John "Rocky" Barrett

"Modern Tribal Governments, Constitutions, and Sovereignty" Session at NCAI's Annual Convention

Producer
National Congress on American Indians
Year

This session, convened by NCAI at its 2014 Annual Convention, chronicled the growing movement by tribal nations to reform and strengthen their constitutions in order to reflect and preserve their distinct cultures and ways of life, more effectively address their contemporary challenges, and achieve their long-term priorities. It shared the constitutional stories of four tribal nations who have either reformed their constitutions or currently are in the process of doing so.

The session includes 5 presentations from prominent Native nation leaders and scholars:

  1. Sherry Salway Black and Ian Record provide a brief overview of tribal constitutionalism and the current movement among tribal nations to engage in constitutional reform.
  2. John “Rocky” Barrett, longtime chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, shares how the Citizen Potawatomi Nation long struggled with an imposed system of governance and how it turned to constitutional reform to reshape and stabilize that system so that it is capable of helping the nation achieve its strategic priorities.
  3. Erma Vizenor, former Chairwoman of the White Earth Nation, provides a detailed history of White Earth’s Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) system of governance, and why and how White Earth decided to create an entirely new constitution in order to make its system of governance more culturally appropriate and functionally effective.
  4. Richard Luarkie, former Governor of the Pueblo of Laguna, offers a detailed chronology of the Pueblo’s constitutional and governmental odyssey over the past few centuries, and how the Pueblo is in the process of reforming its constitution to fully exercise its sovereignty and make its system of governance more culturally appropriate.
  5. Justin Beaulieu, Coordinator of the Constitution Reform Initiative for the Red Lake Nation, describes the process that Red Lake designed to engage Red Lake citizens about the nation’s current constitution and what they would like to see in a new constitution.

 

 

Resource Type
Citation

“Modern Tribal Governments, Constitutions and Sovereignty”. (October 2014). Presentation. National Congress on American Indians's Partnership for Tribal Governance. Atlanta, GA. Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBjQrzrj0Iyu5miLAFGEg9VS6BhS_JS58

Transcripts for all videos are available by request. Please email us: nni@arizona.edu.

John 'Rocky' Barrett: Blood Quantum's Impact on the Citizen Potawatomi Nation

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this short excerpt from his 2009 interview with NNI, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett discusses the devastating impacts that blood quantum exacted on the Citizen Potawatomi people before the nation did away with blood quantum as its main criteria for citizenship through constitutional amendments in the mid-1980s.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

John "Rocky" Barrett, Chairman, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, "Constitutional Reform and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's Path to Self-Determination," Interview, "Leading Native Nations" interview series, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, March 28, 2009.

"It was a period of time where the...my realization that there was...the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] was asking us to give them advice on the agency budget. And then when we would, they would ignore us as far as the advice. And there were...almost at every stop there was some deliberate statement of policy that the United States government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' job was to represent the interests of individual Indians, and not tribes or tribal governments. And that had certainly been manifested almost entirely in the 1948 Indian Claims Commission settlements. And it had forced us into a situation of closing our rolls in 1962 except for some arbitrary blood-degree cutoff. The concept of blood degree was foreign to our culture, and we did away with blood-degree determinations in constitutional amendments in the mid-1980s. But that period of time between '62 and '80 disenfranchised an awful lot of people and led to a -- on the whole -- a great deal of the separation that the people felt from the tribe and its culture. It became all about splitting up this poof money that was coming from the government, these little payments, and less about the fact that here we are, a people with its own language and art and history and culture and territory and government that had been there for thousands of years, and suddenly we placed these arbitrary stops in our system over a $450 check. In retrospect, it seems insane, and it was. Truthfully, it was."

John "Rocky" Barrett: The Origins of Blood Quantum Among the Citizen Potawatomi

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this excerpt from his presentation at NNI's "Emerging leaders" seminar in 2012, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett provides an overview of how the U.S. government -- specifically the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- imposed blood quantum on the Citizen Potawatomi people, and how the nation has worked to reclaim and exercise its right to determine citizenship according to its own criteria.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Barrett, John "Rocky." "A Sovereignty 'Audit': A History of Citizen Potawatomi Nation Governance." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 11, 2012. Presentation.

"Citizenship. We knew we could amend our constitution because they told us that the only way we were going to get this payment from the 1948 Indian Claims Commission -- the 80 percent of the settlement that had been tied up since 1948 -- in 1969 is we had to have a tribal roll and the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] told us that the only way you could be on the tribal roll was to prove that you were one-eighth or more Citizen Potawatomi. Now the blood degrees of the Citizen Potawatomi were derivatives of one guy from the government in a log cabin in Sugar Creek, Kansas in 1861 who was told to do a census of the Potawatomi, the Prairie Potawatomi and the Citizen Potawatomi. And he told everyone that they had to appear. And as they came in the door, he assigned a blood degree based on what color their skin was in his opinion, and full brothers and sisters got different blood degrees, children got more blood degree than their parents 'cause they'd been outside that summer and those were the blood degrees of the Citizen Potawatomi.

There was a full-time, five-person staff at the central office of the BIA in Washington, D.C. who did nothing more than Citizen Potawatomi blood-degree appeals, about 3,000 of the blood-degree appeals when I first took office. When I became chairman, it had grown to 4,000 or 5,000 and I was in the room when a guy named Joe Delaware said, ‘I have a solution to the Potawatomi blood degree problem. We'll resolve all this. The first mention in any document, church, federal government, anywhere, anyhow that mentions this Indian with a non-Potawatomi language name, he's a half.' Well, they were dunking Potawatomis and giving them Christian names in 1702, full-blooded ones. If you were dealing with the white man, you used your white name and if you were dealing with the Indians you used your Indian name, like everybody else was doing. And so it was an absurd solution. I told him, I said, ‘That's nuts. That's just crazy. You're going to get another 5,000 blood-degree appeals over this.' He said, ‘Well, that's the way it's going to be.' Well, that was the impetus for our coming back and establishing, ‘What are the conditions of citizenship?' And we stopped calling our folks 'members' like a club. They're 'citizens.' And it finally dawned on us that being a Citizen Potawatomi Indian is not racial. It's legal and political.

If they...according to the United States government, if a federally recognized Indian tribe issues you a certificate of citizenship based on rules they make, you are an American Indian, you are a member of that tribe. And you're not part one, not a leg or an ear or your nose but not the rest. You're not part Citizen Potawatomi, you're all Citizen Potawatomi. The business of blood degree was invented so that at some point that the government established, tribes would breed themselves out of existence and the government wouldn't be obligated to honor their treaties anymore. That's the whole idea! That's the whole idea of blood degree and we're playing into it all over this country now over divvying up the gaming money. But I'm not going to get into that. But the business of blood degree, the 10 largest tribes in the United States, nine of them enrolled by descendency and that includes us. We changed it from blood degree to descendency, which was the only reasonable way to do it because we had no way to tell because of this guy in the log cabin in Sugar Creek was what we had.

And then we had permutations of that over the next eight generations that became even more absurd and Potawatomis had a propensity...we're only 40 families and all 31,000 of us had a tendency to marry each other. So when one Potawatomi would marry another Potawatomi -- I'm not saying brothers and sisters or first cousins -- but when they'd marry another Potawatomi then you got into who was what and it was...and this business of the certified degree of Indian blood was ruled to be unlawful, to discriminate against American Indians in the provision of federal services based on CDIB. It's supposed to be based on tribal membership, not the BIA issuing you a certified degree of Indian blood card. A full-blooded Indian who is a member of eight different tribes, whose family comes from eight different tribes, not any white blood, would not be eligible to be enrolled in many tribes. They had absolutely no European blood, would not be eligible simply because he was enrolled in multiple tribes."

The other thing about citizenship is ‘where do we vote?' The only way you could vote in an election at Citizen Potawatomi was to show up at that stupid meeting, violent meeting, and the guys that were in office would say, ‘Okay, everybody that's for me stand up.' Well, nobody could count that was on the other side so everybody would kind of creep up a little bit so you could count. Well, they counted you 'cause you creeped up a little bit so you voted against yourself. So the incumbent would say, ‘Okay, everybody that's for this guy stand up. I won.' Well, that's not how to elect people. That's not right. Two-thirds of our population lives outside of Oklahoma, one-third of it lives in Oklahoma. Those people are as entitled to vote as anybody in the tribe, so the extension of the right to vote and how we vote and for whom we vote and what the qualifications of those people and the residency requirements of those, that was an issue of citizenship that we needed to determine."

John "Rocky" Barrett: Citizen Potawatomi's Inclusive Approach to Citizenship

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

A 3-minute clip of an interview with Chairman Barrett describing how Citizen Potawatomi Nation created a government structure and constitution that worked for the nation's large and very dispersed population.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Barrett, John "Rocky." "Constitutional Reform and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's Path to Self-Determination." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 28, 2009. Interview.

"We had to make some extraordinary efforts to bring our people back into involvement in the tribal government because we had some extraordinary historical events that dispersed our people, and there was a detachment from the tribal culture of 27,000 members. Nine thousand of them, basically 9,500, of them are in Oklahoma. The remaining are in eight, sort of, enclaves around the United States in California and Kansas and...well, here in Arizona there are about 1,500 in this immediate area. Where there are these groups of folks who have been two and three generations removed from Oklahoma, bringing them back into the culture and making the tribal governments something of value to those people that would make them -- or make them want to -- reassert their culture become a part of it. The tribe has to make itself of value to its people. And to accomplish that, you have to reach them first. And so this structure of government that we have now and that we have been evolving into since 1985 is unique in that it was, that was required because of the, this distribution of people of where our membership is located...The 2007 Constitution created a legislative body of sixteen, eight from inside of Oklahoma where we have approximately 9500 members -- a third of our population, but all of the tribes' territory, all of the tribes' assets, all of the tribes' revenues, and all of the areas, the territory over which it exerts governmental jurisdiction. And then two-thirds of our population are outside of Oklahoma, where we have for a 25-year period had a form of tribal consultation that we have promised would eventually be represented in the tribal legislative body, and have some input on funding and how the tribe performs its services. The concern on writing the constitution was how do you balance this territory, and assets, and jurisdiction with this population issue? The compromise was to put eight in the legislature from Oklahoma, eight in the legislature from outside of Oklahoma, and force a deadlock if the two can't come to a meeting of the minds. And that's basically what we have is a mandatory compromise between the interest of the larger portion of the population, and where the larger portion of the assets and the revenue is."

