community engagement

Improving Ethical Practice in Transdisciplinary Research Projects Webinar

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Transdisciplinary research, or research conducted by people from different disciplines and organizations working together to solve a common problem, holds promise for communities and scientists seeking to address complex socio-ecological problems like climate change. However, this collaborative research approach requires thoughtful consideration of ethical concepts to better account for working with individuals, communities and organizations as partners in, rather than subjects of, transdisciplinary research. This webinar will explore principles for improving ethical practice in transdisciplinary research in socio-ecological settings, such as appropriate representation, deference, self-determination and reciprocity. We will discuss opportunities to deepen ethical skills for researchers in all career stages to improve our transdisciplinary research in response to new challenges, contexts and societal needs.

Native Nations
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Topics
Citation

Wilmer, H., Meadow, A. M., Ferguson, D. B. (2020) Improving Ethical Practice in Transdisciplinary Research Projects Webinar. Northwest Adaptation Science Center. Webinar. https://vimeo.com/user83638479

Expanded Ethical Principles for Research Partnership and Transdisciplinary Natural Resource Management Science

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Natural resource researchers have long recognized the value of working closely with the managers and communities who depend on, steward, and impact ecosystems. These partnerships take various forms, including co-production and transdisciplinary research approaches, which integrate multiple knowledges in the design and implementation of research objectives, questions, methods, and desired outputs or outcomes.

These collaborations raise important methodological and ethical challenges, because partnering with non-scientists can have real-world risks for people and ecosystems. The social sciences and biomedical research studies offer a suite of conceptual tools that enhance the quality, ethical outcomes, and effectiveness of research partnerships. For example, the ethical guidelines and regulations for human subjects research, following the Belmont Principles, help prevent harm and promote respectful treatment of research participants.

However, science–management partnerships require an expanded set of ethical concepts to better capture the challenges of working with individuals, communities, organizations, and their associated ecosystems, as partners, rather than research subjects. We draw from our experiences in collaborative teams, and build upon the existing work of natural resources, environmental health, conservation and ecology, social science, and humanities scholars, to develop an expanded framework for ethical research partnership.

This includes four principles: (1) appropriate representation, (2) self-determination, (3) reciprocity, and (4) deference, and two cross-cutting themes: (1) applications to humans and non-human actors, and (2) acquiring appropriate research skills. This framework is meant to stimulate important conversations about expanding ethics training and skills for researchers in all career-stages to improve partnerships and transdisciplinary natural resources research.

Resource Type
Citation

Wilmer, H., Meadow, A. M., Brymer, A. B., Carroll, S. R., Ferguson, D. B., Garba, I., Greene, C., Owen, G., & Peck, D. E. (2021). Expanded Ethical Principles for Research Partnership and Transdisciplinary Natural Resource Management Science. Environmental Management. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-021-01508-4

Articulating ‘free, prior and informed consent’ (FPIC) for engineered gene drives

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Recent statements by United Nations bodies point to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as a potential requirement in the development of engineered gene drive applications. As a concept developed in the context of protecting Indigenous rights to self-determination in land development scenarios, FPIC would need to be extended to apply to the context of ecological editing. Without an explicit framework of application, FPIC could be interpreted as a narrowly framed process of community consultation focused on the social implications of technology, and award little formal or advisory power indecision-making to Indigenous peoples and local communities. In this paper, we argue for an articulation of FPIC that attends to issues of transparency, iterative community-scale consent, and shared power through co-development among Indigenous peoples, local communities, researchers and technology developers. In realizing a comprehensive FPIC process, researchers and developers have an opportunity to incorporate enhanced participation and social guidance mechanisms into the design, development and implementation of engineered gene drive applications.

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Citation

George DR, Kuiken T, Delborne JA. 2019. Articulating ‘free, prior and informed consent’ (FPIC) for engineered gene drives. Proc. R. Soc. B286: 20191484. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.1484

This Community Is Striving To Rebuild One Of The Poorest Places In America

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PINE RIDGE, South Dakota — Alan Jealous, a 27-year-old construction worker, dreamt of building and owning a home. Homeownership is the cornerstone of the American Dream. But for this citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation living on the Pine Ridge reservation, a community that regularly tops the list of the poorest places in the country, having realized this dream is a monumental achievement. Pine Ridge, a 3,500-square-mile landmass home to nearly 20,000 people, mostly Oglala, has one of the worst economies and some of the weakest infrastructure in the developed world.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

NoiseCat, J. B. (2019, June 10). 'We Gotta Carry On': The Struggle To Rebuild In One Of The Poorest Places In America. Retrieved June 13, 2019, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/pine-ridge-thunder-valley-housing-community-development_n_5cd47574e4b0796a95d8824f

Webinar: Rebuilding Native Nations and Strategies for Governance and Development

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

The Indigenous Governance Program (IGP) at the University of Arizona has long been at the vanguard of delivering Indigenous Governance Education. To do our part at this critical time, IGP was pleased to offer our January in Tucson Courses in May event free of charge, live streamed via Zoom to participants seeking non-credit courses for professional development.

As partners of Indian country, we understand the difficult challenge facing all Native nations and Indigenous peoples across the world. We are also mindful that as the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, developing leadership capacity and governance skills is more critical to Indian country than ever before.

Since we announced this first-of-its kind resource, the online course opportunity reached capacity within five days, drawing registrants from the State of Vermont to Perth, Western Australia.  However, anyone interested in the event was eligible to participate in a free one hour webinar on MAY 27th at 12pm PST covering the principles of Native nation building and their relevance to Indigenous peoples in a time of global pandemic. Guests panelists included Karen Diver, Director of Business Development, Native Nations Institute; Miriam Jorgensen, Research Director, Native Nations Institute; Joan Timeche, Executive Director, Native Nations Institute; moderated by Torivio Fodder, Manager, Indigenous Governance Program, Native Nations Institute. 

Resource Type
Citation

Native Nations Institute. "Webinar: Rebuilding Native Nations and Strategies for Governance and Development" Indigenous Governance Program and Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 27, 2020

Native Nations Institute. "Webinar: Rebuilding Native Nations and Strategies for Governance and Development" Indigenous Governance Program and Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. May 27, 2020

 

Tory Fodder:

Everyone thanks for joining us, this afternoon wherever you're zooming in from. We're glad to have ya. Before we get started the first thing on our agenda, we'd like to acknowledge the land on which the University of Arizona sits. The University of Arizona is located on the traditional homelands of the Tohono O'odham Nation of Arizona and is the current modern-day homelands of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, so we just want to do a brief acknowledgement of the land. This afternoon we've got kind of a full, full program so we're going to try to get through it as quickly as possible but...

 

My name is Tory Fodder. I manage the Indigenous Governance Program at the Native Nations Institute. NNI, we've existed for um 30 years 30 odd years or so and our mission is to help strengthen indigenous governance you can see on the slide a bit about what we do, but this, this event is hosted by the Indigenous Governance Program, and we offer our January In Tucson courses, which is sort of a comprehensive curriculum devoted toward the Indigenous Governance

education. And out of that program that we offer both on a not for credit professional development basis but also as a master's degree program that we've recently launched at the University of Arizona and as a graduate certificate program.

 

So again, we're glad to welcome all of you. We hosted our first may in Tucson session a few... a few weeks ago I suppose... um, but um, we were… we were glad to do this as a service to Indian Country to... make some of our curriculum available particularly in this critical time. When we need

strong indigenous nations. And uh... I’ll be the moderator. I'm going to introduce our… our panelists. Karen Diver, former Chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe. She's our current Director of business development at the Native Nations Institute. Miriam Jorgensen is our Research

Director for the… for the Native Nations Institute, formerly of the Harvard Project on American

Indian Economic Development. And last but certainly not least, our Executive Director of the Native Nations Institute. Joan Timeche is here with us and they're going to go over kind of key principles of Native Nation Building, but also looking at a lot of other kind of contemporary topics that have beset tribes in our research. And then we'll... after, after our panelists give remarks, we'll move into a Q and A portion. So, if you could, any questions you have please add them…

 

(inaudible noise)

 

please add them to the chat and we'll... uh, we'll carry on from there. okay, I will turn it over... uh, to Joan.

 

Joan Timeche:

(Greeting in Hopi) Thank you for joining us here today. We wanted you to... as you begin to listen to the presentation and you're going to see Miriam, myself, and Karen going in and out to... out the… the rest of the hour and... um, what we wanted to do is have you think. Do a little bit of thinking as we share with you this information. At NNI, we think about indigenous governance and government... indigenous government all the time everything that we do is all on that. And... but right now we are... in unprecedented times. You know, with the COVID pandemic... COVID pandemic. It's really just elevated the importance of tribal governments and having good governance. So... um, so as you think about, as we proceed through this presentation think ways that good governance is evident within your own communities. So, you know, our work in this

content focuses entirely on Native nation building. So maybe folks can put in the chat box, you

know, some of the... you know what comes to mind when you hear the term nation building. So, if you can just drop in some of those comments, we would appreciate that.

 

Here's our definition of Native nation building. We believe that it refers to the processes by which a Native nation enhances its own foundational capacities, the governmental capacities for effective self-governance, and self-determined community and economic development. We know that you know some of us have written constitutions and some there's still a few of us that have unwritten constitutions as well where they're all oral rules that have been passed on. But you know, we wanted to share with you our research findings and so I’m going to turn it over to Miriam to tell us about the first finding.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Sorry about that I was muted. Hello everyone. It's great to have you here. It's exciting to see so many folks online joining us for this. It's just going to be kind of a quick introduction and overview. And hopefully, a chance to take some questions and have a bit of conversation

The first sort of principle of Native nation building and I know many of you are acquainted with the principles, but we wanted to… to provide them just in kind of quick succession with some examples that we see from Indian Country that hopefully will spur some ideas for… for you all in the work that you do in... out, in the... in... in communities and with the organizations and tribes that you... you work for.

 

So, the first principle of Native nation building is practical self-determination, and as you can see on the slide this is really the idea that the nation itself is calling the shots. It's the one that's making the major decisions on the Nation's land, for its citizenry, and around the issues that are important to it it's getting out there and exercising its jurisdiction it's kind of in the driver's seat evidence shows that native nations that have been willing to exercise self-determination, that are willing to really exert their sovereignty, are the ones that are really making significant gains toward moving toward the kinds of communities and nations that they desire. They're the ones that are achieving the goals that they've set for themselves. To give you one example of this... if you could go to the next slide. Thanks Joan ...of this exercise of practical self-determination.

 

This is an older example, and any of you who know Brian Cladoosby the former Chairman of the Board for the National Congress of American Indians... I will recognize this is an older photo of him... but I think it demonstrates that nations have been involved in the nation building process now for more than 30 almost 40 years. And so, here's an example that came from the early part of the 2000s, but it's still reaping benefits for the nation today. The Swinomish Indian tribal community...

uh, was... is in a wetlands area. It's... uh, in an area it shares the geography with Washington state, and it's in an area that is right above the ocean, and is... uh, is... uh, an area where water is

coming off the mountains and meeting the ocean, and it's a very delicate environmental situation. It shares the geography not just with Washington state but with the sub... sub state county of Skagit County, and Skagit County wanted to be the one that was permitting development in the area and then Swinomish Indian tribal community said "No" this is our reservation. We want to within the external boundaries of the reservation be the one to do any permitting for development.

 

So, there was a fight that developed between the county and the tribe to resolve this, after some mediation and some good thinking, the tribe basically said why don't we both ensure that we're permitting but we're going to follow exactly the same rules. So why don't we sit down and agree what those permitting rules are and Skagit County you will enforce them, and we will enforce them. And if somebody wants to do development in this area whether or not they're on tribal land or on fee simple land that's under the county's jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservation. They could come to the tribe for a permit if they wanted to... um, instead. So, the tribe was exercising its jurisdiction by saying we're not ceding our sovereignty we're going to be exercising our jurisdiction by being the permitting authority here, but by the way we have the same rules as the county because we've agreed what to do. And the tribe got really good at this. They got very good at being the permitting authority and in fact became quickly known as the entity that if you wanted to get worked on within this particular land area, you're going to get it done more quickly if you went to the permitting office of the tribe. In a more clear and clarified manner and that way the tribe also was the one making the rules.

 

So, after much many years now of this working the county and the tribe are still happy with the process, and it's really making sure that the tribe has its imprint of what it wants to see go on in terms of development within the exterior boundaries of its reservation. So that's one example. I'd like to go on to some other examples and Karen's going to give the next one.

 

Karen Diver:

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, this is actually pretty newsworthy... um, they were worried about the spread of COVID within its borders, so it actually enacted checkpoints on a federal highway. And a state... a co... co state highway wanting to make sure who was coming in was absolutely necessary so if it was vendors or delivery people that was fine but... um, you know not random visitors or people driving through. And immediately upon exercising their own self-rule over who comes into their homelands and in order to protect their citizens the governor of that state, Noem, challenged their authority to do that. And they rightfully cited to her their ability to self-rule under treaty where it was very explicit. The tribe is in great legal standing in this because this was litigated once... um, I believe it was in the 90s, or so. So, they… they actually you know aren't trying to reinterpret an 1850 treaty in modern day. This has already been an argument that they made so they knew what their authority was... um, to protect their own citizens and they've been very clear that they're doing this in the absence of South Dakota taking care of them as citizens of South Dakota. That they had to exert their own ability for self-rule, so this has been actually really interesting to watch. Partly because they're getting a lot of support. Really mainstream of saying, you know, they have a right to protect their citizens when the

gov... broader government is willing to do so.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

So, you can... Thanks Karen... um, you can already get a sense of this next principle of indigenous nation building which is tribes that go out there and assert their sovereignty seek to exercise self-determination. Also... um, need to, to take that second step, which is to back it up with the creation of capable institutions of government. To really exercise that self-determination and say we're not just talking about doing it. We're getting it down into the brass tax, into the nitty gritty, and do this work. For a lot of Native nations some of this work gets caught up in the really critically important task of creating a government. Writing, re-writing constitution, or a new one revising it putting in place the government that it wants to have. So that's kind of the biggest picture of building capable institutions but it's also useful to think kind of beneath the surface a little bit... So, Joan could you go on to the next slide... and that's the next level down which is it's not just creating that that upper level how does government operate, but then saying what are all the laws, policies, regulations, and protocols that we need to put in place too because those specify the structure of agencies, departments, programs, the kind of hiring you want to put in place even the sorts of grants that you would go after. So that next level down is creating that administrative and legal structure necessary to fulfill the assertions of self-determination and here we've just shown you a couple of pictures of how some tribes have done this even by codifying those... those... um, ideas into law. Karen is going to share another example that really talks about how her nation the Fond du Lac Nation has been able to do this in a particular way.

