sustainable development

Project Pueblo: Economic Development Revitalization Project

Year

A strong economy is one of the foundations of a healthy community. Native nations use business profits and tax revenues to invest in areas such as health, education, culture, and public safety programs to meet the needs of tribal citizens. At the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a sudden economic decline in the early 2000s forced the nation to re-examine the way in which business was being conducted on the reservation. The tribal government responded by launching Project Pueblo, a full-scale planning initiative that took a hard look at all aspects of their economy and government to find a new path forward.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Project Pueblo: Economic Development Revitalization Project." Honoring Nations: 2010 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2011. Report.

Gila River Indian Community Air Quality Program

Year

In recent years, tribal governments in the United States have passed sophisticated laws and regulations to manage social and economic development in their communities. Although air quality is an important aspect of both economic growth and human health, very few Native nations have successfully extended their sovereignty into the air. Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) is the first tribe in the country to develop a comprehensive plan that regulates air pollution within the boundaries of its reservation. The plan is recognized by other governments and gives the tribe control over all of the emission-causing activities that occur within its territory. By designing its own air quality program, the community can manage the activities that are important to tribal citizens while preserving a healthy atmosphere.

Resource Type
Citation

"Air Quality Program." Honoring Nations: 2010 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2011. Report.

Transcending Borders in Tribal Nation-Building

Year

Dr. Stephen Cornell addressed the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, House of Commons, in Ottawa, Canada. The following is the excerpted transcript from his address, which, among other things, discusses what really does and should matter to Indigenous peoples--whether they reside within the borders of the United States or Canada--when they attempt to engage in the often difficult process of tribal nation-building...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Cornell, Stephen. "Transcending Borders in Tribal Nation-Building." Red Ink: A Native American Student Publication. Vol. 8, No. 2. American Indian Studies Program, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2000: 57-62. Article.

Blackfeet Nation's Siyeh Corporation

Year

For years the Blackfeet Nation struggled to create sustainable tribal enterprises that could produce revenue for the nation and meet the needs of its citizens for jobs and services. Many of these efforts did not succeed because of conflicts within the tribal government. In 1999, the Nation tried a new strategy. It established a federally chartered, tribally owned corporation designed to manage businesses on behalf of the government and to protect those businesses from inappropriate political influence. Named after a great Blackfeet warrior known for his fearless leadership, the Siyeh Corporation today runs multiple businesses including a cable television company, a heritage center, an art gallery, and two casinos. The Corporation promotes economic growth and stability while preserving Blackfeet cultural and traditional values. Siyeh is changing the economic landscape of an impoverished reservation, increasing the Blackfeet Nation’s revenues and enhancing Blackfeet self-government.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Siyeh Corporation". Honoring Nations: 2005 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2006. Report.

Permissions

This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Oneida Nation Farms

Year

In the 1820s, a portion of the Oneida people of New York moved to Wisconsin, where they took up their accustomed practices as farmers. Over the next hundred years, the Oneida Nation lost nearly all its lands and much of its own agrarian tradition. In 1978, the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin established the Oneida Nation Farms, beginning with only 150 acres of land and 25 head of cattle. Today, the operation includes over 8,000 acres of agricultural and conservation lands; 400 cattle; 100 buffalo; and major crops such as soybeans and corn, and diverse produce such as apples, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, snap beans, squash, and pumpkins. Oneida Nation Farms is a successful, profitable enterprise based on sustainable development, environmental stewardship, respect for the value of whole foods, and a healthy diet for Oneida citizens. Founded on the philosophy that the current generation must consider the impact of its actions on the next seven generations, Oneida Nation Farms nourishes the Oneida people in multiple ways.

Resource Type
Citation

"Oneida Nation Farms". Honoring Nations: 2005 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2006. Report.

Permissions

This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Patricia Riggs: Making Change Happen at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Producer
Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute
Year

Patricia Riggs, Director of Economic Development at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP), discusses how YDSP has developed and honed a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to ciutizen engagement over the past decade in order to ensure that the decisions the YDSP government make reflect and enact the will of YDSP citizens.

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

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Riggs, Patricia. "Making Change Happen at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo." Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. St. Paul, Minnesota. February 6, 2014. Presentation.

Ian Record:

“So without further ado, I want to introduce Patricia Riggs. As I mentioned earlier, Patricia is the Director of Economic Development for Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso, Texas. We’ve worked with Ysleta del Sur for a number of years sort of off and on and we’re often asked to come and teach, do executive education with some of their leadership or program managers and so forth, and what we often find is that we end up learning a heck of a lot more from them than we actually teach them. We consider them one of the breakaway tribes that are really enacting these nation-building principles we’ve talked about and doing it in very culturally distinct ways. Patricia is going to talk about actually making change happen, how did they actually make change happen because they were faced with a crisis about 12, 13 years ago now, 2002, that threatened to really derail the nation and how did they come from that point where, listening to you guys talk, where a lot of your nations are, the struggles that you’re having and how do you actually begin to go down that nation-building road. So without further ado, Patricia Riggs. Thank you very much, Patricia, for joining us and enduring the cold weather.”

Patricia Riggs:

“Thank you very much. I’m really glad to be here. I know I emailed Ian yesterday and asked if it was still on because it was one degrees, and to me that’s like really a catastrophe because we don’t get that kind of weather. So I guess to you it’s pretty normal. I’m here and I’m really happy to be here and I want to share with you some of the things that we’ve done at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We’ve actually done quite a bit of work over the last 10 years and I know and I feel how you’re struggling to get everybody involved in what you’re doing. So I’m glad to share the practices of the programs, as well as the strategic plans and how we implemented them at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

One of the things that we really truly believe in is citizen engagement and we do it as a comprehensive approach. So we get everybody involved in whatever program or project that we’re working on and at first it was really, really difficult. We really didn’t have a plan, we didn’t have a structure and we just kind of figured it out as we went along, but what we’re doing now is we’re looking back and kind of evaluating our successes and coming up with a model, not just for ourselves, but to share it with other tribes as well, and also teaching that model within our own community to the different programs so that they can follow it.

So as far as community engagement is concerned, we really believe that all our tribal members have to be involved in the planning and decision-making, and especially when it comes to a particular issue. If it’s something that could be life changing for the tribe or has just significant meaning, we make sure that we get that input from our tribal community. And then the other thing is…one of the things is we really try to make sure that it’s not just one group or one person kind of setting the agenda for what we’re trying to change because that involvement from the community is necessary in order to get the buy in for the project. And then also just listening and respecting the community and leadership and elders, all your people that are going to help support this program. So at the end, you get all that feedback that you got for the community and that’s the tool that you use in order to make an informed decision.

So as we worked over the years with the community and we came up with different plans and program models -- as I said earlier -- we looked back and kind of started to look at what we actually did and at first we used things that were like theories and models and things that were developed by academia and what we realized is that all the time we had to tweak them. We were constantly tweaking them to make them meet our needs. So what we determined is really this is what our comprehensive model is at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

First you have to have a purpose and a passion. So we all know our purpose as leaders in our tribe, that we’re there to preserve and to do things for our community so that we can build stronger communities but…and so we all have passion for that, but we also have to break down that purpose into more detailed objective so that we can have a plan for what we’re doing. So we also harvest ideas and input from the community and along the way we have to find those core champions. There’s the people that will help you in the community to get things done and then…

So what you’re doing now with this action plan is you’re visualizing and assessing your community and then you’re going to plan. So you also have to measure the outcomes and impacts and at the end you have to have the data that something changed or that something was improved and you have to report the results. And I have ‘report the results’ at the end, but it actually takes place all the way through.

So this is that same model with a little more background to it. So for us the things as far as purpose and passion, includes really looking at what the Pueblo needs are. So our needs are always about our values and our culture and traditions and governance, but then you also break down those things into the other things that are necessary to survive today. So the purpose or the passion for your particular project could be health, education or in my case economic development.

So in regards to harvest ideas and input, what we really found as we kind of worked with the community is that it really is honoring the people. In the work that we do, we need to honor the people and that’s why we need that community engagement because they have something to say and they also sometimes don’t articulate it in the same way that we do because we’re professionals and we’re trained, but they have input that sometimes you’ve just got to bring out from them. And then also we talk about things like historical trauma and just everything that we have to do to survive as a community. So sometimes it’s really hard to get the ideas and input and get community engaged because they have their own things that they’re dealing with. So we have to find different ways to bring it out.

So one of the things that we do is we always talk about community values and figure out how we’re going to instill those values in the projects that we’re working on. So when you’re working with the community, you’ve got to earn that trust. You’ve got to demonstrate to them that what you’re doing is for the benefit of the entire community. So in order to earn that trust, you’ve really got to listen. When we first started listening, we started listening by doing like small advisory groups and focus groups and as time went on, we found that more and more people wanted to communicate what they felt about what we were doing.

So we started doing surveys and…which is not really a traditional way of getting information, but we made sure that the surveys really had questions in them that people cared about and that were going to benefit out community in the long term. And much to our astonishment, people were answering the surveys and we had these open-ended questions where people were just putting these really profound statements that we couldn’t have said any better. And as we started collecting the information, we found like maybe…we found trends and if it was about rebuilding or re-establishing maybe like old pueblo [style] homes, we kept finding those…people had the same concerns. So we were able to report that out and find consensus in that. And then the other thing is we never said who said what, but we put statements and actual quotes and people began to become proud of their quotes actually being in our reports.

We had a lot of community meetings and we did a lot of study, but we always have to report it out, always. So then what we found is we…you have to have those core champions in your community. You have elders and traditional people and opinion leaders. When you have your advisory groups, you get the people that have a lot of influence in different clans or different parts of the community and we brought them along. We also looked at the different partners, youth, as well as employees, and programs. One of the things that I do want to say about using employees is sometimes when we use employees we don’t realize that we saying, ‘Oh, they’re all tribal so that’s our community.’ But what we don’t realize is the employees are usually the ones that are better off and have bigger incomes and have less need than the people that are really out there in the community. So you’ve really got to be careful to make sure that your groups are really truly diversified.

And so what we’re doing right now, we’re creating these action plans. So we’re visualizing what we want to do, and assessing what our community needs are, in order to make that plan. But really what I call it is a shared dream. We have a shared dream to sustain our cultures and our communities both traditionally and economically and unfortunately nowadays we really have to have an economic foundation in order to save our culture and our languages and our traditions and our ceremonies. So we really...by getting the input from communities, we’re able to visualize and to have that statement and create those goals and mission and vision statements.

Of course you set the goals and do all the traditional things that you do in strategic planning here, and so then we measure our outcomes and impacts and that really is about collective success. We’re a community who all have to have some sort of collective success in order to continue to live as a community. But we do those things like, for example, we teach nation building and we do the pre/post tests and we make sure that we increase the knowledge. If we do financial literacy, we make sure that people are actually saving money and that they’re creating bank accounts. And if we do…we have a VITA [Volunteer Income Tax Assistance] program. So we…but you report all those things out to the community and then you report the results.

We have all kinds of ways that we report the results. We have newsletters, we do community, what we call juntas, which is where the community is informed of certain things both business and traditional doings, but it’s a place where the community has a voice and so we also present whatever it is we’re going to…any big project that we’re going to start working on, we present it there. And we have a really good website also.

This presentation has kind of evolved over time and at first we were just doing the presentation maybe to council and the community and we…parts of the presentation we were doing to…presenting to youth council, but now we’re finding that more and more as we build more programs that are more sophisticated that you have to bring consultants in. And a lot of times, our tribal members don’t have certain expertise, so you have to bring those other people in to help you with your programs.

So these four…the 'Five Rs for Tigua' is what we’re calling them is we’re really advocating that people have a job to do and that they need to do it correctly and that they need to consider the community. Note that whatever you’re working on, you’re representing the entire Tigua community and the Tigua people. You have a responsibility to teach, protect, speak up for, ask, inquire, develop trust and stand up for the community. You have to reach out to the community and you have to teach, educate. Sometimes we go back and forth, it might take a year or two to actually get just the vision for one program. But you have to make sure that it is what the community needs. And then research, and this is mostly for researchers coming into the community, but even us as tribal employees, we have the responsibility to know that there’s cultural issues in research and that culture does matter and that whatever research and data that we collect that we have a responsibility to protect and then of course report the findings.

So I’m not going to go through all of these, but I’m sure you heard them every day in your work. I heard some people talking about negativity and how it is…how hard it is just to get past that, but the fact of the matter is that it’s just actually always going to be there and that you, as hard as it is, we have to find ways to tell people that that’s not actually true because some of these things that are being said are actually misconceptions or aren’t really true because…there are times that I’ve been sitting at the table and we’re discussing how we’re going to develop this new program or change something and people are saying things like, ‘Ah, what does it matter? Nobody cares. Tiguas aren’t going to listen. Tiguas don’t want to learn,’ and just some really negative statements where I think if I was somebody else, I would jump over the table and just kind of slap them upside the head, but you can’t do that, you’re working for the community.

One of the other things is that I know that we all have problems with our council, but sometimes we also use that as an excuse to not move forward. It’s easier just to blame everybody else than to look at our own programs and look at what we’re doing and to determine if there’s ways that we can change things to do better outreach and to educate people and to take more time to explain how things can be changed or things can be better. Believe me, I’ve gone through all kinds of just things with a terrible council, I don’t want to get into it, but there are days that they support me and there are days that they don’t support me at all. So I just have to figure out how to get through it and just keep moving. Otherwise I might as well just throw in the towel.

Does everyone think that sustainable development is a really difficult concept to teach? How do you build better economies? It seems really complex, right? But in reality we’ve been doing it forever. This is sustainable development -- finding ways to use your resources in a way that is best for your community.

This is Taos Pueblo, which somebody just mentioned today, but this community has been there for hundreds and hundreds of years and it’s still there and it’s still being maintained and people are still living there.

This is Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in 1880. Unfortunately, it’s no longer there in that way. What happened is in about 1880 the county decided that they wanted to extend a highway. So they held condemnation proceedings against the tribe and they tore it down and they put the highway right through there. So now actually to go through our ceremonies, we have to go across a busy highway and they have to stop traffic, tribal police stops traffic for us to go into procession to go into our traditional ceremonial places. But we’re still sustaining ourselves and we’re still sustaining our culture and despite all this adversity we’re still doing what we need to do to continue our ceremonies.

So I just can’t imagine what the people felt when the entire Pueblo was being torn down and the kind of adversity that they faced in order to continue our traditions. So we have a lot of adversity in front of us, but there’s been that adversity all the time, and it’s people like us, and it’s people like you that are going to get our people through it. So I’m just saying don’t give up because we’re still here and no matter how much…I’ve gone to bed crying. I never do it in front of community. I’m always like, ‘Suck it up, Pat.’ But I know how it feels to be working so hard for your community and just not feeling like you’re not getting to where you want to be.

I just feel like everything that we’re doing is a test. So we have these big things to do that are a test for our community and it’s a test that other people have already been through and it’s our turn to pass that test. So there’s different ways that we need to do it and one of the things that we do at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is we’re always finding ways to educate the community and to empower the community. So as Ian said, we have all these different seminars, but we’re also now able to put these presentations on ourselves. So we’ve been learning everything that people like Native Nations Institute has showed us, as well as Harvard Project or NCAI, and we’ve tailored just about everything we’ve learned to fit into our community.

The other thing is we go to conferences and we have the opportunity to go to training and get certifications, but our people don’t. So somehow we need to bring those things back and make sure that we teach it in a way that they can understand also. Right now you all are developing programs and your action plans. These are our views of how we see what we need to do to reach our community. Like economic development for example, we want sustainable self-determination. Land use, we do land use also. We have to bring housing, roads and water. And we have social and health concerns, we have cancer, diabetes, and child abuse just like any other Native community. And then we also have education programs and we want to get them from pre-K to get them college bound, and actually become college graduates. And then we have cultural programs as well.

But there are ways that we view it and all those technical aspects of the programs that we’re developing, but you really have to sit back and think about what the community thinks because they’re viewing it different. They have the…a lot of it is not as complex to them and also about what it means to them personally and traditionally and culturally. So we have to find ways to make our programs culturally relevant and change those messages to get it out there to the community. Just keep in mind that they have a completely different view potentially than you do. At the end it might be the same, but how to make sure that you’re on the same page is you…it takes a lot of effort.

In order to harvest these ideas and input, we also have to address the longstanding concerns such as land loss, historical trauma and discrimination. Some of our people or our kids don’t even know that our…their great-grandparents went to boarding school. We have really nice housing and a really nice community, but these…all this housing and new infrastructure is new. All these other things such as historical trauma and…it didn’t go away. You can’t put somebody in a new house and it all of a sudden disappears. So we really try to discuss these things and talk about it even to the youth.

