San Carlos Apache Tribe

NCAI Forum: Protecting Tribal Lands and Sacred Places: Current Threats Across Indian Country

Year

The latest in NCAI’s ongoing series of virtual events featuring tribal leaders, this forum shares the stories of five tribal nations working to protect their tribal homelands in the face of baseless attacks by the federal government, and discussed how the federal government must recommit to its trust and treaty obligations to all tribal nations in this critical area. Forum panelists included:

  • Cedric Cromwell, Chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe
  • Mark Fox, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation
  • Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
  • Ned Norris, Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation
  • Terry Rambler, Chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe
Resource Type
Citation

National Congress of American Indians. "NCAI Forum: Protecting Tribal Lands and Sacred Places: Current Threats Across Indian Country". NCAI. June 29, 2020. Retreived on July 23, 2020 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_DGzzlgkGo

San Carlos Apache Elders Cultural Advisory Council

Year

The Elders Cultural Advisory Council was formed by a resolution of the San Carlos Tribal Council in 1993 to advise on culturally related matters, to consult with off-reservation entities, and to administer and oversee cultural preservation activities. As a source of traditional wisdom, the Elders Council plays an active role in the Tribe’s governance by providing insight on issues as diverse as resource management, leadership responsibilities, cultural practices, and repatriation of sacred objects. The values of self-reliance, respect, and a deep connection to nature are central to traditional Apache life and are underlying themes in all Elders Cultural Advisory Council activities, consultations, and messages. In establishing the Elders Cultural Advisory Council, the San Carlos Tribe gains access to an important source of traditional knowledge and enables a key constituency to have a voice in tribal affairs.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Elders Cultural Advisory Council." Honoring Nations: 2000 Honoree. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2001. Report. 

Permissions

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

Broken Government: Constitutional Inadequacy Spawns Conflict at San Carlos

Author
Year

This article, published in 1999, examined the governmental conflict taking place at the San Carlos Apache Tribe. It explored the historical constitutional roots of the conflict, specifically the ineffectiveness and culturally inappropriate Indian Reorganization constitution and system of government imposed upon the tribe by the U.S. government in the 1930s.

Resource Type
Citation

Record, Ian. "Broken Government: Constitutional Inadequacy Spawns Conflict at San Carlos." Native Americas Journal. Spring 1999, 10-17. Article.

Permissions

This article, which appeared in the now-defunct Native Americas journal, is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of author Ian Record.

Ian Record: Setting the Focus and Providing the Context: Critical Constitutional Reform Tasks (Presentation Highlight)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this highlight from the presentation "The Process of Constitutional Reform: The Challenge of Citizen Engagement," NNI's Ian Record lays out two critical overarching tasks that those charged with leading a nation's constitutional reform effort must undertake.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Record, Ian. "Setting the Focus and Providing the Context: Critical Constitutional Reform Tasks (Presentation Highlight)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 4, 2013. Presentation highlight.

"So here's just some responsibilities that you want to think about giving, delegating to those commission members. Obviously you need them out there spearheading the citizen engagement effort, soliciting input/feedback from your community members. So all of these things on this page are very important, but I would argue that there's two larger responsibilities that your constitution reform committee folks have. One is, set the focus. The second is, provide context.

What do I mean by that? Set the focus -- and this is something that leaders need to be doing as well. And Anthony [Hill] stole a lot of my thunder on this point so I'll be concise with it, but we've seen a lot of tribes struggle when the focus and the discussion around reform is confined to the current issues of the day, the problems, what's ailing us, versus what are our assets, what are our resources, what are our opportunities, what kind of future are we trying to create? Setting that focus is absolutely critical, because if you stay confined in that issues and problems thing, you're missing out, you have a very narrow focus and you're missing out on the broader picture.

I like to use the analogy of a car and your constitution being your nation-building vehicle. And those of you who are elected leaders or who work in tribal government and you're immersed in the machinery of governance every day, you see the problems, you see them firsthand, and you know what needs fixing, right? So every time that vehicle breaks down and you pull over to the side of the road and you get out and you're all huddled around -- elected leadership and everybody else -- you're huddled around underneath the hood and that's all you're looking at, instead of walking up to the next hill, turning around and taking a look at the whole picture. Taking a look at that vehicle and saying, 'Is this the right vehicle for us? Do we even know how to drive it? Is it even pointed in the right direction? Do we know which direction we want to point it in?' So you need to think about that. That's all about setting the focus. What is the premise, what is the lens through which you're going to engage in this effort?

And the second is, provide the context. We see a lot of tribes struggle when they start with, "˜What's wrong with our constitution?' instead of going back, doing a history on where you've come from. It's that old adage: it's hard to figure out where you're going to go unless you know where you've been. So you need to do your due diligence, and this is where the reform committee can play the lead role. How did we govern ourselves traditionally? I may know that being on the reform committee, 'cause they put me on there because of my knowledge of this, but do the people in the community know that? If not, we need to teach them.

