Darrin Old Coyote

Jamie Fullmer, Rebecca Miles and Darrin Old Coyote: Our Leadership Experiences, Challenges, and Advice

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Archibald Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute
Year

Jamie Fullmer (former Chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation), Rebecca Miles (Executive Director and former Chairwoman of the Nez Perce Tribe) and Darrin Old Coyote (Chairman of the Crow Tribe) share what they wished they knew before they took office, the greatest leadership challenges they have faced, and their advice for newly elected and aspiring tribal leaders.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

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Citation

Fullmer, Jamie, Rebecca Miles and Darrin Old Coyote. "Our Leadership Experiences, Challenges, and Advice." Nation-Building Strategies: A Seminar for Newly Elected Tribal Leaders. Archibald Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Mystic Lake, Minnesota. January 31, 2013. Presentation.

June Noronha:

"So we have a very, very, very prestigious group here. Two of them former Chairs, one a current Chair. So what we're going to do is when we invited them to come we asked them to respond to three questions and these are the questions. We said, ‘We want you to tell everybody what you wish you had known before you took office.' So they will all answer that question. Then we're going to ask them to say, ‘What was the most interesting or the toughest situation you found yourself in as tribal Chair.' And the third question is, ‘What advice do you have for new tribal council members.' So what I'm going to do is I'm going to take each question and have them respond to it as opposed to have you talk through all of it. Is that all right with everybody? So the first thing I'm going to ask is, ‘What do you wish you had known before you took office?' So I'm going to have Chairman Old Coyote first speak."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Thank you, June. First off, thanks to the Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for inviting me. The first question if I had known that it was going to be this tough I don't think I'd be chairman. No, just kidding.

One thing, the amount of work that goes into the hours you put in as the tribal chairman. You're on the clock 24 hours and that's one area because a lot of my...I used to like to sing, I used to like to run racehorses and now I can't even do both so my kids are doing that. But that's one of the toughest. One thing I've...when I took office, one of the areas that if I had known that are basically the life we had before now belongs to the Crow people. That's one area that's been king of hard for me but at the same time it's been rewarding because a lot of people have enjoyed some of the things we've done so far.

I was first elected in 2004, I was 31 at the time. The late Chairman Van was the one that asked me to join his team. I was teaching high school and they took me out of teaching high school and brought me over as the cultural director in 2000. And 2000 to 2004 I was the cultural director; one of the advisors to the chairman from 2002 to 2004 and then from there they more or less groomed me to be part of the government. And prior to all of this I was...in 1997 just two hours from here, Moorhead, Minnesota, I was going to school there and the best view of my home was from far way. I saw all the problems. When I was back home, I didn't know that our language was being lost, our culture was being lost. I didn't know that there was a problem with drugs and alcohol, there was...I didn't see all that until basically...it was day in, day out I saw the same things and I thought it was normal until I moved away from there and from Moorhead, Minnesota, I viewed back home and I saw the best view of home was from far away and I seen all the problems. I was lonesome, I couldn't speak Crow, I couldn't practice the traditions, the culture so from that it kind of made me...from then I understood what I was to do, to come back and preserve and perpetuate the Apsalooke way of life, the Crow way of life to start changing things in our community.

And one thing I took on just about four of us, we wanted to change the constitution because we saw all the infighting, the things that happen and for a long time. I've worked with Nation Building and one of the areas that we wanted to do was bring in Nation Building to teach the Crow people and a lot of them didn't want to, they didn't want to change things but we brought in...about four of us started in 2000 to try to change the constitution and we had to go to the elders and have them buy into the idea. They also saw the problems that this constitution created with the infighting and the turmoil and so from there we...they did...the majority ruled to change the constitution. So in 2001 we changed our constitution where there was more stability, more continuity and now we have a three branch government, whereas before the chairman was...he controlled the tribal courts, he controlled...and it was... Our old constitution, they had councils every three months and anybody 18 and over could be part of this council. They would literally walk through the line and the chairman would be standing there. If you were a director of some program or if you were a tribal employee, if you went against the agenda that the chairman set up, then you were basically thrown out of there and they'd go through the line right in front of the tribal chairman and that system was in place. And the first month when the decision was made they'd gather numbers for the next council and they would do away with whatever was proposed three months ago. And every three months things were changing and there was no progress, there was no continuity, there was no stability and so from then we changed the constitution. And if we were still in the old constitution I wouldn't be sitting here as chairman because today we have a system that gives us more continuity, more stability and even the people that are...things that were passed in 2001, they're still going and business has continued and we're starting to...it's a new constitution but there's...we're changing things and we're moving forward so that's...I'd like to share that before we go any further."

Rebecca Miles:

Well, it's certainly an honor to be here with all of you and congratulations if you are a newly elected leader. Jamie and I are recovering tribal leaders so we're here to relive it all. So it certainly is an honor to speak before all of you.

A couple of things that I think I wish I would have known prior to deciding to run is I wasn't prepared for the fighting, the infighting of our people. I was raised on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation my entire life. My parents...I don't know if they ever even voted in the tribal election. We never attended general council. My parents were not politically active. We led a very strict life growing up and my parents were alcohol, drug and alcohol free. And [I] grew up of course in very bad poverty but to me it was a very great life. And so I wasn't raised to talk to people that way.

And so the very first meeting that I had we had a person come in and just chew us all out. That's the...it's almost like you're walking through like a doorway and no matter where you know your heart is you become them now. You become the beast so to speak and you're part of the problem. Tribal council leaders are always scratching their own backs and they're doing favors for their family and friends. And every decision you ever make will be scrutinized by somebody; every single decision. And so I was young, I wasn't prepared for that. I was a young mom at the time and I was not necessarily prepared for that. A seminar like this is fantastic because...I wish we had something like that when I was first starting as a leader.

The other thing that I recognize that I wish I had known as well being a woman and being a young woman for a tribe that predominantly has male leadership, there are always a few women on council, but prepared for the way that women treated women and it was absolutely terrible. So I made it a really personal passion of my own. I serve on a national organization called Vision 20/20 that works to...will work to have equality for women by the year 2020. I was nominated by the governor, the former Governor Kulongoski of Oregon, the State of Oregon, and that organization really works not just for equality in pay for women but it really works on women who become leaders and how other women treat women. We study a lot, one of my idols, is Hillary Clinton and what has happened to her in her leadership. She's criticized for the way she looks, for whatever she's wearing or for her hair and that's very irrelevant to...but it's an entirely different standard to what male tribal leaders go through on tribal council. I was not prepared for that, I can tell you that.

And as a young woman I certainly...you certainly all of a sudden feel alone, you got elected by a lot of people, everybody's excited and I remember my family threw a big party for me and just right out of the gate, we all have family whether they drink or they're on drugs, every one of us have them. And I remember the very first...the Saturday night I was elected my family threw this big party. Well, of course I have some drunk cousins and uncles that came over and they wanted to congratulate and it was just a very good time. And it was at my mother's home. My mother doesn't drink and she's never allowed alcohol in her home and she made this really...it was a Mother's Day cake because Mother's Day was the next day. Well, it ended up being a celebration for me. Well, it turned out that I had this keg, not cake and it just...you're just not prepared for that. And so knowing that kind of going in give you the armor...you kind of have the armor that it's going to come and you don't know where it's going to come, but to not let that shake you from what's inside and why you chose to run and why you chose to be a leader for your tribe. Because very, very important decisions are yet to be made and there are very difficult things that are going to come your way and so you have to be strong. You can't let those things sway you because you have to be prepared for the real important things, the real battles. And I wish I had known that prior to."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Thank you. As Rebecca had pointed out, as a recovering...I think I'm in complete recovery now from tribal leadership. As the former chairman of Yavapai Apache Nation... by the way, [Apache Language] to you leaders here.

At home, when I first became chairman, it was definitely not on my list of what am I going to do. I went back home to work for the tribe and contribute to the community as the Health and Human Services Director. I have a master's degree in social work but I also have a bachelor's degree in business. And the idea behind that was that we needed some help in building an infrastructure for our social services. We had just built a brand new building, a health center building, and it was empty and so I had come home. I told the chairman at the time, I said, ‘I can get that running if you would like me to.' It wasn't a boastful thing, it's just I had a background. I did administration and had just come from running a major mental health intensive outpatient treatment center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where I'd gotten my master's degree. And so I went home to contribute back to my community. My family all lives there, my mom and my brothers and my aunts and uncles and so it was, for me it was wanting to be around family but also just to contribute back to the community. And honestly it was also because the tribe had paid for my education to get my master's degree and I felt like it was a give back.

And so that was my whole purpose for going home but lo and behold, fast forward from that position a few years into it, my grandfather who was the former chairman and he's passed away since but he was a great leader in our community. He had said, ‘I think we're going to get you in as chairman.' I said, ‘Well, it's a great honor and I don't know if I'm ready.' He said, ‘I think we're going to get you in as chairman.' ‘It's a great honor but I don't know if I'm ready.' He said, ‘I don't think you heard me. I think we're going to get you in as chairman.' So the elders had already met about it and had decided that I was going to be chairman. So lo and behold I was elected as chairman. What I did not know then, and like Rebecca, seeing the community, I saw a lot of the challenges in the community but wasn't real involved in the politics. Unless they called me into council, I didn't go up there. If you get called into council chambers, something good or something bad is going to happen and so you try to avoid that whole, as an employee try to avoid that process altogether. At least that was the way we did it at home.