We also honor Indigenous knowledge and make sure in everything that we do we get those expertise from the community to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into what we’re doing. And then just realize…I know that…I think I heard somebody talk about how everybody has different views. So in Native communities, we all don’t think the same so we need to make sure that we get the different views from different community members and that we get those people with the knowledge. So look for those people that can help you with your programs and again earn trust. I can’t stress that enough.

So this is about value systems and as I said I teach this to different people, sometimes with local agencies that work with the tribe, but the top part here is kind of the value systems that everyone has or should have. They’re values from different organizations, maybe tribal…city governments, corporations, but then we also have our own set of value systems and we have to make sure that these things mesh and that they balance in order to get our programs and our goals out there.

A little bit about community engagement. If you invite them, they will not come. This is the flyer method and I did it, too. When I first started I just kind of sent out some flyers and then sat there and talked about how nobody was engaged, nobody cared, and in reality how many flyers do you get or correspondences that you never look at? And if you’re never looking at them, how do you expect to have a different reaction from your community members? So you have to figure out different ways to engage your community.

This is us at work, playing games instead of working, but we’ve developed these different games, traditional games and this is a game that we did with the directors. You can see they’re having a lot of fun, kind of icebreakers and stuff. But the point that I want to make is sometimes we have these inter-agency or director meetings and we start doing all our planning, but we’re not really engaging your community because this is your community -- it’s the people that are out there.

So what we do as far as trying to do effective marketing and getting the community engaged and involved is we actually will host a different series of events and we have different partners engaged. We will take our message to things like Grandparents’ Day. We’ve had like just mini pow wows to show off what the youth can do, and also go to the elder center and take our message to them and try to get people involved in the projects that we’re working on, and just recruit advisory people from even a community picnic. We do a lot of things for the vets also because we’ve also found that they’re just…there’s a lot of leadership there as far as the vets are concerned and so our message is put out there through various ways.

You really have to look for those core champions. You have to work with the youth. We do have a youth council and we teach them the nation-building concepts and we work with youth in entrepreneurship and other ways, but the thing about youth is they all have parents. So when you honor your youth and you demonstrate to them and you have these awards and certificates, their parents come too. And then so we do a lot of things with leadership as well. As I said, we work with elders, with the different program directors and then we also invite traditional people to a lot of our events and we have them give the traditional prayer, we might have them do storytelling or a blessing.

And then we also have the tribal enterprises work with us and we teach this to new employees coming in, but we also teach it to the enterprises as well. So we ask the people that are coming in, especially when they’re outside of the community, to take this training, which actually has about…there’s actually 10 different presentations that we do. We work with them as well and they also sponsor us, but it’s also a marketing and advertising tool for them also.

So these are just kind of again different things that we do. I won’t go over all of them, but of course food always works, and letting people talk, and also we all have our own little kind of tribal jokes that we tell also.

This is just a map that I kind of put out there to try to help you map how you’re going to get your community…you can do it whatever way that you want, but depending on the project, the map might go in different directions to be able to get the input and engagement and support that you need from different community members. I think Ian is going to have this available. We don’t have a whole lot of time. I don’t need to go over that. I think we all know that. But sometimes you get people from the outside that just don’t understand. The reason…teepees might be relevant where you have Sioux, Lakota, but for us we have Pueblos. That stereotypical kind of put some guy on a horse type of thingstill happens from time to time. We actually had one director who was non-tribal that thought that she could incorporate cultural relevancy by just putting the word 'tradition' in front of every bulletin agenda item.

June Noronha:

“Pat, just a question. So when you say not to do it. You’re not saying not to do traditional education, right?”

Patricia Riggs:

“No, it’s actually two different things. What not to do is put the word 'traditional' in front of every bullet item and expect it to be traditional. And then in order to really get out there and figure out what you need to do for your community, you really do have to know the footprint of the community. You need to know everything. What are the community values, what do you think the elders are concerned with, what is this generation concerned with and what is the next generation going to face? We need to know the ancestors and our history and everything cultural and ceremonial and where our sacred places are because everything -- no matter what it is that you’re doing -- it somehow interrelates. And you have to take all those things from the past and all our cultural things and apply them to what we’re doing now.

I have ‘make no assumptions’ out there, because a lot of times we don’t really go out there and study what the needs are. We just kind of make these assumptions based on our own experiences, but you really do have to have a collective measure of what the community needs. And then I have this up here because our communities have always been planning. And so this model, whether we know it or not, it worked in the old days, too. So in our community, we had to build homes. So that was our purpose and our passion, but we had to go out there and we had to look for the clay and we had to get the trees so we had to harvest the ideas from people in the community to figure out where to get those resources from. We had a core of champions that would actually make the things happen and build the architecture in the community and then we had to visualize, assess and plan. Our communities always faced east.

And then we had to measure the outcomes and impacts. We figured out whether we were building homes that were going to sustain the community and then report results. We love to brag. The same thing works with food. We had to plan our acequias. We actually created or established the entire irrigation system, what is in El Paso’s lower valley, which is no longer under our control, but we’re the ones that put the main channels of water systems into that community. And then of course our ceremonies took a lot of planning as well and throughout the year.

Why did we do this? Ian talked a little bit about how we had major problems that we really had to address and that we were kind of dumbfounded on how we were going to move forward. Well, our tribe, because we were situated in West Texas, we were never federally recognized because we were part of the…Texas was in the Confederacy when Abraham Lincoln acknowledged the Pueblos in New Mexico so we got left out. We continued to practice our ceremonies and continued to have a tribal council, but it wasn’t until the 1960s, when we were losing all our homes to tax foreclosure because our properties weren’t on trust and in the 60s we were in El Paso. El Paso was growing around us and everybody in El Paso had electricity and running water except for us. We had this community right in the middle of El Paso and our unemployment rate was 75 percent, our education was fifth grade. We worked in the fields that were once ours to sustain ourselves.

And so we had somebody come in, an attorney assisted us and we were federally restored in 1969, not restored, but recognized. So our economy started to get a little bit better. Our unemployment was by the 70s at 50 percent, which is better than 75 percent and our education started to rise as well. At least we made it to high school and we built our first housing division. When we were recognized, we were also terminated at the same time. I know it’s kind of odd, but Texas had the Texas Indian Commission so the United States transferred the trust responsibility to Texas, but when Texas went broke in the 80s they decided the first thing they were going to do away with was the Texas Indian Commission. So we had to go back to Congress and get federally restored.

So that’s when we decided that we were going to open the casino because Texas had passed a gaming law with the Lottery Act. And there was one small clause in our restoration act that said, ‘The tribe shall not have gaming that is illegal in Texas.’ And with that one sentence they were able to sue and close us down. So for a short time we experienced high employment rates and we had…our unemployment rate went down to five percent, we started building all this infrastructure and housing, we started buying our land back. We went from 68 acres to 75,000 acres and then when Texas sued, they actually won, and most of that is because we were in the Fifth Circuit and the Fifth Circuit doesn’t really have any experience with tribes.

So by 2002, the casino closed and our unemployment rate went immediately up to 18 percent in one year and we haven’t been able to lower it to single digits since then and all our businesses except for the smoke shop were failing so we had to come up with something. So we started doing nation building. And in order to do nation building we really started looking at our…and assessing where we were as a community so we did a lot of data collection and those are one of the surveys that we started getting information from all the community and started having to educate them about how important it was for them to give us this information because we needed to bring more money into the community. Some of the money came in through grants and we needed this money to be able to build other ways to be able to sustain ourselves and we didn’t think that the grants were going to be a long-term solution, but we needed them to have…jumpstart us.

I’m not going to go through all the profile, but just to let you know that we do on an annual basis collect all this data. We know who’s enrolled, what the poverty levels are, what the unemployment levels are and what basically the status of all tribal members as a whole. When we started working on different projects, first we started with a comprehensive economic development strategy, which include economic and community development in both housing and jobs and community development corporation and we established Tigua Inc. to separate business and politics. And then we also created policy and infrastructure that would help the tribe be more successful.

One of the things that we did is we changed our tax code because for some really odd reason the tribe had decided to borrow the State of Texas tax code, which made absolutely no sense and it was way too long and we couldn’t enforce it. So just by changing it we went from like a 200 page tax code to 20 pages. In one year we went from $58,000 in taxes collected to $1.2 million.

And then this is our new Tigua Business Center, which is an incubator for the Tigua Development Corporation, as well as houses Economic Development and that was in Brownsville. There was an old Texas Department of Public Safety maintenance facility and now it’s a LEAD certified energy efficient building. And then just real quick here…

We’re also doing a lot of planning and development in land use. So planning and development and protecting our lands is important to cultural preservation as well as our traditional practices, but we also need land for residential and commercial uses and agriculture and transportation as well. So this is kind of lays out our plan over the next 100 years in a snapshot, but really what the reality is is that we need to preserve Ysleta del Sur Pueblo because we’re in the middle of the city and the city keeps encroaching even more and more on us and we have all these kind of technical things that we need to do, but in the end 100 years from now it’s still about preserving Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and continuing our culture.

We are always continually looking for resources to get this done and planning and this is all the planning that takes place in the modern sense, but I think it was Winona LaDuke that said that, ‘Loss of biodiverse land and natural resources is directly correlated to loss of culture for Indigenous communities.’ So in the end we’re trying to buy back as much land as possible to bring back and to keep those traditional places.

This is just an example of our land use survey and we did different…these are…on the bottom we had these maps and we had the community draw out in certain areas what they wanted the community to look like and then of course we went through a series of different questions. And these are…I talked a little bit about us when we do the reports, we put actual statements. We don’t identify the people. These are also statements. And then what we found as we were talking to the community is that they wanted to see our cultural life cycle built into the way that we planned our community. So we have places for youth to nurture them in our plan and as well as places where people come together to do, like we have a nation-building hub and elder center. And at the end how is our plan going to sustain us into the next generation. And then this is some of the modern areas that look not so nice right now, but these are also areas that are slated for land acquisition that we no longer own and this is a plan of what we can potentially do with them. This real quickly is, everything in yellow is what we own because we have a severe checkerboard situation and we know we can’t buy everything back, but what’s in purple is what we eventually want to look like.

We also do some things around citizenship. In our restoration act also our blood quantum was set at one-eighth. So we had to go back to Congress to remove our…we were one of the only two tribes in the country whose blood quantum was set by Congress. So that was one of the big things that we just recently had passed by Congress, so there’s a lot of planning around that and how we’re going to get everybody on the rolls and also provide services for everyone. And then this is just a little joke for my nephew Chris [Gomez], just saying that people in the community have thoughts and messages to convey, so make sure you get them.”

Robert Miller: Creating Sustainable Reservation Economies

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this informative and lively talk, law professor Robert Miller discusses the importance of Native nations building diversified, sustainable reservation economies through the cultivation and support of small businesses owned by their citizens, and offers some strategies for how Native nations can then leverage the economic activity of those businesses.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Miller, Robert. "Creating Sustainable Reservation Economies." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 7, 2013. Presentation.

Stephen Cornell:

"We want to turn our attention from courts to economies in this next presentation, and we're very fortunate that we were able to persuade Bob Miller to come down and talk with us this morning. It's my pleasure to introduce him. Robert Miller is a citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Bob's been engaged in Indian law for more than 20 years now. He's served as a judge, a justice, is now I think Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals at Grand Ronde and is currently Professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. You can read the details of his bio in the book...the curriculum booklet, but he's recently just a year ago published a new book called Reservation Capitalism: Economic Development in Indian Country that's now available out there and some of you may want to look for, but it's a pleasure to have Bob down to talk to us a little bit about creating Indigenous economies and sustainable communities. So please let me welcome Bob Miller."

Robert Miller:

"Thank you, Steve, and thank you all for being here and thank you for inviting me from Native Nations Institute. I gave this talk last night to a class at ASU [Arizona State University] and I took an hour and 40 minutes. I don't think I have an hour and 40 minutes today. In fact, I've been asked to talk for about 20 minutes and then leave the floor open for questions and we'll see what you want to talk about and what comments and questions you might have so I'm going to try...you have the materials and the slides in the book, the slides go way beyond 20 minutes so we're going to roar through this.

As Steve mentioned, I've been working on economic development ever since I was hired as a professor. In 1999, I was hired as a full-time professor at Lewis & Clark [College] in Portland, and the first topic I wanted to address was economic development in Indian Country. I do not think I'm overemphasizing this point: I think that economic development may be the most important issue you are facing as tribal leaders. As tribal communities, we need to create sustainable homelands where our people and our citizens -- if they choose of course -- where they can live and have access to adequate housing and adequate wage jobs. How are our reservations going to be sustainable communities, that next seven generations that we think about and talk about, how are we going to have young families able to live on reservations, to attend tribal colleges to learn language from elders, to learn culture from elders. So when I'm talking economic development, I'm talking about far more than just making money and I'm not talking about making the next Indian Donald Trump or making someone rich. We're talking about making reservations sustainable communities that continue to survive for those thousands of years that we already have.

So I have a couple of just sort of prime messages that I wanted to write in this book and the very first chapter is really just...let's look at all those really at the same time. So my number one chapter, I guess it's chapter two, but I'm trying to establish even for Native peoples, but certainly for the American society at large, that Native communities supported themselves by intelligent, hard work for centuries, and dare I say that it was entrepreneurial, family type businesses. We didn't...the picture of Americans is that Indians frolicked through the forest like wood nymphs living off the bounty of nature. I think there's a nefarious purpose for American society to have that vision. I think that helps their consciences feel less guilt about the taking of this reservation -- excuse me -- this continent and the resources. So they'd pretend that Natives didn't own private property, they'd pretend that Natives didn't know how to develop resources and to protect and marshal those resources to have an economic life that they could live and survive in.

I have a quote in my book that's interesting: What's the economic year? I'm not an economist and I don't use that many economic terms, but there's a few points I want to make today. Your economic year is how long it takes you to create...either to earn the money or create the resources for you to survive for a year. And what I've read is that most tribal peoples survived on a three- to four-month economic year. They could either grow, harvest, hunt or gather the products they needed to support themselves. What's your economic year now? What's the average American economic year? It's fifty weeks, isn't it? ‘Cause doesn't the average person only get...gee, whose economic system was better? So I'm trying to drive home a point to American Indians that we did work intelligently, we did know how to create economic valuable properties and we did understand private property. And let me address that because I think also American society thinks, ‘Oh, Indian people don't own property. Gee, you don't want to work, dude, because you don't own property.' Well, I dare ask you what that you have do you not consider your private property? Our lands, we view tribal governments as owning lands in common and that certainly has been our history and then sort of the legal property regime, but in chapter two of my book I talk about economic principles of tribal governments. Even though land was held in common for the tribe, individual families acquired private property rights. I cite the Hopi Tribe and various Pueblo tribes where various planter chiefs maybe, if that's the correct word, would assign plots and lots to various families, but they would then grow, harvest and those crops were theirs to use as they saw fit. And as long as that clan or family used that resource, it was in essence private property.

Where I'm from, the Pacific Northwest, I know a fair bit about the salmon cultures and the Columbia River. Native families up there would own prominent fishing rocks. Native families built wooden platforms to fish over the rapids at Celilo Falls, for example. Those were private property. No one else used those items without the permission of the tribal family. They were even inheritable property. That's something that some people, [it] would just boggle their mind that Native societies had a vision of private property. And in the tribes...the Makah Tribe at the very northwest tip of Washington and then their relatives up Vancouver Island, the Chul-nuth people, they took the ownership of what today we call intellectual property -- that's the second-to-the-last point I have there -- to a high degree that I think most Americans are unaware of. In the cultures of the northwest and into British Columbia, you owned songs, names, totem symbols, ceremonies, dances, and no one else would dare to use those privately owned intellectual pieces of property without permission of the recognized owners. The potlatch ceremony, I know Professor Trosper's written a lot about that. In fact, he's coming to speak at a conference at our school in February. So if any of you want to come to Arizona State February 27th and 28th, we are having a two-day conference about creating the tribal economy. So that's primarily what I'm interested in, what I'm talking about.

