U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution Program Manager Milton Bluehouse, Jr. discusses the challenges to environmental conflict resolution specifically and dispute resolution generally, and offers some proven strategies for Native nations and other governments to overcome conflicts and forge mutually beneficial solutions.
Bluehouse, Jr., Milton. "An Introduction to Environmental Conflict Resolution." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 21, 2012. Presentation.
"My name is J.R. Bluehouse. I'm from a small town called Ganado, Arizona. I'm the only one in my family that doesn't wear cowboy boots. That being said, my family's pretty traditional. We haul water every weekend for the cattle. [I] went to a Catholic boarding school, served a little bit of time in the Marine Corps, which was pretty easy after Catholic school, and then -- let's see here -- went to law school. [I] worked for the Navajo Washington office, the Navajo President's office, the Navajo Council as political affairs and legislative advisor for awhile. And after law school I kind of figured out there's a better way to do this rather than litigation. And when I went through mediation training it was like three weeks. After the end of three weeks I thought to myself, 'Man, this is what I've been looking for and I spent a whole lot of money and three years of my life in law school trying to find this.' Kind of crazy.
What I want you to do right now is flip over that paper real quick and look at the picture. Okay, flip it back over now. What did you guys see? [A head.] What kind of head? [A duck.] A duck? Who saw a rabbit? You guys saw rabbits? Who saw ducks? Conflict is like that. You see ducks or you see rabbits, right? Flip it back over again and see if you guys can see the rabbit or the duck. Oh, yeah, right. Well, that's sort of the thing about conflict. We have all these different perspectives about conflict. It might be about environmental standards. It might be about a mining situation near your land or it might be rules or regulations that are promulgated that you need comment on. And I guarantee you almost every time your community, federal agencies, professionals, lawyers, scientists are all going to have different perspectives on that conflict. I call that the paradigm shift -- you have this idea of what you think you see, but then you go through this transformation of seeing it differently or thinking about it differently.
That being said, I also want to tag on this other interesting thing. I learned this from a buy named Brian Vallo up in Pueblo of Acoma, a really wonderful friend. He told me one day, he's like, "˜The environment is not quantifiable in terms of parts per billion or standards that determine what is clean or what is safe. It's about the environment as a cultural or religious resource.' And so when you look at the environment in those terms, you kind of have that bird/duck or the duck/rabbit kind of paradigm shift too, because then you see the water not necessarily clean because the EPA [Environmenta; Protection Agency] standards say they're clean or the tribal standards say that they're clean. It's clean because we use those things for baptisms, for healing ceremonies, for ingestion with other herbs and things like that, and chants that empower or make the ceremony effective. So when we look at the environment in those terms, we're going to have a whole different type of view on things.
What I want to talk about today is the introduction to managing environmental conflict. What is environmental conflict? It's basically...or conflict resolution...basically, conflict resolution or alternative dispute resolution with an environmental focus. So what we look at it as is really all of these different views on an environmental issue or environmental matter. But what we try to do here is look at it in a way where we have workable solutions, where we try to find alternatives to the challenge we face, and that means we've got to communicate, we've got to look at things differently, we've got to take a different perspective on how we handle conflict. We'll get into a little bit more about conflict. The other question then is why do we use environmental conflict resolution? Litigation is pretty expensive; lawyers that are here know that. When you're going through discovery, when you're going through attorney's fees, when you've got phone calls and you've got meetings and you've got airplane rides, those costs can get astronomical really fast. But then the other thing though is that you probably have an ongoing relationship. Unfortunately, we have a ball-and-chain relationship sometimes with the federal government. It's not going to go away anytime soon. Unless of course the apes overtake the world and we find ourselves looking at a crushed Statue of Liberty -- Planet of the Apes, by the way -- meaning that the world's got to drastically change if that relationship is going to change, but it's not going to happen. At least I hope not. The thing is that a federal relationship will be a part of our lives, our children's lives, our grandparent's lives, our great-great grandchildren's lives; it's going to be there. So the emphasis there is really what I'm getting at is presuming your relationship, finding ways to improve the relationship, finding ways to have this relationship become workable on issues that are of mutual interest.