Where did our current constitution come from? Oftentimes we hear people say, 'Oh, yeah, we're an IRA [Indian Reorganization Act] tribe,' as if the person hearing that is supposed to understand fully what that means or they even understand fully what that means. But go back. Do you know? Do you have a working history of how your specific constitution and system of government was formed? Did your own people have a meaningful say in its formulation? For many IRA tribes, often that answer is no.

San Carlos Apaches, I've worked with them for a number of years, I've done a lot of archival research on how their IRA government was formed. They had a heavy contingent of Apaches back at the time that said, 'Self-governance? You're talking about self-governance? We're going to take the ball and run with it.' They actually developed their own constitution. They sent it to Washington. John Collier said, 'No way. You want to regulate marriage and divorce according to Apache custom? I don't think so. We have the Lutheran missionaries that can do that for you.' So you need to go back and look at your history and then, once you document that history, you need to share it with your people, because it will provide them a sense of context by which they can then analyze your current constitution and figure out what they want to change."

Honoring Nations: Jeanette Clark Cassa: San Carlos Apache Elders Cultural Advisory Council

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Jeanette Cassa (1929-2004), Coordinator of the San Carlos Apache Elders Cultural Advisory Council (ECAC), discusses ECAC's work and the traditional Apache core values that its member elders work to instill in the younger generations of Apache people. She also stresses the importance of tribal leaders living by those values and listening to their people.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Cassa, Jeanette Clark. "San Carlos Apache Elders Cultural Advisory Council." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Sante Fe, New Mexico. February 8, 2002. Presentation.

Jeanette Clark Cassa:

"[Apache language] Good evening and we had a good day today and may it all be well today. My name is Jeanette Cassa and I'll try to do like the Navajos do. My name is Jeanette Cassa [Apache language]. The [Apache language] is very almost extinct now. There's just a few people [Apache anguage] probably extended out to the Navajo countries. But this is what I am.

I have an outline here and I'm going to try to make it short. I'm not quite used to speaking out in public. I'm used to being on top of the mountains looking for herbs, looking for plants, and naming the animals in Apache and birds out there for the education, the school. It says here that I'm going to talk about the past. Well, my...I was born in 1929 just when my father and my mother, we were beginning to realize that there is another world that they have to get in the trend of. And my great grandmother had been a prisoner of war, my paternal grandmother. She used to tell us stories about the prisons and it was very sad out there. They were roaming in the mountains but they came back, they were settled down in the valley and they...from there my father was born and then I came in.

Just when tribal council in 1934 -- I was about five years old when they developed the constitution. And the constitution took place then, so it was developed. And the tribal council was called the administrators at first and they advised people, they worked with the people real good and they never sat...they have some letters yet that they have written and it says there that not...it doesn't say 'I' and the chairman doesn't say, 'I.' He says, 'This council' and then he signs his name last while the councils, the district councils signed their names first. In those days they prayed and they got together and they prayed as they were developing the constitution. I believe that's why it still holds today. Only about one or two was amended in 1954.

But since I had gotten out of school I've been with the, helping out the council all the time and I felt that they were my relatives because I was an orphan. I had relatives in Mescalero, but there was quite a distance. So I grew up helping out the council. In those days the cultural principles of the...they gave advices on that according to the principles of life and whatever. Those things are gone today when you look at it, they're gone. They're gone and even in the English language, way back when Moses came there was a law put forth like the 10 Commandments. Do you ever stop to look at that? We had something like that. Don't do this or don't do that, but do this.

In the mornings when you got up you started out with your right foot, your right hand, whatever you were going to do. You were told to start with the right hand, your right foot so everything will go well with you for the day. They used to do that and then they say, 'Don't beg for things. Let it come to you or hunt for it, work for it yourself. Look for it.' Like when our people were in mountains those days they looked for food. They were constantly scratching around for food or looking, searching for food to eat so they were busy during the day. The men were out hunting, the women were at home or roasting agaves or looking for nuts and whatever they can eat. So they were constantly busy like the ants and that kept them slim in those days. And the food that they ate kept them healthy because they were natural foods.

So that's how their life was in those days and as we became...when the constitution came in, in those days we became a ward of the government. And then I went back to the reservation and as soon as I got home the council put me on the election committee so I had been with that until 1990. In 1954, I have seen two chairmen that were running who shake hands when one of them won. There [were] no harsh words; no criticizing one another, but they shook hands and that was good in 1954. After that it got out of hand. So that's where we are at today.

