NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Frank Ettawageshik (Part 2)

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Native Nations Institute
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Frank Ettawageshik, former chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBBO), discusses the critical role that intergovernmental relationship building plays in the practical exercise of sovereignty and the rebuilding of Native nations. He shares several compelling examples of how LTBBO built such relationships in order to achieve their strategic priorities.

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Ettawageshik, Frank. "NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow (Part 2)." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 13, 2010. Interview.

Ian Record:

"So we're back with Frank Ettawageshik. This is a continuation of the interview from April 6th. Today is April 13th and we're going to pick up where we left off, which was talking about constitutions. And I want to essentially go back to the very beginning on this topic and ask you for your definition of what a constitution is."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"The constitution is the method by which the people inform their government how they want the government to serve them and the government is a tool of the people to achieve what they need to achieve in terms of relations to other governments, in terms of relation to how things are going to work internally. The people themselves maintain the complete power. And then they can either give or take back certain powers to the government through the constitution. The constitution also establishes the mechanism for how the tribal government, the tribal nation will deal with other nations. It sets up the parameters for how you are going to do that, ‘which branch of government has which authority?' and all of those types of things. To me the constitution is a tool of the people for how they are going to manage their government."

Ian Record:

"What key ingredients do you feel constitutions need to have in order to be effective?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, constitutions...to me, there's a legislative function, there's a judicial function, and an executive function, and these need to be acknowledged and then the interplay between them is what the constitution does. Some tribal nations have constitutions where all of those powers are wrapped up into one body. Others have clear separations of powers, but even ones that have separation of powers the balance of those changes from one to another. So really those are important functions, I think another thing needs to be clearly you have to have an amendment clause on how you are going to amend it. You need to have some basic statements. I believe that it is extremely important to have like a bill of rights built into it. I think that's very important because those things need to be part of what our people come to expect in terms of how they are going to relate with their government. And when the people are telling the government how it's going to function they need to reserve for themselves certain rights, certain ways to protect themselves. I look at a constitution in a way as the people trying to protect themselves from their own government and I think that not only does it say how it's going to function, but it also limits how it's going to function, and guides it so that it will...constitutions that are poorly conceived or poorly written or ones that the community, the tribal nation has grown beyond, they can hamper how things will function. They can be difficult. For instance, constitutions do not require, nor does federal law require that they be adopted by secretarial election. Nor do they require that amendments be done by secretarial election, yet many constitutions throughout Indian Country require secretarial election by their own words, and so I think an important function there would be to not have that in your constitution. To me, you are either sovereign or you aren't, you are not part sovereign. And as a nation, tribal nations, sovereign tribal nations are constantly negotiating the exercise of that sovereignty with the other sovereigns around them. We may be with another tribe, another tribal nation close by, having some disputes about whose territories is whose or what...in economic development, there's room for competition and some issues. There could even be citizen issues regarding membership or citizenship. And we need to...the documents need to sort of deal with those things that are coming up."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to follow up on something you said. You talked about a number of Native nations growing beyond their constitutions. We hear that sort of refrain, particularly in the discussions of tribes who have Indian Reorganization Act systems of government that were adopted in the 1930s. They had a very different conception of the scope of self-governance, if you will. Is that something you've seen in your line of work, working with tribes both as chairman and now as executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Every tribe has its own constitution or its own, either written or not written, in terms of how the government's going to function. Most of the tribes I've worked with have written constitutions and they're all different and they have...there are clearly times when you move beyond something. The United States has amended its constitution a number of times, and not always successfully. Witness Prohibition for instance, and the fact that there's one amendment that brings it in and another one that takes it out. So the fact that a government might need to amend its constitution is not unusual. Some amendments may be more far ranging than others. Some amendments are a sentence here, or two. Other amendments might be more drastic than that, but I would think that, think of it rather that the constitution is an organic document that is evolving as the nation evolves."