So what I wish I would have known before I took office was, a lot has been mentioned already by the leaders at this table, but what I wish I would have known is not to personalize the politics of the day because it is just business. And it's so hard because it's the business of our life, it's the business of our sovereignty, it's the business of our future, it's the business of respecting the ancestors and the predecessors. But it is at the end of the day just business and if you carry it home, it will eat you up. And I say that with the idea that you as tribal leaders, either new or reinvigorated new into office that we always says 24/7, 24/7. I used to always hear the leaders at home say that, ‘I'm here for my people 24/7.' Within that 24/7 one of those people has to be you and so that balancing act of taking time for yourself to find a balance in your own life and lifestyle and respecting and protecting your family is an important part of that process.

With that said, the great Windell Chino, Apache leader, a legend in our world said, ‘You can tell a true Indian leader because they have bullets in the front and arrows in the back,' and I took that to heart because as Rebecca said, you go in and you don't really...you know you're going to get it from the outside world but you don't expect it that you're going to get it from the inside world and you definitely don't expect you're going to get it from your blood tied inside world but sometimes that's the worst battles. I remember one of my aunties had done a recall on me for...at least once, one of the recall tries, one of the recall attempts. And then later on after I'd gotten out of office a couple years ago she goes, ‘Well it made you stronger, didn't it?' I said, ‘Yeah, but I didn't need you to even make the effort in the first place.'

So I guess to that point is that another point that I wanted to make is that I think that it's so important to respect as leaders...I had my own vision and mission and direction from prayer and from commitment and felt like that was the right way and I was young at the time when I was elected. I was 30. And one of the things that I wish I would have known beforehand is to respect and listen and learn what other peoples' ideas of sovereignty was because I had my own image of what sovereignty was and what I was willing to stand for on behalf of the people, what I was willing to fight for. And I didn't at that time, as I look back historically, I didn't necessarily take the time to listen to what was the elder's perspective of sovereignty, what was the younger generation's perspective of sovereignty, what were my colleagues at the tables perspective of sovereignty because I knew what my image was in standing as a sovereign nation. And yet you have to thread those altogether as a leader.

So I think hindsight, seven years ago, six years ago, hindsight that I wish I would have known at the beginning was not to personalize it because I did personalize a lot of it and you know what happens when you personalize things, you're ready to fight. And sometimes those are fights you can't win. It was brought up earlier by the leader over there, she brought up the idea of how and when to be a diplomat. Learning that diplomacy comes from not personalizing it.

And then the other thing as a closing piece to that, which I wish I would have known was the other thing is the loudest voice is usually the smallest group. And so you had people that come and say, ‘My people want this and my people want that.' If I would have known at the beginning, cause everybody gets kind of riled up and stirred up and ‘We've got to do something right now. We have to act on this.' And it wasn't until my second term in office and I'd say, ‘Well, bring those people in. Let me hear from them. I'm their representative. Well, then why did they elect this body?' So the loudest voice is usually the smallest group. That's why they say the silent majority. Now when those people that I never saw before were coming into the office and were stirred up, then I knew something was wrong because that was the silent majority, the people that like Rebecca's family that didn't get involved in politics, that didn't have their faction or their personal or family interest to sway. And so when I saw those folks coming through the door I'd say, this wasn't until second term, ‘These are the majority. These are the...once they get stirred up, we have to deal with this right away. That means something is really wrong.' So just some...that's the closing piece I had is the loudest voice, at least in my community, was usually the smallest group and yet our council would be jumping and moving to try and create some kind of change because of what they heard."

June Noronha:

"So I think we'll... Thank you. So let's go to the second question. The second question is, ‘What was the most...maybe I'll say the toughest situation or the most interesting situation you found yourself in or you find yourself in as tribal chair?'"

Darrin Old Coyote:

"For myself the toughest situation I found myself in was a lot of times family...basically a lot of the toughest situations I had involved my immediate family or my extended, like my mom's family or my dad's family. I'll just give you an example. There was a federal program where one of my cousin's had the qualifications and he was kind of running...he was the assistant to the director and he'd been there years and then we did, because it was a federal program we did a drug test and my cousin he ran out the door when drug tests came around and he came and said, ‘You need to get rid of that policy, the drug policy.' And so that's one of the toughest situations is your own family will try to have you waive everything just so that they can benefit and you're in there for the whole tribe, not just your family or one individual. So that's one of the toughest situations. You have to be open minded, look at the whole picture and he was suspended for not doing the drug testing and then his sister and his family, they started saying, ‘We're going to get rid of you. Next election we're going to remove you,' and this is my own aunt doing that and my own cousins doing this. But in the long run people saw that I wanted accountability and I wanted things done right and so they, after awhile it kind of died down from there. But that's the toughest situation I've been in is our own immediate family.

And then another situation would be the most interesting. I don't know if you're all familiar with the Pentecostals. We have a lot of Pentecostals in our tribe and there was one, Speaker of the House, a few years back I was presenting the budget to the legislative branch because they're the ones that approve yes or no voting on budget so I brought in the budget. And I was standing, the Speaker of the House was behind me because the podium was...and he was saying, ‘The executive branch did this, did that.' He was starting to point fingers and he was going off and there was a whole bunch of people, a lot of the council, the whole membership, a lot of them were there and he was just pointing fingers, going off on how their belief, the Pentecostal belief they say, ‘If you don't do this, if you don't do that you're going to go to hell.' And he kept doing that to me and he was pointing down on me and he said, ‘If you don't do this, if you don't do that,' and finally at the end he said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' That's what he said. But this guy was my clan father. In the Crow way we have our clan system, he was my clan father and whenever your clan father says something that...to...you can buy...whatever they said, you could buy that right. So I turned around and I gave him five bucks and I said, ‘I'm going to buy what you just said.' I said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' So I turned this around on him after him putting me down and saying, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' I turned it around. Using our culture I turned it around and I said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven,' and I pass the budget. So that's one thing.

There's different cultures, the culture, the religions, belief ways, there's different groups. Some want you to do...jump through hoops. They say, you don't like us because you don't go to this church or that church or you don't...maybe Native American church or Sundance. Different religions they tend to try to pinpoint that you're not a part of them and so they try to push you aside but if you're open minded, let them all be equal. That's the only way you're going to survive the next election basically. But that's what I used, using my culture I turned it around on him because he was using his religion to kind of put me down so I turned it around on him and I said, ‘If you don't like me, you're not going to go to heaven.' So that whole getting on his soapbox and putting down people, I wiped that all away and then passed the budget because everybody started laughing after awhile and then I told them the important parts of the budget. But that was one area that was interesting and I thought...I was in a tough situation basically, you have to think, ‘How am I going to turn this thing around?' And that's one situation that really helped me then because it took about a whole 15 minutes to get to his point and he just kept blasting and putting down the executive branch. We hear it all the time now but now every time I walk in he's nice to me because he's scared he might not go to heaven."

Rebecca Miles:

"Well, just moving on from those comments, when I got on council in '04, I didn't have any ambition or any idea of becoming any of the ranked leaders let alone the chair. It just had never crossed my mind and when I was elected in '04, one week later they had released terms to the Snake River Basin adjudication in principle meaning we were just getting ready to consider settling our water claims in the Snake Basin. That had started when I think I was about an eighth grader or ninth grader and I think we formally filed when I was a sophomore in high school. And I happened to...that's one of the things I wish I would have known before that that would be the biggest decision the tribe would face in its treaty time and it was a very tough time.

When I say toughest situation, when I got on council, you looked to even senior leaders...there's nine of us on the council, I was the only woman. You looked to see what's been going on and we had a couple members that served 20 years so they knew...they had to have known all about this. The people did not know about the settlement because it was ordered to be in executive session, any discussions because to protect all sovereigns. And the sovereigns were us, the State of Idaho and the United States.

So the very first meeting I remember thinking a week later, ‘I'll never vote for this. This will never happen as long as I'm a leader.' And as I began to...the thing that we did is we put all our non-Indian attorneys out in front of our people. And when you mentioned people coming out of the woodwork that are not your loud minority and you have your silent majority there screaming at you, that was a difficult time. My mother was even in the audience and she was so angry. And you could see this train wreck about to happen because one, we were talking about something very near and dear to us, our treaty rights, and we're having our non-Indian attorneys tell us how we're going to settle these claims and that didn't fly well. That's really when my education really came into really sitting down and figuring out a good orator, somebody who can explain something to somebody really well and so that meant I had to learn everything I could about this settlement.

So the next nine months the three sovereigns had to decide and all eyes were on...it was a very big deal and Crow was a few years after us but it was a very big deal. And we went on 18 hearings all over our reservation. And the thing that really surprised me is I was the freshman member, no experience whatsoever, and none of the leaders who had made decisions, there were several resolutions that got to this point, even led one meeting, not a single one, not ever got up and said, ‘This is why we did this, this is why we...this is where we're at.' Not a single one. And so I had to start from ground zero. We created a PowerPoint. I gave the presentations, never allowed our attorneys to have to be there. They're just staff, they're not going to vote on this. And they have been directed to do these things all these years so it certainly couldn't be passed off to them. And so after the nine months we took the settlement, very difficult, because it could have gone either way. Had we not taken the settlement we would have lost all our water claims. We would have been up against Idaho Supreme Court and then eventually a very volatile Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court. That was my very first year on council and I was ready to resign and I told my family, I said, ‘I've never quit at anything,' and I was ready to resign.

Well, two weeks later after I gave them that speech, we had our elections and our tribal chair did not get reelected and it just happened in literally like the snap of a finger. An all male council except for me elected me the first woman chair and I just think about it now because Jamie Pinkham's uncle Scotty was on council then and he sat back smiling when the vote was over. He said, ‘You just got elected by an all male council. People are focusing on the fact you're the first woman but...' And he said, ‘It wasn't because you're a woman. It had nothing to do... It was because of the work on such a critical, critical decision.' And that still hangs onto me and people say, ‘Well, you sold our water rights out,' and they don't even think of all the leaders over 20 years that built up to the decision. And I'm fine with that because I know that we protected our water claims. That was by far the toughest thing.