One good example is, and I won't name the case, but there's a sacred site and unfortunately the sacred site is contaminated with chromium-6. Chromium-6 causes a lot of bad things in your body like cancer, other sicknesses. Both the tribe and multiple federal agencies have an interest in cleaning that up and it's not going to go away. It's going to be there for decades, hundreds of years perhaps. And so one thing that we try to focus on is the preservation of relationship, the improvement of relationships so that one, the tribes protect those sacred things that are there, and two, federal agencies understand how to protect those sacred things that are there but also clean up the contamination. And this is going to go on for years and years and years. If you have a bad relationship, most likely federal agencies that are the contractors and they start destroying sacred sites because you're not communicating efficiently or effectively with federal agencies -- so maintaining a relationship is a really big important part of it.
You guys are all in tribal government. You know how projects can take forever? Well, when you have conflict, put like forever to the tenth power. It'll go on and on and on. It'll strain your relationships both within your staff, within your office, with your family perhaps. Somebody said earlier that panic attacks are a big part of, sometimes, your jobs. I have panic attacks all the time sometimes. So there's also this and [the] judge was saying something about healing. There's also this element of healing to what we do and conflict is totally apathetical to a lot of those things.
Goals of ECR [environmental conflict resolution]; here's what we're kind of looking at. We're trying to minimize conflict. We want to minimize poorly informed decisions. We want to try to avoid appeals and litigation. We try to try to avoid damage to relationships and even lost opportunities. In this particular case we were in recently, if we maintained the conflict and if we kept going forward with the conflict, then we would have lost opportunity and the mutual interest in a tribal liaison being hired for this project. The tribal liaison would coordinate communication across federal agencies, across the multiple tribal -- there's about six or seven tribes involved here -- and each of them have an environmental department of about maybe 14 to 15 staff. So a lot of communication, technical issues and complexity involved, and a tribal liaison would be I think really helpful in organizing how the tribes and federal agencies communicate both within themselves but also with each other. And so that was one thing that we discovered was an opportunity. If we stayed in conflict, we probably wouldn't have had that. The other thing is we try to maximize comprehensive solutions, shared solutions. There's a lot of mutual interests out there. In this particular case, the mutual interest was -- among other things -- protection of sacred sites, cultural significant items and not getting anybody sick. Nobody wants to get anybody sick unless you're like Satan or something. The other thing is that you want to make sure that it's cost effective, you're not spending a lot of money and you want to look for opportunities for improvement. You want to create solutions where possible.
How is ECR used? This is a really great spectrum here. Basically there's three areas: upstream, middle stream and downstream. Upstream, you really want to start doing the planning; you want to do any consultation. That's where I like to be, upstream. Have those relationships with the federal government been upstream? Probably not, huh? How many of you guys have been surprised with the sudden phone call to say, "˜Hey, there's a meeting in three days,' from a federal agent? Sometimes that happens and it's frustrating. But if you have enough upstream time and if you're up there far enough, you can start planning, making phone calls, developing your relationships, figuring out what and who needs to be at the table. Sometimes we're downstream; we're in the implementation phase. Policies and plans and regulations are being developed and you get this interesting email or letter saying, "˜Look, check out the code of federal regulations, there's an opportunity for you to comment on.' That's kind of an example of that. Downstream is where you've got litigation. Perhaps everybody is kind of...did you see that Macklin fight this weekend on St. Patty's Day with Martinez? It was a great boxing...I'm a big boxing fan. These guys beat each other up and they were going at it forever. And finally one of them, you could tell ran out of steam, it was about a minute and 20 seconds into the 11th round and this guy got pounded. I look at being downstream and sometimes we get into these situations where it's the 11th round, we're almost to the 12th round, everybody's tired of the conflict and it's time to start looking at new ways in developing these relationships. So that's when we're downstream, we're talking about mediation perhaps, pretty extensive stuff. Somebody remind me when we get done that I need to revisit the duck/rabbit paradigm in relation to this information and how we view conflict resolution in our communities from a traditional perspective. So somebody remind me about that and I'll come back to it.
