Theresa M. Pouley

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "Learning to Make Informed Decisions"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders share what the role of a leader entails from studying the history of the tribe to listening to and learning from elders of the community; all the tools necessary to making informed decisions.

Native Nations
Citation

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

Luarkie, Richard. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 1, 2012. Interview.

Miles, Rebecca. "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 23, 2011. Presentation.

Mitchell, Michael K. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2008. Interview.

Norris, Jr., Ned. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. 2012. Interview.

Peacock, Robert. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office," Native Nation Rebuilders program, Bush Foundation.  Cloquet, Minnesota. July 14, 2011. Presentation.

Pouley, Theresa M. "Reclaiming and Reforming Justice at Tulalip." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Michael Mitchell:

"Don't be ashamed to say you've got stuff to learn to be a politician. And I might take the first six months and learn my leadership craft well. I need to consult with more established leaders. I need to talk to the staff. I need to go seek feedback from community people, from elders. You spread yourself out there and tell them you're not here to make decisions right away because if you don't know what kind of decisions you have to make and you're making decisions, it's likely to be wrong. It's likely to be selfish and it'll come back on you. So give yourself a little bit of time to know what people, why things are in place and what people are feeling, what's on their mind. And for a good leader, he'll always go around, the first six months of his term, and listen. And it's not a crime to stand up and say, ‘I've got a little bit to learn here and I see some chiefs here that have been here for a while. I know some people here who used to serve on council. I'm going to make sure I learn my craft well.' You get a lot of respect in the community if you can say that."

Rebecca Miles:

"What I can't tell you enough is do your research. What you're going to hear, and you've probably already heard, tribal leaders, let's say the person that you beat to get in office, is going to be at the public meeting and say, ‘You don't know what you're doing and yada, yada...' And I did. I pulled out every resolution and did a timetable of when we got in this settlement. The first question for the first five months was, ‘How did we get here?' Well, I needed to know that and I needed to be telling my people, how did we get here? I looked at every decision that was made and I found every resolution that appointed members of our council to negotiate this settlement. They were appointed as the negotiator. And so I was able to put faces and accountability to the tribe, that it's not just the person who just walks in, this is a bigger deal. And so research is important as well to avoid continuously making mistakes and not being accountable."

Paulette Jordan:

"That's the thing. You're jumping on the treadmill, going 90 miles an hour. You're having to do research left and right. You really have no time to sleep because you have to read everything and making sure you're prepared for tomorrow's meeting or council session and that you can ask the right questions so that you make the right decision. But the tough thing is you have to get your rest, pay attention, make sure that you do ask the right questions from the right people and making sure you connect with your fellow leaders. Because for me, and that's what made it easy for me because my fellow leaders are people that I've known all my life and respected and felt like I had a mentor relationship with them. So I guess that's why I'm fortunate, but if I didn't have that I wouldn't be able to be as successful in terms of understanding and trying to make positive or a good decision for our people."

Theresa Pouley:

"Your tribal court system is part of your government every bit as much as any other department. And the fact that we have separation of powers doesn't mean we have a separation of problems. You and I all have the same problems. It doesn't mean that we have separation of solutions. Because I'm a judge, I know a variety of things about promising practices. Because you're tribal council people, you know a variety of things. If we put our heads together, we can get it done."

Robert Peacock:

"You have to be ready to take and make decisions but not always with 100 percent of the information. And I think good leaders do that, they have people around them that know a little bit about everything and you take all of that information and you make decisions based on the best information that you can get. And I've had people that I don't personally get along with that are intelligent, smart and knowledgeable and I use their information. I don't have to go and have lunch with them or anything else but I do have to listen to them and I do have to take their knowledge into the overall concept of decision making. And then sometimes you'll only get 70, 80 percent of a concept of what's going on, you have to take that risk. You have to be able to pull the trigger because if you wait for 100 percent it's never going to happen, you're never going to pull the trigger, you're never going to be able to take advantage of it and move. And if you see that you probably made a bad decision, deal with it. That's only that decision, it's not the rest of the world, it's not everything else. You don't get anyplace if you don't make mistakes but you have to get past those mistakes and make some more decisions and you learn from those so that the next time the situation comes by you can set it up differently or make a different decision. So pick yourself back up, all the time, because if you don't, then you're done."

Ned Norris, Jr.:

"I like to do assessments. I like to do that mainly because you think you might understand what the situation is and you think you might have the right answer as to how you're going to attack that situation or address that situation. But too many times we go into the situation not realizing what the impacts of your addressing that issue is going to be. So for me, I like to, ‘okay, I agree with you. Let's address that issue, but let's make sure we understand what it is we're dealing with and whether or not we have the ability to address that issue,' because to me, to do something with half of an understanding, really creates, to some extent, false hope. Because people are going to see that you're moving in that direction. And if you're not able to fulfill that movement, you're going to stop. And people may have liked to have seen what you were moving on but don't understand, ‘why did you stop? We had hope in that. We thought you were going to address that issue.' ‘Well, you know what, we do our homework and we couldn't move it any further. That's why.' I think that we need to be, if we're going to make a decision as a tribal leader, we need to fully understand the ramifications of what that decision is. And to the best of our ability, make informed decisions about decision we need to make, and then move forward."

Richard Luarkie:

"In our environment, in our council environment, you often hear the reminder [Laguna language], which means do it properly, take your time, be diligent. It doesn't mean sit there for six or eight months. It means be analytical, be objective in your decision-making, turn the stones that you need to turn, but do it properly. And so I believe that for us, decision-making and being able to frame decisions in a manner that is diligent is critical for us. So those are all very important elements for us in our decision-making." 

From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "Giving the Justice System the Support It Needs"

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Native leaders and scholars share some critical ways that Native nations can support their justice systems to ensure their effectiveness.

Native Nations
Citation

Hershey, Robert. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 6, 2010. Interview.

LaPlante, Jr., Leroy. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 12, 2010. Interview.

Pommersheim, Frank. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. August 11, 2010. Interview.

