going through formal court. Something has to happen and it also has to happen not only with the individual, but with the family: accountability, responsibility, bringing in the people who matter the most to you and who you value, who are your mentors or your grandparents, your minister, your family to sit down and talk with you, help you in a peacemaking-type situation, a circle of sorts. Healing to Wellness [Court] is set up in that very same way, that we have there at Choctaw where the offender comes in, meets with a group of multi-disciplinary team and there's a check, there's this constant check, and we've had so many success stories come through there. Is it 100 percent? No, it's not, and it probably will never be, but there is an alternative, and with the one case that you have a success in, [it] ripples out to the family, to the community, to the nation in regards to the offenses, health issues that may have come from it, all the different things. And that success just can only breed more success because if you have this individual whose gone through this process, you see the community, see that individual being successful and others who are coming before the court say, "˜I want to try that because I'm ready to make that change,' then there's that vehicle."

Ian Record:

"So I would assume under the CFR system, there's no way that you guys could have developed these restorative functions."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"There is no way, no."

Ian Record:

"So essentially by developing your own court system, by taking ownership of that critical function, you provided yourself the freedom to say, "˜What's going to benefit our community in the long run? What's the best way of doing things, because the status quo is simply not working.'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"No, it's not working and it doesn't work in Indian Country. And what may work for Choctaw, what may work for the tribes in the east may not work for tribes in the southwest or in the west or in the northwest or in the midwest or northeast. It works for us and looking at the different models you can see things that will work. There's this term I use, "˜Choctaw-izing it' -- making it your own, bringing in Choctaw values, culture, customary law into this model and it works, and it works, and the people understand it. That's the thing, the people say, "˜Hmmmm, yes, I know what you're talking about.'"

Ian Record:

"So can you give me just a...you mentioned this term 'Choctaw-izing' it. Can you give me one example, maybe one case of how the court system applied a core value of the Choctaw people to essentially try to bring that restoration to the community?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"As I shared with you earlier, we have a teen court process and in that process the individual, the juvenile delinquent goes through the formal youth court system. Teen court is more of a sentencing type court, but the uniqueness of it is they are judged, are sentenced by their peers, other teenagers in the community. We had a particular instance where there was this child who of course offended, committed a crime against the tribe, was found delinquent. The case wasn't or the offense wasn't to the level of the judge issuing the sentence so he transferred it to teen court and it went through the process, but the uniqueness is -- and this is where the cultural aspect came in -- is we had the judge bring the mother and the grandmother and auntie because we are a matrilineal society. And before the sentence was rendered by the peers, by the jury, the women stood up and they talked and they talked with both sides of the parties who were there -- because this was a boyfriend-girlfriend, teenager-type thing -- and how it was important to respect your family, respect your parents, to listen, and if that wasn't the most empowering thing along with their peers giving them the sentencing, I don't know what would be. It was so powerful and moving. And let me tell you, people sat up and took notice and you gave respect, you listened. And that's one instance where that...we were able to have that and that was just such a learning tool for our young people to sit there and go through that and to listen. Even though they weren't the offenders, but they knew exactly, they knew exactly. It was almost like a reawakening. "˜I know this, but we don't do it all the time,' and like, "˜Whoa!'"

Ian Record:

"So in that instance, the court was not even an intermediary between the community, the culture, and the issue at hand. They were actually just a mechanism for connecting those two."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Facilitating just basically, just putting those people and things together. And it's...one thing of...and when I first entered the court system I served as a youth court judge. And the one thing I would tell our kids, when they'd come before the bench and with that attitude, being rebellious, and "˜You can't tell me what to do,' is, "˜The offense you've committed, you think maybe committed against this particular individual or this particular family or to the school, vandalism, whatever.' I said, "˜But you're not hurting those particular individuals, you're hurting the tribe, and in essence you're hurting yourself. So what has to happen here is you have to make this right and you're making it right at the end of the day for yourself.' And for some kids it didn't click, of course being rebellious and angry and everything, but for some it did. They understood. And again, you never really had a lot of successes. You had some successes and statistically Native American Country and as well as in dominant society you knew that there were higher chances of your young people moving into the adult system, but we tried very hard and that's why we were looking at all these other alternatives. Many Native communities have such small memberships, and so when you have a lot of delinquency going on, number-wise it may not appear to be a lot, but there on the ground it's epidemic and that's one of the things governments need to recognize and why it's such an important thing to make sure that you're supporting and investing in all of these types of things that keep your system, your justice system strong, consistent and stable."

Ian Record:

"So what do you see as the major challenges facing tribal jurisdiction today?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Oh, my goodness. That's something that tribes are facing all the time and it's amazing to me how we do have the jurisdiction that we do have. There have been challenges locally, and as I'm trying to think back here, we've had a number of cases that we've dealt with ourselves at Mississippi Choctaw where you have a civil matter that came before the court and they were running concurrently with the circuit court, the federal court. And it was an issue concerning a, it wasn't a loan company, a bank, it was a bank and a big problem with a salesperson going into the community and of the lender reneging of sorts -- just a really basic background of that case. And tribal members who had signed up for this service, which I believe was a satellite case, then did a class action against the lender. The party then went to the federal court, the federal court in turn sent the case back telling the parties that, "˜You have to exhaust tribal jurisdiction before you can even attempt to make it here,' which I think said a lot for not only our tribe, but for tribes in Indian Country to have a federal court say, "˜You have to exhaust all remedies before you even make it here.' Now you and I both know that that's not commonplace and I think that sent a very, very big message. Why would that have ever been decided? I think a lot of it had to do with the court itself because it was a functional court, it is a functional court, renders opinions, clear decisions and it's consistent. And I think that had a lot to do with why we were able or the federal court made the decision it made.

Now Indian Country, tribes in Indian Country are constantly faced with issues of jurisdictions and I can't speak so much for these other tribes, but just from the readings I've seen and in the issues that I've heard about, it's constant. For example, I know that there was a tribe in California that had the state come in wanting to look at employment records. If that wasn't a clear crossing of the line, a failure of respect of another sovereign, I don't know what is and that's clearly overstepping jurisdictional lines. But those types of things happen and that's where you really have to, as a government, make sure that you have the type of legal representation for yourself to protect you as a tribe because you have it coming from every angle, from every area of wanting to chip away at what jurisdiction you do have. It's bad enough that we don't have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians and as a gaming tribe there's a lot of issues that we have to deal with and we're at the mercy of the county or we're at the mercy of the federal government and its system. It makes no sense to me. Logically, we know when, I know when I cross the boundary and I go into Philadelphia, if I commit a crime, I'm going to be dealt with in Philadelphia court. It's a no-brainer. And this is an issue that's been talked about time and time again. I know I'm not going to change it, but I'm going to give you my two cents. It sucks, it's not productive and there are people who agree. There are people on the outside who do agree that you should have the ability to incarcerate, to judge any individual who commits a crime, an offense against the tribe or this jurisdiction. And we don't have that ability. And then you have the civil jurisdiction, which is always being tested and it's just so important that when we have issues that come up through tribal court systems that as a judiciary you're giving well-thought-out opinions and it's iron-clad so that you can't...it won't be unraveled and then there you go, you've lost more jurisdiction."

Ian Record:

"And it's not just making the decisions, it's actually documenting those decisions and having those ready in an accessible fashion, and that's where it's important to build the system of justice not just have judges making decisions."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Yes, exactly. You're exactly right because you have a lot of these systems that are in varying degrees of development and I am a big believer of having tribal members sitting on the court. Unfortunately, you don't have enough people who come to the court, come to the bench with a legal background. I'm not law trained. And so it's challenging and it's a struggle. Fortunately, our tribe made investments of having individuals on the bench with the juris doctorate providing us with legal technical consultation so that we're not standing there twisting in the wind, "˜Well, what do we do?' And so we're able to have this body of law, opinions that come from this court, that are guiding tools for not only us as a tribe, but also for other tribes should they wish to use it. I know that there are different companies or organizations who collect all of these opinions across Indian Country, which is good so that there is a body of law for other tribes to go in and take a look at and look at precedent and things of that sort. And we need more of that, but what we also need to do is be able to reach out and get this information to people. As I said earlier, you have a number of people whose systems are at varying degrees, tribes whose systems are at varying degrees and there are times where I think we do a disservice. Again, I am a big proponent for having tribal members on the bench, but you also have to be able to have someone there who is knowledgeable and can understand law, the analysis, the logic and to be able to generate really good opinions and good decisions. Are we right all the time? No, not necessarily, even those who have the jurisprudence isn't right all the time, but it's based on interpretation."

Ian Record:

"So it's really important then for tribes to invest in capacity in not only of people...tribal members who eventually will be judges, but also those clerks and other people in law enforcement."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Because let me tell you, those clerks are down on the ground doing all the work and there have been instances where I have seen they have ultimately become judges and they come in with all the knowledge of working every facet of that system in the sense of dealing with attorneys, looking at orders. It's amazing to me. Some of these clerks that I've talked with in my travels would say, "˜Yeah, I knew that wasn't what needed to happen.' It's just amazing the knowledge, the experience they gain and I have seen many instances where some of these clerks did step up or were appointed to serve as a judge and made excellent judges because they had the hands-on training and going through the process of the documentation, the order development and things of that sort. So it's key, it's very key in regards to having strong judges training and education."

Ian Record:

"So backing up a bit to what you were discussing a few minutes ago and this issue of...essentially, what you were talking about was transparency and jurisprudence, that it's not enough just to make decisions. You have to make sure that those decisions are clear, that they're open to not only the citizens of the nation, but to the outside world and that they're understandable and that they're accessible. Is that what Mississippi Choctaw has done? Is that what you're seeing other tribes starting to do? Are more nations really beginning to understand the importance of transparency in jurisprudence?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"For Mississippi Choctaw, yes, it's something that we strive for; it's not cloak and dagger, it's no big secret. Whatever decision is rendered and the opinion is generated, we had a procedure where we informed all arms of government, especially if it was something that was very critical, maybe a jurisdictional issue, something that would affect the tribe. They received notice, they received a copy of the opinion, and then in general opinions that were generated from the Supreme Court, that's 101. You need to get them to see this and also there may be messages in these opinions that say, "˜Look, this is how we ruled, but if we don't make changes to the body of the law that we have, we're going to hit this time and time again. You might want to think about it, but we're not telling you...we're not changing the law, we're not going to change this piece of legislation, but we want you to think about it.' And so it is, transparency is important. Again, going back to the issue of where tribal courts are and the varying degrees they are, those more established courts such as Navajo Nation have a large body of opinions and a body of law there that you can...I tap into it. I've tapped into that as well as Eastern Band of Cherokee -- your bigger, more established systems. And so you have that transparency there, but again it goes back to where the systems are in development."

Ian Record:

"I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about an ever-present dynamic in tribal jurisprudence and that is tribal politics and there's a reason why you're laughing. I assume you know exactly what I'm talking about."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"It's the bullseye right there."

Ian Record:

"But I wanted to get your sense of what you've seen in terms of the impacts of political interference in tribal jurisprudence and dispute resolution and essentially how far-reaching those things can be."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"There are many tribes that face this very question of political interference. And it's a hard line to walk, it really is. I think a lot of it has to do with who you are as a person and your integrity and what you yourself are willing to allow and not allow. And at the end of the day, just like I tell my children, "˜If it's an issue that you're really passionate about and you know this is what you need to do, sometimes you're standing by yourself,' and as judges that's ultimately what we end up doing is end up there standing by ourselves and telling whomever it may be, "˜No, you cannot cross this line.' Are there ramifications for those choices? Yes, in some instances there are. And that's unfortunate because of the messages that it sends not only to your community, but -- again as we talked about earlier -- to the outside world. If an individual makes a decision and in the eyes of the government it's perceived as a bad decision and it possibly wasn't in favor of what they wanted and they make sweeping change, who is going to want to step up and serve if there's the possibility of failing to comply or abide by what they're wanting. When you step up and become a judge, all of what you may have supported or your political views all fall by the wayside. Your primary concern is the interpretation of law, dealing with that case that's before you, that's it -- not what the politics are because they cannot be influential, they cannot be influential to what you're doing because if that's the case, then why have a court? Why not let the tribal council run the court? They want to, I know they do, but it's again checks and balances and the maintaining of independence. And I see it time and time again. I've heard so many war stories."

Ian Record:

"Yeah, we see some tribes that still have, particularly with those tribes that have Indian Reorganization Act systems of government where the standard constitution said, "˜The council can create a court system as it sees fit,' essentially and..."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Oh, in our code it does state that. It says, "˜If funds are available,' and I thought, "˜Well, what does this mean?' But for the time that that code was developed, that's again going back to, "˜Well, is this is a system or is this a program?' It's clear even in our general provisions, "˜If funds are available, we will operate this court.'"

Ian Record:

"Yeah, some of those IRA [Indian Reorganization Act] systems you still see to this day where the root of appeal of a tribal court decision is back to the council."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"And we do have that in Choctaw in some instances. Example, if there's an election challenge the court has no...there's no venue in our area. It goes directly to the tribal council once it goes through the election committee. And there is a valid challenge then it's ultimately the tribal council which makes the decision whether to say, "˜Yes, this is a void election or no, it's not.'"

Ian Record:

"You mentioned a few minutes back the messages that are...the very clear messages that are sent when there is political interference and tribal jurisprudence and I was wondering if you'd maybe perhaps talk about that a little bit more specifically because you mentioned messages not only to the community but to the outside world. What kind of messages do those send when you do see that political interference? And perhaps how does that impact the tribe in the long run?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Oh, yes. It does not put tribal government in a very good light when you have that type of interference. Sometimes it comes across as being more of a dictatorship versus a democracy. It really makes greater society doubt in the ability of that government of being able to provide for the people true leadership. And I know as a sovereign nation there have been other tribes and this is just from my travels and visiting with other jurisdictions and sharing war stories. We are under such a microscope, not only the judicial system, but the overall tribal government in Indian Country. We are constantly being held at an even higher standard. Yes, we need to be at a high standard, yes, but it appears when there's just a small hiccup or a small misstep it's magnified 100 times. "˜Well, you see, that's why we don't deal with that tribe,' for whatever reason it may be and it could be miniscule, but for the outside world it's like waiting. They're lying in wait for you to trip and fall. Choctaw itself has had its ups and downs. There's not a tribe that hasn't. We've seen successes, we've seen challenges, but we continue to persevere because of our membership. We're not going anywhere. At one point we were the third top employer of the State of Mississippi providing economic development, providing income for this state and that speaks volumes. Now we're dealing with the issues of the economy, the national economy and the effects that it's having on our tribe and we're having to act and react to those things and it's not been favorable, but we also have to be sustainable for our people and there are hard decisions that we have to make and we've made those decisions, rightly or wrongly, whatever may be perceived on the outside world, as a sovereign we have to maintain for the people."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned this issue of outsiders are looking very closely at what tribes do and in many respects they're waiting for tribes to mess up and using it as an excuse to say, "˜Okay, either we don't want to deal with them or they shouldn't have sovereignty,' whatever it might be. And I think that's really where court systems are critical because in many respects they're the most tangible connection, the most visible reflection of what tribes are doing and what tribe's abilities are, what their capacity is, how they make decisions. Is that something you've experienced at Choctaw?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Yes, very much so, very much so. We've been fortunate. Legal communities -- whether it's on the reservation or off reservation -- are small and word of mouth is very powerful. People know what's going on, whether they're on the reservation or not, they know what's going on and it's really key on how you bring these people in and how you...and also educating, educating them about what we are and who we are as a sovereign nation. One of the things that we provide as a system is a form of a bar meeting and providing them training, bringing to them things that are happening on the national level, educating them, and that's key -- going out and educating. And that's a lot of what I did as well during my time with the court. I've gone to Harvard, to Southern, to University of Southern Mississippi, to the University of Mississippi Law School, to Mississippi State [University], to a lot of the local universities within the state to talk about this very system. And they're so amazed at one, we're not just this casino that they see talked about on TV. Secondly, that there is a functional government, but what they're also very surprised at going back to what we've talked about earlier is the fact that there is no jurisdiction over non-Indians and that's always been the big, "˜Ah ha. Are you kidding me? How can that be if we're in this country of the land of the free and our constitution, our U.S. Constitution,' but that's what the cards we're dealt with. And that's how fragile these systems and governments are because I'm sure if the federal government wants to, and again looking at how governments are exercising their sovereignty or lack there of, they would be more than willing to come in there. It just says that we have to provide you with health and education, but it doesn't really say to what degree so I can...you'll take what I give you and that's where as sovereign nations we really have to be diligent about our exercise of government and of our sovereignty. We have to be. I know I sound like this...I sound like this caped crusader, "˜We've got to be. Somebody has to be at the gate and it's going to be me,' but there needs...there really needs to be more development of people who understand public service of giving back to the people and we've got to cultivate that."