When is ECR best? Well, when no single party has the answer. You look at tribal conflict -- sometimes we don't have the technical expertise in place, we don't got the hydrologists, we don't got the attorney, we don't got maybe even mediators or facilitators, but the other side has all of these things and all of these resources to help you understand the issue a little better. So perhaps mediation is the bringing together of the resources and people you need to figure out how to address environmental conflict or environmental issues in your community. The other thing is that you want to create a balance of power among stakeholders. Traditionally where have we been? I look at news every other night, like on CNN, and you get these really cool statistics out there about who's going to vote or whose health is impacted or whose not being employed. We usually see percentages for the Hispanic population, the percentages for the African-American population, the percentages for the Asian population, but I never ever see percentages for Native Americans in any of these graphs they put up there. And sometimes when we look at this power balance, I think about that sometimes in relation to federal agencies and the consultation process or the meeting process. Oftentimes we don't have the information we need and that information we need creates this power imbalance because we don't know what those impacts might be without the hydrologists, the lawyers, the specialists and things like that. What we try to do in mediation, facilitation or moderation is identify what those resources are out there and try to identify who can help us so that we can begin to balance out these power imbalances. But then there's this other thing called historical trauma. Judge probably knows about this. How the historical trauma of conflict from the mid-19th century all the way up 'til the mid-20th century has impacted our communities. Sometimes we don't want to talk during meetings. Sometimes we want to be quiet during meetings, especially when we see suits. I get freaked out when I see suits. The first thing I think about is FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], not that I robbed any banks or anything. But those are some things we've got to think about in how to use ECR.
We talked about saving the relationship. Yeah, it's good to also look at dueling experts. How many of you guys have seen dueling experts? Pretty fun to watch. I've seen hydrologists from different parties basically duke it out over how many acre feet of water is being used. Well, if there's a common ground we can find or some sort of mutual interest we can find to basically say, 'Yeah, well, there is an impact on the groundwater source,' then we have some mutual interest here, we can begin working on something here. Everybody kind of wants to get along, work together. That's when it works. When is it less likely to work? Timing's not right, the parties are not ready to sit down, issues aren't really defined yet, we don't know what we're dealing with yet. Sacred site is really highly polarizing out there. We've got the San Francisco Peaks up there, 23 tribes view the mountain as very sacred. Then you've got the federal agency; I think it's the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey] on one side. No, the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and the Park Service on one side and you've got this corporation out there and everyone's really polarized. They're not going to come together on these issues because you don't, from tribal perspectives, negotiate the sacred. So sometimes you're not ready for ECR. But that being said, don't discount it or don't put it off to the side. It might work.
Back to the duck/rabbit paradigm. How do you guys feel about conflict? How does it make you feel? I'll tell you how it makes me feel. It makes me feel like Bernie Madoff on crack. It's not good. You don't feel like a good person. You feel like you're trying to protect your interests, not going to jail or whatever. You feel the physical sense of being tense in the stomach perhaps. Do you guys feel that? All right. Okay. And it's interesting because I think conflict really kind of...there's been studies on how it impacts the brain and I'm not a doctor or whatever. I flunked high school math. But basically how I understand it is that when we're in conflict, the cerebral, the rational part of our brain, the blood in that area actually begins to focus more into the primary cortex of the brain -- the reptilian brain is what people call it -- sort of the very first parts of our evolution as a species. And it regulates physical things like breathing, blood pressure, how much chemicals is pumping into your blood, whether you need to run or fight, things like that. That's what conflict does to us. And so when we're thinking about really technical issues or legal issues or issues of policy and we're in conflict and that requires the front part of our brain, it's going to be a challenge. That's just an example of what happens in conflict. But there's ways we can manage it well, there's ways that we can begin to deconstruct that initial response to conflict by becoming aware and conscious about our responses personally but also the things we need to protect and you begin to de-escalate it in a sense using enough communication techniques. We'll get to a little bit of that later. Managed poorly, going to law, going to get a lawsuit, you're probably going to spend a lot of time. We covered a lot of this earlier. It's going to destroy relationships.
Sources of conflict: I want to talk a little bit about some of the places where I've seen conflict and you've probably seen it too. Political realities, trends happen. And this is a non-partisan observation. What happened when the Republicans changed office and the Democrats picked up the White House? Or what happens when a Democratic president changes office and we have a presidential, Republican president in office? Those political trends will sometimes affect how domestic policy is developed, how budget realities are impacted. So that can create conflict from, for example, an administration that might be very forthcoming and might actually be advocating for increased budgets to one where fiscal conservativism is driving the day and where there's a sense of increased scrutiny on the development of different types of policies. You can see that kind of fluctuation go up and down, left and right from every four years if you have those changes. Not only nationally, but within your tribes as well you can see that happen.
