Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma

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

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

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

James Anaya:

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

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

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

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

[applause]

Walter Echo-Hawk:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[applause]

James Anaya:

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

Walter Echo-Hawk:

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

Audience member:

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

Walter Echo-Hawk:

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

Audience member:

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

Walter Echo-Hawk:

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

Audience member:

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

Walter Echo-Hawk:

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

Audience member:

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

Walter Echo-Hawk:

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

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: John Echohawk

Producer
Institute for Tribal Government
Year

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

In this interview, conducted in July 2002, Native American Rights Fund (NARF) co-founder and Executive Director John Echohawk shares his journey as a leader in Indian Country. A powerful voice in cases supporting Indian rights throughout the U.S., he has won numerous awards for his achievements.

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

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Echohawk, John. "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" (interview series). Institute for Tribal Government, Portland State University. Portland, Oregon. July 2002. Interview.

Kathryn Harrison:

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

[Native music]

Narrator:

"John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, NARF, today oversees multiple lawsuits on behalf of Native tribes in a more than 30 year career of correcting century's old injustices through the legal system. NARF, a nonprofit organization located in a rehabilitated fraternity house in Boulder, Colorado, provides legal representation and technical assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide, a constituency that has historically lacked access to the justice system. Echohawk has been with NARF since 1970 and served as Executive Director since 1977. Born and raised in New Mexico, John Echohawk is a member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. From a family that emphasized education, he is one of three siblings out of six that grew up to be lawyers. After attending Farmington High School he received his BA from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque and was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico's special program to train Indian lawyers. He was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. His years of study coincided with a time of national tumult and social change, when the inequitable treatment of African Americans and other minorities including Native Americans was coming into vivid focus. His studies also coincided with a crucial period in federal Indian relations when the federal government had been systematically dismantling reservations through legislation. The Ford Foundation which had also assisted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People issued a grant to California Legal Services for an Indian Legal Defense Fund. From this the Native American Rights Fund was formed. The organization was then moved to Colorado to be more central to the tribes it represents. In his years with NARF John Echohawk has worked with tribes throughout the lower 48 and Alaska on crucial and often contentious issues of natural resources, tribal sovereignty, human rights and ancestral burial grounds. His rule of thumb if, "˜Never give up.' Twice recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States, Echohawk has opened doors and forged many alliances in his work for Native tribes. One of the boards on which he serves is the National Resources Defense Council. He believes that Native Americans and environmentalists ought to be natural allies. He also serves on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. In 1995 he was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission. One of the most sought after experts on Indian issues, John Echohawk has received numerous awards over the years including The Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association. On behalf of the Native American Rights Fund he accepted the seventh Carter-Menil Human Rights Prize in 1992. Echohawk has been married almost 40 years to his wife Kathryn whom he met in Farmington where the two grew up. He has one son, a scientist at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico and a daughter who works at the American Indian College Fund in Denver helping Indian colleges grow. John and Kathryn Echohawk also enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. The Institute for Tribal Government interviewed John Echohawk in Portland, Oregon, July, 2002."

The war on poverty initiative and the beginning of the Indian Law Program

John Echohawk:

"I was one of the participants in the first Indian Law Program started by the federal government to develop some Indian attorneys that had been realized by the federal government at that time through their Office of Economic Opportunity, the War on Poverty that occurred during the 1960s, that there were only a handful of Native American attorneys across the whole country and that perhaps one of the best strategies to try to fight poverty in Indian communities was to get some Indians who were professionals like doctors and like lawyers. I checked with the University of New Mexico Law School for scholarship assistance and they told me that they had just contracted with the federal government to start this Indian Law scholarship program so I was just in the right place at the right time and accepted one of these scholarships and became part of the first class of Indian law students to start studying law under this new federal initiative."

The impact of the social movements of the 1960s on Echohawk's life work

John Echohawk:

"The Civil Rights Movement was something that I was able to put into context by going to law school. Of course I learned about the legal process and how that system works and basically I found that through the use of law in litigation that people could have their rights recognized and enforced even though they were politically unpopular and that's what was happening during the Civil Rights Movement. The courts were doing cases that provided equal protection and equal treatment for African Americans in this country for the first time and even though that was not politically popular this is what was required by the laws of this country if there was to be equal treatment of all people in this country. And so I saw how that happened through the use of the litigation process and when we started thinking about how that impacted Native American people we saw that we needed to utilize that same strategy. There had never been Indian law taught in the law schools and so the professors started pulling together the materials relating to Indian treaties and federal statutes relating to law and the treatises that had been done on Indian law and so the first time there was a body of materials that could be studied about Indian law. And when us Indian law students started reading that we saw that our tribes had substantial rights in the treaties and in the federal laws that were really going unenforced and the reason that was happening is because this legal process requires you to have attorneys to assert and protect your rights and if you don't have attorneys then it doesn't matter what it says in the treaties and the statutes. You don't have any rights. The tribes did not have lawyers cause they didn't have any money. They were poor and so we knew that what needed to be done was to get lawyers for tribes to assert these rights that tribes had. And that's when we decided that we needed to start the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit organization that would raise funds, hire lawyers expert in Indian law and make them available to the tribes around the country. We knew this would be something that would be beneficial cause we had seen at the same time we were in law school the start of civil legal services programs funded by the federal government being put out into poor communities around the country so that poor people could have lawyers. And some of these programs were started on Indian reservations. Of course the federal government didn't have enough money to put legal services lawyers on all the reservations so it was really present on only a few of the reservations but where they were active they were able to do many things in terms of enforcing Indian laws for the benefit of Indians. So we saw the formation of something like the Native American Rights Fund as being able to take the provision of legal services to tribes on a national basis and help many more people."