So the one economic term I'll put forward to you today is the idea of leakage and the multiplier effect. Again, I'm not an economist so I've learned these recently, but what do they mean? You've probably lived the idea of leakage. That is when money leaves a community sooner than is optimal. In 1994, I heard a Navajo tribal official say that 84 cents of every dollar a Navajo person receives leaves the reservation immediately. Now that is the case on practically every reservation I'm familiar with. Why is that? Because there are no businesses. There's no place to spend the money on the reservation. So the reservation that I'm actually the most familiar with is the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana because I worked for the Tribal Housing Authority for over three years. The first time I went to Navajo or, excuse me, to Lame Deer to apply for the job I got the map out, saw how I would fly there and then drive there and I said, ‘Oh, I'll just stay at the motel at Lame Deer.' Now you know where this story's going don't you? Good thing I had my tent and my sleeping bag with me because I slept on the front yard of my friend's house. So I go, I show up in Lame Deer, there's nothing to eat, there's no place to buy anything. The only business is a tribal gas station and there is an IGA store owned by a non-Indian. So that really started to open my eyes to some of the issues that economics face in Indian Country.

So I should ask Professor [Ronald] Trosper this, but I think economists say that a dollar should circulate in your community five to seven times. That's sort of the optimal goal before it is then taken and spent elsewhere. So that's what's called leakage, but in Indian Country with almost nowhere to spend your money, what happens? We know that our people get in the car. Perhaps there's not even a bank on the reservation. At Northern Cheyenne there was no bank. No reservation in Oregon that I'm aware of. Well, I better preface that, very few banks on reservations. As of a few years ago and I cite that in my book, only eight tribes owned banks. My tribe purchased a bank. We're in a small trust land-only corner of northeastern Oklahoma, but we purchased a bank by buying shares in that bank so sort of a different way just through the stock we ended up buying a bank. I do not know the number of how many tribes own banks today, but banking in Indian Country as you are well aware is an issue and so where can you cash your check? So at Northern Cheyenne people would get whatever kind of check they got from working or government or whatever, 42 miles to Hardin, Montana, that's where they would cash their check. One hundred and two miles to Billings, that's where they could cash their check and that's where that money got spent. That's a disaster for economic development for what we call the multiplier effect being spent on the reservation.

So what I have been talking about is creating businesses in Indian Country and emphasizing the importance of economic development. I meant to read you a quote of a couple chairmen that I interviewed for my book. Because this idea that economic development is the most important issue in Indian Country, many people might go, ‘Wait a minute, what about sovereignty, what about jurisdiction, what about social welfare issues? All those things are important.' Well, what I mean is that all of those issues are tied up with having an economy and having economic resources so that a tribal government can engage in social welfare programs, economic development welfare programs, improving their court systems as we just heard about, and in doing all the things that government is expected to do and what we hope [for] from government. But economic development is also crucial for individual Indian families to support themselves and to contribute to supporting their community and to educate their children, feed their children and help just the lifestyle of the reservation -- lifestyle, wrong word, the improvement of economic conditions in Indian Country.

So here's what Chairman Clifford Marshall of the Hoopa Tribe in Northern California told me back in '99. He said, ‘There's nothing traditional about having the federal government take care of us. There is nothing cultural about that.' 'My idea,' the chairman said, ‘of tribal economic development is that sovereignty is economic independence. Until we get there, we are not independent.' Another chairman from the Umatilla Tribe, Antone Minthorn told me, ‘If you own the economy, it won't hurt culture.' So we always run up against that question, ‘Is economic development somehow anti-Indian?' And that was one of my primary goals in working on this book. Native people have always worked intelligently and hard and even at risky businesses. It's not safe and easy to go whaling, is it? It's not safe and easy to be a buffalo hunter, is it? These are dangerous occupations. But Native peoples knew how to acquire resources and how to use them, even if that included distributing and sharing resources through giveaways perhaps or the potlatch ceremonies from the northwest. We knew how to use resources to support our cultures and our societies and I think we're in that same place today or we need to be in that place today. So I'm going to just quickly slash through some of this. I don't want to spend any time on that.

I am tired also at looking at these statistics. Maybe you're tired of talking about these things. I want to talk about improving issues. I don't want American Indians to be the least-educated, specifically identifiable racial group in the United States. I don't want us to be the least healthy group in the United States. I want us to improve our situations. And can we rely on the United States to do that? Does the United States care? I have a statement in the book, ‘Okay, we've relied on arguing you owe us certain things under our treaties, you have a trust responsibility for us, help us, assist us.' Well, we've waited 200 years for that. How's that worked out for us? Well, here's the situation. So if we don't do it ourselves, who's going to do it? So that...when I'm talking about creating an economy, I'm talking about intelligent tribal government and intelligent tribal communities working together to create a public and private economy in Indian Country. We often do rely just on you folks, the elected tribal leaders and we think that it's the tribal government's job to create economies and that's not completely true, is it? You create the conditions in which an economy can thrive, just what we heard about the tribal court system. Without laws for commercial issues, without laws about how you incorporate on a reservation, how you lease land on a reservation, without effective bureaucracies -- which the Harvard Project has taught us -- without effective institutions economies can't thrive. Entrepreneurs will go elsewhere. I have a cite or two in my book, a quote or two, excuse me, about Arizona Natives who started a business and they said they were going to open that business in Phoenix and not on their reservation and they had some reasons they didn't want to do that. And so that like kind of hurts me. We hope that Native entrepreneurs will consider their own reservation, will create jobs, will become mentors, and will help that new generation of young people to see that, ‘Gosh, being an owner of your own business is very much Native and is very possible.' So that's what I keep pushing for.

These statistics are quite old. You can see this is based on the 1992 Census and this chart is created by ONABEN. I was on the Board of Directors for ONABEN for 12 years and that's why when I became a professor this was the topic I wanted to write about. ONABEN stands for the Oregon...look at that, I can't hold that pointer steady. You guys are making me nervous or something or maybe it's that I'm 62. Oregon Native American Business and Entrepreneurial Network. Four Oregon tribes created ONABEN in 1992 because they knew that they needed individual entrepreneurs to open businesses on their reservations. So ONABEN's mission is to help individual Indians learn to draft business plans that are fundable by a bank, that could perhaps be given a loan and then we used to teach classes, in fact a year-long class we taught on how to operate your business, accounting, management, employment, all sorts of issues. But ONABEN took these statistics for Oregon and you can already see the stats. So in Oregon as of 1992, white Oregonians owned a business per 1,000 people at the rate of 81. 81 Oregon...white Oregonians owned their private business. Look at where American Indians were and I don't know how much that number has changed even though these statistics are pretty old. We have enormous room to improve in creating economies on our reservation and to encourage entrepreneurial activities. These are statements from ONABEN and this is the effect of poverty on Indian Country so I guess...I should have worded these I guess in the negative. So poverty causes education, economic, social and health issues; it injures community cohesion. As we know, if our people have to leave the reservation to go to school, if our people have to leave the reservation to live, to find adequate housing and jobs, that's what we call the brain drain, isn't it? That's assets, those are positive benefits we need on the reservation, but because of the lack of certain services and opportunities on the reservation they have to go elsewhere so that hurts community cohesion. If the parents have to leave to work or to be educated, that hurts family stability. Ultimately it hurts many things that we do care about.

So here's what ONABEN says are the benefits. Earned income: there's pride from earning and supporting yourself. There's pride from being able to buy your kids that toy they'd like to have, right? Support them and feed them. We already talked about the multiplier effect. The more we can keep money on the reservation circulating, even though it's only one dollar folks, what we mean by the multiplier is that it increases the effect of it. It's paid to the employee, the employee then goes to the local gas station and buys gas. Well, that pays the employees and the rent there and for the gasoline. Someone then goes to the local grocery store. That's paying employees and profit for everyone. So as long as we can keep that dollar in Indian Country, that's the goal of every community in the United States, capture those dollars, make the multiplier effect continue.

So ONABEN, like I say, tribally run organization, our board was made up of tribal representatives appointed by the tribal councils and then a few of us were Willamette Valley representatives. So I was the Willamette Valley representative. It's not anti-Indian to own your own business and I've already hammered on that point I think. That's what my chapter two is about. We all ran our own businesses, didn't we, whether it was family or individual, we engaged in economic activity to support ourselves and we were proud of that. So I think that's an ethos that we need to reinforce that that's cultural. Being poor is not cultural. Do you know of any tribal community that wants to be poor? Do any of us have a culture that said we had to be poor? I'm unaware of one, so we need to ban that idea from our mind.

ONABEN says, ‘We all benefit from a quality of business ownership in Indian Country.' Now I'm not going to spend much time talking about the Harvard Project because we have those representatives here and you've heard that so these three points: Being involved in economics or tribal government thinking of developing an economy is not somehow anti-sovereign. Even if you're thinking about helping develop private businesses. Yes, that's a business the tribal government might not be in control of, but all of these decisions are based on sovereignty and help support sovereignty because if we have an economy in Indian Country, again, a more sustainable reservation, a place where our people can live if they choose to and it contributes to and helps strengthen tribal government. Our institutions matter. The court system you just heard about. Without the laws, without a fair court that will protect property rights, contractual rights, what entrepreneur is going to open a business in your tribal community?

I mention in my book...I already told you about some Natives here in this state that chose to open their business in Phoenix because there were things they were concerned about about being on the reservation. So if there are governing principles or if our own institutions are somehow slowing business down or injuring business or if we have a court system that's not fair, no entrepreneur is going to invest their human capital -- their time and expertise and experience -- or their physical capital -- their money, materials they own, tools they own, etc. They just will not operate in Indian Country if they're afraid that their rights that they've worked for will not be protected. So these are governance issues, and culture matters the Harvard Project has shown with study after study after study. A comment that I just made in Bozeman, we had a conference this past weekend of economists in Bozeman and I'm not an economist so I mostly sit there and listen, but...and now I totally forgot where I was going. Oh, the comment I made is, ‘You probably would not open a hog farm in Israel, would you?' I don't pretend to be an expert on Judaism, but I don't think pork is a big seller in Jewish communities. So there are reservations where certain jobs or industries won't be supported. So an intelligent investor is going to research that topic and going to go, ‘I can't open Business X on Reservation Y. It's crazy. It'd be like opening a hog farm in Israel.'

So let's see what's next and let's...this is what I've been talking about. Here again, I'm borrowing from Harvard and if I get the facts wrong, tell me, Steve. But I think their studies have proven that a tribe that separates the operation of a tribal business, if they separate it from political decisions and from the tribal council, if they get an experienced board of directors that knows business and operates that business, there's a 400 percent greater chance that that business can be profitable. Tribal governments can't afford to run businesses that aren't profitable. That's not sustainable and I'm talking about sustainability.

Also, the Harvard Project shows that a tribe that has a court system and a dispute resolution system that is deemed to be fair, that is not tainted by political influence, will have a five percent better employment rate on the reservation than another tribe without that. Steve gave that comment -- you won't remember this, but I do -- in 1994, at a conference in Utah, you made that statement and I came up to him afterwards and I go, ‘How can you prove that?' He slapped me around a little bit. So I've been nice to him ever since. We know what the obstacles are. I talk about them in the book. Maybe we can talk about them a bit, but I want to close with some of these points.

Does your tribal government -- and boy, I'd really like you to think about this -- are you as a policy engaging in buying from your own Indian entrepreneurs on your own reservation? Now I have heard the executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association and he says, ‘We know tribal casinos are not utilizing enough Native entrepreneurs.' That's a $27 billion-a-year industry. Where are the tribal casinos buying their laundry services, their janitorial services, their paper towels? Are we buying these from Phoenix and Tucson businesses? We're hurting ourselves then, aren't we? We're spending our own money outside our community. Well, that's not very -- how dare I say -- that's not the best strategy. So I want to advocate, I was glad also to hear the judge mention nepotism because this was discussed at this conference I was at at Bozeman. Nepotism is a bad word out in the American economy, but we do work with our bands and families and extended families and we are related to practically everyone. How can you not be related to everyone on a community of only a couple thousand people? At my tribe, practically everyone has my mom's maiden name. The last name 'Captain' is the primary name at my tribe. So I'm related to practically everyone. So you can't avoid nepotism in the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, but I am so much advocating that we keep our money in our reservation.

Is the tribal government being a client of tribal entrepreneurial businesses? If you're not, you're spending your money on non-Indian owned businesses at some far distance from your own community and you are -- I don't know how strongly to say this -- but that's hurting our own communities, isn't it? So Buy Indian acts, I am advocating that tribes adopt a ‘Buy Indian' act, perhaps even designate a specific amount of the tribal budget to be spent on tribally owned -- not tribally owned -- individual Indian-owned businesses or even in tribally owned businesses. Let's keep the money in our communities. So let me show you the federal ‘Buy Indian' act. It's a joke. The current version was drafted in 1910, so please ignore that top one but this was the direction of Congress in 1910 that the Secretary of Interior in acquiring goods and labor for Indian Affairs that he or she try to buy Indian-owned goods and labor. But look, it's not mandatory. It's about as discretionary as it can get. It even has the word discretion. ‘As far as may be practical...in the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior.' So the Buy Indian Act has hardly been used. There are some federal lawsuits in which an individual Indian business owner has sued the Secretary saying, ‘I was fully capable of doing Job X, I applied for it, you didn't hire me.' The federal courts go, ‘You lose that case because the Secretary can do whatever they want.' So I'm advocating that tribes try to get Congress to make this law a little more powerful.

An example is in the Department of Defense budget. The Department of Defense is required to spend five percent on minority- and women-owned businesses and that five percent set-aside has led to several tribes creating -- I think Salish Kootenai is one of them -- making products for the military and has helped tribes enormously, a few tribes. So if we had some sort of requirement that the Secretary spend at least five percent, if tribal government said, ‘We will spend five percent of our budget on Indian-owned business,' what will Indian entrepreneurs do? What does an entrepreneur do? What is an entrepreneur? They see an opportunity, they think, ‘I can do that. I'll take the risk.' So if tribal governments were committed to spending money in Indian Country, I think entrepreneurs will see that and follow that."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"I agree with your point. However, I've seen in the past where you have a tribal member who'll throw up a shingle and say, ‘I do this now,' and it turns into a pass-through. We try to at Choctaw and define Indian preference in regards to buying services, to say that you must have 51-percent ownership in your business; you must show years of business interactions. And so that's one of the challenges I know that across Indian Country some people face, because then all you're doing as a tribal member setting something up to get maybe $25,000 out of the $1.5 million furniture contract that was set aside for the building, and so that's one of the things I think we really need to focus in on what is true Indian entrepreneurialism and true Indian business."

Robert Miller:

"You're exactly right on that. Now did you say that your tribe has a statute on this or some kind of regulations?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Regulations."

Robert Miller:

"I would love to see that. So you're Mississippi Choctaw or Oklahoma?"

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"Mississippi Choctaw."

Robert Miller:

"Okay, great."

Rae Nell Vaughn:

"My brother is Oklahoma Choctaw down the way there."

Robert Miller:

"They're close to us. Yes, sir."

Audience member:

"Thank you, Professor Miller. So I had a question. My question basically surrounds entrepreneurship. You sort of touched upon a definition of it. Social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that concept, on that model with respect to having put together any social enterprise on a reservation where one is working with both profit and non-profit ability hybrid model using some type of federal funding and building on a revenue component to that set up because that's something that I'm tinkering with along with some folks up in Navajo, that western part of Navajo. That's what we're looking at and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that."

Robert Miller:

"Okay, well, that's almost a new idea to me. So you might have to explain it a little more, but an organization that has a social welfare...objective."

Audience member:

"Objective. A social objective, a social impact on one hand; on the other hand, have a revenue side so that you built it a hybrid model. So basically you're addressing two things at one time. So if that's quite successful, I know a lot of organizations are going in that direction, and one of the great examples is right there in Phoenix in Maricopa County with the school districts. That's something that they did and I'm wondering if that would be something that tribes can perhaps pursue."

Robert Miller:

"Well, I am absolutely for anything that brings any job to Indian Country practically and anything that can produce some income that perhaps might be spent on a reservation. So an organization like you're saying, sort of has a mixed agenda, right? They're engaged in social welfare activity. So I know there's an organization at Navajo I believe that's working on traditional foods, traditional crops. So in one sense I guess you could call that a social welfare idea -- let's bring some tradition back -- but if that's producing crops and jobs that then will be on the reservation, man, I applaud that. And we always like to bring federal dollars to the reservation, don't we? But then we've got to capture those dollars and we want to keep them there as long as possible."