 

Karen Diver:

So Fond du Lac when it was first allowed, so to speak, that the federal government allowed us to compact tribes... to compact we didn't have any health services. We had an IHS clinic that was closed down in order for the border town to get one of their own hospitals and so we had no healthcare. So, one of the first two hires they made under self-governance was a dentist and a nutritionist, and it was really to respond to... um, the need to get... get a handle on what was wellness, and you can tell a lot about a person's health from dentistry, and we also knew that

we were losing our elders too young, and we wanted to be able to have some information about how to do an elderly nutrition program and increase wellness through diet. So, we weren't focused on... we were focused on long-term health outcomes not just treating symptoms. This grew over time to add actual physicians and other... um, nurses, nurse practitioners. Totally building on increasing what was available underneath the… the roof. So much like any other tribe the money

for referral purchase and referred care it would run out, right. So, what we learned was the more we put under the roof we could bill for that and we could preserve our ability then to say purchase and refer care for specialty care. Through that we also learned that it was this rotating funding structure right and so then we needed to learn how to bill because as the reservation was growing, we offered our own health insurance plan and so we were building our own health insurance plan.

And then we learned that, that money came with less restrictions than the IHS money. Then we learned that you know some of our folks were eligible for Medicaid at the time, but they weren't going and signing up you know because they view anything having to do with counties as "the man" so how do we protect them and their right to privacy but still get them the services that they're... um, able to and entitled to. So, we work with the county to bring intake into our own clinic, so it was our own staff doing intakes for Medicaid. But that gave us a billing source for folks without insurance. And so, and then with that money we built out more spaces, added a pharmacy... um, care services, child protection services to fully implement ICWA... um, from that we learned that wellness... we started looking holistically at what is really wellness. Wellness is also about... um, you know, taking care of children and making sure they have safe places and culturally competent care. Wellness in a family is removing stressors around summer childcare so we started adding a summer camp.

 

So really looking at that broad spectrum of community wellness and saying that that's a health care issue, a public health issue... um, so it just was growing and growing and growing. And then we had a need to really look at our own regulatory systems. Many tribes are faced with the lack of foster care families that are within the tribe so that you can maintain that children's contact within the tribe... um, and the counties were having a tough time understanding our families. So... um, the tribe passed an ordinance that allowed our health care facility through a board. An advisory board made of tribal members to license our own foster care families. To do emergency placements with families and then do long... long term licensure, and then also we expanded that and started under our own authority licensing off reservation foster care families. So that we could get to the border towns and to Duluth which is about 20 miles away. But a different county than the southern part of the reservation so we could start to meet that need off reservation and not keep losing our children. Joan if you could advance, please. We continue to look at... um, you know... so not one tribal council member is a physician. We're not social workers... um, you know, we're not... we're not dentists... um, you know, we really had to kind of check our own authority as tribal council members and say, you know, if we're going to build a capable governing institution then we need to let the experts be experts. But our job is to make sure that they are serving the needs of this community. So how we inform them is really making sure that they are staying grounded in what the needs of the community are and voicing those from what we're hearing from our tribal members, and helping them prioritize their growth and new initiatives, but it's also to challenge them upon occasion about what does that holistic wellness look like. And one of those examples was our supportive housing facility. The human services division would say, well we don't do housing we have a housing department, and housing would say well we don't do services but yet we had a chronic and long-term homeless population because of our lack of capacity. And it wasn't always around lack of housing. Sometimes it was really around social issues, chemical dependency mental health... um, what we call dual diagnosis... um, and they need a spot... or leaving domestic violence, and they needed a place to get on their feet... um, and that was stable enough. And so, it was the tribal council then who work with that institution to say... um, there's a lot of stressors that come with homelessness you can't manage chronic health conditions, you can't make sure children are safe. That wrapping around supportive services and behavioral health in a stable housing environment these are the same clients in both of those divisions, and you really must work together to provide some of our neediest tribal members. And so that started happening and... and the... the clinic

got used to understanding housing issues and how that contributes to public health outcomes,

and public safety outcomes, and the housing department learned that a more stable tenant and dealing with all of those other issues made them much more likely to come into the housing program and be more successful at it. Rather than having to get... um, kind of kicked out in six months because they couldn't manage all of the other social issues. But we also delegated things like workforce development strategies and recruiting dentists, and… and doing... um, loan repayment programs so that we could attract the workforce to our rural community. Where it's really hard to get technical... um, help sometime, and letting them know that they were going to be as a part of a holistic health care system that was integrated. So that we have a combined medical record... um, that you're a part of looking at that overall long-term wellness where you're going to deal generationally.

 

And that appeals to a lot of folks... um, Financial stability... um, we do Medicare and Medicaid subsidies if people are in the state exchanges to access affordable care act. So that we keep that billing strategy for Medicare part B and D for our elder folks. We pay those premiums. Once again, it's cheaper to pay the premiums than carry unpaid co-pays and pay through that through our Indian Health Service and then also looking at partnerships within the tribe to help expand. Bringing our clinic into our community centers. To do WIC appointments and wellness checks and helping us run our youth programs so... you know, it's the capable governing institution is giving yourself a bit of permission to think entrepreneurially about service delivery and not just taking over substandard service that the Feds do. And thinking about how it needed to meet our own community's needs. So, thank you.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

That was awesome, Karen. I think you can really hear in that story both the asserting sovereignty, asserting the exercise of self-determination, and then figuring out a way to really do that capably and well. But you also start to hear in it the third point which is the third principle of nation building that of cultural match. That it's not just about asserting self-determination and then backing it up with a capable governing institution. That institution to be effective also needs to be accepted by the community as one that's achieving its goals, is making sense to the nation, that fits within the expectations of the people about how this job gets done. And that's this notion of cultural match. Does this institution, and the way it's operating, and the goals that it's moving toward, make sense to the people. Is this how authority ought to be organized and exercised? And you really heard this on what Karen was talking about too. This is about putting in the... the community, the nation, the tribal view of how to get work done and you could hear that when she was talking for instance about the holistic health care and how they conceived of supportive housing. Joan's going to give us another example by taking us way up north and giving us an example of some... a community that she's worked with some and how they approach the... um, cultural match issues.

 

Joan Timeche:

Actually, we're going to...

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

oh sorry. So, I got, yes.

 

 Joan Timeche:

We're going to go up north next... on the next point.

 

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Sorry, Joan.

 

Joan Timeche:

It's all right no problem... so um, this is... um, an example from the Tohono O'odham nation... and... um, as many nations across the United States have that you may have an economic development corporation, an authority in this case. And one of the things that... um, that happened in its development... um, as... as the board was determining what it...how do we want to approach development in across the nation. And Tohono O'odham has over 2 million acres of land. They have 11... sub-political districts, and those 11 districts wield actually quite a bit of power. In that they have to approve any type of development that might occur, and the economic development authority was set up like many other development corps where they were expected to change the economy to help contribute to job creation. And hopefully to be able to generate revenue back into the tribal coffers. Well, when the development of the Tohono O'odham economic development authority was set up. It... it... um, didn't have any rights... um, over the land because of how it... how they were structured within the Tohono O'odham Nation. So, one of the things that became critical at the onset was for the board and staff to recognize that whatever development occurs on this nation it has to be hand in hand with the local communities and with their political districts. These 11 who actually then have coun... their own council... they have to review, and they have approval authority over any development. And one of the other things that also came into play here was that... that no... none of the work that... or any of the development work that the authority was going to be involved in, whether it's a purchase of a business or whether it's from the ground up, whatever the case may be, that it could not harm the "Himdag" of the nation. And that's their culture. That was something that we all agreed upon as board members saying that... you know, we're just a entity that's set up, and a mechanism that's set up, to do the development. But again, it was very important that we got community buy-in and projects that were being developed. The other thing that also we made a decision about, which sometimes this was difficult for us... in terms of financial feasibility, was not to compete with... um... um... a nation's district because some of them own their own business... um, or either individuals. And that's at times has come back to bite us but... um... in... um, but it's actually worked for the betterment of the community. So again, it's recognizing that there are that there are values here in place and being respectful of it and making sure that... that you... um, are following that as well.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Thanks, Joan. I think that that's such a great example because it reminds us that this notion this third principle of nation building of cultural match. Isn't just about organization... you know, it says culture is a guide to organization, but it's also a guide to action. Exactly what you do. So, how you organize to do things and what you do. Culture should be taken into account... um, in order to have that legitimacy for what government is up to. I want to go onto the fourth point to the fourth principle in the nation-building model, and that's having a strategic orientation. You can certainly feel how these pieces are woven together. You're asserting self-determination as a nation, you're backing that up with institutions that are effective and culturally matched, and you're doing so with this strategic orientation that decisions are made with the long term in mind. And with the... the visions and goals of where the nation wants to be going and what its values are in mind. So successful Native nations tend to approach development and the decisions... um, about what it needs to kind of do next in order to move in the direction it wants to go. These are not just about quick fixes to say, poverty, or other... um, issues that are entrenched in the community. They're not trying to kind of just put a band-aid on things. They're about trying to figure out what it is that's not working and then build a society that works.

 

So again, as I mentioned these are knitted together. So, the example that Karen gave... um, when she was discussing building... um, effective institutions, which is principle two. You, as I noted, you could feel a lot of principle three of cultural match in that, but you could certainly feel principle four in it too. Of not just kind of going for the quick fix. Remember how when she was talking about how in developing their health care system, they ultimately thought about the fact that they needed to involve their housing system too because they were dealing with an issue of homelessness and the interrelated client pools. Well, that certainly wasn't a quick fix notion. That was thinking with the long view in mind and saying we're not just about trying to get somebody housed for six months. We're about trying to build a society that works, and therefore creating a situation... um, where we can house those people and keep them healthy for a long time. Because that's the kind of society we want. I'm going to turn... um, first to Joan and then again to Karen. So, I’ll have Joan... you take off to Karen. To hear a couple other examples of this long-term strategic orientation and working on behalf of the values and mission and vision of the community.

 

Joan Timeche:

So, the Native Nations Institute had an opportunity to work with an Alaska

Native community the Ketchikan Indian Community...

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

See, I told you we were going to go north I was just wrong about when.

 

Joan Timeche:

(laughing) Yep, so we're up in Alaska up in northern part of the U.S.

and so, one of the things that they had started to do... It's a very small community... um, they are also um... um, checker-boarded in that they've had to as part of their tribal facilities and their headquarters is in the right in the city of Ketchikan, but their residential areas are on the border outside of the city limits and so on. So, it's... you know, they have buildings all over. All across the... um, all across the city, and one of the things that they were wanting to do was begin to really think through how do we meet the needs of our citizens. As many as many of us experience in our tribal communities, we're inundated with all kinds of issues whether it's environmental, social, economic, political, whatever the case may be, and so they begin to tackle this process. So, they engaged... um, they've been... they've been doing this for a while, and so we had an opportunity to work with them a couple of years ago. And one of the things that they did is they developed their strategic plan. Actually, starting from the council based on some previous work that they had done with the community, and began to really try to get their staff to begin to think about, how are we going to achieve some of these goals? And initially they started out with... um, in... kind of in a silo approach where every department had their own goal. They were thinking... you know, a lot of it was based on meeting... um, the… the criteria of federal funding sources. And so, they were writing a lot of that information as their goals, and what ended up happening is after the council and the directors had met a couple of times, they realized that what they needed was an overarching goal. And for them they decided that they needed... what they were really wanting to work towards... was working towards a healthy citizen and having a healthy tribe. And so, if you go to their website, it has all of these four categories and you know what came up as important to them were living their culture, the building the healthy tribe and the citizen, which actually was overall, but it's listed as a category here. Making sure that they exercise their sovereignty so that they protect their rights, their lands, and that they have economic self-sufficiency.

 

So, the... the process worked. So, everybody... um, each of the departments were required to then figure out, how does my department as the health department or as education contribute to any one of these four pillars? These became... um, in a sense a mechanism for the council to hold them accountable. They set up together with department staff and the council. Set up... um... deliverables and measures that they both could live with. So, if our goal is to infuse culture in all aspects of operations, what does that mean in a year's time? How will the council come back and reassess that? And how will citizens know that... um, those are being achieved? And so, they created this fantastic program that set up these desired outcomes, and that were actually measurable for their citizens, and they continue to work at it. And every time I go back to their website, I see that they plugged away a little bit at some of these programs. So, it's just another example of one nation taking what might have been done orally, but now... is now doing it in a more western style. If you want to call it that, in that... you know, a lot of have of us have grants and we have to be able to provide services to our programs, and it's helping the council understand what the goals are. Holding their staff accountable... uh, the departments know what the... what the council expects from them, and then so do the citizens. So, it involved all of those facets within the community. So, I’m going to turn over the next example to Karen.

 

 

Karen Diver:

So, you might see... um, the... on the photo there. So that is wild rice... um, it's actually a grass feed that grows in the water. So... um, it was a part of our prophecy that we needed to move where the food grows on the water, and that ended up being our sacred "Manoomin" or wild rice. And... wild rice ends up being a real indicator of environmental health particularly in water, and it needs a very particular growing environment. And it's very much impacted by human stressors... um, you know, sewage... you know, non-compliant systems, upstream pollutants from mining activities, and we had seen within the borders of the reservation that... um, our wild rice was greatly, greatly diminished. And from our elders we knew that the range of where we were able to get it was being diminished. That waters that used to have it where they used to go, and gather were no longer. So, we started building up a water quality department and actually started promulgating... um, regulations... um within the borders around... you know, what was impacting, and that was sulfides, and that was a lot from non-compliant septic systems. So, we ended up having to really work with other jurisdictions and create innovative partnerships, but we also had to exert our sovereignty and our right to... um, set water quality standards within our borders. We… we received... um, treatment as a state status from the EPA. So, we could... um, have authority and participate in permitting decisions not only on the reservation, but in our seated territory which is all of northeastern Minnesota. So, we would know when new industry was coming in that would impact water quality... um, we had... um, science... um, because one of the things that happens when other jurisdictions don't like tribes exerting their jurisdiction, and their authority, and their self-governance, and saying that their culture matters, and... and... and cultural patrimony matters... um, is they use western science. So, we had western scientists on staff so we could say... um, you know, why... um, these things were impactful... um, that we knew that it was coming from non-compliant septics, and that we were going to enact an ordinance that everyone even non-natives had to comply, but we could help them do that. And we could look at large mining project... projects upstream and say to the army corps of engineers how this impacted a traditional food. Partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health that says that exercising treaty rights and cultural activities is a part of spiritual wellness, but also that as a staple in our diet that it was a healthy part of our diet and contributed to good dietary.