Native American Rights Fund attorneys modeled their efforts on the NAACP in building up their organization

John Echohawk:

"Well, again, we learned from the Civil Rights Movement how that was done. We looked at where the lawyers for the African Americans was coming from that brought the Civil Rights litigation and their counsel most of the time was the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and that was a nonprofit organization that raised money and then hired lawyers to represent these African Americans in these important Civil Rights cases. And the funding, primary funding for that NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund came from the Ford Foundation in New York City. So we made contacts with the Ford Foundation in New York City and started discussions about forming a national legal defense fund for Native Americans and they were interested and ended up making a grant then in 1970 to start the Native American Rights Fund in that same model as the Civil Rights organization for the Blacks, they provided the counsel. We began as part of the California Indian Legal Services, one of these federally funded Indian legal services programs I talked about and we were a project of that organization for a year until we were able to incorporate separately and establish our national headquarters in Boulder, Colorado."

The priorities of the growing Native American Rights Fund

John Echohawk:

"Well, we started with the three lawyer program but we quickly got overwhelmed by requests for assistance from throughout Indian Country to help and with that we sought additional funding that came through from different foundations and the federal government through this legal services program and we were able to expand in a very short time to a staff of about 15 attorneys and we were able to do a wide variety of cases under the direction of an all-Indian Board of Directors. That established us as priorities cases relating to the protection of our tribal sovereignty, our existence as tribal governments, secondly the protection of our natural resources, our land, our water rights, our hunting and fishing rights and thirdly protection of our human rights, our rights to cultural and religious freedom and expression."

The historic Menominee termination case

John Echohawk:

"And one of the first cases that we undertook was to try to reverse the federal Indian policy at that time which was one of termination of tribes. The federal government had decided that the best policy for tribes was to quit being Indians and to have their tribal governments terminated and to be forced to assimilate into the larger non-Indian society. And this was the existing federal policy at the time when the organization was founded in 1970. So to do away with that termination policy we undertook to represent the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, one of these tribes that had been terminated starting with an act of Congress in 1954. And of course at the time the Congress told the Menominee people, 'this would be good for you, this is going to help you,' and of course what happened as a result of that is exactly the opposite. It nearly destroyed the Menominee Nation. They lost a lot of their land through that process, many of their people ended up instead of being productively employed ended up on the unemployment rolls and it just devastated that community. So we helped the Menominee Nation go to Congress and develop a bill that would restore the Menominee Nation's tribal government and tribal status and eliminate this termination of the tribe. We asked the Congress to basically look at the record and admit that this termination policy was wrong and to change it and to their credit Congress did that. They said, 'Yeah, this was clearly a mistake, this was not good for the Indian people so we need to change that.' They restored the tribe and that set up restoration of all the other tribes that had been terminated during that same period and of course that's happened over the last 30 years since that first Menominee restoration in 1973."

Changing federal policies toward sovereign Indian governments

John Echohawk:

"Since 1787 when this nation came into being and adopted the Constitution, what's the relationship between tribal nations that of course pre-existed the start of the United States government and the United States itself and of course in the Constitution this nation recognizes that tribal governments have sovereign status, that they are governments like state governments and like foreign governments and that there's this government to government relationship between the United States and between the tribal nations that's governed by the Congress. For a long time that was done by treaties and then later it was done by federal statute. But essentially it's a relationship between sovereigns, between governments and from time to time U.S. policy in dealing with tribes has been rather one sided and they haven't listened to what the tribes have wanted to do and they have basically forced their own version of what they think is good for Indian people on Indian people through the passage of these laws. And one of them was this termination policy that reflected really the paternalism of White America about what was good for our people without really even asking them and they were basically saying, 'You're better off not being an Indian,' and that was the crux of the termination policy but again they never asked the Indians about that. And when they did, the Indians said, 'We want to continue to be Indians, we want to continue to exist as tribal people, we want to continue to govern ourselves through our tribal governments and exercise a sovereignty that we've had since time immemorial and control our own affairs and continue the existence of our tribal nations.' And of course that's what's become the policy now that the termination philosophy was rejected and this Indian self-determination policy accepted by the federal government. Of course that's now been in place about 30 years and I think it's helped our tribes tremendously as we've finally been able to put a stop to this termination policy and start governing ourselves once again."