Joan Timeche:

"If I can also add, on my reservation we've long had...it's called the Hopi Foundation. It started out as a 501(c)(3) and it was really designed by former tribal employees that were frustrated with the government because they were not able to...the government was not acting in a speedy process in terms of applying for grants and being able to meet social needs. So they first started out providing social services. They have spun off a number of non-profits and a number of for-profits and they're all in different areas. One of them deals with international victims and it's actually based here in Tucson. It's a non-profit, but it's a spinoff of this overall, this Hopi Foundation about helping...and then we have, out of it came a solar energy project because it was a social program, the first to introduce photovoltaics because we have a number of villages out on Hopi who by choice did not have electricity so they were trying to introduce alternative energy options to them. So it started out as a non-profit and then later on merged, spun off as a for-profit so that existed and out of it came our Education Endowment Fund, which then became a whole separate entity. So there are models out there that can work."

Robert Miller:

"Well, and let me just add to that, while you're moving the microphone. In my book, I advocate for a mix of businesses, for a diverse economy. I think the strongest economy is one that is diverse. So there's no, just because I'm talking about entrepreneurship or ONABEN's talking about entrepreneurship, I'm not somehow anti-tribal government business or then anti this social welfare arena. Economic development can come in many ways and she gave an example and so did you, sir, of what sort of a social welfare agenda, but can lead to jobs and money on the reservation. So I'm advocating for as diverse of an economy as we can get. We realize some tribes are in such rural areas that the economy they're going to be able to develop, the opportunities are very slim. We know American rural areas are the poorest parts of the United States just because of the lack of infrastructure, highways, internet, telephones, water, and we know that tribes in rural areas face those issues. But I am advocating for the development of as much of an economy, public, private, tribal, non-Indian investors, Indian investors, etc. Yes, ma'am."

Audience member:

"Well, to further touch on what he was talking about, where I work and where I live, I live in 'ag central,' I'm from Nebraska. I work at Little Priest Tribal College and right now I'm the USDA grant coordinator and what I do is I have obtained this money and what we are doing in my program, we're going through our last year's funding, but I have... we are a hybrid. I function off a grant that's for community sustainability through agricultural and economic development. We are taking our food sovereignty and we're taking our seed sovereignty and we are building on that. And I'm able to employ approximately 40 tribal members seasonally and we teach people how to can, and we have a Farmer's Market, and we're expanding on that and we're going to be able to operate the next couple of years off the monies that we've made via our federal monies that we were awarded. But food sovereignty is a really big movement in Indian Country right now. Seed sovereignty is a really big thing and I really encourage other tribes to expand on that. It's really important because it is a social problem because so many of our communities are fighting diabetes, thyroid problems, all these health issues and it's because of the genetically modified foods that we're eating. It's so important that we stick to our Indigenous diets. And I'm from the Omaha people, I'm also a Burns Paiute too, and we have an Indigenous diet that's really important. Back home we have ceremonial corn, but we have corn to eat every day too and it's really important to embrace that, grow it, teach your kids how to grow it. There are ceremonies that hold on to those things, do it and teach the people. And then if you can, you can build a hybrid on it. Right now we have an apple orchard. We have expanded on that apple orchard. It's been really awesome. It's really exciting. It's really a big thing for me. If you guys want to know anymore about it, I'd be more than happy to share information about it. But we have, we've developed a hybrid program. We're very successful. Like I said, we're going to be able to operate the next couple of years without federal dollars because of the revenue we've brought in because of our product. And organic food market is huge right now. They love Indian food."

Robert Miller:

"Did you say you work for the Department of Agriculture?"

Audience Member:

"Yes. Well, I'm a USDA grant coordinator and I'm working...I'm collaborating a lot with the USDA and I work with the Little Priest Tribal College."

Robert Miller:

"Well, you'll have to come on February 28th to our conference because the Undersecretary for the Department of Agriculture, Patrice Kunesh, is going to speak. She wants to advocate how much the Department of Agriculture has available for tribes. Tribes are just thinking of the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], and the Department of Agriculture in the areas you're already talking about has so much more as far as money and funding than the BIA has. It's incredible. So she's coming to Phoenix to talk about that issue on February 28th. And for food sovereignty, it's interesting she should mention that because a Native woman who I think is the first dean of a law school in the United States, Stacy Leeds, is the dean. She's Cherokee and she's the dean at University of Arkansas and they just started a food sovereignty clinic. I think that's the right word or at least program. So she's coming to our conference to talk about food sovereignty, so exactly what you're talking about. And then what she said ties in with what your question was sir, that here's sort of a social welfare, I guess, developing our Native foods again and bringing them back. That doesn't necessarily sound so economic, does it, but what an economic and cultural benefit that it has. So this is a wonderful example of the synergy of mixing these ideas and goals and so economic development's not hurting culture, we can use it to support culture."

Stephen Cornell:

"We've got a question right here."

Arlene Templer:

"I'm happy to hear you say to support the Buy Indian acts. I'm Arlene Templer from Salish Kootenai Tribes and under my department I have a gas station, convenience store, grocery store, laundromat, and it costs me more to run an Indian-owned business. I can't compete with Town Pump, and so what I have to do is sell it to the tribe's membership that this gas station provides work experience placements, it also provides revenue to the transportation system throughout the reservation because I have to charge between almost 10 cents more a gallon for gas. I can't compete with Town Pump so we have to support each other until we can get there and the Buy American act can help with that."

Robert Miller:

"Excellent. Next time I'm at Flathead I'll come to your gas station. That's what we talk about you keeping Indian money in the Indian community. Let me expand that just one step further. Let's not think just about our reservation, but a perfect example in the State of Washington. The Cowlitz Tribe, a brand-new recognized tribe wants to do gaming. So instead of turning to some Vegas company, which as you know many, many, many tribes have partnered with Harrah's and those Vegas companies, but the Cowlitz Tribe in Oregon partnered with...in Washington, excuse me, partnered with the Mohegan Tribe from Connecticut. Gosh! So in one sense that's keeping our dollar within the Indian national community, isn't it? So I really enjoyed seeing some tribes working on things together. Another example from Oregon, the Grand Ronde Tribe and the Siletz Tribe are working together to develop lands that used to belong to the federal government and the Chemawa Indian School and they now have received those lands through various federal programs. So these two tribes, instead of then competing and fighting each other over who gets to develop it, they're working together. I see that again as keeping money in our Indian community."

Stephen Cornell:

"Mr. Henry?"

Audience member:

"I'm on the tribal council and it's hard for entrepreneurs sometimes to go through tribal council I think. Comes up with a great, great project and then after that the tribe kind of just shuts them down after that. But then, is there a way for the tribal member to go through, if they have BIA, if they have Section 17 from BIA to where it helps the tribal member and the tribal council sets or adjust the code for the development for a tribal member and then instead they don't have to go through the tribal council, but go through Section 17 with the federal government, which too allows the reservation development to where if those two can work together to where instead of the tribal member for entrepreneurship goes straight through...go to the tribal council, but instead just follows the Section 17 in corporation building? Have you ever come across something like that?"

Robert Miller:

"Yes. Incorporation is a big issue, folks, and this is part of the law building that the tribal court panel was talking about, but that I'm talking about that many tribal governments do not have an incorporation code. [Okay, we have two minutes. That's in total? You showed me two minutes, two minutes ago. Did you give me two more minutes? Oh, five okay. I didn't see it. So let's see, where was I going?] Incorporating, for a Native person to incorporate their corporation pursuant to their own tribe's governmental code, that's an exercise of inherent sovereignty. So there are three ways to form corporations in Indian Country. Under state law, which is probably the least beneficial, that exposes you to state regulations, state taxation. Section 17 that you mentioned, which to my knowledge is only available for tribal governments. My own government created a Section 17 about a decade ago. I think there's a fairly small number of Section 17 corporations because tribes haven't really seen that the way to go. But to incorporate under your own inherent law, and if you have the code that governs and taxes businesses, then people know what the landscape of the law is. So I advocate for tribes to have corporation codes and for tribal citizens to incorporate under the inherent authority of their own tribe. Now you are then subject, however to the tribal law. So that's where we get back to effective institutions. Is the tribal court fair, does the tribal court have experience in interpreting contract and business law; have we appointed judges with that kind of experience? Those are the issues that are the institution business that the Harvard Project has showed...studied and has shown is so important. So you raise a very good issue that needs to be worked out and I'm not sure how many tribes have enacted their own corporate codes. Probably not too many, but it certainly sounds like the way for tribal entrepreneurs to incorporate."

Stephen Cornell:

"Can I just add to that, Bob? In regard to your question, from the sound of what you said, you may be in a situation where starting a business then runs afoul of council interference or obstacles and this is exact...Bob is exactly right. This is where these institutional issues become critical -- that you've got in place a set of laws that facility instead of hindering economic development. All the things Bob talked about trying to build an economy, that can be brought to a halt by a set of governing institutions that burden the entrepreneur so much that they run to Phoenix or Flagstaff to set up their business. So if what you're encountering is, ‘Gee, we can't get a business going because we have to go through council and it's too involved and it takes too long and the politics get into it and all the rest of that,' you are a prime candidate for rethinking some of that governing structure so that you can begin to support entrepreneurship on your rez."

Diane Enos: Building a Sustainable Economy at Salt River

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this informative interview with NNI's Ian Record, Diane Enos, President of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, discusses some of the many significant steps that Salt River has taken over the past few decades to systematically build a self-sufficient, sustainable economy.

People
Resource Type
Citation

Enos, Diane. "Building a Sustainable Economy at Salt River." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 28, 2010. Interview.

Ian Record:

Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I’m your host, Ian Record. On today’s program, I’m honored to have with me President Diane Enos of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. President Enos has served in that capacity since 2006 and recently won re-election for another four years. Previous to her becoming president of her nation, she served for 16 years on the tribal council. And in terms of her other current responsibilities, she’s president of the executive board of the Intertribal Council of Arizona, and past chairwoman of Arizona Indian Gaming Association. Diane, welcome.

Diane Enos:

Welcome to you.

Ian Record:

Well, I just gave a few highlights of your very busy life and I was wondering if you could just share with us a little bit more about yourself.

Diane Enos:

Well, I am the parent of two boys, ages 6 and 7. So that is really my driving force in addition to my community. I became their guardian after their mother passed away in my family. So they are a source of life for me now. So as you can imagine, in addition to my job duties and my other responsibilities, to me that is the most important job I have right now, as a parent.

Ian Record:

So you don’t, you probably don’t sleep very much do you?

Diane Enos:

I try as much as I can [laughs], but I get up early!

Ian Record:

Yeah, I bet. Well, we’re here today to talk about economic development in Indian Country and focus specifically on what your nation, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has been doing in that area, one of the progressive leaders across Indian Country by all accounts. But first I’d like to talk a little bit more generally about economic development and get your thoughts based upon your vast experience in this area and essentially get your, some food for thought from you that other nations and other leaders might learn from. And my first question is, how do nations move from a dependent economy, where they’re heavily reliant on the federal government, to a productive one, where they themselves are in the driver’s seat?

Diane Enos:

That movement depends on the nation itself. It depends on the resources that are available. It depends on the drive to do more than survive the colonization that we’ve all undergone. But a lot of times you have to be, as a nation you have to be willing to take calculated risks. For us, what we did in 1987 was purchase the Phoenix Cement Company with the guaranteed loan, just guaranteed by the federal government, and that enabled us not only to create jobs but to also create an enterprise that had a, it’s returned the amount of money we had to borrow many times. So, it’s an example of having to take risks.

Ian Record:

I assume coupled with that was a movement on the part of your nation to essentially build up the capacity needed to make economic development happen, both human resources and institutional resources, wasn’t it?

Diane Enos:

When you look at what’s available to you, a lot of tribes, like I said before, you have to look at where people live and what kind of resources are there. For us, we had the dry riverbed as a source of aggregate for sand and gravel mining, so we use that. Now some people might think that that’s contrary to our values to, in some senses, deface the earth, but we look at things in terms of gifts from the earth and from our Creator to help us survive in this world. Whether you go and kill a deer or kill an animal and eat that animal to survive or whether you go and dig up aggregates from the riverbed and turn around and market those in order to provide for your people, are two very similar things. So it’s a matter of being able to consider what you have to do to help your people out to make things better for them.

Ian Record:

So you mentioned that the community in 1987 purchased the cement company,

Diane Enos:

Yes.

Ian Record:

And prior to that would you say that your tribal economy was essentially a dependent one, as I mentioned?

Diane Enos:

I would say so to some degree, because when I grew up here, when I was growing up as a child here, we didn’t have, for instance, indoor plumbing. We didn’t have paved roads. We didn’t have telephones. Few people had electricity. We didn’t have, I think we had maybe a couple of police officers. We had the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] school, which I went to, and the Indian Health Service. So, yes, dependent, the tribe wasn’t in a position or at that time wasn’t actively pursuing economic development. We were fairly isolated, I would say, for the time.

Ian Record:

So back during that period, essentially a dependent economy, you were relying, I would assume, primarily on the federal government for transfer dollars,

Diane Enos:

For programs, yes.

Ian Records:

For programs.

Diane Enos:

But I think for people, in order to make money for your living, people have always gone off the reservation to work. And I know that my father, my own dad, worked in construction and in order to do that, to provide for his family, he would go with several other men and live in Tucson and do construction work during the week and come home on the weekends. And I remember that he did that for several years and they even went to Kingman, I think. They went where the work was; a lot of people did that. So as far as a dependent economy, I think we’re talking about programs for the tribes as a whole, yes.

Ian Record:

So what were some of the drawbacks to having that dependent economy in terms of being reliant, so reliant on outsiders for essentially the tribal government,

Diane Enos:

You have no control over it. You have very minimal, if any, control over where those dollars are directed. And it doesn’t empower your people to achieve more and it doesn’t, it keeps you down, so to speak. It’s another arm of the colonization I mentioned earlier. It’s very limiting. You don’t get to strive for more, because all you do is when you’re a dependent economy is wait for the next turn of funding and if, that’s unpredictable and it certainly isn’t a way for you to expand what your resources are capable of doing, because you’re dependent on direction and programming from the federal government.

Ian Record:

We’ve heard, and other leaders I’ve sat down with, I’ve heard them speak of a couple of other, I guess, dynamics to that dependent economy, which is that the measurements of success, the criteria for determining whether a program or the dollars that are being spent in a particular community are having, are achieving their intended goal, those are being set by outsiders not by the people themselves. And those criteria may be very different. Is that something that you saw back then?

Diane Enos:

I’m not sure back then, since I wasn’t in government, I’m not sure how that actually worked, but I do know from those periods of time...I had an interesting experience one time. I remember talking to the tribal chairman when I was 16 years old. I went into his office and I asked him about programming and the information that he gave me was very limited. And it appears to me now, in retrospect, that people in elected positions at that time, and I’m talking about tribal positions, didn’t have a whole lot of knowledge anyway about what the programming system was. It appears, it looks to me like we were just there applying for money and getting whatever we could and directing it where the program made us. So as far as that kind of comparison, I don’t know that we were able to make that even.

Ian Record:

We’ve often heard this, this term thrown about with respect to this dependent economy -- which fortunately, we’re seeing a lot of tribes, including your own, moving very deliberately away from -- of the 'project mentality.' And it centers around the kinds of grants that you would get from the federal government that, that there wasn’t an overarching movement toward, you know, for tribal government. It was all essentially dictated upon what could get funded from one year to the next, and there was not kind of a strategic direction to the operation of government. Is that, that sounds a little bit like the story you just related.

Diane Enos:

It is, and a lot of that started to change in 1995 when we signed our self-governance compact with the federal government. And what we do now is, it’s demonstrative of where we’ve taken it, because what we’re able to do now is to manage and direct our own programs. We receive funding and of course, you know, in the recession we’re experiencing right now, that funding has become lesser and lesser, and we’ve relied more on our own tribal funding. But I always like to think about what kind of situation other tribes are facing, because we’re in a unique position. Because of our location, we have more opportunities, not only business development, but gaming as well. But with Self-Governance, the monies that we do receive from the federal government, we’re able to program those in according, kind of in tandem with what we’re able to provide as well. So that the program, programs that we create and further are a combination of our own resources and limited federal resources. But we’re able to decide how to spend those monies and where to direct those to what we see as a greater need.

Ian Record:

So, back in ‘95 you were on the council at that time, when you signed the self-governance compact.

Diane Enos:

Yes.

Ian Record:

And so, you know, we’ve talked to a lot of tribes that have gone that route, self-governance compacting, and leaders of those nations have talked about, you know, it was one thing,  it was quite one thing to actually make that decision and say We want to go Self-Governance do that compact and quite another to actually build the governing institutions you need to essentially carry out the expanded, the expanded ability to exercise your sovereignty, if you will, under that compacting system. Can you talk a little bit about the challenge that it presented for Salt River?