Cultural values and differences -- sometimes we have conflict on those things. I think we pretty much know what that means when we work with non-tribal people but also with other tribal people, too. I spent two-and-a-half years in New Mexico as a tribal liaison and I had a really steep learning curve working with my Pueblo brothers and sisters on what is important, how to engage into a governmental process, what the cultural and governmental protocols are, but eventually you get the hang of it and you begin to operate a little bit more smoothly than you started at first. There's also operational preferences or organizational cultures. Who's heard of Indian time? That's sort of the cultural observation sometimes of how one group of people view time and another group of people view time. So those are things that can create conflict sometimes. Organizational constraints, decision-making processes. Sometimes we have federal agencies come in and say, 'I need a decision by 30 days from now.' Probably not going to happen. If they spent some time working with tribal governments, they'd realize that there's a lot of deliberation that might occur, there's council meetings that might need to be had, there's sub-committee meetings that might need to vet that process. So 30 days is probably not going to be feasible, so that creates stress. Resources: we talked a little bit about the imbalance in resources, the need for resources, technical expertise.
Relationship problems, baggage from the past. Man, that Long Walk always comes up when you talk about elderly Navajo people and I really feel bad for the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] land specialist that comes out to the chapter house in Navajo and talk about land reformation or land regulation changes because these older guys will go right back to 1934 and talk about Commissioner [John] Collier and the livestock reduction problem. So that's baggage from the past and this guy gets beat up every time. I admire him. He's pretty brave to come out every time. I'd bring popcorn next time or something.
Personalities. You have really tough personalities out there. Who's been in a meeting with a Type A personality? Very directive. They call that like the boarding schoolmarm. I went to boarding school so I know. They tell you to do things; they tell you you've got to do it by that time. In that video we watched with the Canadian leader and his problems with the Premiere. The Premiere would say, "˜No, you've got to return the boat.' And then this guy, this tribal leader, has this paradigm shift and says, "˜No, we're not. We're going to create our own force.' So those things can happen. Communication problems. We'll talk a little bit more about communication in a bit. But there's unique things culturally in communication as tribal people. If I don't know you, man, I'm not going to look you in the eye. I'm going to be looking someplace else. Sometimes just the way we communicate with one another is a lot different than we do with non-tribal people and vice versa. So you can get miscommunication in those situations.
Data challenges. Too much. Who's heard of this term: consultation fatigue. You guys heard that yet? Who's been bombarded, who's fatigued from consultation. Your hands. Anybody? Okay, we're half an hour; we're good. Too little. We've been there right? We went from having too little information to drinking from the fire hose of information. So it's like bombardment and it's still kind of working itself out in several agencies. Differing interpretations on information might be a big part of it. So you put all of these things together and you see that in our intergovernmental relations or intertribal relations or even our community relations, there's just conflict that can occur at any one place and time. When you look at it from the environmental perspective, it can get pretty, pretty complex. How do you guys respond to conflicts? We talked a little bit about that, the physical aspect of how we respond to it. Well, there's a little bit more, too. Sometimes we want to be collaborative in our responses to conflict. We want to try to work together; we want to try to find those mutual interests. Other times we want to be compromising and say, "˜Well, maybe I'll meet you there, but first I need to have guarantees for this.' You know what I'm saying? Very positional in its approach. There's another one, competing or directing. 'I'm in control. I'm the boss here. Welcome to the Republic of J.R. There's nothing you can do here that won't happen without my approval.'
Avoiding. This is the best one because that's me. If there's conflict, I'm like out the back door and let my relatives fight. Then there's accommodating. Sometimes you are not avoiding it, but you're in the process but you're going to get steamrolled. You know what I'm saying? You're just not comfortable with conflict and you agree to everything and sometimes what you agree to might be to the detriment of your community or your relations or your resources, even your governmental structure. It may be even sovereignty. And in those situations, I'm thinking about this really great experience where I observed...I used to work for the Navajo Nation Public Safety Committee as a legislative advisor, and the tribe and local county sheriff's department were entering into a power-sharing agreement, cross deputization and things like that. It was like, wow, a non-tribal county sheriff can come on to tribal land and basically do a search without a court-ordered warrant, they can do all of these different things and based on what they find they can introduce that evidence or whatever it is into a county court? Those are certain things that happened and during that negotiation process you can sometimes see these dynamics of people avoiding or perhaps accommodating too much. So there's things that we have to pay attention to in how we respond to conflict.