Pouley, Theresa M. "Reclaiming and Reforming Justice at Tulalip." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Vaughn, Rae Nell. "Tribal Justice Systems in the 21st Century." Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 16, 2009. Presentation.

Vaughn, Rae Nell. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. September 15, 2009. Interview.

Rae Nell Vaughn:

A lot of courts in Indian Country are set up the way we are. They’re statutory courts, and sometimes aren’t given the respect that they should be given. Let me assure you, tribal court is not a program. It is not a social program. It is a forum that is established to protect the people and enforce the law. But for whatever reason, and there are many I’m sure, there continues to be this tendency of a perception that these are just programs. Tribal court is nothing more than a program like social services, like legal aid -- it’s just a program.

Theresa M. Pouley:

Your law and justice system must be part of the whole tribal system. You have to be prepared as tribal council people, and tribal judges have to be prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with their elected officials to say enough is enough, to say that it’s time to help our relatives heal.

Frank Pommersheim:

You’re involved with human beings, and I think from most tribal points of view is that they don’t want to cast those individuals out, but they want to try to hold on to them and work with them and try to reintegrate them into the community. And to do that, you need resources and capacity. And in the real world, that means having adequate law enforcement, having a fully-scaled tribal court system, having institutions that can help offenders who have been convicted or pled guilty. I think that those things are really, really important.

Leroy LaPlante, Jr.:

I think, at least, our tribal officials need to recognize our court system as a stand-alone entity that has a specific function, a very important function. What the courts do is so vital to tribal sovereignty. It is so vital to self-determination. It is so vital to us. You know, if we want to engage in any type of regulatory authority on the reservation, our courts have got to be equipped to be able to carry out adjudicating any matter.

Robert A. Hershey:

First and foremost, freedom from political interference. I think that’s pretty well-recognized, right? Qualified judges who receive the adequate training to deal with all manner of cases, because there’s an escalation of the number of cases coming in front of tribal courts with an escalation of the population on the reservations. And then there is escalation in the complexity of cases that come before it. So, independence, adequate training, adequate funding for programs, adequate court staff, technology that supports this.

Rae Nell Vaughn:

If you don’t feel that support from your government, then obviously the community’s not going to support you as well; and those are some key things that have to happen is to have that support. Now you and I may argue here, but when we step out as a judiciary and as a government, we need to be unified, because each of us as a legislative body and as an executive body -- whether we’re a judicial branch or a statutory court -- we still have to work and maintain as a stable government, because if your leadership is bad-mouthing you, judicial system, what does that say of the leadership?

Sheila Morago, Jill Peters, and Theresa M. Pouley: Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Sheila Morago, Jill Peters, and Theresa M. Pouley field questions from the audience concerning lobbying, the importance of public education about tribal sovereignty and development, and how the Tulalip Tribal Court deals with fetal alcohol syndrome and its effects. 

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Morago, Sheila. "Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Peters, Jill. "Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Pouley, Theresa M. "Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

Audience member:

"This is a question for Sheila. What's your feelings on the effectiveness of like short DVDs in lobbying? I testified at a language bill and this other tribe brought in a short DVD and it had their elders interviewed, their children, and it's talking about the impacts of learning the language in the schools. And it seemed to be very positive, pretty short, but do people spend time to actually watch them?"

Sheila Morago:

"Actually they probably do, especially if it's an issue that's coming up and is very relevant to something that is going to get voted on. What I would say that if you're going to do that, you don't want to show it while you're sitting there unless it's really short. Sit there, encourage the person that you're talking to to watch it. And especially if it's something that has your elders, your children, a group consensus of how this is going to affect you, all of that works. Again, they want to see how it affects the tribe itself and those tribal members. So absolutely any, [because] the last thing they want to see, to be real honest with you -- Jill working in Senator McCain's office -- is someone walking up and handing you a stack of paper this big and say, 'Here's the background on this. Can you read that before the vote tomorrow?' It goes shoo! right back there. So one of the things, that is a quick and easy way for someone to get all their listening, seeing and being able to get that very quickly so that's a great idea.

James R. Gray:

"I wanted to ask a question of [Jill]. If you had...I know in one case on our reservation we have a grocery store that's owned by the tribe. And it's a good case study on how to deal with something in kind of a crisis moment because we had bought a going concern from a non-Indian business owner who was going to close his business so we took it over. A significant number of our tribal members lived in that town but it was serving everybody there. And one day the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture walked in and did a survey like they always do on that store owner's maintenance of the WIC [Women, Infants and Children program] and food stamp program. And we were carrying out that contract within our tribe, but at the grocery store level it put us in a completely different role. And in that circumstance they fined us. Not because we were charging too much for the program, we weren't charging enough. We were cheapening our own business. For some reason, it was just a mistake on our end at the management level, but we ended up cheating us. But they said, "˜Well, we brought this to your attention on four different occasions and your manager never fixed it. So now we're going to have to fine you.' And as embarrassing as that was, we said, "˜Well, can we apply the fine in the form of a payment for contracted services?' Because what we didn't have in our tribe was a health department of agriculture that was going to do this anyway. Had we had that, we would have provided that assistance, but since we didn't have it we entered into an agreement with the State of Oklahoma Department of Agriculture to pay them to come and monitor that program. Because the Daily Oklahoman made a big story about this and put it on the front page of the newspaper that Chief Gray and the Osage Tribe were kicking out the State of Oklahoma off the reservation for being cited for health department issues, which created a freak-out among the community that something was wrong with our grocery store. And so they never corrected it of course, but we entered into this agreement where rather than accept jurisdiction of the state into our grocery store, we just paid them to come on and make sure that those programs were running right and everyone got to save face. And we left the jurisdictional fights for other bigger issues [because] you didn't want to get into a big court fight over something that you didn't do right, but because the issue of jurisdiction would never have been heard properly in the right context. So the suggestion I wanted to ask, maybe you could speak to is, could you talk about how important it is to pick your fights and ways in which you want to advance your interest as you're protecting your rights as well?"