Nothing...I remember...a lot of leaders, brand new leaders come to me, come to my office and they'll be upset or they'll want advice and I always think, nothing can be tougher than when you're making a decision that will affect all your people. So anything outside of that, you can handle. And so it makes me to be a very good confidante for a lot of leaders that are just in your position, just brand new. And so that will never...I don't think and I hope...the kind of decisions tribes make for your people, you hope you don't have to make those decisions ever again and I hope our tribe will never have to face those. We're not like the United States where we can make always good decisions. It seems like we're always trying to protect resources that are diminishing and we're in competition with. The mention of the Missouri River, I thought that was very interesting. That's our fight too is constantly keep our seat at the table and we have a right here. They're not fun decisions to make but they have to be made so I just think that's by far, hands down the toughest thing. There'll never be a tougher thing ever."

Jamie Fullmer:

"I don't know if I can even talk that tough. That's tough. I'm just trying to think, I didn't have it that bad I guess. No, actually, the leaders have brought up some things that I think are important to this and that is, as I try and piece my thoughts together because I had some simple thing and I'm like, ‘Wow, I have to get a little bit more focused here.' But I think that the toughest or the biggest, I guess interesting and tough, because it did involve our community and the bigger community was we were trying to put lands into trust and it was during a time when no lands were being entrusted.

We have a housing shortage at home, which most tribes do and we had lands that we had purchased over the years that the two chairmen before me had tried to get it entrusted and could not or did not or it didn't go through. And so I decided again, if I would have known before hand how tough it was going to be to move through, I thought, ‘Well, it's clear as day that it passes all the scrutiny.' I had our lawyers come in and give me good advice, ‘You passed all the tests; adjacent, ancestral homelands, next to existing tribal trust lands.' And I thought, ‘Well, this is a no brainer. I just need to help push it through.' And that was in my first term in office. When I first came into office I took that on. I said, ‘I'll take this on as one of my top priorities.' And it wasn't until, just to fast forward, it took me all of my first term and all of my second term, so it took a total of six years to get those lands into trust, 2,000 acres on behalf of my people. And the challenges that...you recognize that we...at that point when I started, I thought, ‘Well, this is going to be an easy movement.' But that was complete ignorance going into there just thinking of the statesmanship that I would use and moving through the landscape but not recognizing our place as a sovereign and the neighbors around us and their impact on our decision making, whether it would go through or not. Because when I first went out to Washington, D.C., the senator there, John Kyl and John McCain and the House of Representatives, Rick Ramsey. At the time they said, ‘Well, what do your neighbors say about it?' And I'm like, ‘I didn't even think about the neighbors. I don't care what the neighbors said.' In my mind I was thinking that we're sovereign. And they said, ‘Well, that's the first thing that has to be dealt with is if your neighbors are in opposition to this lands into trust, do you think we as public officials that represent your neighbors can actually support this getting into trust?'

So I had to go back and clean slate my whole thinking of, ‘Oh, my gosh, we are part of a bigger neighborhood and we have to present ourselves, we have to share who we are.' We're private people. The Yavapai Apache Nation, just our culture is very private. We hold some things sacred that we don't share as I'm sure you all do as well and yet we had to open that door up to settle the concerns of the neighbors. Because of our private nature there's always that distrust of the history of our landscape there from both sides. It was...now it took on a whole new light and a whole new element of over the years. Year one, I'm going to reach out to all of the neighbors and my council getting mad at me, ‘You can't go out and talk to these neighbors. We've always been...they've always been our enemies, they've always been against us.' And I said, ‘Well, you know, these are people that are opposing our lands getting into trust.' After going through the records, it was the people in the towns around us and the towns themselves that were opposed to us getting our lands into trust and so the challenge with that is there was like seven, there's seven little towns around us. And so going and reaching out to all of these seven little towns, they're like, ‘Why are you here? You guys have never been interested in presenting to us.' The balance of respecting and protecting sovereignty and being a good neighbor and I know all of you deal with this because it's impossible not to in our Indian world today. But in order to move the ball forward, the diplomacy that was needed there was a whole new lesson for me and that was tough because I was more hard driven. I'm more like the bull in the china cabinet or whatever at that time. I was more, ‘We'll aggress our way forward.' And aggression was not the way to move forward. So taking guidance from the elders and respecting what they didn't want shared, taking guidance from our experts that we had hired to help us with the process and saying what needed to be shared, and then meeting with our leaders to find out what they'd be willing to support me standing for on behalf of our people because they had to report to their own constituents about what we were doing. As you know, as councilors, you represent a certain constituent group, either your family or clan or a district or a combination of those things.

So the toughest situation wasn't necessarily going up to Washington, D.C. to deal with the federal government because I knew the relationship there, it's clear as day, government-to-government. It's this way, in my mind. I wasn't going there asking permission. I was going there telling them what we as a sovereign wanted and needed and felt like that the United States was obligated to do. But at the local level, at the municipal level that's a whole different relationship. They don't...they had no idea about sovereignty and what it meant at that government to government relationship. They really just saw us as this kind of vacuumized neighborhood within the region that nobody had any interaction with. And so I think the toughest piece of that was opening the door enough to share and shed light on who we were as a society and as a people and trying to normalize the situation. I would go into these towns and say, ‘Look, we want the same things as you. We want our kids to be educated. We want our elders to be safe. We want to have healthcare for our people when it's needed. We want to be able to have homes to live in. So everything that you want as a people, we want. But there are some things that are different because we have a different relationship to the landscape here.' And then the doubters inside, ‘You can't get this done.' Maybe historic or political leaders that had tried before and hadn't done it and you're thinking that they would be aligned in wanting to get it done but seeing that maybe they didn't necessarily want to see it get done, by me anyway.

And I do want to say that it was a team effort. It was definitely getting our council to support that process which gave me the, I guess the courage to go and deal with those issues because it wasn't just me dealing with it, it was me on behalf of my people and my community doing it. If it was just me, I probably would have pulled the plug on dealing with it. But standing for the people takes on a whole new level of security and courage."

June Noronha:

"Before we go into the question and answer session, what we're going to do is we asked each of the chairs at the table to tell you what would be their advice to you. So what advice do they have for the new tribal council members? So we're going to do that and then we're going to open it up for questions and answers."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"My advice to new tribal council members is, there's always people coming and like there's a problem and they want you to solve their problem and one thing I've kind of used, I used an analogy and this could be suicide prevention, drug prevention, diabetes prevention, all the areas. They give you so much funding, federal funding, whether it be 638 or federal funding, you've got to think outside the box. One thing is, I'll just use an analogy here. Say they were going to give you some money for suicide or say there's a cliff there and kids were jumping off that cliff and you had funding available and the federal government wanted you to do basically an ambulance at the bottom to haul off people that are jumping off that cliff. Why can't we use that money to build a fence so that people don't jump off, that's prevention. And that's one area that I know a lot of people will say, ‘Let's build a dialysis center.' Why don't we build a wellness center? You've got to think prevention and everything you do, think prevention.

Another is build bridges whether it be local communities, the county or state and national. Build bridges, don't burn bridges and it helps you. Diplomacy goes a long way when you work with whatever happened historically that's been in the past, put it in the past, put it in history books. Build bridges, don't burn bridges. When you burn bridges, it doesn't go anywhere. You don't achieve anything. So I'd recommend that you build bridges with the county or the state.

And then another one is, I always used the vision of one of our last traditional Crow chiefs, Plenty Coups. He had a vision of forests and there was a storm that came and wiped out all the trees in this forest but there was only one tree still standing and there it was the home of the chickadee and the chickadee would learn what all these other birds were doing and he would learn from them, he would learn from all these birds and the things they did and what they did right and what they did wrong and he would use that. And at the end when that whole storm wiped out all these trees that...the home of the chickadee was still standing in his vision and so from that day forward he said, ‘Whatever we do, don't go against that storm.' And that storm is, whether it be the White people or the federal government and today that tree, the home of the chickadee, he says that's the home of the Crow because he learned from other tribes what they didn't do or did do and then he used that to survive. Basically it's about survival. But diplomacy is key and then unity, unifying your tribe.

One quote I always use is, ‘There's no other Crow tribe. You can't jump on a plane and go find another Crow tribe, we're it. We've got to do this right. If we don't do it, no one else is going to do it for us.' And we take on that challenge. It's up to us. We're elected, in here, it's up to us in here. We're the ones elected, we can't go and find anybody else to do it for us. It's up to us. Once you use that in every meeting, all the tribal leaders are...they look around. It's us. Well, you're elected to do a job and if you use that saying, ‘Our people are depending on us.' There's no other Crow tribe and there's no other whatever tribe you're from. If we don't do it, no one else can do it for us. And that's when you bring them in, part of the team and unifying them and going after whatever the task is. But unifying your council, that's one way to do it, and it's helped me for the last few years as vice secretary now as chairman. It's helped me kind of making them feel that they're part of the process in resolving the problems and I will say, ‘You can't jump on a plane and go find another Crow tribe.' There's no other tribe like us, there's no language...this language I'm speaking, there's no other language like it,' and I'm speaking Crow to all of them. ‘No other culture like this and let's tackle this.' Because a lot of times tribal leaders are looking for somebody to help them whether it be an attorney or whether it be another tribal leader, have him do it. But it's up to us. You're elected and it's up to you to make a difference and unifying your council would be key."