Ian Record:

"So you've made references to the incredible growth of the Mississippi Choctaw's economy over the past several decades and I'll ask you a very blunt question. Could Mississippi Choctaw when it comes to economic development be where it is today if they, for instance had what's often referred to as a 'kangaroo court'?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"The short answer, no, I don't believe they could be. This system was and is, continues to be an evolving system and I think with the right leadership it was determined that there are certain things we're going to have to put in place in order to be successful and strengthening the court system was one of them. This system was taken into management of the tribe in 1985 and was operating with a very skeletal group of people and then they expanded the service. And then in 1997 there was another reorganization where they developed very distinct divisions of court. This would give the system the capacity to handle all civil matters. We had well over 1,000 people working for the tribe in the hospitality portion of it and of the industrial arm of it. The majority of these people were non-Indian. Where are civil actions going to take place? In our court if they're working for this tribe. You also had, once gaming came into play and tribal members were receiving per capita, a rush of people wanting to enroll and so our enrollment jumped by leaps and bounds from 3,000 to 4,000 to almost 10,000. And so you had to have the ability to handle all the issues that come with the economic growth and the court system and law enforcement are the people that deal with a lot of the day to day issues that come with that prosperity."

Ian Record:

"So in many ways the court system is the primary vehicle for managing growth for tribes."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"I would say so. People may disagree but I would say so."

Ian Record:

"So I wanted to ask you a bit more about this issue of justice systems and how they maintain stability in law and order and how does that... how does the justice system at Choctaw provide that for the people?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Well, we've been fortunate that the tribe has taken over, like I said earlier, management of the law enforcement division. It's now the Department of Public Services, as well as the court system itself. The tribe itself has also contributed to our legal community and I include law enforcement in that and detention as well by providing legal counsel for the tribe. We have an attorney general's office that's set up as well as a legal defense, which is the equivalent of legal aid for individual tribal members and so we have a pretty diverse legal community there. This provides for the community, for the people the ability to be represented within our system, but not only within our system, should there be issues that occur off reservation they have the ability to use legal defense to represent them as well in issues such as maybe child support type issues if it's a non-Indian and Choctaw union and the marriage dissolved and there are challenges and things may end up taking place off reservation for whatever reason. Also, the ability if they need counsel in federal cases as well because you know as well as I do that there's always challenges there where the level of adequacy of representation at the federal level. We've seen time and time again where Native people have just not had proper representation, which also dovetails into the additional work that I do as a commissioner for the Mississippi Access for Justice, ensuring that all people have the ability to have legal representation for their issues. But for the people, just knowing that there's law enforcement, there's a police officer there who is not out there on his own. There's a strong department and when I call I know they'll be here not in three hours, maybe within 30 minutes or 15 minutes depending on the location because we are managing our own law enforcement. What does that say for the greater communities? We're able to assist them as cross-deputized officers, peace officers, to assist them with whatever issues may be taking place. Again, going back to jurisdictional issues, there's always, "˜Well, where are we? Are we on Choctaw land or are we on county land? Where are we?' And so it's a tough call at times. Sometimes somebody has to pull the map out and say, "˜Yeah, well, here's the line.' And so it speaks volumes as to partnerships that have to be developed and strengthened to show stability, for them to see the stability of this system. And it spills over even into the court. We had an instance where there was an issue off reservation with two tribal members being dealt with in the county court and the court was familiar with our peacemaking, Itti Kana Ikbi, court, our traditional form of court. And he called up our peacemaker and said, "˜Look, I have this issue here. I think that it should be better resolved...it could be better resolved with you and peacemaking.' That is unheard of for a county court to turn its jurisdiction over to a tribal court. Even I was taken aback. But societies are changing and there are times of tension in race relations, yes, we recognize that. And to see something like that happen only proves more to me that we as a people, not only tribal members, but as people are changing and recognizing that we are just as capable as our counterparts are and that also signals stability."

Ian Record:

"I think in that particular instance, part of to me is them probably saying, that county court judge saying, "˜Hey, those guys do things, they do it right, they... yes, they have their own systems, their own principles that they administer justice on, but they do it consistently, they do it fairly and I have confidence in turning this over knowing that they'll resolve this dispute in a good way.'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And so that generated even more conversation and we have a very good rapport with the county courts and so there have been times where other issues, other instances have taken place, but that was just the turning point. And to be quite honest, I never would have thought I would have seen things like that happen in my lifetime. There's always been this sense of separation and I'm sure it is with other Indian tribes. "˜You're the Indian tribe, you're over there. Here we are metropolitan society. You do your own thing and we'll do our own,' but we're all members of the community, of our communities, and it's being able to interact with one another and working for the greater good of the entire people because don't forget, it's the people who are living outside that are probably working for the tribes on the reservation. So there has to be, whether they like it or not, there has to be a relationship."

Ian Record:

"Yeah, we hear this more and more often, this refrain from tribal leaders of, Native nations aren't islands and they can't act like there are. They can't exercise their sovereignty in isolation, that for them to advance their strategic priorities they're going to have to, of their own volition, build these working relationships with other sovereigns, with other jurisdictions, with other governments, with other municipalities in order to advance their priorities and create a better community."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Exactly, and I think that's what has been the successes of what has created an environment of success for our tribe, for Mississippi Choctaw, has been those relationships whether it's local, state or federal, having those relationships not only within your executive branches and legislative branches, but also within your judiciary. Maybe I was in the judiciary the fifth year of my tenure and I had the opportunity, and it was such a very moving moment, when I had the Chief Justice of the State of Mississippi and his associate justice come down. He came down to Choctaw and sat down and had a conversation with me, the Chief Justice of Choctaw Supreme Court, his counterpart to talk about, "˜How can we help one another?' And that's something that is...I couldn't even imagine that happening. And I shared with him... and we got to know one another and we've become good friends and I said, "˜It had to do with the people and the timing.' Everything just came and lined up and it worked. And so we were able...and we have and we've continued that relationship even with the new Chief Justice, that there continues to be and as well as my new counterpart, there continues to be this continuation of the relationship and it has to be. And it's good that it's now recognized."

Ian Record:

"A couple more questions here. This issue of...getting back to the issue of when you have a justice system creating this environment of stability, of law and order, of certainty, of essentially offering a fair forum for the resolution of disputes where people feel that, "˜If I need to go have a case heard, whether I'm an offender or the one that's the victim in this case, that it will be resolved or adjudicated based on the merits of that case.' Doesn't that send a pretty powerful message to not just those outside investors, but also to your own people that, "˜Hey, this is a place where I can come or I can remain and invest my time, invest my resources, invest my skills, my ideas and the future of the nation.'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"One thing that I know people struggle with is understanding the system and once you enter in and begin going through all the different processes, they then realize how difficult it is to go through the court system per se. And it may have been designed specifically for that, because you certainly don't want frivolous actions coming before the court. You certainly don't want a manipulation of the system and so it's holding all parties accountable. And the messages that it sends to the people, I would hope, and that was always our hope, was that, "˜You will receive fairness here when you walk through these doors. You will see an individual there who is going to render justice, whether it's on your behalf or not, whether it's for you or it's not.' Of course when the person fails to get the decision they want, you have that as well. But I know that in my dealings with the legislative body, they recognize it as well and at times you have to let the community member vent. They're also your constituents and so you've got to let them vent, but also talking them through, "˜Well, this is what it is but you also have the ability to appeal,' which is the beauty of it all. There is still another forum to go to if you're dissatisfied and if it's a true error of law, then you do have another venue to go to. In some instances, most tribes don't have that luxury."

Ian Record:

"Several years ago we were talking with Norma Gourneau, she was...at the time she was the vice chair at Northern Cheyenne, and they were dealing with this issue of...the court judges were just getting steamrolled by councilors every time...they were having a big issue for instance with automobile repossessions by off reservation dealerships and these off reservation dealerships would get a default on a car loan, they'd come on the reservation to get the repo order enforced so they could actually come on the reservation and pick up the car. The tribal member who was in default would go to a council member and say, "˜Oh, I need my car.' The council member would lean on the judge, the judge would rule on the tribe's behalf. Before long nobody's selling cars to tribal members. And so what she said was they put a fix in there. They did a constitutional reform, they insulated the court from political interference and she said, "˜What I found was I had a lot more...I found myself empowered because I wasn't dealing with those issues anymore. I could now...I wasn't putting out those fires of having to interfere in the court system so now I could focus on what was really important for the tribe, which was where are we headed, where are we going and how do we get there?' Is that...do you see that as an important dynamic to have when the court system is insulated from that essentially liberates elected leaders to focus on those things?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"I wish there was more of a way to make that happen for all of us because we all deal with those...again, it goes back to what we talked about earlier -- political interference -- and again it's up to you as an individual of your integrity whether you allow it or not. Yes, they can be pretty quick to apply pressure on you. Yes, we've dealt with those types of things. It was always astonishing to me when a vendor would call and say, "˜Well, this is happening and I'm not getting service, I'm not getting the court system to react quickly enough.' And our council would be so quick to step up for those vendors and I'm like, "˜You have to allow the process to take its paces. It has to go through its paces. You can't speed anything up for anyone in particular. It doesn't matter, it just does not matter.' But yes, we have experienced in the past where because you had a number of tribal members defaulting on a lot of things, businesses begin then questioning, "˜Well, do I really want to do business with a Choctaw?' Not so much about the judicial process itself, but if I'm not going to be getting my money back or if I'm not going to get paid for whatever service I render, is it worth my time? Which is a much bigger question, but going back to insulating yourself, we as a judiciary, as many judiciaries, have canons of ethics and it depends on what those things mean to you. The legislative body as well as the executive body, unfortunately in our instance, don't have canons of ethics and...but those are to me things that are internal. You should have those types of ethics. You should know that it's not proper to go to the judge to say, "˜Change your decision.' It's not proper. You would feel...if there were clear lines of language that said, "˜No, you cannot approach the court,' then the atmosphere would be different. The atmosphere would be very different. Yes, there are tensions, there are questions, "˜Well, what's going to happen with the impact of this decision I've made? How is that going to affect possibly my appointment? Will I still be here in four years?' But if there were that...if there was the ability to have that happen where language could be developed and there were clear separations, you would be able to be in a position to judge more effectively without the fear of repercussion. You would. It's bad enough you have a lot of other things that you have weighing on you as a judge, to have that extra layer put on you and the sad thing is it's your own people, these legislative members are also your members, members of your community and of your tribe. I've heard one councilman tell me...he told me once, there was a case that was being dealt with and he was insistent on trying to get involved, to come in. And I said, "˜It's clear in the code, you can't stand as an advocate. It's clear in the code that you cannot post bond for this...bail for this individual.' And he would tell me real quick, "˜Well, out in this county I'm able to call the judge and da da da da da.' And I said, "˜Well, you know what, that's that court system, not here.' Needless to say, he wasn't my friend anymore, but that's the whole point of it. It's where your integrity lies and you have to. But again, it's also educating, educating the legislative body because of the evolution, the changes of a justice system, what justice systems mean, fairness and that, "˜No, you can't go and ex parte the judge.' It's about fairness and not so much about control. And that's the problem, it is an issue of control."

Ian Record:

"So the tribal code for Choctaw prohibits elected officials from, I guess, involving themselves in court cases in certain respects."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Yes, that's correct. If I as a tribal member would ask a councilman to come in to serve as an advocate or a speaker on their behalf of sorts, it's not allowed. They're not allowed to post bail or bond for anyone. It's right there in black and white, but they still continue to try to do that. I've always told my staff, the judges, when we look at the canons of ethics, "˜It's there to protect you so use it,' tell them that this is what the canons of ethics tell us in regards to appearance of impropriety, of political influence and things of that sort. That's what it's there for. And it's a struggle, it is a struggle and this is something that I know a lot of tribes face, a lot of judges face. It's a hard...it's a hard line to walk because again you are a member of the community, you do not have the ability to blend in with the general populace. It just doesn't happen. Like I said, for our tribe, we're a membership of almost 10,000. We have on the reservation over 6,500 people."

Ian Record:

"Do you think part of it, when elected leaders feel that impulse to interfere on behalf of a constituent, that they maybe haven't gone through the paces perhaps as you've termed it to think, "˜What's the long-term implication of my action here? Because I might be helping,' because that's their feeling, "˜I'm helping this person. I'm helping this person, but am I really helping the nation in the long run because this is going to be the ramifications of this. There's a ripple effect to what I'm doing.'"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Yes, and you're exactly right. I know in some instances their intentions are good, their intentions are good, they do want to help their constituent. They feel that someone needs to step up for them, someone needs to represent them, and maybe for whatever reason the different programs may not be able to help that particular individual, for instance, a vulnerable adult, an elderly person who may be being taken advantage of with his grandchildren taking the monthly check. And so I can see that, but when you don't allow the process to happen and if you don't follow the letter of the law, then the messages that it sends out is that, "˜Well, you can change the rules whenever you want,' and you can't do that. The rules are the rules for everyone, whether you're the community member, whether you're a member of the council, whether you're the chief, the rules are the rules. And although some people may think they might be able to change those rules; that's where the strength of your judiciary is the test not to allow those things to happen. I know within...in Indian Country those things happen where they're tested all the time. Like we talked earlier about jurisdictional issues, everyone is coming at you from different angles and let me tell you, being...living the life of a judge is not an easy thing. It's rewarding at times because you're providing a service to the people, the successes that you see make it worth all that you have to go through, but the political side of it can be at times very disheartening, very discouraging because you're having to deal with this mountain of things that are coming at you and you're trying to do the best you can do for your system. And sometimes people just don't see it the way you see it and it's trying to reach consensus with people, to get them on your side, get them to understand. Education, it's...it always goes back to education, teaching the membership, teaching the legislative body what these systems are all about and how important it is because at the end of the day that's going to be what makes you successful as a people, as a community. For me, it's always been my philosophy that tribal courts are the guardians of sovereignty. It's our job to make sure that we protect this sovereign through the well of the court, through this legal system and it's something that when you take on this judgeship, it's not about the notoriety, it's about what you provide, what you bring to the bench and the protection of the sovereign. That's the bottom line of all of this." 

Honoring Nations: Justin Martin: Enhancing Government-to-Government Relationships

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Justin Martin, Former Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at Grand Ronde, discusses his nation's relationship in previous years with the state government, and how Grand Ronde was able to build and sustain success over time in the state's legislative arena.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Martin, Justin. "Enhancing Government-to-Government Relationships." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Sante Fe, New Mexico. February 8, 2002. Presentation.

Andrew Lee:

"Our last morning presentation is from a man who's always on the go, Justin Martin, who's the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. He's done a fantastic job and I know working with Kathryn [Harrison] and his team and Nicole [Holmes], they've just done a great job and being recognized as a sovereign and just making a ton of headway with state and federal interactions, so Justin Martin."