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to pick up on a specific aspect of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians' constitution, which was adopted in 2005, and it gets at this issue that you mentioned in the outset when defining constitutions, which is international or diplomatic relations. And explicit in your constitution is an acknowledgment of other sovereign nations and their inherent powers presuming that those sovereign nations, in turn, recognize and respect the sovereignty of your nation. Can you summarize what that clause says and give an overview of perhaps why your tribe felt it necessary to include that?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, when you, like I said, when you acknowledge that sovereignty in yourself and in others then you have to exercise or negotiate that sovereignty with your neighbors. So what I think is here is that you're constantly working with those other sovereigns, but you need to figure out how to decide who you are dealing with and who you aren't. And so the most basic way of that is that if somebody else acknowledges you, well you can acknowledge them, but you have to have some sort of a process for that. What this clause in our constitution does is it establishes a basis for some office, or staff person, or somebody that would be akin to a state department for instance, where there's an international relations office that deals with negotiations with other sovereigns and those types of things. Those negotiations, those other sovereigns might well be the United States and the laws that they are passing could have an effect on the way we exercise our sovereignty, but the fact that, for the most part, what we have done in Indian country is that we have federally recognized tribes deal with federally recognized tribes and I think what that does is that sort of...we're letting the United States decide who we're going to have diplomatic relations with, and I don't think that is a good idea. But we have the right to make that decision ourselves, but then along with that right comes the responsibility to do it in a way that you are doing it reasonably. So then what do we do? Do we have a whole acknowledgement process, each one of us? How do we go about doing that if we're not going to sort of let someone else vet the potential list of people with whom we'll have relations. I think the whole federal acknowledgement process doesn't grant sovereignty to those tribes that make it through, instead it acknowledges that they have it and that's what it's all about. So what that means is that the non-recognized tribes also are sovereign, and the state recognized tribes are sovereign, and the federally recognized tribes are sovereign. Tribal governments have inherent sovereignty and no one gives it to them. They have it because it comes through being in this creation. Well, you still have the responsibility to do it, to do it wisely because not everyone who claims to be a tribe is a tribe and that's the difficult thing. There are examples of people who have formed...recently, there have been some prosecutions here across the United States of people who have had various money, get-rich schemes, that involve pretending to be a tribe and issuing cards and charging people for it. Those are things we have to look out for, but then that's the responsibility of a sovereign nation is to not just look inward, but look outward because threats come from outside as well as potential good things come from outside and we have to be able to recognize them and deal with them."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned or we've been discussing the constitutional mandate within your tribe's constitution to essentially engage in international relations. It places a high value on that process. Since the 1980s, there's been an incredible growth in intergovernmental relations between Native nations and various other governments and I'm curious to learn from you, what do you think is driving this growth?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"A recognition that we need to look outside ourselves and work together. I mean if you look at what has happened across the world in this time, the European Union is formed and variety of very nationalistic individualistic nations realized the value of working together. While they still have their independence and unique in their own countries, at the same time, they have a centralized currency and other things that make for a good sense. Tribes have the same kind of thing. We know that there is strength in numbers and as a matter of fact back there in the revolutionary time here in the United States, many of our leaders spoke to the Continental Congress and to the early [U.S.] Congress about the strength of working together. As a matter of fact, there is a famous speech about 13 fires being stronger than one that was given and these are the kinds of things that come from us and our understanding and we often formed alliances of some sorts with us coming together, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy for instance is one, the Three Fires Confederacy is another, and there are others all across the country where different tribes have worked together. So what kind of things have we done?