Rebecca Miles:

"Following that I have I think about three things just quickly as advice to all of you. One of the things I learned is to rely on your staff whether they're your attorneys or your experts in the field. Brian Gunn gave an excellent PowerPoint of what the United States leaders do and about their staff. They've been working in that field a long time and all of a sudden you recognize...it really becomes a team. I used to call...there used to be two Daves in my office; Dave Johnson who's still there, our Fisheries Manager, and Dave Cummings. And I lead a lot of fisheries issues, natural resource issues and we'd go to the White House administration two or three times a year and I'd say, ‘Okay, Dream Team, it's time to go.' I felt very honored to be with these guys who the respect was given to me but it was work that they had spent 20 years doing on behalf of your people. And so I called them my Dream Team because they really were...they really earned us a lot of respect. Your staff are really looking for that guidance and they really are, they're looking to serve you. And if they're not, if they're looking there to make you look bad then perhaps your policies need to be improved.

The second thing is relationships whether they're...and starting just with your other people on the council. A lot of times election will happen and you think a person's elected that may have been your archenemy or they have made your life hell while you were on council and a lot of times they can be your very best friend. It's issue by issue. You don't always agree on things but don't lock yourself in a box to have the reputation of not working with anybody. You really lose...you can really lose sight. And so one of the things...in high school even I always hated cliques. We just had our 20 year reunion and I was friends with everybody in our class and it felt really good seeing everybody again and there were the same clicks, locked in as grown women or men not talking. It was a small community and I just was really blessed to be able to not just follow one... One person wrote in my yearbook, ‘She was friends with everybody, the nerds, everybody, the sport...the guys, everybody.' And so that's how I carried my relationship in life. There were people that may have not liked me and they got on council and it just became, we're all here for one reason, for our people. And so it behooves you to work together and everything is relationships, whether you're amongst yourselves. If you're fighting, then your people are hurting, I promise you that. It's just like parents. If your parents aren't doing well, the kids are hurting and it's exactly the same way on tribal council. But relationships are everything, even in Congress. The staffers, even though they may seem like they just got out of high school, you really got to...they really are sophisticated in a lot of ways and that leads to my third piece of advice I have.

You know 40, 50, 60 years ago when our constitution was being formed and our government was being established as a formal government, tribal leaders really had to know a lot about very little and that was treaty rights, history, knowing that they have to educate people in Congress or in the administration about our place and to protect our sovereignty. And then today's tribal leader is really the exact opposite. Because Congress or the administration has more then quadrupled in 30, 40 years so has...and as tribes have developed. You now have to know a little about a lot of topics as opposed to what your leaders did 50 years ago and so it's a very different shift in the work you kind of do and that's where it goes back to staff; being a good study, being a good study of capturing the main points on a lot of issues. Brian Gunn hit the top issues across Indian Country but you as individual tribes now have your own top issues aside from what is facing Indian Country. And the reason why I say that and being concise is so correct because your leadership in Congress have already heard...they already know your treaty rights in a lot of ways. They have their staff do the research and everything. They want specifics, they want details. They don't want you to just go in and demand treaty rights. They want a specific ask and so that helps when as a tribal leader you study the issues. You don't have to be a professor. A lot of times your people think you have to go in being very smart and actually the best tribal leader is one who is going to sit and listen and not know a lot about things, somebody who's going to be open minded.

I just think those are things that are very valuable and make you actually a well rounded leader because you learn so much, there's just so much you learn, good and bad, on tribal council and you're in that place to make that decision. I really appreciated the PowerPoint because I wish I had that ahead of time because a lot of times people think you do need to be that expert in the field and maybe you were elected because you either teach the language or you know something, some trait. But when you come on council, I don't know about your council, but ours is we all vote equally on the same issue and so it just is very...a lot of times you're not the one leading the issue. Your counterpart is leading that issue. Not everybody can be in the healthcare field. And when you recognize that what your job is on council, some people get on council because just to be honest they want to maybe fire staff or they want to have retribution. They have an agenda. Not having an agenda is actually the best thing because there is so much work for you to do and if you actually just went into one policy arena which I found myself accidentally leading natural resources, which is another story in itself. The men automatically pushed me towards health, being on the health board and that's all great but my life prepared me and I didn't realize it for natural resources and to lead natural resources. If you just take salmon recovery, there is more than enough work for one tribal leader to do. And so if you're spending your time focusing on negative things or things that are not the council's role, then you're not doing your job because the amount of work Indian Country has to do in any one policy arena is just...the levels of bureaucracy and red tape you've got to get through is just tremendous and that's your job. So there's a lot of work to be done so focus on those things. Thank you."

Jamie Fullmer:

"A couple of points. The first one is the one does not outweigh the all in the tribal system. The one individual...hiring the one individual that is incapable to do the job does not outweigh all of the individuals that that individual can impact in their particular role. You hire a director that is incapable to do their job, then they affect everybody who's in that system. Education is a perfect example. So when you say, ‘Well, we're hiring that person cause they're a tribal member or they're a relative or whatever,' just keep in mind, the one does not outweigh the all. And the other thing is they've always talked about, and I don't know who they are, maybe it was we.

We talked about nepotism and the discussion around nepotism but in a tribal system we're all related. And if you develop policy and you follow that policy and you hire based on talent and skills, it doesn't matter if they're your cousin, brother, sister, nephew, uncle, niece. It doesn't matter. But that was a hard challenge, especially the smaller the community. Everybody's related at some level, clan relative or blood relative or whatever and so that was a battle that we faced a lot was this whole nepotism battle. And so the way we overcame that was by developing policy for hiring that was based on skills. It didn't matter if they were somebody's brother, sister, relative, whatever. If the criteria was there and they were...met the criteria threshold, then they were eligible to be hired. But that really helped elevate the bar rather than lowering the bar to meet the standard of the people. Elevate the bar and have people work up to it but you need to provide the programming to help them do that.

Just a final point about this advisement; create a plan and follow through. There's always that honeymoon period. You have a great meeting, you have a great session, you're real enthused and you get back in the office, you still have the stacks there, you still have the phone calls coming in, you still have the demands of daily life, you still have to follow those. Define the issues as was brought up and respect and recognize the cultural priorities and the chairman brought up a cultural story of a vision that tied very much into the here and now. We have a lot of answers in our own stories, in our own histories and songs and part of our heritage ways that will teach us how to run our governments as well. It doesn't always have to be the western philosophy, although most of the tribal governments in the modern world are built around a democratic system, a republic system actually.

And then budget where the priorities are established. If you say, ‘Culture is our number one priority,' and yet it has the smallest budget in your government, you've got to put your money where your mouth is. That's so important. You can't just build all these priorities and then run business as usual. The budget has to match those priorities. You say, ‘Education is a priority,' and it's only two percent of the budget, it doesn't really connect.

Learning from past mistakes and successes. Let your...as was said, you come in with an open slate and saying, ‘I'm not aligned with one or the other but what have we done in the past that's worked. What have we done in the past that could be done differently to change it?' I remember, real quickly, my grandfather, he'd come in, he says, ‘Oh, we tried that in '72 or we tried that in '84,' and I'm thinking, I was thinking I'm coming up with these great, bright ideas and cutting edge and he's like, ‘Oh, yeah, we were too small back then or we didn't have enough money then, this'll probably work now.' So learning from those historical figures in your community.

Finding out what you all as council members want. Each of you might have, this was brought up, an agenda, what is that? Is there some things that you can align on? You should fight... We used to always say that the strongest debate makes the greatest answers. But there are some things that you should be aligned on. If healthcare is an alignment issue, then put all the argument aside and say, ‘What do we need to do to actually move forward with it,' and then defining how much money is actually available. It's one thing to have your wish list, it's another thing to have down there how much do we actually have to get this done.

And then finally, listen to your people. Listen whether it's your constituents or it's other...your fellow council members. Listen to your people. They'll tell you what they want. They maybe not necessarily will tell you what they need but they'll always tell you what they want and at some point you'll be able to drill down into what they need. We want to have our kids be happy and healthy. Well, in order to do that we need to have food in the house, lights on, education, safe homes with no abuse and neglect. So those are the tidbits of advice of a has-been leader."

Jamie Fullmer, Rebecca Miles and Darrin Old Coyote: Our Leadership Experiences, Challenges, and Advice (Q&A)

Producer
Archibald Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute
Year

Jamie Fullmer (former Chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation), Rebecca Miles (Executive Director and former Chairwoman of the Nez Perce Tribe) and Darrin Old Coyote (Chairman of the Crow Tribe) field questions from seminar participants about how they have negotiated the fundamental challenges of being leaders of Native nations.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

Resource Type
Citation

Fullmer, Jamie, Rebecca Miles and Darrin Old Coyote. "Our Leadership Experiences, Challenges, and Advice (Q&A)." Nation-Building Strategies: A Seminar for Newly Elected Tribal Leaders. Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Mystic Lake, Minnesota. January 31, 2013. Q&A session. 

June Noronha:

"So we're going to open it up now to any questions and answers of anybody so have a question, if you have for a certain person or the panel please."

Audience member:

"Good morning everyone. I've been on a past council. I'm also retired from the U.S. government, U.S. attorney's office. And I've been called 'apple,' you name it: apple, all these names because I was the only Native American in the U.S. Attorney's office. It was kind of different. But one of the greatest challenges that the Oglala Sioux Tribe will be facing is [Public Law 93-] 638, our hospital, our IHS [Indian Health Service] medical because we all have...people are dying in our emergency rooms. We have a clinic that defer the 10th or 12th one, they cut you off, you come back another time, shortage of doctors. Okay, enough on that soapbox. So we're getting all kinds of phone calls. We're initiating it. We're getting all kinds of phone calls mainly from the workers, the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] or the IHS workers because they have to move out of their houses if this comes through. They have to move out of their housing. They're afraid of losing their jobs. One of them told me, he said, ‘Do we want to pursue this?' And as being probably one of the elders on council, this has been going on for years. Let's try it. Maybe we could get Sanford, Alvera, there's other programs out there that could come in and service our people, service our people. So that's one of the challenges you probably hear about the Oglala Sioux Tribe and I just like listening to you. There's not very many dull knives there. So when you're saying you have relatives on you...I'm from Oglala district where I'm by myself so I don't have that relative because they tell me, ‘Well, you go back to Allen, that's where you're from,' clear across on the other reservation. So I'm really lucky, I don't have that relative thing or I don't have any directors. There's not very many of us and so it's a challenge for me even getting the votes because I don't have big enough relatives to get in. I'm just lucky I got in two terms with no relatives behind me. So that's one. It's a challenge out there. We have nine districts and I don't know how the other districts, I only know mine and the council. [Native word]. Thank you."