Finding allies in Congress for a reversal of termination

John Echohawk:

"We had gone to the Congress looking for representatives in the Senate and in the House who would be supportive of this tribal position. And it's been so long ago I can't remember all of the players but there were some champions there that came through for us. I think on the Senate side Senator Abourezk from South Dakota was very helpful in particular and on the House side Congressman Morris Udall from Arizona was very supportive as well. But Indian people generally have been able to rely on champions like that beginning in the '70s, into the '80s and through the '90s and here into the new millennium too to basically stand up and fight for tribes and support their rights under new laws and the Constitution of this country."

The unique situation and challenges of Alaskan villages and tribes

John Echohawk:

"Well, I mentioned this termination policy that had been in place. The version of that for the Alaska tribes was this Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that was passed by the Congress in 1971. The tribes in Alaska had never been able to get the attention of the federal government and to make treaties with the federal government to have their claims to tribal sovereignty and their aboriginal title to their lands and waters and hunting and fishing rights recognized by the federal government. They had just been in limbo all this time clear up until 1971. But the Natives finally got some leverage with the discovery of oil on the north slope of Alaska and they wanted to put the pipeline down through the middle of Alaska and transport the oil that way. Well, the Natives saw a way to get the attention of the federal government by filing lawsuits to block the pipeline until such time as their claims to that land were settled. That was their aboriginal land and the Congress refused to deal with that issue. But when the Natives threatened to stop the pipeline through this lengthy litigation then Congress finally was forced to deal with land claims of tribes in Alaska and that resulted in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. The tribes came away with recognition of title to land of about 44 million acres, about 10 percent of Alaska and about $1 billion in compensation for their other claims. But the strange part of the legislation was that this land and money did not go directly to the tribes. Congress again in the final stages of this termination period in an experiment set up Native corporations and put the land and the money into Native corporations and the Natives became shareholders of corporations. And so their land and money was held in a different way than tribes in the lower 48 where it's held by tribes. What that left open then was whether tribal governments had jurisdiction over that land in the same way that tribes have jurisdiction over their land in the lower 48. Is that Indian Country over which tribal governments can assert jurisdiction since it's not owned by the tribe, it's owned by these corporations that are owned by the individual tribal members? That was the question presented in this case brought by the Native village of Venetie where they sought to generate some revenues to support their tribal government by imposing taxes on people who lived and worked on their land and some of those people were non-Indians and they challenged the authority of the Venetie tribal government to tax them saying they didn't have authority to do that and the question was, is this Indian Country just like in the lower 48 and even though we won the case in the lower courts the Supreme Court reversed our victories and held that there is no Indian Country jurisdiction in Alaska, that the fact that these lands are held by Native corporations and not tribal governments makes a difference and that we have no tribal authority over our lands in Alaska because of this corporate status."

The impact of the Supreme Court reversal

John Echohawk:

"Well, what it means is that the tribes in Alaska don't have the same authority over their lands as the tries in the lower 48 and that means they're under state jurisdiction and with tribal governments being a distinct minority in Alaska they have difficulty controlling what happens in their own communities on their own lands and this is something that they want to correct and they've started discussions with the State of Alaska and with the Alaska delegation about this and they've started to make some inroads in getting the authority of Alaska tribal governments over their lands addressed. So even though the case was lost it started a discussion and a dialogue up there that started to result in change where tribal governments in Alaska are starting to be recognized as having the same powers and authorities over their lands as the tribes in the lower 48 so again it's another come back from this termination policy that had plagued us for so long."

Some of NARF's cases have roots deep in the past: the Trust Funds case

John Echohawk:

"The Trust Fund's case described as this case brought by Elouise Cobell as the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is a case that had really been out there for a long, long time that we were aware was out there for a long, long time but we were hoping wouldn't really ever have to be brought. Of course we had questions whether we would ever have the resources to bring it since it is the largest case that we've ever gotten involved in. But it starts with the fact that Indian lands are held in trust for Indians by the federal government. In that sense it's different from ownership of land that most people are familiar with in the United States. Generally speaking the title to tribal lands and individual Indian lands on reservations is not held by the tribe or by the individual Indians, it is held by the United States but it's held in trust for the benefit of the tribes or the individual Indians and that makes the federal government a trustee. In the beginning the land started out of course as land owned in common by the tribes. Initially that was the way that the federal government and the tribes established their relationship. But beginning in the 1880s with the Indian Allotment Act, Congress adopted a new policy part of this assimilation mentality that they had trying to force Indians to assimilate into the mainstream. They took some of this tribal land and divided it up and gave some of it to individual Indians, members of the tribe. And so individual Indians on some reservations for the first time got individual ownership of land but that land was still held in trust by the federal government for them. And of course as trustee then, like any bank, well, what that means then is the trustee when the land's to be leased for timber development or oil and gas development, the trustee signs the leases, collects the money and keeps it in an account for the beneficiary, the individual Indian. So the United States as our trustee became our banker and they were supposed to do all this for individual Indians who got these individual allotments beginning in the 1880s on many reservations across this country. Well, the federal government over all that time has not made a very good banker. They didn't keep track of all of these records and all these accounts and all of this money on all of these leases. This became evident pretty early. Beginning in the early 1900s there were starting to be reports of how the government was not managing these individual Indian money accounts for all these individual Indians that had these leases that the federal government was administering. Complaints were made to the Congress and to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and unfortunately nothing was done about them and even though these complaints would regularly be raised in the Congress and in the administrations all throughout the 1900s nothing was ever done about it. The latest effort was led by Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in this lawsuit that we're talking about. She got an act of Congress passed together with many other people in 1994 called the Trust Reform Act and what this did was put a special trustee into the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs to clean up this mismanagement of the individual Indian trust funds. Well, it turned out to be politics as usual because promptly after 1994 the administration never asked for any money to implement this law and Congress didn't give them any, didn't provide any itself so everybody passed this law and kind of promptly forgot about it so it was business as usual. So we made a determination at that time that the Indian trust funds mess was never going to be resolved politically by the Congress and by the administrations, that we had to enlist the aid of the federal courts to do that and to enforce this clear federal trust responsibility and make them account for all of this money for these individual Indians that everybody knew had been mismanaged but nobody was ever going to fix it. But by enlisting the aid of the court, the court could enforce the trust responsibility and make the Interior Department reform the trust and do an accounting. That's what we asked for in the lawsuit that was then brought in 1996. The courts have responded magnificently. They've read the law, they see that the Congress has accepted this role as trustee through the enactment of all of these laws relating to our people that the federal government has a clear responsibility that has to be carried out by the Interior Department and the Department owes all of these individual Indian money account holders now estimated to be as 500,000 an accounting of their funds going back to the 1880s. And the federal government has resisted the efforts of the individual Indian money account holders at every step of the way since 1996 but again the courts have ruled in favor of the Indians at every turn and we're still waiting for this accounting of funds."

The conditions of Indian tribes and the obligations of the federal government

John Echohawk:

"Even though the federal government has taken on substantial obligations to tribes through the treaties and through the laws they have never lived up to their responsibilities. That's why we've got such poor social and economic conditions on Indian reservations. We're at the bottom of the ladder on virtually everything. We've been able to make substantial inroads into that in the last 30 years during this self-determination policy when we've taken more of the control ourselves but still we have a lot of catch up to do. There's not only neglect in the management of the trust funds of individuals and of tribes but in education, in health, in roads and infrastructure on Indian reservations, jobs, income, whatever it is we're at the bottom of those statistics and much of it is due to the fact the federal government just has not provided the assistance and support that they promised the tribes through the treaties and through the statutes. Much of that comes down to the appropriation process where Congress appropriates money to carry out the treaties and its responsibilities and even though all of our tribes have worked very hard to get the necessary appropriations to implement those laws we just haven't been able to get the kind of funding that we need and that's why tribes through the exercise of their authority as tribal governments have worked so hard in developing their economies and prioritized economic development because unless we're able to provide for ourselves it's unlikely that the conditions on our reservations are going to change very much cause the Congress, the United States of America just has not done a good job of fulfilling its responsibilities to Native people."

The public is informed about trust funds mismanagement but the problem continues

John Echohawk:

"I think this case has gotten a lot of widespread publicity across the country. We've worked very hard at doing that hoping to be able to force the federal government to enter into negotiations with us and settle this case but all of that exposure has really not worked in the sense that the federal government continues to resist, continues to deny that it has any responsibility for the mismanagement of these funds and continues to resist us at every turn. But thankfully we have the support of the federal courts and I think it's one of the most difficult cases they've ever had trying to force the executive branch of government to do what they're supposed to do, which is to follow the law. And it's gotten so bad now that we've asked the court to hold federal officials responsible for the trust reform in contempt of court for not complying with court orders and to put these officials in jail and assess fines against them personally. And we've also asked the court to basically take these responsibilities away from the Department of the Interior on a temporary basis and to have the court appoint a receiver that would carry out the trust reform under the jurisdiction of the court until such time as we got it fixed and then got the Interior Department people trained in how to administer that trust and then turned it back over to them once they demonstrated they're able to do it properly. These are extreme measures but again they're prompted by the fact that there has been extreme reluctance on the part of the executive branch to carry out the law of this country."

What the injustice over trust funds has meant for tribal people

John Echohawk:

"Well, we think as a result of the shoddy mismanagement of these Indian trust accounts that our people over the generations have really been defrauded and have lost a lot of the money that was due them under these leases that were being managed by the federal government. And of course interest is due on all of that money that we should have had too. So as Elouise Cobell likes to talk about, she thinks a lot of the wealth that our people had in these lands has been dissipated, lost by this mismanagement. And if we had had that money the conditions of our people over the last few generations would have been better. But that should be made up by this accounting when we I think basically determine that there have been billions of dollars that have been lost through that process and together with interest there are billions that are owed to these account holders and that's the part of the case that we're pressing forward on right now in 2002. The next phase of the case after we get this trust reform effort underway to stop the bleeding to fix the system now and that's to get to the accounting part of the case and to have a trial on that issue and establish that there should be billions of dollars in these accounts and the accounts should be restated to reflect that. Like I say, we didn't expect it to go on as long as it has. We thought the federal government would use this as an opportunity to settle what's clearly been recognized a long time as a mess."