One of the examples of working together is the formation of the National Congress of American Indians back in the '40s. It was formed to combat the national trend towards not recognizing the tribes, tribal governments or saying, ‘alright the tribal governments have progressed far enough, now we can terminate our relationship with them.' And so the whole Termination era came through and NCAI, that was one of the big pushes for NCAI. One of the things that we found as we were doing some studying and I still have more to do on this, but not only was there the non-profit corporation created that is the National Congress of American Indians, but at the same time there was also a treaty written and was signed by a number of the nations that acknowledged each others' sovereignty. I mean, it's a very...it showed and demonstrated in writing, the understanding of the tribal nations that they were and still are independent sovereigns and no matter what other people may think about it. And so, I think that that was one example, NCAI.

Other examples of working together I'm going to put up, more recently, we in the Great Lakes signed an agreement called the Tribal and First Nation Great Lakes Water Accord. This was done because the states and provinces were working on the issues of bulk ground water and diversion of water from the Great Lakes and how are they going to work together to deal with those issues as they came up and there had been a succession of agreements, finally one where they would agree and create binding agreements and then it was in the creation of these binding agreements that they started work and we got wind of the things. They talked to us a little, but they always talked to us as stakeholders and we felt that that wasn't correct. They needed to talk to us as sovereign governments within the region because we had court-adjudicated rights within that region. We were the only government with government-to-government relationship through treaties and that was important that we be apart of it, so when we weren't part of it and they did treat us as stakeholders we went out and called a meeting of all of the tribes and first nations in the Great Lakes Basin. There is about 185, some are together and some are not, and so when I say about there is a couple different ways of looking at it, but it's over 180 tribes and First Nations in the Great Lakes. We ended up having representatives -- either individually or either through consortia -- we ended up with representatives of 120 tribes and First Nations at a meeting with just a few weeks notice, which we negotiated and signed this water accord. Within one day, we were at the table, invited to the table to negotiate with the states and the provinces and what they planned on signing at about a month, it took actually almost a year before it was ready to go and we managed to strengthen those documents in a way that they will help protect the environment and the waters because we plugged holes that were there that were wide open because tribes and First Nations weren't there. We also took offending language out; they managed to negotiate language to come out of these documents that didn't acknowledge tribal property rights or tribal treaty rights. So in the end there's an interstate compact that's agreed [to] by all of the governors signed it with the tribes had to agree. And then the governors all had to get the state legislature in each of eight states to pass the identical wording which was no easy trick and they got that done and it went to the U.S. Congress where there was a lobby to push this through. If the interstate compact is approved by Congress it becomes law of the land and it's a provision within the U.S. Constitution that allows it.

So this interstate compact, there was a strong lobby trying to fight it because they thought it didn't go far enough. One of the key things it didn't do is it didn't bottle water in containers, 5 gallons and less is considered a consumptive use as opposed to a diversion. A lot of people felt that it should have been a diversion if that water was bottled and shipped outside of the Great Lakes aquifers. And so nevertheless it ended up passing at the U.S. Congress and it became law, then it was an international agreement that was signed between the eight states and the two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec. With parallel language, but the two provinces weren't able to sign onto the interstate compact so they created this other document that has that in it. It at least deals with issues when there is a permit for a withdrawal of a lot of water from the ground that will be vetted through a process. The tribes and First Nations agreed that we would have a parallel process to the states, rather that all be a part of one process. So we are still working on how that is going to be set up, but nevertheless we've all agreed to it. Since that was signed there have been another 30 nations sign on, tribal nations and we now have about 150-160 that have signed out of the 185. So that is an example of an international agreement working between the tribes and working across what the United States calls an international border between it and Canada. And there are others, League of Indigenous Nations is another way we're working with, not only First Nations and tribes, but also with the Maori and the Aborigines, potentially with the Indigenous folks throughout Mexico and Latin America and other places. So we're looking at what kind of things are there that we all have in common. And Indigenous intellectual property rights, our medicines and stories for instance...issues of climate change and there's substantial things that we all have in common, trade relations with each other, the ability to trade not just in goods perhaps, but to trade in ideas and thoughts. Those are things that are important."

Ian Record:

"You've been discussing international relations primarily between tribal peoples, between tribal nations. Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians has also been very active in the arena of intergovernmental relations between your band and other local governments, state governments and that sort of thing. I'm wondering if you could discuss in what areas is your nation currently engaged in that arena? I know, for instance, you have cross-deputization agreements with two counties. Maybe talk a little bit more about what your tribe is doing in that area."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"And we've come a long way from the point...quite a long time ago as the chair, I received a letter from a local prosecutor who indicated that our police were impersonating police officers and they couldn't be on the roads with their lights and they couldn't have car with emblems and most importantly they couldn't have radios with those little chips in them that allowed them to pick up police frequencies and that I had 10 days to deliver them to them. So we wrote them a letter back and said ‘You know where those cars are, you are welcome to takes those anytime you want, but as soon as you do be prepared for a visit from the U.S. Attorney.' So we called the U.S. Attorney and had a nice chat and that same person ended up signing off on a limited deputization agreement within about a year and a half after that and then we have full deputization that has been signed since then with two different counties. We worked on trying to have seamless public safety within the community. We didn't want to be a haven for people who were breaking the law on one side of a line and then crossing the other and then thumbing their nose at the police or things like that. So we worked hard to make sure that when there's a search and rescue for instance that is going on, our officers are trained and a part of the team and can help. And the public safety of the community is enhanced because they have this additional training. In addition to that, we have crowd control issues. Our officers have worked on part of the security detail for the governor when the government does the Mackinac Bridge Walk every year. And every year it's a five-mile span. Every year on Labor Day we walk the bridge. It's a huge crowd and frankly, they pull in different local people and our officers as well. We also work closely with the county and state police. One of the stories from this inter-cooperative agreement kind of thing that we've been able to do: we had the U.S. attorney general come to visit at Little Traverse. And we had all kinds of security things and there's all kind of things you have to do. We, of course, had to have a bomb dog to sweep the whole building and they have this and that and all kind of things. And as he was leaving after this meeting, and he was meeting with all the tribes in Michigan, and after he was leaving, he pulled out from our grounds and drove by Little Bear Cave and saw that there was a state trooper, country sheriff, a city policeman, and tribal police all standing together chatting right there. And we got a call from the FBI in the car with him. He got a question, 'How did we do that?' But that was part of what we tried to do, we tried to build that relationship. We also, if they come on our territory unannounced, we're not against making sure that they know that they're not supposed to do it. So if we had an investigation going on and they forgot to call us or something, we'd let them know. But likewise, if we did something that they didn't like, they'd let us know, so we developed, what we did is we built in safety valves in our relationships so that they were there if there was an issue, we had a way to deal with it right away. And so it's been a cooperative venture when the sheriff of both counties and his deputies show up and they stood before me as the tribal chairman and took an oath to uphold the tribal constitution and all of our laws, that was a pretty big step."