Rebecca Miles:

"Real quickly, the Nez Perce Tribe 638'd our Indian Health Clinic less than a decade ago. And I think the best thing that you could do, if you haven't done it already, is either if you have the budget to hire a firm to do some feasibility and strategic planning and do that in conjunction not just with your council but your people and your staff. Because I don't know if we did that but we have had since '04, '03-'04, 15 different directors for our health clinic and I believe that is because of a failure to plan. It's a great thing. You can...your sovereignty, you can do it and you can make your own decisions. Well, all we did...and we got a brand new building as well. It's a beautiful facility. It can even serve as like a small hospital in some ways. But all we did was build that brand new building and move our old IHS mentality and its systems into this beautiful building. We didn't change how we...I just got a denial letter before I came out here of Priority 1 and it cited the CFR. I'm just like, ‘That's not exerting your sovereignty. That's not telling me that the Nez Perce Tribe is adopting its own ways to take care of its people.' And so it's been a very frustrating thing to be...and I don't know what it is, because our tribe is a natural resource tribe but whenever you brought up health issues they were fought vigorously at the table to be defeated, any attempt to go in a certain direction and we kind of think we know what the problem is and we have a good staff member now and all of us other executives at the tribe are working hard to keep her there because all of them are ran out either by the tribal council or by the health board. And so by doing it together and recognizing...doing your SWAT analysis recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, everything, your threats, prior to making that decision is the best thing you can do or I promise you you'll end up like us where we're still swimming in the deep end and we've probably drowned a few times. It's just been very bad. The cost of that is we've had people die. We've lost people. We've not had the proper health care and that's a very serious thing. You can want to save fish and save your language and all that but if you don't have people there to live that life you're protecting, then that...that's your number one resource. And so I...that's a very good question and I would just...I would take that back and follow those steps because there's nothing wrong with going to try to fact find and your feasibility will tell you you're a good candidate to do it or you're not. How much money is the federal government going to give you to do it? Is there going to be administrative costs? And so I think it's a very good position to be in. I personally think the good outweighs the bad if you can make sure your policies, your foundation is set before you do it."

June Noronha:

"Thank you. Any other comments or questions?"

Herminia Frias:

"What we've been hearing from the tribal leaders was a lot of...sometimes the information that we give them can be a little overwhelming and even depressing. So what kept you inspired? When you were a tribal leader, what kept you inspired, what kept you motivated, what kept you driven every single day to serve your nation?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"The great meals that we would have at every meeting! I'd like to think...I was able to serve as President of Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona when Chairwoman Frias was chair of her own tribe. But the thing that kept me going -- and I think this is so important -- honestly was the idea that you could be a part of something bigger than yourself, at least for me. I used to always tell people, ‘if this was just me, I wouldn't push it. It wouldn't even matter to me. Some of the things that would matter to our tribe didn't necessarily push any of my hot buttons, but because it was bigger than me I felt like that I was playing a part in something more important than just my own life. I think that's what kept me going when I was in leadership."

Rebecca Miles:

"Probably most women's answer is, hands down, their children. Their children keep you going and keep you grounded. It didn't matter...my kids were very young when I...and I was just freshly divorced when I ran for council and so that was very hard. It was...I remember getting my first box of checks with my own name on it. But my kids, absolutely, from a negative day to going home and seeing their faces and knowing that...it's a very direct effect. Your own children are part of the tribe so that becomes very personal. So a bad decision affects you at home, too. A bad decision affects your own children, will affect their future; frivolous spending of the tribe, ‘well, what will they have?' that kind of thing. And so I think that's what kept me going."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"What keeps me going is basically the...there's so much poverty, so much depression that whatever...the change that you can bring to the people, put a smile on their face and keeping...making them happy because they like to celebrate but making them celebrate for good things. That's one of the things that keeps me going. We do a lot of praise singing like celebrations, different ceremonies where we say thank you and a lot of those is what keeps me going, enjoying life with the people. When there's something good that happens, the laughter, the celebrations, the singing and the dancing and the praise singing, that's what inspires me to keep going because there was a time where there was constant...it seemed like there was one death after another and that...coming out of that and then celebrating kind of inspired me to do things better and bringing them out of poverty. And then we just signed a big deal with a company to develop our natural resources and that was a big thing for our people. So it's looking at the people and seeing the smile on their faces, that's what inspires me to continue."

Jackie Sears:

"Yeah, my name is Jackie Sears and I'm newly elected to council from Pine Ridge, the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The question I have is as being chairs, what do you see about the tribal council...because currently we have 19 council members and we have some new ones on there, we have some old ones and we have some returning. And what we see is a lot of our older council getting hold of the younger or the ones getting back in, they go on the shirttail of someone else and they're not following the laws they make. What's your advice to the new council and have you ever experienced any of that?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"No, we never had any of that at home. We had...we dealt with it through policy. We developed a code of ethics and because we did have...I was just kidding by the way. Because we did have a lot of that where the council is self-policing, the courts have nothing to say or do with the council. So it was one thing to point fingers at one another, it's another thing when you write your name to something and you swear by it and say that you're going...that this really happened. We used to always say, ‘People don't talk about it, write it down on a piece of paper and let the whole council hear what you have to say. Put your name to it. Put your name down there.' And so we actually developed a list of I think 15 or 20 items that were punishable within the council and then it's voted on. And there's levels of intensity from suspension to removal through that code of ethics at home."

June Noronha:

"Can you share the code of ethics?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"I'd have to look and see if I have a copy of it but yeah, I think as it worked I think it has helped our council to be more focused on dealing with the bigger issues. You're always going to have kind of the follow the leader kind of thing when you have leaders. But I do believe that it's helped our council to look more at the bigger picture than micromanaging an individual or program or something. They're looking at, ‘We need to set laws in place.' And I remember one of the council members said, ‘Well, we don't need to follow the laws, we make the laws.' And it resonated with me. I'm like, ‘No, we make the laws cause we need to follow it, too.'"

Rebecca Miles:

"Some tribal leaders still think that even [with that] in place, we're above the law. But it puts accountability in place. We have a similar thing, administrative procedures, which I could email to you and it's just that kind of cross...everybody including the chair. It even cites out the positions, the officers, chair, vice chair, what their roles are and if they fail to do their job, that kind of thing. So it brings some kind of accountability amongst everybody. We unfortunately just went through that process where a member had to be removed and this is what happens is when that is in place and your people will probably appreciate it. Otherwise, they're going to keep asking for an ethics board and you don't want that. You should be able to police yourselves and you should want to do that and keep the integrity high and your ethical behavior. But if you don't act, I promise you your people are watching. They know...if you adopt something and a lot of times people will say, ‘I'm going to protect my buddy and he didn't do wrong. He may have got a DUI and did whatever but he's...I'm going to stick with him.' Your people are watching that and they think...if they think you're unaccountable, it's affecting, and fortunately that's kind of what was going on with our council now is the people were very angry because it had gone on for about nine or 10 months and nothing was done. And so they finally took action but it's almost like it was too late, after so much build up. And you don't want that because that whole event then caused dysfunction from the very top down to your people when you have bigger things to worry about. I can send you a copy of ours just to build from."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Creating policy would be one of the...an ethics committee or a lot of times right now the executive branch, we have a lot of policies that we've created for different departments and then also for...as far as the executive branch, ours is spelled out in our constitution. So that's what we follow and we changed our constitution in 2001. So if it's not working I'd say it's time to change your constitution."

Audience member:

"I just wanted to say miigwetch. I'm a newly elected tribal leader. I'm one of five on the...I'm the only woman to serve on the council right now. I just want to say miigwetch 'cause it helps me better my perspective and I just really appreciate that. Thank you."

Audience member:

"Darrin, are you related to Barney Old Coyote?"

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Yeah, he passed away in August."

Audience member:

"He lived in our community with his family."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Yeah, he's my grandfather. Yeah."

Audience member:

"Oh, very honorable and respectable person. I have a question for Jamie. In your code of ethics -- or maybe this applies to all -- I know that we have a code of ethics. I've ready been subjected to it and survived and survived one recall also and facing another one. In your code of ethics is it, you mentioned administrative and Jamie, is your code of ethics administered by a separate office with a separate code with different people from the council?"

Jamie Fullmer:

"No, actually ours is actually administered through the council and our attorney general. So the council will put up it's...there's a list of specifics. For example, as was mentioned, if you're arrested for a DUI, that's a suspension under the code of ethics. So what would have to happen though is there would have to be facts, there would have to be an arrest, conviction that stated you were convicted and then a council member would bring that to the attention of the other council members. The council would hear that, the attorney general would give any legal advice on behalf of the tribal government and then there would be a decision made with that council person present. So it's really truly self-policing. The council member may be asked to leave for executive...if there's some debate that has to go on so that they're not in the middle of an argument but then the actual discussion about why the removal is happening will tie specifically to the points in the code and the actual level of...there's degrees of...as I said, there's either administrative leave, leave without pay because our council are paid, leave without pay, suspension for a period or actually removal from office. Ours isn't handled through a separate administrative process. It's in the council, but we have an attorney general that presides over or is part of all of our council meetings."

Audience member:

"I'd be interested in looking at your code of ethics. Thank you."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Yeah, I have that written down to get a copy of."