 

John "Rocky" Barrett: Constitutional Reform and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's Path to Self-Determination

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In this wide-ranging interview with NNI's Ian Record, longtime chairman John "Rocky" Barrett of the Citizen Potwatomi Nation provides a rich history of CPN's long, difficult governance odyssey, and the tremendous strides that the nation has made socially, economically, politically, and culturally since it began reclaiming and reforming its governance system back in the 1980s. He also shares his and his nation's working philosophy when it comes to economic diversification and the building of a self-determined, sustainable economy.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Barrett, John "Rocky." "Constitutional Reform and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's Path to Self-Determination." Leading Native Nations interview series. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 28, 2009. Interview.

Ian Record:

"Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I'm your host, Ian Record. On today's program I am honored to welcome John "Rocky" Barrett, Chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. Chairman Barrett has served as an elected official of his nation since 1971, serving first as vice chairman and then becoming chairman in 1985. During Chairman Barrett's tenure, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has experienced tremendous growth. With about 2,000 employees, the Potawatomi Nation is the largest employer in the Shawnee area and is a major contributor to the economic well-being of Potawatomi County. He was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation's current constitution and statutes, which have provided the foundations for the nation's extended period of stability and progress. Chairman Barrett, thank you for joining us today."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Thank you for having me, Ian."

Ian Record:

"Well, I've introduced you, but if you'd please take a minute or so and just introduce yourself."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Well, as you said, I'm John Barrett, Rocky Barrett. That's a nickname my parents gave me at birth. My Potawatomi name is '[Potawatomi language].' It means ‘he leads them home.' I am a lifelong-almost resident of the area where our tribal headquarters is located, and have been on the Native Nations Institute Board [International Advisory Council] for I guess six years now. But it's an honor to be here. Thank you."

Ian Record:

"Well, thank you. My first question is the same first question that I ask of all of our guests, which is what is Native nation building, what does it entail?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"There was an interesting perspective that we heard on...from a number of tribal leaders today. It appears that the... for Native nations in general, that answer is as broad as the spectrum of individual tribal needs and wants, the way the tribes meet the needs of their people and their cultures. There are some commonalities. The common struggle of how we overcame the internal structural deficits that were imposed on us by the constitutional forms that the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, the Indian Reorganization Act gave all of the tribes around the country and the imposition of this quasi-corporate structure and the creation of these council authorities that didn't give a separation of powers -- how we overcame that, how we overcame the opposition of the states in asserting governmental authority and how we've...really how we've overcome the resistance of the free enterprise system in developing our assets have been...I think those are commonalities. The common attributes I think of successful nation building are stable governments, expanded representation, lawful behavior, and something that lends itself to consistent performance. All of those go back to constitutional forms, but they also...those are really accomplished by diminishing nepotism, which is...since everyone is related in an Indian tribe, that is an issue. Financial accountability is a huge one. Separation of powers seems to be a common attribute, and most importantly to make all that fall within a cultural relevance that means something to the culture of the tribe and the people."

Ian Record:

"A tribal leader...a fellow tribal leader of yours once said that the 'best defense of sovereignty is to exercise it effectively.' Can you comment on that statement based on your own experience?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"I will never forget the night that F. Browning Pipestem, a fairly famous figure from Oklahoma in promulgating the concept of Indian sovereignty and fighting for the sovereignty rights of Indian tribes, and William Rice, who's an attorney, who's a law professor at the University of Tulsa, gave a speech to our tribal government late one night back in 1983, and it was as if a light bulb went off, because [of] the idea that the exercise of sovereignty is what makes one sovereign. Browning ended up explaining it to several people that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck. The business of the exercise of sovereignty...one hears too often this phrase, ‘We don't have to live up to our responsibilities or our contractual responsibilities because we're a sovereign and can't be sued.' Equally balanced with the responsibilities...or the authorities of sovereignty are the responsibilities of sovereignty. Our exercise of sovereignty really was a chain of events, I think, for our tribe and the concept of tribal sovereignty has certainly been interpreted differently in every single tribal environment. Our...the first opposition in my first election as chairman -- because I ran on this concept of tribal sovereignty in 1985 -- my opponent sent a letter to our congressional delegation in Washington saying that we don't want to be sovereign, we're citizens of the United States, which is completely outside of the point and displayed a clear misunderstanding of what sovereignty means or the historical context of pre-constitutional entities that were in place as functional governments before there was the United States and certainly before there was a State of Oklahoma."

Ian Record:

"How can leaders -- you've been through the ringer as a tribal chairman for more than 20 years now -- how can leaders manage the often overwhelming pressures that they face, things like citizen's expectations -- that's kind of the ever-present challenge -- social ills, onrushing events, never enough resources to do everything that you want to do. Then you have the other jurisdictions like the feds, the state, etc., and then you've got this big thing looming ahead of you, which is called the nation's future. How do you...how can leaders manage all those often overwhelming pressures in order to lead effectively?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Of course everyone has a style of leadership and certainly every culture demands a certain pattern of behavior. Our tribe has a very unique history, having been relocated three times and then being subjected to a tremendous number of disincentives to stay on the reservation; the 1950s urban relocation program, the effects of the Dust Bowl days in Oklahoma, the fact that the area in which our reservation is located was...in the 1920s and ‘30s was an oil boom area and when the California oil boom happened a number of our people moved west for that purpose. Quite a number of things that caused our current population distribution to happen and leadership...I think leadership can lead to challenges of office and they're both internal and external. The only real way to meet that is by building a competent and professional management structure and then direct it with a clearly articulated plan of action and goals. And then I think any tribal leader, once you get that done, you should use all of the authorities of your office to protect that organization from...what happens with most tribes is that someone comes in whose objective is personal gain, and I think protecting the organization from people who have that agenda rather than the agenda of the greater good of the tribe. The other is to praise those that have a diligent work ethic and most of all I think to persevere in the face of adversity because it's a fairly...it is a constant that you will hear more from those who either have problems or oppose you for a number of other reasons. What's interesting in Indian tribes, the political oppositions are generational. Some of the folks who don't vote for me or don't care for me were folks who did not vote for or care for my two uncles that were tribal chairmen, my grandfather who was on the business committee, my great-grandfather who was the tribal chairman. I think that, unfortunately, there are some of those generational enmities that are there and there are those that believe that during that period of time when we had a very, very small group of people who exerted an undue amount of influence on the tribe's government because of the form of government when we had to govern by meeting in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and all elections and other decisions were made in that meeting, before we extended the absentee ballot privilege and allowed representation in a national legislative forum, that small group of people who exerted an undue amount of influence on the process of the tribe who were deprived of that undue influence, they are the ones who currently oppose whatever progress is being made. Some of that's human nature, it's understandable. I think our tribe in the...we had to make some extraordinary efforts to bring our people back into involvement in the tribal government because we had some extraordinary historical events that dispersed our people and there was a detachment from the tribal culture. We have 27,000 members. Nine thousand, basically, of them, 9,500 are in Oklahoma. The remaining are in eight sort of enclaves around the United States in California, in Kansas and well, here in Arizona there are about 1,500 in this immediate area, where there are these groups of folks who have been two and three generations removed from Oklahoma, bringing them back into the culture and making the tribal government something of value to those people that would make them or make them want to reassert their culture, become a part of it. The tribe has to make itself of value to its people and to accomplish that you have to reach them first. And so this structure of government that we have now and that we have been evolving into since 1985 is unique in that it was...that was required because of this distribution of people of where our membership is located."

Ian Record:

"One of the things I'm drawing from your answer to the last question is this issue of leaders as educators, that a major part of a leader's job is to educate and engage their people to essentially mobilize them, to get their input, to get them engaged in where the nation is heading as a nation."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Yeah, very much so. I haven't thought of myself as an educator, but as a motivator or of getting someone involved with the tribe. There seem to be two distinct kinds of rewards that our membership seeks: those who don't have physical needs that need health aid or need assistance with housing or education or some other form of assistance. Those are the folks who are most rewarded by the cultural aspect of the tribe, that go to the trouble to learn the language, to learn ceremony, to get their tribal name, to involve themselves in that culture that was a part of their heritage. Our tribe doesn't have a religious elite. Everyone in our tribe is enabled to perform any ceremony that we use because those ceremonies are their individual birthright and so because of that...and we have a long, over 300-year Christian tradition and the tradition of using our traditional ways, particularly a prayer...in our Christian prayers of using [Potawatomi language] and the using of sweet grass and cedar and sage and tobacco in those ceremonies that...those folks that seem to be most rewarded are those that rediscover the culture. The two often go hand in hand, someone who is helped by the tribe financially or physically often at that point is attracted by the culture of the tribe and begins to realize the value of, if nothing else, learning it so they can pass it on to their children. The system of meetings -- that we've been holding now since 1985 -- around the country are half cultural and half the business of the tribe. And watching people's attention in the audience, the cultural things seem to always generate more interest."

Ian Record:

"As I mentioned in the introduction, you first came into elected office in 1971, which is, by coincidence, the year I was born."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Ouch!"

