federal recognition

Breaching Barriers: The Fight for Indigenous Participation in Water Governance

Year

Indigenous peoples worldwide face barriers to participation in water governance, which includes planning and permitting of infrastructure that may affect water in their territories. In the United States, the extent to which Indigenous voices are heard—let alone incorporated into decision-making—depends heavily on whether or not Native nations are recognized by the federal government. In the southeastern United States, non-federally recognized Indigenous peoples continue to occupy their homelands along rivers, floodplains, and wetlands. These peoples, and the Tribal governments that represent them, rarely enter environmental decision-making spaces as sovereign nations and experts in their own right.

Nevertheless, plans to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline prompted non-federally recognized Tribes to demand treatment as Tribal nations during permitting. Actions by the Tribes, which are recognized by the state of North Carolina, expose barriers to participation in environmental governance faced by Indigenous peoples throughout the United States, and particularly daunting challenges faced by state-recognized Tribes. After reviewing the legal and political landscapes that Native nations in the United States must navigate, we present a case study focused on Atlantic Coast Pipeline planning and permitting.

We deliberately center Native voices and perspectives, often overlooked in non-Indigenous narratives, to emphasize Indigenous actions and illuminate participatory barriers. Although the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was cancelled in 2020, the case study reveals four enduring barriers to Tribal participation: adherence to minimum standards, power asymmetries, procedural narrowing, and “color-blind” planning. We conclude by highlighting opportunities for federal and state governments, developers, and Indigenous peoples to breach these barriers.

Resource Type
Topics
Citation

Emanuel, Ryan E.; Wilkins, David E. 2020. "Breaching Barriers: The Fight for Indigenous Participation in Water Governance" Water 12, no. 8: 2113. https://doi.org/10.3390/w12082113

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.”

Robert Hershey and Andrew Martinez: The Legal Process of Constitutional Reform (Q&A)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Robert Hershey and Andrew Martinez engage participants in a lively discussion about the intricacies of secretarial elections and whether and how Native nations with Indian Reorganization Act constitutions should remove the Secretary of Interior approval clause from those governing documents.

Resource Type
Citation

Hershey, Robert. "The Legal Process of Constitutional Reform (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2014. Q&A session.

Martinez, Andrew. "The Legal Process of Constitutional Reform (Q&A)." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2014. Q&A session.

Andrew Martinez:

"Now I'm going to go into my questions. This Pueblo of Laguna document was the only document that actually noted anything towards cost. Allocated funds from the federal government for the tribe to go through this process. Funds are in the process of reprogramming for the secretarial election in the amount of $20,000. My question to the audience is, is this the same across the board, has this value changed since 2012? How's the money best allocated? What worked for the tribes?"

Audience member:

"Our tribe just went through that process of removing the Secretary of Interior, but we failed and they never mentioned to us any cost associated with it at all. And we did receive a letter saying that we would be okay as an IRA tribe, but there was still the fear within the community that we would lose our status and that we wouldn't be able to get grants, etc., etc."

Andrew Martinez:

"Would you mind me asking how you addressed that fear when it came up?"

Audience member:

"We held meetings, but we didn't hold enough meetings because by the time it was announced that there was going to be a secretarial election...going back to it, I've been on the committee for two years, and going back we should have held more educational meetings. I see that now."

Andrew Martinez:

"Hindsight's 20/20."

Audience member:

"Yeah, but that's what we should have done is that we should have held more meetings and did more explanation of what was going on and the benefits of it and so on and so forth. But it was just too little of time and not enough education."

Andrew Martinez:

"Did you work to only remove the approval clause from the mandate section?"

Audience member:

"That was the only amendment that we worked on, yeah."

Andrew Martinez:

"Okay. Thank you. Thank you for that. Any other responses? One other topic that I wanted to hit on is the means of communication. A lot...actually Red Lake right now has a Facebook page for their constitutional reform. There are other tribes that have Facebook pages. White Earth utilized YouTube to get information out to citizens. It's still up, you can watch it, it's actually very helpful. It helped me understand better what the process was going through and understand also the history of the tribe. It was great.

Some tribes have Twitter accounts. I guess I'm the young'in in the group right now. Twitter, I guess, is active for me so I could check Twitter and understand what's going on there, too. I also heard that White Earth used web sessions, broadcasted their meetings, understanding that you felt like you had to have or should have held more educational sessions. If your tribal members...if you have a large group of your tribal members who live off reservation, use the Internet, if they have Internet access, use it. Broadcast your meetings. I believe Justin.tv is one where you can set up a webcam, broadcast it, anyone can log in and check it out.

And if you choose to go the Facebook route, you have open discussions on there. It's up to you, the tribe, how much information you're going to put out there. If you only want to post about meeting updates and stuff like that, that's fine. You may still get some feedback, backlash to what's happening. You might get straight out opinions and sometimes some of the interactions that I've seen on the Facebook pages is pretty harsh, but it's intense and I would note that a little criticism and a little conflict is good. It breeds innovation. However, once it gets to a certain point it just starts to kill the process and really those are the individuals who you need to communicate with the most to start to quell their fears.

This last document that I have is a flow chart that I found from the Ho-Chunk Nation. Really this is how they went to break it down on there when they went through this process. They also utilized YouTube. However, they only have one video up. So moving from that on to questions, does anyone have any questions?"

Robert Hershey:

"There's a gentleman in the back there."

Audience member:

"Mr. Martinez, have you come across anything concerning the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] within doing what you're doing because some of their rules apply to the tribes too? And a lot of the times when you're doing a financial format for your people, we have to follow the federal guidelines and some of it seems like they're trying to infiltrate the government."

Andrew Martinez:

"So any documentation that I found regarding the IRS is what you're asking about? I have not. I could look into that, but I haven't found anything official."

Audience member:

"And then the other thing, like Mr. Hershey was saying is that for that reason the tribes are kind of...the funding source. When you get the funding from the federal government, when you remove yourself from that, they say that you're not going to get anymore funding. And in the health organization, there's some tribes that are under that format and other tribes are under the other format and they call it, I think, self-determination or something like that. And tribes were asking the questions, "˜If you go on that sides, do you get no more funding and if you stay on this side you still get funding.' So that was a lot of the concern. So a lot of the tribes didn't want to switch over for that reason too because that's where the money comes from to support all the programs that are for the tribes anyway. So that's why I was thinking that if you put the IRS, the funding source, the financial part of it, it has to be under all those things too. And they don't mention it and I looked at that [25 CFR] many times and I tried to make heads or tails with it, but you can't find it there. So that's why he was saying that you could find it elsewhere, too, and that's a good idea."

Andrew Martinez:

"Thank you."

Robert Hershey:

"I'm going to add something to what you said as well. Funding is obviously a major issue. These elections are not cheap. They are costly. But this is also something that the government has to think about in putting away this kind of...putting nest eggs away in anticipation of accomplishing this in order to cover the cost too. There's something that I wanted to follow up on as well and it goes back to this issue of trust. Not just a loss of funding or loss of federal status, but there's some tribal members or citizens -- we haven't had that discussion yet, the distinction between membership and citizenship, that's for another conference -- that they don't trust necessarily their tribal governments. I just want to put that out. That's a thought that comes out. So some of the people want the Secretary of the Interior to have oversight on this and I know some of you deal with that situation as well.

The other point that I wanted to bring out; there are alternatives in terms of amending constitutions as well. For example, if your constitution is restrictive as to the membership, you can always go to Congress and get a special congressional statute. Pascua Yaqui has done that. While their membership was very restrictive in their constitution, they went and got a special... I won't use an appropriation, but a congressional act designated that opened their enrollment for a period of three years. So there are also ways of getting around the specific inability to amend your constitution by seeing if you could get certain things accomplished by special acts. Any other questions? Yes, yes."

Audience member:

"One more question on that. Some of the tribes were established by executive order. And is there any other way you can get around that to be sanctioned by the Congress?"

Robert Hershey:

"I think the body of law is pretty well clear that whether you're established by treaty or by executive order, your rights and obligations and commitments are going to still be the same, they're going to be equal. I think that there's enough experiential evidence over the years and I have not seen any kind of distinction that would denigrate your rights because you're executive order. A lot of the tribes in the west...the reservations were created by executive order and they still retain their inherent sovereignty and you try to go ahead and take away their rights and it would not be accomplished that way. You've got to be on the same footing."

Audience member:

"And then the other one is, when they fund the services to the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] where we're at, it's getting less and less and less. So if they can't get you the other way, they'll take the money away from you. So you don't have the services available for what you have too."

Robert Hershey:

"We call that termination by non-appropriation."

Audience member:

"Right. That's where we're at right now."

Robert Hershey:

"And especially with the sequester too. I know that tribes have been hit really hard with sequestration of funds as well."

Audience member:

"Right. My president, that's what he was asking BIA and they tell them, "˜We want original funding because if you can send billions of dollars across the ocean to these other people that you don't know and you know us, how come you can't give it to us?'"

Robert Hershey:

"This also resonates the larger question as to whether or not you feel economically empowered to go ahead and resist. And that's a consequence of colonization over the years as to whether or not you think you have the power to say no based upon economics or the power to do things on your own by virtue of your economic conditions."

Audience member:

"Thank you."

Audience member:

"I had a question about the secretarial approval that's in those constitutions that exists now. Is there...let me back up. I'm a management product of the education system. So my whole focus has always been on structures. Well, with my tribe it seems like the structures that are in place aren't meeting the needs of the people. There's a lot of resignation with tribal members about our government, our leaders. There's a lot of fear about repercussions if you're too vocal in the community and our court systems are controlled by our tribal leaders. So I think there's a lot of people that want to see constitutional reform, but there's fear about what to do with that.

So my question is, some alternatives for grassroots people who can have a voice about those constitutional amendments but...and I was told because, I don't want to make it sound like it's just no other way, but if the people can come together and our leadership would see that this is what the people want, possibly that they would buy into it and they would jump onboard. Hopefully that's the way it'll go, but I just want to make sure that if it doesn't, that the people have a way to deal with the situation so that they can have more voice in what's going on with our tribe. And I guess that's my concern so...

This is the question I guess. Is it possible, these petitions...because there's been a lot of petitions that circulate about different things in the tribe and one of the things is a lot of times they'll petition for money. So we have all the people vote on petitions to come from a certain funding. Well, the way I look at that is, if we get the number of people to sign the petition then legally the council should honor that. That's my interpretation, but I don't know because they don't. So I don't understand enough about legally the tribal members other than voting but we're an IRA [Indian Reorganization Act] constitution and it doesn't reflect who we are as a people and we're kind of stuck with it.

So if the people would petition the Secretary of Interior on some constitutional changes, is that going to be honored or are we...is there a way that the grassroots people can have a voice in our constitution and have those reforms be...to have some outlet? I guess is what I'm looking at, because like I'm telling you, there's a lot of frustration, there's just resignation, "˜Why do anything?' The people, the way that our election process works is families aren't representative, clans aren't representative, it's just whomever gets on the council is there, sometimes you don't have a family member there to represent you. So that's why I'm just saying that there's a lot of frustration. Maybe you have some suggestions on people like me that want to see some reform."

Robert Hershey:

"I hear your frustration. I would venture to say that in your constitution there exists a provision for initiative. Is there a provision for initiative in your constitution? There might be a provision for referendum and the distinction between initiative and referendum is that a referendum is usually decided by the tribal council and it's submitted to the members, the citizens, for a vote. The citizen-initiated way to create a referendum is by what's called an initiative.

So I would suggest two things. Number one, use that procedure in your constitution or those of you that have an initiative procedure in your constitution. Two, go around and get the signatures of enough people to comply with those requirements for initiative, which would then force the tribal council to have a vote on whatever particular thing you want. You're still going to have to go through your own tribe in this regard. The amendment of a constitution that's already been approved by the Secretary of the Interior is going to require a secretarial election so you could perhaps...and again, it's questions of authority within your own community and those people that have...are clothed in those authorities and there's power situations and power dynamics.

So the other option is to try and create a consultative mechanism. We hear about tribal consultation and I mentioned something to you yesterday in terms of how tribes consult with the federal governments or the state governments and the federal agencies, I've tasked one of my students, Edward, this semester because the idea that the tribal legislative bodies are not listening to people -- grassroots people -- to create some sort of a consultation mechanism that may or may not already be in place from tribal peoples to their tribal councils and try to get something like that passed. If...regarding an initiative, the tribal council is bound to honor and hold an election on a tribal initiative if there are enough signatures passed and if they don't do that, that's something where you can take the tribe to court, it doesn't involve sovereign immunity issues, that you could go ahead and try to force the council to go ahead and comply with the terms of the initiative.

So, either you get an initiative to deal with a large issue of constitutional reformation or you create an initiative to create an ordinance, a law, a statute that talks about intra-tribal consultation. So there are mechanisms in that regard.

Audience member:

"I was just wondering, let's say you failed at it, but for reasons other than participation or lack of participation. Is there a time limit or a waiting period before you can try again with the feds?"

Andrew Martinez:

"Not that I've seen. I haven't seen assigned period. It just...it takes a lot of work to get it initiated once again, get everything going."

Robert Hershey:

"That's the old thing, you know the definition of...no, I'm not going to go there. But I would give it sufficient time to go ahead and analyze what happened and figure out as the woman over there said in terms of more outreach, more education because of the fears and mistrust. Mr. Chairman? That's you, yeah. A comment, whatever."

Thomas Beauty:

"Yeah, just a comment. Removing the secretarial approval, I was thinking why wouldn't they approve? If they went through the whole process and they didn't approve it, but they approved somebody else's, what do you think their thinking is in regards to that? Are they just doing it because they want to still keep control or are they doing it because...what reason do you think? I'm not quite sure what..."

Robert Hershey:

"I think that the tribe itself votes to remove the Secretary of the Interior approval language, then the Secretary of the Interior must go ahead and remove that language. I don't think they have discretion to go ahead and say to one tribe that, "˜Yeah, we'll remove it. We agree with you that you can go ahead and remove it from your constitution,' and then not remove it from another tribe's constitution."

Thomas Beauty:

[Inaudible]

Robert Hershey:

"I think the denial was that their members voted against it."

Thomas Beauty:

[Inaudible]

Robert Hershey:

"They worked it, presented, they had an actual secretarial election, but that their membership voted against it. I guess there was fear and mistrust."

Terry Janis:

"In other situations we saw on the earlier panel that I was in, the woman [Jennifer Porter], her tribe reorganized and restructured, the BIA refused to approve that because their constitution still required constitutional approval or BIA approval, secretarial approval in order to amend their constitution and so they did a second secretarial election to remove the requirement for secretarial approval and then they did it on their own. But in that removal of secretarial approval, the BIA approved that.

So if you think about what that says about the Bureau of Indian Affairs, whenever you give them authority to approve or disapprove your decisions, they have two considerations I think. One is they have a trust obligation to give their best thought to it. They're not just going to agree with you just because they agree with you, but their history of a trust responsibility is to overrule you if they think you're doing the wrong thing. So that's a real sort of issue. You're giving them authority to disagree with you. The second issue is there is a long history of paternalism with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there just is. And as any kind of large bureaucracy, you've got people in there that are old, old, 1950s Termination-era guys with the white hair and kind of like that guy."

Robert Hershey:

"No, no, no. Wait a second, they have white hair, I have moonstruck hair. That's right."

Terry Janis:

"But for that agency to change, people are going to have to die out. You know how bureaucracies are, right? And remember who they are. They come from assimilation, termination, that's why they were set up. It's going to take them a long time to change. And so as long as you continue to give them, in your constitution, secretarial approval authority, those are the dynamics that you're going to have to deal with and it's a crap shoot every time."

Thomas Beauty:

"Well, thank you for that clarification. Not only dealing with these entities of the government, they're always looking at what's their liability, what's their liability and that to me tells me that they don't want to make a move. They'll take forever to do anything because they're still thinking about it. What can happen down the road if we do this? Because they blanket all the tribes together and if they do one thing for one tribe and then, "˜Oh, no, it's a big fire!' So they take forever and I just wanted to put that comment out there. I know we probably all know that, but just dealing with them in my little short term, that's what I understand from them."

Robert Hershey: Dispelling Stereotypes about the Federal Government's Role in Native Nation Constitutional Reform

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Robert Hershey, Professor of Law and American Indian Studies at The University of Arizona, dispels some longstanding stereotypes about what the federal government can and will do should a Native nation decide to amend its constitution to remove the Secretary of Interior approval clause or else make their foundational governing document more culturally appropriate in ways that perhaps do not conform to federal bureaucrats' attitudes about how that Native nation should govern itself. He also offers a broad definition of constitutions that encompasses things like Indigenous ceremonies, songs, the knowledge of elders, etc.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Hershey, Robert. "Dispelling Stereotypes about the Federal Government's Role in Native Nation Constitutional Reform." Tribal Constitutions Seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2014. Presentation.

Robert Hershey:

“Good afternoon everyone and thanks for staying awake after that fabulous meal. I usually have my students interact with me, but Terry [Janis] said something about being older and I want to just get this out of the way. May I ask you what color your hair is?”

Audience member:

“It’s calico.”

Robert Hershey:

“Okay. I wasn’t anticipating that. I like that one. There was a young man over there, I’m looking for people with the same hair color. Calico, I’d never heard that. Robert, what color is your hair?”

Audience member:

[Inaudible]

Robert Hershey:

“All right. My hair color is moonstruck, just so you know that. It’s not silver, it’s not gray, it’s not old. You’re getting a little moonstruck yourself. So let’s talk about that.

The other thing I want to talk about is gravity because I always like to remember, someone was talking about starting the beginning of the day with a prayer. I always like to remember that if it wasn’t for gravity, I would float away and oftentimes I do float away. So I’m pretty attuned to the idea that I like gravity. If you all want to stand up and jump and wake yourself up and feel gravity, you can. No takers?

The other thing that I want to tell you about is that in addition, I’m going to introduce myself a little bit, but I’m a judge for the past 25 years for the Tohono O’odham Nation, and it’s about questions. So I’ll ask you right now, do you have any questions? Now, the reason I’m asking you now is to give you time to think because you know that you’re going to have questions, but you usually take some time to think about your questions. You’re not like us, we stick our hands right up. ‘Us’ meaning me, this face. We take our time to answer, to ask questions.

When I was a judge, there was a removal proceeding of a council member and I’m up there, and it’s almost time for lunch and I said, ‘Are there any questions?’ And being dutifully trained and schooled by many of you individuals in many nations that I’ve worked with, I’m told to wait because people will have questions and so I wait and I wait. I must have waited over five minutes for questions and I said, ‘Okay, we’ll break for lunch and when we come back, we’ll finish this up.’ So I step off the bench and come down and the chairwoman of the legislative council says to me, ‘You didn’t wait long enough.’ So, I know that if you think that I’m going to ask you, ‘are there any questions?’ and you see a pause there, you’ll know ahead of time why I’m pausing.

I was raised in Hollywood, California. I was skateboarding down the Avenue of the Stars before they even laid Avenue of the Stars. I had hair down to here when I went to law school. My crazy aunt said my hair was my antenna to the cosmos and so I kind of thought that description was pretty good. And ultimately I became, went to law school and then I became a legal aid attorney for Dinébe’iiná NáhiiÅ‚na be Agha’diit’ahii (DNA People’s Legal Services). Close? Good. Joe? All right, I did it. It took me three weeks to pronounce it where I worked back in those days.

So when I became a legal aid attorney on the Navajo Reservation, John, this’ll be referencing the trickster idea and this is how Native people have played tricks on me my entire legal career. When I was asked, and I lived way back in a canyon about a mile and a half off the road and my landlady at that time -- who was in her 70s, still riding horses, chopping wood, herding goats -- she said, ‘Will you do me a favor? Will you please take my goats from my house to your house?’ And I figured a mile and a half; a young boy from Hollywood, raised with Charleston Heston, Peter O’Toole, cowboys and Indians movies, thinking that I could do this. And as soon as I started taking the goats, they took off up in the hills and they just went up. And the lead goat was named Skunk and he had this big bell on him that clanked and every time he moved away from me it clanked and I got so pissed off at this goat. And finally I came back after an hour and a half. I said, ‘I’m so sorry. I am so very sorry. I lost your goats.’ And all she did was laugh hysterically, bent over double, laughing and laughing and laughing. She says, ‘Don’t worry. They know where to go.’ And I walked back to where I lived and they were in the pen next to my house. And ever since then I’ve had to have a sense of humor about all the ecological catastrophes that are befalling us, about all the work.

Let me tell you something: in 1969, ‘70, I started this in ‘72, working with Native peoples, the strides that you have made, the things that you have accomplished in that time, the youth, all the programs have been monumental. So you should all know that regardless of the challenges, you are striving in such a positive direction and your attendance here at this [seminar] is a testament to that fortitude and stability that you’ve carried forward for over 500 years. And I appreciate it. I want you to know how honored I am to have had an entire legal career of over 40 years working with Native people. So I thank you too for allowing me this time to be with you.