Ian Record:

"This case is interesting because it calls to mind this perspective or mindset you used to see more in Indian Country than you do now, but the idea that, well if you enter an agreement or develop a formal relationship with a local municipality just off the reservation, or a county or a township or something like that, you're somehow relinquishing your sovereignty because those are minor-league governments and we're sovereign nations. That -- from what I can gather -- that perspective is being replaced gradually by the perspective that when a tribe chooses to engage those other governments, in whatever way they see fit, that it's actually an exercise of sovereignty. How do you see what your tribe's been doing in that area?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, that's exactly the way I'd put it, it is an exercise of sovereignty. An example of an exercise of sovereignty working locally is if you have someone slip and fall at your casino and they hurt themselves and they sue you, of course you've got the insurance company, but if the insurance company turns around and claims sovereign immunity every time somebody sues what are you paying the insurance for? So an exercise of sovereignty, one that helps us protect us and our customers would be [what we did] is to waive our sovereign immunity up to the limits of our insurance policy so that someone could sue and be taken care of if they needed to be, therefore getting what we were paying for when we bought our insurance. Well, that's an example of an exercise of sovereignty that works well. And governments waive sovereignty on a regular basis for things. I mean they waive their immunity but never waive sovereignty, let me correct myself there. And that exercising your sovereignty through a waiver of immunity is a responsible thing for a government to do towards its own citizens and towards the citizens of other nations with which we deal: our customers at the casino, our guests at the gas station, the customers coming by, and we have a hotel and we have conferences there, we have lots of people coming through. We have to deal with the issues of...I mean, one of the issues we ran into was within Indian Country it was illegal for anyone to carry a firearm unless there was some law that was passed that allowed it. So in the absence of it, it's illegal to have it. Well we had guests; we had the outdoor writers coming as an association. They were coming to our hotel and one of the things they were going to do was a rabbit hunt and they had all brought their guns and it was going to be illegal for them to have them in their room, to have them in their car in the parking lot, and so we had to pass a law that allowed how this set up, how this was going to happen. It was one of those responsibilities of being a sovereign that it became important to work on."

Ian Record:

"And so what you're saying is it's not just international relations, it's not just a sovereign challenge involving other governments, but involving individuals who are citizens of those governments, individuals like these sports writers and the casino patrons and so forth."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, ultimately it actually is dealing with the other sovereign, it's just that the other sovereign has citizens. And so as you interact with those citizens, you're interacting with that other sovereign government and you have to figure out how that's going to be done. So those are just some examples of things that we had to do that I felt are important. And ultimately, these things were things that our tribal council passed as laws and our tribal courts have worked to enforce and for the police and the courts to go through this. And so this is our tribal government at work in the process of making laws, being responsible, and exercising sovereignty."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to follow up a little bit more on intergovernmental relations. And obviously the water accord that your nation participated in is one example of many that your tribe's been engaged in developing over the course of the last several decades. And I'm curious to get your thoughts about taking collectively all those relationships that you developed, all those formal agreements you forged, how do those collectively work to advance your nation's rebuilding efforts."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, the prior administration to me, actually it was a four-year time period when I was not in office and during that time period, our tribe was one of the tribes that worked with the governor of the state in a tribal-state accord in which the State of Michigan acknowledged sovereignty of the tribes, pledged to work together and establish certain things that they would do. We...I came back in office, we were preparing to have, I think one of the first meetings where we'd all get together following that. And as we were preparing for that meeting, I just don't like to go to meetings where the outcome of the meeting is, ‘Well, we'll have another meeting.' I'd really like to actually have a product from the meeting. And I spoke about that and wanted to do that, other people agreed, and as a collective we developed a water accord with the State of Michigan. So this was how the tribes and the state would deal with the collective, our collective interest in the waters of the state. And the accord itself was one that's right about...it's on the heels of our tribal and First Nations water accord and it's all this, this time period is all sort of involved in the same effort. But with this one, instead of the tribes pledging to work together, we pledged to work together with the state and establish twice-yearly meetings, staff-level meetings, not elected-level, but staff-level meetings where we would deal with the issues of what came up relative to water. And of course water is part of the environment, so certain environmental things started coming in. Subsequent to that, we came up with another agreement that we put together creating an accord on economic development. And then we came up with an addendum to that, creating, establishing an agreement to do and economic development fellows program that would say, half state, half tribal –- state folks and tribal folks –- that would work say, over a couple-year period to get a cohort of participants on the same page relative to the issues of economic development in Indian Country. Well this has been a little slower to take, but it's been one that's been brewing and we have a meeting coming up in just a couple weeks from the day we're doing this interview that, where we're going to be furthering some of those issues with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Well, those are some of the things that we did and then, we also have signed a climate action, climate accord, dealing with climate change issues, also establishing twice-yearly meetings. I served on the Michigan Climate Action Council. I was appointed by the governor to be part of that council that helped create the plan for the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gasses and all the different issues surround climate change. And we turned in a report to the governor, and part of that report recommended that the tribe, that the state negotiate and sign with the tribes a climate accord. And the reason for that is because tribes are not political subdivisions of the state and it made, it would've been really difficult to incorporate us into the state's plan, but part of the state's plan was to sign an accord with us to work out common issues. And also part of the state's plan was to work with tribal organizations to further the issues. So for instance, they send a rep to the National Congress of American Indians' meetings relative to climate change, and to NTEC, the National Tribal Environmental Council, other meetings to make sure that they're, the state is sort of on sync with those things. So that's part of how we do with that accord. So when you look at each one of these accords, you put all this together, the tribal-state accord and the water, the economic development, the climate accord, you put all that together in terms of how we've related to the state, we've...I guess I should mention a couple of other things.

We also signed a tax agreement with the state. The state realized that we probably could go to court, which other tribes had done and that it was going to cost both of us millions of dollars and the outcome was uncertain. The uncertainty was there enough for the state that they felt that it was worthwhile trying to find a way to negotiate. So we ended up with a tribal-state tax agreement that is negotiated as a whole, then signed individually with the tribes and there's slight variations in each of them, but they're all pretty much set up...the system and then that also establishes an annual meeting where we get together to talk about the issues related to the taxes in the state. And sometimes our meetings, we've actually had a couple meetings that were over in 20 minutes. We had the meeting, we all got there, and we said, ‘Boy, it's really nice not to have anything to talk about.' So we chat with each other a little bit, reacquaint ourselves and eat a donut or two and we're done. Other times, we are actually in very long discussions and I've been in both of those kind [of meetings]. But the tax agreement was basically how the state is not going to collect taxes that it can't collect and what the mechanism is going to be for that. Well, these are other things that helped establish things. So we did this without having to go to court over the issue. And we believe that we got things that we wouldn't have gotten had we gone to court, but we also perhaps didn't get some things we might have gotten. So the question is, the state, both of us benefitted and we think that it furthered our interest by doing this."

Ian Record:

"I mean, I guess overall, overall from what you're saying, is that by consistently, continuously engaging in these sorts of efforts, you send a very clear message to the outside world -- whether it's the feds, the states, local neighboring communities to the reservation -- that, ‘We're big league governments. We're sovereign nations for real.' And then there's the message that you send to your own citizens. Isn't there a strong message that these sort of actions can send to your own people?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yeah. Well they, I think that and one of the other agreements that we did was we settled U.S. v. Michigan fishing rights case and as we worked on that the original case had been filed years ago and then it was bifurcated. The inland portion was sort of put on idle and the Great Lakes portion proceeded through court and we won the right in court and there have been a 15-year and then a 20-year consent decree that have been negotiated on how we are going to exercise that right on the Great Lakes and so we continue to work with the five tribes in the state that are involved in that. Well, the inland portion eventually got to the point where it eventually where it was heating up and looked like it was getting ready to go to trial and we actually hired our witnesses and expert witnesses and we had done depositions and we were moving towards court, but we at the same time worked and a couple opportunities came up and we moved ahead in some negotiations and we thought we try to negotiate. We successfully negotiated a settlement in the inland portion of the U.S. v. Michigan fishing, hunting and gathering rights case. Unprecedented. I believe it's an exceptional agreement in that the tribes gave up things that we surely would have won had gone to court, but those are things that we already were not likely to want to exercise ourselves and one of them was commercialization of inland harvest and also putting gillnets in inland streams and rivers. Both of those were things that we didn't think were too wise, but we could have won those rights and probably would have if gone to court.