Alvin Bettelyoun:

Hello. My name's Alvin Bettelyoun. I'm a Rosebud Sioux tribal council representative from Swift Bear Community. Everything hits home here. Everything you guys are saying, I see it and I live it on a daily basis. How do you know when you're making the right decision about something? Right now I've got that funny feeling in my stomach, where it's after like a major vote like concerning the Black Hills or nursing home or even my community. How do you know when you do the right thing? You're going to get friction both ways and at the end of the day when I'm home sitting there I start... as a cop, I used to like...as soon as I'm done with my shift I'd go in there, I wash my face, I say, ‘I'll leave everything here.' But sometimes I can't. I take it home and I hear myself swearing in my mind. Somehow it comes out and the kids I know pick up on it. I've got four kids. I think...I got into a situation when I got in as Swift Bear councilman that two councilmen prior to me getting in really messed things up in our community. There's fighting, money stealing, different chairmen. Our nursing home is right in our community, that's been neglected by the council for years. I didn't know that until I actually went in. I don't want to get specific on anything but I'm just telling you what I...that's just a fraction of what I'm getting into. Last night I got a call from appellate judge, our tribal president. I can see the things that are coming. I'm down here, I can see us skipping all these down to here to bring me back up to here. These I deal with on a daily basis, not just the issues that are with council where you get chewed out by some of the councilmen that have been in there for three, four terms say, ‘You're a little kid,' more or less. ‘Behave, listen to me.' Like you said, the loudest voice has the smallest group and right now with our new council I see a change. It's the first time in years and I've been down there and I talked in front of council a lot. I've been a police officer for years, worked for the court for 14 years. I see a change there now and it's the first time I really felt good about something. So that's what's giving me my strength are the members here that actually came up with me. Some don't care, I can see. I want to make a change but how can you really do that, how can one person, one councilman? I know you guys all went through the same...how can you make that change. What do you do? I feel like there's a small majority right here, the silent ones. I get up, I talk, I put my foot in my mouth a lot of times. I did it maybe earlier when I introduced myself yesterday. I sit back and say, ‘Correct yourself.' What do you do? How do you handle all these issues? Sometimes I think, ‘Why am I in here?' Then again, I see the [Lakota language] and the [Lakota language]. They supported me to get in. They wanted me and they felt I could do it, make the change because...maybe 'cause I wore a badge every day and went around, talked to everyone in every community and I seen what goes on in every community from the first of the month to the end of the month. The drunkenness, three out of the four houses people are drinking, kids are out there with no pampers, they're running wild. Even in my community, the deputy caught 30 kids over the hill partying out there. It was like 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and in my mind I said, ‘I've got to change that, I've got to change this, I've got to do this for the elderly.' I check on the elderly's propane. Even though they've got sons to do that, I go do that. It just...there is so much, it's so overwhelming, but honestly I've got no one to talk to. I think I do, I don't have no friends, probably because I was a cop and someday I might have to arrest you or serve papers on you, the same with the court. How can I make a change? What can I do? Can you help? Give me some...I know, I'm getting ideas, but how do you do it?"

Rebecca Miles:

"It's just really fascinating to listen to you because you're just so passionate and you want to do...everybody wants to do the right thing. And a lot of times we think the last council did so terrible or councils before and measure all the decisions that were made. Is your tribe still alive and well? Yes. A lot of times those decisions aren't really big decisions that's going to affect your sovereignty but they may have hurt a lot of people and so that's what we're feeling a lot. I'm looking at Jaime Pinkham back there because unfortunately he was never our tribal chairman. And I had the honor of serving as the tribe's general council chair at a very young age and I got to see leaders. Jamie was one of those people that I looked up to as one of our great leaders. Had our ability to elect tribal chairmen differently, he probably would still be at home being our chair right now. But when you say change, you're not going to see it but somebody else will definitely feel it, if your heart's in the right place. And I say...bring up Jaime because had policies and procedures like our human resource manual...Jaime, our investment policy, that was all done when Jaime was serving as our treasurer at the tribe. I think, 'Where would we be?' The council would still be hiring and firing and that's the one thing is you...like for example, the water settlement I mentioned. I'm still to many people enemy number one that sold out, even though nine of us had to vote, not one individual has power. But I know that that was a good decision. I know in my heart I did all the work I needed to do, but you're not going to...you're not going to see it necessarily, the change, but somebody else will feel what you have done. And that's how I feel about the tribe and what just leaders like Jaime made, the decisions they made and what they were thinking about. And he's the perfect fit for this...doing this kind of work for all of us because you are building a nation. We're definitely in a better place based on decisions then. And so your heart is in the right place by far. I can hear it in you, I can sense and people who elected you know that. Decisions you're going to make are going to be scrutinized, they're going to say you had an agenda why you did this or you did it for a certain reason but somebody down the road is going to come back and say, ‘I remember you. I remembered what you did. Thank you for that.' It's not going to happen soon. It's a thankless job but it will happen. Change happens over time, it doesn't happen overnight and a lot of times we just want it to and sometimes we...I'm guilty of that. The other thing of recognizing a good self-awareness is you're not going to make perfect decisions, you're going to screw up and you're not going to have all the information, you're going to jump to a conclusion and that's when you realize just addressing that loud minority and not the silent majority can backfire on you. That was a bad decision, why did you do that? I just wanted to share that with you."

Alvin Bettelyoun:

"Thank you. There's a lot of times, especially when I first started, I went up to the nursing home, I talked to the workers and they said that no councilman has been in here. The same with my community, no councilman has ever did a report and told us about what's going on down there. I've been making a point to do that and keep it up throughout my term however long I'm in there. But another thing, I might have put my foot in my mouth again, was when I got up and I told the council, ‘Shame on you for doing it and letting this get this far.' I don't want them to say that about me, the next new council people. I'm going to do my best to straighten out what I can see and that's all I can say."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"Just to comment on that. A lot of times you don't know when you're making change and what feels right in here for you and then later on in life when we're no longer here if people came to your kids and said, ‘Your dad did a good job,' that's when...you're never going to know today. But when one person in particular, our late chairman, when he passed away, people not only in our community and our tribe but other tribes and other communities even non-Indians, they talk about what a difference he made as a leader. They even thank his kids for doing that and he doesn't know, even today, that he made a difference and you're never going to know but in here, if it feels right in here, keep doing it because if it feels right in here you're making that change."

Audience member:

"I just kind of wanted to comment on a lot of things. When it comes to our constitutions and our governmental structure, I know at Rosebud we just...it's been five years I guess we had a referendum and we amended our constitution and we're still struggling with those amendments. But I guess I keep saying over and over to the people, our community and our council, is that that constitution and the ordinances, the rules, the regulations, the policies and procedures are all nameless and faceless. It doesn't...they don't have anybody's names in there, they don't have anybody's relatives in there and when you take the oath of office to uphold that constitution, that's what you're promising. You're not promising that you're going to give your relative a directorship. Now that's politics. But once the election's over, politics should be over and we get down to the business of governing, and that means everybody. That legal structure, that framework is supposed to work in the best interest of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, which is the people. And if you start politicking and you start firing people to uphold a campaign promise, you should be in front of the ethics committee. And that's how I look at it and that's how I look at my role. I've asked one of my colleagues, I guess it gets down to two, it always comes back to people. It always comes back to people. And so what are you about personally? What's your personal philosophy? Do you have one? Mine is one word, is consistent, consistency. I try to be that way. Now nobody's perfect. I haven't been perfect. I've made a lot of mistakes but I try to be consistent. Periodically, I have to kind of step back and take a look and say, ‘Where have I been, where am I going, do those two...are they coming together?' I've asked one of my colleagues, ‘If you ever see me straying me from that, you let me know right away,' because sometimes we get so involved that we kind of lose sight. There's a difference here, there's politics, there's politicians and there's leaders. Again, that's something you need to ask yourself. Do you want to be a politician or do you want to be a leader? There's a difference. Politicians continue to create chaos. They circumvent the rules, they allows the rules to be circumvented for votes. At Rosebud, we have probably about 800 tribal employees. They see themselves as a huge voting block and they let you know. They come from big families, they let you know. We've got situations going on right now today but that doesn't influence me because my campaign was to try to change and strengthen tribal government through education. That's what I said and that's what I'm going to try to do. I didn't promise anybody anything. I give my report to my community and we've got a waÅ¡í­Äu lady that works for one of the local newspapers so my report gets into the paper. And I talk about some of these deficiencies, so right now I'm a troublemaker because I say these things about the weaknesses and the failures of tribal government and I'm part of those failures and everything 'cause I'm in it. Again, that's the politics. But you have to understand, I think if you've been a leader you haven't been in this situation. For me being a councilman now and being subjected to a lot of...it's not new because I've been in leadership roles. I haven't been in politics so much but I've been in leadership roles and I've had these attacks so it's not new. And so it shouldn't be surprising to me and it's not because I've been there. Even all through growing up there's been...I've always been an exceptional athlete and that's created a lot of jealousy and so forth sometimes. That talent has subjected me to these things so I've had to deal with it. When you're young, right away you want to retaliate. Fortunately...and my mom was the feisty one and that's probably where I got it. Fortunately my dad, he said, ‘These are challenges. These are things that you're being tested. You can either become this or you can become that. It's up to you. You're going to have to make this decision.' And so that competitiveness -- and I love competition -- that competitiveness drives me, but I try to do it in a respectful way and in a humble way but at the same time I'm out there to try to represent, take my talent and represent all my people, too. That's what I've tried to do. I go looking for the waÅ¡í­Äu because that's where the competition was and is. I go looking for them, I try to find them because I want them to know that we are not who they think we are. So that's kind of a little bit, but I think we have to do a little introspection and find out who we are and I think that's really important."