Collaborative approach. You want to be open-minded, be other-person centered. You want to think about responsibility with respect to mindfulness in a lot of these meetings and you want to seek to understand before being understood. So we're really kind of taking a paradigm shift to how we're dealing with conflict and how we're understanding the issues that conflict. It's sort of becoming a Jedi Knight or something, I don't know what it is, Obi Wan Kenobi. But you have to like step back and become conscious or aware of all of these dynamics that are occurring in conflict or in meetings and try to figure out what is the best solution here? What are the opportunities I can pursue here? What are technical needs that I have but that I don't have but I need? These are things in terms of looking at it from the collaborative approach.
Problem solving and negotiating. Creating a climate of openness looking at interest-based methods. So when we're talking about interest-based methods, we're looking at the interests of all parties involved. So for example on that clean-up and the sacred site scenario I provided earlier, there was a lot of, I guess, positions that were being taken. One of the positions was, "˜Well, you didn't show up to one of my tribal meetings and I'm really offended about that.' It doesn't bode well on your sincerity to work with our tribes. The position was pretty much stated that, "˜I don't want to work with you, you're not sincere.' On the other side there was a position saying, "˜Well, I'm kind of freaked out to come to your tribal community because I don't know if I'm going to get grilled or not and I just don't even want to make the effort.' But once we figured out, "˜Well, why are we at the table here and what are we working towards and what's your interest in this process?' One of them said, "˜Well, I want to make sure that those sacred sites are protected.' Another one says, "˜Well, I work closely with the hospital and I want to make sure that that chemical or those contaminants don't reach the river or get into the drinking water. I want to keep kids out of there so we need a fence around it.' And then another side says, "˜Well, that's our interest, too. We want to make sure people are protected. We want to make sure the water is cleaned up.' You begin to find these common, mutual interests in situations. So that's kind of going through the interest-based methods, getting past those positions and into the understanding and interest. Understanding your interests is really important. Options and alternatives, take time to step back from a meeting a consultation -- whatever it is -- and kind of map out what you think are the issues here. Meet with your staff, talk with them and figure out what's going on in the situation, really kind of get a good map as to what you need, what the interests are, what's being impacted. I've seen tribal leaders go into meetings just flying blind and it's kind of scary, because on the one hand you want to be very respectful as a technical adviser or legislative adviser, but at the other end of it you're also wanting to say, "˜Well, I think that there's opportunities here, too.' So there's a lot of preparation that goes into this becoming more open minded or taking the collaborative approach.
Gradually build consensus on what you have in common. I've got a great example of that one. So I worked for the New Mexico Environment Department and I thought to myself, 'Man, intertribal governmental liaison, Department of Justice liaison, boy, made it. I'm going to be working on some really great exotic environmental conflicts and there's going to be toxic stuff everywhere and the tribes are not going to...I'm going to go in there and save the day as a tribal intergovernmental relations specialist.' So I picked up the paper one day and it was from the...newspaper. It said, "˜New Mexico Environment Department bans Pueblo bread.' And I thought, 'What?' And the article went down and down and down and it basically kind of painted the picture that the New Mexico Environment Department was anti-Indian and the bread was sort of the touchstone for that anti-Indianness. So I picked up the phone and started calling around and stuff and I found out that we had these environmental health inspectors who were part of the Environmental Health Division within the Environment Department that were out there just issuing notices of violations left and right because these breads weren't prepared in approved sources. Approved sources are community kitchens that had the stamp of approval from either the state or the USDA and these were being baked in homes. And I was like, "˜Gosh, man, how do we figure this out?' Well, we had to make a bunch of calls and do a bunch of meetings and pull together IHS [Indian Health Service] and tribal people and tribal leadership. And we could literally see that one, we need to find consensus on this issue, we need to find collaborative approaches to this issue because it's just not good.