Justin Martin:

"Thank you, Andrew, for that kind introduction and thank you all for having us and being here today. I'm going to talk not so much about my program today, I'm sure you've all read about that in the report. Today I'm going to focus a little bit on state-level politics and our journey through the past five years with the state-level government and how we were able to build some success in that level. I'm actually going to talk specifically about some numbers today, because I've approached this from a very general perspective over the past couple days, and then talk a little bit about what got us to the level that we are today with respect to being able to effectively promote our sovereignty.

First, before I go into that I'd like to take a quick moment to, as Andrew mentioned, to thank Kathryn Harrison, who as I went through this journey over the past five years, I've been fortunate personally to work with several mentors. Some of the best lobbyists at the Oregon level; a man that's been in the building for 45 years, one of the best public relations/public affairs persons in the Pacific Northwest. And then finally Kathryn, as a mentor to me, I have been able to learn from your vision and your guidance and your commitment, and most of all, Kathryn, your perseverance. And those are lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life, so thank you very much for that. It has been a blessing to go through this journey with you for five years. Also I'd like to thank my sidekick, my partner in crime, Nicole Holmes, who is the other half of the Intergovernmental Affairs Department -- a whopping number of two employees in that department. We were able to steal Nicole from a state representative, which I wouldn't recommend to a lot of folks, but he was a very big fan of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and realized her value to this tribe. So, Nicole, thank you for all your help and all your work over the past three-plus years.

So with that, a little bit about this journey. I am a tribal member and how I came to be in this role is in 1995, a state representative went to the tribal council and asked if there were any young Native Americans interested in coming to work for a state representative in the legislative process. My grandfather was on the council at the time and gave me a call and said there's a man in Salem that's interested in having somebody come and work for them. So I saw this as an opportunity within my curriculum at school to go and do this. As I mentioned yesterday, my background is public policy and public administration. So that's what got me into the legislative process. It was a generous offer by a state legislator and one that allowed me to start to create some of those personal relationships at the state level that in turn wound up getting me to Grand Ronde. Another nice side of that is I was able to then, when I went to work for the tribe in '97, to create a relationship with my grandfather who I did not have a relationship with growing up. Him and my grandmother had been split up for the 26-some years that I had been alive so that also in and of itself has been a wonderful experience. He is retired from council and moved on but again, I've been able to build that relationship; a relationship with some of my culture and heritage that frankly, I didn't pay much attention to growing up. The Grand Ronde Tribe was a tribe that was terminated in the ‘50s. So for the first 14 years of my existence, the tribe did not exist in terms of federal recognition.

So, a quick kind of history of Grand Ronde: 26 bands originally were moved to the Grand Ronde Reservation in the 1850s. That was originally a 69,000-acre reservation. Through termination, that went down to two-and-a-half acres in the 1950s and then again, through perseverance and commitment of some of our elders, we were able to be restored in 1983. Kathryn was a big part of that, also Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, who wasn't a congresswoman at the time, played a big role in that. We were recognized in name only and did not get any of the reservation back until 1988, a separate act of Congress. The 1988 Reservation Act in which we got about 9,800 acres of contiguous timberland back in which to sustain our government. So from that time until the onset of Indian gaming in 1995, that is how we operated. So with that onset of Indian gaming came all kinds of new issues with respect to the state.

So as I told you a little bit earlier, I'm going to talk specifically about some of the state-level programs that we've been able to get involved with and have some success with. Right before 1997, we signed a permanent compact with the State of Oregon for our gaming facility that opened up several avenues and several concerns. So in the 1997 legislative session when I came aboard with Grand Ronde, we saw about 39 legislative measures that had some potential impact to Native American tribes in Oregon. Out of that 39, about 19 of them were considered damaging, what could have an adverse...a potential adverse affect on the tribe. So we went to work and we went to work trying to educate elected officials to let them know exactly how this would impact the tribe and we were able to successfully defeat all those.

So in the time between 1997 and 1999, this is the nice part of what we've been able to do, we can actually start to quantify some of the success of government relations, which is very, very difficult to do. In the '99 session, we saw only three potentially damaging measures. So that went from 19 to three in about a two-year period. Well, how did we make that happen? We hit the road, we started educating elected officials. This is kind of where my program comes in, we started communicating, we started educating, we started cooperating with the communities, we started making contributions and yes, those are political contributions in the form of dollars, but again those are other contributions in the form of being community members getting involved in the community making things happen there. And then finally we started to create a presence, a presence where people knew if they were dealing with Native American issues, they were going to have to talk to Grand Ronde and the eight other tribes that existed.

So now we can kind of follow this journey again and quantify it even more so in the '01 session and in the '01 session we did see about six measures that were potentially damaging. So you might say, ‘Well, Justin, you went from 19 to three, that's quite a remarkable feat but then you went back up to six potentially damaging pieces of legislation in ‘01.' Well, we've also been able to widen the scope of legislation that we have tracked. So on a percentage basis, it's about the same percentage of damaging legislation that we saw in '99. But the really effective number that I think, out of those six potentially damaging measures that were introduced in the recent '01 session, not a single bill got a hearing. And to even keep something from even creating a public discussion or some public sentiment is truly a win in and of itself. I would rather have 10 potentially damaging measures that don't see the light of day than even one that could create some kind of public swell. Not only was that the effective part of the '01 session, but we saw something that we hadn't seen in Oregon I don't think ever.

We were able to pass, and I say we, this is not just Grand Ronde, I like to believe that all the tribes working collectively were able to pass six pieces of positive legislation. So you look from 1997 where everything was negative, negative, negative and how does this affect...we were able to effectively make a complete turn, 180-degree turn and now we're passing positive legislation. And one of those, for a quick background, Oregon, I think, is a real progressive state. We have had a progressive governor that has looked at creating state-tribal relationships that go beyond just the everyday legislature and just beyond everyday state-level programs. There was an executive order in 1996 encouraging state-tribal relations, and that included one summit every year, that included individual cluster groups for tribal agencies and state agencies to start working together. Some of those cluster groups are natural resources, environmental resources, public safety, health, education and finally economic development -- a wonderful, wonderful program. But what happens when the current governor is gone? So we looked at that collectively as tribes and said, ‘Why don't we do something about this executive order? Let's pass some legislation and put this into statute.' And that's exactly what we did. Senate Bill 770 passed the legislative session this year essentially guaranteeing that we will continue that government-to-government relationship throughout the future no matter the administration, whether they're Native friendly or not. Again, just a landmark piece of legislation, one that we're very proud to have passed. Some of the other pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 690, a Native American Teaching License Certificate Bill, which allows elders to go back into not only Native schools but public schools and teach the language. It effectively took away the barrier that said you have to have this college degree and this teaching certificate because we don't want to lose what these elders can offer at this time. Just a wonderful bill. Some of the other bills, both a statutory bill and one that sent a message to Congress was the deletion of 'squaw' language from Oregon geographic board names. We passed that both in statute and within our memorial, just a wonderful message to Native Americans throughout the state. And then finally the creation of local mental health authorities on reservations in areas that even the community, non-tribal members don't really have access to mental health care. Now they can begin to get those services and also look at some alternative funding methods combined with tribes, again, in those areas that are outside of the metropolitan areas.

So how did we do this? How did we get to this point where we were able to totally turn a negative situation to a positive situation? And I've heard from some other folks that other states aren't quite that progressive and that, obviously, is understandable. And some of the questions on the panel yesterday talked about kind of volatile environments, how do you start to make a difference? Well, what Grand Ronde did, what the vision of the tribal council did is said, ‘We need to be involved, how are we going to do that?' and then went and they worked with outside professionals. We went and we hired again that best lobbyist, we went and we hired that best public relations manager, we hired the best marketing firm, but council said, ‘We're not just going to do that and we're not just going to put that in the hands of somebody that doesn't understand the Grand Ronde way, doesn't understand what the Native way of life is all about. So we're also going to take from these people what we can in the way of education and experience and we're going to start to create it for ourselves.' And that's where I have personally been fortunate to be brought into that. But that also carries over in every department within our government. So we've been able to utilize that external expertise, not only utilize it out there, but to utilize it internally to learn from it and become stronger and in the future we'll be able to do that for ourselves. Now, when you go out and you look to contract with somebody, make that a part of the deal because, you know what, we've got a good issue and that's something that professional lobbyists or professional public relations persons, that's something they want to work with. You as a tribe will be a feather in their cap as far as a client. That's out there. Do it on your terms because you're the one that's ultimately responsible for protecting that sovereignty and again, effectively promoting it. You're not giving up jurisdiction, you're not giving up your sovereign rights, you're finding a more effective way to deliver that message because some of these external professionals open doors that we would never have had a chance to open five years ago. Get that in, start to create those relationships at the grassroots level and you're going to be that much more effective.

So that is some of the success that we've had at the state level. I've also been having some side conversations with folks. What are some of the other really successful things that you've seen? What we have been able to see is sentiment that says, ‘Okay, the Oregon State Lottery provides...it's about $900 million per biennium for the state.' But every voter that sits in those rooms wonders, ‘What do they do with the money? What are they doing with the dollars?' But, what we've seen, almost two out of three voters in these focus groups is Grand Ronde. What have they been able to do with the dollars? What have they been able to do within their community? As soon as you ask them about, ‘Well, what about the other gaming that goes...? What about the other gaming product in Oregon? What about Indian gaming?' and the first thing you hear is, ‘Well, they're giving something back to the community. They're delivering dollars. They funded LifeFlight, they funded OMSI', which is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. ‘They work in conjunction with the Oregon Food Bank. Those guys are going it right'. And when you hear that your government, a small tiny tribal government is doing things the right way, that's when you know you've been effective, that's when you know you're changing public opinion, that's when you know the grassroots has taken effect, that's when you know you've been able to sway public opinion because, you know what? We're all on the right side of a good issue. We're not pushing anything bad here and once you educate people to that fact, and I've seen it a million times, it clicks. 'Why don't they tax...why don't Indians get taxed?' 'Well, we're paying for services outside. We contract with Polk County, we contract with Yamhill County. We don't have our own water; we don't have our own sewer.' It clicks. People go, ‘Oh, that's why'. Or we seeded LENA. ‘Oh, that's why. I didn't think about that 'cause that's not what I hear in the newspaper.' So get out there and educate, grassroots. It sounds simple and easy and it is because again it's getting down to the lowest level of building personal relationships. Once you find something in common -- and I think we can all find things in common with other folks -- you can make it happen.

So with that I'm just going to close by telling a little story. Again, I think, Kathryn, when I first started, I was about three months on the job and Kathryn wasn't feeling well and she was to give a speech about the Grand Ronde history in front of a bunch of state agencies. She said, ‘Justin, I'm not feeling very well, can you do this?' I thought, ‘Oh, my god. Okay, you've got Kathryn Harrison, who's again a model of perseverance and understands and has been through that, and then you've got Justin Martin, an urban kid from Salem that has been working for the tribe and really doesn't have a grasp about that. What the hell am I going to talk about?' And so I went over...on my way over and I started trying to formulate this speech, which I was going to give in about 40 minutes and started thinking about, ‘What can I talk about?' And I looked to the right to that two-and-a-half acres when the tribe was terminated and thought about my grandma...my great grandmother who I was very fortunate, again to be able to spend about 21 years of my life with before she passed in 1992. So I started thinking about her a little bit and I turned left -- and if you guys have been to Grand Ronde, you eventually come up on the casino, which is huge and then I looked at that and I thought, ‘Boy, that's really impressive'. And then I kept driving a little bit and I started thinking, ‘Well, boy, I wonder what my great grandmother would have thought, my Grandma Cora. Boy, she would have really been impressed by seeing that building.' But then about 15 miles down the road I started thinking, ‘Would she really have been that impressed? Well, no, would the bright lights or that great big building have impressed my grandmother? No. Would the five restaurants with all the fancy food or all the money and all the fancy machines, would that have impressed my grandmother? Well, no. What would have impressed her?' And so a little further down the road I started thinking, ‘Here's what would have impressed her. We've been able to do something at Grand Ronde that hasn't been able to be done in that area. We're starting to bring people back home, people that had to leave the reservation because of assimilation, failed assimilation policy. We're able to bring them back home. We're able to start turning their lives around through programs in health care and education and housing and elder pensions and elder care. We're able to bring back that community, we're able to make our members more self-sufficient and best of all we're able to give them some hope.'

So thank you all very much for hearing me today. And again, you can make a difference at the state level, you can make a difference at the federal level, and you can make a difference at the local level, just get out there and meet some people and make it happen. Thank you very much."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"We've got a few minutes to take maybe a couple questions for Justin if you have them so let's go ahead and take a few."

Audience member:

"I'll restrict my 50 questions to one, Justin. Could you talk about your relationship with other interests in the state, being a small population group in Oregon? Undoubtedly you need additional support in order to get your legislation passed. And also there are a lot of issues in the state that aren't specifically native issues, but which affect Native interests very much. I imagine employment policies or health policies or TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] policies and so on. So what's you're relationship with other lobbyists and interests beyond the Native community?"

Justin Martin:

"Great question. Thank you for asking. We start to see...I think you start to see a spread and this gets to where my program really focuses on presence. So not only are we a government presence, but now we're starting to be a presence in the business community, now we're starting to be a presence in the non-profit and the charitable community, and we're able to utilize not just political contributions to our advantage. So say we start to build some partnerships in that community, we start to build partnerships in what we call regional problem solving where in Yamhill County, Polk County, the tribal government, and then the local governments start to work together in a consensus fashion to be able to make those things happen. That also happens like I said in the business community. You start garnering support and you start working side by side with some of the big business interests. So okay, it's not just Grand Ronde, a small tribal government. They've got that right, they've got...we need to give them that respect. It's also Grand Ronde, the largest employer in Polk County. So okay, we don't have a lot of votes to deliver say in an election or we don't have a lot of individual contributors to certain programs, but look at our workforce. And they're going to go out in their communities and back to their homes and spread the work about Grand Ronde. So it becomes...again it's kind of this groundswell of grassroots, but it's also in other areas that we would never have thought possible and that's not just politics, that's employment, that's in natural resources, cultural resources. People start to look to the tribe as experts in each and every one of those areas."

Jamie Fullmer, Rebecca Miles and Darrin Old Coyote: Our Leadership Experiences, Challenges, and Advice

Producer
Archibald Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute
Year

Jamie Fullmer (former Chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation), Rebecca Miles (Executive Director and former Chairwoman of the Nez Perce Tribe) and Darrin Old Coyote (Chairman of the Crow Tribe) share what they wished they knew before they took office, the greatest leadership challenges they have faced, and their advice for newly elected and aspiring tribal leaders.

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

Resource Type
Citation

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

June Noronha:

"So we have a very, very, very prestigious group here. Two of them former Chairs, one a current Chair. So what we're going to do is when we invited them to come we asked them to respond to three questions and these are the questions. We said, ‘We want you to tell everybody what you wish you had known before you took office.' So they will all answer that question. Then we're going to ask them to say, ‘What was the most interesting or the toughest situation you found yourself in as tribal Chair.' And the third question is, ‘What advice do you have for new tribal council members.' So what I'm going to do is I'm going to take each question and have them respond to it as opposed to have you talk through all of it. Is that all right with everybody? So the first thing I'm going to ask is, ‘What do you wish you had known before you took office?' So I'm going to have Chairman Old Coyote first speak."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Thank you, June. First off, thanks to the Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for inviting me. The first question if I had known that it was going to be this tough I don't think I'd be chairman. No, just kidding.