However, the state stipulated without going to trial that our treaty right existed perpetually. It's a permanent consent decree and so this was a big deal to us. The second thing was is that they ended up agreeing that we could exercise that right on property that the tribe owned whether they had just purchased it or whether it had been purchased years before and or whether it was a part of the reservation, whatever. They also agreed to do this on private lands with permission and this is way more than we would have won had we gone to court. So we think that we got a lot of things that are very important to us and gave up things, while they are important, they also were worth it in the deal and this is without spending millions of dollars and continuing to spend. It would have been appealed; it would have been a 10-year case by the time it went on. This was a success.

Well, what did that do in the end? At the end when we got this agreement, together we had the state DNR [Departemtn of Natural Resources] touting the agreement and holding classes and seminars around the state to let their citizens know about this agreement and to say why it was such a great idea and we had tribes doing the same thing, but on top of that we also had the various sportsmen associations and the lake owners' associations that had been advising the state on the case and had been working with the state and they called it, the term was ‘litigating amicae,' which I understand is a term that the judge may have made up, I don't know at the time, but they were parties to the case and to that extent -- not parties, but they were amicae. Well, we had these groups, the Michigan United Conservation Club, the lake owners' association, and they were all promoting this so that instead of...result of this and in other states have had to call out the National Guard when they were dealing with this issue when they have really potential dangerous things going on and in Michigan when we got this settlement, everybody realized that it was going to protect the resources and it worked with minor exceptions here and there. I mean there were some tribal members that were upset and there were others. I mean we had some folks just as soon die on the sword, they would just as soon fight and lose rather than negotiate. There was more honor in that. And to me, I look at it, I wasn't worried about my honor or I was worried about that, what I was worried about is the long term. What are our great-great grandchildren going to be doing? And now in Michigan, they're going to be exercising treaty rights."

Ian Record:

"That's a great story and we're seeing more and more of those kind of stories across Indian Country because, I guess, this realization that negotiation, if done right and if done for the right reasons, can bring you much greater outcomes in both in the present and in the future than litigation. Because litigation, even if you win the case, there's this issue of enforcement can be very costly and then there's this issue of litigation begets more litigation. And then, on the flipside though, I mean you have negotiation where it sounds to me like this served as a springboard from improving relations between traditional adversaries, improving relations or perhaps dampening hostilities that had long been there. And, I mean, do you foresee this consent decree as perhaps serving as a springboard for other forms of cooperation in other areas."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, it's important that we sort of keep it alive. One of the things there is from this is there's an annual meeting, executive council, where all of the parties come together to deal with issues. And we have issues; we have issues. We'll have members who push things a little bit. We'll have state game wardens push things the wrong way a little bit and then we'll have to, we have to work through all those things. We'll have disputes about what actually was meant by a sentence and there will be differing views on that and those are things that have to be worked out. But in the process of doing that, we have regular relations; we worked hard and we developed a level of respect for each other and trust that we could achieve, that we were working together on an issue. It wasn't just working against each other. There are times, believe me, out of these...these were tough negotiations, these were not easy. I mean every one of us at the table, every one of the tribes, the state, I mean everybody at the table at some point or another was the one who walked away, and then came back, but everybody got upset. You don't have forty-some people negotiating every three or four or five weeks or two or three days at a time...that takes a long time. So some of those days were long days. We had some 10-12 hour days we were doing this. And so it was tough, but in the end we got something good, and these kind of agreements, building these relationships help because our tribal citizens...I'm a member of Farm Bureau for instance and I look at...we have other people that are members of Trout Unlimited and all the other groups. We have people, lake front owners that are part of lake owners' associations. So our citizens are actually a part of all these other groups with whom we were dealing and we need to strengthen those things. We need to let people know. So now when we do a fish assessments, it's just as common to have the tribes and the state out working doing the assessment fishing on a lake all together because the state's in a budget crunch and so are we, we have our equipment, when we all work together we have enough to do a big job, but just by ourselves none of us really could do that big job all by ourselves. So when we're doing the shock boat and the fish assessing and trying to explain to people that we're not killing the fish, the mortality rate is less than one percent with a shock boat that we have, those are good things and it's good to be working together on this stuff. In the end, what we're doing is we're all working toward similar goals. We aren't always going to agree, but then that's part of governance. In fact, if everybody agreed, that's a little dangerous. You need to have that, a little bit of tension in there to make sure you're doing things right."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned the hard work that's involved with establishing, cultivating and maintaining these relationships. I'm curious, based upon your extensive experience in this area, what advice would you give to Native nations and leaders for how to build effective, sustainable governmental relationships?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Patience. One of the, probably the biggest thing I learned and one of the things that guided me is that eventually, eventually comes and that you need to work towards things. You need to be willing to work a little piece at a time. You need to have a sort of longer-term vision about where things are. I was out walking the other day on a path, and I was, I was looking up at the mountains and to my detriment, I tripped on something right in front of me. But if you look in front of you all the time, you never see the mountains, you never see the other things around you because you're paying so much attention right in front of you. You have to -- without endangering yourself -- have to be looking up as well as in front of you. I think that that's a part of the whole thing about this patience. You have to have a longer-term vision and the government itself needs to work through and think about those longer-term visions."