Jill Peters:

"Sure. And I think that's a very important point, because you're going to have a whole range of issues that will be coming before tribal governments. And some of those may be some of these, I don't want to say it's a small issue, but at the same time you're going to have bigger issues dealing with the state, that you're going to have to deal with on that and are going to really have long-term impacts. And that really is going to be a balancing of the tribal leaders' responsibilities. You really have to set priorities and when you're developing your agenda you really have to think forward. "˜Well, these are the issues that we're going to deal with and we want to address.' And maybe on a very large or overarching level, part of that is to say, "˜Well, we need to look at where we are lacking in our resources. Where are we lacking? Maybe we don't have that State Department of Health. So we need to look at well, how are we going to fill that gap?' So part of that may be a bigger policy type of approach where you decide, "˜Well, let's talk to the local [government] or let's talk to the state and maybe we can try to develop that cooperative approach.' So that way, again it comes down to the tribal government kind of determining priorities. And I think you also have, in some ways it helps to have someone who can handle your PR [public relations] in a way that can help manage those messages as well. So when you have these kind of like little fires that come up, they can help the tribal government sort of help manage so that the wrong message is not being communicated to the community members who are out there who don't have the privilege or knowledge of what the tribal government is doing. So again, it's probably not going to be a very simple reply or answer to that, but again it's a matter of the tribal government determining what are the priorities, looking at areas where maybe they're lacking in resources and trying to see how they can make up for that in resources. And some of that may be a little preemptive. You may be thinking ahead about problems that you may not have at this point in time, but you have to look at, "˜Well, if you have checker-boarded lands and you have checker-boarded jurisdiction in your community, what are some of the issues that may come up as a result of some of those conflicting jurisdiction issues.' So it's not a very uncommon issue. It could be a gas station, it could be something else. You may have a gas bill. How do you deal with that? It's an individual owner and you have checker-boarded land and then -- you want to be able to kind of anticipate some of these issues. So some of that may be looking ahead, being a little more proactive, rather than reactive. So and again it comes back to the tribal leaders determining some priorities, having some good planners, having a good PR person. Some of those things can help manage some of those issues. And again it may just be looking for other avenues of resources that are out there. What are the tribal communities doing maybe to kind of help address some of these issues? I don't know if that directly answers your question or if anybody else has anything to offer on that particular issue."

Audience member:

"Yesterday, Sophie Pierre mentioned that tribes must be the authors of their own stories and also, Chairman [Anthony] Pico said tribes must be more transparent and project a better image, because ultimately it will be the voters who decide the fate of many of these Indian issues. My experience is that tribes could do a lot better job here in this area especially in engaging their local communities. You've talked a lot about engaging the political structures, and particularly in Washington. My experience again, when tribes do engage public relations, it's often an outside firm that has little knowledge or understanding of Indians or of the local community, and that few tribes actually take the time to explain what they're doing with their communities on their websites. So my question to you is what can tribes do more to better tell their own stories, particularly with local communities and with local citizens who will decide many of these issues for us, like it or not?"

Sheila Morago:

"PR is something new for tribes and it's really difficult for them to make that transition. We're taught very quickly, especially -- I work in the gaming parts, so talking about how much money you make, what you're doing with it, how your charitable contributions are being made -- to be real honest with you, that's very tough. We're taught not to brag and that's kind of bragging. So one of the things that we do a lot, especially here in Arizona, you have to be pretty transparent. Chairman Pico's right. A lot of this, especially when it comes to gaming, is voted on by the people. We just went through our referendum in Arizona in 2002. California just went through theirs just recently and before that. One of the things that we do particularly is we publish an annual report -- and they're actually out on the table right now. Every year Arizona does an annual report that tells how much money we made, statewide -- not individual tribes. We tell how much money went to the state and one of the great things that one of the tribes does is TGen, they give some of their money to TGen, which is great. We have to work with local communities. Those people are going to be the people who are voting on our particular issues if it comes down to a gaming issue. So if you're asked to speak at community meetings, you go. If you can be part of any type of cities and towns forum, you go. You want to be the resource. So you want to have an intergovernmental relations person that is within the political structure of the governor's office or the state legislature or your representatives. Anytime that there is an opportunity to speak, you speak. Anytime you have a reporter call you, you answer. That is one of the biggest things that really that you'll see in any type of newspaper article. All attempts to contact a tribal representative were not answered and you're like, 'Kch!' So it's difficult because --especially if you're dealing with something that's bad -- you really don't want to be the front person. And as we all know, it's very hard for anybody to be the one spokesman for the tribe. And that is something that has to get done on a tribal level that the council and the tribal leadership actually gives that responsibility to somebody. And that's a difficult issue, too. Everybody is in different parts of that in developing all of that. But once you get very good at it, you'll realize the benefits that happen with that. All of a sudden you're not the bad person. And sometimes you can spin it to where you're the hurt person in the deal and it helps a lot, especially when you're dealing in intergovernmental relations and doing cross-jurisdictional things. The more people know about you, the easier it is for them to understand where it is you're coming from when you're dealing with that stuff."

Jill Peters:

"Yeah, I know intergovernmental relations, when I talk about it, it sounds a lot easier than I think, in practicality, it is, and for a lot of reasons. And I think one of those main things is information and sharing information and it really is a hard thing to do. And tribal governments, as Sheila mentioned, are sort of now just coming onto par of actually having web pages and putting things on their web pages, sending out press releases. A lot of tribal communities that I work with do have newsletters. So they send out newsletters, but these may be only quarterly or something else. So they don't include -- it's very limited information. So, as Sheila mentioned, it is helpful to have someone who can be working on PR issues for you and be able to give information out, especially to neighboring communities. I work in Phoenix, so one of the issues that is constantly dealt with are the communities that live within the city boundaries of Phoenix. So you have a community where one road separates Scottsdale from a tribal community. I mean you literally walk on one side you're in a tribe and you walk on the other side you're within the city. It's taken many, many years, but these two communities have learned to work together. And it's not always easy, but I think they do a lot of information sharing as well. I can't speak to exactly what that is, but I think at least they know who to call if they have questions. So there's a contact person. Also, some communities establish working groups with other jurisdictions so that they meet on an annual basis -- or what other type of regular basis -- and they just share information and they share different areas of priority that they're working on and see where different areas of -- they match where they might be able to work together. So I think there's a variety of ways that you can deal with that issue but it's just again, it may be that there's not someone on the ground whose taken that responsibility, or is not assigned that responsibility, or there's not resources to deal with that issue. But communication really has to be a key part of tribal government for a lot of reasons. Again, if you don't know what's happening in your neighboring community, they're not going to know what's happening in yours. And so if you keep operating in that mode, chances are someone's going to take an action that's going to negatively impact you or vice versa. So I think really it just has to be a priority again at the tribal level. Someone has to reach out, whether it's the tribe or the local community. If you're working with the other community reaching out really is the first step."

Gwen Phillips:

"I have a quick comment. It's just exactly what you're speaking about here. Chief Sophie [Pierre] had to leave the room because we have reporters asking about a purchase of land and did we support it and all this other stuff. So I was madly looking for support for her, as a director, to give her. So my job as a staff is to make sure I've got all of that information and then to feed it to her, in a timely manner and a concise manner, so she can do her job. My question is actually for Theresa, Judge Theresa. I was the Director of Education for our nation for ten years. And Sophie had alluded to our having done a full Psych Ed assessment of our school-aged population in the early 90s. And we had assessed, at about, 40 percent-plus fetal alcohol syndrome; fetal alcohol affects. We had a very intensive program operating for a good dozen years addressing fetal alcohol affects, but we repeatedly and continually -- in all systems out there that are designed to assist individuals in growth -- come up against brick walls all over the place. Not our own brick walls, of course, but those of the institutions that we have to deal with. And I'm wondering what approach, if any, that your nation has taken in addressing this, because these are the ones that are the circles?"

Theresa Pouley:

"Well, there's a couple of really important issues. One of them is fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol affect. And Tulalip does a great job about this. And it's the judge's job to make sure the state court thinks we're doing an okay job from a due process perspective, but Tulalip has taken the position that unborn children belong to the tribe. So if you are a substance-abusing mother who's in the court system, there is some possibility you may sit out your pregnancy in jail because it's our responsibility to those children not to have them be subjected to that. That's a pretty hard line and that's a hard thing to do as a tribal council person. I don't want to sort of minimize that, but there is this huge recognition of that. Wellness courts themselves, which institutionalize a structure -- weekly meetings, weekly reporting -- actually that works great for people with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol affect. So for our clients that have those particular issues, it's working really well. And the sort of last one is how do you get it started. I think Tulalip is sort of like the perfect example of anywhere you want. The chief of police took the resolution to the board of directors -- not the tribal court judge -- the chief of police. The chief judge was doing it on the ground already. The board of directors passed a resolution. It is a most amazing thing when you can empower your judge to invite people to the table, because if the judge invites you to come sit, lots of people come and sit. So it's kind of a surprising tool that you can use to be able to orchestrate that. So I hope I got all three of your issues."

Gwen Phillips:

"Yeah. I'm just -- the reason I'm saying that is because we're in modern-day treaty negotiations. So we have the federal and the provincial governments that we're negotiating with. And we had tabled with them our intent to strike both within our liquor control legislation and our child protection legislation, the very thing that you spoke of. And they were just freaking out big-time talking about the charter of rights and freedoms and da, da, da, da, da. So exactly like you say, once the woman has made the choice to keep that baby, that baby belongs to us. So I'm pleased and will probably be in touch with you to figure out how we work it out systemically."

Joan Timeche:

"Thank you very much."

Theresa Pouley:

"If tribal court judges have a job, that's it. We have to figure out how to put a Western-style justice system face on remedies that are tribal. So that's our job and we take that job real seriously. Now we'll see, we may have Roe vs. Wade in Tulalip Tribal Court any day and I'll let you know how that comes out." 

Theresa M. Pouley: Reclaiming and Reforming Justice at Tulalip

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Tulalip Tribal Court Chief Judge Theresa M. Pouley shares the long-term, positive effects of the Tulalip Alternative Sentencing Program on the Tulalip tribal community.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Pouley, Theresa M. "Reclaiming and Reforming Justice at Tulalip." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

"I am Theresa Pouley. I'm a judge. I've been a judge for a long time, only in tribal courts. That's the only place I ever wanted to be a judge. And I've been a tribal court judge for ten years; six of those years were as the chief judge of the Lummi Nation. So that almost is a credential all in itself. I'm honored to be here today. I rarely get to speak in front of so many council people. It's not a good spot for a tribal court judge, usually. I'm honored to be associated with Tulalip's tribal court. I was really honored and humbled to be awarded High Honors at the Honoring Nations program for a tribal court program. I'm here to share that experience with you today about Tulalip's alternative sentencing program and hopefully we can learn some lessons from it.

Every day I think about Tulalip and its justice system. Most judges in tribal courts think about those issues all the time. At Tulalip, whenever I think about it and whenever I give a presentation like this, I always stop for a second and see if I can come up with a pearl of wisdom from our ancestors. So today I thought about it and there's an old Shenandoah proverb that I think fits Tulalip's alternative sentencing program. It says, 'It's no longer enough to cry peace. We have to act peace, live peace and live in peace.' So when I think and talk about the alternative sentencing program I always do it in those three ways. How do we act peace? Let's talk about the history of Tulalip. Where did they get to where they are today? Let's live peace. What's Tulalip doing now that's different and useful in resolving some of the issues that are facing our communities? And the last one is how do we live in peace? What are the lessons that we learn from that so we can move into the future?