The ethics of what we do today, the integrity that you mentioned -- humor, respect, integrity -- the ethics of what you do today become the oral tradition 100 years from now. We do not go ahead and live in the past. It’s dynamic. So what we are doing today is what will be thought about 100 years, 200 years from now, because you know you’re still going to be working on this -- as we all are -- 200 years from now. I don’t plan on going anywhere so I hope you’re not. So I want us to remember about that. The ethics of today become the oral history of tomorrow. You’re also saddled with the idea of imagery and American Indian policy because Native peoples are thought to be historical. Non-Native peoples can’t quite grasp the idea there are living dynamic societies in existence today, wrestling with their own problems after all these years of subjugation, if you will.

You mentioned something about trust and trust in constitutional reformation is absolute key because I’ve worked with tribes where the committees that the tribal governments have established thought of themselves as the anti-government, if you will. That they thought of themselves as the shadow government because they didn’t trust their tribal councils. So they were creating their own agendas in and of themselves. That’s why this dynamic partnership between the leadership and this independent body is absolutely crucial and it’s consistent and constant.

There are tribes that have been working since 1975, one of your neighboring Apache tribes, since 1975 -- Pascua Yaqui has been working since 1990 -- to amend their constitutions. I worked two years with Pascua Yaqui. It is a difficult process. Don’t, you may get frustrated; it is still an amazingly worthwhile thing to do. The gentleman from Canada was talking about, ‘But what about housing, why don’t we work on that?’ And as I said, O’odham in their districts, they have special powers reserved to the districts. Same thing with Joan’s [Timeche] in Hopi, and many of your communities, have already worked these things out. You have historical precedence upon which to build. They all become the framework for constitutional revision.

The BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] -- as much of a tiger as you see the BIA -- I think it’s an administrative mindset in the BIA because the law seems to be more progressive than how the BIA is effectuating the law, because you have provisions in 2000, the reformation to contracts, not needing as much oversight, even in land leasing, if you will. Only those contracts that encumber land for more than seven years require BIA approval in leasing. There are special congressional statutes giving tribes the authority to go ahead and enact leases for 25 years, up to 25 years without secretarial approval.

But here’s the key, here’s the kicker I think of what you wanted me to talk about and Andrew’s [Martinez] going to talk later and he’s going to show you, in big bold type, of the Native American Technical Corrections Act where the removal of the clause that requires secretarial approval does not mean you will lose your status as a federally recognized tribe. I’ll say that once again. You remove the language, taking out from your constitutions the requirement of secretarial approval of what you do, does not mean you lose your status as either an IRA tribe or a federally recognized tribe. You can do that. And we had testimony from the folks at Kootenai today to that affect. Laguna is another community that has done that. You see this happening. Do not let them threaten you with the loss of federal status. Forget about it. Give yourself permission to be whatever you want to be.

One of the other things that I’d like to tell you about is that because of the trust responsibility, and we’re all familiar with the trust responsibility -- I’m not going to go ahead and give you law professor’s lecture on the origins of the trust responsibility other than to say that it’s almost 200 years old in the federal case law. But because tribes have been so whetted to this notion that if they do something that does not comport with the values of this dominant society that they’re going to lose some sort of federal support for what they do. You have to disabuse yourself, you have to stop thinking in that way because there are international precedents and Miriam [Jorgensen] brought this up, but I wanted to reiterate this and harp on this.

The American Declaration, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the International Labor Organization Convention 169, all are emerging and very, very, very strong and compelling documents that you should be thinking and you should learn about that and you have to ask your attorneys to tell you about that. If your attorneys don’t understand that, you send them to us, you send them to the University of Arizona for a crash course in international law precedents, and you start thinking in terms of the rights contained in those documents as being embedded in your constitutions. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, International Labor Organization 169, the American Declaration, the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, these should all be part of your signposts, your guides as well; very, very critical. This gives you a whole other avenue. The United States has signed onto the United Nations Declaration. This gives you a whole other strengthening body of instruments to help you craft what you’re trying to accomplish.

Two other small points, not so small -- what I call mapping intergenerational memories. Every time that you go to your community in this process, community engagement, you are also asking for bits of history, you’re asking your elders to contribute to a body of knowledge, you are asking them to give forth their intergenerational memories and those intergenerational memories are not just for one specific purpose, not just for the purpose of revising a constitution, not just for the purpose of what was the home site assignment. They are the purpose for everything that you do. So that anything you undertake has this body, this repository of memory, whether it’s map-making your ancestral territory, whether it’s in the case of litigation for aboriginal title, you’re marking place names...I understand there’s issues on revealing sacred knowledge. There’s issues on dealing when it is appropriate to reveal, to talk about these things. That’s up to each community, each distinct individual community, to find a mechanism to go ahead and preserve and identify these intergenerational memories that help you for your entire broad spectrum of what you want to accomplish because then, in today’s ethics, you’re carrying forward past ethics and into the future.

The last thing, and it kind of dovetails on this, is what I call the 'reality of river thought' and the reality of river thought came to me when I saw the movie 'Apocalypse Now' for about the 18th time. You get in a boat in Saigon and you’re in this very, very busy city and as you go down the river further and further and further, further down the river, the only thing that matters to you is what’s right in front of the bow, what’s right in front at that moment. We’ve had speakers talk about never forgetting about where you came from. So in the process of constitutional revision, always remember that you started out in a large society and that is what’s carrying you forward. So when you’re looking over the bow, remember, there’s a whole past bit of information. It’s much more grander in scope. Don’t get trapped into this idea that the attorneys are basically saying, ‘Everything has to be in the four corners.’ You have dances, you have songs, you have paintings. These are all constitutions. The trick is how you craft them in a way that substantiates and flavors -- and as John was talking about -- this magnificent opportunity to engage your community, to determine where you’re going to be next and you’re doing it with respect, integrity, neutrality, a few punches here and there, can’t be avoided. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that you have to be bound by the forms that you were given to. Create your own. Create your own.

Now, Andrew’s going to move us into this idea that, so right now, when you have these certain forms of constitutions, how do you go about, what is the legal mechanism how you go about then reforming under the processes that have already been dictated to you and how do you start shaking those things off?”

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Ysleta, Texas produced this 16-minute film in 2013 to demonstrate how a Native American tribe can work hard with business skills and tribal customs to shape a prosperous future through education for all levels of the Tigua Nation.

Native Nations
Citation

Riggs, Patricia. "Rebuilding The Tigua Nation." Honoring Nations, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Capstone Productions Inc. El Paso, Texas. February 27, 2013. Film.

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

June 13, 2011

[Sirens/gunshots]

Narrator:

“We are the People of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We came from the open lands of what became Central New Mexico and now we live in West Texas and our lands are surrounded by El Paso, Texas.”

Saint Anthony
Feast Day

[Gunshots]

Ysleta Mission

Narrator:

“In 1680 the Spaniards forced our ancestors to move here. They built this mission church in 1682.”

Javier Loera:

“In this display we have photographs and images of our mission, of our church, which we helped build. The oldest image, it’s actually a drawing, that we have of our mission is this one in the year 1881. It was a very simple structure without the added bell tower which was added a couple years later.”

Narrator:

“For more than 300 years our people have performed corn dances on June 13th at the Feast of St. Anthony.”

[Singing/bell ringing]

Carlos Hisa:

“It’s the way of life, it’s who we are, we’ve been doing this for hundreds of years and we just continue to do it. It’s who we are as a people.”

[Singing/bell ringing]

Narrator:

“The Tigua People honor our ancestors who kept the ceremonies and traditions, also the traditions of the elaborate feast preparations, which takes weeks to prepare for. Our people come together to share in the responsibilities to prepare for the feast, which is served after the rituals and blessings at the mission. These activities show that our tribe keeps the customs and practices that we have always valued. We now live in a modern world and must balance traditions with the present day needs. The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has proven strong willed and has persevered over the changes of time.

Tiguas have been faithful to our traditions, sometimes hiding our ceremonies to avoid punishments from non-Indians. Our people have proven to be resilient time and again in our extraordinary struggle for cultural preservation.

Our struggle continued into the 1960s when a lawyer named Tom Diamond helped us get federal and state recognition as a Native American tribe.

As a declaration of tribal sovereignty and economic development efforts, the Pueblo decided to enter into casino gaming in 1993 and our financial future brightened. The State of Texas fought our right to have gaming in Texas and through a federal lawsuit managed to shut the Pueblo’s Speaking Rock Casino in 2002. The casino was profitable while in operation and provided for better healthcare, housing and education of tribal members. The Pueblo still runs Speaking Rock, but now it operates as an entertainment center.”

Trini Gonzalez:

“Speaking Rock has kept us afloat during this economic struggle, both money wise and also creating jobs for our tribal members. The success would have to be free concerts. We’ve used the concerts to draw people in to actually show people that Speaking Rock isn’t closed. A lot of people were saying, ‘Oh, it’s closed. It’s not a casino no more.’ Which it isn’t, it’s an entertainment center and we do provide quality entertainment for free to customers who come in here.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“Well, when we look across Indian Country we see a consistent pattern of the tribes who get their act together and really worked successfully to improve the economic and social and political and even cultural conditions in their communities and Isleta del Sur Pueblo stands out as one of these examples. They show first what all these successful tribes have is a sovereignty attitude. Their idea is, ‘We’re going to do things ourselves. We are a sovereign nation and we can govern ourselves. We’re going to take those reins and we are going to put ourselves in control of absolutely everything we can.’

Secondly, and you see this at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, they recognize that you can talk the talk of sovereignty and nation building, but you’ve got to walk the walk and what that means is you’ve got to be able to govern yourselves and govern yourselves well. And Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is an Honoring Nations award winner because it has invested very systematically in building its governmental capacity, its laws, its ordinances, its regulations, its accounting systems, its personnel policies, its judicial system in a systematic way to say, ‘We’re going to put ourselves in position so we’re not dependent on any other governments.’”

Narrator:

“Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has been building the capacity for economic growth. It has established structure and policy such as a highly capable economic development department, a small business development program and tribal ordinances dealing with corporation establishment and tax laws. The Pueblo was restored as a federally recognized tribe in 1987. Our goals are to preserve our culture, sustain our community and raise the standards of living for tribal members. We have built capacity over the years and recently established our long term economic development and nation building goals. Our entire Pueblo had input on the process.”

Patricia Riggs:

“We started this process to change and transform our community and through economic development, through education and through services and infrastructure so it was a whole comprehensive strategy that took place at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“Ysleta del Sur, what you see is another thing we see across Indian Country more and more and that’s an attention to culture, making what we call cultural match. The way they govern themselves here at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is under a traditional structure with no written constitution. There is no contradiction for the Tiguas between having their traditional cacique system, no written constitution and running a very good day-to-day government because it’s founded in that traditional system. And having that cultural foundation underneath your government is absolutely critical. If it isn’t there, you’re not legitimate in the eyes of your own people and Ysleta del Sur stands out for recognizing that in everything they do they’re doing it based on and flowing from their traditions, their culture, their traditional governance systems. And then lastly, Ysleta del Sur also shows a fourth thing that stands out with tribes that are successful—leadership. Leaders not only as decision makers, but leaders as educators and the leadership at Ysleta del Sur has systematically invested in everything from the broad community to the youth with education on what it means to be a self governing Tigua nation. And so Ysleta del Sur Pueblo stands out for that sovereignty attitude, for strong capable tribal government founded on the tribe’s culture with a leadership that understands it needs to educate the people as to what this sovereignty game is all about.”

Narrator:

“In order to become effective in the modern world, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is striving to become a self determined and self sufficient Pueblo while preserving our cultural foundation. With our economic development plans now in motion, we have taken the first steps in forging a prosperous and strong Tigua nation and we have established Tigua, Inc. that operates tribal businesses.”

John Baily:

“We are the business arm for the Pueblo itself. We manage and operate all the business functions that contribute to the success of the Pueblo. We’re able to focus on a long term strategy and build that for five, 10 years out and really start implementing plans as we go down. So our goal is to develop the long term stream of profit and revenue that is repeatable regardless of the environment we’re in. We’re for real. We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Patient:

“Is it going to hurt?”

Dentist:

“No, you’ll be fine.”

Narrator:

“We have increased our administrative abilities and have created a grants management and program development branch of the Economic Development Department resulting in programs that provide health and other services.”

Al Joseph:

“And we’ve managed to build 63 new housing units last year after a big infrastructure project the year before so we’ve got a lot of projects going on to the total of about $20 million worth right now. The quality of life for the average Pueblo resident I think has been greatly enhanced by the combination of construction of new housing, very affordable housing and the rehabilitation of 160 houses on the reservation has definitely improved the quality of life for the residents that have been living in those houses, some of them for as long as 35 years. They now have modern, up-to-date housing that everything works and it’s a much nicer place to live.”

Narrator:

“One part of the economic development of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is the attention our tribe gives to educating tribal members on various subjects in order to improve individual quality of life and skills for all age groups.”

Christopher Gomez:

“Things are different now because we’ve gotten on the nation building path now where we’re doing a lot of long term visioning, we’re thinking beyond what’s coming ahead the next month, the next year and we’re thinking 20, 30, 40, even 100 years down the line. What do we want Tigua culture to be in a hundred years? Where do we want to see our community? That visioning has really put things into a different perspective.”

[Singing]

Narrator:

“With our Tigua youth, we stress tribal traditions and working together.”

Christopher Gomez: [to students]

“Here we have language, social dances, Pueblo arts, Tigua history, nation building, tutoring, traditional culture, Native American games, environmental issues…”

Christopher Gomez:

“We’re thinking about the next generations now. Just like we were left a legacy from the generations that came before us who established the Pueblo, we want to make sure that we’re continuing that legacy and that our people are able to in a changing world adapt and utilize new skills to be able to carry forward the Tigua legacy and really define what that Tigua legacy is.”

Narrator:

“Our younger children learn about computers and nature from tribal program experts. We have established new programs such as pre-K and modern care facilities where children are taught general education and tribal traditions through tribal arts and crafts. At the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo education for our people goes hand in hand with our economic development because as we increase our understanding of Native American heritage and strengthen the businesses of our tribe, we multiply the return to our people many times. It is a great time to be a Tigua as we graduate more members from college and create higher paying jobs. Outcomes include increased revenues and more programs and better tribal member services.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“One of the things that Ysleta del Sur has done in its nation building efforts is it’s bootstrapped itself into this little engine that could, is it’s invested in communication and you can…any of us can go to their website and in their economic development section you’ll find a systematic laying out of the many steps that they’ve taken from community education, youth programs, the development of their strategic plans, the development of their laws and ordinances, the development of their new institutions, even their financial development. So Ysleta del Sur is doing a service to all tribes by providing this information in an easily accessible way and I encourage anyone who’s interested in how Ysleta del Sur has bootstrapped itself in this way, it’s on their website and it’s just a tremendous resource for anyone engaging in this challenge of building native nations.”

Trini Gonzalez:

“Recently we just got accepted by our brothers up north into the AIPC, the All Indian Pueblo Council and a lot of the Pueblos up there model themselves after us. They see that we’ve been a…I guess a big hitter here in our economy and the way we go after grants and the way our money is utilized, the housing that we do, the entertainment center the way it’s operated, our smoke shop. Everything that we do, it’s being looked at and dissected and I think that’s a huge feather in our cap to say that they’re looking at us to try to correct some things on their reservations.

The powwow enlightens a lot of people on the culture, the dance, the regalia, everything that has to do with a powwow let’s people know there is a tribe here in Texas and it’s Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.”

Narrator:

“In May 2012 our Economic Development Department opened the Tigua Business Center on tribal land in a renovated building.”

[Cheering]

Frank Paiz:

“The Tigua Business Center demonstrates the will and spirit of the Tigua people to grow and prosper. The tribal journey began at the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which resulted in our migration to an establishment of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo 1682. Since, we have been determined to preserve and continue Tigua way of life and flourish as a community."

Narrator:

“As our Tigua nation becomes stronger, we will continue our traditions and our success in this modern world.”

Carlos Hisa:

“We are Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We are a community strong with tradition and culture. We have survived in the area for over 300 years and with economic development behind us, I can very easily say that we will continue to be here for hundreds of years.”

[Singing]

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

2012 Tribal Council
Cacique Frank Holguin
Governor Frank Paiz
Lt. Governor Carlos Hisa
War Captain Javier Loera
Aguacil Bernando Gonzales

Councilmen
Chris Gomez
David Gomez
Francisco Gomez
Trini Gonzalez

Saint Anthony Dancers
Feast Preparation
Trini Gonzales Tribal Councilmen
Adult Tribal Social Dancers
Joe Kalt Harvard University
Youth Nation Building
Youth Financial Literacy Class

Pat Riggs, Economic Development Director
John Baily, CEO of Tigua Inc.

Tigua Inc. Board
Ana Perez, chair
Chris Gomez
Rudy Cruz
George Candelaria
Al Joseph

Housing Director Al Joseph
Empowerment Director Christopher Gomez
Cultural Center Dance Group
Tuy Pathu Daycare children
Pre-School Dance Group
Pow Wow Dancers

Producer
Patricia Riggs

Director
Jackson Polk

Camera
Aaron Barnes
Fernie Apodaca
Jackson Polk

TV Facilities
Capstone Productions Inc.

Funding provided by Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Honoring Nations

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation © 2013 Yselta del Sur Pueblo

Sarah Deer: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Approach to Citizenship

Producer
William Mitchell College of Law
Year

Sarah Deer (Muscogee), Co-Director of the Indian Law Program at the William Mitchell College of Law, provides a brief overview of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation's unique approach to defining its citizenship criteria, which essentially creates two classes of citizens: those who run for elected office, and those who can't. 

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Deer, Sarah. "The Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Approach to Citizenship." Tribal Citizenship Conference, Indian Law Program, William Mitchell College of Law, in conjunction with the Bush Foundation. St. Paul, Minnesota. November 13, 2013. Presentation.

"What I'd like to talk about just very briefly is...first of all, I'm a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and I probably...by the way I look, you can tell I'm a lineal descendent as opposed to having a high blood quantum. And I want to talk a little bit about that because one of the things I think -- especially in Oklahoma -- they kind of joke about us. I'm not Cherokee, but they joke about the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Cherokees, and one of the things I think that's really important for someone like me to acknowledge is that I have privilege because of the way I look. I can walk into a store and I'm not treated as an Indian because people don't see me as an Indian.

And when I was talking to one of my mentors, an elder who works to help me try to learn my language, she talked a little bit about that with me recently, about...when she grew up in rural Oklahoma in the 1950s, the level of painful racism in her memory is still very palpable, being treated as second class because of her skin color and because of her name and so today when she sees people who can pass, who don't acknowledge their privilege, who say, ‘I'm a tribal citizen, but I'm just the same as you,' when I didn't go through the experience of racism is painful. And I think we have to talk about that when we talk about lineal descendency because I get the privilege of passing. I get to tell people I'm Indian if I want to and if we don't acknowledge that painful history, I think we're going to continue to have a lot of controversy about what this means to potentially open up citizenship. So I wanted to say that at the outset.

And the other thing that I think is interesting is that I'm asked often what my...how much Indian I am, my blood quantum. But the only people who tend to ask me that are non-Indian people. What Native people ask me is, ‘Who is your family?' So it's...the blood quantum itself is something that is of interest to people, but in my experience that's usually coming from outside the tribe.

Now, what I wanted to talk about was one particular facet of my own tribe's constitution when it comes to governance because we have two classes of citizens. One class is full citizens and the other class is citizens and I want to talk about the difference between the two in just a second. But typically, when we think about American citizenship, the American government really doesn't do much in terms of distinguishing between citizens. All citizens are treated the same. If you're naturalized, you have the same rights and privileges as people who were born here. The one exception that I think became I think a focal point of the election in 2008 was that the president must be a natural-born citizen and so to be the President of the United States you have to have been born here in the country.

So let me tell you about how this Muscogee constitution developed. We have a very complicated history as most tribes do. In Oklahoma in particular we governed...we had really no acknowledgement of our government between 1906 and 1977, 1978. We were still operating as a government, but the federal government didn't recognize us pursuant to the Curtis Act. So when we were able to fight and get recognized as having continuing governance throughout that time period, the federal court actually ordered a constitutional convention, which was interesting and sort of ironic that in terms of re-recognizing the tribal government, the federal judge says, ‘And we will tell you how to do this.' But we did end up ratifying and passing a new constitution in 1979, which governs us today, and citizenship in our nation is determined through lineal descent [from] the 1906 Dawes Roll.

One of the things that's interesting about that of course is that in 1906 during allotment, many traditional people refused the Dawes Roll. They refused to go and sign up for their allotment on principle because they never consented to breaking up the reservation and so you have a lot of traditional people in Oklahoma today who are not enrolled in any tribe because their ancestor stood their ground. So that's another interesting facet.

But what I want to talk about specifically is how the constitution distinguishes between full citizens and citizens, and this comes from Article 3, Section 4 of our constitution, and explains that full citizenship requires the one-quarter blood quantum and those folks are known as the 'full citizens.' And then all citizens who are less than a quarter blood shall be considered citizens and shall have all of the rights and entitlements as members of the Muskogee Creek Nation except the right to hold office. And I'm still doing some research to figure out exactly how this decision was made or what the dialogue in the community was, but to hold office under the constitution you have to have this quarter-blood requirement. So I can't run for office.