On one hand you take a really strong positional position and say, "˜No, nope, no, no, no Pueblo bread, no mutton stew, no tamales, no nothing.' Then you're cutting off income for families that need to buy shoes for kids, backpacks for school, gas money to take grandma to the hospital, things like that. But then on the other end of it, too, is that there's a real concern out there with salmonella poisoning and things like that. So we got together, we were like, 'What can we live with, what can we not live with?' And people were like, 'No jarred stuff, no pickled stuff, no jam stuff,' because apparently there's like the scale of danger. Can you imagine that, the scale of danger in food? Wow. I was like, cool. So on the one end really dangerous stuff and then on the other end not dangerous stuff like based goods, cookies, breads. Everybody's like, "˜Well, why are we cracking down on them if they're not dangerous?' And people were like, "˜Yeah, you've got a point there. So what can we develop here, what do you need?' And they said, "˜Well, food-grade plastic bags, no Walmart bags.' You know, when I go to Walmart, I'm buying like ant killer and all these different chemicals that I'm carrying back home and stuff. I get home and put the bag underneath the kitchen sink and then somebody would say, "˜Hey, do you want to take some tamales home? All right, man, let me get my bag.' You put them in there, guess what you're eating, probably something that leaked out of chemicals or something. So we were like, 'Okay, we need food-grade bags, clear plastic bags. What else do you need?' And they were like, "˜Well, we need to have accountability measures,' the New Mexico Environment Department said. So we said, "˜What does that mean?' "˜We just want to know if somebody gets sick that they know how to call into the tribal office.' And we're like, "˜Okay. It's probably going to be the tribal health, CHRs, community health representatives. It's probably going to be those guys they'll call.' And, "˜We need somebody at IHS, too, from Environmental Health to figure out what was the source of contamination and maybe even provide food preparation classes and stuff.' It's just... it was these things.
And then on the other end they were like, "˜Well, I don't know if we want to do that.' And that's when I said, "˜It could be a marketing opportunity. You put your name on your bread and bam you know what, you're known for that bread "˜cause it's really great or you're known for the bread "˜cause it maybe sucked,' I don't know. It works both ways. And then we thought about it and we thought about it a little bit more and we're like, "˜We need to get tourism department in here and get their crack team of marketing and business development managers in here to figure out if they can provide training to these people who are making this wonderful, delicious bread and really great food.' So we were able to do these things. If we take the positional approach and conflict is driving our conversations, we wouldn't have had those things. We'd have been way far apart, but it's a process. That took me about eight months. It wasn't a derailed train with a bunch of bad stuff in it contaminating everything. It was the breakfast burrito; it was the Pueblo bread. It was fun. I had a great time, learned a lot.
Essential communication skills, active listening. I do this all the time. Especially when my dad is talking, "˜I already got the answer figured out, man. Yeah, I know that one.' Do you guys do that sometimes? Lawyers are good at that, man, I'm telling you. I was going to say something about like how I advised a federal official to say they're sorry for missing the meeting and the general counsel next to him about had a heart attack. He was like, "˜No, no, we're not going to do that, that's admission of liability of something.' I'm like, "˜No, it just means you're sorry for missing a meeting.' There are certain things about active listening, understanding what the conflict is and communicating in ways that acknowledge some things that might not have been pleasant in the past. And if you're listening effectively, then you can begin to see sincerity, you can identify issues, and you can identify who you need at the table.
Productive responses. 'Are you crazy?' Is that a productive response? Probably not. You want to figure out things instead of like saying, "˜Are you crazy?' You could probably say, you know, "˜I think that's really interesting, but I don't understand exactly what it is that you're saying. Can you say it again so I get it or that I understand it a little bit better?' There are things you can do in communications that drive the conflict down. Non-verbal communication. Yeah, that's a big one. Tapping on the table means probably speed up or hurry up or you're boring me to death. So there's things you've got to pay attention to. And as you're in these meetings you can take these cues on people, check in with them and say, "˜Hey, I noticed that perhaps you have a question on this issue. Do you have anything to say?' Somebody will say, "˜Yeah, I've been thinking about this, whatever.' Or you could say, "˜Is it cold in here? Do you need to turn the heat up or anything like that or whatever?' Just check in with them. That facilitates the conversation process, the gaining information process.
Effective questions. Okay, there's basically one rule here that I apply. No staccato questions or machine gun questions. Who's been in the military here? Anybody? Yeah. Who's shot a machine gun? Yeah, how's it sound? Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Well, if you can imagine questions like that. 'So who's supposed to be on this project? Where were they at? Do they have contact information? Nobody called me. Who was supposed to call me?' You could talk about technical questions. 'So how many parts per billion in the water right now? Uh huh. So who's the agency that should be taking care of this? I see.' You can really kind of shoot them down with questions and as a listener you're really trying to figure out, 'Well, where do I start in answering these questions?' What I'll usually do is take notes and I'll say, 'You know, several of your questions were regarding his particular thing. If it's okay, I'd like to start there and then we'll go on to the other questions.' So in case you encounter those kind of things, there's things you can do to kind of figure what kind of questions or type information you need to provide. But try to avoid those. Do one question at a time as the conversation develops in these meetings, which might be conflict driven or not, it depends. It could be one of the consultation efforts that several federal agencies are developing now.