June Noronha:

"I know there were a number of people who had their hands up. I want to make sure that everybody gets a chance to speak who wants to because some people have spoken already. Is there anybody else?"

Audience member:

"I'll try to limit it as much as I can but I had a question for the former chair and past chair. I believe there's a former chair back here also, right, Minnie? Before we started this conference I spoke about being on a council, it was my second term. The first term was quite different than my second term. My first term I made five trips to D.C. on issues involving our tribe. My second term I've been out to D.C. zero. I don't know anybody out in Washington, D.C. I don't what the heck's going on out there. I want to thank Brian over here for updating because we don't get that information. So you see two vastly different administrations and it's important as elected officials or politicians or leaders that you get involved and getting involved you'll be able to better understand and make those appropriate decisions that are going to affect the people that you're so-called 'leading.' I guess looking at the...one of the things the guy said he was talking about change. I think we're all here for a reason. I think we're all here because we want to make a change, that's why we chose to make the trek out to beautiful Minnesota to attend a meeting. But when we go home, I hope that we take that and try to share this experience with the people who are unfortunate not to be here, because this is where we should be, at places like this. I guess the question I want to just pose to you, how do you or did you control or limit those people who applied pressure for hasty decisions? And the reason why I say that is, Standing Rock, I'm from Standing Rock. I'm a proud member again to be on the council, it's an honor. But I guess I'm more honored to have a linkage, as they would say to a gentleman who was killed back in 1890 by his own people. And that linkage through my grandmother's side has brought leadership to me in a different perspective. I'm not just there to collect our whopping $40,000 that we get, to be able to travel on the people's dime or whatever, but I hold it near and dear to me because there was a saying that was said and some of you may recognize this saying that was said over 100 years ago. ‘Let us put our minds together and see what we can build for our children.' It really struck me hard that our people had an opportunity through a thing called Salazar [settlement]. Salazar had an opportunity to be able to bring our people a brighter future, maybe even a hopeful future than what we have today but because of the loudest voice -- as Jamie had spoken about  -- it causes our council to react. We're reactive people, we're not proactive people.

So I can almost guarantee in all the new elected officials here that if somebody comes in there and they start yelling at you, you're going to start shaking and you're going to vote in a hasty manner and I can guarantee you when you go home, think about it like this gentleman. I can go home every night, I can crawl into my bed and I can go to bed without knowing that my family didn't get anything, I certainly didn't get anything and the best decision that I could pull forward based on what was presented to me was made by my own judgment. But I guess going back to how things happen it goes down. So you as a chairperson, you have an opportunity through parliamentary procedure to be able to limit those type of actions from happening and I can tell you in the six and a half years, the last portion of my four-year term, this is my third year, my second term, three quarters of that we sat fighting each other on the council because we all have the answers, 17 of us know everything that goes on and we're going to make that everlasting impression on the people 100 years from now as one of our [Lakota term] did 100 years ago to say, ‘What can we do, how can we put our minds together to see what we can do for our people in the future.' So that's my question. How are you guys able to control your council from coming in and playing politics, disregarding policy? Because I think we spoke about that quite a bit that our biggest...my biggest thing is we break our own laws and we're not able to police ourselves because that's already been proven on our council that if the opportunity to police yourself we should just step down. That's policing yourself in an ethical manner, but we don't do that. Instead we find every obstacle."

Darrin Old Coyote:

"For myself to answer that question is reminding everybody there the reasons why we're there, for the people. They're the ones that put you there and every time we get together with the legislative branch to pass a bill or a resolution, that's what I remind them. When they try to [do] politics and try to change the course we're going, that's what I remind them. We're all here, we're placed here by people that wanted us to do good. If they wanted you to do bad they wouldn't put you there. It's basically...they view you as a person that's going to do right and that's why they put that trust in you and voted you. And by doing so, in turn you have to do right and remind all those people why we're there. A lot of them, all their bad thoughts are kind of playing politics, they put that aside and they, ‘What are we going to do for the betterment of our tribe?' So it's always better to remind them at the beginning why we're all there and if they feel that more or less the guilty conscience that's when it comes in and then you get them to go the way what's right. Other than that, that's what I've done and it's helped me through getting a lot of issues passed."

Rebecca Miles:

"So you're probably talking about the situation where they come directly maybe in your office and ask you to get involved in something or not just to the entire council where you can often... It's easier that way where you can police each other, but if it's one on one, somebody comes in and says, ‘My boss is really giving me a hard time' or ‘I want you to do this' or they're reporting something to you. There's always tribal members that are reporting embezzlement or they know something really bad is going on. There is a system in place. One thing I would ask -- especially because a lot of the constituents you hear from are your employees -- always make sure they're on their own personal time and not on the people's time, not on the tribe's time meaning the tribe is paying them...they're compensating them to do a job on behalf of your government and if they're going to take the time to handle their individual thing, then they need to be on their own time, not on the people's time. I promise you, when you start doing that you're going to get fewer and fewer visitors. It's not going to happen overnight, but I've pretty much eliminated people coming in asking me to do things unethically because I wouldn't do them and there's a tactful way you need to do that because your people don't want...you don't want a reputation of not listening to your people. And in our constitution, it says they can come to you for any issue. And even though there's policies in place they want to come vent about work, usually. It's usually about work or something. And so having...being able to be...their ability to vent is often a good place. But the other thing is build a reputation, is fact finding, and sometimes your own family or your friends are asking you to do something or get involved and they're not telling you all the facts and that's usually the case. And when you find out the rest, it's almost sometimes embarrassing in some situations when you find out the facts of a situation.
‘Well, you actually did this and you want me to give you a lifeline out of it. I can't do it. It's unethical of you to ask me to do that.' But it takes time because every new administration then they want to come back in and ask you to do unethical things but you can build a reputation for yourself and I would...Jaime [Pinkham] is familiar with that because I think he had that reputation, too. We knew the members that were going to get bogged down by these requests because they got involved in those issues, they didn't see the bigger picture and this is my true belief is you're a nation. You are a sovereign nation and we pound the table saying that all the time.

You are running your nation and are you going to expect President [Barack] Obama to come down and deal with some staffer out in the Park Service out in Wyoming, their little issue? No, he's leading the United States. And so you're diminishing your own sovereignty and your own tribe by getting involved in those little details and it's a message that is a constant. It's not made overnight, your actions show that."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Just to get down in the detail. The best way that...listening to the large picture, the big picture as was presented by these other leaders, I think there's some detail things that can help, just practical things. One is, what goes on the agenda for a council session? Defining, creating a policy around how your agenda is developed is so important to the flow of what information is going out each time. And then also at home we gatekeep that at the administrative level, come through the administration, administration would decide, council's secretary would decide what went on the agenda but we would have the approval -- we meaning the chairman, vice chairman -- to review it before it went to council. We would say, ‘That needs to be...that's an administrative issue, that's an administrative issue, that is a policy issue and should go to the council.' The other thing as a council member -- since most of you in there are council members -- is if you need more information to make a good decision, that's your right as a leader to say, ‘I can't make a decision today. I request this be tabled until we get more information.' You have that authority under Robert's Rules...whatever rules of orders that you have to say, ‘I need more information in order to make a good valid decision,' fact finding. And so the other piece to this I think as well is having some kind of gatekeeper in how that information flows in and through. In ours, it was the administration. There was a process. It came through administration. If the issue wasn't dealt with by our administrator, then it went to the chairman. If it wasn't dealt with at the chairman level, then it went to the council. So there was a level of effort to actually let the government deal with the problem before the legal, the legislators or the policymakers or the true power of the tribe dealt with the problem. But the government, that's where you have all these departments and that's why you pay all these department heads. That's why...I heard 800 employees...when you have that many employees somebody has to be responsible if it's a social issue to deal with it. And so to that point of listening to your people, I used to always listen to the people and call that director up and say, ‘Come up here. This is an issue that has to do with natural resources. Let's connect the dots right here in my office,' and then let them go and deal with it. But at least being that intermediary as the [Apache term] to actually control that directive."

Darrin Old Coyote: Reforming the Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation's Governing System: What Did We Do and Why Did We Do It?

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Vice Secretary Darrin Old Coyote of the Crow Tribe's Executive Branch provides a brief history of the Crow Tribe's governance system, and explains the factors that prompted the Tribe to abandon its governance system in 2001 and replace it with a new constitution and system of government entirely of their own making.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

Resource Type
Citation

Old Coyote, Darrin. "Reforming the Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation's Governing System: What Did We Do and Why Did We Do It?" Remaking Indigenous Governance Systems seminar. Archibald Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Prior Lake, Minnesota. May 2, 2011. Presentation.

"Good morning to all of you. My name's Darrin Old Coyote; I'm from the Crow Tribe. I'm glad to be here. I did a presentation at Harvard University for nation building on this same subject, and I'm fortunate to be asked to do this again. But I'm going to go through kind of a history of our government from the traditional form of government to the government we have today.

Reforming our nation's governing system -- and this is a quote that I used, ‘A constitution is a living, breathing entity of your government.' And today the question that brings all of us to this one location is government reform. Ask yourselves two simple questions to see if you need a constitutional reform. And this is the questions that we as a tribe, there was a group of us, asked: Is the current system working for us today or is it outdated? And does our current governing system reflect our unique tribal culture? And then we started from there. Getting started on reforming your government system, three main points: historical review of your government from pre-reservation to present day, and then establish lists of what is working and what isn't working in your current and past governing systems; set realistic goals for your government as a whole. And then -- this was the study I did -- the traditional form of government that we had as the Crow Nation.