How John Echohawk has maintained the strength of his commitments for more than three decades

John Echohawk:

"As a lawyer with tribal clients I take those responsibilities seriously and I represent my clients to the best of my ability. It's very interesting work, very rewarding work. We haven't been able to win all of these cases but we've won a substantial number of them and I've seen where that's made a difference in our Indian communities as we've talked about the change in Indian policy from termination to self-determination here over the last 30 years and the gradual improvement of social and economic conditions amongst our tribes even though we've got a long way to go and we're still pretty bad off, it's a lot better than it used to be. So it's been rewarding. I see the kind of work that I'm doing as something that really falls to each generation of Native people in this country. Reading the history of our people and all of the legal and political struggles they've been through since the founding of the nation in 1787 and even before then, each generation of Native people has had these issues that they've had to deal with. What's their relationship with the United States and what kind of conditions are they going to be living under today and what power do they have as tribal nations to impact that? And these are issues again that past generations have had, that our generation now has and the future generation of Native American people are going to have as well. I think that's why it's good to have programs like the Institute for Tribal Government do these kinds of projects where we can educate younger Indian people and Americans across the board about the history of tribes, the current issues and the future issues that are coming along that impact tribes and to get the younger generations of Native and non-Native people ready to deal with these issues because they will go on. The status of Native American people in this country has always been an issue in this country and it will always continue to be an issue in this country."

The preservation of Native religions and culture

John Echohawk:

"Well, our people are not only governments, nations but we're also people with different cultures and religions and that's I think the most important thing to our people is to continue to live the way that we were brought up by our mothers and fathers and our ancestors before that and to be able to follow the traditions and cultures and religions of our people and having the sovereign status as nations, as governments allows us to do that, to be able to make decisions that protect our tribes, our ways of life, our cultures and our religions and traditions. So along with protecting this governmental status we want to make sure that we can protect our culture and religious rights as much as possible, that's why this is one of the priorities that we've worked on at the Native American Rights Fund over this time. One of the areas we worked in quite a bit has been in the religious freedom of Native Americans. So many people in this country don't understand that many tribes have their own religions and in our view these religions are entitled to the same protection in this country as other religions but so many people just do not understand first of all that we have our own religions and then too they have trouble understanding that these religions ought to be accepted and protected on the same basis as other religions in this country so we've got a lot of work on that concept. The Congress passed the Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978 which was a declaration of policy intended to help all Americans understand that tribes do have their own religions and they're entitled the same respect as other religions but actually getting that implemented across the board has been difficult and there's been many cases on that. We've been involved in a number of them and it's still a very difficult and contentious issue."

Protecting Native sites, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act

John Echohawk:

"The whole country at one time basically being Indian Country we have inhabited the whole area since the beginning of time and we have burial sites all over this country, not just on the lands that we have left called reservations but on all of these lands and as this development occurs they are unearthing many of our tribal burial grounds and for so long under this termination policy most of America thought that tribes were extinct or disappearing and so when they did unearth our ancestors they hauled them away as if they owned them and that we as tribes didn't have any control over the remains of our ancestors. And we finally got Congress to pass a law in 1990, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act that stopped that practice and recognized that our tribes own and control the remains of our ancestors and their burial goods and that they can't be taken away by other interests and that they do belong to us. So we've been able to stop that process and start reversing it by repatriating the bodies of our ancestors they've taken to the museums and all of the burial goods that they've confiscated and to return those to our people. And that has been a significant development."

Indian tribes and environmental issues

John Echohawk:

"The environmental movement really started about the same time as the Indian self determination movement in 1970. The environmental movement resulted primarily in a number of federal environmental laws that protect the environment across the country by setting minimal environmental standards that are to be met to stop and manage the pollution that has occurred. Under these federal laws most of them are carried out by states that contract with the federal government and then follow these federal environmental standards and implement them in the states. Well, of course as we've established in this Indian self determination era going back to the treaties, the jurisdiction on the Indian lands is the combination of tribal law and federal law based on this federal tribal relationship and state law does not apply on our lands unless that's been made applicable by a treaty or an act of Congress. These environmental laws did not give the states jurisdiction to enforce these environmental laws on our lands. That's still a prerogative of the tribal governments so what we've been doing as part of this Indian self determination and environmental movement is having the tribes develop their own environmental laws under the federal environmental statutes to take care of the environment on Indian lands. The environmental organizations that have been involved in overseeing this whole process like many Americans have not really been familiar with tribes and tribal governments and tribal authority so it's been important to reach out to them and explain to them why on Indian lands these environmental laws are implemented and controlled by the tribal governments instead of the state governments. I think they've become learners like American people generally about the existence of tribes and tribal governments and tribal authority and tribal nations and have been supportive of tribes regulating the environment on tribal lands. I've been one of several tribal people who have been involved in outreach to the environmental community about these issues and I've found it very interesting to see their reaction which is generally positive after they learn how all of this fits together under this legal system we have. But at the same time I've benefited from working with environmentalists to learn more about the environmental threats that do exist around the world and in this country and on our own lands too and be able to work with them to address these environmental problems that we have on our lands."