The ECR process. Whether or not you're going to use conflict resolution in either environmental issues or employment issues or intergovernmental relation issues or whatever, you've got to make an assessment. You need to figure out, is this right, are the parties ready to sit down, do we understand the causes of conflict? Really we're taking that step to understand what's going on here, making the assessment to figure out do we need a third-party mediator, do we have the proper authorities here. I've seen a waste transfer station attendant, tribal waste transfer station attendant in meetings with the Secretary of the Environment talking about off-reservation dumping and on-reservation enforcement and they didn't have the authority to talk about these things. They had the authority to take all the information down as possible and go back. You need the assessment to figure out what's going on.
Pitfalls of doing the analysis: if you don't do it, you're wasting your time. You might bring all the people together; they don't want to work together. You might be wasting a lot of time and money. You might have the omission of a key participant. In that last example, the tribal leader. Why don't we do these things often, these assessments? Sometimes you've just got to get in there and do them. The issue is so important it's driving you; it's got to be done. Think about that. The other thing is third-party facilitators, do we need them? When there's a history of distrust they might be helpful. When you have multiple parties that have multiple interests, they might be helpful to help clarify the situation. There might be concerns about confidentiality that might be involved that otherwise might be not available in lawsuits or in litigation or in rule promulgation or comments. So you can take the time out and caucus on these things to figure out, "˜Well, do we tell confidential information or not or do we keep it to ourselves?' And do you have the capacity for facilitation or mediation? Choose an appropriate neutral. Who does the work? Do they need to be in the location area, do they have to have specific information about that conflict? Choose candidates to interview. Figure them out. It's sort of like matchmaking, dating. You've got to figure out is it a good match. Managing the process. This is a really great thing; it's in your book. This is my wheel of project management, wheel of conflict management. You plan, you propose, you implement and you review. In the planning phase, there's a lot of things you've got to do. Figure out what the issues are, introduce people, figure out what the ground rules are, decide if you need a facilitator. The purpose. You want to figure out what are we meeting for, do we need to break this into tasks. The implementation phase we have three things. To implement the action, review the performance and complete the work. That could take years sometimes in some of these projects we get involved in. The other thing is you want to publish the results as the tribe directs sometimes. Sometimes you don't want all this information out there. The other thing is you want to celebrate your accomplishments. At the end of today, hopefully you guys all stand up and give yourselves a round of applause because you guys are really doing some amazing stuff here over the last two days. I'd have probably fell asleep a long time ago. Move on. Disband, restructure, review. We've talked about that. Common missteps.
Last thing. Lack of travel cost -- these things are challenges to conflict resolution -- lack of staff expertise, lack of party capacity. So all of these things, those little numbers right behind them, that's from a survey we took both of tribal and non-tribal participants in conflict resolution. So the biggest one was cost for travel, the next one was perception of time and resource, intensive nature of conflict resolution, lack of staff expertise. So you can get all the way down to the bottom where lack of access to qualified mediators. I have this program where I'm trying to recruit mediators and Native American mediators are like very rare. We have about 35 across the nation out of 567 recognized tribes, out of a population of, how many Native Americans are there now, 3.8 million, 4 million. Thirty-five, and so we're always on the lookout for mediators. And then who was supposed to remind me about something? Remember that.
So all of this information is taken from a Western perspective on conflict resolution. Don't forget that in your communities you probably have cultural-, religious-based ways of resolving conflict. Don't forget those ways. If you don't have the program, maybe it's something to look at to develop, because something magical happens when you look at figuring out conflict resolution from the traditional and cultural perspective. You're healing your communities from a process that hasn't been really beneficial where you have defendants and prosecution, where you have win or lose situations. But then you begin to delve into the creation story, you begin to delve into what conflict is from the cultural perspective, you're also strengthening your understanding of your community and your culture. It's just a really interesting kind of a resolution or a revolution or a paradigm shift that occurs with this work when you look at it from the traditional indigenous cultural perspective."