Patricia Ninham-Hoeft, Anthony Pico and Sophie Pierre: What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)
Ninham-Hoeft, Patricia. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2008. Presentation.
Pico, Anthony. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2008. Presentation.
Pierre, Sophie. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2008. Presentation.
"I know that many of you, all three of you, have eluded to it, but I'd like to hear what you have to say about continuity of the historic information that is within a tribal government so that new leaders can understand what happened in the past and why these decisions were made. And if that is considered important enough, how do you do it?"
"It's important because again, we just talked about continuity of leadership. There were decisions that were made hundreds of years ago, maybe longer, and because of genocide, many of those decisions are no longer even known why they made those things. But as we continue to move and continue to re-establish ourselves -- actually reinvent ourselves sometimes in some areas -- but to know how and why the decisions were made before comes from a long line of not only our blood and our genes, but geography has something to do with it, our own tribal laws from the past have something to do with it. And they came from hundreds sometimes thousands of years of why people made certain decisions to cause harmony within the community. And so that's why I think that they're important. But also another way to do that too is to make sure that there's somebody continues to be elected on a tribal council that was there before that can guide the new people as making decisions or a mentor somewhere that is established along somewhere in there to say, "˜Hey, we made this decision a long time ago because of this reason.' And those are good decisions; that's why they made them. Sometimes they were made through trial and error, sometimes they were made and it cost them blood too. But to not I think consider that and why decisions were made, you're inventing like the wheel all over again.
"We have a tendency to forget the old wars. And because now, it seems like we're all -- the federal government is supporting whatever we do -- but we have a tendency to forget the 1950s, when people were being terminated. And that's one of the reasons why I think that it's really important to discuss why it is that those decisions were made and because so many of our old leaders are, younger peoples question them and say, "˜Well, they were bad leaders because of this.' And that's why I...that's what you're eluding to and I think that that's really important."
"If I could just add to that; maybe I need one more slide that says, sustainable leadership means that we must become the authors of our own stories. And I really think that that's what it is. We have everybody else telling our stories instead of ourselves. And that's really what we need to do, and to insure that that is passed on from generation to generation."
"I think in Oneida, we have several projects that are going on where people are videotaping elders and then replaying that throughout the year at different events. And especially now with Oneida, we have sort of this resurgence of people wanting to get involved in tribal government -- people who've never lived on the reservation or participated in community events and they're coming back. And they have no clue as to how the tribe came to be. They have no clue when tribal elders -- like an Amelia Cornelius or a Loretta Metoxen -- stand up to say something, they don't get the recognition anymore from the audience because they don't know who they are. And so this video project, this storytelling project is supposed to help reconnect people to the past. We also have a good minute taking or record of minutes where we capture meetings verbatim and tape recordings of those too that we're hoping to make more available to tribal members too but we don't have a real formal way of doing that. I think that's a good idea."
"If I can just add to that; one of the, the storytelling and telling our own stories is actually an excellent project for our youth. It's a way to introduce them to what's happening within tribal government. And all of our students, all of our children have class projects that they have to do, whether it's History, whether it's English, or whatever it may be. And when they get into those levels...our kids are so technically [savvy], technology savvy, they can come in, they can off their cameras videotape things like that, put it into little short stories. There's a lot of things that can be done very inexpensively because they can do it as homework or extra credit or a report for us, but we capture all of that data. We'll take one last question then we have a couple of announcements before you leave the room."
"I have a question and it has to do with term limits. I recognize that a lot of Native Nations have tribal leaders who have been in office for many, many years. And also hear a lot about wasteful spending and frivolous spending. And I think that that wasteful spending is a good indicator of people being in office too long. And maybe term limits would be useful because then the council or the leadership would change and it would always, there would always be a fresh batch of new leaders with new ideas and new, maybe even more, education depending on what the situation is. But do you think term...but then again, if you look at tradition, leaders a long time ago were pretty much appointed for life. So if you...what do you guys think about term limits? Would it be useful or hurtful to Native nations and do you think wasteful spending is a symptom of not having term limits?
"I think that has to be determined by every tribe because every tribe is unique, every tribe has their own unique economic situation, every tribe has its own unique way of making decisions. Even the topography and where you live will make a difference. And so each tribe will have to take that upon themselves whether they really... Take for example if Tribe A, there is considered by the majority of people that there's wasteful spending. If that is a fact and you can back that up by facts, then maybe you do need to do that. But there are many tribes who have people that are advising and have been there for a long, long time. In my personal opinion, I think the longer they're there the better. That's what I think."
"Well, having been, like I said, on council for 30 years I think you probably know where I'm going to be going with this. I really believe that it's not, it's not a problem; it's not an issue of the limit of the term. What it is is if you've got frivolous spending that is, it's not a problem of the term; it's a problem of the governing structure that the people have let occur. Because there needs to be, what you need to be working on, is more of a system that is transparent so that the leaders are talking about how they're going to be spending your tribal dollars before they spend it, not after they've spent it. Like in our community, when we do our, when we're getting together -- like we just did this a couple weeks ago -- we bring our annual budget to the membership and then we bring the audit in the fall to the membership and we make sure, we almost force, the people to read it. Like, "˜You've got to read this. This is really important stuff.' So it's really the process of government. It's how you organize your government, not how long your term is. Because really it's like Anthony said, "˜It's depending on each nation,' and it goes back to that whole business of cultural match. What is it that your people, what is it that makes your people who they are and have that cultural match? Maybe it is somebody that's a chief for their entire lifetime, but it's how they report and how they serve their people. [Because] first and foremost, you've got to remember that's what a leader does, is serve the people.
"I agree with Sophie and Anthony. I think it just depends on your tribe and the problem that you're trying to solve. I don't know if term limits is what would solve decreasing or preventing wasteful spending, and I think it is the system."