And the modern things that we learned that take place; I'm not as good as what Andrew [Lee]...but I do try to help anywhere, everywhere you help out. Your parents, your great grandmother told you, 'If you help out, it will come back to you in a thousand folds' is that they taught us. If you are a leader, don't hoard everything, give until you are the last one, take the last one or whatever you gave you got the smaller one and gave the bigger one away. It is not like this anymore.

There are a lot of words and teachings that have gone out of our lives everywhere, not just San Carlos. I believe it's with every tribe and even the modern world, the cities, everywhere. I had some experience in the earlier days, in 1950s the council decided that they needed to send people off the reservation to get work out there, to get a job, find a job and you were supposed to be out there and be educated. In other words, they told us, 'Be civilized' or assimilate with the public out there. So they sent us out. I have been there. I have been to San Jose, California and I've been to Dallas, Texas, but one day I decided that I needed to come home. I didn't have very many relatives at home, but I don't know why I came home, but someone told me that maybe you were meant to go home and help out. So all this time I've been doing it.

In 1990, when the NAGPRA [Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act] came in, my partner Seth [Pilsk] came out to me when I had retired from teaching at Globe High School, the Apache language, and I had retired and came home and I was sitting there. One morning he came up to me and said, 'Will you go to work with me?' I said, 'I retired'. He said, 'It's just for 18 months.' And it has gone...it has gone beyond that. It's almost 10 years, 10 years is coming up. But I went to work with him. We have worked on a lot trying to...we even worked with the [Northern Arizona University] with a science or something there was supposed to be taught in the school and we're still on that. And we're working on place names, putting every Apache name on a place where it...where the Apaches had been. So our map is just covered with black dots all over and on the side there because we couldn't put the whole name in there we just put it on the side.

That's where I am and the tribe today, the council today like here, they're here. I don't see any of my council member or maybe they're a little jealous of me, I don't know. But they do work with us. 1993 we presented a resolution. One reason we realized that we need a resolution to bring the elders council is that there are things, there are sacred things, there are traditions that are sacred, and we need permission from the elders in the community, the medicine men. So in order to work well with them we presented the resolution and they approved it. So we've been working under that. And that's what we've been doing all this time.

We do work with other companies like ADOT [Arizona Department of Transportation]. We receive letters, even from the arch science and the archaeologists that come in, but now we have Vernelda [Grant] on board as an archaeologist. So we send all those to her. And that's the reason why some other people haven't heard from us. But we've been called out everywhere and today I would say that I need to take speech lessons. I'm not as well...I'd rather be out there on the mountain and we do take people out. We have our elders' meeting and you've got to be patient with them. You have a meeting with them as a group like this, but you go over it again and visit them individually.

There's one thing we don't know anymore too and that is enduring things -- the cold, the heat, and other things -- we cannot sit still long enough. I notice that in the children as I try to bring these back, the other day. Our children are not working much anymore, too. So one forester has developed a thing where he can train the younger boys for the firefighters. So he asked me to come out there and talk to them and I did and I try to think about what I should say, but their attention span is short. So I try to make it short. I told them little stories. Like one day the firefighters got on the bus. A long time ago in the '50s the truck used to go up and down and they would honk the horn and then the men hears that whether they're drinking or not they go stand out there; some of them were drunk. But they got on the truck and they'd jump on the truck because they were able-bodied men. They were men that knew how to work. So they got on the bus. When the truck brought them to the bus they got on there, they threw the bottle away. It was time to put that bottle away and go. They got on the bus and got to wherever they were going and when they got there they fixed their bedding and they went to sleep right away, as soon as they got there. And the next morning they got up early and started work. They left the bottle behind and the job was a job and they went and did it. That's what I told the boys. It's time to put something away and get to work. There are a lot of other stories like that that I told to the boys.

But it's true about everything else. You people have... I listen to you talk and you have brought everything out, everything and maybe somebody wrote it down and everything that is needed as being a leader or working with the people. You brought everything out and mentioned it but there's one thing, when you become a leader, you kind of get tempted with things. And there's a little pool, maybe money or maybe something or maybe travel like this, you get tempted by that, and you spend more time out there and the work is back there. Nobody mentioned that one. But remember, you have to think twice before you can make a move. What's going to happen to me if I do this? There was one thing that I told the boys about that was; there was an elderly man that talked to us when I was working for the CAP office. He said, 'At 25...' He was telling us a story and he said, 'When you're away, somebody calls you and say your wife is out there or your husband is out there doing this. And you think is she really or is she home? And it gets in your way in your work and pretty soon it becomes a monster and you rush home and most likely you'll find your wife at home safe, doing all the work.' That was one...that's what this old man told me and that has been with me all this time. I thought about that. 'You'll get infatuated with someone at one time or other, but if you follow it, you're going to make a fool of yourself. You're going to lose everything and you'll just be out there all alone.' That's what he said. And so I remembered it and that's been with me all these years. I lost my husband to cancer two years ago, but that kept me straight. Things like that, the elderlies tell you.