And so one of the things that happened is how do we interpret that language? So I just...I present this sort of as a cautionary tale as you're thinking about potentially designing language that would provide this kind of distinction, the kinds of ambiguities that can develop. So what does it mean to hold office? And this became the subject of a dispute in 1986 and the question of what is the right to hold office. So citizens of the nation elect a principal chief, a second chief and a tribal council. And justices and judges are appointed by the principal chief and confirmed by the council so they're not elected positions.

So in 1986, there was a district court case in our tribal court and the party who lost the case appealed to the Muscogee Supreme Court arguing that the judge, the district court judge in that case was not a quarter blood, he was an eighth and so the losing party challenged that decision saying that the judge was not qualified under the constitution because he was holding office with less than a quarter blood. And so what the tribal supreme court then had to do is to interpret what the constitution meant by hold office. And they ended up determining that the constitutional requirement for full citizens or quarter bloods applies only to elected officials. So in other words, the judge and the justices do not have to be full citizens under the constitution.

Now after that case, the Muscogee Tribal Council passed a law that required judges and justices to be full citizens. And this has never actually been litigated, although I suppose someone could challenge that as a question of whether or not the constitution saying hold office trumps the statute that says judges and justices are included in that. So we don't know for sure how the court would have ruled on that particular statute. But slowly, in recent years, I think what has happened is that the body of qualified judges and justices has somewhat shrunk in the sense that there's not a whole lot of quarter bloods practicing law in our tribal courts. And so how do you then find a judge or a justice who's qualified to sit on the court?

So in 2010, the tribal council passed new laws stating that the judges and justices must be full citizens unless there's a waiver passed by two-thirds of the council. And in 2012, they amended that again and now you must merely be a citizen of the tribe, which means there's no blood quantum requirement for the court, but still the quarter blood quantum requirement is for principal chief, second chief and council. So I can be a judge for my tribe, but I can't run for office is basically how that plays out for me; being not in Oklahoma, I suppose that I would not be in a position to run for office at any level.

So there's one other thing I wanted to say about that. Oh, so the other thing that may be important in thinking about this is that to be a district court judge or a trial court judge in our tribe you have to be an attorney. You have to have a JD, you have to have a license to practice law, and you have to have at least four years of experience practicing tribal law. For the justices of our Supreme Court, there is no requirement that you have a legal degree, you merely have to be appointed by the principal chief. And so we have elders on our tribal Supreme Court who are not attorneys and I think that's a really intriguing development where I see a mixture of attorneys and non-attorneys on the supreme courts of tribes where you can blend then traditional knowledge with sort of contemporary western legal traditions.

So I just wanted to give that as sort of a tale of being careful when you draft language, because I'm not sure that everybody agreed on what 'hold office' would have meant, but now it's pretty clear that judges and justices are exempt from the full citizenship requirement.

One other thing I just wanted to raise because we talk about the Veronica case and the Indian Child Welfare Act. One of the things that's interesting about ICWA is that it applies when a child is a member or eligible for membership. Can a tribal government distinguish between citizenship and membership? The reason I bring this up was partly based on a comment made this morning about the clumsiness of the English language and how the English language around the terms like 'citizenship' and 'members' is really incomplete or a mismatch for culture. But there is an English distinction between 'member' and 'citizen,' at least they're two different words, and so one of the questions that I would just pause at -- and I don't know that I have an answer to this is, could a tribal government distinguish between citizenship and membership specifically thinking about ICWA and expanding the body of children in which the tribe would have jurisdiction over? So that was just one piece that I wanted to leave you with and I think that's what I have to say. So thank you."

NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: John Petoskey (Part 1)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

In the first of two interviews conducted in conjunction with his tenure as NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow, John Petoskey, citizen and long-time General Counsel of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB), discusses how GTB has worked and continues to work to build and maintain a strong, independent system of justice that is viewed as legitimate by GTB citizens. He also discusses GTB's integration of peacemaking and peacemaker courts into its justice systems as a culturally appropriate way of resolving disputes and bringing healing to the community. 

People
Resource Type
Citation

Petoskey, John. "NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: John Petoskey (Part 1)." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. October 1, 2013. Interview.

Ian Record:

"Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I'm your host, Ian Record. On today's program, we are honored to have with us John Petoskey. John is a citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and has spent much of the past 30 years serving as his nation's general counsel. As general counsel, he participates in all federal, state and tribal litigation and administrative hearings where his nation is a plaintiff or defendant. In addition, John wrote the majority of Grand Traverse Band's statutes, published as the Grand Traverse Band Code. He also currently serves as partner with Fredericks, Peebles and Morgan LLP and is spending this week at the University of Arizona serving as Indigenous Leadership Fellow with the University's Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy. John, welcome, and good to have you with us today."

John Petoskey:

"Thank you."

Ian Record:

"I've shared a few highlights of your very impressive personal biography, but why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself. What did I leave out?"

John Petoskey:

"Well, I have been with the Grand Traverse Band for, as you said, a long time. Prior to that I did work for Legal Services...Indian Legal Services in Michigan and importantly, I worked on one of the leading cases on off-reservation treaty fishing and on-reservation treaty fishing that was called U.S. v. Michigan, which followed the same genesis of the United States v. Washington. And when I originally got out of law school in 1979, I was lucky to participate in the trial portion of that case as a first-year law student that had not yet gone to a federal district court opinion. So that was very gratifying and enlightening to me to see how the United States' trust responsibility is implemented for tribes. At the same time, I'm a product of my history in Michigan. My father is from Little Traverse Bay Band[s of Odawa Indians]; my mother is from Grand Traverse Bay Band. And through circumstances of history, the Ottawa tribes of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan were not federally recognized under the 1855 treaty, which was a misinterpretation where the Secretary of Interior took federal recognition away in 1871. As a consequence of that act, the state of Indian tribes in Michigan, the Ottawa tribes were desolate, and U.S. v. Michigan was the first spark of hope, if you will, by reversing that decline that the tribes had been in for so long.

After U.S. v. Michigan, I went to work at Indian Pueblo Legal Services in Northern New Mexico and I worked for, in one capacity or the other, for most of the pueblos as a legal services attorney representing poor Indians in the tribal justice systems of the Pueblos and in state and federal court. Those were largely jurisdictional cases at that time in the early "˜80s. There was a lot of assertion of state authority and state court jurisdiction for on-reservation activities. So I litigated a lot of cross motions for summary judgment of no subject matter jurisdiction and I also got to participate in some unique Pueblo-initiated procedures to resolve justice questions that the Pueblos had on their reservations, which were unique because the Pueblos have a unique system of justice that is still largely indigenously driven, if you will, from their historical experience.

After Indian Pueblo Legal Services, I went to Alaska Legal Services, which does have a totally different legal history under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. I was in a place called Nome, Alaska and I went out to villages in an area that was probably 500 miles in diameter surrounding Nome and provided legal services to remote isolated villages. And there you could see the coalescence of all federal Indian policy in a community of 150 people where you would have a traditional government and Indian Reorganization Act government and a local government and an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporation board. So you'd have four layers of government for people, for a total population of 150 people. It was designed for failure, which that's a separate question, but those are items that are left out.

After Alaska Legal Services I went to work for National Indian Youth Council, where I worked on voting rights cases in the southwest turning at-large voting structures into single member districts, largely in New Mexico, in Cibola County and McKinley County. Then I also worked on First Amendment cases in which tribes were alleging that they had a right under the First Amendment to access to federal public domain law that was under the control of the federal government, but for historical reasons the tribes had ceremonial relationships with the land and their ceremonial relationships with the land were being impaired by the Federal Public Land Policies that prohibited their access in some cases or in other cases prohibited their access on an exclusive basis for some of their ceremonies that they needed to conduct."

Ian Record:

"We here at NNI know quite a bit about the Grand Traverse Band. A number of our staff have worked with the Band over the years. You and some of my colleagues for instance go way back to the late "˜80s, early "˜90s and the Band has also received three awards from our partner organization the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and its Honoring Nations Award Program, but share with our audience a bit more about your nation, just who is the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians?"

John Petoskey:

"The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians are Indians that lived in and around the Grand Traverse Bay of Northern Michigan. Michigan is shaped like a hand. If you're from Michigan, people always say to each other, "˜Where are you from?' and they'll hold up a hand and they'll say, "˜Well, I'm from Lansing, I'm from Detroit or I'm from Gaylord.' In this case, using the hand as the analogy, Grand Traverse Band is located on the little finger. That's where the peninsula is. The historical area was a reservation that was created in 1855. Just immediately north to us is the Little Traverse Bay Band, which is located in Petoskey, Michigan. South to us is the Little River Band, which is located in and around Manistee, which is right there.

The Grand Traverse Band achieved federal recognition under the Administrative Procedures Process in 1980. It was the first tribe to go through the federal acknowledgement process under the then-developing federal regulations that go all the way back to the Policy Review Commission back to the "˜70s. When it achieved federal recognition, it had to engage in building all of the governance institutions that were necessary to establish a tribal government. Incident to that, I had met Steve Cornell when I had worked at National Indian Youth Council because he was a personal friend of Gerald Wilkinson and Vine Deloria and Dr. Cornell or Steve Cornell used to come and visit with Gerald Wilkinson and I met him initially in that time period that I was working at National Indian Youth Council.

And then after I started working as general counsel for the tribe in the "˜80s, we were engaged in the process of building these governmental institutions as a new federally recognized tribe and we had to look around for models of how to establish our tribal organization, how to establish our tribal constitution and go forward from there. And so we'd have constitutional committees drafting the constitution and we also were engaged in a fight at that time with James Watt, who was the Assistant Secretary of the Interior. And the position under the Reagan administration was that federal acknowledgement was limited to a discrete number of people on the original petition that was submitted, and our argument was that federal acknowledgement covered everybody that was eligible as a descendent from Grand Traverse Band from the last annuity treaty payment that took place in 1910. And obviously, our category that we said were eligible was much larger than the category that the feds wanted to recognize.

As a consequence, we were engaged in litigation with the federal government over the terms of our recognition, which impaired the development of some of our governance institutions, particularly our constitution, which the Interior did not ratify until after that litigation was resolved in 1986 and then the constitution was ratified in 1988, I believe. But at that time, once the constitution was ratified, we really had to come up with the procedures, if you will, for our justice institutions, for our legislative process and for our executive process. And doing research of what models to follow, I came across the Harvard Project on Economic Development and at that time, this was before the internet was widely available, we had to send away for these series of memorandums that students had written on a number of different aspects of Indian economic development and Indian governance issues. And so I basically sent away for all the memorandums and went through the memorandums and cut and paste what I thought was the best in those memorandums for GTB's situation and then went through the process of having the executive-legislature enact those provisions for Grand Traverse Band. Incident to that, I then reinitiated my friendship with Steve Cornell and Steve came up to Grand Traverse Band on two different occasions to visit and to present information and points of views on how he developed tribal institutions. Also, Vine Deloria came up a couple times because I had met and known him at National Indian Youth Council and gave brief talks to our tribal council on the historical relationship of tribal governance and the Department of the Interior and the United States. And Vine had at that time and always did have a very focused analysis of how tribal governments had been overpowered by the federal government. And so in all senses of the word, he was an advocate for strong tribal governance and he promoted that when he was speaking with our tribal council and providing advice on which way to go. So that's, in a quick thumbnail I think that's what the relationship was."

Ian Record:

"Following up on this issue of constitutional development, you said that you were one of the people charged with going out and learning what other tribes had been doing to develop governments that made sense for them and that you sort of worked to integrate the best of what you had learned from others. Was there at some point in the process a customization of some of those governing institutions to the particular circumstances, cultural values of Grand Traverse in trying to make it their own?"

John Petoskey:

"Well, yes. The process of writing a constitution is not...doesn't rise to the level of the Federalist Papers, where you have advocates writing arguments for and against different propositions that are in the constitution. In the Indian community, what that comes down to, if you will, the "Federalist Paper" analogy is a group of people sitting around working their way through the constitution occasion after occasion after occasion after occasion and bringing out their own personal experience from the community as to what will work and what will not work, and so that's what the Grand Traverse Band community did."

Ian Record:

"And how has the...in your estimation how has the constitution worked in the 25 years it's been in place? Do you feel like it's beginning to gain...it has gained widespread cultural and community acceptance?"

John Petoskey:

"Yes. The one unique aspect of our constitution that is different from other constitutions is most entities elect a tripartite system of governance where they have executive, legislature and judiciary. At the time, when we were developing our constitution, the concept of consensus through council discussion was the primary value that people brought to the table of communication of trading off what would work and what would not work. The concept of separating the executive and legislature was not high on anybody's list, and so the GTB constitution has a combined executive-legislative function, so the council meets as a group and acts by motion, ordinance or resolution and it's the majority vote of the seven on the council. There are itemized activities that the executive power has -- and the vice chair and the treasurer and secretary -- but that is still in the context of the council acting as the executive-legislative combined branch of government. So we don't have, if you will, effectively, three coordinate branches of government. We have two branches of government, the executive-legislature as one and the judiciary as the other."

Ian Record:

"Let's talk about the judiciary. I plan to cover a number of topics with you today, but first and foremost is the issue of the judiciary or justice systems comprehensively and I'd like to start big picture, and based on your vast experience in this area, what role do you feel justice systems play in a tribe's ability to exercise its sovereignty effectively, to achieve its priorities, to create a healthier more culturally vibrant community?"

John Petoskey:

"Oh, that's kind of an open-ended question. I would like to just go directly to Grand Traverse Band. In our constitution we have the judiciary as an independent branch of government with independent authority and it's recognized in the constitution to have that. The judiciary serves the function as a check on the executive and legislative actions and it also provides a forum for dispute resolution between the community and community members over behavior that is not acceptable or behavior that comes to the court to resolve disputes between two individuals.

For example, I'm thinking of family law matters, dissolution of marriages or abuse and neglect on children or cases like that, so you need a third party to resolve disputes where the question of who is right and who is wrong is an open question subject to the advocacy of the parties. I don't see the judiciary in a larger, big-picture sense that you outlined. I see it in a little-picture sense of resolving disputes and if an individual, a tribal member, has a dispute with the tribal council over the enactment of legislation or the administration of that legislation by the delegated entities that the council has set up, then that tribal council member under our system, if our constitution has the right to go into tribal court because our constitution waives the immunity of the executive and the legislature and to assert that the application of that rule to that particular person is wrong for whatever reason.

And the Section 10 of our constitution incorporates almost word for word the Indian Civil Rights Act, which is almost...with notable exception leaves out certain elements from the Bill of Rights. The Indian Civil Rights Act is modeled on the Bill of Rights and those are the, if you will, the constitutional values that the federal system has, that the state system has, and by force of this overpowering values of constitutional law from our coordinate sovereign governments, the federal government and the state government, most tribal members are familiar with the U.S. federal constitutional rights and state constitutional rights; therefore, if they have a complaint with the United...with the tribe, they frame their complaint in that context and what is not unique about our constitution, but other constitutions, also have this, is that the constitution recognizes that there's an automatic waiver for that type of cause of action by a tribal member to sue the executive and legislature alleging a violation of Chapter 10 of our constitution, which effectively is the Indian Civil Rights Act. And our constitutional members have done that a number of times.

And then we also have disputes between...we have had disputes between the executive and the judicial...the executive and legislative branch and the judicial branch and the constitution does provide a methodology for the resolution of those disputes. We have had judicial removals and it's a process of the executive-legislature filing a claim in the judiciary unit, a panel of judicial appointees are appointed to determine whether or not a judge should be removed for cause, that are established in the constitution. So when you say big picture, it's too big for me to grasp because everything that I...for myself at least, I'm not a big-picture person and look at concrete problems and how to solve concrete problems, and those concrete problems I guess do have big picture implications, but it's solving the concrete problems that I focus on at least."

Ian Record:

"Well, and that's one of the reasons we thought of you as a good pick to be one of our fellows is that in our vast experience working with tribes on the ground in tribal communities is the fact that nation building is not a top-down proposition. It really starts at the grassroots and it works from the bottom up with the problems that every day...that come up every day that tribal members face. For instance, seeking redress against the government when they feel that they've been wronged. You mentioned that Grand Traverse Band's justice system is strong and independent and NNI and Harvard Project have done a lot of research in this area and it's been pretty conclusive in terms of finding that having a strong and independent justice system is really vital to a nation's efforts to achieve its goals. And I'm curious to get your take on that finding based upon your own experience and obviously the strength and independence of the justice system was not an accident. This was a purposeful process that the tribe has engaged in over a very long period of time to build that strength, to build that independence, and I guess my question to you would be how do you see that research finding in the context of what Grand Traverse has done?"

John Petoskey:

"In the context of...well, I would support it first of all. Having a strong and independent justice system is very important. And I think Grand Traverse Band has been lucky in some of the initial judges that it had that were tribal members that served for a long time on the judicial system and the fact that they were tribal citizens gave greater legitimacy for their decisions and for the conflicts that were resolved by judicial action. When we have had problems with the Grand Traverse Band is when we have...our constitution was written in the early "˜80s and actually implemented in 1988 and the provision that we have for judicial appointments does have a proviso of appointing attorneys who are non-members, and so on occasion we have had to appoint non-member attorneys to act as tribal judges. And the argument there is, "˜Well, an attorney has training in procedural due process, dispute resolution, the framing of legal arguments for the resolution of complex disputes and is familiar with the substantive law that comes forward that regulates human relationships and governmental relationships and so therefore the attorney, even though not a member, would bring value in that position as a tribal judge,' and that argument I accept.

Nevertheless, the proviso in my experience has been that when a non-Indian, non-citizen of the tribe is appointed, there are problems that inevitably arise because the legitimacy of that judicial officer is questioned by the community. I would propose a thought experiment that people would see this analogy or this problem in another manner. For example, I don't think any tribal constitution provides a provision in which you can elect to their tribal council non-members so long as they're attorneys or that they're engineers or something else, and that's just unheard of. And so the executive and legislative branch that are made up of members has greater legitimacy for implementing a decision even if the decision is wrong because it's coming from that citizen group in that community. Conversely, when a judge who is not a member is trying to implement a decision, even if that decision is right, it has less legitimacy.

So the cautionary tale that I would have on building strong judicial departments is that you keep in mind, and I know this is somewhat of a touchy subject, but you keep in mind that those should be citizen members that are filling those positions and it lends greater legitimacy to the resolution of the problems, and maybe this is a problem just uniquely to some tribes that have that provision in their constitution for the appointment of non-Indians, but if you look at the Indian law world, all of the Indian law professors -- you could tick them off on your hand that are the big stars -- also serve on tribal courts. And so they're not bringing their membership as a member of a tribe, they're coming to serve on those courts as people that are profoundly sympathetic to Indians and profoundly conversant with the principles of federal Indian law and the principles of substantive law, but nevertheless, they are bringing the same baggage of their cultural tradition to an Indian forum for resolving disputes involving principally Indians. There's variations on that too because some of those...some people argue that tribal courts are courts of general jurisdiction so they can resolve disputes involving Indians and non-Indians and I accept that, but what I'm saying is that a citizen/member of the tribe lends greater legitimacy to the resolution of the dispute."

Ian Record:

"To me what you're really talking about are what I see as two challenges. One is there needs to be a thoughtful, strategic discussion about. 'What should the qualifications of judges be?' So for instance, obviously should they have passed the bar in the state in which the tribe resides? That's often a criteria. I think what the Navajo example and a growing number of other tribal examples teach us is that tribes really placing an emphasis on their judges having understanding of that tribe's common cultural law and being in a position to apply that. And from what you're saying that non-Indian outsiders are just not equipped with that because they haven't grown up in that environment."

John Petoskey:

"Yes. In fact there should be, and I think Navajo does this and I confess my ignorance in this, but there should be a Navajo bar exam and tribes should implement their own bar exams for the practice within their own courts. Certainly all tribes now implement admission to their bar for their court but really all that is...and I'm not saying this in a negative or pejorative sense, but all that is is motioning yourself in for admission, paying the admission fee and being admitted to the bar of that particular tribe. But, if a tribe were to develop a bar exam and it's not...doesn't necessarily have to be on the substantive elements of what constitutes a tort crime, but it would have to be on something, in the case of Grand Traverse Band, it would have to be on the substantive elements of what is the fundamental value of Algonquians or Ottawas on how you lead a good life and what is the balance in life and the aim of life that you're supposed to be doing. And there is a set of concepts interrelated that are from the tradition of Ottawas and Ojibwes that define what is a good life and what is a bad life. And being sensitive to that in the position of judging disputes in which people are arguing over and sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly over those received values, is important to resolving issues that come before the court."

Ian Record:

"I want to turn back to Grand Traverse Band and the strength and independence that you and others have worked so hard to instill within that justice system that you currently operate. What do you feel -- based on the Grand Traverse experience -- that tribal justice systems need to have in place in order to be strong and independent?"