Individuals and foundations nationwide who believe in the protection of Native rights support NARF

John Echohawk:

"We've been able to establish a network of 40,000 individual contributors across the country that help us raise funds every year. In recent years too we've also seen tribes because of the increase in the ability they have to generate funds to help their people and their social and economic development be able to contribute part of that back to organizations like the Native American Rights Fund that have helped them do that so we've seen tribal contributions grow in recent years. I think even though we've been able to sustain the Native American Rights Fund at this level of around 15 attorneys for this 32 year period that we've been around, we haven't really despaired too much because the major development that's occurred during that time has been the number of tribes who are now able to afford their own attorneys. Thirty-two years ago there were only a handful of tribes that could do that but these days because of the progress that tribes have made most of the tribes today have their own attorneys. Maybe not as many as they need but they at least have some legal assistance available to them and that's helped them tremendously because I think tribes have learned so much of what's involved in protecting your tribes is dealing with the legal and political systems in this country and that for better or worse requires the use of lawyers. And our tribes now have a lot of legal counsel today, many, many more than they had when we started back in 1970 when together with Indian Legal Services we were about the only legal counsel available to tribes."

How to deal with setbacks

John Echohawk:

"Well, you try to figure out what you can learn from that and then how you can move forward with basically the same issues and try to change the outcome. In other words, never give up."

Never giving up, using the cases to educate the public

John Echohawk:

"I think really a process of starting with the United States Constitution, which is to say you talk about the American system of government and how tribes fit into that system. Even though that's really very basic so many Americans don't really understand that. It should be taught in our public schools and in our civics courses but unfortunately it's not addressed. And so we end up with the vast majority of American people not having any idea about the existence of tribal governments in this country today and the fact that it's based on the Constitution and treaties of this country. So it's a process that me and other Native Americans are involved in all of the time, it's a continual education process. It's particularly critical at the congressional level when these issues end up before Congress cause we end up with so many of our elected representatives really not only in Congress but the state level too not understanding the basics of American government that includes tribal governments. So we talk amongst ourselves about having to do an Indian 101 course like in college when you talk with federal and state leaders cause so many of them don't have any idea about our status as governments."

Educating around misconceptions about Indian issues, especially gaming

John Echohawk:

"Well, you have to talk about the Constitution and the treaties and the fact that tribes are governments like the states and like the federal government and that tribes like other governments have a need to raise revenue to provide services and just like the state governments do who operate games of all kinds to generate revenues, tribal governments are able to do that too under tribal law and that even though tribes have that option not all of them exercise that, that not all of the tribes are involved in gaming. There are 557 recognized tribes around this country. Less than half of them engage in gaming. Of the ones that do engage in gaming only a handful make a lot of money off of it because of their location and because of their business skills. The rest of them have fairly marginal operations but the revenues that are generated provide services for their Indian communities and very few Indians get these per capita checks that some people think we all get and that we're all rich and that's just not the case. And again, it's a continual process of educating people about that cause some of them pick up the wrong information, get the wrong impression about things so it's a continuing education campaign that many of us are involved in."

How tribal governments are impacted by the federal budget emphasis on national security

John Echohawk:

"So much of the budget is starting to be deferred over to these national security issues and what that's meant is that the difficulties we usually have trying to get appropriations for Indian programs are made even more difficult by this competing priority of funds for national security. It's made things even tougher and we're seeing that in this appropriation cycle now. We're barely able to have appropriated the same funds that we have appropriated last year before this national security crisis hit and it's very, very difficult, very tough going to ask for increases in all these programs that are woefully inadequate to start with."

The most beneficial piece of federal legislation for tribes in the past 30 years

John Echohawk:

"I think it has to be the Indian Self Determination Act of 1975 because that really implemented this Indian self-determination policy that we had all been pushing for and got Congress officially onboard that concept and what it means. It was really a change in Indian policy because under the old termination policy that of course self determination replaced the thinking of the federal government and the policy makers was that Indian affairs were to be managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the federal government on our lands until such time as we were able to manage for ourselves. And when that happened then we would be terminated and the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs would leave the reservations and our tribal governments would be eliminated and we would come under the authority of the states. That was their prescription for us. But with the Self Determination Era what happened was we would accept the Bureau of Indian Affairs leaving the reservations or taking a back seat on the reservations but what would come forward was the tribal governments and that's been the biggest development here over the last 30 years has been the growth of modern tribal governments where our tribal institutions have stepped up and began governing our reservations in place of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And the Self Determination Act facilitated that by providing the funds that usually went to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to govern our reservations and to get those funds over to the tribal governments so the tribal governments could govern our reservations."