Diane Enos:

We’ve always, and I have to look back at the Indian Reorganization Act, and that didn’t happen too very long ago. At the time of the Indian Reorganization [Act], prior to that, we had a chiefs system and what it consisted of were representatives that were there in council and I will call it that to further the needs of the people as a whole. So the system of sitting down together, like we have today with the tribal council, is really not a new system. It’s just that when the IRA came in, it changed the process of how we do it because we have an IRA constitution. So, going into the self-governance process, signing the compact for us as a community was clearly, I think, it was not a big struggle for us to make that decision; it was something that we were eager to do. And I know at the time, former President [Ivan] Makil who is, and is still well known as a proponent of self-governance, was really critical in making us aware as a council of the need for us to, it’s almost like stepping back in time, and the term 'self-governance' is you take care of yourself and that’s something that tribes always want to do. We’re not any different in that sense. We know what’s best for us and I think that we always will. We’ve dealt with the federal government out of, we didn’t have a choice and I believe that that’s something that we’ve always looked forward to is the opportunity or at least the, how shall I say, the willingness, the desire, the drive, if you will, to be who we are and to be what we can be for who we are.

Ian Record:

So what were some of the formal governing institutions that the council decided was, and President Makil back at the time, decided was necessary following Self-Governance. Like, what were some of the governing, formal institutions you put in place to say we need this, this, and this if we’re really going to carry this out?

Diane Enos:

The compact that we signed then as time has passed has changed. Right, way back then, and forgive me for not remembering the specifics, but I do know that some of the programs we are now are responsible for are public safety, for instance, fire and police, education, health and human services, and we go back and look at some of the things we need to have done then are still the same needs we have now. But it’s like, it’s like, and I hate to use this term 'growth' because it really is 'regeneration' almost. So, those are the programs we, the initial push was to redevelop those programs.

Ian Record:

Let’s turn now to, let’s turn our focus a little bit more directly economic development. You mentioned previously that the purchase of the cement company was a key first move for the nation to essentially move from that dependent economy to one predicated on self-sufficiency. And since then, your nation has been very aggressive in developing essentially, what we like to call, a diversified or thick economy; where you have a robust mix of nation-owned enterprises and citizen-owned businesses. Why is creating a diversified and thick economy so important?

Diane Enos:

It’s common sense. It just makes sense, because you can’t put all your, what’s that saying? Putting all your eggs in one basket? They taught us that at BIA school, just kidding. It just makes more sense, because you never totally rely on one resource because you never know when that one resource is either going to dry up or not be there or become more challenging. And I mentioned earlier the opportunities we have here because of our location. We had the dry Salt River bed, so we had Salt River Sand and Rock developed at that time as well or a little prior to that; and we’ve had the opportunity to develop our own phone company. We also have, and I’m speaking of today, we have some land that’s very choice for leasing. So we’ve developed the Salt River fields, which is the Major League Baseball spring training. And obviously we’re a gaming tribe, so we’ve gone further and developed a resort. We’re looking at developing a hotel right now separate from the resort. We’ve got the Talking Stick Golf Course that the tribe is the developer on and that started in the very early 1990s. So diversity means that you get to have all these different pockets, these different sources of revenue. Oh sure, they present different challenges, but you get to do, it’s not just one game, it’s many games, if I could call it that. But the return, it’s like betting, almost. If you are a gambler, so to speak, you want to have different options, and it’s always good to have options in life because when one doesn’t come up, the other may be there, and so on and so on. It just makes better sense, especially for us, that are located, the location that we are in.

Ian Record:

So, within that mix of businesses, both those owned by the nation and those owned by your citizens, there are certain businesses that, I mean, makes more sense for the nation to own. Then there are other businesses that it makes more sense for perhaps a citizen to own. Can you talk about that dynamic and, you know, for instance are there certain types of businesses that maybe the tribe should think twice about owning? And maybe say maybe this is better for a citizen to own that kind of business?

Diane Enos:

I think that depends on the size of the business. For instance, some tribes go into farming and that’s something that we’ve been looking at. I think the more that time passes, if an individual wants to go into that, they’re going to have to have a lot capital. So, I would say that right now, what we’ve done to support small businesses is to really, to develop what is called Salt River Financial Services Institute, and that provides loans for people as a jumpstart to open their business. But as far as what should we, what should a tribe not operate. Well, I don’t think you want to get into things that have a moral question and, like massage parlors, things that take too much capital and they’re too risky. Obviously, again as I mentioned earlier, we’re a gaming tribe. And back, I believe it was 1987 again, the national Indian gaming act came into place, we as a tribe didn’t take advantage of that until the 90s. So it’s been a constant struggle but that’s an opportunity for us. Some people may say tribes should not be involved in gaming, but when you don’t have much else, what are you going to do? It’s one of the most regulated businesses. It’s more regulated than Las Vegas, I would say, so it’s been an opportunity for us.

Ian Record:

Within that, within the economic development arena, particularly with nation-owned enterprises, the Native Nations Institute has done extensive research. And one of the things we’ve identified as a key to success for nation-owned enterprises is effectively managing the relationship between business and politics. You know, your predecessor Ivan Makil, I know, said it very well. He said, you know, 'We’re unique among the governments of the world in that we’re expected to govern but also turn a profit. You know, we had that dual role where most of the governments, they’re not expected to generate economic development. That’s someone else’s job.' Yet, you have the dual role. How do, how can tribes effectively manage that relationship where business is business and politics is politics and not let the politics creep in, and how has your nation approached that challenge?

Diane Enos:

It’s always a challenge where you have humankind. I’ve thought about that a lot and I have to go back and think about what it must’ve been like for our ancestors, because collaboration and cooperation is critical to the survival of any people. You’ve got to look around, like where we live in the desert, we couldn’t have achieved what we did without a sense of collaboration and a sense of depending on each other for the interests of the group. We still have that mentality, I believe. So making money to help out our community is a job that we have and it has to be a challenge. Of course, you’re going to have politics; people are always going to want their personal interests, but I believe we’ve been able to, as best we can, deal with that by setting up what is called the enterprise system. We have several community-owned enterprises; they’re businesses. And what we’ve done is set a board for the enterprise directors. And we’ve balanced those boards out by putting on the boards professionals -- and they can be outside people who are not tribal members -- but also some of the members of the community who also sit on the board and they govern through the policies and the procedures and the interests of those particular enterprise boards. And they, in turn, report to council on an as-needed basis, but also ultimately in the ordinances they answer to the council. So, council answers to the people generally and I like to refer back to what’s called the political process. If they don’t like you, the people don’t like what you’re doing and they don’t like the way you’re doing it, they won’t re-elect you. It seems almost simple, but accountability is always going to be a challenge to any government. And I believe that we’ve done well to try to balance that out in our system.

Ian Record:

Right. So, the way you described your board is a description that we’ve heard from other tribal nations in terms of how they’re setting up their nation-owned enterprises and the relationship they’re formalizing between those enterprises and the elective leadership of the nation. That board is, from what you’re saying it sounds like it’s set up as a firewall to insulate the day-to-day operation of those businesses from any sort of political interference?

Diane Enos:

Right, because under our ordinances, which is our law, so to speak, the boards are set up to have oversight over management of the particular enterprises. Management answers to those boards and if there becomes a situation where it gets to council and it affects the interest of the community, tribal government as a whole, that’s where council has the authority and the oversight to step in, but that’s very rare, very rare. In fact, one of the things that I think a lot of boards have learned, and we’ve certainly learned, is to not, what we call, 'micromanage.' Because if you get into micromanaging, you take away from policy-driven decisions, and really that’s what the authority of the council is under our constitution is to develop and make sure that all the policies and the laws are followed. We can’t do that if we start nitpicking and getting into the little things, I call them little things, over business. You just can’t do that. That’s what the boards are there to make sure that management does. So in some sense, yes, there’s a firewall because it keeps that arm’s length unless there’s a critical situation.

Ian Record:

But the council and you, as a president, have a very vital role to play. You mentioned formulating those policies, establishing a strategic direction. I mean, you have a vital role to play to ensure that there’s accountability there, that those businesses are performing but on a, kind of a larger picture and that they’re carrying out the nation’s larger objectives, correct?

Diane Enos:

Yes, yes they report to council. In fact, we just finished a series of annual reports to council on budgets for all the enterprises. They come and sit down with council and present their budgets. At that point, and there’s several points, other points during the year where council sits down with these boards and asks, and management, and asks them specific questions: 'What are you doing in this area? Why are we seeing this over here? What are you going to be doing in the future? What are your projections as far as the health or the, on health of a particular enterprise?' We get to have those discussions periodically, and I think that that’s really important because they understand who is doing the oversight over them and we understand how we should not micromanage or try to stay away from micromanaging.

Ian Record:

Okay. So your nation has set up an economic development corporation called Salt River Devco. Can you talk a little bit about what the overall mission and goals of that corporation are?

Diane Enos:

That was initially set up to be a clearinghouse for economic development. When I say 'economic development,' I mean actually that. The community decided in 1991 that development, and when I say development I mean it’s building buildings, creating businesses, creating an enterprise area; that only ought to occur on the perimeter of the community. So Devco was set up to manage that and to be a clearinghouse for all sorts of proposals. It was also set up to be an asset manager. Not only do we have the Chaparral Business Park, we have a large lease -- I think it’s 120 acres if I’m not mistaken -- in that whole area there. We also have a signage, outdoor signage company. We also are looking to put other small endeavors under the Devco umbrella. And now as time passes, we’re starting to move towards the development of limited liabilities corporations under, I believe it’s Section 17 of the federal government’s regulations. So it’s a...you have to be flexible when you talk about the kind of enterprise development that we do, because things change and you have to allow for those changes to occur. And the developments of limited liability, LLC, let me just say that; LLCs have to be considered ultimately because what you got to do is you got to not only change with the times, but you have to protect the tribal government as a whole, protect that interest.

Ian Record:

We’ve touched on this a little bit, but I’d like to ask you a question directly about it and: How do you see your role and the role of the councilors at Salt River, the elected councilors, in terms of your nation’s enterprises? What is your fundamental role in terms of ensuring that those businesses take root and grow?

Diane Enos:

Are you talking about tribal businesses?

Ian Record:

Tribal businesses.

Diane Enos:

Under our constitution, the council -- and that includes the president and the vice-president -- have the responsibility to do a whole list of things for the people. And not only do we provide for court systems and for the laws of the community, but we’re supposed to take care of the people, essentially. So our role, as far as being in the positions we’re in, in order to take care of the people we have manage our assets. We have to take care of the assets. Not only taking care of those assets, but making sure that they grow. It’s kind of a fiduciary relationship. And you don’t have a fiduciary that just sits there on his hand, his or her hands. You have to be active and you have to look for more opportunities. And ultimately, the goal is to help your people, is to make sure that there’s a resource for not only the people that are alive today, but the people that are coming. So that’s essentially what I see our role as, as a council.

Ian Record:

You talked about the obligation that you have as president and the councilors have to the people of the nation. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Can you speak to the role of citizen support in the development and operation of nation-owned enterprises? You know, it’s quite one thing if you guys as a group say it would be a good idea to get into this new business area, but it’s quite another to get the people behind that idea and to really support it, you know, long-term. What kind of, what kind of challenge does that present and how important is transparency and citizen understanding of the economic direction you’re going?

Diane Enos:

You have to, you have to have citizen support for any ventures that you do. You’re not always going to have 100 percent citizen support. You have detractors, that’s just part of, part of life. For instance, let me use the Salt River Fields examples. The idea came up pretty quickly and the council started discussing it. And obviously we knew it was going to take a lot of input in terms of capital, so we had to discuss how we’re going to do that. And right away we started talking about this idea to the people. We started putting the idea out in public, in public meetings. But this particular proposal didn’t provide enough, a lot of time. It’s like we had to make decisions fairly quickly. And those decisions, because they involve our finances and our resources, which are not public information because for a lot of reasons, some of the discussions that we had to have had to occur behind closed doors in executive session. So when this plan was finally unveiled, and I would say with pictures and what not, some of the people were saying, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you not asking us? Why didn’t we take this to a public vote?' And we had to tell them there wasn’t enough time to do that. We have to make some decisions; we have to make some commitments. So explaining that part of it to the public was critical. And the other thing that we still do -- we just had an update on the progress last week -- is to continue to have periodic updates and the resolutions that we pass towards the development, you know moving it to the next stage, were done publicly. Everything that we had to do, we have to tell the people why we’re doing it, and sometimes we have to just tell the people, ‘We don’t have enough time to take a community vote,’ and people have to understand that. And I’m sure there are still some people who don’t like that and maybe didn’t vote for some of us in this election because of that, but in order to get the confidence of the people you have to demonstrate a track record that shows stability and shows calculation and an ability to move towards transparency. It’s difficult to have total transparency when you’re a tribal government, because you have a lot of non-members, the out, let’s call them the outside world, who may be interested in your financing and your finances for many reasons. Some of those aren’t good reasons. So when we talk about transparency, you’re talking about money, but we’re also talking about process. The ability to tell, discuss those issues, we do and have done frequently with community member-only meetings, where if you’re going to come to the meeting you have to show your enrollment card. That’s, to us, the best way to be as transparent as we can, because it’s really our membership that has the most stake here at hand in any particular proposal.

Ian Record:

Let’s talk about another aspect of successful economic development in Indian Country and that is a neutral dispute resolution. And you have a, you have a legal background; you practiced law for many years so you have a keen eye on this particular area. Why is neutral dispute resolution important to successful nation enterprises?

Diane Enos:

Sovereign nations, tribes, cannot be sued because as a sovereign you have a shield around you. But people will not want to do business with you if you cannot, if they can’t take you to court, if you have an argument with them or if you have a dispute with them. What we’ve done -- and I know lots of governments have done this -- is having to do what’s called limited waivers of that sovereign immunity. Part of that, to do business with an outside entity, involves which court are you going to go to if you have a problem, if you have an issue. A lot of outside businesses do not, for many reasons, want to take a dispute to tribal court. So what we’ve done is set up an arbitration clause in our agreements, in I would say just about most of our agreements that we do with outside entities. That gives assurance to them that if there ever is a problem, that we have a process laid out where we can take a dispute and have it resolved by a third party. And it gives a lot of comfort, because you’ve got to have that in business and tribes have to understand, we don’t like it, every time we do the limited waiver of sovereign immunity. It makes us a little bit uncomfortable because we’re giving up some of our shield, but in order to properly advance our business interests it’s almost like, I’m trying to think of an analogy and it escapes me right now, but you have to consider the worst-case scenario in any, in any venture that you go into. What will happen if this worst-case scenario occurs? What are we going to do? And you always have to have, in the back of your mind, how are we going to protect the tribe, ultimately? And the arbitration clause is a way for us to achieve that.

Ian Record:

So there’s these disputes that tend to arise big-scale when you’re talking about, you know, you the tribe in a joint venture with an outside partner, say around a major development. Then there’s kind of the day-to-day, personnel kinds of disputes. I assume you’ve had to build in some, some neutral dispute resolution mechanisms for things such as personnel disputes that arise from one of your enterprises. I mean, that’s equally critical, is it not?

Diane Enos:

It is. It is because those enterprises operate in any kind of business relationship that they have to develop or whether it’s with a particular employee, there has to always be a way to resolve a dispute. Right now, I don’t know if you know this, crimes do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians, but we still retain a measure of civil jurisdiction and authority over non-Indians so that if you have a non-Indian employee, we still have civil authority over their, over the conduct. And as you know, or you may or may not know, most disputes are civil in nature and when I say civil, the law’s divided into criminal and civil, so you have a forum to resolve those disputes with an employee and that would be tribal court or the human resources department.

Ian Record:

So how is your tribal court system grown? How has it grown and why has it grown in the fifteen years since you forged your self-governance compact?

Diane Enos:

The tribal court for any nation has to grow. With us, particularly, here, given our broad range of development here and the amount of employees that we have and the number of people that live in the community we have had to allocate more and more resources to the development and the strengthening of our tribal court. Tribal courts really are a strong basis of our sovereign authority here, because they spell out directly the power that the tribe has. If you can take somebody physically into custody, adjudicate a matter against them and jail them, I mean it seems to me short of execution there is no greater example of authority over a person, and we have that authority over all Indian people that live here or come here and we all also have had to develop our police department so that we’re able to exercise the state’s authority in certain areas of the community. But our tribal court has had to be flexible. We’ve instituted some changes. What we do now is we’ve opened up the application pool to sister tribes to become judges so now you don’t just have to be from Salt River to be a sitting judge here and they’re appointed by council. You could be a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community or the Ak-Chin Indian community because we have a lot of the same cultural values and systems. That’s one example of how we’ve grown.