Ian Record:

"Yeah. But I was curious to learn from you what you wish you knew...what you know now that you wish you knew before you took office in the first place?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Well, hindsight's always 20/20. I think from the perspective of the '70s, the early understanding of...I'd like to say that I had these revelations in '71, '72, '73 of what was going to become of Indian...this was prior to the passage of the Indian Self-Determination Act. I was a 26-year-old vice chairman, my uncle was the chairman and he was -- along with my mother -- was an agency kid. My grandfather was the tribal...I mean, was the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] marshal, the BIA police, and they lived at the agency across the street from where the tribal headquarters was and grew up as 'BIA kids' and my uncle believed, God bless him, but he believed that one could not have a formal meeting of the tribal government without the agency superintendent in attendance and that's what formalized the meeting. And I remember not finding the relevance in having the superintendent there because I had seen a number of instances where the superintendent's interests ran counter to those of the tribe and it was a period of time where...my realization that there was a...the Bureau was asking us to give them advice on the agency budget and then when we would, they would ignore us as far as the advice. And there were, almost at every stop, there was some deliberate statement of policy that the United States government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs job was to represent the interests of individual Indians and not tribes or tribal governments. And that had certainly been manifested almost entirely in the 1948 Indian Claims Commission settlements and it had forced us into a situation of closing our rolls in 1962 except for some arbitrary blood degree cut-off. The concept of blood degree was foreign to our culture and we did away with blood-degree determinations in constitutional amendments in the mid-1980s, but that period of time between '62 and '80 disenfranchised an awful lot of people and led to, on the whole, a great deal of the separation that the people felt from the tribe and its culture. It became all about splitting up this 'poof money' that was coming from the government, these little payments, and less about the fact that here we are a people with its own language and art and history and culture and territory and government that had been there for thousands of years, and suddenly we place these arbitrary stops in our system over a $450 check. In retrospect, it seems insane, and it was, just real truthfully it was. And Indian tribes around the country got caught up in this per capita business that is foreign...I know it's foreign to our culture, and I think it's foreign to most Indian tribal cultures. The very basis of tribal culture is uniting with a common purpose for the general good, and that doesn't mean cutting up everything into equally-sized pieces. Our tradition has always been those in need get served first, the mothers, the children, the elders, those people who are most needy are who are served. That has always been our tradition. The concept of...we had a [Potawatomi language], the word means ‘first hunter.' We had a man, who if there was a prolonged winter in the ancient days, who was best hunter who was sent out to kill game to relieve the famine in a village and in adverse circumstances. And when he brought that game back, if there were 150 people in the village, it was not cut into 150 pieces, it was distributed according to those who were most in need. That tradition hasn't changed. Earlier you mentioned a saying that we have adopted in our tribe about ‘don't eat the seed corn' as being our oldest tradition, and in our gaming establishments the cast iron railings around the balcony and in several other forms of symbolism are corn plants to represent that concept, that if you eat the seed corn you'll get one meal, but the village will starve because we won't have the crops in the future. And I think of all the things...of the two things that probably have led to the economic success and the governmental successes of the tribe has been that I have been empowered by the people of the tribe to take, as a first priority, to return our investment and to perform as a profitable business and an efficient governmental entity and take those returns and provide services. If the objective of our business is to employ unemployed Potawatomis or unemployable Potawatomis, without paying attention to whether or not that is a profitable behavior, what we've effectively done -- since 9,000 of us live in Oklahoma where they could get the jobs and two thirds of the population, another 18,000 live outside the state -- we have deprived the two-thirds of our population of the benefits of our revenues. So we can't make it about the one third who lives in Oklahoma. In order to make an equal distribution, you have to make the businesses operate at a profit, then invest those businesses, invest those monies wisely and then make a distribution according to need of the services. Always in every election, someone runs for office saying, ‘Let's take a portion of the money and hand it out as a per cap.' I mean, we have...I have an opponent in this election who's saying, ‘Set aside a third of the money of the earnings of the tribe and put it in some form of investment.' Well, we're already doing that, but the benefits that the individual tribal members are receiving now are in the form of some 2,000 college scholarships a year...a semester, the distribution of free pharmaceuticals for everyone in the tribe over 62, a burial benefit, health aids benefits, mortgage assistance. All of those things more than exceed what would be our total net profit divided by 27,000. Take any number and divide by 27,000 and then make it taxable -- which distributions are taxable on federal income taxes -- it's not a significant number. So much more can be accomplished by reinvestment, of putting that seed corn back in the ground, than can be in this distribution game because...I made, earlier I made a statement that per capita payments from tribal income are like feeding the bears at Yellowstone. When you run out of cookies, then the bears start to eat the people who are handing out the cookies. They're in the car with you. That's the same thing with per capita payments, it's a slippery slope. When 10 percent's not enough, if the revenues go down, then 12, then 15, then 20 then on up to where the consensus becomes, ‘Let's sell it all and send us a check and be done with it.' It has been a curse around Indian Country what's happened with per capita payments because it has not generated prosperity anywhere that I know of. It's been mostly about creating unemployment and destabilizing families and in many cases keeping people with an incentive to stay poor and stay in dire circumstances. We have become what we have become, because we've come a long way -- starting out in 1973 we had $550 in the bank and we had two-and-a-half acres of land held in common. We basically didn't have anything. We didn't even own the building in which the tribe was meeting. It belonged to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was an abandoned structure that had belonged to the [Army] Corp of Engineers as a construction shack. We've come from that to the current economic impact of some close to $400 million in the local community, a couple thousand employees, and we've come to that simply by reinvestment and by leveraging the assets that we have into growth. It's certainly not all me. There has been...there have been a great number of contributors in the tribal government and an incredible cadre of loyal employees who have performed well. But the key to this is the tribe's consent to reinvest and if that consent somehow gets overridden by some folks who can't divide by 27,000, it would be a shame."

Ian Record:

"So that credo of reinvestment, is that something that could have ever taken place, taken root with the Bureau of Indian Affairs still in the driver's seat? You made reference to the early years."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"The Bureau of Indian Affairs, after the trust fund payment was made, the '48 Indian Claims Commission payment was made, they managed our money for about 15 years and had just over a one-and-a-half percent return. I used to be able to pick up the Wall Street Journal and if I read about some financial scandal around the country, I could be absolutely certain that's where the Bureau had invested the Citizen Potawatomi's money. They had a legal obligation to earn at least treasury bill rate and they did not meet that legal obligation. And then Congress passed a law that said we could take those monies away from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, those of us that were part of the Cobell suit, suing the government for mismanaging the money and we did so. Intriguingly, about that piece of federal legislation involved several hundred tribes that are suing the government, only two have taken their money away from these inept investors, which I really don't understand. We put our money into a trust account at the First National Bank and Trust Company, which is the tribe's nationally chartered bank and invested a substantial portion of it in the stock of that bank, which we've had overall more than 20 percent return on that original investment each year for some 20 years or 18 years. Actually it's been more like 15 years because of the period of time that the Bureau had our money. It has been certainly a higher return than the Bureau got. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, as far as the attempts that we've made to get just some very small incremental gains in creating...you always hear the catch phrase, ‘the level playing field,' the criticism that comes from the ultra conservative side of the free enterprise system is that because Indian tribes don't pay taxes, it's not a level playing field. If you were truly going to level the playing field, then Indian tribes should be allowed to leverage their capital expenditures. We are the only corporate entities in the United States who make investments in capital assets: hospitals, office buildings, casinos, grocery stores and those assets can't be used for collateral to borrow money to expand. We're essentially cash operators because the trustees...solely because the trustee, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, will not tell a lender that, ‘We will on your behalf -- in the event of a default -- allow you to operate that business or take control of that piece of property.' And that doesn't require a change in law, it requires a change in policy at the BIA and is not, doesn't seem to be, after some five years of lobbying for it, a policy that is something the Bureau of Indian Affairs intends to change. If the Obama administration did anything else to increase the availability of capital to Indian Country, to increase the availability of collateral to lenders in Indian Country and to help Indian tribes leverage their existing assets, it would be to simply call up the Secretary of the Interior and say, ‘Tell whoever you have this week in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to say to any lender in Indian Country, if the tribe defaults,' and there are appropriate documentation, ‘the tribe defaults, you can come in and run that business until you're paid back.' Simple. You would think it would be easy, but we can't seem to get that done. The other issue is of all the non-profit entities in the United States who...we are a tax-exempt entity. Of all the tax-exempt entities, 501c3 corporations can own Sub S entities [Subchapter S corporations] where the tax liability generated is passed through to the stockholders, except Indian tribes. We need the ability with our tribal corporations to create Sub S entities so that if we do a deal with the city, for instance, in building a sewer line or a water line and we don't want to expose ourselves to the vagaries of the state courts and the state doesn't want to expose themselves to tribal courts -- it's kind of like that Jimmy Buffet song about the ‘down in the Banana Republics,' they know they can't trust us and we know we can't trust them thing. At any rate, if we had this Sub S corporation, then we could consent to state court jurisdiction because we could limit our exposure to that contract with this Sub S entity and you don't have some avaricious lawyer getting through to the tribal treasury because it's...he's a tort claims wizard. The other, the third one is the only government contractors in the United States who do not have the power to use their government contract for collateral for operating funds are Indian tribes. The Assignment of Claims Act is being denied to Indian tribes on the flimsiest of reasons. And those three things would generate more capital than all of this impact money that the administration is putting in Indian Country now, just those three changes and I hope that happens."

Ian Record:

"It essentially sounds to me like it's about taking the shackles off of economic development for tribes."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"A level playing field, to borrow a phrase."

Ian Record:

"You've been quoted as saying in the past that, ‘if you're not talking constitutional reform, you're not in the economic development ballgame.' Can you explain what you mean by that statement and particularly with respect to the path that your nation took?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"The Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 gave every tribe in Oklahoma a constitution that described this business committee, which was a governmental entity that was supposed to be a representative body that had a presiding officer called the chairman, vice chairman, secretary, treasurer and two other members. And then over that, it put this thing called the general council, which I assume someone in Washington dreamed up this ideal picture of all of the Potawatomis gathered around the campfire and we'd democratically go from person to person and everyone voices their opinion and then there is this consensus, which is not how organizations work. Pure democracy hasn't functioned since ancient Greece, and the imposition of this thing called the general council on us caused us to reinvent the wheel every 12 months. The quorum for a general council meeting -- at which everything can be decided virtually, elect all officers, all rules, disposition of property, everything that was basically a tribal decision could be decided at this annual meeting -- and it had a quorum of 50 people. Now there were 11,000 of us on the tribal roll at the time that I took office and a quorum of 50, we had difficulty getting a quorum of 50 because the meeting over the years had become...we didn't have much business, we didn't have any money, we didn't have anything else going, but we did manage because of our unique natures to turn that into a six- or seven-hour adversarial conflict. And over the years, it had become so confrontational that the elders quit coming and there were so few people attending that basically 26 could decide for all 11,000. And to borrow a [H.L.] Mencken phrase, ‘It was the circus being run from inside the monkey cage.' It wasn't about government; it wasn't even like government. We didn't have laws, we didn't have a court, we didn't have anything other than this meeting and it was contrary to our culture. Our tribe had governed itself for thousands of years by having the clan heads elected a village chief, the village chiefs all met to elect an overall leader, who was there circumstantially. If we had a war, then the best tactician or the best leader was chosen. If there was a negotiation with a foreign government, the person who spoke that language obviously was one of the higher choices for that circumstantial leader and then those individual leaders went back to their respective villages or jurisdictions. We've always had a tradition of representative government. The imposition of this general council on all of the 39 tribes in Oklahoma led to a constant turnover of government, a constant system of chaos, it held us back for many, many years, and it was tremendously abused and it gave an undue amount of weight to those folks who lived there locally after the Bureau of Indian Affairs and circumstances had provided all these disincentives to leave. The policy of the government to erode our trust land base, in particular, incredibly erode our trust land base, caused most of our people to leave the area or to not participate. And that form of government stayed with us until 1985, and until we made that change in our constitution, we didn't get much accomplished. It was self-defeating and it gave...it also gave people who had another agenda an undue amount of influence within the council. Also the...not having in our constitution independently elected courts and a set of statutes and the ability to enforce the law on this end, and an independently elected executive where the money of the tribe is concentrated in the legislative appropriations process, but the legislative body can't run the day-to-day affairs of the tribe, they control the budget, and then the executive who has the authority to run the day-to-day affairs of the tribe, but have to do it within the confines of that budget. And then over here, the third party is an independently elected judiciary with a set of statutes and the ability to enforce the law. A government without law and the willingness to enforce that law isn't really a government. That's the ultimate act of sovereignty is not only enforcing the law, but be willing as a people to put themselves under the rule of law is the ultimate act of sovereignty. We didn't have any of that in our prior constitutions and I think any tribe that doesn't do that, even though...and I think if they look hard enough, it is within their traditional forum. There has always been some form of law in Indian tribes, in any social structure, but particularly in Indian tribes. Incorporating that traditional law into your statutory law is important, but the absence of law is not more traditional than a set of written statutes by anyone's interpretation."