 

So, we had a mainstream... um, organization the Minnesota Department of Health saying that... um, you know, that this was an important food and important to preserve for Anishinaabe people, my people. So, all of it was guided by... um, our traditional values our traditional culture... um, hunting fishing gathering... um, but then we even took it a step further. And people would say, well, when you want to preserve the environment... you know, it impacts our jobs and our... our way of life, our mining way of life, or our economy. So, we work with vendors and actually put a value on what a healthy water ecosystem in northeastern Minnesota how that contributes to the economy. So, we use all of these things very broadly, and a part of it is… is we know that we will cease to be who we are without access to traditional ways. So, you're in this for the long haul, right. And so, then you have these minor skirmishes along the way, and you have setbacks, and you just persevere. And we know this because our language and culture and spirituality are all tied... um, to our caretaking for the land and the water. So, our natural resources department and our resource management is staffed... and... and guided by elders who teach young Native tribal people who have fancy western educations, and fancy titles, and their scientists that they marry those things with traditional knowledge. So that they can be good stewards over time because it is a really a generational... um, issue around land management. So strategic orientation is that your government whether you write things down and have ordinances that it reflects who you are as people. And that's that... that cultural match, but it also gives you the kind of that long generational view of taking care of for your children and your grandchildren.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

So, I think in everything that you've just heard you could also feel the importance of the fifth principle of indigenous nation building, which is the important of public-spirited community serving servant leadership, which is really working toward building a nation... um, building an indigenous society that really works for that people. And helps it sustain itself over the long term. Here's a beautiful picture of Chief Oren Lyons who is an Onondaga man who exemplifies these characteristics of nation-building leadership. Over almost 90 years he's worked... um, on behalf of his nation and other indigenous nations, and he's been one of those people who helps recognize need for fundamental change. And can engage with his community to make it happen, and in fact has engaged with many commun... indigenous communities around the world in helping be an indigenous nation builder. You know, one of the things that we recognize is that indigenous nation-building leaders public-spirited leaders oftentimes are elected leaders, but they don't have to be elected leaders... Joan can you go on to the next slide... um, I wanted to kind of put an aside here that says there is a way to use your tribal codes, your tribal ordinances, and some of your protocols and expectations on behavior to help create public spirited leaders. To help kind of put... create lanes for people to operate in... um, and many nations are starting to do this through ethics codes. By on... on one hand maybe they're some... sometimes they have some punitive language like don't do this, but... um, we're starting to see a lot of tribal ethics codes go the other direction, which is really saying here's what... what good leaders in our society do. Here's what... how they... how they operate and how they behave... um, and so that's an opportunity to kind of put that sort of expectation out there... Joan we'll go down to the next slide... and that would affect in many cases elected leaders.

 

And here's another... um, picture of another Haudenosaunee leader Mike Mitchell who's an example of an elected leader who really set the standard... um, for his nation of how to behave in a nation-building fashion. And exemplifies a lot of those kinds of principles of serving the community. I wanted to tell a little bit of a story that Mike Mitchell tells about himself when he was a younger man, and first elected to be Grand Chief of his nation. He's an interesting guy because he was essentially told by the traditional leaders of the nation the two folks who tended to not seek elected leadership but exercised their authority through those more traditional channels. He was told by them. "Hey, you were raised in the longhouse, you're a traditional guy. We need you. Somebody like you over there in elected government so that we can make these systems work more harmoniously." So, he went there he... he got elected. He ran, he got elected, and he began a real campaign within the elected system to say, this is... we're going to make this ours. We're not going to be some mimicking Canada system, or mimicking the U.S. kind of system. We're going to make it ours and we're going to start to use our kinds of terms and language. Even down to the... the... the way we talk about ourselves has to be ours. So, we actually took and put a coffee cup in the middle of the table and when the council would gather to meet... um, he would say there are certain words we're not going to be using. We're not going to be talking about ourselves as a band, we're not going to be talking about the... you know, our authorities under the Indian Act. This is again a nation that shares its geography with Canada so a set of laws there that are different from the U.S. laws. He said we're not going to talk about our reserve. We're going to talk about our homeland.

 

So, we had these words that were off limits in order for them to assert their sovereignty and practice their self-determination, and he was leading them through his example. And every time somebody used one of those off-limits words, money would go into the coffee cup and people began to speak in a wholly different way. And really start to think in a different way and behave in a different way from that little piece of public-spirited nation-building leadership that he was demonstrating. Sure, enough pretty soon they had money to go buy coffee, but they were also able to behave in a way that was quite different. So that's elected leadership behaving in a public-spirited fashion. But I also want to give one final example and that's the picture at the bottom right of your screen. Here are some women who are involved in a really important project at the White Mountain Apache tribe, which is a suicide prevention program. We all know that suicide, particularly youth suicide, has been a really prevalent problem across lots of Native communities, indigenous communities worldwide in fact. And the White Mountain Apache Tribe didn't wait in a sense for, "Hey tribal council to do something about it." Social workers nurses... um, school... uh, schoolteachers, other people involved in education, and critically elders stepped in and took a public-spirited nation-building leadership role to address this issue. They got engaged with some outside researchers from Johns Hopkins University. They created programs that came from their traditional knowledge about how things would work. They tested some things, tried some other things, and have now over the course of about 15 years created one of the most successful suicide intervention and prevention programs there in Indian Country. And that came not from elected leadership but from people within the community. So again, nation building comes from lots of different places. um... I just wanted to go on and re-summarize about the kinds of things that we've found. That for Indigenous nations to be successful on all their measures culturally, socially, politically they have to be given the opportunity, and then seize that opportunity to make decisions for themselves. And that's the way they'll reach their visions. This is underscored by lots of research that's quantitative and qualitative, and by the demonstrated experience and testimony of many folks working in indigenous communities. So, I think a really critical question we want to leave you guys with is, does your governing system create an environment that can support development of the kind that you want and that you imagine really is needed for your people and for your nation? In other words, do you have the right tools. Here's just a summary of the nation building principles. And because we're down to our last 12 minutes, Karen, I’m going to just make an executive decision and skip that last little bit of your presentation because I think we'd really like to get to our questions... um, and maybe some of the things that we're going to talk about will come up in the Question and Answer period. But just to summarize we've talked about these five principles of nation building. These are the kinds of things that in our indigenous government program we... we drill down into through a lot of our courses and classes, but hopefully we've given you some examples of how they can apply and inspired you to think about that question... you'v... we've raised of what are some of the things you'd like to see done in terms of nation building in your communities? Tory has been minding the chat box where he's also asked people to raise questions that they have them. And so, I’m going to turn to Tory to ask some questions, and I’m going to primarily rely on Joan and Karen who are kind of subject matter experts... um, to respond to some of these questions that have been raised in the chat.

 

Tory Fodder:

Great! Well, thanks to our...our panelists for sort of an engaging overview of the Native nation building principles... uh, there are a few questions in the chat box and a lot of comments which are most appreciated. We'll get to those... um, in just a second. Let's start with the questions. And we'll kind of... I’ll work in reverse order because I think the... the last question that was asked that was an actual direct question is... is interesting. Someone writes... um, a second question, can... what... what are the examples of differences regarding a deputized government versus being micromanaged by a tribal council?

 

Karen Diver:

This is Karen... um, so anybody who's worked for tribal government would say that you know the council gets involved in decision making they should let their staff do their jobs, and... and exercise their expertise... um, when we were looking at Fond du Lac's human services division, the Health Division. I was talking about bringing intake workers... um, to take Medicaid applications. There was more than one tribal member who said, "well, I shouldn't have to sign up through health care through the state... um, you know, this is a... a treaty right... you know, that I shouldn't have to try to find funding sources for the tribe." The politically expedient thing on the part of the tribal council in the day would have been to say you know this is causing conflict... you know, just serve them, just go ahead and serve them, don't make them... um, you know fill out this application. What was best for the tribe as a whole, however, which meant absorbing some of that conflict with tribal members. Was to say our health system will be better and be able to provide more robust services and be more financially stable when we promote that self-sufficiency... um, and personal responsibility... um, and say that this is good for the whole tribe. And as a citizen you have a duty... um, to help us be the best that we can be. So, the micromanaging... um, and... and the

self-governing, and the deputizing is to say,

you know, the health clinic requires this. This is

their policy... um, the tribal council has approved it

and we're not going to get involved in it. So, by

way of answering your question I offer you that example.

 

Joan Timeche:

I would like to also add a couple more. I think one of the ways that you might be able to overcome some of the politicism of it all is to... um, include those authorities in some of your codes. Like you know, Department of Natural Resources might be authorized to go out and do X, Y, and Z, you know... um, and so you... you write them in there. So, it doesn't matter who the person is and who's in counsel at the time. You're just giving authority to a department with the ex... you're setting out expectations. That did they... they do X... um, Y and Z for the benefit of the nation. Same thing can be done in corporate charters for some of your development authorities. If you lay out what their authorities are, and make clear the distinction between when the tribe can be engaged in some of the decisions, and when not to. It'll help set... um, clear roles will be identified there.

 

Tory Fodder:

Great! Thank you both. Following up on with another question... um, and this is sort of a... this is also very interesting... um, one individual comments. Nation is a Western term. So, it seems as though it's an element of sovereignty, but it also has some assimilative interaction with Euro-Western culture. I think this kind of gets it to a better bit of a deeper critique of the term nation building in general... um, what's in an eye's response to that... um, and how does it kind of fit within

the framework that was outlined today.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

So, I’ll jump in and... um, just say a few things. I think that one of the challenges is to find a word... um, across many different indigenous languages and indigenous world views and... um, uh, continents even of what, what... what word would capture kind of this notion of peoplehood... um, and moving forward as a political collective... uh, so political scientists, you know, front use words like nation to capture that... um, but in indigenous nation building we really try to recognize that we're looking for a word that more or less fits, but then encourage as part of that self-determination process for... for nations for political collectives, for indigenous communities to figure out what it is that works for them. So of course, many nations already have a word like this um Navajo the word is Diné, right, which is the people..., uh and so... um, so nation building is kind of like strengthening Diné and through indigenous governance. We've seen a couple of communities, one of indigenous nations tribes in the United States... um, the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, which doesn't talk really about nation building at all. It talks about Tigua work and an-tiguaizing their efforts to do all of this work. And they've tried to put it in language for terms that... uh, make sense to their community and to their people. The same thing we've seen in Australia. The "Radri" people talk a lot about... um, the... in... in their own language. The... the terms about what it means to... in a sense be a good Radri, and create community, and build nation, and create and govern a political collective that's theirs. They're still pretty early on that pathway, but one of their first steps has been to say how do we... how do we claim this as our words again? We use nation because it's... um, a way to… to talk more generally, but we encourage communities to figure out terms that work for them.

 

 

Joan Timeche:

And I think that it's a better word than calling us a tribe because to me tribe implies you know a

cultural... has a cultural sense to it, but a nation to me means also that we are citizens. We have responsibilities back to... you know, not just rights from an entity, but we have responsibilities back to the society and to the community in general.

 

Tory Fodder:

Great! I don't want to cut off conversation. Karen did you have anything to... anything to add or...

 

Karen Diver:

I'm good?

 

Tory Fodder:

It's... um, I’ll go to our last... uh, sort of comment. I think is... um, actually a question but... um, the actual definition of Native Nation Building... uh, early on one person noted that I guess for Navajo it's about creating livable healthy communities through k... relations and kin for your children, elders, and families... um, and I guess maybe, if there is a question, it's you know, about Native Nation Building as a definition, and the kind of the scope of the language that we use... uh, in in our definition. Whether it's sort of more flexible, or… or maybe even more broad?

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

Well, I'll kick start and then I’ll quickly pass off to Karen and Joan to close things out. But you know... um, the definition that we put up on the screen earlier comes from a book that I edited and called Rebuilding Native Nations which is a textbook that we use in a lot of the work that we do. And this whole notion of strengthening the foundations...  um, for governance is... uh, kind of where we come from... uh, in our perspective. Joan kicked off by saying we think about tribal governance all the time because we think that if we... and we think that research points to the fact that Native nations need strong governance and successful governments, effective governance, competent governance. I mean that comes from both tribal governments and the sort of cultural surround of that in order to get to those dreams. In order to get to those goals that they set for themselves. So, you can't kind of get to that outcome that people want to build, the kind of society they want to build, without putting those firm foundations in place. So, for us at Native Nations Institute, when we talk about Native Nation Building. What we mean by that is strengthening those foundations of tribal government of Native nation government, so that that political collective can achieve the goals that it sets for itself. And other people will define it in other ways, but that's what our focus is.

 

Joan Timeche:

And it's going to be different. You know, what that looks like is going to be different for every nation. You know, because of how we're organized and how we recognize authority to be exercised. So not every nation is going to look the same and to me it's a general definition that can apply to many nations but allowing each one to determine specifically what that means for them.

 

Karen Diver:

And for me, this is really about... um, day-to-day resiliency of indigenous peoples because we had natural organizing principles long before the first settler ever showed up. You know, we had organized groups. We were in... in clans. We were in bands. We were in tribes, and although we had different language for it at that time perhaps. We did know how to organize ourselves. We did know how to resolve conflict. We did know how to make decisions. We did know how to work intergovernmentally across tribes and across these clans. And the modern-day version of that may be structured different, but it's going to be informed by that past, right. And what fits well for the needs today, and... and that's really a part of our resiliency. Is our adaptability in the face of all of these years of colonization. The practice matters more than the words.

 

Joan Timeche:

So, we're up...

 

Tory Fodder:

Go ahead.

 

Joan Timeche:

Okay, so we're up to... um very close to our close here and I just wanted to point out that we hope that you found... um, the session useful... um, to you. We we're sorry that you were not able to participate in one of our May in Tucson courses. We are going to have another session that's coming up in January. We hope you'll consider registering for one of those courses, but in the meantime, we have a number of resources that are available to you. Much of these are also free. We have our Indigenous Governance Database. Once we get this cleaned up, we'll have this... um, put out... um, likely put on our database as well.

 

Miriam Jorgensen:

For this session is what you're saying.

 

Joan Timeche:

I'm sorry, yeah, this session we will put it out on our database... um, our Constitution's Resource Center for those of you that might be contemplating either moving from an oral... um, governmental forum to one that's written, or either to just updating and revising to reflect some of your needs. We have that in place. We have of course our Indigenous Governance Programs. You can go to the website. If you go to our website, click on any of these tiles. It'll lead you right to that. We also have an online courses. It's based off of the book that Miriam edited and mentioned previously about Rebuilding Native Nations. It's nine modules. They're self-paced, and they're for non-credit... um, we have services that we provide on a fee-for-service basis, and although COVID-19 is...

limiting us to online only. We do normally go out and work on the ground with Indian Country. There might be some interviews out there that you might be interested in... um, you know, on tribal leaders talking about some of the challenges that they face. Our sister organization, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. This allows you to get to them and hear about all of these wonderful examples. Some of the ones that we shared. And then we have a number of resources for students, whether it's youth camps, youth workshops, such as an entrepreneurship session we're going to be offering in June, or either for graduate students who might be doing research on a nation-building topic. So, we greatly appreciate your time with us and here's our contact information. And Tory, I don't know if you have any last words to say...

 

Tory Fodder:

You know, just on behalf of the Indigenous Governance Program at the Native Nations Institute and our colleagues at the Indigenous People's Law and Policy Program all at the University of Arizona. I just want to say thanks for joining us. We've had folks from around the world call in across the

United States... uh, really glad you could join us and thanks so much for your time. We'll look forward to connecting with you, and yes, we will make the PowerPoint available take care all.

 

Joan Timeche:

Thank you.