Ian Record:

So in terms of trying to foster an environment for the success of your nation-owned enterprises, your citizen-owned businesses, what key laws and codes and policies have you put in place?

Diane Enos:

One of the big things we’ve done recently over the last several years is the procurement policy. And what that does is it enables certified tribal member-owned businesses to move ahead in the line. If there’s a contract that is to be let out by the tribe they have preference: tribal member-owned businesses and then Native-owned businesses and then other owned. And what that does is it enables them to, if you can get certified -- and certification has certain requirements to make sure that this isn’t tribal member owned business –- then it’s only proper that they step ahead of our people in the process. And again you’re going to look for how the service benefits the tribe and you have the spin-off benefit that occurs when you have a tribal member-owned business get priority.

Ian Record:

Okay. So one of the things you did, one of the things the community did a few years back was zone the entire community, in terms of its land, and you developed what is referred to as the General Plan. Why did the nation decide to take that step and what impact has it had on your ability to develop economically?

Diane Enos:

The community’s been doing that for many, many years, prior to me ever coming on to council. And what it does is it sets our roadmap and the people have input through the council representatives. We have also had several meetings over a period of time where people are able to give their input. I mentioned earlier that in 1991 we had the vision meetings, strategizing, and right now we just finished, my gosh, probably about seventeen or eighteen community member meetings with various segments of the community -- the youth, the seniors, general district meetings, general meetings -- to ask the people, 'What do you want?' And what the result is is to impact the general zoning plan because it’s the citizens of the tribe that have to decide where development occurs, because we live here. And it’s the citizens of the tribe that have to decide where education’s going to occur and where certain things are not going to occur as well. Because where we live, we live right in the middle, almost in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix; we’re on the edge. We have to have a better handle. We have to make sure that the people feel like they have a say. And when I say 'they,' I’m one of the people. I like to sit back and think of myself as just a regular citizen and the things that would annoy me on a day, you know, day-to-day basis living here and the things that would make me feel comfortable here and my children and my family. Those are the things that continue to be important as time passes, and certainly if I see change occurring in my community that I don’t like, I’m going to say something about it. Conversely, I would like to be able to say something about what I want my community to look like.

Ian Record:

One of the things that struck me in reviewing the General Plan and the map that you’ve developed that shows where development will happen and not happen is the fact that you have a very, I think, confined area for development and there’s essentially a segregation between the development zone and the living zone, if you will, where development’s going to take place adjacent to Scottsdale and then where the people are going to live and carry out their lives and I assume that was very purposeful, wasn’t it?

Diane Enos:

It was and that started in 1991. It started prior to that, but it was formalized in 1991 with the creation of the vision statement. And the project that we are in right now and just finished the meetings that we had is called Vision 2020, because I believe we need to go back 20 years and sit down with the population of the people in the community and ask them. Well, the big push for that 1991 discussion was the development of the Pima Freeway. That was a very, very divisive issue. When the State of Arizona decided that it wanted to build a freeway on tribal land there were a lot of people, and I was one of them, that was told that was absolutely against this proposal because it was felt at that time and I still, I know that it was going to change our community and it has, but I also believe that once a decision’s made by the majority of the people, we have to fall in step with that we have to make the best use of it that we can. So back in 1991, the people knew that this freeway was coming and in fact it had I believe been decided on. So people started saying, ‘The intrusion into the community of the freeway, the 101 Freeway, we don’t want it to go any further, we want this to be the line right here.’ All the proposals for businesses, stores, retail, development and all other kinds of fixtures, I mean just call it that, are going to stay over there because we want to be able to walk down our roads and we want to be able to look at the sunrise and we want to be able to look at the mountains and we want to be able to have our children play in our yards and we don’t want no stores, no businesses, we don’t want a lot of things that economic development has -- we don’t want that in our backyard. It’s the ultimate 'NIMBY' ['Not in my backyard'] type of posture and I think we’re very happy with it.

Ian Record:

Several years ago your nation established a sales tax. What prompted the nation to establish a tax and where’s the money go? What benefits has it brought the nation?

Diane Enos:

Every government considers taxes and every government has to tax in one form or another. Whether it’s part of your crop, whether it’s part of your seeds, you know back in older times, and the tax that we levy right now on our own members is small compared to what the state levies. We don’t, we’ve had to do it as a matter of necessity. We don’t share in the revenue with the state and the county that is collected on state’s sales tax; tribes don’t. If we didn’t collect our own tribal tax, we wouldn’t get that money, and where that money goes, it goes into the general fund and it goes toward our general budget, our operating budget, it goes towards things like social services, police and fire protection, education, the cost of this building, the cost of paying our employees, just in the general fund it helps our government.

Ian Record:

And was there an education effort that needed to take place of your citizens to say this, we really need this?

Diane Enos:

I don’t remember when that tax was set up. It’s been so long and it’s just been a part of, part of our government. I don’t remember a specific time.

Ian Record:

I’d like to wrap up with a short discussion of small businesses -- businesses owned and operated by tribal citizens. Just a first, general question: how important an economic engine can citizen-owned businesses be for your nation and others?

Diane Enos:

As far as being able to provide government services, they pay taxes, but the other part of it that’s really important is that they can be employers of our people. They can, not only, what do they call, recycle the dollar in the community, but they also provide modeling for our youth and our children. Because if you’re going to go into business you’re not, you’re going to have certain qualities as an individual. You have to be able to take risk, but you’re also going to be able to manage what you have in order to be a success, in order to function as a successful business. And for our children to see our own people doing that I think that that, to me, that’s one of the best things to come out of seeing and supporting community member-owned businesses is that modeling. Because without it, you’re only seeing success and risks being taken by non-members and non-Indians and what does that say to a child? So that’s, to me, that’s the key concept.

Ian Record:

And it also gives them a sense of what’s possible in terms of their futures, their careers, you know. There’s other things out there than just maybe going into tribal government, getting a job there, or going to work for the casino.

Diane Enos:

Absolutely, Yup. They keep us on our toes.

Ian Record:

How does your nation work to cultivate and foster small businesses owned by your citizens?

Diane Enos:

We have what’s called the Salt River Financial Services Institute, which offers loans. We also have procurement policies, which provide preference to them for contracts. We have employee preference policies in place. We also have, there are businesses here from their own organization. In fact, I just met with one of the key officers in the Salt River business owners and encouraged them to come to council and have a dialogue with us: that dialogue has to continue because since tribal government sets up a lot of the regulations and frankly has the keys to some of the opportunities, we have to partner up with them. So the idea of partnering up with them is to figure out how we can do better as a tribe to encourage that growth and support that growth and how they in turn can tell us we can do that better. So it’s really a partnership that I’m anxious to see continue.

Ian Record:

So, you know, this thought process that you and your, that you and your councilors here at Salt River have about consciously incorporating small businesses as part of your overall economic development strategy, that’s not something that a lot of nations do. I mean, are some nations and nation leadership missing the boat by not consciously considering small businesses as part of the economic development process?

Diane Enos:

I would say if you don’t encourage and further small businesses you are definitely missing a boat there. And what I mean by that is missing the opportunity to do those things we just talked about. You’re also not utilizing some of the best talent that your people have. You’re also failing to provide opportunities for tribal government, because if you encourage businesses to flourish and you encourage them to participate in a dialogue with you, they can tell you how you can do your business as a tribal government better. And that’s your own people talking to you. So, yeah, I definitely think that the pluses far outweigh the minuses there. So, yeah, you’re missing a big boat.

Ian Record:

As you mentioned earlier, you’re also keeping those dollars when you have those local outlets for spending by your people, you’re keeping those dollars circulating within the community.

Diane Enos:

Absolutely. You’re keeping employment within the community and just making more opportunities for your own people, ideally.

Ian Record:

Well, President Enos, we really thank you for your time and thank you for sharing your experience, wisdom and knowledge with us.

Diane Enos:

Wisdom? [Laughter] I don’t know about that.

Ian Record:

Well, that’s all the time we have on today’s program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute’s website at nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us. Copyright 2011. Arizona Board of Regents.

Constitutions and Constitutional Reform - Day 1 (Q&A)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Presenters and moderators from the first day of NNI's "Tribal Constitutions" seminar gather to field questions from seminar participants on a variety of topics ranging from dual citizenship to the relationship between a nation's constitution and its economic development environment.

Resource Type
Citation

Cornell, Stephen, Jill Doerfler, Robert Hershey and Miriam Jorgensen. "Constitutions and Constitutional Reform - Day 1 (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Managment and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2013. Q&A Session.

Justin Beaulieu:

"Okay, I have a question. It's kind of three parts. So the first part is citizenship. This is important to me personally because my kids and myself are involved. Citizenship, is there any tribes that have identified dual citizenship with another tribe where, like historically where, I can be a citizen or a member of like Mille Lacs, White Earth, Red Lake, etc., and then what impact does that have on federal status? If I'm federally recognized from one tribe, can I not get...I don't understand that. So the second part of the question is, are we putting the cart before the horse when we talk about putting this in our constitution not knowing if that's going to pass or not because how do we consider the next generations when we haven't defined really who they are yet? And then the third part is, has any tribes faltered with their constitutional reform because citizenship was included in there?"

Robert Hershey:

"What was the third part again?"

Justin Beaulieu:

"Has any tribes faltered with constitutional reform, like not passed it because there was a citizenship clause in their constitution, was it not ratified and what not?"

Stephen Cornell:

"So, who's going after that?"

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, I can say a couple things, I guess, probably with regard to White Earth. We don't have a clause that says anything regarding...that precludes dual citizenship, but we didn't really address it specifically like citizenship among multiple tribes and we felt...there was a question at White Earth if citizenship should be considered separately and that was sort of considered separately in the late "˜90s' efforts for reform where we kind of talked about those different options. And at that time, in the late "˜90s, the plan was to put up the new constitution and then put up citizenship sort of at the same time, but then have citizens vote on all those options. And as we worked on our effort more recently in the 21st century, we felt that it was better to put it up as a whole because then you can see the scope of the government because if you have a different type of citizenship that might impact other parts of the constitution and we felt that it would actually be better to put it up as a whole than to separate it out. So that's what we kind of came to."

Stephen Cornell:

"The only thing I'd add -- and this comes to a portion of your question -- there's nothing out there that says you have to redo a constitution all at once. And there's sometimes issues that people find particularly difficult to deal with, and as Jill was saying, this was an issue for them and they decided to put it altogether in a single package, but you can imagine a situation where a nation might say, "˜We need to make some critical changes; it's being held up by one issue over which we have real concerns. We're having trouble resolving that issue. We're going to set that issue aside and deal with it later.' Now that gets complicated for exactly the kinds of reasons Jill talked about, but there's nothing that says you've got to do it all at once and that's what most tribes seem to try to do, but this is your constitution and you're the ones who know whether some issue is going to derail the entire effort and whether one option should be to hold off on that until you can get some consensus over what it should look like. But in the meantime, let's do what we can do because we need to make these changes. So I just wanted to point that out."

Robert Hershey:

"Let me add one other little point to that. The majority of constitutions that we've looked at -- and we did a study of about 200 membership ordinances in different constitutions -- and the majority, the vast majority prohibited dual membership. And I think you'll see that more common than not. One of the tribes we were asked to assist, the question of membership was not even a part of the proposed amendments, but there was a suspicion that it was somehow part of the proposed amendments when it was not at all and that derailed the entire constitutional process. And I agree with what Steve said too, it's probably the trickiest part in there. It may be better to develop some sort of a consensus on the things that seem...like removing the Secretary of the Interior approval language at least initially on some of the ordinances to get that forum going. We have a tremendous amount of constitutional conventions that took place with White Earth to go ahead and inform the public and yet your turnout was a fraction of the people that were involved in the community so I think really it's about the process of education to where it becomes familiar because you're asking people to try and adopt something different than what they know what the status quo has been."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"I don't know of a tribe that has dual membership, although I heard that it was possible in Oklahoma. So I was glad to hear from Mike Burgess that is the case and I think one of the things that's important to think about is to go back to the fundamental idea of what matters to the nation in terms of its citizenship. If it's valuable to them because that's the way that many people see themselves or that there is a segment of the population for which dual citizenship is really important about what the definition of that community is, it might make sense to include it and I wouldn't be surprised if that's part of the reason in Oklahoma where because the Oklahoma Indian history and what, 45 nations relocated to Oklahoma, something like that..."

Herminia Frias (moderator):

"...Thank you. Marcelino?"

Marcelino Flores:

"Thank you to all our presenters, and what I'm understanding so far is that each tribal nation needs to come to an understanding of who they are and how they will govern themselves, but none of this happens in isolation. And I can appreciate Jill beginning to mention that where we're going is one of those questions and Stephen Cornell mentioning perhaps firewood issues and probably appropriate at the council meetings, but the question that I have is there are some things that just cannot be ignored and I think they need more clarification and understanding and that is the role of economic development, health care and housing, particularly for health care. We're largely dependent on the federal system and it's changing, it's very different now. We really don't know what it means to be under Obama Care, especially within the State of Arizona. So how do you address these larger issues in the context of constitutional reform?"

Stephen Cornell:

"I think that's a great question and I'll take a first shot at it. In some ways, I think in the areas you're talking about and I'm going to circle around and come back to your point. We had a tribal chair who said to us once, "˜We get a lot of money from the federal government for programs, a lot of that is treaty-based obligation and our attitude is, 'They owe that to us.'' But he said, "˜I pursue economic development because in my experience every one of those federal dollars is a leash around my neck and it restricts my freedom.' He wasn't talking about himself when he said "˜my,' he meant "˜my people.' 'It restricts our freedom because in order to get that money we've got to agree to year evaluation criteria, we've got to get your permission on how to spend it, we've got to spend it in the way that you think is best for us, not the way we might think is best for us.' And he said, "˜So economic development to me is a freedom program. It's how do I create the resources that allow me to escape that federal leash?' And he said, "˜Don't get me wrong. They owe us the money. They'll never pay us enough money to pay for the land they took, but I don't want to be sitting here having to ask their permission to do the things we think are important for our people.' Now you imagine getting, let's say he reached the point where he could afford health care for his people and where he could provide the housing and there are some nations that are doing that right now, that are pursuing tribally managed health care, for example. The real question is, if he got to that point, has he got the governing tools he needs to deliver on that responsibility? If you say to the U.S. government, "˜Treaty says you're responsible for health care, but you don't do a very good job of it. And I could sit here and wait for you to do a better job of it, but the chances are I might die waiting. So instead, we're going to take responsibility for that because I've got people whose lives are at stake and now we're getting the money to do it.' And now the question is, "˜Can I do it well?' That's going to depend on your constitution. That's going to depend on whether you've got the governing tools in hand that allow you to deliver the things you want to deliver to your people. Now you can get bogged down in the treaty argument and who should pay for it argument and all of that, but at some point you have to say, "˜There are things we want to do for our people and we've got to show that we can deliver.' So that to me is where all these things come back to constitutional questions. They come back to, what do you want to govern and do you have the tools to do it well."

Robert Hershey:

"This is where the Secretarial approval clause comes in too. If you're an IRA [Indian Reorganization Act] tribe, does that say something about your ability to get bank loans and foster economic development? You have the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, the United States government behind you. Some lenders might look at the fact that you're an IRA tribe and they may go ahead and say, "˜Well, you're legitimate,' as opposed to another form of government, too. So that's something that...I said I wasn't going to give you a preview of tomorrow, but that's something I'm going to bring up."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"So now we know everybody's going to come back, Robert, because we're all excited about what you're going to talk about. I just want to say one thing and it's kind of to back up what Steve was saying and I will say that this comes from sort of thinking about what governments are structured to do. If your government is structured to provide health care to citizens and to seek funds to do that from the federal government, to provide housing to citizens and to seek funds from the federal government to do that and to provide streams of income to citizens and to use...rely on particular federal structures to do that, you have a government that's structured to do those things. But if you have a government that is structured to provide greater freedom and opportunity to your people and greater freedom and opportunity for the nation itself to be a self-governing, self-determined, sovereign entity, all those other things are likely to come, but you're going to have the government capacity to do it. So you have to think, "˜Have I built a government that's just about service provision or have I built a government that's capable of doing lots of other things and in the process, is therefore able to underwrite economic development, to underwrite the freedom of individual Native citizens of my nation to be able to access more streams of capital, to be able to have more opportunities and at the same time, yes, maybe I as a government am providing those things to them, but I'm structured to do much more.' So I think that's really the question that nations have to wrestle with -- are you going to limit yourself at the outset by saying, "˜I care so much about service provision that that's the only way I'm going to structure my government,' or, "˜I know that governments have lots of things that they need to do and if it does all those things well, it's going to be able to do service provision well as well.'