John Petoskey:

"I know the appropriate answer would probably be an institutional structure that non-Indians are familiar with, but the realistic answer, if you...is you need people that are really bright and focused and from that tradition and that are committed to that tradition. They are people that are...that grew up in the tradition, that bring the intelligence of the tradition to the position and that are committed to that tradition, that is an answer that is sort of off-center, but you need an Indian jurisprudence of values that reflect the community that you're from and the way that those values evolve are from growing up in that community, and that's an ongoing constant process. There's no one set of values that control the evolution of the community. In my own life for example and my wife's life, our parents had a totally different experience from what it was to be Indian in the...they were both born in 1915 and grew up in a period from 1915, died in the "˜80s, their life experience was fundamentally different and their grandparents or their parent's life experience was fundamentally different and they were born in the 1870s and you stretch back. This may be a little far afield, but if you stretch back to my grandparents, who were in the 1870s, and you stretch to my children now who were born in the 1990s, you have 120 years of change that is constantly taking place, but all of them have the same common denominator of coming from the same group of people and going through that change together."

Ian Record:

"So basically what you're saying is that the folks that lead that justice system, if you will, need to be culturally grounded, right?"

John Petoskey:

"Yes."

Ian Record:

"They need to have roots in the community that are not sort of put down overnight, but come from long, sustained involvement in the community, whether it's residence or participation in cultural ceremonies, etc. But just to sort of throw out a scenario to you, so presume for a second that you have all that on the judicial side of the equation and then there's somebody, in your case the executive-legislative side of governance equation that doesn't...is not acting from those values, if you will, and places perhaps unhealthy pressure on the judiciary to act in a certain way, to sort of test that strength and independence of the judicial system. What sort of mechanisms are in place to -- at Grand Traverse -- to ensure the insulation of the judiciary from that sort of unhealthy interference and ensure that it can in fact enact the cultural values, it can actually judge cases based on their merits and mete out justice in a fair and a consistent fashion?"

John Petoskey:

"Well, this is not something that is in place in terms of institutions, but on the executive-legislature side, there are seven councilors and the councilors don't always agree with each other, but they're all from the community and they all have...they all bring their common experience from the community to their positions on the council and they disagree amongst themselves and they recognize that some of those disagreements have to be resolved by the judiciary. And if Councilor A has a position against Councilor B and Councilor A is going to try to influence the judiciary to impermissibly or in some manner that is not straightforward in the procedural process, then Councilor B is going to object to that and Councilor B is going to then use Councilor B's authority within the context of the executive-legislative branch to bring that objection forward. And so it is a self-policing method of checks and balances, of different policy positions on the combined executive-legislative council. And so in that sense, even though the value is consensus of trying to get to a consensus and once the council does arrive at a consensus, it generally goes forward from that position. Arriving at that consensus involves very heated arguments between the individual councilors as to what is the appropriate course of action and if that heated argument or those differences manifest themselves in a dispute in the judiciary then Councilor A's attempt to determine the outcome in the judiciary is going to violate the rights of Councilor B and Councilor B is not going to acquiesce to that and is going to take action against A in the context of the executive-legislative process. That's realistically the way that works. I don't know if you formalize that process in some other method."

Ian Record:

"I guess what about for instance if it's not...if it doesn't involve a difference of opinion with two council members, but say, for instance, I'm a citizen and I feel that for whatever reason that the case before the court needs to be decided in my favor and I call up one of these councilors and say, "˜You need to do what I ask and I voted for you,' kind of thing and this may not be something you're familiar with because it doesn't sound like this is a common occurrence at Grand Traverse. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence in a lot of other tribes that we've worked with. I guess is it sort of values and sort of community norms that prevents a lot of that from taking place or is there something formal within the constitutional framework that Grand Traverse has developed that prevents that sort of thing?"

John Petoskey:

"Within the constitutional framework the judiciary is independent. That's a categorical statement. The hypothetical that you posited has occurred and I am familiar with cases in which tribal members have called up councilors and say, "˜I don't agree with this court's decision because it's wrong,' and the councilors have come back to the council and said, "˜Judge is wrong in this basis, what should we do?' and other councilors say, "˜Well, it's a independent judiciary,' and you get back into the methodology that I was talking about earlier where A and B are arguing over the proper policy. We're lucky in one sense that one of our councilors is a former chief judge on our court and chief judge on other courts in Michigan. So that particular councilor is...has been in the shoes of a judiciary and has been involved in inter-branch fights between the judiciary and the executive-legislature. But we have not had extreme cases at Grand Traverse Band. I can...I don't want to...there have been cases in Michigan in which one where the executive branch and the judicial branch got into such an extreme dispute that the judicial branch ordered the arrest and incarceration of the executive branch, and typically it's the other way around. All of the hypotheticals that you've been positing involve the executive pressuring the judiciary, but in this particular case it was the judiciary that ordered the arrest of the executive over an election dispute where the holdover council was not vacating office and the executive branch was actually arrested and then the petition for habeas corpus was filed in federal district court to release the executive branch, that the judicial order was invalid. So it goes both ways I'm saying."

Ian Record:

"It sounds like at Grand Traverse there's a controlling dynamic within the executive-legislative function where if there is an individual council member who's being pressured by a constituent to interfere in the judicial function that the other council members remind that individual on the council of their role, what their role is and what their role is not. Speaking more broadly, what do you feel is the role of elected leadership in supporting the strength and independence and supporting the growth of justice systems, because for instance at Grand Traverse, your justice system has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years and won an award from Honoring Nations for the incredible work it's been doing and not just building a strong and independent court system, but also making sure that that system is culturally appropriate and reflecting and enacting the values of the people. What do you feel the role of leaders are in supporting the justice function?"

John Petoskey:

"At Grand Traverse Band or in general?"

Ian Record:

"Just in general I think."

John Petoskey:

"Well, my response would be if you look at other systems -- the federal system, the state system -- there have always been disputes over the scope of judicial power in the...in federal court, in federal jurisdiction, what is the appropriate scope of federal jurisdictional power and what is the scope of its ability to resolve disputes. Justice Breyer makes a big point of this if you look at the election dispute between Bush v. Gore, it was a decision that was by the Supreme Court that was widely recognized as invalid in terms of its substantive analysis of the law, but nevertheless the whole country said, once the decision came out, "˜Well, game over,' because there's a strong judicial system and once the decision was rendered, good, bad or indifferent, that's it. Everybody folded their respective tents and went home and George Bush became president when he probably should not have been president on the substantive law basis, but a wrong decision on the merits is still a final decision and the parties respect that. And so you would hope that tribal court systems would evolve to that level of behavior where people would see that finality even for a bad decision. Of course Bush probably didn't think it was a bad decision, but they would evolve to that level of behavior that even for a bad decision, it's the final decision and you go forward. Nobody brought out the Army or guns or anything to enforce Bush v. Gore. The only thing that was done was Scalia saying, "˜Well, this case shouldn't be cited for any other precedent, just for the unique circumstances in George Bush as president.'

And the other cases, Justice Stephens and the other Justices, Stephens in particular, forcefully argued that it was a sad day for the judiciary, but they were arguing on the merits of what the decision was. Nobody was saying, "˜Well, are people going to abide by this? Are they going to follow this decision?' and ultimately that didn't even come up. The values were so engrained that everybody just followed that decision, but that was a hard-fought value because you go back to Brown v. Board of Education. When that came out, you had George Wallace standing at the entrance of a public university screaming, "˜Segregation now! Segregation forever!' saying, "˜I will not move and allow black people into this university,' and tremendous fights, killings, murders, just tremendous pain and suffering for the implementation of the Civil Rights decisions. So when you look at Indian Country, Indian Country is not something that is any different because we're all humans trying to resolve complex disputes and we're using different methodologies to resolve those disputes."

Ian Record:

"And I think it would be important for folks to keep in mind that while a lot of these justice systems are working...tribal justice systems are working to integrate, enact longstanding cultural values, the systems themselves are relatively new in many cases in that these were justice systems that were established in the "˜50s, "˜60s, "˜70s, "˜80s many of them, and it takes a long time in many of those communities for those systems to gain the legitimacy that you're talking about. Your colleague Frank Pommersheim, I had opportunity to interview him and he made the exact same point that the true test of a strong independent judiciary is, 'Do people respect the decision even though they disagree with it, particularly elected leadership?'"

John Petoskey:

"Yes."

Ian Record:

"That's the true test. They may not like the decision, they may not like the outcome but they're not going to blow the place up over the fact that they disagree with it."

John Petoskey:

"Right. That is a good test. And that...and nobody arrives at that without some pain and suffering, and that's why I brought out Brown v. Board of Education. Here you had the Supreme Court saying, "˜Segregation in education is constitutionally impermissible,' and you certainly had southern states saying, "˜It is not and we're not going to allow the decision to be implemented. Impeach Earl Warren.'"

Ian Record:

"So one of the things that in terms of how Native nations and governments and the other branches or functions of government can support tribal judiciaries...one of the things you and I were talking about yesterday was this issue of funding and what we've often heard tribal judges lament about is the fact that, "˜In our tribe the elected leadership treat us like we're just another department when really we serve a fundamental function of any society, which is to resolve disputes, which is to in many instances serve as a check on the abuse of power, the abuse of authority by the other functions of government. How important is it for leaders of nations...of tribal nations to have that mindset that the judicial system is more than just another department of government and fund it accordingly and really place an emphasis on putting the judicial system sort of at the top when it comes to allocating budgetary resources for instance?"

John Petoskey:

"Well, obviously my point is that judicial systems should be funded and the de-funding of judicial systems for political purposes should be categorically impermissible, because today's decision may be something that you support but tomorrow's decision may be something that you oppose and so the funding of judicial decisions based upon past precedent of the courts or decisions that they made shouldn't be in the equation of how you fund the judicial system. The conversation that we had was that I haven't seen any information on the relationship of how you...what the ratio is of the federal government's funding of its judicial system over its total budget, and I'm sure it could be easy to figure out, but I just haven't seen that in print someplace. At Grand Traverse Band, we have a revenue allocation ordinance and we did set up a system of funding the judicial system by a percentage of our income, our net income that we receive from various enterprises, largely gaming. At the time that we passed the RAO [revenue allocation ordinance] it was, I forget the exact number, but it was something like four percent or seven percent is going to go to the judicial system. And just through circumstances of gaming, like a lot of tribes over the last 20 years, the net income of gaming has risen dramatically like a jet taking off into the stratosphere. Those are numbers out there that everybody is family with. So we had this RAO number of four to seven percent that the judicial system received as a direct level of funding that was not to be...it was enacted by the statute and so once our enterprises took off, the amount of money that the judicial system was receiving was extraordinary. It got very high very quickly and because our enterprises were successful."

Ian Record:

"But I would imagine that as your enterprise got successful you're engaged in more commercial dealings, there's more disputes, there's the case load of the court system grows."

John Petoskey:

"Yes, yes, there is that argument, but my point is I haven't seen any good research on how you arrive at the appropriate level of funding for a judicial system. You do have the method of GPRA, of performance-based funding for projected future funding on outcomes with present resources and that's how you do programmatic funding for activities and then you have federal funding where federal priorities come into smaller communities and those are competitive grants that we look at and then you have what are called the self-governance BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs], AFA, annual funding agreements through self-governance taking over certain sections of what is known as the 'green book,' which is the budget book of the Department of Interior for funding and they have a number of formulas that are in that book based on the appropriate level of funding for different activities that the BIA is engaged in in administering an Indian reservation and just in a thumbnail in self governance is a tribe has shown that it can administer those programs just as well as the BIA through no audit exceptions, therefore they get control of that line item in the green book to administer the program or to reallocate to any other function. My point that I was getting to is that I don't see the formula for tribal court funding. Clearly funding should not be a political animal in terms of past decisions or future decisions, but there should be some formula methodology to determine what the appropriate level of funding is."

Ian Record:

"So Grand Traverse, by all accounts, has operated this strong and independent court system for quite a while that it consistently and fairly dispenses justice. What sort of messages do you feel that that sends to outsiders that interact with Grand Traverse in terms of how it does business, how it governs? Do you feel that there's been a positive ripple effect of the way that Grand Traverse dispenses justice that supersedes the reservation boundaries?"

John Petoskey:

"Well, yes. These sound like leading softball questions, but yes. Some of the things that we do at Grand Traverse is what other tribes do and some tribes do it much better than we do. I haven't looked at their site recently, but I know Ho Chunk had a very good site on their judicial opinions and we try to model our site on our judicial opinions. We set up all of our opinions into VersusLaw and into WesLaw and so they're categorized into the WesKey number system. They're available... we try to make them available... before the internet came online we did create a... all of our opinions available in the local law libraries when everybody was using hard copies to do research. We made arrangements with the county law libraries that they would have copies of our code, that they would have copies of all of our opinions that were issued. And then several years ago, it hasn't been updated, but Matthew Fletcher, who a lot of people know in the Indian law world, is a member of Grand Traverse Band and used to work at Grand Traverse Band as an attorney, assistant general counsel for about four years, and after he left he wrote a restatement of Grand Traverse Band's common law based upon all of the opinions published up until that point. And so we direct people to that on a regular basis to tell them, "˜This is the restatement of the common law as of X date. It hasn't been updated, but these are the opinions on a chronological basis that you can find that are available.' Our statutes are published online. We do have a qualified, when I say qualified, it's not as detailed as the Administrative Procedures Act, but we do have a process of legislative enactment in which we publish proposed bills for comment by our tribal members and before enactment and comments come in and the tribal council reacts to those comments either accepting or rejecting, and making appropriate decisions based on the comments and some bills as a result of that comment process have taken a long time to get through to enactment because some of the issues are extremely contentious internally with the tribe over the appropriate standard that the bill is implementing on the standard of behavior.

So I think the common denominator of what I just said is transparency throughout the whole process. Transparency throughout the judicial process in terms of the court publishing its opinions, making them widely available to individuals, the transparency of legislative acts being widely apparent to individuals. Grand Traverse Band is now going for its executive-legislative function to publish their proceedings online so that people who are tribal members...and this is an open question on whether non-members would be able to access it, but clearly tribal members would be able to, citizen members would be able to access council meetings to review what took place in the meeting and the process and procedures that were utilized in the meetings. There's discussions right now of doing the same thing for court proceedings that... of tribal court TV, if you will, to make transparency as the same value. So I think the value of transparency is something that is accepted by the majority of the participants in the political process and that has enormous benefits in a cultural norm of checks and balances, if you will, because everybody knows that everything is subject to review and all arguments are...can be developed after the fact, too, because you can look at something or you can be involved in this conversation that we're having right now, it's being recorded and later on I may be sitting at home thinking, "˜God, I should have said that or I should have said this,' and other people will have that same reaction."

Ian Record:

"Doesn't it all boil down to, when it comes down to transparency and the different ways that Grand Traverse is seeking to achieve that, is people who interface with the government, whether it's citizens of the Band or outsiders who may be dealing with the tribe commercially or may live within the community on allotment land or whatever it might be, that they understand not only the decisions that have been made, they're aware of the decisions that are being contemplated, but most importantly they're...they understand the rationale underlying the decision-making process. What is the common law that's driving this or what are the values that's driving this? Is that really at the crux of the whole thing?"

John Petoskey:

"The crux of the whole thing is not to have an indeterminate process; it's to have a determinate process that participants can enter the process at various points and figure out what happened, why it happened, what the future decision is going to be, what the arguments for and against it can be and an indeterminate process, what I see is a situation where the participants and the people who have to suffer the consequences of the decision don't know why something happened or what's going to happen in the future because there's no agreed upon procedure statutorily or there's no agreed upon cultural norm of transparency. And so it makes for an indeterminate future and an indeterminate past because the rationale for some of the decisions in the past were arbitrary, and these are words that are used in administrative law, but are arbitrary and capricious and they're not subject to analysis because they're indeterminate. And so I think the value that Grand Traverse Band is trying to achieve is a process of determinate decision making in its executive-legislative and judicial process, where participants in the process and the people who are subject to the process either as citizens or non-citizens can understand what occurred, why it occurred, and what will occur in the future."

Ian Record:

"So I wanted to wrap up with a few questions that get into a little bit more detail about Grand Traverse Band's approach to jurisprudence. We've been touching again and again on this issue of cultural values, common law, common tribal law and I'm curious, several years ago the Grand Traverse Band formally integrated the peacemaking approach to dispute resolution into its justice system. Can you talk about how that came about, what was the impetus, what does it look like, how does it work?"

John Petoskey:

"Well, the value of the peacemaking court...first of all, I want to acknowledge that Navajo Nation started with peacemaking court and I'm not familiar with the full scope of that, but I know that they had a peacemaking court long before other tribes did and brought in their values and cultural tradition to the resolutions of disputes that were involved on family relations. And at that time, our chief judge, his name is Mike Petoskey, he's not my brother, we're often confused because we're close in age and look alike. He is my first cousin. He was our tribal judge and had been our tribal chief judge for about 15 years and he was familiar with a lot of Navajo judges because he went to law school at the University of New Mexico and he had a common experience with some of these judges based upon their military experience in Vietnam and similar life experience even though these people were from the interior of Navajo, Lukachukai. So it was Ray Austin that he was a good friend with. I think Ray has published a book on the Navajo judicial systems. And Mike and Ray had been friends for many years, well, going to law school and had a common denominator even though they were widely geographically dispersed and culturally dispersed, one being Ottawa and one being Navajo. And so Mike was dealing with the types of problems that come up in Indian communities that are families-in-crisis problems and part of the way of resolving those problems in the non-Indian society under child abuse and neglect and families in need of supervision under the state model, if you look at their codes, are very destructive to the individual family unit because the resolution is, "˜This is not going to work so we're going to terminate the parental rights. We want to take the child away. We're going to sanction the parent and the family is dispersed.' I'm not saying that across the board, but that is one model that the family law in non-Indian society uses to resolve families in crisis and that may work if you have a larger group that you're...of people that you're dealing with and larger resources. But the tribe didn't have the larger resources and the group that it's dealing with is a common core of people that are related to each other across time and terminating and dispersing the family is not something that is...that the tribe wants to do, because a lot of the historical experience of the tribal members is suffering the state system of termination and dispersal of the family and then slowly finding your way back to the community. And so an alternative is to try to fix the destructive family patterns that exist within the family in question or whatever family it is. I don't have any family in question, I'm just saying this is how or what the situations that came up and the way to do that is to bring in other members of the extended family into a whole process of saying, "˜Well, what is the problem and why are you behaving in this manner that creates destructive consequences for your children or destructive consequences for your husband or wife or for your mother or father or for your aunts and uncles?' The behavior of one individual has a ripple effect like the stone in the pond that goes out into the whole community. And so the concept of peacemaking is to recognize that and to bring all of the people in the pond, if you will, that feel that ripple effect into the process to resolve that stone and to engage in dialogue, and there is a value within the Ottawa and Ojibwe tradition that all of our inter-family relationships are really community-based relationships and extend out to everybody and that a resolution of those community-based relationships of necessity involves all of these people that it extends out to because your actions today do not just impact your nuclear family, your husband, wife, mother, daughter. They also impact your aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and so bringing that whole group together or the principles within that group to work on the solution for that behavior is better than viewing it as a nuclear unit of a family, husband, wife, children and that's it and that as the scope of what the community was that had to be fixed. And the peacemaking court was to say, if you look at the larger community which everybody is impacted by this behavior and you try to bring the larger community into that process with the individual that is misbehaving, if you will, and saying, "˜This is what your behavior is causing to the whole community and we are here to help you to resolve that behavior,' and to bring the person back into the community by explaining what the impacts of their behavior has on the whole community. That's the fundamental concept. There's a long Indian word that I can't pronounce that my wife [Eva Petoskey] can, and so you might bring that up with her, and she has a better grasp of the language than I do."

Ian Record:

"So how in your estimation has it worked out so far, the use of peacemaking for Grand Traverse?"

John Petoskey:

"It's worked out well because it...there are a lot of people in Indian Country that are in pain and suffering for a variety of...this is sort of a leftist orientation, but of historical trauma, of what your parents and grandparents went through and so that has an impact on your present life and when I was talking about just looking at my own life, I'm 61 years old and I can look back to see my grandparents who I knew were born in the 1870s and there's been tremendous change from where my children are right now who were born in the 1990s and are in graduate school in college and going through different changes of their own, but we're all connected to this one place and we're all from this one place and we all grew up there. But the change is constant and for Grand Traverse Band since 1980 in the scale of things change has been positive for the community. The community has reasserted its traditions and reasserted its control over its community and when it lost its control over its community it lost control over its traditions because we weren't directing our lives, we were being directed by other people and so directing our lives even if it's in an impaired and fractured community is a process of healing that community and so that peacemaking court in the method that I just described is a process of resolving a lot of disputes that are very, very difficult and very difficult to resolve and that take a lot of time. It's not ever going to be perfect and it's not ever going to be over, it's always going to change."

