From the Rebuilding Native Nations Course Series: "The Unique Challenges Facing Native Nation Leaders"

Native Nations Institute

Herminia Frias, former Chairwoman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, shares some of the distinct challenges faced by Native nation leaders due to the legacies of colonialism and federal policies.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Frias, Herminia. "Rebuilding Native Nations: What Do Leaders Do?Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. October 10, 2012. Presentation.

"You know, and then on top of that you have the legacies of colonialism, the way the structure has been set up, ineffective and imposed government styles. Dr. Cornell talked about this earlier, about the constitutions and about different ways of governing. Does that match the way that you traditionally made decisions, made laws, governed, the traditional way of doing things? It's really that simple. We could talk about governance, we could say the word 'constitution,' we could come up with a big old vocabulary, but it really is, how do we do things, how do we get things done? It's that simple. I heard...a couple of weeks ago we were at a training and they said, 'It's simple, but it's not easy.' It's a simple concept, but it's not easy. It's like growing up, especially those teenage years, and if any of you have teenagers, man. I don't have any kids, but I have a teenaged niece and my sister's going through that. She calls me and she's like, 'Oh, my god.' It's simple, just raise your child, they'll grow up, they'll be healthy, teach them the values -- but it's not easy. The challenges of making a profit and governing at the same time. How many other governments have that challenge? Most governments, they'll just tax. We're going to use that tax and we're going to pay for our fire department, we're going to pave the roads, we're going to build schools, we'll just tax and tax. But tribal governments are now starting to tax on certain things, cigarette tax, hotel tax, retail tax, that are going to go back to you in services, but most of the money that you're generating is either through possibly federal grants or money that you're generating through your own development, casinos, other types of businesses, retail, land leases, whatever it is. But at the same time you're trying to balance that -- how do you make a profit and run a government? It's not easy. So all of these things that you're bringing up, you're not alone. These are tough challenges that you as tribal leaders, in whatever capacity you hold, are legitimate challenges. These are the things that we're trying to get through." 

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