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. We have a question in the back here from Nimrod? Oh, one more response from Jill."

Jill Doerfler:

"I'll just make one quick comment relating to that about services and citizenship and sometimes a concern that comes up is if we increase citizenship then what about services, what about putting strain on that and in a lot of ways our goals are to create strong nations with strong citizens who don't necessarily need housing assistance, but who, because there's good job opportunities and economic development within the nation, don't need to access those, but instead are maybe pumping resources back into the nation rather than extracting them. And so we talked about that quite a bit at White Earth as well. We want strong citizens who contribute and in some ways that don't need certain services maybe."

Mohammed Fardous:

"Hello, my name is Mohammad Fardous, and actually you already answered part of my question, but the question is that is it important to address the economic development in the constitution? If so, what factors should be addressed? Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"What was the question?"

Mohammed Fardous:

"That economic development, is that important to be addressed in the constitution?"

Herminia Frias:

"Oh, is economic development important to be addressed in the constitution?"

Stephen Cornell:

"To me, that's something for an individual nation to decide. You may be in a nation where you feel the culture of dependency that has been forced on you by subordination and so forth is so deeply entrenched that you want to say -- and one of the things that you may state in a preamble or somewhere in a constitution -- one of the things you value as a people is to be able to support yourselves, to have control over your life, which in this modern time and in this country is going to require dollars. They speak. If that's important to you, you may want to say, "˜One of the things we want this constitution to do is to support prosperity, economic growth for our people so that we can be truly independent of some other government and their control of the purse strings.' I don't know, but to me that's up to an individual nation. It depends what you're most concerned with, and I don't think there's one answer, just as on so many of these issues we've been talking about there's no one answer. The answer is, what resonates with your sense of who you're trying to be and of what needs to change and of what you're trying to protect? That's what a constitution's about. Who are we, what do we need to change, what are we trying to protect? How do we do that? So it's really up to you."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"I think at the same time, though, every constitution is about economic development, but not explicitly. This goes back to the notion that we know that regardless if you're a tribal community, you're a state or provincial government, you're an international nation state, there are fundamentals that support economic progress. One of them is the fair resolution of disputes, and if your constitution sets up that process, it is fundamentally saying something about economic development. You have to have laws like I was talking about that people will abide by so that you can be a society that is a rule-of-law society, and that's not in an oppressive kind of way of, "˜Here's the law and you have to follow it and I said so,' but rather, "˜Do we have laws that we together as a nation agree on that these are the highest expression of ourselves and the way we want to live our lives and to some extent this is how we want to do business?' So does the constitution put in place processes that allow for rule of law to exist? And those are not necessarily saying anything directly about economic development, but they're structuring a governing authority that can support economic development."

Robert Hershey:

"I just want to reiterate the thing that you said about having a dispute-resolution mechanism. That's having a tribal court that has an independent judiciary because you're going to have to have people, if you're going to have investors coming from off the reservation, you're going to try to raise money for economic development projects, they're going to have to have confidence in that dispute resolution forum."

Stephen Cornell:

"And we're going to talk about that tomorrow."

Herminia Frias:

"Jill, did you want to add anything?"

Jill Doerfler:

"No."

Herminia Frias:

"Okay. We have another question in the back."

Jamie Henio:

"Hello. My name is Jamie Henio with the Navajo Nation and my background is primarily in housing and criminal prosecution, but the idea of government reform and constitutions is new to me right now. And I've started working for the Speaker's office about seven, eight months ago and this is...the idea of government reform is pretty much a hot topic on the Navajo Nation right now. So I'm thinking here, listening to everybody and the term 'IRA tribe,' what is an IRA tribe is my first question, what's that? And then the other thing is Navajo Nation, they're looking at...well, there've been attempts in the past, 1930, 1955 and 1960 to develop a constitution, adopt a constitution, but it failed every time. So right now that's where the movement's at again, too, is to develop a document that will govern the Navajo Nation. So if the Navajo Nation should adopt a constitution at this time, would they be considered an IRA tribe and under the control of the Secretary of the Interior? That's my other question."

Robert Hershey:

"Okay. An IRA tribe...well, first of all, after the terrible policies, after the terrible schizophrenic policies of how non-Native society has intruded upon and committed acts of aggression and genocide against Native peoples and then through the allotment period in the late 1800s to the 1920s, in 1934 some of the Solicitors and some of the people in Washington felt that they could go ahead and foster a restructuring of that terrible allotment period where Native peoples lost about two-thirds of their lands. They created what was called the Wheeler-Howard Act in 1934 and that was the Indian Reorganization Act and that basically then from that the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] went out and issued pattern constitutions for the tribes to adopt. I think...it was nothing that the tribes or the nations asked for at that time. What it was, I think it was a convenience mechanism for the United States government also to go ahead and foster its relationship and its so-called trust responsibility with Native nations at that time. So that's the genesis of the IRA. Navajo came about in...and I know that you've had three attempts at constitutional conventions and reformations and that has not passed and I have a historical document written by a Navajo student of mine that I can get you too that talks about that. I think it may have been lost somewhere from...that was given to the nation, but I have a copy of that for you. The fact that you would adopt a constitution does not necessarily make it so that you would be adopting it under the terms of the Indian Reorganization Act. You can adopt a constitution in another way, by yourself. The way Navajo came through the Navajo Business Committee in the 1920s was by virtue of Standard Oil coming to the Secretary of the Interior and basically saying, "˜We want your oil and your shale,' and therefore they established a series of business agreements that then became the councils, which then became the series of concessions and agreements with the Secretary of the Interior and a lot of mismanagement. But it was motivationally driven by non-Native people trying to seek Navajo mineral royalties at that time, out of which then your statutes and laws have evolved keeping in mind the fundamental laws of the Diné. So it does not mean that you have to become an IRA tribe."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. Kevin? Which mic is that? Six."

Kevin:

"The gentleman that was talking about economic development, I think every one of the constitutions that are in place in one form or another discuss it in a manner and you were talking about disputes. Well, the issue is if self-determination is applied through a lot of federal programs, that's also under that principle of economic development and the right to govern ourselves. But we have to remember that it's not an act that gives us that right, it's our birthright. So as we can all understand that it's our right as human beings to go in that direction, it's already applied. We just have to apply it. It's already there, written in probably everybody's constitution in one form or another, in the programs that we receive, the ones that do receive them, the monies are there for that principle. Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. We have a question, yes."

Audience member:

"I kind of...I have a question, but I don't know if I'm asking to you guys or maybe to the tribes, because in 2000 we went and passed our new constitution, 2000, the year 2000. So we had an IRA and we made changes. We made it to fit us as Yavapai people, to fit how we're going to do economic development, how we make laws, how we interpret and how all these things happen. But today I think our constitution, when you look back, we're having problems with membership, and I think that's one of the things as tribal people and leaders that you need to look at, what's going to affect you in 50 years. Because me as a leader, I try to look out for 50 years ahead of time or the babies that aren't even born yet. I don't look for today or tomorrow, that's what...that's how I was raised and one of the things, I know that's what we're struggling with is membership and we're working at it but I know like you...one of you speakers presented today that the U.S. Constitution hasn't been changed and it's hard to change and sometimes you don't want to always change your constitution, but as Native people we change every so many centuries and we don't know how many people are actually of our descendance or have just came in and moved in our territory. So I think really the question goes...I don't know if it goes to you guys or us as people. We're the ones that identify ourselves and define ourselves. How many years do you let go by...because here we're...this is year 13 for us with our constitutional change from 1934 and it's been working, but the membership part has been hurting us because we...like this lady here, she's a teacher and she sees all the children that she knows are going to always live within our reservation and their parents are tribal members, their grandparents were tribal members, but we can't enroll them. And I sit there and I argue with my council because I will say, "˜Let's just enroll them. We know who we are. I know that baby's never going to...or that baby's going to live here or that baby may be doing something good in the future and we're not even going to be a part of it,' but it's because our constitutional change that binds our hands and that's why it's so important like what the...like what you did with your community when you had all your forums and meetings and...our committee is doing that now and this is learning for them and I'm glad that they're here, they're learning from you that this is what we need to do is to identify, do everything you can with your community, involve them because in 2000 our community was not involved in this change of constitution. And it is a good constitution and we're tweaking it now. So like I said, I don't know if it's up to...I know it's up to us, but because you guys are the professors and you guys know the rule of thumb or you know the U.S. Constitution, how do we go as citizens of changing them? Do we look every 10, 15 years or do we just not do it and just say, "˜Hey,' cause we do have some elders that say, "˜Just leave it. Just leave it. Don't change it.' So how...what do tribes do that you guys have worked with, I guess is what I'm asking."

Stephen Cornell:

"Well, I was going to ask Miriam because I can't remember whether it's Cherokee or Osage who built into their --Cherokee -- who built into their new constitution the provision that they would revisit it every 20 years I think."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"Actually, it was in the 1976 constitution, that's what motivated the..."

Stephen Cornell:

"...The change, yeah. So it's a...you'd have to think what the appropriate interval is for you, but it's certainly one thing to consider is to say, "˜The world changes and do we wait for a crisis to arise that forces us then into some quick forced constitutional reconsideration or do we say, no, we're going to revisit this document every 10, 15, whatever it might be years, and we'll prepare for that and we'll know it's coming. And therefore it won't be this process that happens in crisis conditions where you don't have time to think about what you're doing adequately because you've got to respond to something that happened. Instead, this will be part of our deliberate, continuing growth of our government.' The world changes; your nation's changed. We sometimes have...I think the anthropologists are probably to blame, but probably all of us are, this notion of these unchanging forever communities that lived in North America. Well, heck, there were trade relations, people had new ideas, people tried new things, people discovered that the climate changed or that you moved because you were following a resource and you had to do things in new ways and the rules changed because you said, "˜Ah, we've got to come up with a new solution for this, deal with the situation we're in now.' Why shouldn't that be part of your new tradition of how you govern, that we're ready to change when the world demands that we respond to new conditions."

Herminia Frias:

"If I can add to that, I think that sometimes we get fixated on that this is done and we forget that this is really a living document, this is really something that we need to adhere to and pay attention to as our society changes. So thinking about it, how is it that we do things today, how is it that we do things tomorrow, and how is it that we're going to do things 25 years from now? It changes."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"So I don't think Jill's going to necessarily blow her own horn on this, but I think that their experience at White Earth is probably real similar to what could go on for you guys at Hualapai. Jill's presentations about historically where their blood quantum rules came from, where their membership and citizenship rules came from, and really telling the history of that. I had read things that Jill had written before meeting her and I encourage you, if you never read any kind of an academic article in your life, to read her 2009 piece in American Indian Quarterly. It's beautiful, it works from the point of storytelling and it puts you in the position as if you were community members in 1910, '13 when the Indian agents came around and assigned blood quantum and you get the understanding that it's an entirely constructed idea. And I think that a lot of citizens today in tribal communities don't understand a lot of that history and they think that it's something that's been...that's definite as opposed to something that's more or less made up and you gave that, a version of that kind of talk multiple times, and it really starts to break down on people's understanding of where these rules come from and opens them up to a greater acceptance that there could be different rules and it can be more inclusive of children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and who's going to be in that community."

Jill Doerfler:

"Well, thank you very much, Miriam, for noting that. Yeah, I didn't get a chance to talk at length about it in my presentation today, but as I said, my research has been on Anishinaabeg identity historically, and so part of that was how people were talking about identity and citizenship in the 19-teens and the historical record on it is amazingly rich. And so we have people at White Earth talking about identity and blood quantum and I was able to use lots of quotes from them extensively to say...what they said time and again was A, "˜we don't know what you're talking about when you try to say blood quantum,' and B, "˜that doesn't really matter to us. What matters is our families, what matters is how we live our lives.' I'll just give two quick examples because I can't help myself. One, what happened is they're asking people at White Earth, "˜is so and so a mixed blood,' and they want to know because of land sale. That's what they're really looking at, but I was interested in the identity. So they asked a woman, "˜Isn't it true...is your husband a mixed blood?' and she says, "˜No, my husband is a full blood. He made himself a full blood.' And so we see there her answer being surprising...I don't know how many people would say that today, they make themselves, but at that time Anishinaabeg people created their own identity by their actions, what they did made them who they were and they were really in control versus this idea of blood quantum, which is sort of pseudo science and it's something that we don't have control over, that's just some kind of number assigned to us at birth by our tribe or the Bureau of Indian Affairs or something like that. And the other fabulous quote that I'll mention, as a person was being asked time and again about another person's blood quantum and he finally said, "˜I don't know. That person has been dead a long time. If you really want to know, you should go ahead and just go dig him up.' So Anishinaabeg people always have some good humor and that's one of my favorites because they're like...there's no answering these questions about blood quantum. And so I think I'll leave it with that."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. Justin?"

Justin Beaulieu:

"One of the things that I was going to touch on with her question is that I did a research paper about blood quantum too because it was important to me. And one of the things that I identified was that the only people or the only things that are really identified by how much of something they are is some animals and Native Americans. That's the only thing. So if we're going to categorize ourselves into a category with animals because that...it's always kind of been about resources. The federal government didn't want to be babysitting a bunch of Indians so they said, "˜We're going to make...if you have a kid with a white person, they're half,' and then eventually we're going to be extinct before we're dead. So that was good to them. That was good for them and if that's what we want to continue, that's going to be our legacy, I guess that's our choice."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you, Justin."

Mike Burgess:

"Mike Burgess again. Not to answer the blood quantum issue, but this young lady, you had a question that you made a statement that how often or how many...when should you change your constitution? My response to that would be and a suggestion is, when your leaders no longer honor it. And so when your leadership doesn't follow through with what that constitution abides by, because I was struck by one statement here that was up on the screen that the law must be followed, rightly or wrongly, be followed. So a constitution that does not define how leadership should be held up, it should be a constitution that has generally your bylaws or your rules of behavior or your ordinance for conducting themselves. So on the reverse side of that, leadership that wants to be in office that can't honor those rules doesn't need to be there in the first place. I bring this up because of my own people again. One constitution, it was [Three] Affiliated Tribes, we broke apart in '65, new constitution in '67, been amended 14 times. We've attempted to change the constitution three times in the last ten years, but my people...put it in political rhetoric, you live with the devil you know. So people who are afraid of change have to be instructed, taught and shown that change is good and beneficial. And so the few of us in my people that want to make these changes, we can't get heard and that voice has been squelched. Well, thankfully the internet is there and even that is misinterpreted at times. But there are these things that can be put in place and for one, we are discussing among ourselves not anymore lowering blood quantum, but raising it. And someone asked me, "˜Well, when and where would you have the cut off line to raise it?' So in 1976, every Comanche enrolled at that time received a per cap and I explained to them, "˜When we first got started with this blood quantum stuff on the reservation days, everybody was a full blood and one-quarter of our tribe was not full-blood Comanche. So why don't we go back to that time frame to 1976 and everybody's a full blood and our children come up half or quarter or three-quarters.' So you're not faced with this reducing blood quantum to get more numbers, which hasn't benefited us in the long run precisely because of per cap, educational benefits, and half the people who don't live at home want their medical card, their education and their per cap and never come home. So some of us are discussing this idea of citizen responsibility, coming home to vote each year, being recognized in the community at specific events and times. So we are having to come back to what some of you have now, citizenship requirements and things of that nature. So I wanted to expand on your question of when to change the constitution. Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. Charissa, right down there."

Audience member:

"This is in regards to the blood quantum. I was just...I teach my kids not to be...not to be prejudiced, but I'm also defending myself and my tribe when I say marry your own tribal members so we don't face these kind of issues. We have a lot of benefits, we have a lot of resources on our own land within our own tribe, we have our language, we have our traditions, we have our ceremony, we have our land. In our tribe, in our tradition, you have that umbilical cord when you're born, then it falls off. We bury it where we're from. We pray for it and we bury it and that's why it's important to teach your kids to marry within your tribe, marry within your tribe so we don't face these kind of problems. And it's important; if you start now when they're young, when they're older it goes on and on. And I tell my kids that. I don't want you to marry somebody that's not a non-member. "˜Why?' I said, "˜Because you're going to lose it, you're going to lose the identity of being a full-blooded Apache.' "˜Well, mom, what makes me Apache?' I said, "˜What makes you Apache? Look at all the hills around you, look at the horse you ride freely, look at everything you do; you hunt, you pray, you dance, you play. You do that because you're Apache. If you're out there, you won't do it. You'll be sitting on a city bus, you'll be doing these things. You'll be following the federal government and the state government. On our lands we have our own laws and we should keep our own blood quantum within our own tribe. Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"A question in the back."