Ian Record:

"So for your nation it wasn't just about economic development, constitutional reform was about, 'we need to put in place a process and a structure by which we can make effective, efficient decisions that are binding'?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Absolutely, that we assume the responsibilities of sovereignty, that we have uniform commercial code, that we have a full faith and credit agreement with the states in which we do business, that we acknowledge that contractual obligations are enforceable under our law. That's responsible behavior in the community of governments of all kinds, not just Indian tribes. We didn't have any of that in our prior forms of government and the federal government fought us for three years before our first constitutional reform in 1985, particularly the issue of allowing our tribal membership to vote by absentee ballot, which is the worst kind of self-defeating behavior the Bureau could have imposed. And then when we came along and wanted the separation of powers within the tribal government, we wanted this newly formed legislative body. They resisted at almost every point. What a shame that it didn't happen sooner. Of all the things I regret in being in office for many years, in 1985 when we passed the new constitution, we created a separation of powers and it gave the chairman specific authority to run the day to day affairs of the tribe, it gave the legislature the authority to exclusively manage the money and the budget process and created the courts. At the time, I had been in office for quite some time and used to having this five-member body where if you were any good you governed by consensus, you tried to find something on which everyone in that group of five appointed, which they could agree. And so you became accustomed to rather than asserting executive authority to putting the things that were clearly executive decisions in front of this body and depending on your powers of persuasion. In 1985, I should have made a clear-cut definition of, ‘These are executive authorities and they're not subject to review of the legislative body and these are clear cut legislative authorities and they are not subject to the powers of the chairman.' In 1985, the day that passed, I should have made that absolutely clear, but in the interest of not changing the way we had done things for a very long time, I rocked along and didn't do that. And so when the constitutional revision came for the most recent constitutional revision, we weren't prepared for what was the inevitable constitutional confrontation where the majority of the business committee would usurp authorities that were obviously executive powers or attempt to. In this case, they attempted to simply fire me and say, ‘You're still the chairman, but you can't run the tribe. We're going to run the tribe based on the majority of three of us of the five, our majority decisions, we're going to make all the calls, hire someone to function in your place and pay them a salary.' And that was an obvious...there it was, there's the confrontation. So luckily we did have a court system, we did take it to court and what has become the essential decision on how our tribal government functions, our courts ruled on that issue that there is a division of powers, there is a separation of powers, there are separate constitutional authorities and that was the basis for the 2007 constitution, which memorialized or I guess defined the decisions of the 2001 Supreme Court decision of the tribe. But what a wonderful thing that we did that within the processes of the tribe, within our court system rather than the confrontation or the way we used to, the confrontation on the floor of the general council where after the low blood sugar kicks in about 5:00 it comes to blows and you have ensuing chaos. We did it in a lawful manner and that being accomplished, we did it to the successful outcome of the whole distribution of powers within the government and set the stage for what we have now in the 2007 constitution."

Ian Record:

"The Citizen Potawatomi Nation recently developed what has been termed a virtual legislature. Can you explain what that is, how it works, and why your nation developed it, and I guess, we were talking a little bit earlier this morning and you made allusion to some of the challenges that you're facing with that virtual legislature."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Which are a part of growth. The challenges that you face in anything new, as long as they don't destroy the essential function, are often healthy. They certainly were with the '85 constitution. The 2007 constitution created a legislative body of 16, eight from inside of Oklahoma where we have approximately 9,500 members, a third of our population, but all of the tribe's territory, all of the tribe's assets, all the tribe's revenues and all of the areas of the territory over which it exerts governmental jurisdiction. And then two-thirds of our population are outside of Oklahoma where we have for a 25-year period had a form of tribal consultation that we have promised would eventually be represented in the tribal legislative body and have some input on funding and how the tribe performs its services. The concern on writing the constitution was how do you balance this territory and assets and jurisdiction with this population issue? The compromise was to put eight in the legislature from Oklahoma, eight in the legislature from outside of Oklahoma and force a deadlock if the two can't come to a meeting of the minds, and that's basically what we have. It is a mandatory compromise between the interest of the larger portion of the population and where the larger portion of the assets and revenues [is]. And that has so far for a year has worked quite well. It's a virtual legislature because we built a closed or internal teleconferencing system, a relatively expensive one, between the eight regional or district offices around the United States where these district offices are located; one in Southern California, one in Northern California, one here in Phoenix or close in Phoenix, one in St. Louis, one in Topeka, one in Arlington, Virginia and one in Houston, I'm sorry, I mean Dallas, Texas, Dallas area. Those cover the whole United States. I'm sorry, one in Oregon, Washington and Oregon. Those eight districts cover all of the 50 states of the Union in their representation and we have a nine-segment screen and I'm the presiding officer as the tribal chairman and I have a touch screen in front of me and there are nine segments of the screen, one large one is whoever has been called on by the speaker or the presiding officer that has the floor and that turns on that person's microphone. The cameras stay on all the time so you can see all eight legislators and the room in Oklahoma at the tribal capitol where all of the Oklahoma legislators sit on the bottom. So this let's each member of the district legislators see and be seen, hear and be heard on a real-time basis in the legislative body. And all of that is simulcast or streamed over the Internet so that all of our membership can watch that, potawatomi.org, for the public to watch as well. What we didn't anticipate would happen is that the live broadcast over the internet of those proceedings in a new legislative body that has not adopted a set of rules under which it governs its behavior, that a member of the legislature would take over the campaign management of his brother to run for chairman and use the auspices of his office and that broadcast to promulgate that candidacy. That's an interesting development. It will certainly lead to the legislature adopting some form of ability on how it regulates its own behavior, what is or isn't allowable behavior as a legislator and within that format. It also goes to the heart of the overlap between executive and legislative powers or authorities, whether you can use the resources of your legislative office in a campaign for tribal chairman. Certainly, the Congress is no example to follow here because every congressman involves himself in the election of the president of the United States in some way and the president goes around and poses with, in a partisan manner, with members of Congress. So the United States Congress certainly has worked that out and every state legislature seems to have that same overlap between the legislative body and the executive office of states. Ours will probably reach that same compromise, there just has to be...the decision has to be made within that body as it develops its body of rules, what resources are allowed to be used within that context. It's healthy in some ways. It's not a disruption of the political process. The only problem is with a nationwide simulcast, what's said is said over the air. So one can, is protected by legislative, under tribal statute what's said in the legislative body is protected. Theoretically, it hasn't happened, but theoretically someone could say, ‘This candidate for office is a murderer' and that goes out over the Internet and there's no one to say, ‘King's X, take that back,' but that behavior, which is clearly libelous or slanderous, is protected. So we have some rule making to do, we have some things to take care of there. The internet...as a virtual legislative body, the internet and its impact on tribal government was something I don't think any tribal leader, even the ones of the folks elected of your generation who are certainly tuned into media and most certainly not of mine, of us baby boomers, we weren't prepared to how dominant that the internet and all of its manifestations would be in tribal politics. We earlier heard an explanation by an elected tribal official how a blog of the tribal council meetings has become the dominant tool in manipulating opinion on the reservation. Isn't that an amazing thing to hear? And speaks volumes as to what's happened within the life on reservations as we become all...we're all into that...virtually, I would assume less than probably five percent of the Potawatomi Tribe, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, probably don't have computers or email addresses. Communication in that medium, campaigning in that medium, and it's something we really ought to be embracing for the way we develop our cultural outreach, the way we spread our culture, the way we engage the elders and the way we engage our young people. If we're not fully aware of and in command of this tool, we are remiss as tribal leaders because it's as important as anything we've ever done because it is the dominant media."

Ian Record:

"So just a follow-up question, the move, the constitutional amendment your nation took in creating this virtual legislature was a concerted effort to reintegrate all of Potawatomi citizens as full citizens in the nation, was it not?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"A distribution of power. To my knowledge of any tribal government in the United States that's ever put power back into the hands of the people in a larger way by allowing elected representation for anywhere in the continental United States, it is a passage of distribution of power back to the people in an unprecedented manner. But we'd been 25 years planning it and talking about it. It wasn't a spur of the moment thing and each of those regional council meetings had been going on for 25 years, all had a different nature, they all had a different set of families, they all had a different perspective. South Texas is certainly a lot different than Los Angeles area, different approaches to things, and we knew what we were getting into when we did it and we did it very carefully. It will be interesting to see what it looks like in five years or what it looks like in 10 years. The formal legislative process that we adopted certainly is a big change from what we had under the five member business committee. The whole concept of tribal legislative committees with specialties, the committees meet by Skype and then once a bill has passed out of committee, if it doesn't involve an appropriation, goes straight to the floor of the legislature. If it does involve an appropriation, then it goes to the appropriations subcommittee. Once all that process, formal bill process is really fleshed out, we're like I say one year into it, I think that the legislative process is going to take on a whole new nature. We operated for many, many years, since the '70s, with basically an open agenda that someone was free to introduce a subject from the floor and the chairman could or could not sponsor an ordinance or resolution to that effect and the issue was discussed and then the process of drafting those pieces of legislation that became enactments or pronouncements to the government, pretty informal process. Because we've gotten as large as we have, that has been much more formalized. To see the history of how the State of Arizona from the time of its formation how it got through...how it formed its legislative processes, how a bill goes through the state legislature -- in Oklahoma in particular, because of its unique and often bizarre history of impeaching governors and the legislature meeting outside the state capitol and the governor chasing them around with the state militia, all of those things that are uniquely Oklahoma that formed the legislative processes there, we'd still have that history to go, but I think we're off to a start. We have -- with very few exceptions we have -- the vast majority of the tribal legislative body are educated, they have experience in tribal affairs in business. They are all, with a couple of exceptions, experienced and accomplished business people, all with at least an undergraduate degree. We have one attorney, we have a member of the Oklahoma legislature who also is a member of our legislature, we have government contractors, we have really accomplished people that I'm very proud of this group of folks who are very dedicated to making it work. And the fact that we have this hiccup going on right now is...it's politics."