 

 

A global assessment of Indigenous community engagement in climate research

Year

For millennia Indigenous communities worldwide have maintained diverse knowledge systems informed through careful observation of dynamics of environmental changes. Although Indigenous communities and their knowledge systems are recognized as critical resources for understanding and adapting to climate change, no comprehensive, evidence-based analysis has been conducted into how environmental studies engage Indigenous communities. Here we provide the first global systematic review of levels of Indigenous community participation and decision-making in all stages of the research process (initiation, design, implementation, analysis, dissemination) in climate field studies that access Indigenous knowledge. We develop indicators for assessing responsible community engagement in research practice and identify patterns in levels of Indigenous community engagement. We find that the vast majority of climate studies (87%) practice an extractive model in which outside researchers use Indigenous knowledge systems with minimal participation or decision-making authority from communities who hold them. Few studies report on outputs that directly serve Indigenous communities, ethical guidelines for research practice, or providing Indigenous community access to findings. Further, studies initiated with (in mutual agreement between outside researchers and Indigenous communities) and by Indigenous community members report significantly more indicators for responsible community engagement when accessing Indigenous knowledges than studies initiated by outside researchers alone. This global assessment provides an evidence base to inform our understanding of broader social impacts related to research design and concludes with a series of guiding questions and methods to support responsible research practice with Indigenous and local communities.

Resource Type
Citation

David-Chavez, Dominique & Gavin, Michael. (2018). A global assessment of Indigenous community engagement in climate research. Environmental Research Letters. 13. 10.1088/1748-9326/aaf300. 

Residence, Community Engagement, and Citizenship: How do non-resident tribal citizens connect with Native nations?

Year

The research draws from an online survey targeted primarily at younger tribal citizens living away from tribal lands; this project provides preliminary insight into 1) non-resident citizens' engagement with their tribes, and 2) the ways tribes might connect more effectively with non-resident citizens, should they choose to do so.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Schultz, Jennifer Lee, Stephanie Carroll Rainie, and Rachel Rose Starks. Residence, Community Engagement, and Citizenship: How do non-resident tribal citizens connect with Native nations? Connecting Across Distance & Difference: Tribal Citizenship in a New Era. The NCAI Policy Research Center Tribal Leader/Scholar Forum. National Congress of American Indians Mid Year Conference. St. Paul, Minnesota. June 30, 2015. Paper.

Rudy Ortega, Jr.: Asserting Sovereignty and Self-Governance

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Rudy Ortega, Jr., then Vice President and citizen of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, shares his experiences leading his community and engaging in Fernandeño Tataviam self-governance in spite of his nation not yet being a state or federally recognized tribal government.  Vice President Ortega's years-long advocacy for the rights off Fernandeño Tataviam citizens and participation in tribal constitution creation demonstrate the means some Native nations and leaders have used to assert tribal sovereignty within the cities, counties, and states in which they reside.

Resource Type
Citation

Ortega, Rudy Jr., "Asserting Sovereignty and Self-Governance," Interview, Leading Native Nations interview series, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, December 05, 2014. 

Veronica Hirsch:

“Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I’m your host Veronica Hirsch. On today’s program we are honored to have with us Rudy Ortega, Jr. Rudy currently serves as the Vice President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in San Fernando, California, and as the Chairman of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission. Rudy, welcome.”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Thank you.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Good to have you with us today.”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“It’s a pleasure to be here.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“I’ve shared a little bit about who you are but why don’t you start by telling us a bit more about yourself.”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Sure. I’m the sixth son of my father, Rudy Ortega, Sr., who was tribal Captain, Chairman of the tribe for five decades.

I’m the sixth son. I have sisters from him as well. Two of them are from San Ines, from his first wife. My father was married three times and today as growing up in the community I was beside him for many years and in 1976 he served on the Indian Commission, two years after I was born and then followed his footsteps from there as I was being raised from him and he pretty much inspired me. He was kind of my role model in leading the tribe and not just our tribe itself but our community and that’s where I got the insight or inspiration of doing the services and working for the community and from there that’s where I then later served on the Indian Commission in 2002. So I serve on multiple boards besides the Commission itself, an organization. I’m also the Executive Director for our nonprofit Pukúu Cultural Community Services where we provide services out to the community.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. Can you briefly share with us some of the Fernandeño Tataviam community’s history and specifically as part of that history what does the term California Historical Tribe, what does that designation mean for the Fernandeño Tativam?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Well, the history of our people, Tataviam, we’re one of the tribes in Los Angeles County. There are several other tribes and it’s, today it’s not just one tribe in California, we work in multiple bands and villages. So a lot of our villages are autonomous. We had Captains and each village had four Captains. So as, through historical times from the mission era to the Mexican era and now to the United States era, we collaborated our villages and stayed united that way and so we have the Tataviam Band, which we use the Fernandeño which describes what mission we’re from in San Fernando out of the LA area and a lot of, and today we only have three surviving families from all the villages that from historical times to today. And as a historical tribe in California what that means is that it gives us the power and the right to interact with inter-government, state government, local government and also participate on some cultural resources artifacts or things that may come up pertaining to the tribe as far as ancestral burial grounds, artifacts and it weighs us, allows us to weigh in and gives us our right to consultation and protection of cultural resources. So that way the tribe can retain its rights and sovereignty and be able to engage in those local governments and be influential about the policy making and the rights to protect the tribe’s role in the communities.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you for your answer. What does the classification as a non-federally recognized tribe mean for the Fernandeño Tataviam?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“It means that today although the United States fails to acknowledge the tribe as an American Indian tribe, it means that the tribe doesn’t have a trust agreement with the United States government, it’s not under the rule, it’s not under governance of the United States. It doesn’t have an MOU in short, a memorandum of understanding between the United States government and our tribe. So we’re pretty much kind of like outside of a foreign government within a government and even though we’re in our own homelands, the United States still looks at us as a, in short terms like I said, foreign government or hostile government depending on the role or actions that our leadership takes. So that’s the term of non-recognized and what the tribe is doing is seeking acknowledgement so that we can have a seat at the table with the federal government agencies as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs so we can advocate for more resources and benefits for the tribe itself. Without that the tribe seeks its own resources, innovative ways to bring funding to the tribe and protects and maintains our identity as American Indian people. Without non-recognition, with the classification of non-recognized, our people are limited to identification as Indian people when they go to a federal agency for services or to Indian Health Services, they’re turned away because they don’t come from a federally recognized tribe. So the tribe’s constantly pursuing that and that’s where the avenue of regaining acknowledgement is very supportive but is also not the ends to all means in the sense that the tribe still needs to lead its governance and protect the sovereignty of the people and identification of its own people as well.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“You mentioned that the Fernandeño Tataviam community is in the process of seeking federal acknowledgement or in this case really re-acknowledgement. Can you describe where the community is at in that process?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“We’re at the, under the Office of Federal Acknowledgement list of Ready for Active Consideration and that list pretty much states that our petition has been completed and verified by the Office of Acknowledgement to proceed and move to the next category on their list as far as active consideration which means that they will continue to, at that point in time they will begin the review process which is mandated under the federal register, the timeframe, the two year process of the public hearings, the review of our documentation, our petition for classification of a federal acknowledgement. So that’s where we stand today.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“From your perspective, in what ways and to what extent does the designation of either current, non-federally recognized status or federally recognized status impact the Fernandeño Tataviam or does it impact?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“We contemplate that many times in our tribal community as far as the impact or non-impact to our community and truthfully as a community that’s surrounded by the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, we are limited as far as access to as I mentioned earlier federal housing under Indian housing, Health Services, welfare assistance and just to be the fact saying you’re Indian, checking the box and saying you’re Indian and going for those services that the members may desire to have. Without that we are used to just going to the regular public services of the county and denouncing our Indian heritage because when a member checks the box off, the public agency or the county agency will say, ‘You need to go over to Indian Health Services or Indian Welfare,’ and then when that member goes over there, they get turned away because they don’t come from a federally recognized tribe. So that’s the impact of not having federal acknowledgement. The non-impact towards it is that the tribe today, we’ve written our own constitution, we’ve created a nonprofit, we’ve created a business and under the guidance and leadership of our own people. We have no interference from the United States government, we listed our tribal as a mutual benefit corporation in order to put our funds into a bank account. So we sought out innovative ways to continue our existence as a tribal community, as a tribal government without the interference of the United States government. But as far as I said, just to have a further reach as far as identification and it’s, that’s the process of federal acknowledgement. And some people today have returned to more modern contemporary White tribes who are fighting or existing why don’t the tribe have federal acknowledgement. The question we always receive is why don’t you have federal acknowledgement and the simple fact is that we’re in Los Angeles. At the time in 1892 the Mission Relief Act, when the tribe was being reviewed and moved into trust lands, the local politicians, the mayor of Los Angeles, the founding mayor of San Fernando, the City of San Fernando didn’t want American Indian tribes there and other folks didn’t want American Indian tribes there because the Indian people were sitting on land that had natural resources such as water or gas or minerals that were useful for the communities and to have a tribe exist in Los Angeles was detrimental to their profit, detrimental to their view of American history, American dream. And that’s why today when we advocate to our youth today, we’re not actually telling them to go get education and become, and stretch out for the American dream because we’re not looking for the American dream. We’re looking for our own community dream. We’re looking for our tribal nation dream as far as sustaining and building our nation itself. So therefore that’s the impact that we have and the non-impact of it and having, not having federal acknowledgement just gave us more of the power, more of the fire in our bellies to say, ‘Hey, this is something that we need to build up regardless of acknowledgement or non-acknowledgement. And if acknowledgement never comes our way, ’ We found innovative ways as I said. We created a business, a nonprofit to continue, to maintain and to look towards our traditional cultural. We lost so much because we had to go underground. Within our own community, within our own homelands we had to not say we’re Indian, we couldn’t speak our language, we couldn’t sing our songs, we had to work in American society. Our ancestors or prior to that when factories came into Los Angeles, gold mines were being built, we had to work in those resources and we had to say that we’re simply Mexican or Caucasian just for the fact of survival. So we adapted ourselves and from that we maintained a hidden society within the society itself.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. Can you discuss the ways in which the Fernandeño Tataviam and/or other non-federally recognized Native nations politically interact with the State of California and do such inter-governmental relationships exist? And if not, why do you think that is the case?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Many tribes in California who don’t have the federal designation do interact with California and it’s two limited statures. One as I mentioned the cultural resources. Many of the tribes have an opportunity to participate with the California Historical Commission in California which is the lead agency to oversee cultural resources. So we get to engage in policymaking as far as protecting and enhancing tribal rights over cultural resources and ancestral territory. Other areas we do depending on county to county, the level of participation. Some counties welcome tribes to engage with them and even so a federally recognized tribe will have trouble engaging with counties. From what I hear other counties are not so reluctant, not so easily approachable to engage with the tribes regardless of their federal or non-federal status. They just don’t, they still 40, 50 years back in my words I like to say they haven’t matured yet to understand that we’re living in a new century where racism should be limited but so far many of these counties still are not engaging with these tribal communities to hear from them and these areas that we’re talking about is protection of Indian children when they go into ICWA, my tribe has limited participation depending up to the judges. In Los Angeles, some judges are very friendly and approachable and allow the tribes to engage and we took even that as a different approach. We’re saying, ‘Okay, you don’t acknowledge the tribe or the tribe’s not on the federal list but we’re an organized community of organized families. We’re the extended family of this one child and we wish to participate and give insight to where we feel that this child should be placed or how they should be placed so they can maintain its, the child can maintain their cultural and traditional values within the community.’ So that’s one area where many tribes that are non-federally recognized get to participate. And again it’s limited because once the judge waives is the tribe federally acknowledged and the tribe gets too advanced or too, with too much requests or too many demands the judge can simply excuse the tribe out and say, ‘The tribe’s not federally recognized so we’re not going to no longer hear from them.’ So it’s limited to how much participation we have in the State of California as a non-recognized tribe.”

Veronica Hirsch:

 ”I want to transition now to some nation building questions as we’re terming them that are specific to Fernandeño Tataviam community and with that I’ll begin by asking how do you define nation building personally and to piggyback with that, what does that mean for the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, this idea of nation building?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Well, nation building, honestly it began back in 1950s when my father and many of the elders who passed before him. Back then we said we rebuilt the tribe. In retrospect we didn’t rebuild the tribe or we didn’t build the tribe, we rebuilt, what we’ve done is restructure how our organization or how our tribe was organized in the community. And we needed to reestablish ourselves or establish us more strongfully with our current situation of non-federal acknowledgement with no lands in trust, no resources coming our way, no one supporting our community outside our own selves so our tribal members are the ones who supported this community, our tribal members who have the passion and desire to have this continue solidly from historical times to today and the desire to know their heritage and traditions is where we started beginning our nation building or enhancing I’d say more than rebuilding or anything like that. In the 1950s they looked at bylaws, regular corporation bylaws, rules to write down and say, ‘These are the governing rules which all our members should participate.’ And the reason why our leaders back then looked at that is because that’s what western society wanted and that’s what the United States government looked at, that’s what the county understood. They understood rules and policy that were written down and documented and saying, ‘How are you leading your people or how are you following certain rules? How can we engage with you? If we talk to you one day as an Indian tribe, your story changes the next day,’ and that’s how they felt. So my father and many of the leaders said, ‘Well, we need to document our history. We need to document our government leadership, our rules, who should speak for us and this way we can point back to it and say this is how we govern ourselves.’ So as we move forward through the decades, the 1970s we solicit or petitioned for lands to be moved into a reservation, into trust for us and we were denied and it says we were denied in 1892. And then we later sought for federal acknowledgement in 1995 where we went back to community again. We actually went back to the elders first and said, ‘Are we going to the next step of soliciting or petitioning federal acknowledgement,’ and they said yes, to try for that. And that’s when we reached out to our general membership in our tribe and said, ‘This is what we’re doing, what we want to have done,’ and the consensus from all of them was to proceed forward and to pursue federal acknowledgement and to continue building our tribal communities. And one of the things they asked for was resources. We, they wanted to know, they were limited in jobs, the low paying jobs, they needed more education, they needed scholarships so they sought for us as leaders or back then as leaders to pursue and build our tribal governments regardless of our federal acknowledgement status or not. And so that’s where we began building our nation from there. Rebuilding, actually enhancing the building. Like I said, it’s more of enhancing it, bringing it to the next future and as we’re doing that we’re looking at local and I said county and state governments. And since they have a ton of code, laws, policies that governs themselves and that’s how they understand, that’s where they’re at as far as communicating and their successors after that. And so the tribe sought to do the same as well so that we can have an easier transition. So when we’re speaking to the county, they can understand us and we can understand them and there’s a set of rules that we all can follow and guide ourselves with it. So that’s how we looked at as nation building is going back to the community, speaking with them and also not just our own community but the community that surrounds us as well so that we can engage with them more extensively.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. Based upon your experiences, what other unique challenges are there for being a council member of the Fernandeño Tataviam realizing that its status is currently non-federally recognized? Are there any advantages to that status? You’ve touched upon some of them that you’ve been able to work within and around and at times between certain very defined structures that place an emphasis upon codes, regulations and policies. Within that defined structure, have you found other ways to be innovative and have you experienced unique successes because of your current status?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“We’ve, in a lot of ways I think it’s up to the leaders who are elected and appointed to these positions and myself from what I’ve seen the ones before me and the ones that are coming after me and the ones that are being elected today including myself it’s confidence and also belief behind it as well. And when you walk into a meeting and are wishing to deploy a policy that your own people decided on or make, you had to have confidence behind it to advocate for it. And in myself it’s more of getting to the table and hoping and soliciting and petitioning in a way that the gentleman across the table will or woman across the table will listen and engage with you and be able to come to a solution. And I think the one avenue that we saw that I see that we’re successful was to work with the federal, national, The Angeles National Forest and to repatriate, we buried two remains that it took my tribe, another tribe, a nearby recognized tribe and along with the federal agency to successfully rebury remains that were unearthed for approximately 40 years and that was the success. And we continue to do that. More recently my tribe with the same tribe that we advocated before were able to successfully negotiate half an acre of property within county property as designated area for reburials, for future reburials and reburials that we currently have that need to go back into the earth. So that’s the success. As being a leader in the community, advocating for the people, it takes a lot of dialogue because as you’re dealing with ancestral remains, you’re not only going to the county in this case to request that it be reburied back to the location they were found or nearby but also working with another tribe who has federal acknowledgement as well going back to your own community and elders of council that you had to speak to ask for their desires and wishes and then go back to the general membership of the tribe and ask, ‘What way or method shall we rebury these remains and is this the location you wanted to have it go back to?’ So it’s a lot of contemplating and a lot of working, a lot of negotiating, a lot of discussions, a lot of meetings for us to get to this point in time and it’s a lengthy process that takes several months to years to complete. So that’s a success that I will say that as a leadership and serve as my capacity as a leader the road that I must take is that you’ve got to be able to be open minded, to listen, maybe put your own ideas and thoughts and put them up to the people and say this is how you view things will work successfully and be able to articulate that back to the community. And at the same time listen to their wishes and demands as well and be able to deliver their message back to whoever you’re negotiating with or whoever you’re discussing with.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. On that topic of leaders responsibility to the community, how does the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians community choose their leaders and hold them accountable?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Well, in 2002 we established our constitution and prior to that it was really done very traditionally where we have selected community leaders by through our leaders or through community, through families who selected their spokesperson that would designate their person to speak on behalf of the families. In 2002 when we wrote our constitution we now go through election process and through our election process we elect our tribal president, treasurer as a whole through the entire community and then we select our legislative persons through districts to two different districts. One that would encompass the San Fernando Valley and the other that would encompass outside the San Fernando Valley. And those members living in those district areas will vote for those elected officials, five in district one and four in district two and then that will comprise our legislative body of nine people. Then our executive would be the president, treasurer, the vice president would be the one selected from our tribal legislative branch. They would choose their own vice president, they would choose the vice president for the tribe and the secretary and then those two will serve on the executive committee as well. So that’s how today we politically choose our officials and that’s how we explain to the rest of the world and the rest of the outside governments how we elect our officials and they understand that process because they’re familiar with a similar process to how they choose the leaders today. We choose a county supervisor, a City Council member for a city so they understand that process. One process they don’t understand is not written in our constitution is how we still go by our traditional ways of having our spokespersons and they are selected again by their family members. They speak on behalf of the family and they bring the information back to the community, to our elected officials. So the way we hold our elected official accountable and responsible for the duties is that one we do have a general election, vote for items that wishes to be heard by the people or move on action. We have monthly meetings that both bodies have to report on the status of what they’re working on and then the people get to address what items they find or seek that needs to be worked on or addressed. And any question that the community member wishes to find information or status or a desire for an item to be worked on, it’s brought up to the monthly meetings to ensure that our elected officials are addressing or communicating or moving forward on a project or an item that they may have a question or a query on.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. You’ve given us a brief description of Fernandeño Tataviam traditional governance and also explained the context in which those elements of traditional governance remain and apply to today. I want to ask you why, what was the choice to not include a description of Fernandeño Tataviam traditional governance within your current constitution?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“We really looked at it extensively. We, before coming up with our final constitution there was 10 different drafts and one of the drafts did encompass it. And as we were going through it, some of the elders felt that once you’ve written it down it’s that forever and a lot of traditional ways it didn’t stay forever. It was, the spokesperson may have a direction and the way they spoke about it was it’s like the river, it changes path over time. And once you’ve written it up, we become like the United States government where, or any government who writes government up, writes up the rules and you can’t change it unless you go by everyone’s opinion or changes and that’s not tradition. It’s not easily flexible, it doesn’t bend like the trees in the wind as they expressed back then. So by writing it up you lose a lot of the sensitivity, the common sense, the traditional values of living life. One, life itself is not written in stone and that’s what they expressed to us and so by writing our traditional way in the constitution we lose that value. We already lost so much in oral tradition, whatever was remaining must be handed down and traditionally passed on. So we redid it in a different way where we have cultural classes at one point in time or we continue to have them or we, certain people are mentored how these traditions are handed or passed on. So we prefer to have it that way than have it structured and written to a constitution where it may be followed, may not be followed and it’s a rule that shouldn’t be documented in such a forceful way, that’s the way they saw it.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. Can you discuss, you referred to it briefly in some previous answers that you provided but could you discuss more fully how Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians relates with other tribal communities and governments?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“We engage in multiple levels. Our community members, I would say the best avenue of communicating with other tribal, with other tribal communities because we participate in cultural traditional dances and songs, participation and engagement in festival activities and that’s the more natural way, the more harmony way. Politically, we may see different points of agenda or interest or discussion so we engage in consultation with one another, we discuss items. Just recently we’re working on two projects that involve communities from both federal and non-federal tribes to participate and engage on reburial of ancestral remains on the villages, locations. Overlapping villages was also an interesting discussion as far as who’s ancestors are more tied to a village than the other but those are, those are discussions and well-deserved discussions because that means everyone has a very passionate and hard decision, interest into it. If no one cared, then there won’t be no argument or discussion over it. But other projects are discussion on protection, future protection of artifacts and decisions on whether or not to, how we protect them. And so that’s where, how we engage. So we have the levels of tiers of engagement politically. There’s that formal way of discussing and sitting down to the table and discussing politics and discussing agenda items and others are just community engagement in participating where the tribe will invite us to their activities, festivities and vice versa, we invite them to ours as well.” 

Veronica Hirsch:   