So let's start with the history. And I like to go way back when I talk about Tulalip. I read a bunch of stuff about Tulalip -- I'm actually a Colville tribal member, which is a cousin on the other side of the mountains in Washington State. So I went about the business of learning about Tulalip. Tulalip is historically a fishing community. That's why that picture is up there and it always reminds me of who I speak. They were a very peaceful people. All of their disputes were resolved by families or resolved by the elders in their communities and almost every Indian agent, non-Indian person who came to Tulalip said the exact same thing. They're a peaceful people. Now just like all the rest of the Indian nations -- and that includes everyone that you're at -- that was pretty badly interrupted in the late 1800s. And Tulalip's system of problem solving went from that dispute resolution that was family and community based to being a system based on punishment and prison. Doesn't make any difference what tribal jurisdiction you're from because the United States Supreme Court decided in Ex Parte Crow Dog, which sort of took all of Indian nations and put us on the same page, that the way that we did justice wasn't right; that we needed to do it in a system where there was a trial, where there was consequences and where there was punishment. Now the results are exactly the same. In 1999, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, for the very first time, came out with crime statistics in Indian Country. And for all of you as leaders you know them; you live them every day. We have two times the rate of violent victimization of Indian women in Indian Country than in any other population. We have two times the rate of tribal members in jail for drug and alcohol-related offenses. We have two times the rate of alcoholism that causes, and as a matter of fact as high as, seven out of 10 violent crimes are caused while our relatives are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Those are alarming statistics. And it doesn't make any difference if you are living in South Dakota or you're living on the Tulalip reservation, it's the same for all of us. That's the consequences of a system of punishment and prison. Tulalip in particular had sort of a double whammy. Washington's a Public Law 280 state so not only did we have the federal government coming in and dictating how we were going to take care of problems in our community but we also had the state government coming in. So not only did we have the feds prosecuting and putting people in jail from a punishment and prison perspective but we also had the State of Washington coming in and taking tribal members and punishing them and putting them in jail. And 57 percent of the Native Americans who were actually put in jail because of a drug- and alcohol-related crime are going to be back in jail within that same year.

So Tulalip, who was really spurred by its economic development -- I don't if any of you, have any of you been to Tulalip? They have the most beautiful facilities. They have a beautiful casino, an outlet mall; they have a Walmart. That's pretty exciting in Indian Country. So they took this economic development and rather than paying it out to tribal members in per capita said, "˜We can do this better. Enough is enough. We're tired of tribal members going to jail. We're tired of a concept of prison and punishment so we're going to take it over.' In 2001, so this is just seven years ago, Tulalip retroceded all of its criminal jurisdiction from the state of Washington. And that's a big deal. Tribal court went from [a] one-day-a-month court system to 1,100 cases almost overnight. In 2001, when those cases started coming in, my boss was the chief judge at Tulalip and he did what we're trained to do as lawyers in developing tribal court systems. He implemented a system that gives everybody due process, notice and an opportunity for a hearing and guess what was happening? You can't take the state system of punishment and prison and put it in a tribal community and expect different results. And fortunately for me, my boss knew that. So he started changing the system just a little bit at a time. He would sentence people, suspend that sentence and then of course require they get drug and alcohol treatment, education, GED and then of course send them on their way. A year later they'd come back for a criminal review and guess what, they didn't do any of that stuff, right?

So that's the second one. How do you live that peace? So what did Tulalip differently? Judge [Gary] Bass just started hauling everybody in every 30 days. There's a joke at Tulalip that if you come to tribal court, get a divorce, we're going to give you a UA [urinalysis]. Want to write a will? We're going to give you a UA. You're in trouble?We're going to give you a UA. Why would you do that? Because it's absolutely critical to address the underlying cause of the crime, and the underlying cause is unresolved drug and alcohol abuse in over 80 percent of the cases at Tulalip. So you've got to identify it early so if you do a UA, you can suddenly see if somebody has a substance-abuse issue because Tulalip is right on the I-5 corridor, there's lots of drugs that are available on the Tulalip reservation. Meth is one that just scares absolutely everybody in the community.

So you've got to figure it out. If you come in and you actually are arraigned because you're accused of a crime, you will have to take a UA. Now we won't use it against you -- as the judges -- but we want to know, are you using drugs? Do we need to get you treatment? And we'll have a CD [chemical dependency] evaluation done before you even get to trial. If you go into custody in the jail, because you're a danger to the community or to yourself, you're going to get a CD evaluation while you're in jail [because] we want to know what the underlying cause of the problem is. You're going to come to court every 30 days and you're going to answer to the judge. And you're not just going to answer in a bad way. So when you say, Judge Pouley, "˜I did the best I could to get to my CD evaluation but I missed it.' Judge Pouley's not going to say, "˜Okay, go to jail for the next six months,' [because] that doesn't work. I'm going to say, "˜Okay, go get your CD appointment, bring me back the card and come back to court today,' because we have to engage people in that process. Tulalip's alternative sentencing program and alternative sentencing idea is to hold individual offenders accountable for getting better. 'Do you have a job?' 'No.' 'Okay, well, before you come to court two weeks from now you bring me some proof that you stopped at the TERO office or that you stopped to get your GED or that you're doing job training and if you do, I'm going to tell you good job from the bench,' because you want to encourage the positive and have immediate consequences for the negative behavior.

Now that expanded at Tulalip, because we still had a variety of people who were sort of our revolving door of justice people. You know who they are. The ones who come in three or four or five or six times in a year because despite our best efforts, they just can't kick a disease. It's recognition that it's a disease, that a judge can play a crucial role in diagnosis and treatment of a disease. In 2005, the chief of police at Tulalip looked around and said, "˜Wow, this is working.' So he didn't ask the chief judge. He went to the tribal council and he told the tribal council that they should plan a drug court, that they should require all of the departments at Tulalip to come together to plan a court system that was responsive to the needs of their community. And in 2005 the tribal council, the board of directors at Tulalip, passed that resolution. Chief judge didn't say, "˜Oh, no. We're not going to hear that resolution from the tribal council.' Chief of police didn't say, "˜Oh, no. We're not going to send anybody.' We all have the same problems and we all need the same solutions. So Chief Judge [Bass] and I went about the business of coordinating those meetings. And out of that a wellness court was born.