Ian Record:

"It's a part of growing. We have just a couple minutes left and I have one final question to ask you, which actually picks up on a theme you mentioned in your last question, which is this issue of strategic visioning and planning, essentially that the success your nation is seeing now and has seen over the past several years didn't happen overnight, that it was the result of long-term thinking, a long term focus and planning for that long-term future that the nation as a collective wanted to see for itself. Can you talk about the role that strategic visioning and planning has played, in the couple minutes we have left, in terms of your nation's economic and community development?"

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Well, the model that's imposed on us by the very structure of Indian tribes functioning within not having a full tax authority and not having any jurisdictional authorities where you have to parallel economic business development and government side by side. The long-range vision that -- I'm certain we didn't have a crystal ball, but economic independence has always been philosophically, for our tribe -- and my deep belief -- that you leverage the resources that you have. We...first time we ever made any money, we sold cigarettes across the counter in the tribal museum because that rule came along that we could buy cigarettes without the tax on them and collect the tax. And the only available counter that we owned was in the tribal museum. So we leveraged our counter into cigarettes as well as the part of the tribal museum furniture and once we got...we had enough money from the sale of those cigarettes, we started a little bingo game in the tribal council room because that was the only room we had large enough. We leveraged that asset into enough money to build a bingo hall, a building and once that bingo hall...high-stakes bingo hall happened and we had ensuing court battles to keep, to get control of it from outside influences, but once we were in command of those revenues, then we bought the bank. We bought a failing bank from the FDIC [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation] at the worst year in the history of American banking to date in 1989, we bought that with bingo proceeds and we had built a convenience store and we went about the business of saving that bank, of rescuing it from failure and getting in the banking business. And all of that has been leverage on existing assets. We had a piece of swamp land that the highest and best use -- we couldn't build on it -- so the highest and best use for this piece of swamp land was to make a golf course with 15 holes, the water in play, and it has become one of the premier public courses in the state. We basically leveraged assets that we had, but with the idea that each leveraged asset would at some point dovetail into a combined asset on which we leverage, and it's leverage on leverage. We did that with the Community Development Corporation and the bank, we did it with...every business we are in has been as a result of markets where we defined the market and we build that market and then we come up with a product or service to meet that market and then once that market's established, we come up with another product or service that meets that market. It's laddering, it's leveraging, it's not a unique business strategy, but it is something that...that and the idea of the service mentality that everyone who is at the Potawatomi Tribe when you are in front of your customer or constituent, you are the tribe and you should be empowered to satisfy that person. That is something that we go through, even I go through it, everyone at the tribe, all 2,000 employees every six months, go through customer service training, where that's something that we do and believe in, that our job is to represent the nation in making our customers or constituents understand that we're there to make them happy as much as we can. The old saying is first come sales, my training in school and most of my professional training and professional experience has been in marketing or sales and any business's success has to be that and on the other side we have been as a government about keeping good books, about accounting for the money, of having externally auditable transparency in financial management and avoiding personal conflict. That's a simplistic answer and it's a difficult thing to come to, but the closer a tribe gets to that, the closer they'll get to success."

Ian Record:

"Well, Rocky, I could ask you questions for days on end. There's so much more I'd like to learn, but we're out of time unfortunately. I'd like to thank you for taking the time to share your nation's story and your personal experiences with us today."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"It's an honor. Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate the opportunity."

Ian Record:

"That's it for today's program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute website at www.nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us. Copyright © 2009. Arizona Board of Regents."

John "Rocky" Barrett: A Sovereignty "Audit": A History of Citizen Potawatomi Nation Governance

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett shares the history of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and discusses its 40-year effort to strengthen its governance system in order to achieve its goals.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Barrett, John "Rocky." "A Sovereignty 'Audit': A History of Citizen Potawatomi Nation Governance." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 11, 2012. Presentation.

"[Potawatomi language]. It's nice to see all of you emerging tribal leaders. That's wonderful. I like to think of myself as emerging, hopefully on a constant basis. I was first elected to office in 1971 as a 26-year-old whatever I was at the time. I was selected as vice chairman. I was named to finish a term and then I was...the two year terms back then. Then I was elected about seven months later for a two-year term as vice chairman. Vice chairman of what was hard to say at that time. My uncle was the chairman. My mother and her eight brothers and sisters were agency kids. We grew up...they grew up on the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] Agency. My grandfather was the BIA marshal then or the tribal...or the BIA police. And so that area...I am one of the eighth generation of my family consecutively to be chairman of the tribe. Back in those days when that vacancy came up, it came up because my uncle had been named chairman because...he was the vice chairman and the chairman had gotten removed from office for carrying around the tribal checkbook in his hip pocket and writing checks to the grocery store for groceries. And we only $550 in the bank and he used about $100 of it to pay his grocery bill and the feds got him. So he was removed from office and my uncle was made chairman, which created a vacancy in the vice chairman spot and so I was named to it.

And we went over to the BIA Superintendent's office. Now you've got to understand my uncle grew up on the Agency and the BIA in 1971 was the law. And he didn't believe you could have an official meeting of the tribal government without the Agency superintendent in the room and that the minutes of our meetings were not official unless they were filed with the BIA. So we went over to see the Agency superintendent and he was going to tell the superintendent that we were going...the tribe was going to appoint me as vice chairman. Now why, I don't know. But we go in and the Agency superintendent starts trying to talk him out of it and he finishes up by saying, ‘Now the last thing I want to do is hurt you guys.' And so as we're going out the door, my uncle turns to me and says, ‘That means it's still on the list,' to hurt us.

So I got the drift about then and, but...became the vice chairman and served two terms then I became director of the inter-tribal group. The State of Oklahoma forced all of the tribes -- the federal government forced all the tribes in the ‘70s to create inter-tribal corporations that were chartered C corporations or non-profit corporations in the State of Oklahoma. The federal government would not give money to an Indian tribe back in the start of the old [President] Lyndon Johnson program days. So you had to be given to a corporate entity that was in the state. And the state even tried to take 10 percent off the top of every federal dollar that came to Oklahoma as a condition. The issue back then was whether or not tribes were responsible enough to manage the money and everyone...I was the youngest person on the business committee. I was the only high school graduate; I was one of the three out of five who could read. All of the people on the business committee were smart but they were not educated people, but they had all grown up...of course, I'm not smart enough to know how to operate this damn thing. There we go. I did a good job of that, didn't I? Side to side or up and down? Ah, okay, that was the problem I went... I killed it. No? Ah.

But the Citizen Potawatomi Nation back then was the Citizen Band of Potawatomi Indians of Oklahoma, was the name of our tribe. The 'Band' was something the BIA stuck on us in 1867, actually 1861 when we separated from the Prairie Band when we were all one tribe. We tried to get Band out of our name for almost 75-80 years after that and finally were successful. We still can't get the BIA to stop calling us that even 20 years later. But we're the Citizen Potawatomi Nation; implication being that 'Band' is not a full-blown tribe.

But what's described as this audit of sovereignty -- we weren't that smart. We didn't just all of a sudden one day decide, ‘Oh, we're going to audit our sovereignty. Where are we sovereign? And where are we not sovereign? And here's what we're going to do about it.' We weren't that smart. We really didn't know what sovereignty meant. Remember, everyone on the committee, and this includes me, we were all children of the ‘50s and the ‘60s. Primarily, except me, were children of the ‘40s and ‘50s. You've got to remember what was going on about then. 1959, Senator Arthur Vivian Watkins of Utah chaired the Interior Committee of the Senate...Interior Committee on Indian Affairs and helped shepherd through House and Senate Concurrent Resolution 108 was provided for termination of tribes. The Secretary of Agriculture, who was also from Utah at the time, in the interest of doing something good for Indians, were tremendous proponents of termination and got it done. The McCarthy hearings were on about then and anybody who held things in communal ownership was probably a communist and that included Indian tribes. Yeah. And if you were an Indian leader and you didn't like the way the federal government treated you, it wasn't that you were saying that you didn't love the government, it's when you discovered that your government didn't love you is when all of a sudden things got rough.

And this was a tough period of time and everyone on the business committee, all five of us, were all a product of when self-governance and self-determination, that was the language of termination. Self-determination and self-governance meant termination. That's what they said they were going to do. And in those days you had to prove that you were going to be too broke and too incompetent to run your own affairs to keep from being terminated. If you had a business and you had money and you were conducting your affairs in some semblance of order, then you were eligible for termination and we were on the list. Why? I don't know because we had neither pot nor window. And it was...it was absurd that all the Potawatomis got thrown in there together 'cause we were down to $550 in the bank and two-and-a-half acres of land held in common, in trust, and about 6,000 in individual allotments. We were down to nothing and they were going to terminate us. And my uncle, listening to the Choctaw chief at that time who -- remember, the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole chiefs were appointed by the president until some 20 years after that. They were not elected. So the Choctaw chief was a big proponent of termination. He believed that was the right thing to do. My uncle didn't think that we should be terminated but didn't even really know what we were being terminated from 'cause we didn't own the building where we met. It was a trailer that the [Army] Corp of Engineers had abandoned on a piece of land that the BIA had and they were letting us use it. We were pathetic, pitiful people.

