Sheila Morago, Jill Peters, and Theresa M. Pouley: Some Tools to Govern Effectively (Q&A)
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.
"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?"
"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?"
"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."
"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?"
"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."
"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."
"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?"
"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."
"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."
"Thank you very much."
"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."