Ian Record:

"As a final question, what I'm struck by in hearing you and others talk about the peacemaking approach is that often the western adversarial system, which is focused on punitive measures tends to focus on the symptom, which is the misbehavior whereas, peacemaking really seeks to get at the root cause of what's driving this behavior and sort of...and attacking that root cause to prevent that from happening again rather than punishing someone for what has already happened. Is that basically how it works?"

John Petoskey:

"I would say yes, but again I would say my wife has a better handle on that, but it's bringing in the community and the impacts on the community and saying to the individual, "˜You should have empathy and compassion for the acts that you're doing and the impacts on people that you have relationships with, long-term relationships with.' Sometimes they're loving relationships, sometimes they're not loving relationships, they're stressful relationships, but the point is everybody has a consequence for their behavior and those consequences are felt by the whole community and it's trying to say to the individual, "˜Your behavior affects the whole community and the whole community is here to try to tell you that to change your behavior so those consequences don't impact us,' because they do."

Ian Record:

"Well, John, we really appreciate you agreeing to serve as a fellow with the Native Nations Institute and agreeing to sit down with us today and sharing your thoughts, experience and wisdom with us. And this is part one of a two-part interview. We'll be interviewing you again this week in more detail about some of the work you've done in terms of developing Grand Traverse's legal infrastructure and I'd like to thank you for your time today. And that's all the time we have on today's program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute's website at nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us. Copyright 2013 Arizona Board of Regents."

NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Frank Ettawageshik (Part 1)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Frank Ettawageshik, former chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBBO), discusses how LTBBO has set a solid foundation upon which to engage in nation rebuilding through its development and ratification of a new constitution and governance system that is culturally appropriate and capable of effectively exercising LTBBO's sovereignty. He also stresses the need for Native nations to develop and institutionalize nation-specific civics education of their people in order to create civic-minded citizens who can contribute to their nation-rebuilding efforts.

Resource Type
Citation

Ettawageshik, Frank. "NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow (Part 1)." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 6, 2010. Interview.

Ian Record:

"Welcome to Leading Native Nations. I'm your host Ian Record. On today's program, I am honored to welcome Frank Ettawageshik. Frank is a citizen and the former chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. He currently serves as the Executive Director for the United Tribes of Michigan, and recently was chosen by the Native Nations Institute to serve as its 2010 Indigenous Leadership Fellow. Frank, welcome to the program."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Hi."

Ian Record:

"I'd like to start off by asking you a question I ask virtually everyone I sit down with, and that is: what is Native nation building and what does it entail for your nation?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, it has a lot of different parts to it. Some people think it's the constitution, some people think it's economic development. And those are components of it, clearly, and are very important, and maybe some of the more visible parts, but nation building to me is the, building the capacity of the citizenry of your nation to deal with change and to deal with the issues that come before it, and to do that in a healthy way. To me, you're building...a nation is wealthy, and it has true wealth as opposed to money. And, you know, economic development can bring you a lot of money, but it doesn't necessarily bring you true wealth. And the...you need wisdom to figure out how to take money from economic development, how to use a document that you've created if a constitution, how to actually have the institutions of your society, not just governmental institutions, but you know, institutions of your tribal society, of your nation, have them become strong. And that, to me that's what nation building is."

Ian Record:

"Dr. Stephen Cornell with the Native Nations Institute has framed nation building as in part the challenge of remaking a nation's governance tools. Do you agree with that statement, and why?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, I think it's important, but you have to...the tribal government is not the tribe. The government serves the tribe. And to the extent that you have...you need proper institutions. And those institutions may be governmental institutions, but they may be institutions of your society. And you need to have them be strong in order to truly do the nation building. So it, you know the implication of the question would be if you do constitutional reform, you got, you're all done. And...but to me, I think that it's a little deeper than that. And so clearly, an inadequate governing document can be a huge hindrance towards the development of good, of proper governance. I mean it can be a real problem, and needs, you do need to have a good constitution for your government. Now that constitution, in some cases it may not be written, and you know, but nevertheless, you need to have a system of governance that's in place that the society understands and that your tribal citizenry understands and is able to use and that they feel comfortable with. Otherwise you, you can impose a system that, that for instance is not, that may be a good idea somewhere, but may not be a good idea in your community. You can't do that. You have to have something that works."

Ian Record:

"Follow-up question to that: you've obviously been central in the nation building efforts of your own nation and have gained deep insights into what a number of other Native nations have been doing over the past 20, 30 years during the course of your career working in a number of different arenas -- how do you see this question of why some Native nations have proven more successful than others in achieving, not just their economic development goals, but their community development goals? These social institution-building efforts, if you will?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Part of that is a question of leadership. You need to have the, you need to have the right combination of people together. Some, there's what, the 'Great Man theory': Does history make the great man, or does the great man make history? And I've always been a proponent of the belief that history makes the great man, or the great person, or the great leader in this case as it may be. And that it's not, it's less the force of a single personality, and it's more the outgrowth of the culture. And that when people are at the point that they're ready to do certain things, those people who can accomplish those will become apparent within their communities. And our peoples have suffered immensely. For over 500 years, our wealth has been gradually transmitted away from us, our wealth, not just monetary wealth, but the wealth of our resources, the access to our resources. Even if they're there, we sometimes, the game warden stops us from hunting so that we, for the food that we always hunted. And we have, that this loss, gradually, over the years, has been very difficult for us. We've maintained our elements of culture and items through that. But our, many of our institutions within our tribal societies have suffered at that over the years because of a lot of, just the loss of many people, say through the small pox epidemics and the measles and all the other things. We lost a huge amount of institutional knowledge within our tribal societies. And that that...that made it more difficult for us to grow –- we were in survival mode and we had to try to figure out how to pull things together to survive.

So, different communities and different tribal communities, different tribal nations are at different points in their recovery, because we are recovering. This is the first generation, or maybe the second, in our history that actually has more rather than less in most cases. In fact, in my life I've seen our tribal nation go, really this is the first generation that has had more rather than less when it comes to access to resources. When it comes to this, the community support for strengthening cultural society, strengthening cultural teaching, that we actually have more rather than less now. And that's an unusual situation for us. So in the cases of, in the case of money, we have, there's money from a casino, we have to figure out how to deal with that. How do we deal with money, how do we deal with the problems that come from a market place that moves up and down and back and forth? And how do we deal with that? Whereas before we were always on the low end of everything, we were broke. And so if the market fluctuated, we already were at the bottom, and you know, it didn't really take us much further down. But today, we actually have made advances, and so we can suffer through changes in the national economy for instance. So these are things that are, that you know that I think about that in trying to understand and learn as we look towards the future."

Ian Record:

"Dr. Cornell also...in a related question, Dr. Cornell refers to governing systems as fundamentally tools for creating the future that Native Nations want -- essentially a vehicle for strategic planning and implementation. Is that something you agree with, is that something that you've envisioned your government doing as part of its role, fundamental role?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, the government clearly has a role for these things. You know, we have a planning department, for instance. And the planning department was really the first independent department that we created that was, that became out of the, when we started doing a modern administrative government as opposed to our traditional government. This was a, and it was important because there's financial planning and we had to learn how to do budget projections and running grants and all the other things. We also had, we had to deal with phone systems and how do you, how do you get it, deal with an expanding phone system from one to two to three to five to twenty-five to fifty to one hundred. You know, how do you deal with all of those systems. So we've had to learn to do all of that as we've had expanded offices, and as we've had expanded resources to run those offices. You know, we had an archives and records department that we had to create within the government because it was no longer possible to store our records in boxes under people's beds and in the hall closet in people's homes. We now started having fairly large collections of data that needed to be stored and taken care of. And then you have financial record keeping data that has to be stored for a long time. So we, these are kind of things we had to, you know, to figure. So yes, to those extent, we do have to, you know, you do have to have these institutions. But at the same time we have to be careful to not expect that our tribal governments do everything for people. That, that there's a, as I said the government serves the tribe, but the government isn't the tribe. And that's a very difficult thing because they, literally, the tribal citizens often actually ask us to do things that, it would probably be better if we didn't. And you know, there's a number of different things that I, that I think about in that regard that are, that I think sort of... One of them I guess I'll talk about is buying the meat for the feast, for instance.

Once we started having some money, people felt that we needed to provide the money to buy the meat for the traditional feast that we were having. And I felt that we'd had these forever, and that we should try to continue to have them in that same way. The government didn't necessarily need to be involved in that to make those things work. But we started providing the funds. And this gradually turned into providing the money to actually cater the entire feast. And we ended up having this where instead of having the women come and help cook and do a lot of the work, we had, you know, the casinos they have from...the catering folks came in and they just took care of everything. And we'd had this, and we were in a northern climate, and then we had a snow day, and very, we ended up having ten people come to this feast and a lot of people got really upset thinking, 'Well, nobody wants their traditions anymore. Nobody wants to attend the feast, nobody wants to do this and...' So it almost died because government, and for me it died I felt because government had gotten involved and started to, you know, question the date that it was held, and start to wonder who could come, and who might not, and started providing the money for this whole thing, as opposed to doing it the way that we had always done it.

So the next year when it came time to do the feast, we -- in a very long meeting at our elders lunch with the, we had just the week before the feast -- we discussed whether we, the people were right that nobody wanted to come to the feast and that we should just do away with it, or what should we do. Well then this long discussion got turned back into a potluck and got turned into everybody was coming and we had the biggest group that had been at this feast in 25 years. And that continues to this day being run that way, where we, everybody pitches in and works together on it. And it's the way it should have been. Well, that's to me a shining example of what government shouldn't do, and then what government should do. They should stay out of it. Government, in this case, got the grants, provided the funds, and built the facility in which we hold the feast. So it's a government hall that the community can use, and then the community comes in and uses it. And not only uses it for this event, but uses it for all types of other events: birthday parties, and for funerals, for state dinners, for all different kinds of things that are used in this facility. But most of the things that happen there are not government functions. Most of things are functions of the community as a whole."

Ian Record:

"So essentially what you're saying is that it's government's role to empower community and not necessarily replace community."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yeah. I think that's a good summation of it. And to me this is, we have to really be careful of this. When we look at what we're asked to do as a government, and also what we choose to do. And those things are, and they have to be thought through, you know. This long-term thinking about the implications of what we do have to be thought through."

Ian Record:

"Isn't part of that just the struggle with managing growth? What you're seeing, particularly with the advent of gaming, so many tribes, the amount of resources that they're receiving and then having to figure out what do we do with this? It just grows, has grown astronomically over the past 15-20 years, and it's kind of, it's been a challenge for some tribes to kinda take a step back and consider these very issues that you're talking about."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, the communities have a lot issues. But there are people who are quite critical of how tribes do some of these things and look at them. But I actually think that, you know, we need to look at it like this: we really figured out well how to be poor. We got that figured out really good. We know how to take a chicken and feed 30 people with it, you know. We can, we can figure out things. We got being poor figured out. But when we have money, we have to figure out how to do that. Lots of people with lots of money have a real hard time. Lot of old money families have all kinds of different issues. They're different issues than the ones of not having money. Well, as tribal citizens, tribal communities, having money is something that we have to figure out how to work with, and it's going to take a generation or two or three of four to try to work through those issues. How do we deal with not being the poorest ones on the block? How do we deal with, with not, with actually having resources that we need to allocate as opposed to just barely surviving? And those are different kinds of, different kinds of roles. So it's a natural, it's a natural issue. People who win lotteries --there's been studies done about the people who win lotteries. And most of them, after, oh say ten years, are probably worse off than they were before they won. Every now and then there's an exception, but because they don't know how to deal with the issues of having, of having money, and having access to resources. I look at it -- once again it's like I said earlier -- it's like having money versus having, taking that money and turning it into true wealth. And that's were you need to have, you need to put a lot of you effort into training people how to deal with that."

Ian Record:

"So let's talk a little bit more about that. How would you define true wealth?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"A safe, peaceful community. Where you have, you know, you have adequate education, you've got healthy people, you have adequate resources. And you can perpetuate and grow your culture. Not just talk about the way things used to be, but actually adapt and grow to the changing times and have your culture be alive, not just static, something that's in a book or something that's been studied and that...you know, so it's...to me true wealth is this. And true wealth sometimes involves having money, resources, and doing things with them. But true wealth can also be merely just good schools and safe homes and jobs. But that's, that's being wealthy, being, having a strong sense of self-worth, a good strong sense of place, not just in, in the physical place, but a place in culture, a place in history, a place in the preservation and continuation of culture and your environment."

Ian Record:

"I'd like to switch gears and turn to a topic that you're well versed in, and that is constitutions. Back in 2005, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians adopted a new constitution, and I was curious to learn more about what necessitated your nation to undertake that major step, and I guess give us an overview of what that involved."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, in our case, we were not on the list of federally acknowledged tribes. We felt we always had been acknowledged, but we felt that the government had somehow forgotten that; that they had neglected to keep us on the list. And so we spent 120 years in a legal battle with the United States government over this issue. And when Richard Smith went down with his ship in a storm in Saginaw Bay in 1871 in Lake Huron, he took with him the institutional memory as being the scribe at the treaty negotiations, the Treaty of 1855, Treaty of Detroit of 1855 that covered a substantial portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan, and a substantial piece of the upper peninsula of Michigan as well, in which today there are five federally recognized tribes, and a couple of others that are working toward federal recognition. And we had to fight with the U.S. Congress, with the executive branch, within the courts for all of that time. We had people who were involved in lawsuits, people traveling to Washington, all laying the groundwork for eventually us being successful in the passage of Public Law 103-324, the Reaffirmation Act for Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, both in Michigan. And this bill was signed on September 21, 1994.

There had been numerous legislative attempts over the years on things that would have affirmed our status in one way or another. There were a number of different things that happened, and there's a huge long history just behind that treaty, and behind the ramifications of it. But we spent this time working for this bill, which reaffirmed our status -- it didn't grant recognition to us, and it didn't restore recognition to us. It reaffirmed that we'd always had it, which I think is an extremely important, subtle difference. And in that bill it made sure that we be on the list of federally recognized tribes, so we'd be added to that, to the List Act, you know. And then we also were...it called for the development of a tribal role, and there was a certain timetable for that. It called for the development of a tribal constitution that, the one we subsequently developed. But it also recognized as an interim document, the constitution that we were operating under at that time that was our interim constitution, and then we were going to, we had to move forward with a new constitution.

Fortunately for us in this process, we had seen, we could learn from the issues of many neighboring tribes, and other tribes across the country, in the documents they'd had. We had very early on -- when we were trying to figure out how to work on our issues -- we had a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, and in that grant we wanted, we were gonna put on a conference, you know, a meeting for the tribe to discuss constitutions, to discuss the issues of federal acknowledgement. And we -- our attorney and I -- we were talking on the phone, and we wanted the Vine Deloria book, The Nations Within, we were discussing that book and we said, 'Well we need somebody that can really talk about that book, and talk about the issues in it. That's really what we need in the community to help move us along.' And finally one of the other of us, and I don't, never have remembered which one of us said, 'Well, why don't we just invite Vine?' And so we subsequently did invite Vine who came to our, came to the community and he -- along with a number of other people -- through the day gave discussion about constitutions and issues and laid the groundwork for helping us understand the issue of constitutions, and really what was wrong with a lot of the, what's called the boilerplate IRA constitutions that are out there, which, by the way, was pretty much what we were operating under is our interim constitution, was patterned after one of the boilerplate IRA constitutions; all of the powers in the council, and the council creates the court by passing a law, the executive and the legislative are all embodied within one institution, the tribal council. And as long as you have good people in a system like that, it works. But there are no checks and balances really. If the, if somebody, if a tribal member sues the government for something and wins in tribal court, the council can abolish the law that created the court, fire the judge, and then pass a new one and get a new judge and just keep doing that over and over until they get one that finally rules their way. That could happen, and actually things like that have occurred various places around Indian Country -– judges have been fired. So you really need a robust dispute resolution process, or a strong independent tribal court. One, and that's an important part of this. Well we discussed these things with, when Vine was there, and helped us start the process of thinking about this. And at the same time, this was prior to the passage of our reaffirmation act, Vine agreed to testify and came and gave the lead testimony for, at our hearing for, what became Public Law 103-324, when we went to the U.S. House for our first hearing on the bill.

So we had, we created a constitution committee, we worked through the grant, we prepared a draft, an initial draft that was looking at our, sort of looking at us from a theoretical point of view. This is what we'd like to see, as opposed to this is what we actually are. And then we had a committee that worked for number of years putting a draft together. Our constitutional process involved -- the development of the constitution involved -- having a committee that worked on drafts, studying constitutions from other tribes all over the country –- the good ones, the bad ones, the long ones, the short ones, the...and trying to learn from the experience of other people, as well as try to find something that fit our makeup, and our community. So we then did a public hearing, a meeting in all, not just in Northern Michigan right where our people are, but we also have a lot of people who live in the cities who would move there for jobs down in the southern part of the state. So we had meetings not only there, but also in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We had a total of eight meetings where the, sometimes we had as few as five people show up, sometimes as many as sixty would show up to these meetings where...and we wrote a transcript of the meetings, and talked about things like: if you're gonna be a judge, can you ever, can you have a felony in your record? Is there a length of time that you could go where we could consider that you might be rehabilitated? OK, if you've lived in the community, if you had a felony when you're 18, and you serve your time, and you're out and then 25 years later when you're, you know, in your 60's and you're being considered after living an exemplary life, would you be eligible to be a judge? Would you be eligible to be on the council, or to be the chairman, or...and we discussed these things with the community, and came up with, for most instances that they would be, there's the ability to be forgiven, and, not in every instance, but in most. And then we talked about what age people would have to be and what the basic criteria would be. We talked about all these things throughout the community in these discussions. And then a draft was prepared. That draft was then sent to all of the membership, one to every member. And then we then asked for written comments. We also had a meeting where you could come and give your, you could bring your written comments, you could mail them in, you could come to the meeting, and you could talk and discuss the things, ask questions, and we had it in an auditorium and had a fairly large turnout for this meeting. Then we took those, the committee took all those comments, and all those thoughts and everything, and took them back and made changes and thought it through and came up with a new draft, which we mailed out to everybody, and then did this whole process again. And we mailed, I think three times, the draft out for comments and had meetings where we put everything together. This took years; this was not something that was a matter of months. This took years to do this. And we finally ended up with a draft that was ready to be submitted to the, that was ready to be submitted to the Department of Interior.

Now the bill that we had, the Public Law 103-324, the Reaffirmation Act, it...when it called for an election for a constitution, it called for a secretarial election. So the fact that there's a secretarial election is really the only tie to this constitution as an IRA constitution, 'cause they required approval. So this was an IRA constitution only to the extent that it was required that that secretarial election. Because it really was not...this constitution that was developed was a separation of powers constitution, far from those boilerplate IRA constitutions. And it has a checks and balances within the different departments, within the different branches of government. And in addition to those checks and balances, there's also an independent prosecutor's office that, to help ensure this. And then there's also, not a branch of government, but a constitutional entity, the election board is also an independent body. And so these were the kinds of checks and balances that we built into this document.

Eventually we -- after considerable negotiation with the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] -- of course we, when we submitted it it was for an informal review. So we get this informal review and it took a long time. They're supposed to, there's timetables built into this stuff, but nobody ever meets those, the feds don't and, you know, the tribe, we didn't either, and so it took a long time to get this process. But eventually we got through that and negotiated through their informal review and then we got a formal document. Then we sent it in for the formal review and then we had to argue about certain points in the constitution about membership and territory and things that we had to sort of go through and deal with. And eventually we got the Assistant Secretary of the Interior to sign off saying that we were ready for a secretarial election – this was in the fall of 2004. And so the Bureau then started out to do the secretarial election, creating an election board that was our election board plus a couple members from the bureau. And they did a registration for that and then from the registered voters who registered for that election, it was about a three-quarters vote in favor of the constitution, which was...the election was certified on February 1, 2005. One of the key points to this, so that was a process of getting that constitution. It was a very long involved process, involving the community..."

Ian Record:

"A very organic process from what you're describing."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"...Yes. The next thing though, there's another important part of this constitution that I think was critical to its success, and I don't want to leave this out in terms of this point, but we...when people do constitutional reform, often the new constitution just goes into effect on that, on a particular day. Well, we were going from the old, pretty much a boilerplate, IRA-type tribal council, all authority being there, to one of different branches of government. And the people elected under an old constitution couldn't serve under this new one adequately, you know, it'd be really confusing. So when we adopted the new constitution, one of the provisions in it, was that it would not go into effect until the people were elected and sworn in to serve who would be implementing the new constitution. So it was September 21th, I mean, it took from February, it took months to have the election, to go through the process, and have people sworn in who then took office, and the new constitution went into effect. And that was a really important thing.