One thing, the amount of work that goes into the hours you put in as the tribal chairman. You're on the clock 24 hours and that's one area because a lot of my...I used to like to sing, I used to like to run racehorses and now I can't even do both so my kids are doing that. But that's one of the toughest. One thing I've...when I took office, one of the areas that if I had known that are basically the life we had before now belongs to the Crow people. That's one area that's been king of hard for me but at the same time it's been rewarding because a lot of people have enjoyed some of the things we've done so far.

I was first elected in 2004, I was 31 at the time. The late Chairman Van was the one that asked me to join his team. I was teaching high school and they took me out of teaching high school and brought me over as the cultural director in 2000. And 2000 to 2004 I was the cultural director; one of the advisors to the chairman from 2002 to 2004 and then from there they more or less groomed me to be part of the government. And prior to all of this I was...in 1997 just two hours from here, Moorhead, Minnesota, I was going to school there and the best view of my home was from far way. I saw all the problems. When I was back home, I didn't know that our language was being lost, our culture was being lost. I didn't know that there was a problem with drugs and alcohol, there was...I didn't see all that until basically...it was day in, day out I saw the same things and I thought it was normal until I moved away from there and from Moorhead, Minnesota, I viewed back home and I saw the best view of home was from far away and I seen all the problems. I was lonesome, I couldn't speak Crow, I couldn't practice the traditions, the culture so from that it kind of made me...from then I understood what I was to do, to come back and preserve and perpetuate the Apsalooke way of life, the Crow way of life to start changing things in our community.

And one thing I took on just about four of us, we wanted to change the constitution because we saw all the infighting, the things that happen and for a long time. I've worked with Nation Building and one of the areas that we wanted to do was bring in Nation Building to teach the Crow people and a lot of them didn't want to, they didn't want to change things but we brought in...about four of us started in 2000 to try to change the constitution and we had to go to the elders and have them buy into the idea. They also saw the problems that this constitution created with the infighting and the turmoil and so from there we...they did...the majority ruled to change the constitution. So in 2001 we changed our constitution where there was more stability, more continuity and now we have a three branch government, whereas before the chairman was...he controlled the tribal courts, he controlled...and it was... Our old constitution, they had councils every three months and anybody 18 and over could be part of this council. They would literally walk through the line and the chairman would be standing there. If you were a director of some program or if you were a tribal employee, if you went against the agenda that the chairman set up, then you were basically thrown out of there and they'd go through the line right in front of the tribal chairman and that system was in place. And the first month when the decision was made they'd gather numbers for the next council and they would do away with whatever was proposed three months ago. And every three months things were changing and there was no progress, there was no continuity, there was no stability and so from then we changed the constitution. And if we were still in the old constitution I wouldn't be sitting here as chairman because today we have a system that gives us more continuity, more stability and even the people that are...things that were passed in 2001, they're still going and business has continued and we're starting to...it's a new constitution but there's...we're changing things and we're moving forward so that's...I'd like to share that before we go any further."

Rebecca Miles:

Well, it's certainly an honor to be here with all of you and congratulations if you are a newly elected leader. Jamie and I are recovering tribal leaders so we're here to relive it all. So it certainly is an honor to speak before all of you.

A couple of things that I think I wish I would have known prior to deciding to run is I wasn't prepared for the fighting, the infighting of our people. I was raised on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation my entire life. My parents...I don't know if they ever even voted in the tribal election. We never attended general council. My parents were not politically active. We led a very strict life growing up and my parents were alcohol, drug and alcohol free. And [I] grew up of course in very bad poverty but to me it was a very great life. And so I wasn't raised to talk to people that way.

And so the very first meeting that I had we had a person come in and just chew us all out. That's the...it's almost like you're walking through like a doorway and no matter where you know your heart is you become them now. You become the beast so to speak and you're part of the problem. Tribal council leaders are always scratching their own backs and they're doing favors for their family and friends. And every decision you ever make will be scrutinized by somebody; every single decision. And so I was young, I wasn't prepared for that. I was a young mom at the time and I was not necessarily prepared for that. A seminar like this is fantastic because...I wish we had something like that when I was first starting as a leader.

The other thing that I recognize that I wish I had known as well being a woman and being a young woman for a tribe that predominantly has male leadership, there are always a few women on council, but prepared for the way that women treated women and it was absolutely terrible. So I made it a really personal passion of my own. I serve on a national organization called Vision 20/20 that works to...will work to have equality for women by the year 2020. I was nominated by the governor, the former Governor Kulongoski of Oregon, the State of Oregon, and that organization really works not just for equality in pay for women but it really works on women who become leaders and how other women treat women. We study a lot, one of my idols, is Hillary Clinton and what has happened to her in her leadership. She's criticized for the way she looks, for whatever she's wearing or for her hair and that's very irrelevant to...but it's an entirely different standard to what male tribal leaders go through on tribal council. I was not prepared for that, I can tell you that.

And as a young woman I certainly...you certainly all of a sudden feel alone, you got elected by a lot of people, everybody's excited and I remember my family threw a big party for me and just right out of the gate, we all have family whether they drink or they're on drugs, every one of us have them. And I remember the very first...the Saturday night I was elected my family threw this big party. Well, of course I have some drunk cousins and uncles that came over and they wanted to congratulate and it was just a very good time. And it was at my mother's home. My mother doesn't drink and she's never allowed alcohol in her home and she made this really...it was a Mother's Day cake because Mother's Day was the next day. Well, it ended up being a celebration for me. Well, it turned out that I had this keg, not cake and it just...you're just not prepared for that. And so knowing that kind of going in give you the armor...you kind of have the armor that it's going to come and you don't know where it's going to come, but to not let that shake you from what's inside and why you chose to run and why you chose to be a leader for your tribe. Because very, very important decisions are yet to be made and there are very difficult things that are going to come your way and so you have to be strong. You can't let those things sway you because you have to be prepared for the real important things, the real battles. And I wish I had known that prior to."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Thank you. As Rebecca had pointed out, as a recovering...I think I'm in complete recovery now from tribal leadership. As the former chairman of Yavapai Apache Nation... by the way, [Apache Language] to you leaders here.

At home, when I first became chairman, it was definitely not on my list of what am I going to do. I went back home to work for the tribe and contribute to the community as the Health and Human Services Director. I have a master's degree in social work but I also have a bachelor's degree in business. And the idea behind that was that we needed some help in building an infrastructure for our social services. We had just built a brand new building, a health center building, and it was empty and so I had come home. I told the chairman at the time, I said, ‘I can get that running if you would like me to.' It wasn't a boastful thing, it's just I had a background. I did administration and had just come from running a major mental health intensive outpatient treatment center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I'd gotten my master's degree. And so I went home to contribute back to my community. My family all lives there, my mom and my brothers and my aunts and uncles and so it was, for me it was wanting to be around family but also just to contribute back to the community. And honestly it was also because the tribe had paid for my education to get my master's degree and I felt like it was a give back.

And so that was my whole purpose for going home but lo and behold, fast forward from that position a few years into it, my grandfather who was the former chairman and he's passed away since but he was a great leader in our community. He had said, ‘I think we're going to get you in as chairman.' I said, ‘Well, it's a great honor and I don't know if I'm ready.' He said, ‘I think we're going to get you in as chairman.' ‘It's a great honor but I don't know if I'm ready.' He said, ‘I don't think you heard me. I think we're going to get you in as chairman.' So the elders had already met about it and had decided that I was going to be chairman. So lo and behold I was elected as chairman. What I did not know then, and like Rebecca, seeing the community, I saw a lot of the challenges in the community but wasn't real involved in the politics. Unless they called me into council, I didn't go up there. If you get called into council chambers, something good or something bad is going to happen and so you try to avoid that whole, as an employee try to avoid that process altogether. At least that was the way we did it at home.

So what I wish I would have known before I took office was, a lot has been mentioned already by the leaders at this table, but what I wish I would have known is not to personalize the politics of the day because it is just business. And it's so hard because it's the business of our life, it's the business of our sovereignty, it's the business of our future, it's the business of respecting the ancestors and the predecessors. But it is at the end of the day just business and if you carry it home, it will eat you up. And I say that with the idea that you as tribal leaders, either new or reinvigorated new into office that we always says 24/7, 24/7. I used to always hear the leaders at home say that, ‘I'm here for my people 24/7.' Within that 24/7 one of those people has to be you and so that balancing act of taking time for yourself to find a balance in your own life and lifestyle and respecting and protecting your family is an important part of that process.

With that said, the great Windell Chino, Apache leader, a legend in our world said, ‘You can tell a true Indian leader because they have bullets in the front and arrows in the back,' and I took that to heart because as Rebecca said, you go in and you don't really...you know you're going to get it from the outside world but you don't expect it that you're going to get it from the inside world and you definitely don't expect you're going to get it from your blood tied inside world but sometimes that's the worst battles. I remember one of my aunties had done a recall on me for...at least once, one of the recall tries, one of the recall attempts. And then later on after I'd gotten out of office a couple years ago she goes, ‘Well it made you stronger, didn't it?' I said, ‘Yeah, but I didn't need you to even make the effort in the first place.'

So I guess to that point is that another point that I wanted to make is that I think that it's so important to respect as leaders...I had my own vision and mission and direction from prayer and from commitment and felt like that was the right way and I was young at the time when I was elected. I was 30. And one of the things that I wish I would have known beforehand is to respect and listen and learn what other peoples' ideas of sovereignty was because I had my own image of what sovereignty was and what I was willing to stand for on behalf of the people, what I was willing to fight for. And I didn't at that time, as I look back historically, I didn't necessarily take the time to listen to what was the elder's perspective of sovereignty, what was the younger generation's perspective of sovereignty, what were my colleagues at the tables perspective of sovereignty because I knew what my image was in standing as a sovereign nation. And yet you have to thread those altogether as a leader.

So I think hindsight, seven years ago, six years ago, hindsight that I wish I would have known at the beginning was not to personalize it because I did personalize a lot of it and you know what happens when you personalize things, you're ready to fight. And sometimes those are fights you can't win. It was brought up earlier by the leader over there, she brought up the idea of how and when to be a diplomat. Learning that diplomacy comes from not personalizing it.

And then the other thing as a closing piece to that, which I wish I would have known was the other thing is the loudest voice is usually the smallest group. And so you had people that come and say, ‘My people want this and my people want that.' If I would have known at the beginning, cause everybody gets kind of riled up and stirred up and ‘We've got to do something right now. We have to act on this.' And it wasn't until my second term in office and I'd say, ‘Well, bring those people in. Let me hear from them. I'm their representative. Well, then why did they elect this body?' So the loudest voice is usually the smallest group. That's why they say the silent majority. Now when those people that I never saw before were coming into the office and were stirred up, then I knew something was wrong because that was the silent majority, the people that like Rebecca's family that didn't get involved in politics, that didn't have their faction or their personal or family interest to sway. And so when I saw those folks coming through the door I'd say, this wasn't until second term, ‘These are the majority. These are the...once they get stirred up, we have to deal with this right away. That means something is really wrong.' So just some...that's the closing piece I had is the loudest voice, at least in my community, was usually the smallest group and yet our council would be jumping and moving to try and create some kind of change because of what they heard."

June Noronha:

"So I think we'll... Thank you. So let's go to the second question. The second question is, ‘What was the most...maybe I'll say the toughest situation or the most interesting situation you found yourself in or you find yourself in as tribal chair?'"

Darrin Old Coyote:

"For myself the toughest situation I found myself in was a lot of times family...basically a lot of the toughest situations I had involved my immediate family or my extended, like my mom's family or my dad's family. I'll just give you an example. There was a federal program where one of my cousin's had the qualifications and he was kind of running...he was the assistant to the director and he'd been there years and then we did, because it was a federal program we did a drug test and my cousin he ran out the door when drug tests came around and he came and said, ‘You need to get rid of that policy, the drug policy.' And so that's one of the toughest situations is your own family will try to have you waive everything just so that they can benefit and you're in there for the whole tribe, not just your family or one individual. So that's one of the toughest situations. You have to be open minded, look at the whole picture and he was suspended for not doing the drug testing and then his sister and his family, they started saying, ‘We're going to get rid of you. Next election we're going to remove you,' and this is my own aunt doing that and my own cousins doing this. But in the long run people saw that I wanted accountability and I wanted things done right and so they, after awhile it kind of died down from there. But that's the toughest situation I've been in is our own immediate family.

And then another situation would be the most interesting. I don't know if you're all familiar with the Pentecostals. We have a lot of Pentecostals in our tribe and there was one, Speaker of the House, a few years back I was presenting the budget to the legislative branch because they're the ones that approve yes or no voting on budget so I brought in the budget. And I was standing, the Speaker of the House was behind me because the podium was...and he was saying, ‘The executive branch did this, did that.' He was starting to point fingers and he was going off and there was a whole bunch of people, a lot of the council, the whole membership, a lot of them were there and he was just pointing fingers, going off on how their belief, the Pentecostal belief they say, ‘If you don't do this, if you don't do that you're going to go to hell.' And he kept doing that to me and he was pointing down on me and he said, ‘If you don't do this, if you don't do that,' and finally at the end he said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' That's what he said. But this guy was my clan father. In the Crow way we have our clan system, he was my clan father and whenever your clan father says something that...to...you can buy...whatever they said, you could buy that right. So I turned around and I gave him five bucks and I said, ‘I'm going to buy what you just said.' I said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' So I turned this around on him after him putting me down and saying, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' I turned it around. Using our culture I turned it around and I said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven,' and I pass the budget. So that's one thing.

There's different cultures, the culture, the religions, belief ways, there's different groups. Some want you to do...jump through hoops. They say, you don't like us because you don't go to this church or that church or you don't...maybe Native American church or Sundance. Different religions they tend to try to pinpoint that you're not a part of them and so they try to push you aside but if you're open minded, let them all be equal. That's the only way you're going to survive the next election basically. But that's what I used, using my culture I turned it around on him because he was using his religion to kind of put me down so I turned it around on him and I said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' So that whole getting on his soapbox and putting down people, I wiped that all away and then passed the budget because everybody started laughing after awhile and then I told them the important parts of the budget. But that was one area that was interesting and I thought...I was in a tough situation basically, you have to think, ‘How am I going to turn this thing around?' And that's one situation that really helped me then because it took about a whole 15 minutes to get to his point and he just kept blasting and putting down the executive branch. We hear it all the time now but now every time I walk in he's nice to me because he's scared he might not go to heaven."

Rebecca Miles:

"Well, just moving on from those comments, when I got on council in '04, I didn't have any ambition or any idea of becoming any of the ranked leaders let alone the chair. It just had never crossed my mind and when I was elected in '04, one week later they had released terms to the Snake River Basin adjudication in principle meaning we were just getting ready to consider settling our water claims in the Snake Basin. That had started when I think I was about an eighth grader or ninth grader and I think we formally filed when I was a sophomore in high school. And I happened to...that's one of the things I wish I would have known before that that would be the biggest decision the tribe would face in its treaty time and it was a very tough time.

When I say toughest situation, when I got on council, you looked to even senior leaders...there's nine of us on the council, I was the only woman. You looked to see what's been going on and we had a couple members that served 20 years so they knew...they had to have known all about this. The people did not know about the settlement because it was ordered to be in executive session, any discussions because to protect all sovereigns. And the sovereigns were us, the State of Idaho and the United States.

So the very first meeting I remember thinking a week later, ‘I'll never vote for this. This will never happen as long as I'm a leader.' And as I began to...the thing that we did is we put all our non-Indian attorneys out in front of our people. And when you mentioned people coming out of the woodwork that are not your loud minority and you have your silent majority there screaming at you, that was a difficult time. My mother was even in the audience and she was so angry. And you could see this train wreck about to happen because one, we were talking about something very near and dear to us, our treaty rights, and we're having our non-Indian attorneys tell us how we're going to settle these claims and that didn't fly well. That's really when my education really came into really sitting down and figuring out a good orator, somebody who can explain something to somebody really well and so that meant I had to learn everything I could about this settlement.