And so when they started these hearings on Indian stuff and the outcome of it was Senate Resolution 108 and the Flathead, Klamath, Menominee, Potawatomi, Turtle Mountain Chippewa and all the tribes in the State of California, New York, Florida and Texas were to be terminated. Now 108 didn't terminate them, but it authorized the termination and then the BIA started working up the list. When I said earlier that the BIA superintendent said, ‘The last thing in the world we want to do is hurt you, but it's still on the list.' So, that was the mindset of our business committee and when I took office of our tribal government. Senator Watkins had the support of Senator Robert S. Kerr, the owner of Kerr-McGee Oil Company, to date the richest man who's ever served in the United States Senate and was the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate and coined the phrase what we call a Kerrism and that's still in use in Oklahoma is that, ‘If I ain't in on it, I'm ‘agin it.' And that's how he got in the uranium business. All that saved us was we sued the government in 1948 under the Indian Claims Commission Act and that lawsuit settlement was pending and tied up in the courts and if it hadn't been for that they would have terminated us 'cause you can't terminate someone who's in court suing the government cause it looks like you're trying to get rid of them to get rid of the lawsuit and that's all that saved us.

Very quickly, we came from Newfoundland down the Saint Lawrence River 1100, 1200 mini-Ice Age, ended up in Michigan, split from the other...the Ojibwa, Odawa, Ottawa people. We were all one tribe called Anishinaabe, we came into Michigan and settled. In the war with the Iroquois over the beaver trade they drove us all the way around the lake until the French armed us and then we drove them back to the east coast. We were in refuge in Wisconsin from the Iroquois attacks when the French, John Nicolet showed up with some priests and we helped unify the Tribes of Wisconsin against the Iroquois invasion and that group was able to drive them back once armed with the French connection. The French connection through a series of alliances, primarily inter-marriages and the inter-married French and Potawatomi became the Mission Potawatomi who became the Citizen Potawatomi.

But this area was an area that we controlled quite a large area, though it didn't show up on the slide, but it was a very large area around the bottom of Lake Michigan and then because we sided with the French against the British, with the British against the colonies, we ended up under the Indian Termination or the Indian Relocation rather, Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act and we got marched to the Osage River Reservation in a march of death along this route and the ones that didn't die on the walk, another fourth of them died that winter. My family survived it on both sides and in 1861 after the Copperhead [U.S.] President Franklin Pierce allowed settlers to come into Kansas on top of the reservations anyway without a treaty. We were on the Kansas/Missouri border. We were part of the Underground Railroad to help hide runaway slaves and transport them up north. And so we were part of the depredations of the Civil War from Missouri, a slave state, into Kansas.

And so we ended up getting out of there, separated from the Prairie Potawatomi in 1861, sold the reservation to the Atchison-Topeka and the Santa Fe Railroad in 1867, took the cash and bought this reservation for gold south of the Canadian River from the Seminole Reservation line to what's called the Indian Meridian that divides the state in half between the North and South Canadian rivers, became our reservation that we purchased. And we took United States citizenship as a body in 1867 in order to protect the ownership of that property as a deed. We were denied access to the courts in removal from Indiana. We had lawyers hired and people trying to stop the removal from Indiana and we were part of the group that was...the ruling was that because we were not United States citizens we could not plead our case in the United States courts. And hence the name Citizen Potawatomi was to defend the purchase of this property.

We came to a place called Sacred Heart. We had the Catholic Church with us and helped them form the first Catholic university and school, settled in Sacred Heart. We had a division over the Ku Klux Klan. We had a Protestant and Catholic business committee. Of course the Klan was as strong in Oklahoma and Indiana as it was in Mississippi and Alabama and it caused a great deal of trouble. The Shawnee Agency government in Shawnee where the Indian Agency was basically after the tribe was able to heal the split, we didn't have a headquarters after we left Sacred Heart. The trailer that you see on the bottom was a...belonged to the Corp of Engineers and it set on a surplus piece of property. I want to get a little larger version of that picture because it's so much fun. Car and Driver Magazine certified the three worst cars in U.S. history were the Ford Pinto, the AMC Gremlin and the Opel Cadet, and all three of them are parked right there. First thing we did was out of the 550 bucks, we spent $100 of it on that air conditioner 'cause it was too hot to sit in this trailer. The guy who got removed for writing those checks got drunk with his brothers and came to whoop us all at the first meeting and the chairman...I mean the guy who was supposed to succeed, because I got appointed he showed up, is how I got appointed. But he showed up to become the first choice appointee and he kicked a hole in the back of it right here 'cause this was the only door to get away from the impending fist fight. But it was mostly conversation, nothing happened. But that was us in '73 on a gravel road. That was all we had.

In 1982, I had left the inter-tribal group and left tribal office and gone back to the oil field and in 1982 my grandmother whose father and grandfather and great grandfather and great-great grandfather had been chairman and my mother's father and my grandfather also on his side had been and my grandmother called me up and told me that I needed to come back and I said, ‘I've already done my piece, grandma. You've got 26 other first cousins. Why don't you get them to do it?' And I got that silent thing and she scared me to death with that so I went back out there in '82, in 1982 because I'd had the previous history in office and as running the inter-tribal group. Became the tribal administrator in '82. I served until I ran for chairman in 1985.

But in 1984 there was a set of tribal statutes that were being promulgated by a now famous Indian lawyer named Browning Pipestem, the late Browning Pipestem. Browning Pipestem and William Rice, Bill Rice, made a presentation to us. Now I was the tribal administrator. The chairman at the time had a reading disorder so the way that business went of our tribe was he would go out in the hall and his wife would read it to him and he would come back in and reconvene the meeting and we would handle that piece of business. This meeting started about 5:30. It was about 1:00 am when Browning Pipestem and William Rice finally got the opportunity to speak. Browning Pipestem was married to a Citizen Potawatomi. He was Otoe Missouri and he started the meeting off, 'cause he'd been cooling his heals out in the hallway for about five or six hours, by saying, ‘I own more land than the Potawatomi tribe. I have more trust land than you do. My children have more trust land than you do. The area over which you govern, my family owns more than you do.' Well, it was kind of an odd thing to say, but I knew Browning was...he was a riveting speaker, and I knew he was going somewhere with this and he said, ‘You guys are known up north as the shee shee Bannock,' the duck people, because we were so good with canoes. Supposedly Potawatomis invented steam bending the keel of a canoe to avoid knocking a hole in the bough on rocks on rivers. ‘You guys are called the duck people by the other tribes 'cause you got around in so much active in trade and so much commerce and you got around so well on the water.' And he said, ‘Well, here's what sovereignty is. If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck, it's a duck most likely, and sovereignty is the exercise of sovereignty. It's not something that you get, something that you buy or something that someone gives you. It's like your skin. You had it, you are a sovereign, the United States signed treaties with you, 43 of them, all of them broken, the most of any tribe in the United States, the most treaties of any tribe. And they don't sign treaties with individuals and they don't sign treaties with oil field roughnecks. They sign treaties with other governments. You are a sovereign government with the United States and sovereign means the divine right of kings.' Well, he lost us there and he went on to say that...explaining that ‘unless you take on the vestiges of a sovereign government and exercise the authorities of a sovereign and recognize where you can exercise your sovereignty and where you cannot and what it is, then you're not. But if you do, you are.'

Well, for me the lights went on about then because the Thomas-Rogers Act constitutions in the State of Oklahoma, all the tribes in Oklahoma adopted the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act Constitution and it basically...that was back in the days when it was the fad, we all had to be corporations. I'm the chairman of the tribe and we have a vice chairman and a secretary/treasurer and we have members of the business committee, like a board of directors of a corporation. And somehow they thought that our way...best way to govern is that we would all get together in this thing called the general council that would be the supreme governing body of the tribe and that we all got together and everyone had an equal voice, the 18-year-old had an equal voice with the 65-year-old and everyone would get together and democratically design the best thing for the tribe, which is utter nonsense. Absolutely utter nonsense. We never governed that way in our history. If you got up in my day as a young person and had something to say in council, your grandpa would and could and should grab hold of your pants and jerk you back down and apologize for the fact that you spoke at all without asking the permission of your elders.

Of course our government, because it was a meeting...now we didn't have anything, we were broke. We didn't have any land, didn't have money, we didn't have anything but we could meet in the one general council that we had annually on the hottest day of the year and the last Saturday in June at our annual general council that convened about 1:00 and we'd keep going ‘til about 7:00 when the low blood sugar kicked in and it would come to blows. And as a result of that, we couldn't get a 50-person quorum. We had an 11,000-member tribe. We couldn't get 50 people to come to council. We used to have to get in our cars and delay the start of the meeting to go around and force your cousins to get in the car so we could get a quorum so we could convene the general council meeting. No one wanted to come and I don't blame them. I didn't want to go either. If I hadn't been in office, I wouldn't have gone. It wasn't government. It turned into a bad family reunion. That's all it turned into. And so the...what happened out of that, calling that government, was the more acrimonious the meeting became, the less people wanted to come, and the less like government it was. And it wasn't a government. We weren't governing, we weren't sovereign, we weren't anything.

So first thing that came to us is, ‘We've got to change this Thomas-Rogers Act thing.' The supreme governing body of the tribe can't be a meeting, and we could call special meetings of general council with a petition and 25 people could call a petition and you could get another meeting and get 50 people there and 26 of them could change everything that the previous one did. So one family could all get together and we could back and forth have these special general councils and we could reverse this and change this and chaos, utter chaos. So we decided to redefine what the general council was, if that was to be the supreme governing body of the tribe, it had to be the electorate, it had to be the people who were eligible to vote, the adults of the tribe. And so that was the first thing we decided to do, but that evening it ended about 2:00 and we all went home.

But the next few days we started talking about, ‘What does a tribal government do? What are we supposed to be doing here? We're getting a few bucks from the government here and there to try to keep the lights on.' We had $75 a month coming in of revenue and it kept the lights on but, ‘What are we?' So we got it down to three things: the land, the law and citizenship. What land do we govern? What's a law? So it was about three years and I got elected chairman in 1985. I came back in '82, I ran for chairman in '85 and have been in office since then. We've amended our constitution five times since then. One really major one and we have been to the United States Supreme Court three times, to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals seven times. We have been in litigation every year since 1985. We're still in litigation. I'm a lawyer's dream -- not one penny in tribute and millions for defense. That's not my saying.

When we talk about the land, how much land do we govern? Now we had that two-and-a-half acres of land that was held in common, we had about 60 acres that was in fee that was old school land and then we had about 6,000 acres of land that was held in trust that had a whole variety of heirs, very few people living on it. And you could fly over the countryside of Oklahoma on our reservation and here'd be a whole bunch of land that was all in cultivation, people making hay and raising cattle and then there's be an 80-acre piece right in the middle of it that was overgrown with blackjack trees and weeds and trash and no fences and crummy looking un-utilized piece of property and that was a Potawatomi allotment. That's how you could tell because with so many heirs no one actually owned it, no one actually used it. It was in the fourth generation of ownership of a family that was split up to where it wasn't happening. Plus the fact the government at that time, there was a big move that tribes that were allotted tribes that didn't live on Indian Reorganization Act reservations like most of you guys weren't really tribes and really didn't have a definable jurisdiction. That was before the federal definition of Indian Country.