The other thing we did that helped with the transition that I think is...would be helpful to people is that we hired a couple of consultants to come in who had studied constitutions and had worked with tribes. We brought them, we gave them our document, and they had not been part of the drafting of the document, but we gave them our document and we said, 'We don't want to know what's wrong with this. Don't give us a detailed analysis of what's wrong with this. What we want you to do is to help us understand how to implement it. What are the things that we're gonna have to know when it comes to implementing this?' And then we hired them to come and work with the council, the newly elected council. And the day before we were all sworn in, they came in and did this training with the tribal council and with the executive offices, with all of the judges who would be carrying over, the process and...to go through this...and key members of commissions and key staff. So we had a training session on what the constitution meant. What it meant to be on a separation of powers, who was supposed to do what, how you appropriated money for instance, you do, you appropriated money through a process where you authorized the expenditure, then you appropriated the money and then you had to approve the, a budget modification where you put the money. And so those were things that we learned for instance from this, is way to keep adequate track of finances and dealing with that. And, so we went through this and we actually had a fairly smooth transition and went into this process.

So we went six months without...I attended every meeting as the, I was the chief executive elected under that first constitution. I attended every meeting for six months, all of the council meetings. They started to get a little restive about that because I'm a chief executive and I'm not really part of the council, so well, maybe they didn't really want me there. But they really wanted the chief financial officer, the CFO, and they really wanted the tribal attorney. But both of them worked for the executive now, and they, I told them, 'You can't have the CFO and the tribal attorney if you don't have me.' And they really didn't want me, so then they finally agreed, 'Okay, well then we won't have any of the people there, you know, you'll come in periodically.' And so we did, we had a table in the back where we'd come in and visit the meetings and answer questions when they had them and give them information, but we didn't attend every meeting. Well as soon as I wasn't attending every meeting, they started taking actions that didn't have input from the executive, and therefore within three weeks we had our first veto. So you know, things got interesting and we sort of worked that through where the executive exercises his prerogative with veto or with signing a bill, or letting it happen without signature. Those are all provisions of the constitution we put in.

So this is stuff that we did in the transition. And I mention one other thing about constitutions in here I think is important, and that is that a lot of people said, 'Well gee, you know, the separation of powers looks a lot like the U.S. constitution, why are we copying them? You know, we don't need to just copy them, you know we need to do our own thing, you know.' And, you know, I think of a story and I, about a project, a gift that my son gave me that he, he provided this, he went to camp, you know I think he was eight, and he made this thing, and I got it and it, it was wood burned on it, you know, and it said 'To the second greatest dad in the world.' And I went, 'Well gee, what is this? You know?' And he looked at it and he said, 'Well, but dad, you know, this other guy he said, "˜To the best dad in the world' and I couldn't copy him.' So I get a real kick out of that one. But the point is, is that, you know, we need to be careful. If something's good, just because somebody else uses it doesn't mean we shouldn't use it, particularly when they copied us when they prepared these checks and balances within the constitution of the United States. And they were, they took advice from tribes and they, they lived here on this continent and many ideas in there are native to this continent, they grew out of it. Even to the rules, the decorum in Congress and the way things are done. Many of those things came from the observation of tribal councils, of council meetings and different things. And so, you know, we've made a major contribution to the way the U.S. government functions. And if there's something that works, we shouldn't be, shouldn't say, 'Oh well, we can't do it cause they're doing it.' We need to say, 'Does it work and does it fit us?' And if it does, then we, we should be, not feel bad at all about taking that to use and using it to our own benefit."

Ian Record:

"Well yeah, it gets to the point of it, just because they copied us doesn't mean they own it."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yes."

Ian Record:

"You know, they're the only one that can use it."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yes. And that's...and so those are important things that we need to, that we need to think about when it comes to this. And so the constitution that we developed, that we put in place, I served four years as the first chief executive under that. I left office last August now -- in 2009 -- and it was, you know we're in, so now we're into a new administration and was, as with anything there's gonna be pushes and pulls. There's constantly, there's a, always a tension. With checks and balances, part of what that is is a certain tension between the different departments. And that's really sort of designed that way. And if there's a little bit of tension it's not a bad thing. But you, you know the executive authority for instance, the council, is really nervous about not exerting executive authority often, and really a lot of what they'd like to do is executive, and like the U.S. Congress tries to assert legislative authority, I mean executive authority and there's constant pull between the executive and the legislative, and that same thing is true within this kind of a document. You're gonna have that, and you're gonna have a court that will have to decide if one thing, if you've gone too far or not. But it's really important and what's...

The other thing that's important about a separation of powers constitution for me is that it's cumbersome, it's slower. And because it's slower it gives time for people to watch what's happening, to think about it, and the tribal citizenry can get involved. And if they don't like it they can let you know. You want something that takes, something has to be posted for 30 days before you can act on it for instance. You need things like that in there to give people time. Even if very few of them actually take the time, they need to know that they can, and they need to -- for those people that are interested -- they need to have that opportunity to do that in order to feel comfortable that the government actually is doing what they like and is a reflection of the community. When things can happen overnight without any notice at all, it's bad. And the other thing is you have to be able to notify people what's happened. People need to understand what the law is. A council can sit around passing laws all the time, but if you've got several thousand members, and they can't all attend the meetings, and if they have no way of knowing what the law is, you can't very well pass a law and then go out and arrest somebody for not following the law, unless they've had an opportunity to be involved in that, to understand what it is, unless they truly consent to that.

So if a law gets passed that they don't like, you need a mechanism within that constitution for them to remove it, for them to take it to a referendum. And if you have an inactive government that is not doing what the people like, you need the ability to have initiative, so that they can initiate laws through action that's outside of the council and the chair if they feel that they need to. And so these are kinds of things that, that give people the peace of mind that the government isn't totally out of control, and it's something that they can have access to, and that truly the government serves the people as opposed to the government being the people."

Ian Record:

"I want to follow up on a couple of points you raised during your description of the reform process, or not the reform process, actually the development process involved with the new constitution at Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and that is this issue of separations of powers. And you described very early on that separation doesn't necessarily mean non-communication between legislative and the executive branches of government, or the executive and legislative functions of government, that you need to have that communication so that each side is making informed decisions, and that separation doesn't necessarily mean there's no interaction between the two."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yeah. Yeah that's...you have to have a method for communication, and you need to...I think that it's, one of the things that I advocate for is when there is a law that's going to be held, that's going to be, that's being considered, that the legislative body hold a hearing on it and call in the executive to be witnesses at that hearing to ask questions about how something is working, ask questions about how this new law would work if it were passed, get opinions about whether they think it would work. Because if...it's one thing to out of, out of the air to sort of create a law that you think works, but when you, if it's, when it's implemented through the executive side, you can't have something that won't work that is, you know, you can, you can't sort of force something to work, you need to know if there's some likelihood that it's going to work. And so you may not, you may have executive function, executive people who don't like the law because it may be going to do away with their job, or it may be you're going to create more work for them, or it maybe going to make them do something that they don't like. But that's not enough reason to not pass the law. But if you pass a law that has one part of government doing one thing, and the other part of government undoing it, you need to understand that, you need to know what the implications are from how things are going to work. And so it's a good idea to have public hearings, to have this debate, and to have a longer debate over the legislation so that you have an idea how it's going to function. And plus things take a while to implement.

An example of this: we passed a notary public law, and this particular law was one that took...we built an implementation period into the law and there was a lot of communication back and forth between the executive and the...you know we gave a markup back to the legislature to look at, to think about it, and we went through the different things that would be necessary to consider. And we thought a six-month time period to implement it would be fine. So we set out, once it was passed, to get the surety bonds for notaries, and were assured that that wasn't going to be no problem, a couple of different companies told us there'd be no problem, they did that regularly. And then we had to get embossers and stamps. Well this was a tribal notary law, so when we went to get the companies to do it they said, "˜Yeah, we'll do that send us your stuff.' And we sent the stuff and they said, 'Oh, wait a second, you know, where's your state stuff?' And we said, "˜Well, this is not a state, it's the tribe.' Oh we can't do that. And one after the other, they were falling by the wayside, saying, "˜You know, they couldn't do it.' So we had to actually find a company that...and we found one eventually who said, well see this is a tribal law and this is, you know, we showed them, we talked about the constitutional issues and all this, and they, and they understood, they finally got around to understanding it. So eventually they agreed to pay us $50 for us to license them in order to produce our stamps and embossers. And part of the thing was is they realized, they said, 'Now how many tribes are there?' We said, "˜There's over 500.' They said, "˜Oh, maybe we could do this.' And so we have one company who agreed to do this. We think we're the first tribe in the country to actually have our own notary public law this way, because we couldn't find anybody who would produce the stamps and embossers until we worked with them. Then when we went to get the surety bonds for the notaries, the companies who assured us they could do it suddenly realized they couldn't do it because all of their stuff was for state authorized notaries and they had, they just couldn't figure out how to deal with it. We finally found a company who...it took months. We had to get a six-month extension on our six months to implement the law because this took so long and we finally found a company who, an executive there had just returned from a seminar on insurance and one on dealing with tribal sovereignty issues. And he was really intrigued, and he came back the next day and got this call from us and he said, "˜You know, let's try this.' And so he set out to develop a special form, and all the different things.

So we have, we developed a product, which we think is unique in the insuring for tribal notaries. And there's now ten notaries licensed at Little Traverse, within our tribal jurisdiction, for notarizing documents. The average person needs a notary once or twice in their life. This isn't a big, sexy thing for tribal sovereignty. It's not something you're going to get headlined on a paper and all these other kinds of things, this isn't it, but exercising sovereignty is not just those big things. Exercising sovereignty is all the grunt work. You know it took years to develop the statute to get the council in the right mind to think it would be something that needed to be passed. And then it took some of the tribe people in tribal community said, "˜You're doing what? You know, why would we need to do that?' And you know, but we eventually got people around to the idea that it was as good idea. It's an exercise of sovereignty and it's part of good governance for us to be doing these things. So this took a lot of communication back and forth between the legislature and the executive. And it's an example of a law that worked, and we -- not only did we do this -- but we also notified the governor's office of the state, said we're doing this, and her attorney, and we talked through all of that. You know we have regular meetings with the executive office of the state, annual meetings in Michigan, and we, because we were, we did these things, we didn't surprise anybody with what we were doing, and now that's the way we function, now we got this going. But that, that one law is an example of the utilization of the provisions within the constitution for the passage of a law, and the implementation of it, and how it worked. And I think it's a good example of good communication and, you know, making things, doing some of that grunt work and the assertion of sovereignty."

Ian Record:

"Really what you're talking about, on one level, is education: education of internal to the government then also education of the citizenry. And I wanted to follow up on that point. You know, we've seen...NNI works with a number of Native nations on the issue of constitutional development, constitutional reform, and we often see tribes either fail during the constitutional reform process, never make reform happen, or they encounter a lot of problems after they've ratified a new constitution, or reformed one because of this issue of education. Doesn't the education challenge only begin with the new constitution? Isn't there an ongoing education process that has to take place? Because, you know, it's one thing to change a document on paper, it's another thing to change the political culture, which has been at work in the community often for 60, 70, 80 years.

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well...there's, you know, we evolve as a society. One of the things I can think of is, when I was young, if someone was drunk, the police officer often would say, "˜Give me your keys. Get in the car.' And he'd drive them home, and leave the car sitting beside the road. And, you know, that was something that was fairly common. Today, that's far from the way things happen, you know. I mean today, we as a society, we have ceased to sort of look the other way at that issue, and have really focused on it as a negative thing within our society, and all the ramifications of driving and drinking. I have, you know, we're doing major educational campaigns on TV, we do this all across the country. And, so as a, the United States as a nation has really, the culture has changed as to how we deal with that. Well, the same thing happens when we're looking at how we deal with our institutions within our government structure, you know. The question that I have is, for people, is how often have they attended a township board meeting, or a county commission meeting, or a city commission meeting, or the state legislature, or the U.S. Congress. The average citizen, there are many, many citizens who never attend any of those meetings, ever. Live their lives and do just fine, they're fine, productive members of society and very successful and whatever, and they've never attended any of those. And yet, when we look at our tribal governments, we often, you know we get so wrapped up in our tribal governments that we start to try to make them into everything. Once again as I say, "˜Not the tribe, the government being the tribe, not the government serving the tribe.' And so citizens of our tribal nations often demand of their elected officials things that they wouldn't demand of elected officials that, from other places that they live, other communities that they interact with. And they, in so doing the, we get very little education about how to function.

What education and the way government works in our schools, usually, is all based on non-Indian governments. I was involved in a project for a textbook printed for the state of Michigan, or I was one of the people interviewed and part of the development of this for fourth grade. And this was the best textbook that we'd ever had up to this point because, and it's a major publisher and it was put together in a way that a number of schools throughout the state are using it now, it's titled "˜Michigan.' But what it did is it, Indians didn't disappear after the first paragraph, or the first chapter like we often do in books on history of the state. But we made it to about the middle of the book in the first edition. Second edition is about to come out and my understanding is we make it clear through the end of the book in this one. But people actually are going to understand when...kids will hear that we have constitutional governments. They'll hear that tribal governments exist today, instead of the question...I used to do a lot of speaking to fourth-grade classes and different places around the state of Michigan. One person said, "˜How long have you been an Indian?', question like that, and uh, 'What do Indians eat and where do you eat it?', and things of this sort. Of course they, there's certain stereotypical answers to those questions that they'd like answers to, but...it's because we need to address those issues, and so that as people become adults they understand that tribal governments are governments. We're not clubs, we're not associations, we're not part of history and long gone -- we actually exist and are around and have a major effect. We are, have far more visibility in the economic world because of the casinos and employing a lot of people these days. But far more than that, we have an effect on the way the environment, environmental issues are dealt with. We have an effect on law enforcement, we have an effect on the various social programs and things that are going on. Tribes have a major effect within their communities for both their citizens and for the non-tribal citizens as well.

And so today, things are much different than they once were, but we're still suffering from this lack of education about who we are. I once got the door-knocker award, which was literally a brass doorknocker still in its package from the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes for, we have an impact week every year in Washington D.C., and I went to that meeting and we would hold a breakfast where we'd talk and we go out on [Capitol] Hill and do meetings on the Hill, then we'd come back and we'd talk about what we'd done and, the sort of a summary of what we'd done and what things we need to do. I got the award because I'd taken a copy of the U.S. constitution. I had a lot of meetings. I was very energetic. And I took a copy of the U.S. constitution and I went in and I talked to the staff in all the offices I went to and I asked them if they'd ever read the Commerce Clause. Did they understand what, about treaties? It's sort of like 'Indian 101' in a way, the basics of Indian law relative to the constitution. And a huge number of the staff, a college-educated staff in the U.S. Congress, did not, had never read the Commerce Clause, with the idea of looking at tribal sovereignty through it. They didn't understand what it meant. They didn't, they never looked at the thing about treaties being the supreme law of the land, and understanding that meant Indian treaties. Never understood those things. And so this kind of education at that point is necessary. So what do we need in order to make our tribes work? Our own citizens are a product of this same sort of general education system that doesn't teach much about Indian law, Indian societies. And if nothing we're sort of curiosities and different things. Very little is that taught. So not only do our own citizens, as a product of this other education system, but they also need to understand their own government. They need to understand their own constitution. Nowhere are those classes taught. You know, they don't have a, you can't go and just take a class on the tribal constitution, and very few tribes have anything like this. So I've read, and I know other people who have advocated for tribal civics classes. We need to try to make sure that this is done.

One of the things that I feel that helps with this is I proposed a educational standards act for the tribe that would lay out what some basic goals were for different levels of say, elementary education, secondary, post-secondary, adult, you know, adult continuing education. What kind of things should we expect from each of these different age groups, and what...once we set some goals, then how do we achieve those goals? And one of the things that we did at Little Traverse that was done by, funded through the tribal council, but done by a number of different members of the community, is we created a video called "˜Journey to Sovereignty' that talks about the process of getting a reaffirmation bill passed and goes back into time, back into the history of why it became necessary to do it in the first place, and then how we went about doing it, and interviews with people. And it sort of told the story while the people were alive and we've got a record of it. And then we made a copy of that and mailed it to every tribal member, whether they were one month old or eighty, whatever, everybody got one. And then we continually show that at our hotel. We have the Odawa Channel at our hotel, and we show that video, a 'Four Directions' video. We have anther video on the history of the operation and some of the tribe. And we just have these showing in continuous loops so that, as a way to educate those people who are our guests who come to visit the tribe, but also for our own citizens who spend time there. And we periodically show these at other events just as a way to help people understand some of the history. Well it's things like that video, and other types that will be the tools that we need to actually get an educated citizenry about our systems.

So how does our system work? This is a long answer to your question, and I'm eventually getting back to your question here, that we need to have a mechanism for having an educated citizenry so that when we make changes in our governments, they understand what they're doing, they understand, you know, what this is likely to be. Once we made changes, as we implement them, they'll understand what those are. So we need education. It's like bringing in the consultants and helping educate the people who are about to serve under the new constitution. That seminar, that one-day training we had really helped move us through the transition. Now there will be, you know, we since have had others where we've brought people back in and looked at it again. And I'm sure that there will be continual training as we look at the documents and try to help them, and then look at our laws and see what laws we need to pass. We've had similar training when it came to dealing with the issues of Violence Against Women [Act, VAWA], and the personal protection orders and safety, issues of...we needed a victims rights act, we needed a, to strengthen a bunch of different laws. And we had a training where we brought in and talked about what we needed to do to work on this. We've had other trainings when it came to the implementation of, for instance the Adam Walsh Act, which by the way I just heard just recently that there are only three governmental entities that are compliant with the act, and it's overdue: one state and two tribes that have become compliant in the implementations of this federal law in the protection of children. But we're continually trying to do this through education. But as a basic form of this, we need to have this civics education. Each tribal nation needs to have a nation-specific course in how this is taught. We need to have general ones that help educate larger groups of people. We need to make sure like...I think there ought to be one of these in every law school. Every law school ought to have a class on dealing with sovereignty issues and dealing with tribes. Because many of those attorneys are going to end up serving before a tribal court somewhere, having to actually not just be a member of the power of Michigan, in the state of Michigan or in another state, but they're going to have to become members of the bar of different tribes in order to serve before those courts. And they need to understand what that means. So, you know, there's a need for an educated citizenry as a whole, and I think that this kind of training and education needs to not just be at the tribal level for our citizens, but also needs to be in the general public education as well."

Ian Record:

"If you could summarize for us, perhaps the three or four highlights of your new constitution -- the one adopted in 2005 -- in terms of perhaps what are the most important components within the constitution that advance your Nation's nationhood?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, it would be easy to say, the separation of powers, the branches of governments and things, but I actually think that there are other components that are important here. The first one is a declaration of rights. It's like a bill of rights, but it's actually incorporated into the constitution. That is an important part of this constitution. A second part of the constitution I think that's important is the assertion of the inherent rights, and the fact that we acknowledge that others may have inherent rights, other peoples may have inherent rights. And this document lays out a process, which eventually could result in like a state department, or diplomatic relations with other nations, other nations being other tribal nations, or foreign nations to the United States, or, for instance, relations with the United States itself. You know, they all want to see, check with us to make sure that we're recognized. And when is the last time a tribe asked the federal government to apply for recognition before it's government? And I think that the reciprocal is equally true, and I think that that's something that we should do. We need to realize that that's a two-way street; it isn't just the one-way street. There are tribal organizations who the only way that you can be a member of those organizations is if you're a federally recognized tribe. Well, if you, if you're looking at that, you're basically, the organization is giving up to the federal government the right to decide which among the tribes are going to be able to be members of this tribal organization. As opposed to making that decision asserting their sovereignty and making that decision their own government.

Now it's real easy to say this from a, just a, it's a simple assertion, it's a simple bunch of words. It's a lot of work to actually have to figure out who you're going to have, what other governments you're going to have relations with, and not, and what the criteria is for doing that, and how you choose when you're not choosing just federally recognized tribes. You know, a state-recognized tribe may, and we've had state recognized tribes come to Little Traverse and ask for diplomatic relations, asked us to recognize them. We've had non-recognized, either by federal or state, tribal governments come to us and ask us for acknowledgement. And we have yet to actually work through the mechanisms of that, but one of the important things in this constitution is it lays out the groundwork. It lays out that the basic part of that we will recognize other governments who acknowledge us. And so, I think that's one of the most important parts of this. Because the document, the document itself lays out how we're going to relate to other governments. And I think that's critical. And so those are, those are some of the really important points I see is that there's that, the bill of rights, and then of course the delegation of authority, which in our case is to separation of power branches, different branches. But you could have a constitution that did these previous things, and then set up a different system. This works for us, it doesn't necessarily, wouldn't necessarily work for every tribe. And there may be others that are at different places in their development, different places in their history, that they feel that a different form of government would work. This isn't the only one that works, but this, the document itself, that assertion of inherent sovereignty and the ability to acknowledge other governments, and interact with them, is a fundamental part.

Now the most important part I think in the end of the constitution, that is there, is the statement, the flat assertion of the importance for, that the government is charged with protecting our heritage, our history, and our language -- that these are things that...it's a lens through which we have to look at the rest of the actions and the rest of the constitution. It isn't something that is merely an afterthought or, if you have time do this, or maybe you can do this you know if you get around to it. It's...this is the basic charge to the government so that we have to look at a, when we create a new department, is it furthering these ends? And that's something that, because it's there in the document, it's a tool that our citizenry can measure the effectiveness of their elected leadership as to whether they're doing what they wanted them to do or not."