“You made an important point about these different levels and means and even applications of engagement distinguishing that between a political form of engagement and more as you mentioned the harmony way that culturally informed form of engagement. In your opinion, how do those differing forms of engagement complement each other?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“I would say the way they’re complementing each other is that understanding that there’s a common denominator behind it in the sense that we’re all Indian people and regardless of whatever the level of participation we have, that our communities are always engaging and participating with one another and the livelihood of our future generation will coexist. And we’re able to bring to the table discussions that may surface at one point or another and we know what communities to participate with. If it needs to be a political item or an item that becomes a political item we know where the items or leaders who will be discussing such actions and as far as a community it just means that at one point in time we all come together, we break bread together and we have a good time as far as having our communities engage with one another with song and dance.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Looking back now what do you wish you knew before you first began serving on your nation’s elected council?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“That’s a difficult, for myself a difficult question. Coming from one of the sons of my father and I guess it was always looked upon that from his children or my other siblings that we, this is the role you take or as it was said to me by elders that mentored me, ‘You’re not asked to or you’re not put in the position that you want to be in. You’re in the position because you were selected to be in and for myself seeking out, that’s a question I looked at and contemplated quite a bit is what was it that I would have known prior. I think the best thing to do is or say is to engage more with the elders than I have in the past. I was mentored by mostly all of them and spoke with them and making sure that their visions or questions were sought out but as far as understanding or questioning of, it’s real, difficult for me to answer because I was taught that I’m in this position because I was asked to be in here and to serve in here as this position. That’s the, I think that would be the only way I can answer that question.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“On that point of being asked to serve in a position of leadership versus an individual seeking leadership or political recognition for himself or herself, can you discuss how that viewpoint of being asked by the community, how does that tie into some of these elements of Fernandeño Tataviam traditional governance that you’ve mentioned previously?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“I think me being asked is along the lines of the traditions. When I was asked to serve, I was 17 years old and sitting with the elder’s council. Well, actually with the tribal council which had the elders at the table at the same time and this was a discussion of seeking acknowledgement for the tribe itself. And at that time I was the only 17 year old in the room. A lot of the elders at that point in time said they have put a lot of energy in and looked towards me as the new, young energy that can help continue and enhance the tribe. So being asked to, was along the lines very traditional along that ways and someone who’s seeking federal, seeking to serve in the community, I never really asked why they would want to serve but more so we embraced it in a way as they are seeking it we sit down and counsel them and hope to give them as much information as possible so that they can become great leaders to serve the community and also to give back to the community to make sure that they are listening to community’s wishes as well.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. You mentioned previously how in 2002 the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians adopted a constitution and you’ve already discussed a bit what prompted the nation to adopt a written constitution. Are there any other factors other than the ones that you’ve provided that you believe served as motivation for the community choosing to go this written constitution route?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“There are several factors. One factor is the fact of seeking federal acknowledgement, engaging with local governments, having outside governments understand our ways so this way we can hand them a written document and they can understand how we function and work. That really supported our concept as our own nation. But more importantly it was internally. As in every community, there’s always difference of opinion. We can always agree to disagree. So we had families, we are three families in the tribe and sometimes even within the family itself disagreed. You have siblings who didn’t see eye to eye so families didn’t really participate, didn’t feel they had a voice. Under one person’s leadership or another person’s leadership and they fought to be who will be the main person in charge of the tribe and since traditional ways wasn’t, it’s not going to be documented, it wasn’t going to be documented and they always felt strong with traditional ways, we thought that writing a constitution that people can agree onto and understand that that elected officials will be the way we appoint our people to lead the tribe in the political arena, not in the traditional way, and that’s how we kept our traditional way, our songs and dances. Families can teach their own children, they can engage in social events outside of a political arena and the political arena we can always elect our own officials. They can determine who should become our leader and those who are seeking it, they can desire if the people choose to vote for them or not. We found it easier. This way we can break down the barriers of internal fighting and come to a more cohesive way of electing our folks to leadership rather than well, from what I understand the old ways [people would argue] ‘no one appointed that person to be leader of our tribe or my family, this is our leader of the tribe’ and that was a discussion prior to the constitution. And today now that they understand the constitution’s in effect, we all get an opportunity to vote for our main leader of the tribe and they get to lead us and hopefully and they have, they’re hold to the standard. Like I said earlier, we can ask them questions every month, daily and give us progress reports, reports of all their activities and hold them accountable. Under our constitution and under our tribal code as well.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. You mentioned how in this process of adopting a written constitution that there was a concerted effort to engage members of various families, of the three main families that comprise the Fernandeño Tataviam and I would ask you I guess for more information on that point, specifically what process, whether they were formal or informal, what processes were used to engage the citizens about their constitution?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“The formal process it’s difficult. You can’t put our tribal people into a presentation or a PowerPoint, very lengthy lectures. They want to know pretty much the blunt of why we’re writing such a document and the constitution as we’ve gone through it the leaders who were coming up with the drafts were sitting down with the attorneys, the UCLA attorneys that assisted in drafting our constitution in a way that, we looked at it in many different avenues but one thing we wanted to make sure that our constitution was something that the people would vest into, understand, be part of so we had to translate from what the attorneys were speaking, their lingual, even for us. I would get lost. I had to pull up a dictionary and find out what the heck they were talking about at certain times. Not immediately in the meeting but after I left the meeting I was like, ‘Okay, let me see what they’re referring to.’ And translate it to make sure that it didn’t come from them, it wasn’t the attorney’s vision of writing the constitution but it was the tribe itself. And so we had meetings to discuss it and we handed out drafts of the constitution. Don’t know honestly if everyone read it. They probably just saw a ton of text and paper, outline, red outline but I know that some folks engaged with us and in the public forum not everyone spoke but once we broke off and just had a regular discussion, one on one folks would come up to the leaders and discuss their points of view of the constitution. There was other times when we had the attorneys in the room no one would speak at times and I didn’t know why. So it was just engaging in different ways. And the way we’ve held our hearing listening sessions of the constitution was in community family homes, in certain backyards more of a potluck style and engage with them that way. If we’d try to have like a hall rented, literally no one would show up. They thought it was too formal, too rigid but having it in someone’s backyard and having everyone there at the same time having some traditional songs and dances carry on during the time of consulting with the constitution was more productive than to have a formal method of engagement with the community.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“And it sounds like that these strategies and approaches that you used to educate Fernandeño Tataviam citizens were more leaning as you said less rigid formality and more so drawing upon that traditional governance structure and that ability to relate, as you mentioned that these are listening sessions regarding the constitution. In your opinion, were these strategies, both the formal and informal, were they successful and to what degree?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“I would say they were successful in the sense of crafting up the constitution in a way that encompassed the visions of our people and I have to be honest, it wasn’t 100 percent successful ‘cause today, even today we go back and wanted to change our constitution that best serves the people itself and even though we had these sessions or listening sessions we’re now coming onto a new generation of Tataviam citizens who don’t recall the time when we had these listening sessions or meetings with the folks and a lot of them were done with predominately elders and that’s where the traditional ways kind of doesn’t work with the more modern ways and now our new generations are more in tune with today’s modern technology and modern ways that the elders who were consulting, were engaging, a lot of them have passed and so it’s more of a reeducation of our constitution. So the success of it would be the fact that we have a constitution that we follow and the fact that we get to practice a political authority and the people have the power to engage with the leadership and be able to address their interests or points. More successful of it is in our constitution that our leadership got to open up enrollment for the tribe which we took out the word enrollment. We felt that enrollment meant that you’re already part of something and you’re in but with our government status, we’re talking about registration, they had to register with the tribe to become a citizen of the tribe and engage within that and this way the families who didn’t understand the registration or the enrollment process got to come in later on and enroll. So many folks thought that because you have blood already you didn’t have to document your documentation with the tribe and so that’s a success as through over the decade of having this constitution we got to change our method of registering our tribal members, identifying our tribal members, educating them on the procedure of registration and be able to vote in the tribe itself and as they go through the constitution they get to learn how much power they have with the tribe and how they can select their leaders, how they can voice their concerns to the legislative body and how they can have the tribe champion maybe their concerns, maybe something they had an issue with in the outside community that they needed to address and by using our constitution or bylaws or of any method to engage with the tribal leadership and to ensure that they are voicing out their concerns to the communities as well.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. You mentioned this idea of educating and in fact reeducating this younger generation of tribal citizens regarding the constitution, regarding not only its history but also its practice and purpose. You also mentioned the importance of being specific in language and in using language that is relatable and understandable to the tribal citizens. I want to ask, is there a means in place whether it’s formal or informal, is there a means or method in place to continue this idea, this process of reeducating tribal citizenry regarding the Fernandeño Tataviam Constitution?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Right now the place that we’ve sought to seek is firstly the folks who are registering newly to the tribe. We give them our constitution and that gives us the opportunity to hold a conference or a session. In our constitution we have it written that we have one general meeting throughout the year and kind of that’s where a bit of our own traditional ways is written in there, kind of tucked in there because in that general meeting anything goes. You can, if you didn’t like the tribal president you can vote for a new tribal president in that meeting. But that’s the traditional way of it and that’s a time where it can take place. So at that point in time we can, we take advantage of it to address the people of our rules, of our laws, what rights they have and along with that we also have another section, we have public hearings on budget. And so they get to listen or follow ‘cause that’s where everyone will like to come in is follow the money, is address their concerns and be able to engage with it. When we first started this process, a lot of our tribal members didn’t engage and they’re now coming around to engage and realizing that the constitution does hold weight in the tribe, that the bylaws that we write, the code, does hold weight and that we follow it and is ensuring that we enforce these rules to ensure that there is a checks and balances within our government system rather the old way of one family leading the tribe only or one person is more favorable. We’re all family members so you can’t really use the nepotism card. Everyone is related one way or another. So this way they can engage and that’s the point in time where at each sectional block we educate our members of the rules, of the laws. This is where it says that you can participate in the tribe at a certain point in time to discuss funds, a certain point in time to discuss anything you want is the general council meeting of the people. And also we have, outside of that we have our cultural activities that we have coming up. In winter we have winter social gathering where we celebrate the winter solstice and Christmas. And we bring a little bit of tribal government into it just stating, ‘Here’s our rules, here’s our laws.’ Not intensively because they’re there to have a great time but a way to just ensure that there is a book, there’s rules and that if they ever want it they can go and pick it up and read it and discuss it and if they have a question about it because we always look for their opinion. And sometimes they’ll give us the opinion without reading through the constitution but say, ‘Is there something, ’, especially from elders. I have several elders that will always come up to me every time they see me, every chance they have and say, ‘Why aren’t you doing this for the tribe?’ or, and it’s amazing because they’re very innovative. Even though they’re thinking very modernly these elders are in their 90s and late 80s and they’re saying, ‘The tribe should have a hedge fund where members of the tribe will contribute and anyone who contributes to it could have a share of this fund and anyone who takes out from it will have to repay it.’ So these are the thoughts that they’re thinking about in which we have to go back and say, ‘Okay, how are we going to make this function? How are we going to make this work?’ And we tried it numerous times but it hasn’t gotten passed yet but each time they say, ‘How come that hasn’t passed or moved on it?’ So this is a way that we get to engage with them and say we’re writing up the tribal code, the tribal constitution and there’s certain limitations that we have as leaders, unless it comes from the people or we vote on it, then we can act upon it and this way we can also educate them as well at the same time.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. To what do you credit this increased level of citizen engagement? You mentioned how even as let’s say more strictly social settings or settings that have spiritual components, cultural components to it that education and elements of reeducation regarding the tribal constitution that they are integrated in a way that is not off-putting, in a way that is approachable and understandable. What other factors do you think are responsible for this ever increasing growth in tribal citizen engagement with the constitution?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Honestly it would have to be 100 percent return back to the people, showing them the truth of every dollar we earn goes right back into the larger pot, the larger vision. It’s not one person’s secret agenda. It’s not one person idea, that it’s the whole community and that we listen to your voice. We may not get to it really quickly or expedite it as much as you wish but we will eventually get there to that point in time. The fact of educational programs. Our members wanted us to grow our education department. The tribe received a grant from the Department of Indian Education for after school tutoring and mentoring our college students for higher education so the program’s in full force now. Our nonprofit that provides social services, scholarships. So everything that we bring into our community, not one person’s getting wealthy and we make sure that it’s divided equally and that it’s going to programs not everyone will receive. Of course those who are in their mid-40s or on or who don’t want to go to college are not going to apply for a scholarship, is not, or has a steady job, don’t need social services, I mean welfare services but there’s some point in time we will have a program or activity that will go to them. And if a member comes to us and it’s at different levels. So like I said earlier, an elder who asks us to create a hedge fund or a fund where every member can give into and be able to grow the funds for the tribe because now they see that whatever the tribe does and produces we’re giving it right back into the community. Not one person, like I said, not one person is receiving, be the beneficiary of those activities rather it goes to everything else and establishing our self structurally. The tribe has an office right across from the City Hall of San Fernando and just to have a stable location and the members that come in there understand that there’s rent involved, there’s bills to be paid just like a house and their own families. The tribe itself has those overhead that needs to be covered as well. So just the continued growth and the continued involvement and giving everyone an opportunity that asks to come and work for the tribe or volunteer for the tribe, give them that opportunity and not shunning anyone out or excusing anyone away from us but just making sure that everyone’s level of participation is well received within the tribe and making sure that everyone’s growth and visionary’s growth continues to grow as well with us.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Can you define in your opinion the distinction between this idea of membership and citizenship within the Fernandeño Tataviam community?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Sure. Well, the concept behind it is the fact of enrollment versus registration is that membership and also the fact of membership versus citizenship. Citizenship is part of a nation and part of a tribe or part of a community where membership you can lose your membership. To me it’s more, it sounds like a gym membership. You only have, or school membership or school enrollment and you’re enrolled to be part of a university, enrolled to attend higher education. But citizenship means that you have more rights, you have power, you have political power, you have authority to be part of and I didn’t want to downgrade or we didn’t want to downgrade the tribe and say, ‘Our members are only part of this community,’ versus ‘Our citizens are this community,’ and that’s a different statement to state in the fact that it’s saying that we are sovereign and to say the fact that our members are not just a organization of a nonprofit versus our citizens are these people when their child are born we’re registering their child to ensure that they have equal rights and that they have rights in this tribe, in this community and that they at one point in time when they turn 18 years old they’re eligible to vote, they’re eligible to lead, they’re eligible to run for tribal office or consult with the tribal government. So that’s the statement we want to be sure that our citizens of the tribe are able to engage with us and to know that when they are coming to enroll, they’re not just enrolling into a program. They’re coming to register the tribal citizens, register their children and also the fact that the reason why we chose that because in the ‘70s, in the ‘50s, in the ‘20s when the Bureau of Indian Affairs were registering members for the California Indian Judgment Fund, they were enrolling them into this program fund so they can get their share from the settlement. They have the impression that because of that action took place, they’re automatically enrolled in the tribe and that they have a designation to be part of this community but as tribes go, there’s different families. In our tribe we have three families that we descend from. You have to show proof of lineage to these families. You have to register with the tribe to become a citizen, to participate with the tribe itself and to be able to vote like I said and to engage with us. So registration is, it’s a way of saying that just like United States government, when a child is born everybody doesn’t understand that once you register your child with the county records you’re actually registering that child to become a citizen of the United States. It’s an instant documentation that occurs and that’s the same concept that we’re leading and doing with our tribal families is that we’re saying, ‘As you register your child at birth, we would like you to register your child with the tribe and record them because we have our own register records and we want to make sure that we have our census and understand how many children are being born.’ But it goes further. It goes further than collecting that data. What we found off that data is that we learn about health issues. In our community boys that are born are born with a highly chance of heart defects. We learn through the census data that we’ve, we had our own census in 2010. We built our own online system where we get characteristics instantly as they register. It’s all instant census versus waiting for someone to fill out information. But when they fill out their registration form we ask for information as far as their mother, their father, if they’re not tribal community, their health, if they have asthma, heart defects, just like in any county facility and the more, the reason that prompted it is because as I said we found that there’s boys born to tribal citizens that had heart defects so we had some children that had heart surgery as early as four weeks to as late as 12 years old and some of them, a good portion of them made it, a lot of them didn’t make it. Some of them passed through crib death, didn’t understand that the child had heart defects. So now that we understand that we’re able to deliver this message to the community, deliver it to our tribal citizens and say, ‘If you have a male, be sure you thoroughly check them. Have an expert check their hearts, a cardiologist check them because this is a high issue of the tribe.’ And just to know it closely, it affected me, my own son. One of my son’s didn’t make it. He had a heart defect. My sister’s son had a heart defect. He passed. He didn’t make it. But then one of our tribal legislators, senators, who served for a short period of time, he had a heart operation and his father who served for a longer time was always concerned every, they had told him that he would never make it past 24. Now he’s 32 years old, he walks around and a few others as well so we know that that’s a real health concern for us and that’s part of registration. So enrollment you just fill out a form, you’re not asking a whole lot of things. You have interest, you want to become a member of, it sounds like a social club versus a government and it doesn’t sound very, in the sense of registering the members and capturing characteristics, capturing information that will be beneficial as a whole for the community. Even the fact of education. When we have our census data we ask them do they go to college, have they gone to college, how many folks, we’re able, and that in turn turns around for us inside the government and the administration department where to apply for grants and how to apply for grants. And applying for grants you need this data to state your cause and we have that data. We’re able to capture that data and that it starts from the point of time of registering members for citizenship. So it’s more than just becoming a citizen, it’s more than like I said, more than just a member because it’s a lifestyle, it’s a community, it’s health issues, it’s, it’s a lot of things that come with it and just to understand the community and how it functions, that’s the reason why we are, we have dropped the word membership and went with the word citizenship and went with registration versus enrollment and just to empower our tribal government. Also too we found in the tribe that the federal government, the U.S. government minimizes the tribes and say, ‘You’re a member of,  You’re enrolled. Where are you enrolled in?’ But when we talk about that we’re American citizen everyone proudly to say that you’re an American citizen, even folks who’ve just recently become American citizens who may have immigrated more recently into the United States, they’re proud to say they’re a citizen of United States versus,  And as Indian people we say we’re proud to be Tataviam, we’re proud to be Navajo, we’re proud to be Tohono O’odham so you take that statement but we’re citizens of that organization versus memberships. We’re citizens of that tribal nation and that’s what we went with preferably and then the word enrollment.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. You mentioned how Fernandeño Tataviam conducted its own census in 2010. What prompted that action?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“We’ve, in our tribal code we’ve written a census to be conducted so in, it took us a lengthier time. We wrote a lot of rules, a lot of code as we got advice from elders and other people but a lot of stuff do take place really quickly, some stuff takes some time for certain things to occur so census was one of the areas that we’d written down that we conduct a census every five years, every four years, every,  So we went with every 10 years to have a census and the reason is for a couple fold. One, election boundaries, where people move and districts. So now that people understand that affects your districts, now everybody’s really interested in the census because District 1 has five seats, District 2 has four seats. So now the struggle of who has the more seats where it’s like the United States Republicans versus Democrats. It’s who you want more seats in one district because they feel you pay more attention to a district. So they, that affects that. Also the census creates, captures data of education levels. We have an education department. We want to apply for grants that we can be able to enhance our educational process, send people to college, to universities or retrain someone. So through our census we found that we have a high level of people who didn’t graduate high school. And so they’re coming back to the tribe and say, ‘I had my child.’ Well, one education is much more difficult. Math problems are much more complex than what we did 10, 20 years ago so their kids are coming home with homework that are more complex so the parents are now saying, ‘We need to be reeducated. We need to be, we need to catch up to our own children because we want them to enhance.’ So that census helps us capture that data. Health concerns, also social welfare, if they’re living on SSI, the seniors. If they’re in Los Angeles it’s very difficult, high cost of living so we saw a trend that a lot of people moved further north or out of the county because of cost of living, because of employment so that census catches that data and it helps us because as leaders, as we’re advocating on the behalf of the tribe, we can speak to corporations. We can say, ‘You’re leaving not only, ’ Like a regular county supervisor or City Council member who says, ‘You don’t want a factory to leave L.A. because you’re taking the jobs.’ We can say it too but we can say it more passionately because we can say, ‘Hey, this is our homelands. Our people are not from New Mexico, we’re not from Mexico. This is where we’re from. We like the jobs here but the level of our education of our members or the skill level of our members, workforce is factory work.’ Or if it’s some type of engineering type of work ‘cause we found a lot of folks are, may not have the high school level or college level of education but they’re working almost like quasi-engineers in the type of work field that they’re in because they’re working on airplane manufacturing parts. So if you have these companies leave this area, we’re not able to retain them and our members, our citizens are able to, are going to travel with them or lose those jobs so they have to be retrained or reeducated. So we have to follow the trend, we have to be educated on the trend so this way we can bolster employment for the members, for the citizens of the tribe. We can look for health concerns. Like there’s no Indian Health Services fully in Los Angeles. There’s a smaller clinic so with the concerns of our citizens and using the census data we can say, ‘Here’s these high numbers,’ as I raised the case of heart defects among the boys, among the men. We can bring those case studies and be able to really show data that here’s the cause and here’s the reasons and why we may apply for a grant or may solicit a corporation for jobs because of the census data that we retain and capture.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. What can other Native nations engaging in reform, in constitutional reform, learn from the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indian’s process?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“I think what they could learn is the methods of adapting and enhancing their own community’s concerns and really jump into their communities and understand, listen to them as far as how they can reform their constitution or establish one if they don’t have one, create the laws because it goes beyond the tribe itself as I mentioned throughout is that it reaches out to local governments, state governments and federal governments to say, ‘This is our Aboriginal territory’ and there’s a whole plethora of concerns that will come up and you need to advocate on their behalf and it gives you that tool that you’re able to go to the table and negotiate or stress your concerns for your community, for your tribal nation. But it starts off with the community itself and perhaps a constitution lengthier or smaller,  Our constitution, I believe it’s in total 14, 15 pages so we made sure it wasn’t as lengthy or just short enough to really capture the needs and desires of our community and the concerns of our citizens and the same thing for anyone who are seeking to reform themselves and their method. And it’s a way of thinking for the future and it’s best, always best that it comes from the tribe versus someone enforcing it ‘cause I know that [IRA], the federal government’s saying, ‘You have to write up bylaws, you have to write up a constitution.’ You’re under their power, under their wing and many times you may not capture what your community wants to be able to enforce or capture or what’s really, like I said for our community. We didn’t capture tradition in our constitution. We felt that it needs to stay out of it. Even though it helped mold our constitution, it’s not really enforcing the constitution because it comes from generational folks who may want to one time enforce it or not enforce the rule of traditional rules but it’s a way to keep the government moving forward and be able to advocate and participate with the surrounding communities. And as we understand, the United States government is, doesn’t want to go anywhere, doesn’t want to get on ships and move back to wherever they all came from so they’re here, they made this themselves a home and we have to understand and come to the realization that they’re here to stay as well and they love these lands as well as we do so we have to learn to engage with them and one way is to reform our constitutions or create the constitutions so that we all have the same type of speaking engagement with each other.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Has the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians changed aspects of its political culture to meet this constitution?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“In the last 10 years it has changed. It really has changed from the time my father passed in 2009 because with him he went through the decades of tradition, introducing a modern way. He’s the one who first introduced bylaws so he was one that was, and he served on the Indian Commission in 1976 so working for that or being part of that you understand government the way they were thinking so it’s slowly changing. They didn’t change rapidly but when he passed, since he was kind of the threshold behind it, folks just followed him naturally. He was naturally selected to be the spokesperson of the tribe, he was naturally voted to be the chairman and tribal president ‘cause he went through the different changes of names in our tribal constitution to become our leader that when he passed all of a sudden our laws too effect. The vice president became the tribal president, secretary became the vice president and everyone in the community was scratching their head and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We know certain individuals should have been the leader of the tribe, why didn’t that occur.’ And the wake of the constitution was in effect and actually did, was enforced, the tribal citizens didn’t realize the rule that we created is standing and is in force. And so that made them pay attention to it and said, ‘Okay, now we understand elections are really viable we just can’t elect anyone we want in there, we’ve got to make sure that they’re accountable, credible and knowledgeable to explain the tribe’s history and advance the tribe forward on our needs and desires, that our wishes that the citizens may want. So that’s what made them really pay attention was it took that travesty of my father passing to kind of wake up everyone. It wasn’t as, seeing it back then it wasn’t a full on like rude awakening, more of a realization that the constitution is in force and that we are following it. And that’s what really took place. Even though we follow other things, the budget hearings, everything else, that was the time when we really truly followed it, that was noticeable to the citizens at large that we followed our constitution and it took in place.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“On that topic of these type of watershed moments where the larger tribal citizenship realizes this is our constitution at work, our constitution in action, are there other specific moments that you can think of and maybe describe as maybe those watershed moments where people realized our constitution is working, our constitution is in action?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Other moments,  I would have to believe,  I would have to say the fact of conflict among families, among siblings where the constitution is in force and it has to be more than one person enforcing it to make it a realization that the constitution is in force because in tribes we’re still family, we can just rip up the constitution any given day and say, ‘Hey, we’re going with a whole new constitution someone wrote in the midnight hour and came up and here’s the new one,’ ‘cause we’re so small as far as community wise go and we’re governing our ownself, we have our own sovereignty so if there’s a reign of new power that comes up, they can wish to do so. But it’s a matter of everyone believing in it and following the constitution and I believe that, not to go into huge depth of the conflict that occurred but just the realization of people saying, ‘Why don’t we change that person out? We don’t like his politics. We don’t want them to be in leadership anymore. We need to remove that person. How can we do it?’ And you have these rules in place. At the same time the individuals, the citizens, other elected officials question themselves and say, ‘Do we really want to go through with this ‘cause it’s pretty harsh to go through the tribal code and the constitution in order to remove an elected official because that per, then all of a sudden everyone’s now second guessing themselves because we’re all family and we say, ‘Well, we don’t, if we do such an action we’re never speaking to that person, they’re going to forever hate us.’ So it shows the power of the constitution and the tribal code and at the same time how people can really look at it and not act impulsively, on an impulse of emotions to make a decision and just raise their iron fist and say, ‘We’re coming in with a whole new reign of power, a whole new regime,’ versus where we have to follow these rules, we have to follow this constitution and it’s put there for a reason and it made people sit down a t the table again and to discuss and have dialogue and hopefully which it did, sit down with the elected officials and say, ‘Okay, we understand you’re voted in here, you got your seat, let’s try to make the best of it and make it work and you have your agenda and you’re here for a reason,’ and the other officials were there for a reason so they had to work together to make the tribe move forward and understand they have to move their own personal agenda and work for the larger which is the tribe.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. Can you discuss in a bit more detail your involvement and I believe you mentioned your father’s previous involvement with the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Sure. The Indian Commission was established in 1976. It was established by Indians who were part of the Relocation Act and made Los Angeles their home so they sought to see rights of Indian people being heard and being protected and services rendered to tribal people who may call Los Angeles home or called it home at the time. So they sought to, the Los Angeles mayor at the time, Mayor Tom Bradley and the supervisors ,  to create the Commission. So as they created the Commission my father became one of the first community elected commissioners. So the community elected commissioners are elected by tribal people only in Los Angeles and they’re broken down similar to like the county supervisors. They each have a district and so my father had the Northern Los Angeles County and he was elected by the community of the Indian people living in the Northern Los Angeles County area. So he served on there and advocated for education, health. Those were two of his biggest agendas and which was also samely on the tribal side two of his biggest agendas here on the tribe itself. So he found that serving on the Commission can expand and reach across the tribe’s politics as well as the community of Los Angeles politics and he found them very similar, which they are, in the sense that they both needed the educational programs and health programs and social services programs as well. So he found that bridge in order to connect and bring those services to the Northern portion of Los Angeles which served our tribal members as well as the folks who call Los Angeles home. Myself, when I joined in 2002, pretty much I was firstly elected, appointed actually from Mayor Hahn who was the son of Commissioner Hahn who established the Commission. So it was kind of like father/son kind of championship kind of thing that we served and Mayor Hahn at the time was pleased to appoint me to the Commission since his father helped establish the Commission and then my father served so it was this monumental moment, a time that we shared. And the same reasons my father had the visions, my reasons to serve on the Commission is to bridge that gap, to bring extended services to the community, to be a voice for all of Indian people in Los Angeles and to champion programs and some of the initiatives that we’re working on now is Indian housing in Los Angeles, very similar to what they have in Minnesota from Little Earth. We’re looking to bring such an initiative to Los Angeles because of the cost of living and that’s the same concern that our tribe was facing as well is the cost of living. More and more members are leaving the county or moving further away from the main homelands of the tribe so it’s beneficial for me to serve and exciting for me to serve on the Commission in order to voice and opinionate and bring issues, to address issues as well that are of interest to the larger Indian community as well as my tribe and just to be a participant of it as well is great.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. You mentioned I believe a distinction between, referring back to the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission, the distinctions between being elected versus appointed to the Commission. Can you give us a bit more detail?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Sure. The makeup of the Commission, we have five appointed seats from the city, from the mayor and it’s concurred by the City Council and he gets to select five American Indians who are in, who live in the City of Los Angeles to serve on the commission and there’s additional five members who are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Each Board of Supervisor gets to appoint one member to the Commission and concurred with the Board of Supervisors, full board, and then there’s five community members that are also selected which makes a total of 15 members on, that serve on the Commission. The community members is to bring the election of the community members to vet those folks to serve on the Indian Commission. So when my father served, I remember him telling me time after time that he was questioned because he comes from a tribe who’s well, one right there in the Los Angeles area and two a non-recognized tribe and they had to show proof of enrollment in the tribe. So the tribe itself didn’t really have a form of procedure of enrollment, more everyone knew who the families were and so you had to use the California Judgement Rolls to show proof that he was who he said he was as a Tataviam Fernandeño Indian at the time. So that’s pretty much the makeup of the Commission and the community elect members are also today, in 1993 we created a Self-Governance Board which acts like a tribal council. It’s an Indian organization that serves the community and receives a grant from the state to provide programs to the Indian community in Los Angeles. So they’re the ones, the Self-Governing Board oversees the grant funds and are the five community elect members plus one member from the City Council appointed and also from the Board of Supervisors appointed which will be a total of seven members on the Self-Governance.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Reflecting upon your personal experience as the son of an elected leader and now in your position of elected leadership, what advice do you have to give to those future, those upcoming Fernandeño Tataviam leaders?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“The advice I would give them is understanding the role of leadership, understanding what they’re asking to be part of in leading and directing and guiding the tribe is to listen to the general membership, general census of the people, the citizens of the tribe, to understand their wishes and desires and to be humbling to yourself and to understand that it takes 50 percent of your energy into it because you have to leave your other 50 percent at home and that same concept is to understand that 50 percent of the people may love you at one point in time and the other 50 percent may hate you for your decisions and hope that you change out or change in, into their direction. But just to give great leadership, great guidance and understand that you’re there as that, as a guidance tool, as a leader as the tool. You’re not there as the ruler and you’re not there to dictate how the tribe should function or rule and to understand that you need to listen to every aspect of the tribal citizens in the tribe from the elders to the young and their opinion counts and is vital. And myself, that’s where I’ve looked upon. A lot of the decisions that I seek or solve to champion were not of my own, were those collectively of elders, the young people and they’re the ones who give you inspiration because sitting at a seat and writing tribal laws will get tiresome and bored and you get fatigue over it versus if you’re always innovating yourself by speaking to everyone and fighting that next solution and fighting what’s the next progress that the tribe wants to go to and in order to do that you need to speak to everyone and you need to give your attention to them and that’s the relationship that you want to carry on as a leader is that you’re going into a seat it’s like a coin toss and one day you may make a bad decision and to be honest to yourself as well. To be honest that you are leading and guiding and that you are also a follower of those who...of the people who put you in that position and you’re the follower of them but you’re leading as a whole to everyone else who they ask you to task, to carry out the task for.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Lastly, for those Fernandeño Tataviam tribal citizens who want to affect positive change in the community but are perhaps reluctant to take on positions of leadership, what encouragement would you give those individuals?”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“If you’re reluctant to take on leadership and they want the change to occur, the best thing to do is, honestly, either engage fully with your elected officials or seek out someone else that will have the passion and desire to run for office because we know the scary thought behind being in leadership, you’re in the spotlight and there’s times more ugly than good in serving the seat so you’ve got to be, have the ability to take on criticism, take on insult but understand that you’re there as a servant to the people and be able to carry on their wishes. And if you’re an individual who wants to see the change done but are a person who don’t want to run for office, find an individual within the tribal community, a citizen who has the passion and desire, who has the makings of a strong advocating leader, someone who has a great voice to carry on and champion many objectives for the community and is very promising. That would be the best method in finding the best solution to make the change occur and happen. Many times things may go in a downward spiral of elected official and the reason for it is because they’re exhausted. Not because they’re bad but maybe they’re just tired and exhausted and had enough and since maybe no one else is running for office they just out of habit continue to put their name in for office and continue to run. But if speaking to the individual doesn’t make change, then finding a new individual that can be promising would be the best solution if you choose not to run for office.”