So the next nine months the three sovereigns had to decide and all eyes were on...it was a very big deal and Crow was a few years after us but it was a very big deal. And we went on 18 hearings all over our reservation. And the thing that really surprised me is I was the freshman member, no experience whatsoever, and none of the leaders who had made decisions, there were several resolutions that got to this point, even led one meeting, not a single one, not ever got up and said, ‘This is why we did this, this is why we...this is where we're at.' Not a single one. And so I had to start from ground zero. We created a PowerPoint. I gave the presentations, never allowed our attorneys to have to be there. They're just staff, they're not going to vote on this. And they have been directed to do these things all these years so it certainly couldn't be passed off to them. And so after the nine months we took the settlement, very difficult, because it could have gone either way. Had we not taken the settlement we would have lost all our water claims. We would have been up against Idaho Supreme Court and then eventually a very volatile Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court. That was my very first year on council and I was ready to resign and I told my family, I said, ‘I've never quit at anything,' and I was ready to resign.

Well, two weeks later after I gave them that speech, we had our elections and our tribal chair did not get reelected and it just happened in literally like the snap of a finger. An all male council except for me elected me the first woman chair and I just think about it now because Jamie Pinkham's uncle Scotty was on council then and he sat back smiling when the vote was over. He said, ‘You just got elected by an all male council. People are focusing on the fact you're the first woman but...' And he said, ‘It wasn't because you're a woman. It had nothing to do... It was because of the work on such a critical, critical decision.' And that still hangs onto me and people say, ‘Well, you sold our water rights out,' and they don't even think of all the leaders over 20 years that built up to the decision. And I'm fine with that because I know that we protected our water claims. That was by far the toughest thing.

Nothing...I remember...a lot of leaders, brand new leaders come to me, come to my office and they'll be upset or they'll want advice and I always think, nothing can be tougher than when you're making a decision that will affect all your people. So anything outside of that, you can handle. And so it makes me to be a very good confidante for a lot of leaders that are just in your position, just brand new. And so that will never...I don't think and I hope...the kind of decisions tribes make for your people, you hope you don't have to make those decisions ever again and I hope our tribe will never have to face those. We're not like the United States where we can make always good decisions. It seems like we're always trying to protect resources that are diminishing and we're in competition with. The mention of the Missouri River, I thought that was very interesting. That's our fight too is constantly keep our seat at the table and we have a right here. They're not fun decisions to make but they have to be made so I just think that's by far, hands down the toughest thing. There'll never be a tougher thing ever."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I don't know if I can even talk that tough. That's tough. I'm just trying to think, I didn't have it that bad I guess. No, actually, the leaders have brought up some things that I think are important to this and that is, as I try and piece my thoughts together because I had some simple thing and I'm like, ‘Wow, I have to get a little bit more focused here.' But I think that the toughest or the biggest, I guess interesting and tough, because it did involve our community and the bigger community was we were trying to put lands into trust and it was during a time when no lands were being entrusted.

We have a housing shortage at home, which most tribes do and we had lands that we had purchased over the years that the two chairmen before me had tried to get it entrusted and could not or did not or it didn't go through. And so I decided again, if I would have known before hand how tough it was going to be to move through, I thought, ‘Well, it's clear as day that it passes all the scrutiny.' I had our lawyers come in and give me good advice, ‘You passed all the tests; adjacent, ancestral homelands, next to existing tribal trust lands.' And I thought, ‘Well, this is a no brainer. I just need to help push it through.' And that was in my first term in office. When I first came into office I took that on. I said, ‘I'll take this on as one of my top priorities.' And it wasn't until, just to fast forward, it took me all of my first term and all of my second term, so it took a total of six years to get those lands into trust, 2,000 acres on behalf of my people. And the challenges that...you recognize that we...at that point when I started, I thought, ‘Well, this is going to be an easy movement.' But that was complete ignorance going into there just thinking of the statesmanship that I would use and moving through the landscape but not recognizing our place as a sovereign and the neighbors around us and their impact on our decision making, whether it would go through or not. Because when I first went out to Washington, D.C., the senator there, John Kyl and John McCain and the House of Representatives, Rick Ramsey. At the time they said, ‘Well, what do your neighbors say about it?' And I'm like, ‘I didn't even think about the neighbors. I don't care what the neighbors said.' In my mind I was thinking that we're sovereign. And they said, ‘Well, that's the first thing that has to be dealt with is if your neighbors are in opposition to this lands into trust, do you think we as public officials that represent your neighbors can actually support this getting into trust?'

So I had to go back and clean slate my whole thinking of, ‘Oh, my gosh, we are part of a bigger neighborhood and we have to present ourselves, we have to share who we are.' We're private people. The Yavapai Apache Nation, just our culture is very private. We hold some things sacred that we don't share as I'm sure you all do as well and yet we had to open that door up to settle the concerns of the neighbors. Because of our private nature there's always that distrust of the history of our landscape there from both sides. It was...now it took on a whole new light and a whole new element of over the years. Year one, I'm going to reach out to all of the neighbors and my council getting mad at me, ‘You can't go out and talk to these neighbors. We've always been...they've always been our enemies, they've always been against us.' And I said, ‘Well, you know, these are people that are opposing our lands getting into trust.' After going through the records, it was the people in the towns around us and the towns themselves that were opposed to us getting our lands into trust and so the challenge with that is there was like seven, there's seven little towns around us. And so going and reaching out to all of these seven little towns, they're like, ‘Why are you here? You guys have never been interested in presenting to us.' The balance of respecting and protecting sovereignty and being a good neighbor and I know all of you deal with this because it's impossible not to in our Indian world today. But in order to move the ball forward, the diplomacy that was needed there was a whole new lesson for me and that was tough because I was more hard driven. I'm more like the bull in the china cabinet or whatever at that time. I was more, ‘We'll aggress our way forward.' And aggression was not the way to move forward. So taking guidance from the elders and respecting what they didn't want shared, taking guidance from our experts that we had hired to help us with the process and saying what needed to be shared, and then meeting with our leaders to find out what they'd be willing to support me standing for on behalf of our people because they had to report to their own constituents about what we were doing. As you know, as councilors, you represent a certain constituent group, either your family or clan or a district or a combination of those things.

So the toughest situation wasn't necessarily going up to Washington, D.C. to deal with the federal government because I knew the relationship there, it's clear as day, government-to-government. It's this way, in my mind. I wasn't going there asking permission. I was going there telling them what we as a sovereign wanted and needed and felt like that the United States was obligated to do. But at the local level, at the municipal level that's a whole different relationship. They don't...they had no idea about sovereignty and what it meant at that government to government relationship. They really just saw us as this kind of vacuumized neighborhood within the region that nobody had any interaction with. And so I think the toughest piece of that was opening the door enough to share and shed light on who we were as a society and as a people and trying to normalize the situation. I would go into these towns and say, ‘Look, we want the same things as you. We want our kids to be educated. We want our elders to be safe. We want to have healthcare for our people when it's needed. We want to be able to have homes to live in. So everything that you want as a people, we want. But there are some things that are different because we have a different relationship to the landscape here.' And then the doubters inside, ‘You can't get this done.' Maybe historic or political leaders that had tried before and hadn't done it and you're thinking that they would be aligned in wanting to get it done but seeing that maybe they didn't necessarily want to see it get done, by me anyway.

And I do want to say that it was a team effort. It was definitely getting our council to support that process which gave me the, I guess the courage to go and deal with those issues because it wasn't just me dealing with it, it was me on behalf of my people and my community doing it. If it was just me, I probably would have pulled the plug on dealing with it. But standing for the people takes on a whole new level of security and courage."

June Noronha:

"Before we go into the question and answer session, what we're going to do is we asked each of the chairs at the table to tell you what would be their advice to you. So what advice do they have for the new tribal council members? So we're going to do that and then we're going to open it up for questions and answers."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"My advice to new tribal council members is, there's always people coming and like there's a problem and they want you to solve their problem and one thing I've kind of used, I used an analogy and this could be suicide prevention, drug prevention, diabetes prevention, all the areas. They give you so much funding, federal funding, whether it be 638 or federal funding, you've got to think outside the box. One thing is, I'll just use an analogy here. Say they were going to give you some money for suicide or say there's a cliff there and kids were jumping off that cliff and you had funding available and the federal government wanted you to do basically an ambulance at the bottom to haul off people that are jumping off that cliff. Why can't we use that money to build a fence so that people don't jump off, that's prevention. And that's one area that I know a lot of people will say, ‘Let's build a dialysis center.' Why don't we build a wellness center? You've got to think prevention and everything you do, think prevention.

Another is build bridges whether it be local communities, the county or state and national. Build bridges, don't burn bridges and it helps you. Diplomacy goes a long way when you work with whatever happened historically that's been in the past, put it in the past, put it in history books. Build bridges, don't burn bridges. When you burn bridges, it doesn't go anywhere. You don't achieve anything. So I'd recommend that you build bridges with the county or the state.

And then another one is, I always used the vision of one of our last traditional Crow chiefs, Plenty Coups. He had a vision of forests and there was a storm that came and wiped out all the trees in this forest but there was only one tree still standing and there it was the home of the chickadee and the chickadee would learn what all these other birds were doing and he would learn from them, he would learn from all these birds and the things they did and what they did right and what they did wrong and he would use that. And at the end when that whole storm wiped out all these trees that...the home of the chickadee was still standing in his vision and so from that day forward he said, ‘Whatever we do, don't go against that storm.' And that storm is, whether it be the White people or the federal government and today that tree, the home of the chickadee, he says that's the home of the Crow because he learned from other tribes what they didn't do or did do and then he used that to survive. Basically it's about survival. But diplomacy is key and then unity, unifying your tribe.

One quote I always use is, ‘There's no other Crow tribe. You can't jump on a plane and go find another Crow tribe, we're it. We've got to do this right. If we don't do it, no one else is going to do it for us.' And we take on that challenge. It's up to us. We're elected, in here, it's up to us in here. We're the ones elected, we can't go and find anybody else to do it for us. It's up to us. Once you use that in every meeting, all the tribal leaders are...they look around. It's us. Well, you're elected to do a job and if you use that saying, ‘Our people are depending on us.' There's no other Crow tribe and there's no other whatever tribe you're from. If we don't do it, no one else can do it for us. And that's when you bring them in, part of the team and unifying them and going after whatever the task is. But unifying your council, that's one way to do it, and it's helped me for the last few years as vice secretary now as chairman. It's helped me kind of making them feel that they're part of the process in resolving the problems and I will say, ‘You can't jump on a plane and go find another Crow tribe.' There's no other tribe like us, there's no language...this language I'm speaking, there's no other language like it,' and I'm speaking Crow to all of them. ‘No other culture like this and let's tackle this.' Because a lot of times tribal leaders are looking for somebody to help them whether it be an attorney or whether it be another tribal leader, have him do it. But it's up to us. You're elected and it's up to you to make a difference and unifying your council would be key."

Rebecca Miles:

"Following that I have I think about three things just quickly as advice to all of you. One of the things I learned is to rely on your staff whether they're your attorneys or your experts in the field. Brian Gunn gave an excellent PowerPoint of what the United States leaders do and about their staff. They've been working in that field a long time and all of a sudden you recognize...it really becomes a team. I used to call...there used to be two Daves in my office; Dave Johnson who's still there, our Fisheries Manager, and Dave Cummings. And I lead a lot of fisheries issues, natural resource issues and we'd go to the White House administration two or three times a year and I'd say, ‘Okay, Dream Team, it's time to go.' I felt very honored to be with these guys who the respect was given to me but it was work that they had spent 20 years doing on behalf of your people. And so I called them my Dream Team because they really were...they really earned us a lot of respect. Your staff are really looking for that guidance and they really are, they're looking to serve you. And if they're not, if they're looking there to make you look bad then perhaps your policies need to be improved.

The second thing is relationships whether they're...and starting just with your other people on the council. A lot of times election will happen and you think a person's elected that may have been your archenemy or they have made your life hell while you were on council and a lot of times they can be your very best friend. It's issue by issue. You don't always agree on things but don't lock yourself in a box to have the reputation of not working with anybody. You really lose...you can really lose sight. And so one of the things...in high school even I always hated cliques. We just had our 20 year reunion and I was friends with everybody in our class and it felt really good seeing everybody again and there were the same clicks, locked in as grown women or men not talking. It was a small community and I just was really blessed to be able to not just follow one... One person wrote in my yearbook, ‘She was friends with everybody, the nerds, everybody, the sport...the guys, everybody.' And so that's how I carried my relationship in life. There were people that may have not liked me and they got on council and it just became, we're all here for one reason, for our people. And so it behooves you to work together and everything is relationships, whether you're amongst yourselves. If you're fighting, then your people are hurting, I promise you that. It's just like parents. If your parents aren't doing well, the kids are hurting and it's exactly the same way on tribal council. But relationships are everything, even in Congress. The staffers, even though they may seem like they just got out of high school, you really got to...they really are sophisticated in a lot of ways and that leads to my third piece of advice I have.

You know 40, 50, 60 years ago when our constitution was being formed and our government was being established as a formal government, tribal leaders really had to know a lot about very little and that was treaty rights, history, knowing that they have to educate people in Congress or in the administration about our place and to protect our sovereignty. And then today's tribal leader is really the exact opposite. Because Congress or the administration has more then quadrupled in 30, 40 years so has...and as tribes have developed. You now have to know a little about a lot of topics as opposed to what your leaders did 50 years ago and so it's a very different shift in the work you kind of do and that's where it goes back to staff; being a good study, being a good study of capturing the main points on a lot of issues. Brian Gunn hit the top issues across Indian Country but you as individual tribes now have your own top issues aside from what is facing Indian Country. And the reason why I say that and being concise is so correct because your leadership in Congress have already heard...they already know your treaty rights in a lot of ways. They have their staff do the research and everything. They want specifics, they want details. They don't want you to just go in and demand treaty rights. They want a specific ask and so that helps when as a tribal leader you study the issues. You don't have to be a professor. A lot of times your people think you have to go in being very smart and actually the best tribal leader is one who is going to sit and listen and not know a lot about things, somebody who's going to be open minded.

I just think those are things that are very valuable and make you actually a well rounded leader because you learn so much, there's just so much you learn, good and bad, on tribal council and you're in that place to make that decision. I really appreciated the PowerPoint because I wish I had that ahead of time because a lot of times people think you do need to be that expert in the field and maybe you were elected because you either teach the language or you know something, some trait. But when you come on council, I don't know about your council, but ours is we all vote equally on the same issue and so it just is very...a lot of times you're not the one leading the issue. Your counterpart is leading that issue. Not everybody can be in the healthcare field. And when you recognize that what your job is on council, some people get on council because just to be honest they want to maybe fire staff or they want to have retribution. They have an agenda. Not having an agenda is actually the best thing because there is so much work for you to do and if you actually just went into one policy arena which I found myself accidentally leading natural resources, which is another story in itself. The men automatically pushed me towards health, being on the health board and that's all great but my life prepared me and I didn't realize it for natural resources and to lead natural resources. If you just take salmon recovery, there is more than enough work for one tribal leader to do. And so if you're spending your time focusing on negative things or things that are not the council's role, then you're not doing your job because the amount of work Indian Country has to do in any one policy arena is just...the levels of bureaucracy and red tape you've got to get through is just tremendous and that's your job. So there's a lot of work to be done so focus on those things. Thank you."

Jamie Fullmer:

"A couple of points. The first one is the one does not outweigh the all in the tribal system. The one individual...hiring the one individual that is incapable to do the job does not outweigh all of the individuals that that individual can impact in their particular role. You hire a director that is incapable to do their job, then they affect everybody who's in that system. Education is a perfect example. So when you say, ‘Well, we're hiring that person cause they're a tribal member or they're a relative or whatever,' just keep in mind, the one does not outweigh the all. And the other thing is they've always talked about, and I don't know who they are, maybe it was we.