Now you just have to change everything, right? So you can't have a system of punishment and prison. You have to have a system of praise when you do a good job and accountability, immediate consequences when you don't. You have to have goals for your individual clients. You have to call them clients and not defendants. You have to change the whole way you think about the system and the wellness court really was sort of the final vehicle to do that. The wellness court is a group of people who sits and meets once a week about all of our clients in the wellness court. It includes everybody. It includes CD treatment providers, mental health providers, domestic violent perpetrator, treatment providers, but it also includes GED, job training, Northwest Indian College, casino employment, TGA who grants licenses. All of these people come together once a week to ask this very simple question. How do we help our client get better? It's a pretty amazing tool, but it's only amazing if you take the very last step. And at Tulalip we sort of did it backwards but we gave it a name. It's called [Tulalip language] -- the court giving the means to get stronger. If all of the people involved in the justice system have that perspective, it fundamentally changes the way that business gets done. It's not a western-style court system transplanted on the Tulalip reservation. It's a Tulalip court system to try and help all of our relatives get better. It's a pretty big change in just the way you think about things. And even though I'm a Colville tribal member, I have to tell you this, I've got plenty of relatives on the Tulalip reservation and that's true for most of us. Everyone in our communities is our relatives and you have to be vested in helping them get stronger.

So what's the last thing? How do you live in peace? What's the lessons we learn from it? First thing you guys are probably going to ask me is, 'Does it work? If you just change everything, does it actually work?' Well, interestingly enough, Tulalip's only been hearing cases -- remember I said -- since 2001. So in seven years, 1,100 cases we started. We had less than 400 criminal filings last year. That means it works. The number of repeat offenders at Tulalip is down 25 percent each year for two years running -- changing the way that we do business. This year in 2007 -- and I just did the statistics, I never thought this could happen -- that the number of criminal cases filed went down another 12 percent, because people are figuring out that the court's going to hold you accountable. So don't make any mistakes about that. If you're not doing what I asked you to do, you are going to spend some time in jail. But the goal of it is different. It's not punishment. It is a time for you to be individually accountable on a short-term basis. So you give me a positive UA, you go to jail for a day, not for six months. I don't know anybody who ever learned how to be clean and sober in jail. But you can sure teach that lesson if you use it as a tool.

So 12 percent decrease in crime just between 2006 and 2007, and then we had a really interesting thing happen. Our number of civil cases -- which is cases where people don't go to jail, cases where you come to resolve child custody disputes, get child support, where you want to sue for damages -- guess what happened to those? For the very first time in 2007 they were higher than our criminal cases. Now why does that matter? A lot of people say, "˜Well, geez, that just means you have to go to court and court's a terrible place.' No, because at Tulalip you can choose. You can go to tribal court if you want or you can go to state court. You don't have to come to tribal court. Six hundred and one people, 601 tribal members last year voluntarily came to tribal court instead of going to state court. Well, that's a big deal. Some of those 601 people came to get restraining orders or filed civil suits against each other instead of beating the crap out of each other. That's a good day.

So not only do you have a decrease in crime and an increase in the number of civil cases, but do you know that 80 percent of the criminal case load at Tulalip, so about 400 cases, 80 percent of those have a current drug and alcohol evaluation? Almost all of them are compelled into treatment. And the amazing thing is when people start into treatment you get so much information. Most people don't choose to be drug or alcohol addicted. There are mental health issues that need to be addressed, so almost all of our clients in wellness court also are seeing mental health counselors and they're resolving issues that are maybe centuries old. You also have to make sure that you get people a job.

My favorite sort of success story at Tulalip actually is about a person. So we took in wellness court, [Tulalip language], the hardest of the hard core: people who had had two or more cases filed a year and had been unsuccessful in probation in six years. And in 2006, no, 2007 -- last year -- we had two graduates, people who had been clean and sober for 18 months who are now working when they never worked before. We have one young lady who just moved into the fifth stage who is probably 25 years old. She was in jail probably for six months of that timeframe. You know what? She's been clean and sober for over a year. She got her kids back. She is a great parent and she's taking parenting classes and her significant other, who was also in trouble with the law all the time, they're together raising their own children in a clean and healthy way. So how do you do that? How do you accomplish that objective?

It's sort of what I call the four C's and actually I think there's six of them. At the end of the PowerPoint presentation it gives you all six of them. But I sort of lump them together in about four. You have to have communication and coordination of your services. Your law and justice system must be part of the whole tribal system. You have to be prepared as tribal council people, and tribal council judges have to be prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with their elected officials to say, 'Enough is enough,' to say that it's time to help our relatives heal. [Because] I have to tell you, it's not all roses. We've got great statistics, but if you start holding tribal members accountable, what do you think the tribal membership says? So it's important that you're all on the same page. You have to stand together. Your tribal court system is part of your government every bit as much as any other department. And the fact that we have separation of powers doesn't mean we have a separation of problems. You and I all have the same problems. It doesn't mean that we have separation of solutions. Because I'm a judge, I know a variety of things about promising practices. Because you're tribal council people, you know a variety of things. If we put our heads together, we can get it done [because] it's really for that young lady and her husband and their kids, because we get to break that cycle of drug and alcohol abuse and poverty to give them a real future. So it's worth the effort, but you've got to be prepared and you have to be able to stand together. You have to communicate it to everybody. So it's absolutely critical that everybody in the community knows what's happening [because] if they don't, it looks a little funny. And people don't necessarily like changing the justice system. There's a lot of people who think Western-style justice systems all have to look the same, so you've got to communicate. So you've got to coordinate, communicate. You absolutely have to be corrective. So you have to have somebody who's in the position to say, "˜You did a great job. I am so proud of you. I can't believe you've been clean and sober for a year. Your kids are so proud of you. I know your grandma's so proud of you. Good job.' [Because] too many times nobody bothers to tell people good job when they do a good job. We happily toss them in jail when they don't, but it's got to be corrective. So you have to reward good behavior, but you also have to be prepared to send people to jail for the consequences if they're not doing what you need them to do. And it has to absolutely be comprehensive. That's the last C. You've got to look at it in a holistic way. You can't just do it from one department perspective. You really do have to all stand together 'cause you know what happens when we all stand separate, right? It's happened over and over and over again. About this, the future's now. About this problem of drug and alcoholism and crime on Indian reservations, we need to take control [because] that's what the Shenandoah proverb says, right? "˜It's no longer enough to cry peace. We've got to act peace, live peace and live in peace.' I think we can do it. So call your tribal court judge. We can do it together. We're all part of the solution. Thank you very much." 

