Arlene Templer: Engaging the Nation's Citizens and Effecting Change: The Salish and Kootenai Story

Native Nations Institute

Arlene Templer, Department of Human Resource Development Director for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), discusses what prompted CSKT to develop the Department of Human Resource Development and how the department works to cultivate self-sufficiency in CSKT citizens and use CSKT's resources for social services more effectively and efficiently.

Resource Type

Templer, Arlene. "Engaging the Nation's Citizens and Effecting Change: The Salish and Kootenai Story." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 7, 2013. Presentation.

Herminia Frias:

"I'm very pleased to be here today to introduce our panelists and moderate this session. We are going to start with Arlene Templer, and Arlene Templer is the Director of Department of Human Resource Development for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. And last year, I had the opportunity to go out and visit their nation and just see all of the amazing things that they do in their nation. And Arlene came out and presented and told us about this project she's going to share with you and we just thought, ‘Wow! More people need to know about what they're doing.' So without further adieu, her bio is in the booklet so I won't go into all that information, plus we're already starting a little bit late. Arlene is going to be our first speaker."

Arlene Templer:

"Good afternoon. I've worked for the tribe for 33 years, so it's given me a lot of background, I've seen a lot, I've tried a lot, I've survived a couple of coups. It still seems like in the tribal world, we have that crab effect where the further we get up the more people want to pull you down. So it's by perseverance and the glory of God that I sit in front of you today. The Creator put me here for a reason.

The Flathead Reservation is different than most of your reservations out there. We are 80/20 non-member. So 80 percent of our reservation are non-members. So it puts us a minority on our own Indian reservation. It's a beautiful place in northwest Montana and we own half of Flathead Lake, so it's a very pretty place. Salish Kootenai likes to be first or likes to get out there in the forefront in applying for programs and taking over programs. We're one of the first Self-Governance tribes. We have our own tribal court. We have a fantastic Salish Kootenai College, which most...I think last year, we had over 450 tribes attending our college. We were one of the first in 4E and we've contracted most of the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] programs. We used to have the superintendent and a secretary, but we don't even have the superintendent anymore. So we've pretty much contracted everything that the Bureau has done.

What I want to do today is give you kind of a practical implementation. What the tribe did in 1998 was looked around and looked at services. We were sitting at 41 percent unemployment. In Montana, you had to be 50 percent unemployment to not have the limitation on you, the five-year [limitation] on TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families]. And the tribe was applying to take over TANF at that time and applying for 477. So they created a new department and it was Department of Human Resource Development. Not a personnel department, it was human resource development. How were we going to develop our membership so that we're ready for jobs, we're ready for that home run industry that might step...come to the reservation and we're ready to stabilize families and make them self-sufficient? So they started taking programs from all other different departments. Our reservation is 1.25 million acres so we had maybe social services in St. Ignatius and we had housing up in Pablo and we had tribal health in Ronan. So we were...when people come in for services, it was, ‘Oh, you've got to go to St. Ignatius or you're got to go up to Polson or you've got to do this, you've got to do that.' We were running people all over the reservation to get services so the tribe said, ‘No, let's do an ease of service for people.' So they created the first tribal one-stop. We call it a 'one-stop' program and we were doing that before the state started doing one-stop programs. We didn't seek out their accreditation or their certification. We were already doing it. We have a tribal one-stop program.

In that one-stop, we have TANF and we run our TANF different because the tribe said, ‘We want stable families and we want self-sufficient families.' So in TANF, you have to get your driver's license, your kids have to go to school -- school participation is a must -- you have to attend mentoring. Mentoring is a 40-hour-a-week class. You come at 8:00 in the morning, you get a half-an-hour lunch and you go home at 4:30 at night. It's just like a regular job to teach people how to work. We also do drug tests. We don't base the eligibility on the drug test, but you have to do the drug test. If you fail it, it's put in your IFP, individual family plan, and you work on it. You go get an assessment and you follow the assessment rules. We have work placements. We have a problem with soft skills. We have generations of welfare, we have generations of poverty, and people don't know how to work. So we are trying to address those in the TANF. Transportation was an issue. A lot of the membership was losing their TANF eligibility because they couldn't make it to their appointments, they couldn't make it to their job seeking, they couldn't make it up to the county to make it to see their case worker. They would get up there and most of the people were hitchhiking and walk in the door and if they were five minutes late, the door was shut in front of their face. So the council said, ‘No. We're going to take the welfare from the county.' So we took the welfare and what we did was we bought two vans, started out with two little vans from TANF and we started transporting people to get to your work placements, to do your work requirements, to do the things you needed to do. And we also did assessments on those people. We found that 40 percent of the people on TANF that we brought from the county had disabilities, language disabilities, physical disabilities -- you name it, they had disabilities. Voc rehab was one of the programs we took in to DHRD [Department of Human Resource Development].