Veronica Hirsch:

“Thank you. That’s all the time we have on today’s episode of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit NNI’s Indigenous Governance Database website which can be found at igovdatabase.com. Thank you for joining us.”

Rudy Ortega, Jr.:

“Thank you.”

Honoring Nations: Julia "Bunny" Jaakola: Turning Sovereignty into a Practical Reality: The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Julia "Bunny" Jaakola shares how the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa turned sovereignty into a practical reality through leadership, community engagement, and collaboration with outside entities.

Resource Type
Citation

Jaakola, Julia "Bunny." "Turning Sovereignty into a Practical Reality: The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Sante Fe, New Mexico. February 7, 2002. Presentation.

Andrew Lee:

"The first person I would like to introduce -- comes from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa -- is Bunny Jaakola. If you don't know, the Fond du Lac Band has won a number of awards, both in 1999 and in 2000, in 1999 for their off-reservation Indian foster care program that Bunny is involved with, and also in 2000 for their pharmacy online billing initiative. I don't know whether you're going to be discussing both in particular, but she certainly has a great deal of knowledge about 'How to Turn Sovereignty into a Practical Reality.' Welcome, Bunny."

Julia "Bunny" Jaakola:

"Thank you very much. It's a real privilege to be here. I thought that I was going to come and see some mild, nice weather coming from Minnesota, because we have a shortage of snow there. We're not having normal winter weather at all. But it's real nice being here in the sun. I'm Bunny Jaakola. I'm from the Fond du Lac Band of Minnesota Chippewa in northern Minnesota, and I work as the coordinator of social services for the tribe. I've been there almost 15 years now. I've been in the tribe a lot longer than that.

Fond du Lac has an enrollment of about 3,500 people and has grown to be the largest employer within the county of about 30,000 people. We have two casinos, one of which is in downtown Duluth. This came about as a partnership between the Band and the city council and continues to be a profitable endeavor.

Our chairman, Robert Peacock, sends his regards and regrets that he couldn't be here. I can also tell you that the chairman is very proud of the accomplishments of the staff at Fond du Lac. It's through his leadership and the support of other council members that we have been able to do what we do. A good idea for growth and development receives the attention necessary to proceed. The leaders recognized the merits of community input to determine needs, and that allows the workers to turn those needs into goals. These goals eventually become the actual steps in the overall development of services for our Indian people. Trust in the people who are hired to carry out such plans has been the impetus that retains long-term employees and nurtures the commitment to continue such projects.

Our leaders have acknowledged and continue to promote the value of working closely with the county and state neighbors to address some very hard issues, while not giving up our sovereignty. Collaboration is the key for Fond du Lac and the Minnesota conservation departments to establish hunting and fishing practices that are fair to everyone and yet retain the tribal rights of Indian people. The Fond du Lac education division strives to work closely with the public school systems and yet develop an American Indian educational system that will retain cultural values, traditions, and provide a better understanding for children of our very valuable history. Fond du Lac is also successfully carving out a tribal law enforcement program that will be able to work in conjunction with county, city, and state police. Efforts are currently at work to develop community response programs to provide options for the county court judges that will give a first or early Indian offender an opportunity for rehabilitation rather than jail time. The tentative plan requires no additional staff, nor additional funding.

More specifically to the human service division, a partnership was formed in 1994 with St. Louis County to provide Families First services to the Indian people who reside in Duluth -- and Duluth is about 25 miles away from our reservation. We have a contract with Arrowhead Juvenile Center since 1998 to provide an Indian employee to work with the Indian youth who are incarcerated there, trying to reduce the recidivism rate of the kids who are incarcerated. We have a contract with Carlton County that has been renewed each year since 1996 to maintain an on-reservation foster care program. We are just completing three years of contracts with the Duluth Family Collaborative to employee two social workers who provide wrap-around services to the Duluth Indian families.

The support I receive from Fond du Lac leadership has made it possible for me to actively participate in seven long years of the development, negotiation, and finally, the eventual signing of a tribal-state child welfare agreement with the State of Minnesota. The signing of this agreement has finally begun to change the ways counties are handling Indian child welfare cases in the state. The agreement provides four major opportunities for a better working relationship between the state and the 11 tribes in the state. They are, number one, ICWA training for all new child protection workers in the state. Two, it opens the door for additional contracts with the tribes, with counties, with the state. Three, it provides additional legislative input for tribal child welfare. Four, it instituted an eight-member ICWA compliance review team to monitor ICWA cases throughout the state.

One of the successful projects specific to Fond du Lac is the Fond du Lac Licensing and Placement Agency, which earned an Honoring Nations award in 1999. The success for the foster care program is that we were able to resolve both the jurisdictional questions and increase the number of Indian families interested in providing substitute care for those Indian children when necessary. It's a plain fact that Indian people work better with Indian providers. Because the jurisdiction laws of the state prohibit tribes from licensing off the reservation, we found a way to extend the sovereignty with full cooperation from the state. A corporation was formed and consists of Indian employees and other interested Indian people, including one tribal council member. A contract was developed and signed between this corporation and the reservation business committee. All personnel and accounting services are provided for the corporation by the tribe through this contract. In essence, you would call the corporation a step organization of the Fond du Lac Band. This program is also unusual because the corporation is licensed by the State of Minnesota. You can see how the program is actually an extension of sovereignty outside reservation boundaries. Through this contract, Fond du Lac employees have been able to impact the placements of Indian children in foster care all over northern Minnesota and further empower our existing structure.