We talked about nepotism and the discussion around nepotism but in a tribal system we're all related. And if you develop policy and you follow that policy and you hire based on talent and skills, it doesn't matter if they're your cousin, brother, sister, nephew, uncle, niece. It doesn't matter. But that was a hard challenge, especially the smaller the community. Everybody's related at some level, clan relative or blood relative or whatever and so that was a battle that we faced a lot was this whole nepotism battle. And so the way we overcame that was by developing policy for hiring that was based on skills. It didn't matter if they were somebody's brother, sister, relative, whatever. If the criteria was there and they were...met the criteria threshold, then they were eligible to be hired. But that really helped elevate the bar rather than lowering the bar to meet the standard of the people. Elevate the bar and have people work up to it but you need to provide the programming to help them do that.

Just a final point about this advisement; create a plan and follow through. There's always that honeymoon period. You have a great meeting, you have a great session, you're real enthused and you get back in the office, you still have the stacks there, you still have the phone calls coming in, you still have the demands of daily life, you still have to follow those. Define the issues as was brought up and respect and recognize the cultural priorities and the chairman brought up a cultural story of a vision that tied very much into the here and now. We have a lot of answers in our own stories, in our own histories and songs and part of our heritage ways that will teach us how to run our governments as well. It doesn't always have to be the western philosophy, although most of the tribal governments in the modern world are built around a democratic system, a republic system actually.

And then budget where the priorities are established. If you say, ‘Culture is our number one priority,' and yet it has the smallest budget in your government, you've got to put your money where your mouth is. That's so important. You can't just build all these priorities and then run business as usual. The budget has to match those priorities. You say, ‘Education is a priority,' and it's only two percent of the budget, it doesn't really connect.

Learning from past mistakes and successes. Let your...as was said, you come in with an open slate and saying, ‘I'm not aligned with one or the other but what have we done in the past that's worked. What have we done in the past that could be done differently to change it?' I remember, real quickly, my grandfather, he'd come in, he says, ‘Oh, we tried that in '72 or we tried that in '84,' and I'm thinking, I was thinking I'm coming up with these great, bright ideas and cutting edge and he's like, ‘Oh, yeah, we were too small back then or we didn't have enough money then, this'll probably work now.' So learning from those historical figures in your community.

Finding out what you all as council members want. Each of you might have, this was brought up, an agenda, what is that? Is there some things that you can align on? You should fight... We used to always say that the strongest debate makes the greatest answers. But there are some things that you should be aligned on. If healthcare is an alignment issue, then put all the argument aside and say, ‘What do we need to do to actually move forward with it,' and then defining how much money is actually available. It's one thing to have your wish list, it's another thing to have down there how much do we actually have to get this done.

And then finally, listen to your people. Listen whether it's your constituents or it's other...your fellow council members. Listen to your people. They'll tell you what they want. They maybe not necessarily will tell you what they need but they'll always tell you what they want and at some point you'll be able to drill down into what they need. We want to have our kids be happy and healthy. Well, in order to do that we need to have food in the house, lights on, education, safe homes with no abuse and neglect. So those are the tidbits of advice of a has-been leader."

Robert McDonald: Engaging the Nation's Citizens and Effecting Change: The Salish and Kootenai Story

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Communications Director Robert McDonald discusses the challenges his nation faces when it comes to effectively educating and engaging its citizens -- particularly in the age of social media -- and what the nation is starting to do about it. He also discusses the reasons why CSKT decided to produce The Rez We Live On, a ten-part series of public educational videos designed to eradicate misconceptions about his nation and Native nations in general.

Resource Type
Citation

McDonald, Robert. "Engaging the Nation's Citizens and Effecting Change: The Salish and Kootenai Story." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 11, 2012. Presentation.

"[Salish language]. Thank you for having me here. My name's Rob McDonald. I'm with the Salish and Kootenai Tribes. I need to read my own presentation so throw stuff at me if I get in your way. My name's Rob McDonald and I need your vote. Sorry. Wrong speech, wrong speech. I am the tribe's communication director but I'll get to that. I want to talk a little bit about communication, how that ties to engagement and the people, talk about how it works in our community and then talk about outside of our community. Just to kind of set the right stage, I started this job...actually we go back 20 years. I'd bring up government around family gatherings or whatever and people say without a thought, ‘Council's corrupt, they're taking our money, there's so much corruption I just can't stand it. Somebody should do something.' I had the audacity as a journalist to go, ‘I'm really curious ‘cause I don't know, what have you seen that is so corrupt? Teach me.' And then, ‘Oh, well, there was that one time.' I go, ‘Just one example recently, anything.' ‘Well, so-and-so drinks.' I keep asking that question. I ask it today when people get very angry. But I do see...I look at the passion, I look at the anger -- anger is passion -- they care, our people really care and I think we're getting closer to harnessing this passion.

This is headquarters. This is Pablo, Montana. This is where we've got several buildings. Of course this is the council chambers. This was built...back in 2005 we moved in. It's a drum on top. Nice building. Mission Valley Power is our utility company. They let me borrow their truck and you can see a shadow. I'm in the top of the bucket getting a good view of the thing.

Who we are: we are 1,200 employees, largest employer in the county. We overlap with four counties. Nearly 8,000 tribal members, 5,000 on the rez. We're in a dozen departments, top three administrators overseeing department administrators, legal team, two culture committees, many people doing many things. This is how we do it, how it's broken down. I'm tucked...I'm not on council, I'm not an elected official, I'm a staffer. I am way in the right somewhere in communications. But council always makes a point to point this out. At the very top is the membership, they are the bosses and it is a popular election. Ten councilmen, four-year terms and usually the most popular people get in.

This is my messy office. Seven years ago they brought back this position. Someone did it one year before me, a non-tribal member of our tribe. Didn't do too well with the politics. This is what I do. Each of the 10 council [members] I learned very quickly are already experts in talking to the membership and I learned very quickly the last thing they want is me between them and the public. It even feels weird for me to talk to a group. I look around and make sure no one...no one here is Salish or Kootenai ‘cause no one corrected me and laughed and said, ‘You just said good morning in Salish and Kootenai, ha ha.' ‘Cause I can't pronounce the good afternoon in Salish and Kootenai very well. That's my test I throw out.

Council meets twice a week. They commence with a walk-in session, which means between 9:00 and 10:00 anybody could come in the door, they can check in with the gatekeeper, Sharon Silverman, and say, ‘I want to talk to the council about this.' ‘How much time do you need?' '10 minutes, 5 minutes, half an hour,' and they engage and they...I swear I have seen someone come in and say, ‘They promised to fix my gate, they did not. It's been two years.' ‘We'll fix it.' Followed by the person that said, ‘My neighbor's dogs are harassing my cattle, I want you to do something about it.' ‘Okay, we will.' To someone who says, ‘My son just got a scholarship and I want to introduce him to you all.' To someone saying, ‘You're all on the wrong path and this is why,' and criticizing the government. Never know what's coming through the door. Council likes to point to that and say, ‘We're highly participatory, wide open to our membership, anybody can come in.'

It's hard to stay in touch though. We are larger than Rhode Island. That's the reservation, exterior boundaries. Now homesteading and allotment policies broke us up. The tribe owns about 62 percent, got a checkerboard situation. I'll get to that. It's hard. Actually there are...there's an IT network that keeps all the computer networks together that goes through six different companies going from the lake area toward Missoula trying to keep us all connected. Email does a good job with that. How did we ever try to stay connected? Well, in 1956, Walter McDonald, my great uncle, was on council and he said, ‘We need to tell the people information, crucial information. They keep asking me questions in the grocery store. Let's make this formal.' 1956 they start the Char-Koosta [newspaper]. It's a nod to our last two hereditary chiefs. We adopted a constitution in 1934 or the Indian Reorganization Act and the last two chiefs that we had were Chief Charlo and Chief Koostahtah, put the names together. It went away and came back in '71 and still exists today, the tribal paper. It's still mailed to all tribal members. Includes the [council meeting] minutes. Non-members do subscribe at times without the minutes.

It is not what I would call a true newspaper. It is not free and unfettered. It is not independent. It does have the 'oop-tion,' the ten on council who could take great exception for the content and made it pretty clear no personal grievances, court conflicts and excessive negative attacks on individuals, especially people working for the government. When that decision was made, before I ever came around, it came about partly because previous leadership at the paper thought it should be unfettered and free and they put in many challenges and attacks to the current administration. And that was deemed as feeding into the surrounding anti-Indian groups who are using this dirt to hurt us and destroy our credibility. And the belief was, ‘Let's keep our fights in-house, let's not air them out so the public can see them.' That is what was handed to me as I showed up. Like I said, it's not perfect but I do say it's kind of like the Stars and Stripes, what that is to the U.S. Army. It's informative, but it will not have attacks and I do point to people when they complain about their letter not running that they're protected by that same thing, nobody will be attacking them in a letter as well that is unfair.

However, our world has changed. Anybody seen this movie? It played enough on HBO, whatever, "The Social Network." I love that movie, nerds, rebels and I'm CEO... partner. It's a nice movie but this is real life and it has had a great impact on communications. The community around us has discovered a very quick and efficient way to share ideas although not always accurate. This is the start of a discussion on why council is refusing to put part of the settlement money for minors into IIM accounts. ‘What, are they going to spend it themselves?' He says, ‘Yeah, I know they're going to do that.' The third one down here, ‘I can't believe they're doing that. I know they're doing that, they've done this before, they're stealing from us. I know they do that. I cannot...' It's amaz...when I've got a thick elephant skin I love to read it ‘cause I'm like, ‘How did they get from here to here?' All you've got to do is introduce so-and-so did something and then 20 people jump on it, true or not. Usually when people say...when I say to people, ‘Where's this corruption?' usually it's, ‘Well, I saw it on Facebook.' Okay, well, is that a good source...I don't get into that discussion.

So I call it gossip on steroids. Now, our council does look at it from a very negative light, but I think there's a bigger picture that we can miss. This is membership engaged and even organizing at times on some of their views. There's a petition out there trying to get us to give out more of our settlement money from the Salazar settlement. It's called the Hundred Percenters and about half was given out. They're trying to give out more and they're trying to get petitions and have their way. They're engaged, they're organizing. There are more voices; more voices than there were before, young people engaging. Is it official? No, but the conversations are not unknown to our leadership. They do get elevated. Someone tells someone who tells someone who tells their wife who says, ‘Hey, look on Facebook, you should see what they're saying about your husband or your wife.' And council is aware of this, kind of a back informal channel. Unfortunately the debates, like I said, are often negative, caustic, attacking, based in fear, rumor, imagined corruption. I'm not going to say there never was corruption. We have the same challenges throughout history. I think decades ago probably but they're attacking the wrong corruption in my opinion. It's a turn-off. Some people refuse to get involved or they get involved and they just say, ‘I don't want any part of this.' But my experience in my little education tells me this will eventually evolve, be more sophisticated. Into what, I'm not sure. But it is power and our department heads wanted to hold some of that power. They saw networks that would really help them. These are people, a thousand people actively engaged. How do I get my information into this group? I've asked council directly, ‘Do you want me to jump into this Facebook site, interject some facts?' I'm kind of like jumping into the mob, gladiators in the arena. Are you not entertained? But they said, ‘No, no. Let's not...let them talk of course, free country, but don't...don't jump in.' So I watch once in awhile.

There's been some push-back. When department heads said, ‘We'd like to get into this Facebook thing somehow,' they said, ‘You've got a tribal website. This is front page. There's all kinds of info up there. You've each got a site for your department. You can post things. What's the problem? Why do you need this other toy? Do you just want to surf and have the instant chat feature or what?' So in the end they said, ‘Rob, can you try to come up with a social media policy?' And so I looked at it and I said, ‘Well, let's create a mechanism for departments to create an official tribal government Facebook presence.' They had to explain why it was needed, how they'd moderate it and keep the stuff off it, the name calling and the attacks and how the department has exhausted all other tools. That right there kind of stopped some of departments, ‘cause they're like, ‘Oh, well, we don't really use the website.' ‘Why don't you?' ‘Well, it's too hard.' ‘All you have to do is send text to the IT person and say, ‘Put this up'.' ‘Oh, well, we haven't written that yet.' Well, this is no different. You're still writing, so, ‘okay.' It kind of...it took the glisten off the new toy a little bit. But three departments did.

This is the actual policy; so usually three pages on Microsoft Word, pretty straightforward. I have copies I could email or share. It's not exactly brilliant policy. It just says, ‘Here's what's expected of you and council will ultimately decide the guidelines that guide the paper, guide your content and how is this going to help you, check in with us in six months.' Council has said 'yes' three times, although it's been a split vote, 5-4, 6-3. So far, so good. The People Center, which is kind of like a tribal embassy. They work with the culture committees and present history, stories, museum pieces, classes plus a gift shop. Education Department has found it a great tool to get information on scholarships, success stories, resources for homework. And the Victim's Advocate Program is struggling with it because this is a world where Facebook by inherent nature is wide open in a community, but sometimes you don't want to be wide open if you've got problems at home and you need some help. It's not a network some people are joining for that reason.

Department heads are still asking for some updates but they're still not accepting of it, they still kind of put up with it is probably the best way to put it. And there are some troubles. I'm sure all of you experienced a little bit of this but disgruntled employees have discovered, ‘Hey, this is a great place to talk bad about my boss.' And someone else will go, ‘Yeah, he is a jerk.' And then come back to work and kind of give you the... ‘What? It's a free country.' And our personnel department is kind of like, ‘Well, there's a policy against disrupting the government but they're not protesting, they're not burning down buildings.' I understand this is a big issue in the workforce off the reservation as well. But for the most part it's not used...it's blocked at work, you can't use it at work. You can get special permission to use it for research or department. Our lands department has been very successful in using and tracking down owners of different tracts of land with the newspaper, etc., I think. Four or five different individuals had permission from council to use it. However, it doesn't mean you can't use a smartphone and get out the information that you want to get out ‘cause you can still post on a smartphone and...'Well, I was on break and it's my phone, what's your problem?' It's a challenge.

So engaged versus 'gotcha.' It was a series of bitter communications over months that led to the tribal paper having kind of a restriction of their content. And these bitter communications on Facebook are outside the governmental control for the most part but they are leading to hard feelings. Tribal community does have an independent public forum to hash out these ideas. Sometimes they use facts, which is nice. I hope that'll mature but we're still just dabbling in this social media world and it is starting to have an impact on our official commentary. There's been some happy successes. The tribal paper does have a website, charkoosta.com and I found that I can put a link on Facebook to a story or an announcement and it gets out there circulated very quickly. This is a dinosaur. It is paper delivered into the home once a week and everybody gets it, yes, but that's...in the current era of communications that's pretty slow. But on Facebook, everybody knows pretty quickly. Those who don't know get on Facebook.

We're still looking for the sweet spot. We have trouble communicating to all our membership. There was an incident where we had a bunch of turkeys for the holidays. Somebody in the giant freezer turned the dial...this is how I imagine it. He walked away and he thought, ‘Should I check that dial to see if I do it right? Nah, I'm sure it's fine.' So we have 400 turkeys that spoiled and we're in the process...some got delivered and so how do we get word out, ‘Don't eat the turkey!' That's a critical communication. Luckily it was a department that is actively engaged with...a department that's actively engaged with that population and could reach out very quickly and tell them. And that was...but it was kind of a wake-up call to me, ‘How do we reach these people?' We do a thing called 'everyone email' that goes out to all the employees and if it's really interesting it's forwarded to all their family very easily. That helps but that's not everyone. Tribal paper and the website like I said, kind of. There is no silver bullet. We're looking at a cell phone alert system. Kind of a solution but again doesn't hit everybody. We're looking at 'Indian CNN,' it's what I call it anyway. In our lobby we've got a pilot, this is a screen and I control it from my computer or any computer. I can log in, I can post updates, news and it flashes around. If you go to Char-Koosta, you can see an html version of that and I think this is going to be in all of our buildings here pretty soon.