We also are very good at grant writing. I know grant writing has been a little bit negative in this workshop overall, but grant writing has set up our department. And what we did when we were grant writing is looking at grants that would enhance and train the membership. We applied for Fatherhood. We had the first Fatherhood program. It was five years and then we applied again for another three years. We've been successful both times. In the Fatherhood [program], we targeted soft skills. We have people go into work sites, we ask people not to fire them, they're called work experience placements and we work with whatever the issue is. We have a lot of our families that work in crisis. As soon as the babysitter calls and says, ‘I can't babysit today,' then they don't go to work. The refrigerator goes down, they don't go to work. The car breaks down, they don't go to work. So we're trying to work through all of those issues to make people self-sufficient. We also have LEAP [Low-Income Energy Assistance], commodities and food stamps. Food stamps, we invited the county to come down and have an office within our department, so instead of our people having to go to the county to apply for food stamps, it's in our one-stop. We gave them an office to come down and sit and have their own office in ours. So they don't have to go to the county for services anymore.

We have OCS, that's Office of Community Services, and we have all of the elder programs. And the tribe gave us a pot of money called 'Dire Need.' ‘When there's no federal dollars, there's no other dollars, there's no state dollars, we're going to give you this pot of money so that you can help the membership out.' So we've been given free reign on $100,000, it started out at $125,000, and it's to help people in emergency situations. So the council has been good to us for that. When they took all of these programs from all these other departments, it eliminated all the turf issues immediately. We still get in those little turf, ‘This is my budget, this is my money and I'm going to run it how I'm going to.' We don't have that anymore. You have one director, you have all the budgets under that person, and it eliminates all of the secretarial support for all of those different departments. It eliminates all of the support services, so we're able to save a lot of money in doing that.

After 15 years of running the department, we just now have people reaching their five-year limitation, so after 15 years. I've got an awesome TANF director. What we do is get people into work-experience placements, we get them working, we help create jobs. Up on the reservation they can do firewood, they can do post and pole, they can do Christmas treeing. Also we get per capita. We just got a recent large per capita, it was the Salazar payout of $10,000. Well, she worked with those people and said, ‘Get off the program for six months. Get off the program for the next year. Save your eligibility, you might need it.' So she has worked with people for the last 15 years doing that, so we just now have people reaching that limit. After 15 years, we're down at 24 to 29 percent unemployment depending on who you ask. So we've almost dropped that in half by putting the services into the people and making a work-first mentality. We fought a lot of mentalities. There was the government owes us, per capita, the tribe will pay for it. It was hard getting third-generation families that have never worked or third-generation families that have been caught up in alcoholism and drugs to work. We had people make that decision to be poorer. They decided, ‘No, I'm not jumping all your hoops.' What we have done is leave the door open so that when we do school clothes for kids or we do the school backpacks, we invite those kids in. We make sure that we cover all of those things.

I am the second department head. There's only been two department heads in 15 years. The first department head kept pretty much central control over all of the budgets, but she was there for probably 60 to 70 hours a week. I decided coming in that I didn't want to do that. What I did is develop nine divisions and we developed those people as division managers to run their own departments. I gave them their budgets, gave them their staff and said, ‘Okay, you guys all need to run your budgets.' The first couple of years it wasn't good. People don't know how to do budgets. People had a hard time supervising staff. But today they are all supervising, they are all doing a fantastic job.

The transportation was a tough issue. We started out with two vans and we'd seen with work-related work placements that we needed to develop a transportation system. So we applied for grants. We applied for the state grants, they have the 5311, they have JARC, they have all of their different kind of initials. We were very successful in getting those. We also got the tribal transportation grant. And then most of those state grants have these huge matches. So we were always going to the council saying, ‘I can get the grants, but you need to match them.' And second year, third year I was getting tired of going and begging for that money from the council. So I said, ‘How about if you guys let me buy the gas station?' There was a gas station that was right on our complex. ‘And I'll use the money, the revenues from the gas station, for revenues to the transportation department.' And they said, ‘Hmm.' So I wrote a couple earmarks and I was successful getting them. Senator [Max] Baucus, I wrote them to him -- both of them from him. We were able to purchase the gas station as a transportation hub. The second earmark I was able to build mechanical bays on the store. So then I was taking federal money and making it a revenue for the tribe. One of the gentlemen had asked, ‘How do you do that?' So now we are making money as a business and using the revenues to support the transportation system. Works well for us.

We also do a lot of training. I have a WIA [Workforce Investment Act] grant that does training. I have a BIA grant that does training. I have, let's see what else do I have...? Fatherhood does a lot of training. And I wrote another grant that allows us to CDL [Commercial Driver's License] training. I developed a bus system. I got 20 buses now. I need people that have CDLs. So did Forestry. They didn't have any people to take up their buses during firefighting. So did the school districts. So we wrote another grant and we will have 60 CDLs by the end of next year. We had 30 this summer. So what we do with grant writing is find the need and then go look for the grant. We're not just writing for anything that's out there. We actually say, ‘Hey, we could target that. We could bring that home and it could do this for us.' So we've been able to do that.

Lessons learned. I ran into a very strong, loud tribal member in my youth starting out. His name was 'Bearhead' Swaney. I don't know if any of you know him. He taught me very early that we are only one rung from our clients. He said, ‘In 90 days, anyone of you...' he was looking at all of us managers, ‘...would be in the same place as your clients. We're here to give them a hand up. We're here to all be successful.' And that has stuck with me from day one. That's how I work, that's how I operate, is in 90 days I could be in the same position. So help out your neighbor.