Prior to the establishment of this arrangement, counties had few and some had no Indian foster homes. Counties had great difficulty recruiting Indian people for a variety of reasons, historical mistrust being the most obvious. This could be used as a convenient reason for not placing Indian children with Indian families as the Indian Child Welfare Act requires. It was also a lucrative income for existing foster parents, given the number of children that were being removed in the past. Since our start-up about 10 years ago, we have placed nearly 500 children in these Indian homes and provided about $3.5 million to Indian foster care providers. The future is bright for Fond du Lac's social services with our current ability to be reimbursed for the targeted case management that we've been doing since 1980, actually. Through successful negotiation by individuals committed to Indian people and a positive partnership with state employees, the road has been paved for tribes in Minnesota to finance their own social service departments in this manner. This is something that's just getting started, being reimbursed for target case management.

The award that was given to Fond du Lac in the year 2000 was the Pharmacy Online Billing Initiative. I don't know that much about the computer world but I will try to be brief to give a better description of what that project was. The resource patient management system, or the RPMS, is the existing Indian Health Service tool for the collection of data for all tribal accounts. This system has no capacity for billing. In time of rising costs and third-party payers, Fond du Lac recognized the need to change the system. The people at the human services department, or division, applied for and [were] awarded an IHS tribal management grant to attack just this problem. With the grant, Fond du Lac was able to purchase a computerized system for billing and record-keeping. A vendor was found for the development of the software that was actually implemented. Within a year we had an online pharmacy billing system that was compatible with the Indian Health Service and served the financial needs of Fond du Lac very well. The reality is that very soon after a check was received for $625,000 dollars that represented allowable billing for pharmaceuticals at Fond du Lac. This is a successful project that can be and is being replicated by other tribes. Some of the more tangible benefits that come from that particular project is an expanded pharmacy program, an optometry clinic for the Indian people in our area, a summer day camp for at least 120 kids all summer from early June until the end of August.

A few of the words I used to describe Fond du Lac are the following: We have people who have a vision; it's radar. They have that radar out there and they listen for ideas and they push to get them into place. Collaboration, negotiation and the nurturing of relationships, respect and trust, acknowledgement of existing limitations; knowing what we're not going to give away, knowing what the other party is not going to give away and working from there. Investment in membership equals long-term, committed workers. Building and nurturing a rapport with key people not only locally, but statewide and nationally. Development of resources for funding in partnerships, engaging participants in the actual planning, and thinking outside the box."

Priscilla Iba: Osage Government Reform

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Osage Government Reform Commission Member Priscilla Iba discusses the historical factors that prompted the Osage Nation to create an entirely new constitution and governance system, and how the Nation went to great lengths to cultivate the participation and ownership of Osage citizens in the reform process.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Iba, Priscilla. "Osage Government Reform." Emerging Leaders Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 26, 2008. Presentation.

"I am honored to have been asked to speak to you today, and will speak to you on the Osage government reform process. I served on the Osage Government Reform Commission, and hope to give you some insight into our process of completely changing a government that had been imposed on the Osage people for 100 years.

First I want to give you a very brief history of our former government. Then I'll take you through the phases of the reform process and highlight some of the challenges we had and how they were overcome -- or still remain challenges. Lastly, I'll read a short speech I gave to the newly elected Osage Government.

In 1881, in an effort to adapt to the changes facing our nation and to be recognized as equals with the United States, Osage leaders wrote our own constitution modeled after the United States Constitution. This meant consciously separating our traditional cosmology from our government. Primarily due to the push for allotment and statehood for Oklahoma, in 1900 agents of the United States illegally abolished our constitutional form of government.

The U.S. Congress imposed the 1906 Osage Allotment Act.

  1. It concentrated all power within a resolution style government, known as the Tribal Council, although the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] had the ultimate power over Osage affairs.
  2. The entire reservation was allotted, and because we had purchased our reservation, we were not forced to give any of it away.
  3. We also retained our mineral rights as a tribe, and each Osage was also allotted a share of that trust, termed a headright. These 2,229 were the original Osage allottees.
  4. This Act dictated the voting members to be only Osages who had inherited some portion of a headright, and were descended from those original allottees. These were also the only people who could run for office. Through the years many Osages fought to keep the Allotment Act intact, because it was unclear what would happen to us as a tribe without it.

For a number of years, candidates for the tribal council ran on the promise to obtain the vote for all Osages. In the 1970s, the U.S. courts gave us permission to reform our government and decide our membership. That government was abolished because an Act of Congress was necessary for us to be able to choose our governance. It was our own people who encouraged the U.S. government to rule the new government invalid.

In 2004, after much work by our 31st Tribal Council, our chief, two of Oklahoma's U.S. Legislators, our very able legal team, and support from the National Congress of American Indians and other political experts, President [George W.] Bush signed Public Law 108-431, An Act to Reaffirm the Inherent Sovereign Rights of the Osage Tribe to Determine Its Membership and Form a Government. This set the process in motion.

There were some decisions to be made before the Osage Government Reform Commission began to function.

  1. The Osage Tribal Council and our Chief decided who would be on the commission. Each council person submitted two names, then selected 10 commissioners and two alternates from that list of names. The people nominated could not be related any closer than cousin to anybody in the government and could not be employed by the tribe. You can imagine how difficult even this first step was.
  2. The Council, as our acting government, had to decide who would be eligible to vote in the referendum. They resolved that the people who would be able to vote would be the descendents of those original allottees on the 1906 Roll. The Osages eligible to vote could be shareholders or non-shareholders.
  3. The Council decided that a new government would be in place by our next election, which was 16 months in the future.
  4. Leonard Maker, the senior tribal planner, wrote a plan for the probable path this reformation would take.

The people making up the Commission were truly a cross section of our nation. Whether this was a part of the selection process, I don't know, but it was a very good balance. Most of us had to learn about our own government and were not knowledgeable of other governments. Obviously there was a huge learning curve ahead of us.

It also happened that we were all shareholders (headright holders), and we did not all know each other.

Our primary charge was to listen to the will of the Osage people and bring into existence the governmental choice of that majority. This was something that we took very seriously from the onset. We may have been slow starters and stumbled many times, but this was our glue. We were humbled by this mission and were determined to fulfill it.

We also knew that autonomy was absolutely necessary for us to do the job, and that we could not be influenced by anyone in the present government. That crucial independence was given to us. We do not believe reform is possible without a trustworthy commission who is free of political influence. We did report back to the Council and request any resolutions that would be needed to complete our job.

To say that it took us a while to get going is an understatement. Early in the process, we relied heavily on Leonard Maker to guide us. Later I will go more into the dynamics of our beginning. I just want you to know that it appeared we were getting very little done in the early stages.

I'll give you just one example of our difficulty in getting started. Whenever we get together now, we always laugh about this incident.  It's not really all that funny. At one meeting, it took us at least 45 minutes to decide what food we would have at the Grayhorse town meeting.

Since our meetings were all open to the public, and we voted to have them all filmed, you can imagine how we can only shake our heads at our early ineptness.

After the arrival of our coordinator, we were able to move forward with amazing speed. We all felt that a new government would not have happened without her knowledge, hard work and guidance.

It seems imperative that the coordinator or the reform commission chair have a knowledge of governments in general, is intelligent, is available to work ridiculously long hours, understands the culture, knows how to work with people and how to get them to work, and is loyal. 

We had at times three other staff members that we couldn't have done without. They did all the clerical work, record keeping, errand running, and many other jobs. This staff must be organized, hard working, computer literate, and loyal. They had to be able to get along well, especially in stressful situations.

Much of the early part of our tenure was devoted to deciding things that had nothing to do with a government. We were pleased to be able to make many of these choices, but they still took up a lot of time. In addition to the basics of electing officers and deciding how we wanted to run our meetings, we had to outfit an office and hire staff.

We had to get to know each other quickly.

Our education in government started right away. Leonard had prepared a booklet with information on various reformations made by other tribes, and we had a very enlightening seminar with the Harvard Project and The Native Nations Institute. Soon after this, we had a seminar with the Indian law department at Tulsa University.

We were told that we could request meetings with anyone and obtain any sort of information we needed, but we didn't have a clue who we needed to talk to or what sort of information we needed in the beginning. We were working hard, meeting every week, but we really didn't get moving until our coordinator, Hepsi Barnett, got there.

This is the way our work progressed:

  1. Our commission meetings were held weekly and always included a time for attending citizens to give opinions.
  2. We held over 40 town meetings to hear what the Osage people wanted in a new government.
  3. We planned to get a packet to all Osage people with lots of information about government reform. This happened late, and it was not as comprehensive as we would have liked.
  4. We hired an excellent Indian law attorney. Our decision not to hire an Osage was met with strong approval and disapproval.
  5. Many mailings went out with applications for tribal membership and information about upcoming functions and elections.
  6. A camp was held in the summer for high school-aged students to help them become familiar with governments in general and especially the history of and the issues facing our Osage government.
  7. We mailed out a survey with many governmental issues that needed to be decided. The responses -- combined with all the input from the town meetings and commission meetings -- were used to help formulate key questions put forward to eligible voters in a referendum in November 2005. This referendum marked the first time all Osages, 18 and over, had voted in a tribal election since 1900.
  8. This referendum was not in the original plan, but we felt we needed this mandate before we could proceed.
  9. Results from the referendum, Hepsi's research on other constitutions and governments, submissions from many Osage people, and work done in the drafting committee were all used to help write an Osage constitution.
  10. Near time for the vote on the Constitution, we had a two-day workshop with Osage attorneys, our council, and a few others to go over the "final" draft with a fine-tooth comb.
  11. There were still many commission meetings left to get the truly final copy ready for a vote.
  12. The Constitution was ratified on March 11, 2006 in a second referendum vote. The Osage Nation adopted, by a 2/3 majority vote, a new constitutional form of government which includes executive, legislative and judicial branches with a separation of powers between the three.
  13. We helped with the transition from one government to another. We met with program directors, casino executives, the treasurer, and anyone else we could think of and requested their records and specific information that would help make the transition easier.

This was a very challenging and rewarding experience. Maybe knowing some of our tough issues will be helpful to you.

  1. Trust within the commission was the first hurdle we had to overcome. Early on it kept us from forming workable committees, which kept us from putting together the information packet for the Osage people. However, once the commissioners began to trust each other, we listened to each other with completely open minds. We were a hard, fast unit. We were of one purpose and that was to create a government that the people wanted.
  2. It took some of us a while to really own this reformation process. Hepsi saw this as her first goal to help this happen, and she did. 
  3. We had 16 months to complete the work. Obviously, this is a very short time. More time would have helped when our best-laid plans went awry. However the finished product is a good one, and can be amended when the need arises.
  4. Getting a valid list of all the Osages who would be eligible to vote took some time and hard work by both our staff and those in the CDIB department.
  5. I believe we could have done a better job with our town meetings.
    a) We started having them before we were really knowledgeable enough.
    b) We had a time limit for comments early on, but we didn't do a good job sticking to it. It is very difficult to cut off an elder when he's trying to make a point.
    c) Many of our meetings were dominated by negative rants, so that constructive comments were harder to be made.
    d) We saw as our job to listen to the people, but many of the people really didn't have enough information to comment in these meetings.
  6. There were issues that kept coming up, so that it was difficult to cover the many topics that needed to be discussed at town meetings. An example was membership. Many wanted to take the opportunity to create a roll different than the 1906 Roll, since there were many names that had been challenged by the Osage Government at the time. Even after the referendum determined that the 1906 Roll would be used, time at meetings was still taken with the issue.
  7. Untrue gossip dogged us for the whole process.  
  8. We had a unique situation with shareholders in the mineral estate. They were the only people who could hold office and vote before this reformation. There were many who didn't want to give up this elite status.  
  9. Even though we felt we had a very good election company, they made some serious mistakes, which fueled gossip about the reformation process. 
  10. It was a challenge to provide for minerals administration and development in the constitution. The people chose the option of a mineral council made up of shareholders, elected by shareholders, who would function as an independent agency within the Osage Nation, but with no legislative authority in the Osage Nation government. It will take a while for everyone's roles in that to become clear.

Hepsi has said that 'wholesale government reform is complex and messy.' Hopefully, we will constantly be learning and striving for the best possible government for all Osage people. The future is bright, but still challenging.

  1. The Osage people all over the country have been participating in a 25-year strategic plan. Many methods to gather input and engage our people that were used in the Government Reform Initiative are being used in this process.
  2. We on the Government Reform Commission know that the constitution produced is not a perfect document. We know that times will change so that the initiative, referendum, and amending processes provided in the constitution, while not made easy, are certainly available so that the Osage people can constantly improve their governance.

I gave a short speech to our incoming government leaders, and I'm tempted to hit them with it again. I think the points I made might be of interest to you emerging tribal leaders embarking on a new life serving your people. In comparing the Reform Commission with these newly elected leaders, I said to them:

Here are some things for you to think about.

  1. Each of us represented ALL the Osage people, not any special interest group. Our backgrounds were diverse, as yours are. That's important in seeing issues from all directions. However, we couldn't let our personal ideas and desires get in the way of looking at the big picture. You will have to constantly remind yourselves of what your job is and who you represent. You are here for all of us.
  2. It was a challenge for us to get started. In the beginning the most difficult and possibly the most important issue for success is trust. Believe me, it is not an easy thing to do for people who don't know each other well, particularly a bunch of Osages. In order to establish this, all the hidden agendas must either be exposed and discussed or dropped. Trust was crucial to doing our job as it is yours.
  3. With trust comes respect. Everyone should give it and be worthy of it. Having respect for each other and his/her ideas was the only way we could fulfill our mandate.
  4. The truly amazing thing about the Commission is that we were free from political influence. We could do our jobs on behalf of the Osage people only. Of course that is a little more difficult for you, but we expect it of you. The beauty of our government is that we don't have parties. You each have one group to serve, and that is the Osage people.
  5. The learning curve was great for most of us as it is for you. Everyone has to get on board quickly.
  6. Personalities and egos: All of us on the commission were actually amazed that we could disagree so wholeheartedly on various issues, and not be angry at each other. Having a shared goal makes all the difference in the world. 
  7. Our work was humbling. We always knew that we had been asked to do a job for the Osage people, and that was such an honor. Your job isn't about power. It's about service, service to the Osage people.
  8. What we learned: Of course we had much to learn, as you do, about governing. There are other things that are equally important and long lasting. We learned:
    a. to listen, to listen, to listen.
    b. to work as a group while still allowing everyone to have and share individual ideas.
    c. to respect each other and truly care for each other.
    d. what an honor it is to serve the Osage people.
    e. to truly listen to all ideas, especially those contradictory to our own.
  9. This government is new to the Osage people and to other Native people. We are setting an example for many, and many are watching us. There are people who would like for this government to fail, and sadly some of them are Osage. Please do everything in your power to show the world that we can govern ourselves fairly and with grace. Make us proud, not embarrassed.

Thank you for your time."