Ian Record:

"And doesn't that involve educating citizens because leaders? As you've often said, leaders are transitory, they come and go, and some of these efforts are multi-year, if not multi-decade to get the outcome that you've been seeking at the beginning and doesn't that require, I guess, a certain level of understanding and approval by your own people that this is a priority of the nation?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yes. I mean, it's really important for people to understand what...like I said in the beginning when we looked at the constitution and I said the constitution is the method by which the people inform their government how they want it to work. The people need to always be aware of and remember that that is what that is and that they...so they need to understand where those things are when you have a constitution that has a focus on international relations. They need to...when you have your budget hearings, there need to be...someone needs to stand up and speak up and support that budget line item that's going to involve some international travel, some travel that needs to be done. When you have...you have to have...people need to be aware of how things work to know how to allocate resources and how to support that or detriment. One of the issues that I see across Indian Country that I think is...it's a big issue and that is that leaders who do a lot of this international work with other tribes or that are working in a basis across the country often are away from home a fair amount and that needs to be supported. But too often people think that those of us who are traveling are wasting tribal resources, that we are out having a good time, that we're enjoying things at the tribe's expense and that there is no need to be doing this anyway. And so when people are traveling often there is quite a pressure or a candidate becomes vulnerable because of being gone and traveling. So you have to balance that domestic program within your nation with the international program and you have to find out how to balance that, but with the people themselves, there needs to be an acceptance. I was recently -- after I had left the chairmanship -- I attended a conference and elected leaders were taking it on the chin pretty high at the conference over the days because most of them...there were very few elected leaders at this conference. It was almost all other folks: individual activists and former elected leaders, but lots of people were very involved in working on environmental issues, but...and so I, towards the end of the conference I got up and set my regular program aside and I said, 'Listen. You've been...you're sort of upset because elected leaders aren't here.' I said, ‘When's the last time you ever thanked your leader for attending a national meeting like this. When the last time you went to a budget hearing and demanded they put more money in there in the line item for travel so that the leaders could afford to go? When's the last time you wrote a letter or stood up and supported this outside external activity at a community meeting or in conversations in your family or things? You need constantly, if you want leaders to do those things, you can't complain because they don't. You need to actually support them when you do, that way it becomes a priority and if that's really the priority for our nations to make sure that we have this balance between domestic programs and international programs.' We have to have a populace that actually understands and supports why that is necessary, and it becomes necessary. Going to Washington, D.C. is critical for leaders because the U.S. Congress passes laws that effect...while they can't, their laws don't limit our tribal sovereignty, they certainly can limit how we exercise our sovereignty. They limit how Health and Human Services can deal with us. They can limit how the justice system deals with us. And so because of that, it's important for us to pay attention to those laws and it's important for us to know what's going on and to have the relationships necessary there that when we speak, we're not going just to build a relationship. We're going and we already are known so that we can carry through on the issues that support us. And there are plenty of people that are going there on a regular basis who are detractors of tribal sovereignty and don't support tribal sovereignty and who want to do everything they can to do away with it or limit it or whatever. And so we have to constantly be on target and work on these things and that's a very important part of that international because we're dealing with tribal nations to the United States, that's an international arrangement. We have to be very careful on how it works. So it's essential to do that kind of stuff. We also have to do that with our state government because a lot of the funding that tribes get comes from federal government, but it's funneled through the states, even though we'd like them to all have set-asides and deal directly with...so that the tribes deal directly with the feds on those things. There's a number of programs that go through the state and the manner in which the state chooses to set up its programs, how they choose to write their programs or write their proposals and their agreements with the feds can limit how they deal with tribes. So you're constantly having to pay attention to that. And you have people who, once again, would be supporters and other people who wouldn't, but for the most part you also have people that just don't know. And so it's constantly our responsibility to make sure that they do. And whatever mechanism, whether it's the tribal leader going or whether there's an ambassador, I think that we could... I think there's a time coming as we're evolving our tribal governments that we're going to actually have people that ambassadorial function may well be through an ambassador at large. Some of the tribes already have these. And I believe that this relationship with the other governments with whom we deal, we need to have staff people that can deal with that. I use an example, the recent arms treaty signed, where the presidents of Russia and the United States were together to sign the treaty. You know that the two of them did not sit down and hammer that treaty out. They had staff that were working for years on this to work together how to deal with it and may have met a couple times to iron out a point or two, but for the most part, their major thing was to have the photo op of them signing it and shaking hands to sign the treaty and that was the top of the executive functions there. And then of course it's got to be ratified, yet. Well, these are...our governments function in the same way. We have those same kind of interplay of things and...but we need to make sure that we have built in the ability to deal with other governments and that it's a very important role for our tribal nations."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to switch gears, one last question before we wrap up this interview, to tribal justice systems and specifically ask you a question about the Odawa Youth Health to Wellness Court, which your tribe established several years ago, which by all accounts has proven quite successful. I'm curious to learn more about why did the tribe establish this program? How is it structured? And how has it benefitted your community?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, we clearly have a problem that other communities have, other tribal nations have. As to why we have it, I guess that's another whole other story, but the fact that we actually have this problem with drugs and we have problem with the youth and there are individuals who just don't seem to be able to respond to parental controls and/or other societal controls and end up being in the court system; and the court system is basically a win/lose kind of system. We've tried to develop other systems that are options and this is an option and can be chosen by someone who is before the court, by the youth and this particular thing is based around that wrap around concept where we have staff from a lot of different departments. I think there's 10 different departments, but they are all working with one youth and their parents and all focused on one case. There's responsibilities on all their parts by bringing a multi-disciplinary approach to this wrap around concept we're able to see success with individuals we had not been able to see success with other programs. This has gotten so successful that we have actually had offenders that are before the local county court who they've offered the option of coming to our program and actually people who they didn't have to assign to the program at all, the local judges have sent people to our program and has been because they recognize the success of it. So this is another way of building an intergovernmental relationship, building community relations with various institutions with whom you have to deal in the community."