Ian Record:

"This gets, this is a good segue into another question I wanted to ask, and your statement that you just made merges rather well with the statement I want to share with you that was voiced by a fellow tribal leader who's nation had recently developed a new constitution. He said and I quote, "˜The new constitution is our long-term strategic plan.' So how do you see that statement?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well I think that it, I would look at it that the new constitution, I mean this constitution for us is like the, vision statement and the mission statement. It isn't necessarily the plan. It lays out the fundamentals through which you then would develop your plan. And so to, I would sort of carry that a little further in that, that it clearly sets out, you know, the vision for what the tribe should be, and what the tribe is, and what the people want the tribe to be. And that's the important, an important step. And then, you know, the mission, and it's sort of how you're going to do it is laid there. But the actual specific objectives, you know we were fairly careful to not put specific like objectives and things of that sort into it because those may change over time. We wanted something that would last, not something that every twenty years you'd have to get a new constitution."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to follow up also on this point of culture. Essentially this is, as the culture, the history, the language, the heritage of your people being the lens through which your government would be organized in through, in the lens through which it would decide key matters, and who would decide those key matters. How does you nation's constitution express your people's culture, identity, and goals?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, it expresses it through a preamble. And I don't have the words memorized, but it lays out the, who we are, it makes a statement of who we are, it makes a statement of what we, what we wish things to be, you know, to perpetuate our culture. And, so we have that section in the preamble, but then it also, there are directives to the government. And not just the preamble that sort of lays out the general tone for the document, but then there's the, this directives to the government and each, that the government's directed to do these things and to perpetuate the language and to protect the youth and protect our elders and to further the safety and to protect the right to work of our members and things of those sort. So we have these things that are built right in, and there's directives to the government. And those things are...we're directed to protect our heritage and culture. And so instead of...heritage and culture and spirituality blend and, but to the extent that we also have freedom of religion within the document so that it's not just, we're not, we promote our heritage and culture, but we tolerate and we're directed that if we have people who are choosing other paths, that we, that they're acknowledged, and their right to do that is acknowledged within our document as well.

So the government has to work on -- like the video that I described earlier -- it helps to protect our, get people understanding what different people in our tribe have done. I mentioned earlier that educational standards act, to me that's an essential part of meeting the constitutional responsibility of protecting our heritage because we want people to know what that is. I ask this question, 'How many of a tribe's citizens can name five chiefs from the 1800s and tell you a little about their lives, what they did? Now how many can name five presidents and tell you a little bit about those presidents?' So, the answer is many more to the second and very few to the first usually. Occasionally there are exceptions, but this is something that we need to try to fix. We need to have people understand who we are because, when I mentioned earlier there's a, we need to have a strong sense of place. And that sense of place is, it's multi-dimensional when you think about a sense of place. A sense of place isn't just the rocks and the trees and the streams and the things, you know. It isn't just that physical place, it isn't your home, or your town. But your sense of place is also your understanding of where you fit into your society. How you fit into your culture. How you fit into the history. And how you fit into your society, and where you fit in your language, where you fit in your, in, how you fit between the past and the future. You know? That interaction between them, that sense of place, that strong, assured sense of place is an attribute of a healthy individual. And as you have healthy individuals, you then have a healthy society. And so we need to try to help do things that foster that strong sense of place. And I believe that this constitution for Little Traverse helps to lay that out. We made every effort we could to make sure that those things would be part of that so that the government would actually; we could measure the success of a government.

When you do, when you work on documents like this, when you work on things like this, you have to prepare for when you're not going to be there. So, you know, you help pass laws so that, if need be, when you're no longer in the, an elected official, you can sue the government if you wanted. You need to make sure that there's, that there's, you know, the ability to do that. You need to make sure that you have the ability to initiative if a government becomes unresponsive and needs to be moved. You need to make sure that you have these things. So you have to build in all these safeguards to make things work well. And so, part of good governance is planning for your own obsolescence."

Ian Record:

"We've heard one leader describe that as, 'Mmy job is to make myself dispensable.'"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yeah. I think that's a good way to put it. I like that."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to...you mentioned this early on in the discussion about this interim constitution that you had prior to the passage of the public law that reaffirmed your status in the, at least in the minds of the federal government, as a sovereign nation. And then the new constitution and the difference, inherent between those in terms of dispute resolution, in terms of a, your tribe's, your nation's justice system."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Right."

Ian Record:

"Can you do a quick compare and contrast between the strength and independence of your court system of your dispute resolution within your nation, within the interim system, versus your current system."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, the first constitution, which was actually was a document that involved, and it initially, in its very early incarnations had some of the very typical language where every action within it required approval from the Bureau [of Indian Affairs], okay. You know, so that was a pretty typical of some of the early ones. And so by the time that we actually had it in place so that we were using it at the time of the passage of the reaffirmation act, so it became our interim document, we'd removed all those sections about approval of the Bureau on our legislation. But some constitutions, every single law, every single action that's passed by the council, had to go to the Bureau for approval. They'd have to analyze it, look at it, and when it came back signed from the Bureau then they'd, then they'd become law. Well, you know, that, we didn't have that. But we did have this thing that, with the judiciary, we passed a law that would create a court under the old constitution. And consequently we hired the judge. And the judge worked under contract through this, the law that we passed and, had we chosen, had we disliked the judge we could have fired the judge. And, or dislike a decision that the judge made we could have. The fact that we didn't meant that we respected the fact that we needed an independent court, and we needed to stay out of the court's affairs. But, you know, had things, you know, we certainly had the ability to do that under that old constitution. And that, you know, that isn't a really strong, it doesn't give...

If you're signing a contract with a company that you want to do business with, and the contract requires that you go to tribal court, and you -- because you want to assert sovereignty -- and there's no guarantee that the court will look like the current court. There's no guarantee what the court will look like at the time that the dispute would be taken to them. Or you could change the appearance and the operation of the court during a dispute, during the resolution of a dispute, it makes it a lot less comfortable for someone to acknowledge the sovereignty of your court, and to want to come to your court. And so they're going to demand that you have a waver of immunity, and that you take everything to federal or state courts because they don't have confidence in the tribal system. Your own citizenry have less confidence in the court itself when the court changes or is subject to change that quickly. So under the old system I, it was fairly weak. And it was judicial reform, I think is critical for government development, and probably is the fundamental reason why many constitutions are looked at in the first place. Even if nothing else is changed in them. To have an independent court is a move in the right direction.

Well, under the new constitution the judges are appointed, they're nominated by the executive, and then the nominee goes to the tribal council who holds hearings and talks to the people and asks them in-depth questions like, you know, what do they believe about different issues of constitutional law and, you know, what are they, you know, they ask them the same kind of tough questions that they get asked at any, you know, cause they realize that they're, if they approve the judge the judge is going to be there for a while and, and will have an effect, those rulings will have an effect on the tribal law.

And so as a chief executive, I have nominated, my nominees sometimes were approved, and my nominees were sometimes rejected, and I'd have to go back to the drawing board, come up with someone else. But once the judges were appointed under the new constitution, once they're appointed, there's a trial judge, an associate trial judge, and then three appellate justices. So the judiciary is five appointees. The judiciary itself, after they're appointed, are the only members who can remove a judge. Now, petitions can be brought from other places, I mean the citizens can bring a petition, the council can petition, the executive can petition for removal of a judge. But once a complaint's made, the other members of the judiciary meet to decide if the complaint has merits, and they've had to develop their rules on how they deal with all of this, but they're the ones who remove a judge. So the judiciary polices itself.

Now they also have terms so that an executive can choose to not re-nominate somebody as their term ends. And even if they were re-nominated, if the, if people brought pressure to bear on the council to say we don't like this person, we don't think he should approve this nomination, they can do that. So that's the mechanism for getting rid of a judge and for dealing with the...dealing with the court. All of those are important parts of the process to, for people to have faith that the court will actually do what you think it's going to do. And our court actually developed to the point where we, we had a youth drug court that was part of the court system. And the process that we did through that was so well accepted that we had local state judges who were assigning people to this from their own jurisdictions, as opposed to just our own. And they would be, attend these programs. And so there's those kind of issues. Because of the strength we've had in terms of developing the judiciary, and because of the strength of the constitution and the things that we've put together, we have cross-deputization agreements with two counties.

Our reservation is, resides, is part of two of the counties in the state of Michigan, and we have cross-deputization agreements with both of those sheriffs. So not only have our officers been sworn in by those sheriffs as deputies, but the sheriff and his deputies came to our courtroom. And when we first did this, I administered an oath to them to uphold our tribal constitution, and our tribal laws. And we had a detailed agreement on how we would exercise that, you know. They couldn't just come in on their own. They would come in, there's a protocol for how they come in when they need to, or when we back each other up. And so we developed seamless law enforcement that was to the betterment of health and public safety for not only our citizens, but for the non-tribal citizens who are a part of the whole region in which we live."

NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow: Frank Ettawageshik (Part 2)

Producer
Native Nations Institute
Year

Frank Ettawageshik, former chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBBO), discusses the critical role that intergovernmental relationship building plays in the practical exercise of sovereignty and the rebuilding of Native nations. He shares several compelling examples of how LTBBO built such relationships in order to achieve their strategic priorities.

Resource Type
Citation

Ettawageshik, Frank. "NNI Indigenous Leadership Fellow (Part 2)." Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 13, 2010. Interview.

Ian Record:

"So we're back with Frank Ettawageshik. This is a continuation of the interview from April 6th. Today is April 13th and we're going to pick up where we left off, which was talking about constitutions. And I want to essentially go back to the very beginning on this topic and ask you for your definition of what a constitution is."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"The constitution is the method by which the people inform their government how they want the government to serve them and the government is a tool of the people to achieve what they need to achieve in terms of relations to other governments, in terms of relation to how things are going to work internally. The people themselves maintain the complete power. And then they can either give or take back certain powers to the government through the constitution. The constitution also establishes the mechanism for how the tribal government, the tribal nation will deal with other nations. It sets up the parameters for how you are going to do that, "˜which branch of government has which authority?' and all of those types of things. To me the constitution is a tool of the people for how they are going to manage their government."

Ian Record:

"What key ingredients do you feel constitutions need to have in order to be effective?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, constitutions...to me, there's a legislative function, there's a judicial function, and an executive function, and these need to be acknowledged and then the interplay between them is what the constitution does. Some tribal nations have constitutions where all of those powers are wrapped up into one body. Others have clear separations of powers, but even ones that have separation of powers the balance of those changes from one to another. So really those are important functions, I think another thing needs to be clearly you have to have an amendment clause on how you are going to amend it. You need to have some basic statements. I believe that it is extremely important to have like a bill of rights built into it. I think that's very important because those things need to be part of what our people come to expect in terms of how they are going to relate with their government. And when the people are telling the government how it's going to function they need to reserve for themselves certain rights, certain ways to protect themselves. I look at a constitution in a way as the people trying to protect themselves from their own government and I think that not only does it say how it's going to function, but it also limits how it's going to function, and guides it so that it will...constitutions that are poorly conceived or poorly written or ones that the community, the tribal nation has grown beyond, they can hamper how things will function. They can be difficult. For instance, constitutions do not require, nor does federal law require that they be adopted by secretarial election. Nor do they require that amendments be done by secretarial election, yet many constitutions throughout Indian Country require secretarial election by their own words, and so I think an important function there would be to not have that in your constitution. To me, you are either sovereign or you aren't, you are not part sovereign. And as a nation, tribal nations, sovereign tribal nations are constantly negotiating the exercise of that sovereignty with the other sovereigns around them. We may be with another tribe, another tribal nation close by, having some disputes about whose territories is whose or what...in economic development, there's room for competition and some issues. There could even be citizen issues regarding membership or citizenship. And we need to...the documents need to sort of deal with those things that are coming up."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to follow up on something you said. You talked about a number of Native nations growing beyond their constitutions. We hear that sort of refrain, particularly in the discussions of tribes who have Indian Reorganization Act systems of government that were adopted in the 1930s. They had a very different conception of the scope of self-governance, if you will. Is that something you've seen in your line of work, working with tribes both as chairman and now as executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Every tribe has its own constitution or its own, either written or not written, in terms of how the government's going to function. Most of the tribes I've worked with have written constitutions and they're all different and they have...there are clearly times when you move beyond something. The United States has amended its constitution a number of times, and not always successfully. Witness Prohibition for instance, and the fact that there's one amendment that brings it in and another one that takes it out. So the fact that a government might need to amend its constitution is not unusual. Some amendments may be more far ranging than others. Some amendments are a sentence here, or two. Other amendments might be more drastic than that, but I would think that, think of it rather that the constitution is an organic document that is evolving as the nation evolves."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to pick up on a specific aspect of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians' constitution, which was adopted in 2005, and it gets at this issue that you mentioned in the outset when defining constitutions, which is international or diplomatic relations. And explicit in your constitution is an acknowledgment of other sovereign nations and their inherent powers presuming that those sovereign nations, in turn, recognize and respect the sovereignty of your nation. Can you summarize what that clause says and give an overview of perhaps why your tribe felt it necessary to include that?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, when you, like I said, when you acknowledge that sovereignty in yourself and in others then you have to exercise or negotiate that sovereignty with your neighbors. So what I think is here is that you're constantly working with those other sovereigns, but you need to figure out how to decide who you are dealing with and who you aren't. And so the most basic way of that is that if somebody else acknowledges you, well you can acknowledge them, but you have to have some sort of a process for that. What this clause in our constitution does is it establishes a basis for some office, or staff person, or somebody that would be akin to a state department for instance, where there's an international relations office that deals with negotiations with other sovereigns and those types of things. Those negotiations, those other sovereigns might well be the United States and the laws that they are passing could have an effect on the way we exercise our sovereignty, but the fact that, for the most part, what we have done in Indian country is that we have federally recognized tribes deal with federally recognized tribes and I think what that does is that sort of...we're letting the United States decide who we're going to have diplomatic relations with, and I don't think that is a good idea. But we have the right to make that decision ourselves, but then along with that right comes the responsibility to do it in a way that you are doing it reasonably. So then what do we do? Do we have a whole acknowledgement process, each one of us? How do we go about doing that if we're not going to sort of let someone else vet the potential list of people with whom we'll have relations. I think the whole federal acknowledgement process doesn't grant sovereignty to those tribes that make it through, instead it acknowledges that they have it and that's what it's all about. So what that means is that the non-recognized tribes also are sovereign, and the state recognized tribes are sovereign, and the federally recognized tribes are sovereign. Tribal governments have inherent sovereignty and no one gives it to them. They have it because it comes through being in this creation. Well, you still have the responsibility to do it, to do it wisely because not everyone who claims to be a tribe is a tribe and that's the difficult thing. There are examples of people who have formed...recently, there have been some prosecutions here across the United States of people who have had various money, get-rich schemes, that involve pretending to be a tribe and issuing cards and charging people for it. Those are things we have to look out for, but then that's the responsibility of a sovereign nation is to not just look inward, but look outward because threats come from outside as well as potential good things come from outside and we have to be able to recognize them and deal with them."

Ian Record:

"You mentioned or we've been discussing the constitutional mandate within your tribe's constitution to essentially engage in international relations. It places a high value on that process. Since the 1980s, there's been an incredible growth in intergovernmental relations between Native nations and various other governments and I'm curious to learn from you, what do you think is driving this growth?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"A recognition that we need to look outside ourselves and work together. I mean if you look at what has happened across the world in this time, the European Union is formed and variety of very nationalistic individualistic nations realized the value of working together. While they still have their independence and unique in their own countries, at the same time, they have a centralized currency and other things that make for a good sense. Tribes have the same kind of thing. We know that there is strength in numbers and as a matter of fact back there in the revolutionary time here in the United States, many of our leaders spoke to the Continental Congress and to the early [U.S.] Congress about the strength of working together. As a matter of fact, there is a famous speech about 13 fires being stronger than one that was given and these are the kinds of things that come from us and our understanding and we often formed alliances of some sorts with us coming together, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy for instance is one, the Three Fires Confederacy is another, and there are others all across the country where different tribes have worked together. So what kind of things have we done?

One of the examples of working together is the formation of the National Congress of American Indians back in the '40s. It was formed to combat the national trend towards not recognizing the tribes, tribal governments or saying, "˜alright the tribal governments have progressed far enough, now we can terminate our relationship with them.' And so the whole Termination era came through and NCAI, that was one of the big pushes for NCAI. One of the things that we found as we were doing some studying and I still have more to do on this, but not only was there the non-profit corporation created that is the National Congress of American Indians, but at the same time there was also a treaty written and was signed by a number of the nations that acknowledged each others' sovereignty. I mean, it's a very...it showed and demonstrated in writing, the understanding of the tribal nations that they were and still are independent sovereigns and no matter what other people may think about it. And so, I think that that was one example, NCAI.

Other examples of working together I'm going to put up, more recently, we in the Great Lakes signed an agreement called the Tribal and First Nation Great Lakes Water Accord. This was done because the states and provinces were working on the issues of bulk ground water and diversion of water from the Great Lakes and how are they going to work together to deal with those issues as they came up and there had been a succession of agreements, finally one where they would agree and create binding agreements and then it was in the creation of these binding agreements that they started work and we got wind of the things. They talked to us a little, but they always talked to us as stakeholders and we felt that that wasn't correct. They needed to talk to us as sovereign governments within the region because we had court-adjudicated rights within that region. We were the only government with government-to-government relationship through treaties and that was important that we be apart of it, so when we weren't part of it and they did treat us as stakeholders we went out and called a meeting of all of the tribes and first nations in the Great Lakes Basin. There is about 185, some are together and some are not, and so when I say about there is a couple different ways of looking at it, but it's over 180 tribes and First Nations in the Great Lakes. We ended up having representatives -- either individually or either through consortia -- we ended up with representatives of 120 tribes and First Nations at a meeting with just a few weeks notice, which we negotiated and signed this water accord. Within one day, we were at the table, invited to the table to negotiate with the states and the provinces and what they planned on signing at about a month, it took actually almost a year before it was ready to go and we managed to strengthen those documents in a way that they will help protect the environment and the waters because we plugged holes that were there that were wide open because tribes and First Nations weren't there. We also took offending language out; they managed to negotiate language to come out of these documents that didn't acknowledge tribal property rights or tribal treaty rights. So in the end there's an interstate compact that's agreed [to] by all of the governors signed it with the tribes had to agree. And then the governors all had to get the state legislature in each of eight states to pass the identical wording which was no easy trick and they got that done and it went to the U.S. Congress where there was a lobby to push this through. If the interstate compact is approved by Congress it becomes law of the land and it's a provision within the U.S. Constitution that allows it.

So this interstate compact, there was a strong lobby trying to fight it because they thought it didn't go far enough. One of the key things it didn't do is it didn't bottle water in containers, 5 gallons and less is considered a consumptive use as opposed to a diversion. A lot of people felt that it should have been a diversion if that water was bottled and shipped outside of the Great Lakes aquifers. And so nevertheless it ended up passing at the U.S. Congress and it became law, then it was an international agreement that was signed between the eight states and the two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec. With parallel language, but the two provinces weren't able to sign onto the interstate compact so they created this other document that has that in it. It at least deals with issues when there is a permit for a withdrawal of a lot of water from the ground that will be vetted through a process. The tribes and First Nations agreed that we would have a parallel process to the states, rather that all be a part of one process. So we are still working on how that is going to be set up, but nevertheless we've all agreed to it. Since that was signed there have been another 30 nations sign on, tribal nations and we now have about 150-160 that have signed out of the 185. So that is an example of an international agreement working between the tribes and working across what the United States calls an international border between it and Canada. And there are others, League of Indigenous Nations is another way we're working with, not only First Nations and tribes, but also with the Maori and the Aborigines, potentially with the Indigenous folks throughout Mexico and Latin America and other places. So we're looking at what kind of things are there that we all have in common. And Indigenous intellectual property rights, our medicines and stories for instance...issues of climate change and there's substantial things that we all have in common, trade relations with each other, the ability to trade not just in goods perhaps, but to trade in ideas and thoughts. Those are things that are important."