How much land do we govern, what are our boundaries, what authority do we have over our land, can we buy more and will it become subject to the authority of our government and what's the difference between allotted land and tribal trust land? We didn't know that. We didn't know. We didn't know that allotted land was subject to the authority of the tribal government even though the only thing we had were resolutions. We didn't have statutes, we didn't have a code, we didn't have a court, we didn't have police, we didn't have the vestiges of the government, but we had resolutions. That's how we decided what to do and we could do a resolution that would have an impact on tribal trust land if you could survive the political outfall. We didn't know that. We didn't know that our boundaries where we could take land and buy the residual interests in the allotted lands was the original jurisdictional boundary of the reservation, the 900 million acres that we lost. What authority did we have over the land? We didn't know we had authority over anything. Remember, we thought we had to have permission from the Agency to meet. So it was the discovery and the inquiries that we began about what our land base was, what our boundaries were, where could we buy land and get it put into trust; we were told by the Agency superintendent that no individual could put land into trust. And the reason was that you had to be incompetent for them to put individual land into trust. And if you were smart enough to ask to get your land put into trust, you weren't incompetent. Catch 22.

The law. We didn't know we could pass a law. We were passing resolutions; we didn't know they were laws. We have a resolution, ‘We're going to meet next Friday and have a pie supper.' We didn't know that was the law. We didn't know a tribal resolution was law. When we enrolled someone, we didn't know we were behaving lawfully. We knew we had to follow the constitution. We thought the constitution was the only law we had and if it wasn't in there it didn't exist. If it wasn't in the book, in the constitution book, it didn't exist. How we enforced law. We didn't have police. The BIA had police but we didn't have police. We didn't know you could have police. We didn't have a judge for sure. The CFR courts hadn't even been invented.

In CFR, the Court of Federal Regulations, that didn't really start happening until about 1981, '80, in Oklahoma. Can we make white people obey our laws? Can white people come onto our land and shoot game? Can white people lay a pipeline right across our land and not tell us or get permission? Can they run cattle on these allotments which they were doing. Can they produce oil off of those allotments and not pay us? All of those things, we didn't know how to do that. Does the BIA, whose law...do we have any impact on the BIA, do they have to do what we say? Does the State of Oklahoma? And if we have laws is there a Bill of Rights? Can we pass a law that says that my political opponent needs to be put in jail for being a fool and is there an appeal? And worse yet, the big scary one, the word, the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the one word nobody wanted to use was can we levy taxes? Whoo hoo hoo. Taxes.

Citizenship. We knew we could amend our constitution because they told us that the only way we were going to get this payment from the 1948 Indian Claims Commission, the 80 percent of the settlement that had been tied up since 1948, in 1969 is we had to have a tribal roll and the BIA told us that the only way you could be on the tribal roll was to prove that you were 1/8th or more Citizen Potawatomi. Now the blood degrees of the Citizen Potawatomi were derivatives of one guy from the government in a log cabin in Sugar Creek, Kansas in 1861 who was told to do a census of the Potawatomi, the Prairie Potawatomi and the Citizen Potawatomi. And he told everyone that they had to appear. And as they came in the door, he assigned a blood degree based on what color their skin was in his opinion and full brothers and sisters got different blood degrees, children got more blood degree than their parents 'cause they'd been outside that summer and those were the blood degrees of the Citizen Potawatomi. There was a full-time, five-person staff at the central office of the BIA in Washington, DC, who did nothing more than Citizen Potawatomi blood-degree appeals, about 3,000 of the blood-degree appeals when I first took office. When I became chairman, it had grown to 4,000 or 5,000 and I was in the room when a guy named Joe Delaware said, ‘I have a solution to the Potawatomi blood degree problem. We'll resolve all this. The first mention in any document, church, federal government, anywhere, anyhow that mentions this Indian with a non-Potawatomi language name, he's a half.' Well, they were dunking Potawatomis and giving them Christian names in 1702, full-blooded ones. If you were dealing with the white man, you used your white name and if you were dealing with the Indians you used your Indian name, like everybody else was doing. And so it was an absurd solution. I told him, I said, ‘That's nuts. That's just crazy. You're going to get another 5,000 blood-degree appeals over this.' He said, ‘Well, that's the way it's going to be.' Well, that was the impetus for our coming back and establishing, ‘What are the conditions of citizenship?' And we stopped called our folks members like a club. They're citizens. And it finally dawned on us that being a Citizen Potawatomi Indian is not racial. It's legal and political. If they...according to the United States government, if a federally recognized Indian tribe issues you a certificate of citizenship based on rules they make, you are an American Indian, you are a member of that tribe. And you're not part one, not a leg or an ear or your nose but not the rest. You're not part Citizen Potawatomi, you're all Citizen Potawatomi. The business of blood degree was invented so that at some point that the government established tribes would breed themselves out of existence and the government wouldn't be obligated to honor their treaties anymore. That's the whole idea. That's the whole idea of blood degree and we're playing into it all over this country, now over divvying up the gaming money. But I'm not going to get into that. But the business of blood degree, the 10 largest tribes in the United States, nine of them enrolled by descendency and that includes us. We changed it from blood degree to descendency, which was the only reasonable way to do it because we had no way to tell because of this guy in the log cabin in Sugar Creek was what we had. And then we had permutations of that over the next eight generations that became even more absurd and Potawatomis had a propensity...we're only 40 families and all 31,000 of us had a tendency to marry each other. So when one Potawatomi would marry another Potawatomi, I'm not saying brothers and sisters or first cousins but when they'd marry another Potawatomi then you got into who was what and it was... And this business of the certified degree of Indian blood was ruled to be unlawful, to discriminate against American Indians in the provision of federal services based on CDIB. It's supposed to be based on tribal membership, not the BIA issuing you a certified degree of Indian blood card. A full-blooded Indian who is a member of eight different tribes, whose family comes from eight different tribes, not any white blood, would not be eligible to be enrolled in many tribes. They had absolutely no European blood, would not be eligible simply because he was enrolled in multiple tribes.

The other thing about citizenship is ‘where do we vote?' The only way you could vote in an election at Citizen Potawatomi was to show up at that stupid meeting, violent meeting, and the guys that were in office would say, ‘Okay, everybody that's for me stand up.' Well, nobody could count that was on the other side so everybody would kind of creep up a little bit so you could count. Well, they counted you 'cause you creeped up a little bit so you voted against yourself. So the incumbent would say, ‘Okay, everybody that's for this guy stand up. I won.' Well, that's not how to elect people. That's not right. Two-thirds of our population lives outside of Oklahoma, one-third of it lives in Oklahoma. Those people are as entitled to vote as anybody in the tribe, so the extension of the right to vote and how we vote and whom we vote [for] and what the qualifications of those people and the residency requirements of those, that was an issue of citizenship that we needed to determine.

So we went through a series of constitutional amendments. We redefined the general council as everyone in the tribe over 18, is the general council and that is the electorate, that's who decides all issues subject to referendum vote. Everyone in the tribe can vote by absentee ballot if they register to vote in an election. We established tribal courts that are independently elected just like the chairman and vice chairman and the members of the tribal legis...and secretary treasurer and the members of the tribal legislature and that the tribal courts have authority over all issues relating to law enforcement. We adopted a set of tribal statutes and we used the ability under the Indian Reorganization Act that we recede the authorities of the IRA in our new constitution to have a tribal corporation in addition to the tribal government, two separate entities. An incorporated entity and the sovereign entity is the Citizen Potawatomi Nation government. Next amendment was to change the name to the Citizen Potawatomi Nation from the Citizen Band Potawatomi. ‘Cause back then when you had Citizen Band, people would say, ‘What's your handle good buddy? 10-4. What's your 20?' Remember all that stuff that went on back in the day with the Citizen Band radios? Or what instrument do you play in the Citizen Band? That was the other one I used to get all the time. We changed our name and we went to descendency citizenship and we enrolled everyone that needed to be enrolled if they were descendents of the original families, 41 families that made up the tribe in 1861.

I issued an executive order that we would hold council meetings in every area, city or metropolitan area with more than 2,000 members of the tribe. And so we began a series of meetings in 1986 in Houston, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Kansas City or Topeka area, Kansas City/Topeka area, Portland, Oregon, alternating with the Seattle/Tacoma, northern California -- the prune-pricker Potawatomis. We met in Sacramento, in southern California -- the oil field Potawatomis. We met in Los Angeles or somewhere, Bakersfield or somewhere down there. And we met in Phoenix, Arizona, for the rich Potawatomis. But we started having these meetings and we started going to hotel rooms and ballrooms like this one and buying a meal ‘cause we had a little money coming in from bingo and selling cigarettes and we started having these meetings and we found out something, that if you have a meeting and you feed Potawatomis, they won't fight with you. So as soon as I started serving food at the general council back home, never another cross word, never had another fight, never any issues of that.

But the revision of 2007...in 1985 was the big one. I almost...I'm out of time. We separated the branches of government with a true separation. There is an executive branch, a legislative branch and a judicial branch. We now have 16 members of the tribal legislature, eight from Oklahoma and eight from outside of Oklahoma. While it's a one-third/two-thirds population, the way we balanced that is that of the eight from Oklahoma three, the chairman, vice chairman and secretary/treasurer, are elected by everyone in the whole United States. So there is a nod or an impetus or balance given to the population outside. The fact that our jurisdiction, that the area over which we govern, our revenue, is all based in Oklahoma on the reservation is recognized by the fact you have to be from Oklahoma to be chairman or vice chairman or secretary/treasurer. Legislative districts. The whole United States is represented. We eliminated the grievance committee. The grievance committee existed because we didn't have a tribal court and the grievance committee created grievances. We had staggered terms of four office...for four-year terms of office, staggered terms of office. The old two-year terms of office where we turned over the majority of the government every 24 months, crazy. The legislature has total appropriation control of the money. But the legislature can't even answer the phone. It speaks and acts by resolution and ordinance only. They can't run the government ‘cause they can't even answer the phone. The legislature speaks and acts by resolution or ordinance. They appropriate the monies for a specific purpose, but the executive branch spends it and runs the tribe. I have a veto, I have 10 votes out of 16 not counting mine so 10 votes out of 15. And the BIA no longer has to approve our constitutional changes. Each of our constitutional changes took the BIA over four years to consider.