Honoring Nations: Theresa M. Pouley: The Tulalip Alternative Sentencing Program

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Judge Theresa M. Pouley of the Tulalip Tribal Court discusses how the Tulalip Tribes reclaimed criminal jurisdiction from the State of Washington and then developed the award-winning Tulalip Alternative Sentencing Program, which she explains is a more effective and culturally appropriate approach to the administration of justice for Tulalip citizens. 

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Pouley, Theresa M. "The Tulalip Alternative Sentencing Program." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 27-28, 2007. Presentation.

Duane Champagne:

"Our first speaker will be -- well, it was supposed to be Gary Bass, who is the head judge at Tulalip and he is one of the founders and sustainers of the Alternative Sentencing Program. But in his place, he's sent us Theresa Pouley, who is associate judge and who actually made the presentation at the Honoring Nations final program. They're 2006 honorees and have a very outstanding program, which I'll let Theresa tell you about."

Theresa M. Pouley:

"Well, I want you to know first that Judge Bass really wanted to be here and he is here in spirit, but he's also here in form. If you look at the 2008 applications [brochure], his picture's right here, standing next to me. And I thought a little bit -- except justices and judges are supposed to be more serious -- that I'd wear it as a little mask today so it was really Gary Bass, but then I changed my mind. I'm Theresa Pouley. I'm the associate judge. As chief judges often do, he delegated this responsibility to me to talk to you about Tulalip's Alternative Sentencing Program. And I was actually delighted. When I talked to Amy [Besaw Medford] and she called me on the phone, she said, 'Oh, this is going to be the feel good section,' and I was like so excited [because] nobody says 'feel good' and 'tribal court' in the same sentence ever. So what I'm going to do is just remind you that when I start out, it's not going to feel very good, but when I get to the end, just like Amy's been for this whole conference -- she's totally right, it is going to work.

I always start, when I do presentations like this, by thinking about words from our ancestors, from different tribes. And in this particular case, I thought about this saying from a Shenandoah proverb that says, 'It's no longer enough to cry peace. We have to act peace, live peace and live in peace.' And Tulalip's Alternative Sentencing Program is really geared towards doing those things. How do you act peace?

You look a little bit at the history of the Tulalip tribes  -- and this is not the feel good part of my presentation -- crime on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, which is located in western Washington, traditional fishing tribe, about 3,500 tribal members now -- the reservation by the time the 1980s and 90s came around was characterized by everybody who knew it as lawless. That's a pretty serious, and makes you take a serious sigh, about how the criminal justice system is operating at Tulalip. Now why is that? It's exactly the same as it is all over Indian Country -- the federal government took over traditional Native problem-solving and replaced it with a system of punishment and prison, and not a surprise, it didn't work at Tulalip. The main road that goes through the Tulalip Reservation was designated by the Washington State Patrol and virtually every other agency as 'blood alley' because of the number of drug- and alcohol-related deaths on its highways. In 2001, the Tulalip Board of Directors said, 'Enough is enough. We're tired of having state law enforcement on the reservation, we're tired of sending tribal members to state court, we're tired of having this reputation of lawlessness on the reservation, and we're going to take our community back. We are going to solve the criminal problems that happen within the boundaries of the Tulalip Reservation.' And they did.

They got a State [of Washington] piece of legislation, which retroceded all of their criminal jurisdiction under Public Law 280, and they took over and went about the business of adjudicating its own tribal members as guilty of crimes and holding them accountable for those crimes. Now, 2001, you had a huge influx of cases. So Tulalip Tribes never has heard a criminal case, never had a criminal defendant come before the bench before, and in a two-year period of time, they had 1,100 criminal cases filed in tribal court. Zero to 1,100. Imagine, if you will.

By 2003, Chief Judge Bass came to one conclusion that should have been easy for any judge to see all along, which is, his clients were all the same clients. And why were they committing crimes? Were they committing crimes because they had criminal behavior? No. They were committing crimes because 95 percent of the time, they had substance abuse issues. Over 60 percent of the time, they had mental health issues. Many of them suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because they were removed from their family's homes, because they were sent to boarding school. The issues that were bringing those clients to court simply were not being resolved, not on any day. So Judge Bass decided, in a Nike© kind of way, 'Just do it.' We can do it better than that.

So he created a special criminal calendar where he had clients come into court on a weekly basis and he asked them the question. 'I asked you to get a drug and alcohol evaluation. Did you get one?' And if they didn't, then he'd say, 'You're going to get one by next week and if you don't, I'll throw you in jail.' Throw you in jail for a long time like they would in the state court system? Warehouse you off 365 days? No. One day, to make the point. That's how important it was that you should get a drug and alcohol evaluation. Combined with that -- you know, modern technology is a wonderful thing. He used a system of urinalysis testing. It's a big joke at Tulalip, by the way. If you come in to get a will at Tulalip, you better be prepared to take a UA. You want a divorce, we're going to hand you the cup. Because, here's the key, early identification of drug and alcohol related issues and constant monitoring of sobriety is critical to your ability to comply with court orders. If the judge tells you that you have to get community service, that you need to get a job, you need to get a GED, what is the chance of you being able to accomplish that objective if you're addicted to drugs or alcohol? All of the state statistics will tell you exactly what the chances are: seven in 10 Native Americans in jail today are there because they did not comply with their probation. Why not? Because they're addicted to substances.