Credibility, relationships that you develop: I, over the 33 years, have developed very strong relationships with the state; I get grants from them, the federal government, the congressmen, other department heads. Senator Baucus asked me if I would come out and talk to the Senate Finance Committee on how meth is affecting tribal members on the reservation. I ran right out there and did it for him. Good things come out of relationships. I told you I got those two earmarks right up doing that as well. So make those relationships. What happens on our reservation is the tribal council is fighting with the state people over fish and game, water rights, gaming, so that there's this fight going on over the top of us and water rights right now is huge on our reservation. But us as leaders down below and the department head, I'm still reaching across the aisle to the state people, to the fed people, the people that I need to so that we can work. I'm finding those people that we can still get our job done, I can still get the grants I need, I can still bring that money home to our reservation and still allow the tribal council to do their job. So I see us once removed to be able to do that.

How do you keep the membership involved? I do this in a lot of ways. I do public hearings for a lot of my programs. I invite the public to come in and talk to me about LEAP, how could we do things different? Childcare, TANF, you name it. We have...we set a place across the reservation, we bring in cookies, we bring in drinks and we say, ‘Tell us what we could do differently.' We try to listen to the people. When we developed the Child Support Enforcement Forum, we sent out a survey. I didn't think that survey would work. The girls said, ‘Well, let's put $10 gas voucher on it, let's see how many we get.' So we did a $10 gas voucher, 500 people responded to that survey. So we really had a good idea what the people wanted. We also go to the culture committees. Boy, that can be a tough place to go. We have two culture committees. We have the Salish and then we have the Kootenai and the Kootenai is a tough place. You're going to be grilled and you're going to learn everything you probably didn't want to know about your past. We went there five times. Five times before we got that Child Support Enforcement stuff done, but we were doing code development, we were hearing what they wanted us to do and it worked for us because once we got to the council arena then, we didn't have people coming in saying, ‘No, don't do it.' I had a survey, I had a wheel showing 87 percent of the people on the reservation want this. They supported us. They were happy to do it.

The other thing that I do is allow education in my staff. I allow them... we have the college right next door, we have this beautiful bridge actually that just walks across the street to the college. There's a four million dollar bridge and it's absolutely beautiful and you walk right across and go to school anytime you want. So I encourage people, ‘Get your degrees. Continue your education.' I give them time off to do that. I say, ‘Go to school. I'm extending that hand, go get it done.' I've told my staff, ‘I've got five years left, guys. There's a couple of you in here, you can finish your degrees, you can mentor, you can do a lot of things. Get ready. Get ready.' The other thing I do is surround myself with people smarter than I am. I have a problem with writing, so I surround myself with people that know...have very good writing skills. I lack culture. I'm one of those people that grew up in a very domestic violence and alcohol home and culture wasn't passed down to us, so I surround myself with those cultural people that I need.

The questions they wanted me to answer are: What roles do tribal citizens play in rebuilding the nation? I believe that we're all there together and all we need to do is a hand up to each other to build our nations. We role model. We need to role model. I'm there at every morning at 7:00. I don't go out the door until 5:30. I don't think there's anybody in the office that can outwork me. I model every day what I expect out of my workers and I don't see anything less. I had one of my division managers come in and complain and complain and complain about a worker and I said, ‘She's just doing what you're doing.' What you model is what you're going to get out of your employees. I also try to express membership responsibility. We talk to a lot of TANF, a lot of welfare, a lot of people just beginning and I try to teach and model what you do affects us all.

Based on your experience what are some of the challenges? Some of the challenges I see are the crab effect, the pulling down of each other. I have survived two coups myself within the tribe, people wanting to take over, people wanting you out of the office, people going after you. I think with credibility and resilience and persistence and people see what kind of work you do and the grants and the funding that you can bring in, you survive.

What are the benefits to engaged citizens? If you're teaching through your programs the responsibilities, they're going to see the goals and the visions of the tribe. Also you're showing, you're demonstrating the norms for leaders. And also when I go to council, if I've done my work, if I've done due diligence, I don't have to worry about a group of people showing up and demonstrating or not wanting us to get through or wanting us to take through something touchy like Child Support Enforcement. I don't have to worry about that. I think that's all I have. Thank you."

Herminia Frias:

"Thank you. [applause] One of the things that I also remember when I went out to visit Arlene's nation was the number of people that they had employed in their top positions -- in directors, program managers -- were their own citizens and that was really impressive. Their own citizens that had the credentials, the experience to do the job, and I thought, ‘Wow, that is really good to see that they're fostering it within their nation and it's not let's bring outsiders in and have them do it because they can do it better.' It was good to see. Yeah, it's their own people that are there and we had all these people presenting and they're all..."

Arlene Templer:

"We call them homegrown."

Herminia Frias:


Arlene Templer:

"Yeah. We just start them out in WIA or Fatherhood or whatever and develop their skills, their credentials and then we hire them."

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