So that's where we are, that's the old bingo hall, that's Firelight Grand Casino. It's $120 million operation, we're doing $150 million addition to it now. Everywhere in our tribe we have these symbols of corn plants. Don't eat the seed corn. We do not make per capita distributions. We fund 2,000 college scholarships a semester, we provide free prescriptions to everyone in the tribe over 62 wherever they live, we do home loans for people, we do all of those things based on need, not actual checks. We believe we're like a family. No one comes homes, sits down at the table, brings the kids and wife and sits there and says, ‘Okay, I'm going to divvy up the paycheck.' They don't do that. They pay the bills first, they address the needs of the family first, and then if there's discretionary income they decide whether to save it, invest it or spend it and that's the way we do ours. But we consider the money from gaming to be found money; it's seed corn.

We bought this bank on a gravel parking lot. It was a prefabricated structure and it was failing. We bought it from the FDIC, the first tribe in the United States to buy an operating national bank. It took the government six months to decide whether to let the bank fail and break all of the depositors or let us put a million dollars in it and save it. They finally decided to do that and now First National Bank is the largest tribally owned bank in the country. We have seven banks, seven branches and it's $250 million back from the original $14 million. If you're going into the bank business, be a little more financial healthy than we were ‘cause if the tribal chairman has to go repo boats and cars at night, that's an ugly business. That's no fun. We had a repo guy named One Punch Willie and boy, he was a tough...he could steal a car in 30 seconds and I went with Willie out...Willie Highshaw, went out on the lake with Willie Highshaw, a great guy. We went out and repoed cars at night when people wouldn't pay us.

These are our businesses. We have a $50 million-a-year grocery business; we have a wholesale grocery business. We have Redi-Mix Concrete. We have a number of enterprises of 2,040 employees. These are our government services. We operate the largest rural water district in the area. We are retrofitting all of our facilities to geothermal, ground source heat pumped geothermal with our own business.

This is my advice: press on. Three steps, two steps back is still one step forward so just stay at it. I've been at it a really long time. I love what I do. I'd do it if they didn't pay me. The first 11 years, by the way, they didn't pay me. But plan. And once you get plans, decide. Even if you decide wrong, it sets in motion the mechanics to get something done. But indecision just locks you up. Fix your constitution. Don't try to patch around it. We did it for years. Fix the constitution. If you have problems with not getting process at your tribe and it's because of the structure or because of something that is happening with the government that isn't fair or right or honest, fix the constitution. If you're not in the constitution-fixing business, you're not in economic development, you're not in self-governance, you're not a sovereign. Thank you."

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "Defining Sovereignty"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders offer their definitions of what sovereignty is and what it means for Native nations in the 21st century.

Native Nations
Citation

Barrett, John "Rocky". Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 28, 2009. Interview.

Fullmer, Jamie. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. June 17, 2008. Interview.

Harjo, Suzan. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 11, 2008. Interview.

Jourdain, Floyd "Buck." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Red Lake, Minnesota. July 2008. Interview.

Mankiller, Wilma. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 29, 2008. Interview.

Ninham-Hoeft, Patricia. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2009. Interview.

Pierre, Sophie. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Phoenix, Arizona. October 21, 2008. Interview.

Pierre, Sophie. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2008. Presentation.

Sophie Pierre:

"We have a choice! We have a choice. We can continue to go down that self-pitying kind of road, blaming everybody else for our problems, or we can take control of it. We chose to take control of it."

Wilma Mankiller:

"The definition of sovereignty is to have control over your own lands, and resources, and assets, and to have control over your own vision for the future, and to be able to absolutely determine your own destiny."

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sovereignty is an unwritten rule. It's there. You express it by what you do to grow and, within that though, what you claim is based on the structures that you develop. So, in the modern sense, as the nation moves forward, the process and the ideal of sovereignty is: we are here; we express ourselves; we accept the challenge and responsibility of governing and seeing our own path forward."

Suzan Harjo:

"Sovereignty is the act of sovereignty. We, as Native nations, are inherently sovereign and whatever we do to act sovereign is the definition of sovereignty. When something is inherent, it's inherent. You are who you are from the inside out and it's not something that is over-layered, either in law or in policy, and it's not something that the Europeans brought from Europe. It is your language -- speaking your language is an act of sovereignty."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"A government without law, and the willingness to enforce that law, isn't really a government. That's the ultimate act of sovereignty -- not only enforcing a law, but being willing, as a people, to put themselves under the rule of law, is the ultimate act of sovereignty."

Floyd Jourdain:

"With tribal sovereignty, a lot of the time you see in the media, you see in the public, the term sovereignty come when tribes are on a defensive. We shouldn't have to protect our tribal sovereignty. We should be out there using our tribal sovereignty in a good way to advance our interests, to bring more resources to our communities, and not wait around until every two and four years (when the state and the federal elections come along) and all of a sudden we have to defend ourselves against interest groups, against sporting organizations, and those types of things. No, we need to use our tribal sovereignty in a good way -- proactively -- to use it to advance the interest of our tribal nations."

Patricia Ninham-Hoeft:

"I think too often people think sovereignty is when you can pound on your chest and proclaim that the things that you are doing are because you can do it, because you're a sovereign. But in today's world we have so many different relationships and so many different communities that we interact with that we don't live in isolation anymore. We have to work together, we're interdependent with places -- not just in our own backyard but around the globe -- so sovereignty, if you exercise it effectively, starts with understanding that it's a tool to building a community. It's not the end result. Because I hear that so often from tribal leaders: 'The goal for our tribe is to make sure that our sovereignty is strong.' And I think, 'that's not the end result. The end result is, how do you use your sovereignty to build a strong community?'"

Jamie Fullmer:

"Sovereignty, I believe, is best expressed when we ask not what we can do, but why can't we do it? The question we can ask is: why can't we do it? We're not asking: can we do that? We're asking: why can't we do that? You know, have others prove us wrong and not have to prove ourselves wrong first."

Sophie Pierre:

"I think what it really means was explained by a chief who has since left us. His name was Joe Mathias. He was chief of Suquamish. And he always said that exercising sovereignty was that, "˜the people who were going to live with the results of a decision, are the people who make the decision.' And to me, that's what sovereignty has always meant. We are responsible for our own lives, we make our own decisions, and we're the people that suffer the consequences of those decisions."

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "Why are Some Native Nations More Successful than Others?"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders offer their perspectives on why some Native nations have proven more successful than others in achieving their economic and community development goals.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Barrett, John "Rocky". Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 28, 2009. Interview.

Ninham-Hoeft, Patricia. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2009. Interview.

Nuvamsa, Ben. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2010. Interview.  

Pierre, Sophie. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Phoenix, Arizona. October 21, 2008. Interview. 

Sampsel, Roy. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. August 31, 2010. Tucson, Arizona. Interview.

Ben Nuvamsa:

"We have this long history and teachings and so on. And if we hang onto those beliefs, core values, and so on, that really is the foundation from which we can build. So in successful nations, tribal nations, we're able to do that; to define who they are, understanding who they are, but also have a plan. A plan that's looking down, some people say seven generations. We don't just plan for ourselves, for tomorrow or next five years but long-term. We have to have a global vision of where we want to be. And if we can define that, then we can reduce that down to something that's gonna be achievable. And I think that economic development, economic success, goes back to having a good strategic direction where you want to be. The same way with us as communities and so on and to be able to build our healthy communities so that...it's the same kind of thing. What do we want to achieve? Who are we? And at Hopi, for example, it's just going back to the values of who we are as Hopi and Tewa people and defining our communities that way...and then setting our governance accordingly."

Patricia Ninham-Hoeft:

"I think it starts with short-term and long-term vision. That those tribes that are successful have a vision for what they think they're community should look like a hundred, two hundred years from today. And they've taken the time to make steps backwards to map out how to achieve that vision and then they start working on it together. And that they explain that vision to the entire community so that everyone is on the same page and they can help. And I think part of getting to that place of success means that we, as individuals in our community, have to change our mindset that we have to stop being the victim. We have to stop blaming our history for why we're not successful and we have to start living and defining our future as it is today. So values and ideas that worked for us in the past, they probably still work for us today, but it's the way we express them, the form that we use to live our daily lives has changed and we have to get with that. And when we do that when we start defining and taking charge of our own future then we'll start realizing our vision."

John "Rocky" Barrett:

"Common attributes, I think, of successful nation building are stable governments, expanded representation, lawful behavior, and something that lends itself to consistent performance. All those go back to constitutional forms but they also... those are really accomplished by diminishing nepotism which is, you know, since everyone is related in an Indian tribe, that is an issue. Financial accountability is a huge one; separation of powers seems to be a common attribute; and most importantly to make all that fall within a cultural relevance that means something to the culture of the tribe and the people."

Sophie Pierre:

"There's lots of reasons why...I think that for our case, the fact that we have made it a priority, that we listen to our people, that we, and that we ensure that we're engaging our people, our Ktunaxa people, with every aspect as we move forward I think that that's really what has really helped us to be successful."

Roy Sampsel:

"Where you have a strong sense of history, a strong cultural sense, it allows for that to be the foundational building blocks on which nations can then advance as they begin to take on either the political, social or economic needs of their tribes are. [...] A piece of it, I think, is individual history that the tribes have gone through and whether or not they have been able to sustain leadership continuity over time. I don't want to over emphasize that because it doesn't mean that young, new leaders don't emerge and make tremendous leaders. But if there is a cycle in which this isn't able to be built upon, and if everything has to start new, then what you end up is the lack of the foundational building blocks that allow for success to take place over time."

PBS "We Shall Remain": Spotlight on the Citizen Potawatomi Nation

Producer
American Experience (in association with NAPT)
Year

Tribal Chairman John "Rocky" Barrett discusses how the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has become an economic powerhouse in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Key to the tribe’s success has been the decision to reinvest casino earnings to build new businesses rather than dividing the casino dividends and sending checks to the 27,000 members of the tribe nationwide.

Native Nations
Citation

American Experience (in association with NAPT). "Spotlight on the Citizen Potawatomi Nation." PBS "We Shall Remain" documentary series. January 8, 2009. Television, Radio and Film. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/weshallremain/native_now/enterprise_spotlight, accessed August 16, 2012)