There was a time when little boys would go with the warriors on war parties and they would call them Ichkaate or Warrior's Helper. And these Warrior Helpers would go on raids and warfare and then they became warriors. They were trained to become warriors. And then some, one that could run far, had great stamina would become scouts. And then scouts, they had scout leaders. And then your prowess as a warrior, they started offering pipes to the greatest warrior of the tribe and then these pipe carriers would then take war parties out. And then one would have to attain four deeds to become a chief: one was to strike an enemy in battle; two was to take an enemy's weapon in battle; three was to take a prize horse from the enemy; and four was to lead a successful war party. And then you became Baacheeitche, which is the term that we use for 'Good Man,' for the chief. And among the chiefs they would select 'Owner of the Camp' -- Aash Aahkee -- and he was the principal chief of the tribe. This was their way of...the people would choose their leaders that they would follow. After they would...if a man who had counted the four chiefly war deeds displayed outstanding qualities -- including generosity, kindness, fortitude, wisdom, and dependability -- then the people would naturally follow this man. And they would make public declarations about their choices. They say, ‘On this day, I'm going to follow this chief. On this day, I'm going to follow this chief.' Choosing a leader meant that the camp would not only be fortunate, but live well without threat from enemies and locating food -- and survival was kind of the main focus for the tribe at the time.

And it was a representative form of government; chiefs, band chiefs, and owner of the camp were the only ones to talk and vote on council. And the highest-ranking chief would convene the council and they would use tally sticks as ballots. And every time an issue came up, they would smoke the pipe and it would be lit by the man sitting to the right of the highest-ranking chief; the man sitting to the east and the south would speak first. And this was referred to as 'Smoke Talk' or Apsáalooke Ooppiilaau -- 'Crows Smoke Talking.' And that was our form of government -- the council.

The pipe was used to guarantee that individuals would speak with no interference. There was no interference from anybody and that individual would speak. And whatever he said, he was to tell the truth. And then they would pass the pipe over; they would discuss the issue. And the pipe was held in high reverence by the Apsáalooke; once lit, no one would talk except the one with the pipe. And then while each chief spoke, the person leading the discussion would place the ballots as represented by the tally sticks, either for the issue or against it. And they would place these tally sticks and at the end of the discussion all the chiefs would what they needed to say on this issue. And then they would take the majority of those sticks and say, the ones in the majority, they would say, '[Crow language].' They'd say, ‘The majority has ruled. This is what we're going to do.' And then one person didn't make all the decisions. And then all the chiefs would collectively decide on what the next steps would be on that issue.

And then there came a time when there was no longer need for intertribal warfare. There was no need for chiefs; intertribal warfare ended. Our last traditional chief was Plenty Coups, who passed away in 1932. And after the death of Plenty Coups, there were groups among the Crow that the U.S. government would consult with on Crow issues. They would just hand pick. They'd say, ‘You.' They'd see a person that had respectability among the tribe and they would pick that person. They'd say, ‘You can represent the Crow today.' And it was that way for years. And so these individuals gained...they're more for themselves than for the tribe. These individuals would go out and say, ‘I'm the leader of the Crow.' And anybody was a leader because the way we chose leaders back then was by those four deeds that they would attain to become the chief, to become the leader of the tribe, and they were well-respected. Even the term that we use today for chief is 'Good Man,' Baacheeitche, because they provided for the tribe, they looked out for the tribe. And whenever that person, that chief, was in the presence of the people there was respect. And now, the last traditional chief of Crow passed away and people were saying, ‘I want this piece of land,' and they're going off on their own and they would delegate groups from different districts.

Around this time from 1932 to 1948, we lost a lot of the land. We lost a lot of our...like our...I don't know if any of you know where Bozeman, Montana is. That was our first Crow agency and then the second agency was just west of Billings and then today we're at the third agency -- 30 million acres and today we have 2 million acres. Around that time we lost a lot of prime land. Today you see Paradise Valley; all the movie stars live there. I think Ted Turner lives right outside of Bozeman, Flying D Ranch -- largest landowner, private landowner. But that was Crow land. Because of all the chaos there was loss of a lot of land. And then in 1948, there [were] students that were coming back from Carlisle boarding school.

And then the Crow adopted a constitution at the time. U.S. government initiated an IRA (Indian Reorganization Act) asking all tribes to establish tribal business councils. But the Crow adopted their own form of government because they were a treaty tribe -- they didn't adhere to. They weren't a tribe that was placed there by executive order or presidential proclamation. They were a treaty tribe. And they adopted their own form of government, utilizing a council-type form of government to conduct tribal business because that's the way we conducted business was council-type. Every chief had a say in what was going on. And so instead of having leaders, they had every individual 18 and older -- Crow tribal members -- and they would elect four officials every two years. And then they would have councils every three months. And there was chaos. Every three months all the business of the tribe was voted on, discussed, in one day. And it came to a point where, in 1990, there was a chairman elected who stayed in power for ten years, being elected every two years with supreme powers. There was a resolution that gave authority over the tribal judge, the tribal police, kind of a dictator controlling the whole system. We were kind of a...and there was no term limits. And councils were held every three months: January, April, July and October on the first Saturday. And this was the only time business would be discussed on and voted on. And there was no continuity or stability.

There was a time when, I remember I must've been an eighth grader. I went to a council. My mom was the recorder for the council. She was taking minutes and so we would have to be there early. And in the back room, the tribal chairman and all of his staff, they would sit there and they would say, 'This is what we're going to do today.' They would line out which agenda they wanted to pass and which agenda they wanted to not discuss that day. And this was how the council was run. The chairman would sit up there and say, ‘I call this council to order.' And they would say, ‘Division of the house'; they would ask for division of the house to establish numbers. And so there'd be six individuals sitting right in front of the chairman and they would have, to establish numbers, they would have...a hundred was a quorum. A hundred tribal members was a quorum for the council. And so they'd be, they'd say, ‘All those people that are for the chairman's agenda, line up.' And they would run them through the line. Every tenth person they'd stop them and tally ten. ‘Alright, ten more.' And this is how they established numbers. And they'd say, ‘All those ones that were against the chairman's agenda, go through the line.' And the chairman would be standing there and he knew who was going against his issues. If there was a director, he knew. If there was a tribal employee...it got to the point where a lot of people didn't know what they were voting on. A lot of people were voting because they wanted leases for their cattle, they wanted tribal loans to buy a car, and there was a lot of vote buying. And the chairman would sit there and he would know who's going against him and who was for him. And they'd say, ‘On this issue...' and a lot of people didn't know what they were voting on but they'd say, ‘Let's go!' and they're all herded like cattle going through the line.

And then elections were held every two years; vote buying was the norm for every chairman ever elected since 1948. Every time a council was coming up, they would buy votes to pass their agenda or agendas; there's no self-sufficiency or business ventures pursued. So let's say a business deal would come to the Crow Tribe and they want to come by. We have nine billion tons of coal at Crow. A company would come and say, ‘We want to partner with you to produce a coal mine.' They'd say, ‘Next council, we'll vote on it.' And from the time the company got there, to the time the tribe voted, individuals would go to that company and say, ‘Give us money. We'll see that it passes,' under the table deals. And this happened since 1948. And then in 1999 a handful of young men consist...we met every night, almost every night, and talked about the problems with our government and discussed ways of reforming the government. It was election year and the majority of Crows wanted change. They were tired of this 10-year reign of dictatorship. It happened before but nobody paid attention. And then we visited with chairman candidates and discussed change but none wanted to deliver.

Change in our government system: young men went to the districts to hold hearings and gain support from the people to change the government system. The support from the Crows who wanted change was so great that chairman candidates were coming and wanting support from our group. And this group was all young people. One strong candidate with much support from the beginning impressed the group so much so that they supported the candidate and he was elected by a large majority to win the election in 2000. And the newly elected chairman promised change and he delivered in 2001. After much review and many discussions of the old '48 document and the traditional form of government, there was a provision in the '48 Constitution allowing the council to amend the constitution from time to time as needed. At a January 2001 council, the majority voted to amend the 1948 Constitution. The amendments were then written into a new document, which was then voted on in secret ballot; majority voted in favor of the new constitution in December 2001. The Secretary of Interior acknowledged the new document as the governing system of the Apsáalooke Nation.

And now we have a three-branch form of government. Chairman, vice chairman, secretary and vice secretary elected every four years starting in 2004. The legislative branch, 18 representatives -- three from each of the six districts -- are elected every four years -- staggered terms for two reps, then one rep elected two years later -- all serving four-year terms. We have one chief judge; two associates judges elected every four years. The executive branch duties is to implement and enforce all laws, resolutions, codes and policies duly adopted by the legislative branch; represent the Crow Tribe in negotiation with federal, state and local governments. The legislative branch duty is to promulgate and adopt laws, resolutions, ordinances, codes, regulations and guidelines in accordance with this constitution. The judicial branch shall have jurisdiction over all matters defined in the Crow law and order code. Stability was achieved with this 2001 Apsáalooke/Crow Nation -- constitution. There is more stability. Continuity was achieved. Business could be conducted in a more timely manner. All issues pertaining to the Crow tribe could now be discussed and reviewed before being voted on. Separation of powers along with checks and balances is now in place. Majority rule is instrumental on all decisions made by the Apsáalooke Nation.

And today, the constitution that we have, Department of Interior acknowledged it. We didn't have them approve it. We didn't have them say, ‘That's the document to use.' We said, acknowledged this as our constitution. And today every business that we do, it doesn't have to be approved by the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], it doesn't have to go through all the red tape, bureaucratic red tape. But today we have an LLC [limited liability corporation], probably the first tribe to have a limited liability company to bring business in. We have a work first protection act that we passed, which strengthens TERO [Tribal Employments Rights Office]. We have more of...there's more businesses coming to the tribe. There's more tribes coming, more businesses coming to the Crow, because there's more stability, continuity. And so that's our constitution from traditional form of government to the one we have today -- 2001. (I saw a sign over there that said stop so I have to stop.)