Room to improve? Definitely. People are involved. I think that's a good thing. There is access to council that we already have; access socially in our community. I think we do a lot of work in the grocery stores. Should people want to get involved? We have all kinds of pathways and invitations to speak up and they do. Whenever someone comes in to complain, which we all know does happen, council is in a position to say, ‘Have you put in for this board? Do you want to say on this? Do you want to affect tribal credit? Do you want to be a say over this corporation? You can apply to be on this board.' It's been very effective to say...in fact, some of these boards don't have enough people apply sometimes. ‘We need your...you care that much, please help us.' It's been very effective to engage them. And it's kind of a grooming for them in their future political leadership. Facebook offers unofficial forums, but again with the freedoms I hear them say, ‘We're saying all this great stuff but can't we make council do anything?' I see that they're almost there. They're realizing we're having great talks, but we need to connect it to the government and I think that might be the next step that we're going to see. I could just tell them that but they're not going to listen to me I don't think. They have to find their path.

Okay, quickly. Looking outside. We live on a reservation where we are a minority in our homeland. It's been that way since 1934. We were homesteaded in 1910, allotments and whatnot. So we have our lands, then we've got theirs and theirs and theirs and theirs. As our D.C. lobbyist says, ‘They stole the land fair and square.' Obviously being a minority in our homeland, allotment, some say it's the worst thing ever done to us, but it's perceptions that come from not knowing us. Those perceptions led to federal policies that thought we needed to be assimilated for our own good. There's a lot more other impacts of this ignorance that I'm seeing. Ignorance does hurt us. I see so commonly lawmakers, educators, leaders, business entities, make decisions that impact us based on bad information and it became clear that our tribal story needed to be better established. We've been telling it, but it's not sticking and for some reason I think we were shooting too high. We had our best, our smartest, our most passionate giving presentations on sovereignty, self-governance and history and afterward I learned something. I think we kind of duped ourselves. We see Michelangelo, ‘The greatest danger for most of us is that we don't aim high enough.' I think that is important, but I think in our situation we were aiming too high. We were missing the ground floor. We did not realize how unschooled our neighbors were.

Actual questions I've gotten recently. ‘Can non-Indians buy land on your reservation?' Not that dumb of a question I suppose, but without fail someone's going to come up, ‘That's a great talk on sovereignty and the socio-economic impacts of this and that and historic trauma, however, do you want to be called Indian or Native American?' I'm like, ‘Really? That's what you got out of that brilliant talk of our Ph.D. and social scientist?' ‘Where's your Indian village?' Wow! Max Rehberg has a staffer who has a daughter-in-law who came to the rez with a camera and asked me to take her to the Indian village, people in loin cloths, fires, teepees. I said, ‘Well, we've got tulle mats too.' ‘Where's the real Indians?' Ya'll hear that. But a light goes on. We're talking way over the head. People lack essential understandings to understand the more complex ideas. How do we do that? I got right to the heart of it. What are 10 things I never want to hear said again about my people? And I did an informal poll in the building, I did emails to our administrators, I did emails to the community and staff and I gathered this information and it was pretty amazing how the list was pretty consistent. I brought in some talent ‘cause I can't really do a great website and I found some people that said, ‘You know, we can do animation.' ‘How much is that going to cost?' ‘Not that much.' ‘Wow! Okay, let's keep talking, let's keep talking.' And council always said, ‘People must know they live on our reservation.' They just don't get that in our community. The county seat in Polson, I had a high school kid call me up and wanted to do a story on border towns because Polson has high racism and border towns have high racism, ‘I want to do a story on Polson.' I said, ‘Well, you do realize Polson is on the reservation, it's not a border town?' The kid was like, ‘Oh, okay.' Excused himself and never called me again. It's just they don't know where they are.

Therezweliveon.com. I guess you got played a video yesterday so we can spare that. Ten videos addressing 10 things I never want to hear again and it does it in about a 45-second clip, much faster than I can. That's taken on a life of its own far beyond anything I expected. Ya'll play it to people. I'm so flattered. I did not know that until recently. I know people have asked for it. It still gets hits. It's going through an upgrade. UC San Diego law school professor wrote me and said he assigns it to his Intro to Indian Law students. Vine Deloria, Jr. wrote me, not Vine Deloria, Jr., Philip Deloria, Vine Deloria's son, Ph.D., social scientist wrote me and said, ‘Great site.' It's on to something. It's information that I heard the state is using to train the tribal police. It's still hitting in 50 states. Well, it started out hitting in 50 states. It's kind of tampered back to just Indian Country. I did learn a happy accident, so I'll share that with you, is that educators in the classroom in our community, they have a mixed population and the kids start fighting when they talk about history, Indian, non-Indian, ‘Your parents get tax dollars that my dad pays for,' that kind of B.S. Well, the teacher wants to stop the conflict and the teacher may or may not know that one of these two kids is repeating myths, incorrect information and if not outright racial fueled ignorance. Well, the teacher is not allowed to say to the ignorant one, ‘You're wrong. You're just out wrong,' ‘cause that kid will go home, tell his parents, the parents will come to the school, go to the school board, teacher...so they're paralyzed. I did not know that. Now they can go, ‘I understand you think this and you think that. Let's see what the tribes have to say. Here's their story.' So the ignorance is so deep a teacher can't hit it. I ended up giving them a tool and didn't realize it. Like I said, the upgrade's coming and I think it's important.

My message is: as tribal nations, embrace getting your story out. Don't underestimate the impact of the ignorance to the systems around us. And realize that sometimes the gatekeepers that talk about issues that we're doing like in education...I just saw this picture online and I can be a shallow person. This might be an Indian man for all I know. He might be married to an Indian woman. He might be very schooled on the intricacies of Indian history and policy and he may not be smirking talking about Indian education or casting it in light that somehow we're getting another handout from the government. He may be our best ally but my instinct at looking at this picture was, ‘Do I want this guy telling thousands of viewers, ‘This is what's going on with Indian education...' It wouldn't be my first choice but maybe that's me being shallow. I don't know.

My hope ultimately is that other tribes follow through with their own public education campaign and other tribes have contacted me, thought about doing something similar. I heard there's a national effort that's been trying to get off the ground from a company out of Seattle called Pyramid Communications. I kind of view that like a bumblebee. Maybe it'll fly but its wings are a little small. I hope it flies. I hope it doesn't care it's too big to fly. But from my point of view, this formula has worked to some degree and maybe it offers something to you all. [Salish language]."

 

Jason Goodstriker: Addressing Tough Governance Issues

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Former Blood Tribe Councilor Jason Goodstriker discusses how his nation went to great lengths to instill financial transparency and accountability to its governance system.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Goodstriker, Jason. "Addressing Tough Governance Issues." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2009. Presentation.

"Thank you. Good morning, everybody. Great to be here and thanks, Manley [Begay]. You're very kind and congratulations again on last night. I've put in a lot of years myself and I know about getting over the hump. I was just coming down here to the group to be...I was excited about speaking. And then I see a lot of my relatives here; these are the North Blackfeet from Siksika. And Vincent and I have been friends. And it's just like that; just when you get a chance to get out of town and be far away, somebody from home shows up. It's good to see all of my friends here. We have...I've got to start with a joke. So we were talking yesterday about people that can remember back. And these three Indians were sitting there talking to each other about how far they can remember back. And the first one says, ‘I can remember back to going to residential school, when they took me and brought me there.' And the second guy, ‘Ah, that's nothing.' He said, ‘I can remember back farther than that. I can remember my grandfather holding me and giving me my Indian name.' And the third one says, ‘That's nothing.' He says, ‘I can remember going to the powwow with my dad and coming home with my mom.' I can't tell jokes like that at the powwow; since there's no kids here. Chief [Michael] Mitchell and I were able to go golf yesterday, with the kindness of the group here. And so we were able to go out. And I was telling him, I said, ‘Chief, why don't we switch presentations? What I would have known now and that type of thing.' And I said, ‘I'll just go up there and I'll talk about nothing but booze and women.' And that was kind of what we were joking around about on the course. But anyway, there's great stuff that I think I would encourage you to do.

And I'll tell you a little short story about a friend of mine; he's a colleague. He's one of the chiefs out in the Atlantic. And Rick Simon is one of the regional chiefs that I served with. How many of you can shorthand? I know there's some people in here that can shorthand, maybe one or two people. You know how to shorthand? Anyways, it was a little skill that they taught many, many years ago for a lot of people that were in media. And Rick Simon went to journalism school. So when he was elected -- and this goes back to the early '90s -- when he was elected he used to sit there -- and right up until now he's still sitting as the Atlantic chief -- and he would shorthand verbatim in black notebooks, his journals. And he has word for word what all was spoken in every major Canadian political event, all of the assembly meetings, everything. He has it word for word written down, who said what and at what time. And he has about 50 volumes of this of just handwritten notes. And I asked him, ‘What are you going to do with that?' And he says, ‘Oh, I have plans.' But for those young leaders that are here, you'll always think back. And I moved, my wife and I, we moved to Calgary and I looked back at all my old notes. Keep the good stuff. Keep the good stuff around and you'll reference that in the future. You'll go back to that stuff and you'll think about, ‘Geez, what was I going through then.' And write down notes. Take notes. Take good notes, even if it's a small journal. That's one advice. Second advice I would say, always, always, always -- never forget -- bring business cards, everywhere. You never know who you're going to run in to, whether it's on a plane or in a hotel lobby or wherever it is, always bring business cards; don't ever not bring them. A couple tidbits.

Anyway, excuse me. While we get going I want to run through this real quick. And this is just a presentation that I'd done at an auditing. I have finance background. I have an accountant and a few people that I've traveled with that have been part of that. I'm in this, the Haskin School of Business in Calgary right now, and like Manley mentioned, this is only my first semester taking a couple courses. I'm an arts and science guy going into the MBA. And the MBA, I don't have no B Comm, I don't have no Management or anything like that. All of the stuff that I learned is from the street. And so it has its pluses and its minuses. I don't know if you've ever seen the movie Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield. That's me. So they kind of go through the theory and then they look at me, ‘How does it really work out there?' So we go through the bit.

Most of these speak for themselves. The context of the audit; when it comes down to the audit and financial process, there's a lot of -- in fact this morning I was talking with a tribal official up in Montana and she said that there was a lot of mishandling. Everybody seems to love this discussion of Indians mishandling money, especially when it comes down to big money and all that. And it just seems to be a vacuum of a microscope. Well, that's not always the case. And you look at this. I don't work for the New York Stock Exchange. I didn't come down here to bash Americans. I want to come back again. The context, look at else who has problems: Conrad Black, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac, the treasury. And what it all amounts to is trillions of dollars in losses, rescue packages; they're big. And when it comes back to how we build this, it really -- there's a slide that's coming up -- and what it is it's laying the foundations and the base for many of the doings that you're going to do.

What else has happened in the...as we discuss many of these items here, I'd like to point out that setting the foundation for the community is important enough that we go about and we've got to establish the relationships of your community with not only itself -- it's a healing process -- but also with outside communities and your towns -- the little racist towns that we all grew up with in the area. You have to bridge those, make those bridges, make those inroads and that's quite important, which kind of leads to where it is our involvement was. There's many, many things that have been mentioned a little bit. The United States and Canada coming out...back in the day, in the old days of Indian leadership, especially in Canada, it's written out what the delegated powers of chief and council are. And for the most part, pre-1960s they were talking about fence lines, they were talking about cattle projects, they were talking about agriculture, they were talking about a lot of simple things, but they were difficult and they didn have their challenges. As you ramp up the experience to today, you look at your authorities and what you have to decide over: health, education, social service, the safety nets, economic development. So you're dealing with a gamut of things and you have to be that much better prepared, which makes it quite a challenge for all of the new and the young leaders here today. And I don't need to tell you all about that.

So one of the things that I...(See, I get paid by the slide. That's why I put lots of them in here.) In terms of the auditing process -- and these are again just helpful notes and I would encourage you just to look at them as we, as you head home, head on the plane, but I'll kind of build it all the way up to page eight, if you look at it, cleaning up. And what's the easiest thing to do when it comes to the process here? It's an important concept. Tomorrow and today's walls are built by foundations and the foundations is the finance process. It is traditional, it is language, it is culture, it is having foundations of who you are as people, but when you look at it through a finance point of view you have to build the integrity of your people through the finance process. And that's the language that the Bureau reads, that's the language that funding grant people read, that's the language that the government and banks and loaning organizations -- they all read that. And so when you're prepared and you're designed properly, the dreams of economic development, the economic development projects, if you need a line of credit to do a budget overrun for one of your departments, you have to have the financial integrity all there and together. And that's, that can be quite a challenge because you've got to build that house almost by hand and brick for brick. It's exciting work; it's tough work. And the case study that... We never think about ‘we're in governance.'

Ten years ago, when I was in office, I never thought, ‘Well, this is a governance thing. I want to do it this way and I hope that it's going to get done.' What happened was is we had a $5-6 million project -- we were partnered with another group, they had $5-6 million in, the federal government had $4 million in on this project -- and it tanked. The year before I was elected in 2000, in 1999 the telecom market blew out. And so we had a $14-15 million project that was in our face. Anyway, I had nothing to do with that and I took office. So here I am. I put this project into receivership, wasn't popular. [I] went to the Band meeting and oh, they came in on me big time. ‘You...!' And I was just sitting there kind of taking it all in. And it wasn't fun, it wasn't easy. So I was thinking: there's got to be a better way to deal with this.

Now in most finance processes with communities, whether it's Bureau or reporting, all that mechanism, it always comes back to the audit -- audit, audit, audit. So on the money side -- when it comes to the audit and the discussion of this -- those Band meetings, you sit there and everybody's kind of coming in on you and you're discussing money spent. Well, I was sitting at home watching TV and the Canadian government was just getting ready to present their budget. And I was thinking of how to transfer interest. How is it that I can transfer interest? [Because] as one of the minor chiefs, I was made chairman of finance. So I was sitting there and watching and sure enough I thought, ‘Okay, I'm going to do it this way.'

So I went into the finance meeting. I said, ‘Let's make a budget speech. Let's make a budget speech and let's create this.' ‘Okay.' So 27 departments, we had $140 million to decide. And it's changed dramatically since then but these are 10-year-old numbers. So we had all of the millions of dollars, so we -- and this is the regular budget process where everybody submits their budget, then there's two percent that's discussed. And what happens is you decide, you cut here, you add there and then you make it process. The old way, in council chambers -- and we even used to smoke. When I was still sitting, when I first was elected you could still smoke in council. I don't know if many of you can today. But it's a smoky room, maybe there's one woman in there and you pass the budget and everybody kind of grumbles and they walk away. Well, I never figured that that was good enough. And so transferring interest and transferring ideas was we started to concentrate on the budget.

So the budget process, we got it passed. And just like the Canadian Parliament, I put on new moccasins -- like the finance minister puts on new shoes -- and the speech from the throne comes through and I said, ‘Okay, here it is,' counted my votes -- never bring anything to a council unless you know where your votes are -- counted my votes -- I knew it was all there -- I had a seconder so the chair turned it over to me, cameras went on and I started reading. ‘Tomorrow's education is a priority for the Blood Tribe members and because of that we see this design and that design and we are dedicating to this budget year $5.6 million. Health is the priority of the future...' and it went on and on and on and on. So there's a budget speech and right at the end -- as if I wasn't dancing enough -- right at the end I put, ‘and God save the Blood Tribe, the Blackfoot Confederacy, and God Save the Queen.' And that's how most budget speeches end. So they kind of end like that. And that was exciting enough for me. But on top of that we took it to the streets. So we voted it through. The council liked it; we voted it through. And to this day, it's still the process that exists.