Another one was...another one was that...he said...he said something else; stories like that. The women, my elders are full of them...will tell you a lot of things. He goes and visit the community. He involves with the community. He visits the people. So that's who we are, the elders. Today we're going to try to, no matter how hard it is, we're going to try to work, bring in the students, the young boys that are dropouts; we're going to try to work with them. We're going to try to work with the councilmen. We already do advise them, but when somebody wants, a leader wants something real bad, he will persuade someone or persuade the group to go along with him. And how do you go about that? You have to sit down and think it out and try it, getting it out there. So that's what we're trying to do. And I don't know how long it's going to last, how long NAGPRA's going to last. We do a lot of things. My secretary is Seth Pilsk. We'll think about it, we'll say about it, but he's going to write it down. We'll tell him and we'll read it over and say, 'This is not right.' Sometimes he gets angry and writes his own words, but we tell him, 'Don't do that.' So he's our secretary and he helps us, he's willing to help us. And he'll laugh and erase it out. So that's why he's with us and he's a botanist and I work with him. We have so many jobs. We've done a lot of ethnohistory with the Carlota Mines, Payson. Pretty soon we're going to Aravaipa and Winkelman. That's what we're doing and we'll be busy out there again.

We do need your help also in solving this problem about our leaders. How do we get them to work? How do we get them to listen? Will you listen to me, will you remember what it said or will you just ignore it? I said to Andrew, I said, 'The chairs are empty, go ahead and put me on.' But that's what we live by, the wisdom of the elders. There are a lot of good things what to do and what not to do. They used to say, 'Don't envy someone because it's no good.' There are a lot of things and probably your tribe is like that also. That's what we're trying to...trying to bring in and make it and work with the modern things, the modern teachings. That's what we're trying to do. I'm sorry that I'm just...like I said, I'm not used to making speech, but I can really holler and yell out there in the forest. Thank you."

Tribe looking to increase enrollment

Year

Under the direction of the appointed members of the Tribal Enrollment Committee – Peridot District Representatives Lula T. Dillon and Aurelia Rogers, Gilson Wash District Representatives Geraldine Kitcheyan and Henrietta Henry, Seven Mile Wash District Representatives Marthalene Polk and Lois R. Sprengler, and Bylas District Representative Elliot Talgo Sr., along with the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council, the San Carlos Apache tribal government is looking to increase its present enrollment of 15,393 tribal members.

“We wanted to work on increasing our tribal enrollment numbers because we found out that some children are not enrolled, especially at the beginning of the school year,” said Richard Hoffman, director of the Tribal Enrollment Department...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Rambler, Sandra. "Tribe looking to increase enrollment." Eastern Arizona Courier. August 14, 2014. Article. (http://www.eacourier.com/news/tribe-looking-to-increase-enrollment/artic..., accessed August 14, 2014)

American Indians Confront "Savage Anxieties"

Producer
Public Affairs Television, Inc.
Year

As part of the $585 billion defense bill for 2015, Congress passed a measure that would give lands sacred to American Indians in Arizona to a foreign company. The deal gives the Australian-English mining firm Rio Tinto 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in exchange for several other parcels so it can mine a massive copper deposit. Using this example, University of Arizona law professor Robert A. Williams Jr. discusses how stereotypes about American Indians have been codified into laws and government policies, with devastating consequences.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Public Affairs Television, Inc. "American Indians Confront 'Savage Anxieties.'" Moyers & Company. New York, New York. 2014. Interview. (http://billmoyers.com/episode/american-indians-confront-racism/, accessed March 1, 2023)

Best Practices Case Study (Cultural Alignment of Institutions): San Carlos Apache

Year

Traditional Apache culture is based on an intimate spiritual connection with and knowledge of the natural world. Apache elders believe that connection is necessary to respect one’s self, other humans and all living things. The San Carlos Apache elders living in San Carlos in northern Arizona have seen the changes in their community that are particularly worrisome...In the midst of such cultural, political and economic difficulties lies a kernel of hope and inspiration — the San Carlos Elders Cultural Advisory Council (ECAC). Formed in November 1993 by Tribal Council resolution, the all-volunteer ECAC was established to advise the Tribal Council on cultural matters, to carry out consultations with off-reservation entities on culturally related matters, and to execute various projects related to cultural preservation...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

National Centre for First Nations Governance. "Best Practices Case Study (Cultural Alignment of Institutions): San Carlos Apache." A Report for the National Centre for First Nations Governance. The National Centre for First Nations Governance. Canada. June 2009. Case Study. (https://fngovernance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/CAI_Apache.pdf, accessed March 23, 2023)