So a concerted effort was made by Judge Bass to change the way business got done. It was so successful on individual clients that the police were seeing, that the Chief of Police of the Tulalip Tribes went to the Board of Directors and said, 'I think you should pass a resolution. That resolution should require that we all investigate alternative sentencing and that we have a drug court.' And they passed a resolution implementing those things. So that's the history of how we get there. So now we know how we act peace. So how do we live peace?

We have Tulalip's Alternative Sentencing Program, which incorporates all the best values of the Native culture into a modern and traditional court system. First of all, you have regular and frequent reviews with the judge. And the judge is there not to punish you, the judge is there to encourage you to make better choices. If you do a good job, the judge is going to come off the bench and give you a hug. If you get your GED and graduate, your case is going to be closed. If you get a job when you haven't been employed for the last 20 years of your life, a round of applause is going to break out in the courtroom. That's how alternative sentencing works. We still had a group of clients that we couldn't reach, our repeat offenders who had been in court now five, or six, or seven, or eight times. And that particular system wasn't working. So the question became, what do we do with those clients? And the answer is, change. Change everything. And you start with changing the name. [Salish language]. The court 'giving the means to get stronger' is Tulalip Tribes' wellness court. Wellness court coordinates all of the services of the tribe. They all meet together once a week and those clients come forward and visit not just with the judge, but with all of the institutions of the tribe. Drug and alcohol counselor is there, mental health counselor is there, GED provider is there, Northwest Indian College is there -- everybody who has a vested interest in this person's life and in the requirements for that person sits at the table once a week. But remember, you have to change everything.

So imagine the courtroom. Now the courtroom is an entirely different place. They all sit in a circle. They start the proceedings and they open with a prayer. And everybody sitting around the circle, client, public defender, prosecutor, police officer, treatment provider, we all take our turn giving a prayer. And then all of the clients take turns doing closing prayers. Now Tulalip isn't a homogenous society. We have a variety of religions that are there, but we all get to learn and respect one another. These proceedings which happen in a circle, you don't sit on the bench–which is a problem for me when I do [Salish language], because I'm a little short, so sitting around in the circle sometimes is problematic, so I like to get up and wander around. You all sit in a circle, you open with a prayer, you close with a prayer, and they all watch out for each other.

When we first were awarded Honoring Nations in 2006, we'd just started [Salish language]. Now, we've had our first two graduates. The most rewarding thing, and this is what Amy's right about, is that I have a grandma who is a grandma to her grandchildren again, and a mother to her children again. The most rewarding thing is that I have a young mother who's 25 years old, who has four children who have all been removed from her care. And not only has she been clean and sober for eight months [because] she's got to come visit with the whole team every week, but now she's starting to get her children back. The Tulalip Tribes is planning on moving for an in-home dependency within the next couple of months. And not only that, as if that wasn't enough, her husband has always been a problem child. Since 2001, he was one of our very first criminal cases. And in 2006, he's still racking up charges. And in 2007, he's out of jail and on probation again. And guess what? He also is doing fabulously. The family's in family counseling, there's in-home services. We just gave them a congratulations card because, for the very first time in their life, they have a home with their children in it. You can just change everything and you do it just one at a time.

Now that's sort of the anecdotal information, but I'm always reminded, especially when I come to these gatherings, that it's not really my job. Nor do I get the luxury of seeing the results on a daily basis, but every once in awhile I get that reminder. We don't do this work for the mom, necessarily. We do this work to break the cycle of violence and drug addiction in our community that deprives her children and her grandchildren from being able to be tribal chairwoman. Actually, her children are all girls. So if they wanted to be tribal chairman that would be okay, too.

So if you act peace, live peace, how do you live in peace? You have to figure out how to incorporate the custom and tradition and values of the tribe into the justice system. Courts are not popular places. Nobody wants to come to court. I bet all of you when you thought you were going to talk to a judge you're like, 'Oh, man.' And I bet each and every one of you has a relative who's been to court and didn't have anything nice to say about going to court. Remember that separation of powers does not mean separation of solutions, and it certainly doesn't mean separation of problems. The Tulalip Board of Directors passed a resolution that said that we should plan a wellness court, that we should plan alternative sentencing, and the chief judge could have said, 'Absolutely not! You can't say anything about that. Separation of powers.' But he didn't because we have the same problems and we needed the same solutions. The same thing's true for the chief of police. He didn't ask those questions and he wasn't interfering with the province of the court. We need to learn how to work together. We have to quit thinking of our relatives who are in court as sort of the black sheep of our family. We have to love all of our clients and I really hope for every one of my clients everyday -- even when I send them off to jail once or twice -- that they get the message this time. [Because] I never know when I'm going to be looking at the chairman of my tribe, or when I'm looking at the mother of the chairman of the tribe. [Salish language]. That's the judge's role. The court's role is to give people the tools to help them be stronger. But that means everybody here -- this is all of your obligation -- you've got to talk to your local tribal court judge, bring them into the loop. Don't be afraid of passing a resolution. It is absolutely critical to our tribal members that we take the time to figure out how those disadvantaged people in our communities can be made whole, because if we don't, that's just perpetuated into another couple of generations. It's absolutely critical that you use justice systems to change behavior in a positive way. And when you do that, you go back to the more traditional problem solving.

At Tulalip it was like this all the time. From my own family it's absolutely like that. Court becomes a place where there's teaching to be given, not only to the person who's appearing in front of you, but to everyone else in the courtroom and everyone else in the community. Teachings are given. That's how we hand down particular pieces of information for the next generation. So, it's the old Shenandoah proverb right? Tulalip decided 'it's not enough to cry peace' anymore. 'We [absolutely] have to act peace, live peace and live in peace.' Crime rate at Tulalip, a year after this program, has decreased 25 percent -- 25 percent. That's an amazing day. And we get our mothers and our grandmothers back. We get our fathers and our grandfathers back. We do it for the future of our children in the ways of our ancestors. Thank you."