So we rounded up the media, not just the tribe, the whole media around southern Alberta, Calgary. So they have satellite trucks, big scrum, five, six cameras and we released the budget. So the white people were like, ‘What are these guys doing?' The Bureau people were like, ‘Wow!' They couldn't think of it and they couldn't think of how much words to put behind it because there we were front and center outlining the money that we're dedicating to this, to health, education, Ec. Dev., Ag., all of the line items. And so that night, just like they would be reporting the Canadian budget, they were reporting our budget. And on the teleprompter, they're flashing $5.6 million, $7 million, $10 million, $12 million and it's going on and on. And people are like, so that's what's going on on the reserve. And it diffused all of the anger related to audits. So as that would come to an end, that's how we transferred -- instead of thinking about the old, think about the new. I never thought that I'd be in Arizona ten years later when I designed that, and never thought it was governance, but it ended up being something like that. But it's being creative.

So in the end, I just wanted to say that there is a finance crisis going on right now. If you built a house of bricks, you're going to...because one thing Indians we know how to do, we know how to be broke. And maybe that's what we have to teach the world through something like this that we've experienced over the past year we have lessons that we can help better with. So again, just on the final page, final slide I just wanted to, there's my contact information. I do have cards. I'll be again open for questions, but I'll wrap it up right here and I'll just say that one of the involvements of our group, Treaty 7, and it's an idea that we brought forward and we've passed it. NCAI [National Congress of American Indians] is the thing down here; up north it's the AFN [Assembly of First Nations]. But more than that, we have a big, major, major, major gathering in July and I want to invite you to that. I have contact information -- 633 chiefs in Canada, one million Indians in the land north of the 49th, and [in] July we're voting in our new national chief. I don't know if the current one is going to run again. I served with him. It's going to be in Calgary and we're anticipating about 5,000 Indians, right after the stampede. So after the cowboys are gone, the Indians will be there. Again, thank you and that's all I have to say." 

Sheila Morago, Jill Peters, and Theresa M. Pouley: Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Sheila Morago, Jill Peters, and Theresa M. Pouley field questions from the audience concerning lobbying, the importance of public education about tribal sovereignty and development, and how the Tulalip Tribal Court deals with fetal alcohol syndrome and its effects. 

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Morago, Sheila. "Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Peters, Jill. "Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Pouley, Theresa M. "Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Audience member:

"This is a question for Sheila. What's your feelings on the effectiveness of like short DVDs in lobbying? I testified at a language bill and this other tribe brought in a short DVD and it had their elders interviewed, their children, and it's talking about the impacts of learning the language in the schools. And it seemed to be very positive, pretty short, but do people spend time to actually watch them?"

Sheila Morago:

"Actually they probably do, especially if it's an issue that's coming up and is very relevant to something that is going to get voted on. What I would say that if you're going to do that, you don't want to show it while you're sitting there unless it's really short. Sit there, encourage the person that you're talking to to watch it. And especially if it's something that has your elders, your children, a group consensus of how this is going to affect you, all of that works. Again, they want to see how it affects the tribe itself and those tribal members. So absolutely any, [because] the last thing they want to see, to be real honest with you -- Jill working in Senator McCain's office -- is someone walking up and handing you a stack of paper this big and say, 'Here's the background on this. Can you read that before the vote tomorrow?' It goes shoo! right back there. So one of the things, that is a quick and easy way for someone to get all their listening, seeing and being able to get that very quickly so that's a great idea.

James R. Gray:

"I wanted to ask a question of [Jill]. If you had...I know in one case on our reservation we have a grocery store that's owned by the tribe. And it's a good case study on how to deal with something in kind of a crisis moment because we had bought a going concern from a non-Indian business owner who was going to close his business so we took it over. A significant number of our tribal members lived in that town but it was serving everybody there. And one day the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture walked in and did a survey like they always do on that store owner's maintenance of the WIC [Women, Infants and Children program] and food stamp program. And we were carrying out that contract within our tribe, but at the grocery store level it put us in a completely different role. And in that circumstance they fined us. Not because we were charging too much for the program, we weren't charging enough. We were cheapening our own business. For some reason, it was just a mistake on our end at the management level, but we ended up cheating us. But they said, "˜Well, we brought this to your attention on four different occasions and your manager never fixed it. So now we're going to have to fine you.' And as embarrassing as that was, we said, "˜Well, can we apply the fine in the form of a payment for contracted services?' Because what we didn't have in our tribe was a health department of agriculture that was going to do this anyway. Had we had that, we would have provided that assistance, but since we didn't have it we entered into an agreement with the State of Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to pay them to come and monitor that program. Because the Daily Oklahoman made a big story about this and put it on the front page of the newspaper that Chief Gray and the Osage Tribe were kicking out the State of Oklahoma off the reservation for being cited for health department issues, which created a freak-out among the community that something was wrong with our grocery store. And so they never corrected it of course, but we entered into this agreement where rather than accept jurisdiction of the state into our grocery store, we just paid them to come on and make sure that those programs were running right and everyone got to save face. And we left the jurisdictional fights for other bigger issues [because] you didn't want to get into a big court fight over something that you didn't do right, but because the issue of jurisdiction would never have been heard properly in the right context. So the suggestion I wanted to ask, maybe you could speak to is, could you talk about how important it is to pick your fights and ways in which you want to advance your interest as you're protecting your rights as well?"

Jill Peters:

"Sure. And I think that's a very important point, because you're going to have a whole range of issues that will be coming before tribal governments. And some of those may be some of these, I don't want to say it's a small issue, but at the same time you're going to have bigger issues dealing with the state, that you're going to have to deal with on that and are going to really have long-term impacts. And that really is going to be a balancing of the tribal leaders' responsibilities. You really have to set priorities and when you're developing your agenda you really have to think forward. "˜Well, these are the issues that we're going to deal with and we want to address.' And maybe on a very large or overarching level, part of that is to say, "˜Well, we need to look at where we are lacking in our resources. Where are we lacking? Maybe we don't have that State Department of Health. So we need to look at well, how are we going to fill that gap?' So part of that may be a bigger policy type of approach where you decide, "˜Well, let's talk to the local [government] or let's talk to the state and maybe we can try to develop that cooperative approach.' So that way, again it comes down to the tribal government kind of determining priorities. And I think you also have, in some ways it helps to have someone who can handle your PR [public relations] in a way that can help manage those messages as well. So when you have these kind of like little fires that come up, they can help the tribal government sort of help manage so that the wrong message is not being communicated to the community members who are out there who don't have the privilege or knowledge of what the tribal government is doing. So again, it's probably not going to be a very simple reply or answer to that, but again it's a matter of the tribal government determining what are the priorities, looking at areas where maybe they're lacking in resources and trying to see how they can make up for that in resources. And some of that may be a little preemptive. You may be thinking ahead about problems that you may not have at this point in time, but you have to look at, "˜Well, if you have checker-boarded lands and you have checker-boarded jurisdiction in your community, what are some of the issues that may come up as a result of some of those conflicting jurisdiction issues.' So it's not a very uncommon issue. It could be a gas station, it could be something else. You may have a gas bill. How do you deal with that? It's an individual owner and you have checker-boarded land and then -- you want to be able to kind of anticipate some of these issues. So some of that may be looking ahead, being a little more proactive, rather than reactive. So and again it comes back to the tribal leaders determining some priorities, having some good planners, having a good PR person. Some of those things can help manage some of those issues. And again it may just be looking for other avenues of resources that are out there. What are the tribal communities doing maybe to kind of help address some of these issues? I don't know if that directly answers your question or if anybody else has anything to offer on that particular issue."

Audience member:

"Yesterday, Sophie Pierre mentioned that tribes must be the authors of their own stories and also, Chairman [Anthony] Pico said tribes must be more transparent and project a better image, because ultimately it will be the voters who decide the fate of many of these Indian issues. My experience is that tribes could do a lot better job here in this area especially in engaging their local communities. You've talked a lot about engaging the political structures, and particularly in Washington. My experience again, when tribes do engage public relations, it's often an outside firm that has little knowledge or understanding of Indians or of the local community, and that few tribes actually take the time to explain what they're doing with their communities on their websites. So my question to you is what can tribes do more to better tell their own stories, particularly with local communities and with local citizens who will decide many of these issues for us, like it or not?"

Sheila Morago:

"PR is something new for tribes and it's really difficult for them to make that transition. We're taught very quickly, especially -- I work in the gaming parts, so talking about how much money you make, what you're doing with it, how your charitable contributions are being made -- to be real honest with you, that's very tough. We're taught not to brag and that's kind of bragging. So one of the things that we do a lot, especially here in Arizona, you have to be pretty transparent. Chairman Pico's right. A lot of this, especially when it comes to gaming, is voted on by the people. We just went through our referendum in Arizona in 2002. California just went through theirs just recently and before that. One of the things that we do particularly is we publish an annual report -- and they're actually out on the table right now. Every year Arizona does an annual report that tells how much money we made, statewide -- not individual tribes. We tell how much money went to the state and one of the great things that one of the tribes does is TGen, they give some of their money to TGen, which is great. We have to work with local communities. Those people are going to be the people who are voting on our particular issues if it comes down to a gaming issue. So if you're asked to speak at community meetings, you go. If you can be part of any type of cities and towns forum, you go. You want to be the resource. So you want to have an intergovernmental relations person that is within the political structure of the governor's office or the state legislature or your representatives. Anytime that there is an opportunity to speak, you speak. Anytime you have a reporter call you, you answer. That is one of the biggest things that really that you'll see in any type of newspaper article. All attempts to contact a tribal representative were not answered and you're like, 'Kch!' So it's difficult because --especially if you're dealing with something that's bad -- you really don't want to be the front person. And as we all know, it's very hard for anybody to be the one spokesman for the tribe. And that is something that has to get done on a tribal level that the council and the tribal leadership actually gives that responsibility to somebody. And that's a difficult issue, too. Everybody is in different parts of that in developing all of that. But once you get very good at it, you'll realize the benefits that happen with that. All of a sudden you're not the bad person. And sometimes you can spin it to where you're the hurt person in the deal and it helps a lot, especially when you're dealing in intergovernmental relations and doing cross-jurisdictional things. The more people know about you, the easier it is for them to understand where it is you're coming from when you're dealing with that stuff."

Jill Peters:

"Yeah, I know intergovernmental relations, when I talk about it, it sounds a lot easier than I think, in practicality, it is, and for a lot of reasons. And I think one of those main things is information and sharing information and it really is a hard thing to do. And tribal governments, as Sheila mentioned, are sort of now just coming onto par of actually having web pages and putting things on their web pages, sending out press releases. A lot of tribal communities that I work with do have newsletters. So they send out newsletters, but these may be only quarterly or something else. So they don't include -- it's very limited information. So, as Sheila mentioned, it is helpful to have someone who can be working on PR issues for you and be able to give information out, especially to neighboring communities. I work in Phoenix, so one of the issues that is constantly dealt with are the communities that live within the city boundaries of Phoenix. So you have a community where one road separates Scottsdale from a tribal community. I mean you literally walk on one side you're in a tribe and you walk on the other side you're within the city. It's taken many, many years, but these two communities have learned to work together. And it's not always easy, but I think they do a lot of information sharing as well. I can't speak to exactly what that is, but I think at least they know who to call if they have questions. So there's a contact person. Also, some communities establish working groups with other jurisdictions so that they meet on an annual basis -- or what other type of regular basis -- and they just share information and they share different areas of priority that they're working on and see where different areas of -- they match where they might be able to work together. So I think there's a variety of ways that you can deal with that issue but it's just again, it may be that there's not someone on the ground whose taken that responsibility, or is not assigned that responsibility, or there's not resources to deal with that issue. But communication really has to be a key part of tribal government for a lot of reasons. Again, if you don't know what's happening in your neighboring community, they're not going to know what's happening in yours. And so if you keep operating in that mode, chances are someone's going to take an action that's going to negatively impact you or vice versa. So I think really it just has to be a priority again at the tribal level. Someone has to reach out, whether it's the tribe or the local community. If you're working with the other community reaching out really is the first step."

Gwen Phillips:

"I have a quick comment. It's just exactly what you're speaking about here. Chief Sophie [Pierre] had to leave the room because we have reporters asking about a purchase of land and did we support it and all this other stuff. So I was madly looking for support for her, as a director, to give her. So my job as a staff is to make sure I've got all of that information and then to feed it to her, in a timely manner and a concise manner, so she can do her job. My question is actually for Theresa, Judge Theresa. I was the Director of Education for our nation for ten years. And Sophie had alluded to our having done a full Psych Ed assessment of our school-aged population in the early 90s. And we had assessed, at about, 40 percent-plus fetal alcohol syndrome; fetal alcohol affects. We had a very intensive program operating for a good dozen years addressing fetal alcohol affects, but we repeatedly and continually -- in all systems out there that are designed to assist individuals in growth -- come up against brick walls all over the place. Not our own brick walls, of course, but those of the institutions that we have to deal with. And I'm wondering what approach, if any, that your nation has taken in addressing this, because these are the ones that are the circles?"

Theresa Pouley:

"Well, there's a couple of really important issues. One of them is fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol affect. And Tulalip does a great job about this. And it's the judge's job to make sure the state court thinks we're doing an okay job from a due process perspective, but Tulalip has taken the position that unborn children belong to the tribe. So if you are a substance-abusing mother who's in the court system, there is some possibility you may sit out your pregnancy in jail because it's our responsibility to those children not to have them be subjected to that. That's a pretty hard line and that's a hard thing to do as a tribal council person. I don't want to sort of minimize that, but there is this huge recognition of that. Wellness courts themselves, which institutionalize a structure -- weekly meetings, weekly reporting -- actually that works great for people with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol affect. So for our clients that have those particular issues, it's working really well. And the sort of last one is how do you get it started. I think Tulalip is sort of like the perfect example of anywhere you want. The chief of police took the resolution to the board of directors -- not the tribal court judge -- the chief of police. The chief judge was doing it on the ground already. The board of directors passed a resolution. It is a most amazing thing when you can empower your judge to invite people to the table, because if the judge invites you to come sit, lots of people come and sit. So it's kind of a surprising tool that you can use to be able to orchestrate that. So I hope I got all three of your issues."

Gwen Phillips:

"Yeah. I'm just -- the reason I'm saying that is because we're in modern-day treaty negotiations. So we have the federal and the provincial governments that we're negotiating with. And we had tabled with them our intent to strike both within our liquor control legislation and our child protection legislation, the very thing that you spoke of. And they were just freaking out big-time talking about the charter of rights and freedoms and da, da, da, da, da. So exactly like you say, once the woman has made the choice to keep that baby, that baby belongs to us. So I'm pleased and will probably be in touch with you to figure out how we work it out systemically."

Joan Timeche:

"Thank you very much."

Theresa Pouley:

"If tribal court judges have a job, that's it. We have to figure out how to put a Western-style justice system face on remedies that are tribal. So that's our job and we take that job real seriously. Now we'll see, we may have Roe vs. Wade in Tulalip Tribal Court any day and I'll let you know how that comes out." 

A Better Education for Native Students: The Morongo Method

Year

The Morongo School offers a promising way for Indian nations and communities to educate their children so they have a firm foundation in their own culture, and acquire skills to gain entry and complete college...

Resource Type
Citation

Champagne, Duane. "A Better Education for Native Students: The Morongo Method." Indian Country Today Media Network. September 03, 2013. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/a-better-education-for-native-students-the-morongo-method, accessed February 23, 2023)