Jamie Henio:

"Thank you again for letting me speak. I just wanted to share a story regarding the constitution and the Navajo attempts at the constitution. Last year, I was fortunate enough to listen to a speech by a former Navajo leader at the Navajo Nation Bar Conference. And he explained the previous attempts to the constitution and he shared a story with the audience and it goes like this. Back in the early days, there was a big movement about adopting a constitution on the Navajo Nation and you have your pro-constitution people here running around trying to convince everybody saying, "˜This is good for you, this is life, this is life-sustaining.' Then you have your traditional people here who were sort of against it. So they had a big meeting and at that meeting the traditional leaders and the pro people met and the traditional leaders were saying, "˜Okay, you're saying this piece of paper, this document is life-sustaining. Okay, let's put it to a test then.' He goes, "˜We'll build two fires here. One here for you and then we'll build another fire here. On this fire, that's your fire. On our fire what we'll do is we'll go to our flock, get a sheep, we'll butcher, we'll make some bread, we'll fry some meat and cook it and stuff. On your fire, get a big tub of water, boil it and then what you'll do is we'll be cooking meat over here and we'll eat. On your fire take the piece of paper that you're touting around and put it in there and boil it and then we'll see which sustains life.' So you get it? He's telling people, "˜Take your constitution and boil it and eat it and see if it'll sustain your life for you.'"

Robert Hershey:

"And you think mutton sustains life? Ooh. No, I'm teasing. I'm teasing. I loved it. I ate it every day."

Jamie Henio:

"Well, the thing is then later on the guy says, "˜You know the reason why they rejected the constitutions? Because we still have that fear of the livestock reduction program.' And that's why they've been rejecting the constitution because they think that might happen again. So that was his point at the end after that."

Herminia Frias:

"Any other questions, comments? Okay, we have one more at least."

Audience member:

"Hello. I just wanted to make one point, something that Miriam said, which I think...I hadn't thought about before and that's when looking at sources of law to put into constitutions this recognition of international law. I hadn't thought about that, but Indigenous people are making progress all over the world when they're back against the wall and no one will listen and courts will not listen domestically that they're starting to make progress in international law with the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the declaration on rights and obligations of man. I think that the way for this progress to continue is for it to be recognized in tribal constitutions. For example, the gentleman spoke about the birthright and where are you going to find that in a body of law to cite? But in something like an international document where self-determination and the importance of land to Indigenous people is emphasized. I think that's a great point, something I hadn't thought about."

Robert Hershey:

"I'm going to talk about that tomorrow, too. Thank you -- one of my students, an attorney, bright guy."

Herminia Frias:

"Anyone else? Yes, sir."

Roger White Owl:

"Hi. Roger White Owl. Three Affiliated Tribes. One of the things I guess I wanted to ask the panel, one of the things is as we look at this concept of the social contract in constitutions and what they are really about how important is ambiguity in these documents that you have a living document that isn't just technically written because even the great Greek philosophers said that the worst government was run by lawyers. So that is..."

Miriam Jorgensen:

"And I think Shakespeare said it, too."

Roger White Owl:

"Just how important...because as we see...as we see...as we see, as Mr. Burgess said, pointed out is that your constitution should not be too technical to where your people can't understand it. It's the people's document and so that's the reason why that attorneys make the worst lawmakers according to even Greek philosophers and the very essence of what we know as Western jurisprudence. And so as we look at that, it needs to be...our constitutions need to have this bit of room to be interpreted as the concepts of the rule of law in government and everything else is expressed in implied powers. That's what we have within the constitution and in constitutional interpretation. So how do you guys feel, how ambiguous should a constitution be?"

Miriam Jorgensen:

"Well, I can't give you an amount, like it should be 60% ambiguous and 40% not, but I think it is true that a degree of ambiguity is important and exactly for those reasons that you say a living document, that it allows there to be interpretation of that document that moves with the times. I've written a little bit about this and we talk about it as breathing room in a sense in the document, that you don't have to resolve every single issue by going into great detail in the document. That's what I was kind of getting at when I said about the rules of procedure, a lot of those rules of procedure for legislatures are very loose, they're sort of like, "˜Well, we're going to assign it to the legislative body to establish its rules of procedure. We're going to tell them how representation should occur and what the quorum should be. We might even tell them the dates on which they should meet or how often they should meet or the actual way that they establish their rules are going to be a little bit looser, that we're not going to specify this necessarily in the constitution, we'll just give some direction.' And that allows things to change a little bit if they need to. I think however that in order to have one of those constitutions that has breathing room in it, your constitution absolutely needs to specify a body that's responsible for interpreting the constitution because if you don't assign somebody to interpret the constitution, you've got this somewhat ambiguous document without any ability to say, "˜Okay, at this point in time this is what it means.' Our interpretation may change a little bit, we may change and grow like Steve was talking about, we may change to adapt to the times or to changing circumstances or whatever but you still need somebody to do that... that constitutional interpretation. And if you go back and look at the Mohegan constitution, that council of elders, which I said has that funny role, it's both a legislative body with respect to custom and tradition and certain kinds of traditional law, it's also a constitutional interpretation and judicial review body for that tribe. And so it has very clearly assigned this role." 

Honoring Nations: Stephen Cornell: Achieving Good Governance: Lessons from the Harvard Project & Honoring Nations

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Stephen Cornell offers a review of how the Honoring Nations program evolved out of the nation-building movement and successes among Native nations.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Cornell, Stephen. "Achieving Good Governance: Lessons from the Harvard Project & Honoring Nations." 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:

"Now I'd like to turn the microphone over to Professor Steve Cornell, the co-founder of the Harvard Project and the current Director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona. And the talk that he's going to talk about is 'Achieving Good Governance: Lessons from the Harvard Project and the Honoring Nations Awards Program."

Stephen Cornell:

"Thank you very much, Andrew. It's really a great pleasure to be here and to join Chief [Oren] Lyons and the other members of the board of the Honoring Nations Program, to join all of you who have come to attend this symposium, and in particular to be here with representatives of these award-winning programs. I have to tell you that when Joe Kalt and I started the Harvard Project 15 years ago, we had no idea of where it was going to lead. And I find myself astonished and humbled and thrilled by what has developed over the years, thanks to the efforts of an enormous number of people from what, in our own minds, I think, were very modest beginnings.

We're here this morning to talk about good governance in Indian Country and to hear from Indian nations who are making government work. Before we get very deeply into that we thought it would be useful to review how we got here. Where did this program come from? In fact, why even have a program called 'Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations'? My job this morning is to say something about why good governance is something that should be honored and achieved in Indian Country and in doing so, to tell you something about the origins of this program. So I want you to...I want to take you back 15 years to Harvard University in the mid-1980s. A couple of nerd academics, Joe Kalt and me, are sitting around puzzling over something.

If you looked around Indian Country in the 1980s, one of the things that would have struck you rather powerfully is this. For whatever reason, some Indigenous nations in this country were doing much better than others economically. For example, on the one hand, you had Cochiti Pueblo with an unemployment rate between 10 and 20 percent in late 1980s. On the other hand, you have the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota with Oglala Sioux Tribe at unemployment rates probably over 90 percent unemployment. On the one hand you have the Crow Tribe of Montana rolling in natural resources -- from coal to grazing to water to timber -- but locked in poverty, unable to turn all that wealth of material into viable tribal enterprises and to improve the welfare for their people. And on the other hand, you have the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona that was running the most productive saw mill -- Indian or non-Indian -- in the western United States, a profitable commercial hunting operation, a profitable skiing operation and assorted other tribal enterprises. On the one hand, you have the Northern Cheyenne Tribe with an economy generating almost no dollars at all other than those that came in through federal transfer payments, just about the ultimate in economic dependency. And on the other hand you have the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who were starting to import non-Indian labor because they were creating so many jobs there weren't enough Choctaws to fill them. So you have black and white workers driving onto Choctaw lands every day to take jobs in Choctaw-owned and -operated enterprises.

We could give you other examples, which offer stark differences between on the one hand, nations often characterized by deep poverty, frustration, hopelessness, on the other hand, nations that were seizing control of their future, were building sustainable economies, were reshaping their futures to meet their own designs. And bear in mind, this is before the impact of gaming. We weren't yet seeing what that was going to do in Indian Country. These were enterprises that had nothing to do with that. These were nations, which in a very difficult time were in essence saying, 'We're going to reshape the future to meet our designs,' and they were doing it. What was it we wondered that determined which path any given nation took? Why does one nation move forward, another seems to run in place or slip backward? How would we account for these differences? And the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development was born out of those questions.

We approached Norm Collins at the Ford Foundation and told him we wanted to try to find out the answers to these questions, not just because we were inquisitive nerd academics -- sure, we found these questions kind of interesting -- but because we were convinced that the answers to these kinds of questions might be useful to all of Indian Country and maybe beyond Indian Country. Maybe Indian Country was doing things that the rest of the world ought to be paying attention to, because the real question lying behind all of this has to do with the keys to successful nations, nations that control their own affairs, improve the welfare of their people and take care of the things that they most value in their lives. Well, Norm Collins agreed and the major work of the Harvard Project got under way.

What did we do over the next few years? Accumulating colleagues, Manley Begay who joined us first and is still here and now direct the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona, and eventually a host of others. We went around talking to Indian nations trying to understand what were they doing, what was working, why was it working, what could we learn from it, what could other nations learn from what was happening in Indian Country? Now of course we weren't the first ones to ask this question. The basic question was why? Why are some doing better than others? There were other answers out there. A lot of people thought they knew why. Nations with lots of natural resources would be doing better than those without. Nations with good education would be doing better than those without. Geographic location would matter, capital would matter, etc. As we talked to people and we began to look at this data, it turned out that while some of these things were important -- sure, you'd rather have good resources than not and good education than not -- and in fact, they didn't do a very good job of explaining the pattern of development that we saw out there.

We saw tribes with great natural resources and high education that were doing poorly. We saw tribes such as Mississippi Choctaw with no significant natural resources to speak of and below average education for Indian Country that were doing wonderfully well. We saw tribes with strong leaders who were in trouble and tribes where the leadership turned over every year like Cochiti Pueblo who were doing very well indeed. So it was clear that these things helped. It was also clear that they weren't the keys to economic development. They didn't in and of themselves lead to sustainable, self-determined economic development in Indian Country. So what did those keys turn out to be? I'm going to point to five of them that emerged from our research. In some ways this has become what my colleague Joe Kalt describes as the Harvard Project mantra.

The keys to economic development in Indian country, based on 15 years now of work with Indian nations. First, sovereignty matters. Indian nations have to be in the driver's seat if we're going to see sustainable community and economic development in Indian Country. Why do they have to be in the driver's seat? It puts the economic development and community development agenda in Indian hands. It links decisions and their consequences -- those who are making the decisions reap the benefits of those decisions and pay the price when they make bad decisions. We cannot find a case in all these years of sustained economic development in Indian Country where someone other than the Indigenous nation is calling the shots, determining how resources are used, determining strategic direction, shaping the internal affairs of the nation, controlling its relationships with other governments. If you think about that, it's got a pretty potent policy message. In a century of federal efforts to end reservation poverty, it turns out that self-determination is the only federal policy to have a sustained impact in Indian Country, a sustained impact on poverty. The evidence from our research is tribal sovereignty is the only anti-poverty program that works. That's a very positive thing to say from the view of Indian Country but it's based on research. We can show you the data.

Second though, it turns out sovereignty isn't the only thing that matters. Being in the driver's seat isn't enough to create sustainable, self-determined, economic development. You've got to be able to get where you want to go. What does this include? It includes basic issues and concepts of good government. It means stability in government. Not stability in the people who are governing, stability in the rules by which they govern. It means getting politics out of business management. It means having courts or other dispute resolution mechanisms that are depoliticized where how you're treated doesn't depend on who you are, who your relatives are, who you voted for and so forth. It means having a bureaucracy that can get things done. What happens when you do these things? You create an environment in which individuals, tribal members, and others want to invest time, energy, ideas, money, their talent. What this does is it pulls in talent; it reduces the brain drain. It encourages young people to stay and others to come home. It focuses your human resources not on fighting over the pie, the economic pie, but in making it bigger and on designing it to meet the real needs of the people.

So the first two keys were sovereignty and good governing institutions. The third key we came up with, culture matters. It turns out that the most successful governing institutions that we see across Indian Country have found ways to work with Indigenous conceptions of how authority ought to be organized and exercised. They don't just pull institutions off the shelf that someone else invented or that the federal government came up and said, 'Here's what you need to govern yourselves.' They looked to their own traditions and retooled those traditions to meet the current contemporary demands and in doing so made those institutions win the support of their people. It's no accident that two of the most successful tribes in the group that we've worked with and studied have radically different governing institutions. Cochiti Pueblo where the spiritual leaders are the ultimate authority in the tribe and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation whose governing institutions look like they came out of my high school civics textbook. They're both wonderfully successful because they found institutions that are their institutions that resonate with their people.

Fourth, it turns out a strategic orientation matters. We all know how tough it is to govern in Indian Country, the pressures on tribal leadership, the crises that come up, the obstacles thrown in your path by the federal government and others. But that strategy that is just band-aids and firefighting and opportunism turns out to be far less effective than a long-term strategy that asks what kind of society are we trying to build, what is it we're trying to protect, what are we trying to change, what do we want to preserve and then makes contemporary immediate decisions in the context of those ideas.

And finally, yes, turns out, leadership matters. But it's not just a question of picking the right men or women to fill particular positions in government. It's really about finding those individuals or groups who are willing to take responsibility for the future of the nation, who are willing to break with established ways of doing things, have a vision for the future, understand what kind of change is necessary to realize that vision. And what we found is that that kind of leadership can be found in all kinds of places, not just among elected officials. You might find it in one village. You might find it happening in your schools. You might find it happening in an enterprise, in a program, on the council. Leadership it turns out has more to do with what you do than with what position you're in.

So what did we conclude? Other assets are helpful but when Indian nations are in the driver's seat, when they effective and culturally appropriate governing institutions, when they make decisions for the long run, when they have leadership that is less interested in distributing goodies than in rebuilding the nation, then other assets, the things we started out wondering what part they played, then those assets begin to pay off. In other words -- and Andrew already said this -- successful Indian nations assert their sovereign powers, build effective governing institutions that match their cultures, identify strategic objectives, and support the leadership that is willing and able to get them there.

Those are the lessons of the Harvard Project and the objectives of the Honoring Nation program really reflect those findings. Its purpose is to identify, recognize and celebrate examples of good governance in Indian Country. That's why the program's not called 'Honoring Contributions in Social Programs' or 'Honoring Contributions in Economic Development' or 'Honoring Contributions in Education' or something like that, although we find ourselves repeatedly honoring exactly those things. It's called 'Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations' because it is in part in their capacity to act as nations, to assert their sovereign powers, to exercise that sovereignty effectively, to build an environment that can persuade talented, energetic, resourceful tribal members and non-members to bet on the tribal future, to bet on it here and not there. In other words, it's in their capacity to govern well that Indian nations like other nations around the world can best shape their own futures according to their own designs.

I think today you're going to hear from and about many of the Honoring Nations awardees and you'll see in their stories most of these themes because the award-winning programs are themselves examples of tribal sovereignty in action, of Indian nations that are tackling difficult problems in their own ways, are building institutions and tribal programs that can deal with those problems effective, are drawing on their own cultures as they do so, weaving their own values and views into their solutions and initiatives, thinking for the long run, rebuilding nations that work, nations that will last, and of course these award-winning programs are themselves examples of leadership. These are Indigenous initiatives that in a difficult time and as Chief Lyons said, 'We're in a difficult time,' offer enormous promise not only to their own nations but to all of us.

The big lesson of the Honoring Nations program is that tribal government works. We see a wave of innovation rolling across Indian Country. It's an innovation that draws on the past, responds to the challenges of the present, is building a much better and stronger future for Indian nations. It has worked and lessons to teach us all, and again we honor those programs for what you're doing and for what you offer to us."