Ian Record:

"And this, from what I understand, this health to wellness court is not so much focused on punishment, but on restoring health and harmony not only to the individual defender, but also to their family, to their community at large. Is that true?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yes. And I think that that part of the approach, restoring balance is important. And I think that's true in a lot of our programs, that's one of the things we try to focus on. And we have, when you follow our traditional teachings, that whole thing of being in balance is your goal, it's the center, it's what you try to achieve, where you're not at any one extreme. No matter how that extreme may seem, as you move towards that, you're pulling away from being in balance and so something else gets out of balance. So the whole goal is to try to maintain that calm center in order to achieve that. In our traditional ways, that's one of the teachings. And so when we apply those teachings to, trying to apply them to court systems, trying to apply them to our various other social programs, frankly I'm working on how we apply the teachings of the medicine wheel to our budgets. How do we take a budget and determine whether that budget is in balance? And I think that the way we spend our money, the way we allocate our resources, can be just as out of balance as any other thing and it can be symptomatic of we might be having problems in our tribal community that are inexplicable to us. And it could be because the way we're choosing to allocate our resources is out of balance. And so, to me, this is something I'm working on and particularly now that I'm no longer the tribal chair, but I have time to reflect on these things. I want to work on that issue and try to see how that can be, that idea can be furthered."

Ian Record:

"Well Frank, I really appreciate your time today. I've learned quite a bit and I'm sure our listeners and viewers have as well."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Thank you."

Ian Record:

"Well, that's it for today's program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute's website: nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us."

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