Planning for the struggles ahead in light of recent Supreme Court decisions

John Echohawk:

"Well, the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative is an effort by tribal leaders across the country to address what I think is the biggest threat to Indian Country today and that is the big change that we have seen in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court as they affect Native American rights. Throughout this whole 30 year period we've been talking about tribal progress has been driven by and large by favorable decisions of the United States Supreme Court upholding tribal rights in this country. In the last 10 years or so that has changed dramatically as the makeup of the Supreme Court has changed and it's become more conservative. Now the tribes lose virtually every case that goes to the Supreme Court. It used to be that they would take cases that we lost in the lower courts and decide them in our favor or take the cases that we won and affirm them in Supreme Court opinions. But anymore what they do is take cases that the tribes have won in the lower courts and then reverse them and come out with new interpretations, limiting interpretations of tribal rights. And this trend is of great concern to tribal leaders particularly because of two cases that came out last year that established that tribes have virtually no sovereign inherent authority over non-Indians in Indian Country whether it's on fee land owned by non-Indians within Indian Country or whether it's on tribal lands now. The tribes have virtually no authority over non-Indians in our territories and of course this is going to have a devastating impact on our ability to control public health and safety on our lands. It's going to impact our economic development and all of this comes at a time when of course we thought that we had clearly established what our authority was to control things on the reservations and now we find through these recent Supreme Court decisions that we do not have this governmental authority over non-Indians in Indian Country that we thought that we had. And tribal leadership has determined that it's not a good future for our tribes without this authority over non-Indians and it's so grim that we need to do something that's going to be very difficult and that is we need to go to the Congress and share with the Congress our concerns about these Supreme Court decisions and have the Congress reaffirm tribal authority over non-Indians in Indian Country so that we can protect the health and safety of everybody on the reservations and we can also continue to develop our tribal economies in a way that benefits our people and non-Indian people as well. This is going to be a very difficult issue cause it raises of course the basic question of the status of tribes in this country and their authority in this country but it's something that we have to do because the Supreme Court has basically decimated the tribes in terms of their authority over non-Indians on the reservations. We understand that the concern of the Supreme Court primarily has been how the tribal governments treat non-Indians as they exercise authority over them particularly in our tribal courts and the laws relating to the tribes basically empower those tribal courts in past years to decide these issues relating to non-Indians but the court has withdrawn that authority now because of their concern that these tribal court decisions are not subject to review by the Supreme Court, by the federal courts and the court has said as much. They want an opportunity to review all of these decisions of the tribal courts and that's the only way they can insure that non-Indians get treated fairly in our tribal courts. So part of what the tribal leaders are ready to do is to talk to Congress about having their authority over non-Indians restored and in return the tribes are willing to subject their tribal courts to federal court review of their treatment of non-Indians. It's just a very difficult issue that tribes face. Some of them are ready to do that, some of them are not ready to do that just yet."

The need to address not only civil jurisdiction but also criminal misdemeanor jurisdiction

John Echohawk:

"The crime statistics in Indian Country are abominable. While the crime rates across the country generally have gone down, in Indian Country they've gone up and that's primarily because the tribal governments don't have any authority over non-Indians in the criminal context and any prosecutions have to be done by federal or state authorities. And of course they're not really there in our Indian communities so much of the crime that happens does not get prosecuted and the tribes are powerless to do anything about it. So the tribes, many of them want this misdemeanor jurisdiction authority over crimes on reservations so that they can address the crime problem themselves so all these issues are going to Congress because we are not going to win these issues in the Supreme Court. They have basically denied our authority to do that so we have to get Congress to recognize our authority to do that."

Extreme cases have stirred minority descent

John Echohawk:

"In one of these cases last year when the court basically extended their interpretation of the limited authority of tribes over non-Indians on non-Indian land those same limitations over to now jurisdiction over non-Indians on our own Indian lands. They said there's virtually no difference between tribal authority over non-Indians whether they're on non-Indian land in Indian Country or whether they're on Indian land in Indian Country, it doesn't matter who owns the land, the fact of the matter is they're non-Indians and tribes have very limited if no authority over non-Indians anywhere in Indian Country. And this surprised three of the justices so much that six of the justices would all of a sudden announce this interpretation of Indian law that we had virtually no authority over non-Indians even on our own Indian lands that three of the justices in a very vigorous descent said the court has gone way too far in basically ignoring all of their past decisions relating to the authority of tribal governments over non-Indians back to the earliest days of the nation and all of a sudden announced this new doctrine, this new rule of law that takes away from the tribes authority that they have always had that we have to object. We have to descent vigorously and tell the majority of the court that they have made a really wrong decision, a bad decision and a decision judges should not be making because it's not the law of this country, that's not the law of tribal sovereignty. The opinion was written by Justice O'Connor supported by Justice Breyer and Justice Stevens."

The project ahead with Congress

John Echohawk:

"It's going to be a long process, there's going to be a lot of debate involved on all sides about the status of tribal governments and what kind of authority they should have over non-Indians and the impact on the states and local governments and non-Indian people. But it's one that has to be done because otherwise tribes face an uncertain future lacking control over a lot of things that happen in Indian Country that they need to be involved in."

The role of familial support

John Echohawk:

"Well, I've got a wonderful wife and family. They've been very supportive of me in my work even though it takes me away from home quite a bit traveling throughout the country on these cases and various issues. They understand it's important work and that my workplace is basically the whole country and I need to be at my workplace and it's not always in my office at home, it's different places around the country. So they've really been very supportive of me in that regard. I couldn't do it without them."

The values that underpin John Echohawk's work

John Echohawk:

"Well, I believe in the fairness and justice in this country and under the American system and even though our people don't always receive that sometimes we do. And it's really great when we're able to win something and make some progress for our people. And when that fairness and justice doesn't come through then it's very disappointing but at the same time we never give up and we figure another way to try to get the point across and get this fairness and justice that we're due under this system."

Education about the history of Indian nations for both tribal youth and non-Indians

John Echohawk:

"Well, I try to take advantage of every speaking opportunity I get in front of college classes and Indian youth in particular. But on a broader scale we're trying to impact the education systems on or near reservations so that tribal governments get involved more in that. And through the involvement of the tribal governments then they can modify the curriculums and what happens in the schools so that the existence of modern day Native Americans can be taught and appreciated in these schools and so that people come to learn about the history of our Indian nations and our legal status today as Indian nations. And again not only our Native youth but also the non-Indians involved in those same systems that our neighbors come to understand that too."

The greatest contribution of Native Americans to the country

John Echohawk:

"I think it's remarkable that our Native people have been able to maintain their sense of spirituality throughout all of this time that we've had dealings with non-Indians in this country and despite all the terrible things that have happened to us. Our people are still I think very open and caring and that's why they try to preserve their way of life and also continue to try to reach out and share with non-Indian people and try to deal with non-Indian people fairly too in recognizing the place of the human being in the larger universe and in this environment and our obligation to recognize that environment and our place in it and our obligation to take care of it."

The thread in Echohawk's own story he would extend to youth

John Echohawk:

"Well, I think the same thing that my parents engrained in me and my brothers and sisters that education is important. It really helps to understand the world around you and how it works and that you need to have that information to be able to take care of yourself but also to be able to help in your communities and that you have an obligation to do that. Our youth sooner or later at some point in their lives will come to understand those things and I think the earlier they understand that they need this information, they need this education for themselves and for their families and communities the better off they will be. So many of them resist the idea of education but I think once they see how it helps them personally and how it helps their families and communities the better off they're going to be and I think the easier it will be for them to open up and be receptive to educational opportunities."

The legacy Echohawk and his generation will leave

John Echohawk:

"I think I was raised in an era where I'm part of the first generation of Native American people who became professionals in this country, lawyers and doctors and we're able to use that knowledge then for the benefit of our people in a way that never had been done before. I think the assumption was always if our people got educated then we would be like White people and that has not proven to be the case. All of us have used the knowledge and education that we've gotten to benefit our people in our own terms and to continue our Indian ways and I think that has really surprised the American culture generally and has basically given our people a future where we see that our tribes are going to be able to exist in perpetuity."

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

[Native music]

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

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

Editing
Green Fire Productions

Photo credit:
John Echohawk
NARF
Anthony Allison
Joseph Consentino
Thorney Lieberman
Gary J. Thibault

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

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

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

© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government 

Cherokees OK joint wind-energy project in north-central Oklahoma

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The Cherokee Nation has approved plans to team up with four other tribes to develop a 90-turbine wind farm in Kay County. The five tribes will jointly operate the facility with 45 turbines on 3,000 acres of Cherokee-owned property and 45 more turbines on 3,000 acres owned by the four other tribes - the Kaw Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Pawnee Nation and Ponca Nation...

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Wade, Jarrel. "Cherokees OK joint wind-energy project in north-central Oklahoma. Tulsa World. May 15, 2013. Article. (http://www.tulsaworld.com/article.aspx/Cherokees_OK_joint_wind_energy_pr...

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Prairie Public
Year

This episode of the "Indian Pride" television series, aired in 2007, explores the economic development efforts of selected Native nations cross Indian Country. It also features an interview with Lance Morgan, CEO of the Winnebago Trib'es Ho-Chunk, Inc., who provides an overview of the evolution of Ho-Chunk, Inc. and how it is working to grow and diversify the Winnebago Tribe's economy in order to make it sustainable.

People
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Prairie Public. "Indian Pride (Episode 108): Economic Development." Indian Pride television series. Prairie Public. Fargo, North Dakota. 2007. Video. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFibj75MUi0, accessed July 24, 2023)

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Producer
Prairie Public Broadcasting
Year

Indian Pride, an American Indian cultural magazine television series, spotlights the diverse cultures of American Indian people throughout the country. This episode of Indian Pride features John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, and focuses on understanding Indian treaties and tribal sovereignty. (Segment Placement: 1:08 - 14:43)

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Treaties & Sovereignty." Indian Pride (Episode 102). Prairie Public Broadcasting. Fargo, North Dakota. 2007. Television program. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpa4DK0vXyU, accessed July, 24, 2023).