Ian Record:

"You've been discussing international relations primarily between tribal peoples, between tribal nations. Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians has also been very active in the arena of intergovernmental relations between your band and other local governments, state governments and that sort of thing. I'm wondering if you could discuss in what areas is your nation currently engaged in that arena? I know, for instance, you have cross-deputization agreements with two counties. Maybe talk a little bit more about what your tribe is doing in that area."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"And we've come a long way from the point...quite a long time ago as the chair, I received a letter from a local prosecutor who indicated that our police were impersonating police officers and they couldn't be on the roads with their lights and they couldn't have car with emblems and most importantly they couldn't have radios with those little chips in them that allowed them to pick up police frequencies and that I had 10 days to deliver them to them. So we wrote them a letter back and said "˜You know where those cars are, you are welcome to takes those anytime you want, but as soon as you do be prepared for a visit from the U.S. Attorney.' So we called the U.S. Attorney and had a nice chat and that same person ended up signing off on a limited deputization agreement within about a year and a half after that and then we have full deputization that has been signed since then with two different counties. We worked on trying to have seamless public safety within the community. We didn't want to be a haven for people who were breaking the law on one side of a line and then crossing the other and then thumbing their nose at the police or things like that. So we worked hard to make sure that when there's a search and rescue for instance that is going on, our officers are trained and a part of the team and can help. And the public safety of the community is enhanced because they have this additional training. In addition to that, we have crowd control issues. Our officers have worked on part of the security detail for the governor when the government does the Mackinac Bridge Walk every year. And every year it's a five-mile span. Every year on Labor Day we walk the bridge. It's a huge crowd and frankly, they pull in different local people and our officers as well. We also work closely with the county and state police. One of the stories from this inter-cooperative agreement kind of thing that we've been able to do: we had the U.S. attorney general come to visit at Little Traverse. And we had all kinds of security things and there's all kind of things you have to do. We, of course, had to have a bomb dog to sweep the whole building and they have this and that and all kind of things. And as he was leaving after this meeting, and he was meeting with all the tribes in Michigan, and after he was leaving, he pulled out from our grounds and drove by Little Bear Cave and saw that there was a state trooper, country sheriff, a city policeman, and tribal police all standing together chatting right there. And we got a call from the FBI in the car with him. He got a question, 'How did we do that?' But that was part of what we tried to do, we tried to build that relationship. We also, if they come on our territory unannounced, we're not against making sure that they know that they're not supposed to do it. So if we had an investigation going on and they forgot to call us or something, we'd let them know. But likewise, if we did something that they didn't like, they'd let us know, so we developed, what we did is we built in safety valves in our relationships so that they were there if there was an issue, we had a way to deal with it right away. And so it's been a cooperative venture when the sheriff of both counties and his deputies show up and they stood before me as the tribal chairman and took an oath to uphold the tribal constitution and all of our laws, that was a pretty big step."

Ian Record:

"This case is interesting because it calls to mind this perspective or mindset you used to see more in Indian Country than you do now, but the idea that, well if you enter an agreement or develop a formal relationship with a local municipality just off the reservation, or a county or a township or something like that, you're somehow relinquishing your sovereignty because those are minor-league governments and we're sovereign nations. That -- from what I can gather -- that perspective is being replaced gradually by the perspective that when a tribe chooses to engage those other governments, in whatever way they see fit, that it's actually an exercise of sovereignty. How do you see what your tribe's been doing in that area?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, that's exactly the way I'd put it, it is an exercise of sovereignty. An example of an exercise of sovereignty working locally is if you have someone slip and fall at your casino and they hurt themselves and they sue you, of course you've got the insurance company, but if the insurance company turns around and claims sovereign immunity every time somebody sues what are you paying the insurance for? So an exercise of sovereignty, one that helps us protect us and our customers would be [what we did] is to waive our sovereign immunity up to the limits of our insurance policy so that someone could sue and be taken care of if they needed to be, therefore getting what we were paying for when we bought our insurance. Well, that's an example of an exercise of sovereignty that works well. And governments waive sovereignty on a regular basis for things. I mean they waive their immunity but never waive sovereignty, let me correct myself there. And that exercising your sovereignty through a waiver of immunity is a responsible thing for a government to do towards its own citizens and towards the citizens of other nations with which we deal: our customers at the casino, our guests at the gas station, the customers coming by, and we have a hotel and we have conferences there, we have lots of people coming through. We have to deal with the issues of...I mean, one of the issues we ran into was within Indian Country it was illegal for anyone to carry a firearm unless there was some law that was passed that allowed it. So in the absence of it, it's illegal to have it. Well we had guests; we had the outdoor writers coming as an association. They were coming to our hotel and one of the things they were going to do was a rabbit hunt and they had all brought their guns and it was going to be illegal for them to have them in their room, to have them in their car in the parking lot, and so we had to pass a law that allowed how this set up, how this was going to happen. It was one of those responsibilities of being a sovereign that it became important to work on."

Ian Record:

"And so what you're saying is it's not just international relations, it's not just a sovereign challenge involving other governments, but involving individuals who are citizens of those governments, individuals like these sports writers and the casino patrons and so forth."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, ultimately it actually is dealing with the other sovereign, it's just that the other sovereign has citizens. And so as you interact with those citizens, you're interacting with that other sovereign government and you have to figure out how that's going to be done. So those are just some examples of things that we had to do that I felt are important. And ultimately, these things were things that our tribal council passed as laws and our tribal courts have worked to enforce and for the police and the courts to go through this. And so this is our tribal government at work in the process of making laws, being responsible, and exercising sovereignty."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to follow up a little bit more on intergovernmental relations. And obviously the water accord that your nation participated in is one example of many that your tribe's been engaged in developing over the course of the last several decades. And I'm curious to get your thoughts about taking collectively all those relationships that you developed, all those formal agreements you forged, how do those collectively work to advance your nation's rebuilding efforts."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, the prior administration to me, actually it was a four-year time period when I was not in office and during that time period, our tribe was one of the tribes that worked with the governor of the state in a tribal-state accord in which the State of Michigan acknowledged sovereignty of the tribes, pledged to work together and establish certain things that they would do. We...I came back in office, we were preparing to have, I think one of the first meetings where we'd all get together following that. And as we were preparing for that meeting, I just don't like to go to meetings where the outcome of the meeting is, "˜Well, we'll have another meeting.' I'd really like to actually have a product from the meeting. And I spoke about that and wanted to do that, other people agreed, and as a collective we developed a water accord with the State of Michigan. So this was how the tribes and the state would deal with the collective, our collective interest in the waters of the state. And the accord itself was one that's right about...it's on the heels of our tribal and First Nations water accord and it's all this, this time period is all sort of involved in the same effort. But with this one, instead of the tribes pledging to work together, we pledged to work together with the state and establish twice-yearly meetings, staff-level meetings, not elected-level, but staff-level meetings where we would deal with the issues of what came up relative to water. And of course water is part of the environment, so certain environmental things started coming in. Subsequent to that, we came up with another agreement that we put together creating an accord on economic development. And then we came up with an addendum to that, creating, establishing an agreement to do and economic development fellows program that would say, half state, half tribal –- state folks and tribal folks –- that would work say, over a couple-year period to get a cohort of participants on the same page relative to the issues of economic development in Indian Country. Well this has been a little slower to take, but it's been one that's been brewing and we have a meeting coming up in just a couple weeks from the day we're doing this interview that, where we're going to be furthering some of those issues with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Well, those are some of the things that we did and then, we also have signed a climate action, climate accord, dealing with climate change issues, also establishing twice-yearly meetings. I served on the Michigan Climate Action Council. I was appointed by the governor to be part of that council that helped create the plan for the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gasses and all the different issues surround climate change. And we turned in a report to the governor, and part of that report recommended that the tribe, that the state negotiate and sign with the tribes a climate accord. And the reason for that is because tribes are not political subdivisions of the state and it made, it would've been really difficult to incorporate us into the state's plan, but part of the state's plan was to sign an accord with us to work out common issues. And also part of the state's plan was to work with tribal organizations to further the issues. So for instance, they send a rep to the National Congress of American Indians' meetings relative to climate change, and to NTEC, the National Tribal Environmental Council, other meetings to make sure that they're, the state is sort of on sync with those things. So that's part of how we do with that accord. So when you look at each one of these accords, you put all this together, the tribal-state accord and the water, the economic development, the climate accord, you put all that together in terms of how we've related to the state, we've...I guess I should mention a couple of other things.

We also signed a tax agreement with the state. The state realized that we probably could go to court, which other tribes had done and that it was going to cost both of us millions of dollars and the outcome was uncertain. The uncertainty was there enough for the state that they felt that it was worthwhile trying to find a way to negotiate. So we ended up with a tribal-state tax agreement that is negotiated as a whole, then signed individually with the tribes and there's slight variations in each of them, but they're all pretty much set up...the system and then that also establishes an annual meeting where we get together to talk about the issues related to the taxes in the state. And sometimes our meetings, we've actually had a couple meetings that were over in 20 minutes. We had the meeting, we all got there, and we said, "˜Boy, it's really nice not to have anything to talk about.' So we chat with each other a little bit, reacquaint ourselves and eat a donut or two and we're done. Other times, we are actually in very long discussions and I've been in both of those kind [of meetings]. But the tax agreement was basically how the state is not going to collect taxes that it can't collect and what the mechanism is going to be for that. Well, these are other things that helped establish things. So we did this without having to go to court over the issue. And we believe that we got things that we wouldn't have gotten had we gone to court, but we also perhaps didn't get some things we might have gotten. So the question is, the state, both of us benefitted and we think that it furthered our interest by doing this."

Ian Record:

"I mean, I guess overall, overall from what you're saying, is that by consistently, continuously engaging in these sorts of efforts, you send a very clear message to the outside world -- whether it's the feds, the states, local neighboring communities to the reservation -- that, "˜We're big league governments. We're sovereign nations for real.' And then there's the message that you send to your own citizens. Isn't there a strong message that these sort of actions can send to your own people?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yeah. Well they, I think that and one of the other agreements that we did was we settled U.S. v. Michigan fishing rights case and as we worked on that the original case had been filed years ago and then it was bifurcated. The inland portion was sort of put on idle and the Great Lakes portion proceeded through court and we won the right in court and there have been a 15-year and then a 20-year consent decree that have been negotiated on how we are going to exercise that right on the Great Lakes and so we continue to work with the five tribes in the state that are involved in that. Well, the inland portion eventually got to the point where it eventually where it was heating up and looked like it was getting ready to go to trial and we actually hired our witnesses and expert witnesses and we had done depositions and we were moving towards court, but we at the same time worked and a couple opportunities came up and we moved ahead in some negotiations and we thought we try to negotiate. We successfully negotiated a settlement in the inland portion of the U.S. v. Michigan fishing, hunting and gathering rights case. Unprecedented. I believe it's an exceptional agreement in that the tribes gave up things that we surely would have won had gone to court, but those are things that we already were not likely to want to exercise ourselves and one of them was commercialization of inland harvest and also putting gillnets in inland streams and rivers. Both of those were things that we didn't think were too wise, but we could have won those rights and probably would have if gone to court.

However, the state stipulated without going to trial that our treaty right existed perpetually. It's a permanent consent decree and so this was a big deal to us. The second thing was is that they ended up agreeing that we could exercise that right on property that the tribe owned whether they had just purchased it or whether it had been purchased years before and or whether it was a part of the reservation, whatever. They also agreed to do this on private lands with permission and this is way more than we would have won had we gone to court. So we think that we got a lot of things that are very important to us and gave up things, while they are important, they also were worth it in the deal and this is without spending millions of dollars and continuing to spend. It would have been appealed; it would have been a 10-year case by the time it went on. This was a success.

Well, what did that do in the end? At the end when we got this agreement, together we had the state DNR [Departemtn of Natural Resources] touting the agreement and holding classes and seminars around the state to let their citizens know about this agreement and to say why it was such a great idea and we had tribes doing the same thing, but on top of that we also had the various sportsmen associations and the lake owners' associations that had been advising the state on the case and had been working with the state and they called it, the term was "˜litigating amicae,' which I understand is a term that the judge may have made up, I don't know at the time, but they were parties to the case and to that extent -- not parties, but they were amicae. Well, we had these groups, the Michigan United Conservation Club, the lake owners' association, and they were all promoting this so that instead of...result of this and in other states have had to call out the National Guard when they were dealing with this issue when they have really potential dangerous things going on and in Michigan when we got this settlement, everybody realized that it was going to protect the resources and it worked with minor exceptions here and there. I mean there were some tribal members that were upset and there were others. I mean we had some folks just as soon die on the sword, they would just as soon fight and lose rather than negotiate. There was more honor in that. And to me, I look at it, I wasn't worried about my honor or I was worried about that, what I was worried about is the long term. What are our great-great grandchildren going to be doing? And now in Michigan, they're going to be exercising treaty rights."

Ian Record:

"That's a great story and we're seeing more and more of those kind of stories across Indian Country because, I guess, this realization that negotiation, if done right and if done for the right reasons, can bring you much greater outcomes in both in the present and in the future than litigation. Because litigation, even if you win the case, there's this issue of enforcement can be very costly and then there's this issue of litigation begets more litigation. And then, on the flipside though, I mean you have negotiation where it sounds to me like this served as a springboard from improving relations between traditional adversaries, improving relations or perhaps dampening hostilities that had long been there. And, I mean, do you foresee this consent decree as perhaps serving as a springboard for other forms of cooperation in other areas."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, it's important that we sort of keep it alive. One of the things there is from this is there's an annual meeting, executive council, where all of the parties come together to deal with issues. And we have issues; we have issues. We'll have members who push things a little bit. We'll have state game wardens push things the wrong way a little bit and then we'll have to, we have to work through all those things. We'll have disputes about what actually was meant by a sentence and there will be differing views on that and those are things that have to be worked out. But in the process of doing that, we have regular relations; we worked hard and we developed a level of respect for each other and trust that we could achieve, that we were working together on an issue. It wasn't just working against each other. There are times, believe me, out of these...these were tough negotiations, these were not easy. I mean every one of us at the table, every one of the tribes, the state, I mean everybody at the table at some point or another was the one who walked away, and then came back, but everybody got upset. You don't have forty-some people negotiating every three or four or five weeks or two or three days at a time...that takes a long time. So some of those days were long days. We had some 10-12 hour days we were doing this. And so it was tough, but in the end we got something good, and these kind of agreements, building these relationships help because our tribal citizens...I'm a member of Farm Bureau for instance and I look at...we have other people that are members of Trout Unlimited and all the other groups. We have people, lake front owners that are part of lake owners' associations. So our citizens are actually a part of all these other groups with whom we were dealing and we need to strengthen those things. We need to let people know. So now when we do a fish assessments, it's just as common to have the tribes and the state out working doing the assessment fishing on a lake all together because the state's in a budget crunch and so are we, we have our equipment, when we all work together we have enough to do a big job, but just by ourselves none of us really could do that big job all by ourselves. So when we're doing the shock boat and the fish assessing and trying to explain to people that we're not killing the fish, the mortality rate is less than one percent with a shock boat that we have, those are good things and it's good to be working together on this stuff. In the end, what we're doing is we're all working toward similar goals. We aren't always going to agree, but then that's part of governance. In fact, if everybody agreed, that's a little dangerous. You need to have that, a little bit of tension in there to make sure you're doing things right."

Ian Record:

"So you mentioned the hard work that's involved with establishing, cultivating and maintaining these relationships. I'm curious, based upon your extensive experience in this area, what advice would you give to Native nations and leaders for how to build effective, sustainable governmental relationships?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Patience. One of the, probably the biggest thing I learned and one of the things that guided me is that eventually, eventually comes and that you need to work towards things. You need to be willing to work a little piece at a time. You need to have a sort of longer-term vision about where things are. I was out walking the other day on a path, and I was, I was looking up at the mountains and to my detriment, I tripped on something right in front of me. But if you look in front of you all the time, you never see the mountains, you never see the other things around you because you're paying so much attention right in front of you. You have to -- without endangering yourself -- have to be looking up as well as in front of you. I think that that's a part of the whole thing about this patience. You have to have a longer-term vision and the government itself needs to work through and think about those longer-term visions."

Ian Record:

"And doesn't that involve educating citizens because leaders? As you've often said, leaders are transitory, they come and go, and some of these efforts are multi-year, if not multi-decade to get the outcome that you've been seeking at the beginning and doesn't that require, I guess, a certain level of understanding and approval by your own people that this is a priority of the nation?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yes. I mean, it's really important for people to understand what...like I said in the beginning when we looked at the constitution and I said the constitution is the method by which the people inform their government how they want it to work. The people need to always be aware of and remember that that is what that is and that they...so they need to understand where those things are when you have a constitution that has a focus on international relations. They need to...when you have your budget hearings, there need to be...someone needs to stand up and speak up and support that budget line item that's going to involve some international travel, some travel that needs to be done. When you have...you have to have...people need to be aware of how things work to know how to allocate resources and how to support that or detriment. One of the issues that I see across Indian Country that I think is...it's a big issue and that is that leaders who do a lot of this international work with other tribes or that are working in a basis across the country often are away from home a fair amount and that needs to be supported. But too often people think that those of us who are traveling are wasting tribal resources, that we are out having a good time, that we're enjoying things at the tribe's expense and that there is no need to be doing this anyway. And so when people are traveling often there is quite a pressure or a candidate becomes vulnerable because of being gone and traveling. So you have to balance that domestic program within your nation with the international program and you have to find out how to balance that, but with the people themselves, there needs to be an acceptance. I was recently -- after I had left the chairmanship -- I attended a conference and elected leaders were taking it on the chin pretty high at the conference over the days because most of them...there were very few elected leaders at this conference. It was almost all other folks: individual activists and former elected leaders, but lots of people were very involved in working on environmental issues, but...and so I, towards the end of the conference I got up and set my regular program aside and I said, 'Listen. You've been...you're sort of upset because elected leaders aren't here.' I said, "˜When's the last time you ever thanked your leader for attending a national meeting like this. When the last time you went to a budget hearing and demanded they put more money in there in the line item for travel so that the leaders could afford to go? When's the last time you wrote a letter or stood up and supported this outside external activity at a community meeting or in conversations in your family or things? You need constantly, if you want leaders to do those things, you can't complain because they don't. You need to actually support them when you do, that way it becomes a priority and if that's really the priority for our nations to make sure that we have this balance between domestic programs and international programs.' We have to have a populace that actually understands and supports why that is necessary, and it becomes necessary. Going to Washington, D.C. is critical for leaders because the U.S. Congress passes laws that effect...while they can't, their laws don't limit our tribal sovereignty, they certainly can limit how we exercise our sovereignty. They limit how Health and Human Services can deal with us. They can limit how the justice system deals with us. And so because of that, it's important for us to pay attention to those laws and it's important for us to know what's going on and to have the relationships necessary there that when we speak, we're not going just to build a relationship. We're going and we already are known so that we can carry through on the issues that support us. And there are plenty of people that are going there on a regular basis who are detractors of tribal sovereignty and don't support tribal sovereignty and who want to do everything they can to do away with it or limit it or whatever. And so we have to constantly be on target and work on these things and that's a very important part of that international because we're dealing with tribal nations to the United States, that's an international arrangement. We have to be very careful on how it works. So it's essential to do that kind of stuff. We also have to do that with our state government because a lot of the funding that tribes get comes from federal government, but it's funneled through the states, even though we'd like them to all have set-asides and deal directly with...so that the tribes deal directly with the feds on those things. There's a number of programs that go through the state and the manner in which the state chooses to set up its programs, how they choose to write their programs or write their proposals and their agreements with the feds can limit how they deal with tribes. So you're constantly having to pay attention to that. And you have people who, once again, would be supporters and other people who wouldn't, but for the most part you also have people that just don't know. And so it's constantly our responsibility to make sure that they do. And whatever mechanism, whether it's the tribal leader going or whether there's an ambassador, I think that we could... I think there's a time coming as we're evolving our tribal governments that we're going to actually have people that ambassadorial function may well be through an ambassador at large. Some of the tribes already have these. And I believe that this relationship with the other governments with whom we deal, we need to have staff people that can deal with that. I use an example, the recent arms treaty signed, where the presidents of Russia and the United States were together to sign the treaty. You know that the two of them did not sit down and hammer that treaty out. They had staff that were working for years on this to work together how to deal with it and may have met a couple times to iron out a point or two, but for the most part, their major thing was to have the photo op of them signing it and shaking hands to sign the treaty and that was the top of the executive functions there. And then of course it's got to be ratified, yet. Well, these are...our governments function in the same way. We have those same kind of interplay of things and...but we need to make sure that we have built in the ability to deal with other governments and that it's a very important role for our tribal nations."

Ian Record:

"I wanted to switch gears, one last question before we wrap up this interview, to tribal justice systems and specifically ask you a question about the Odawa Youth Health to Wellness Court, which your tribe established several years ago, which by all accounts has proven quite successful. I'm curious to learn more about why did the tribe establish this program? How is it structured? And how has it benefitted your community?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Well, we clearly have a problem that other communities have, other tribal nations have. As to why we have it, I guess that's another whole other story, but the fact that we actually have this problem with drugs and we have problem with the youth and there are individuals who just don't seem to be able to respond to parental controls and/or other societal controls and end up being in the court system; and the court system is basically a win/lose kind of system. We've tried to develop other systems that are options and this is an option and can be chosen by someone who is before the court, by the youth and this particular thing is based around that wrap around concept where we have staff from a lot of different departments. I think there's 10 different departments, but they are all working with one youth and their parents and all focused on one case. There's responsibilities on all their parts by bringing a multi-disciplinary approach to this wrap around concept we're able to see success with individuals we had not been able to see success with other programs. This has gotten so successful that we have actually had offenders that are before the local county court who they've offered the option of coming to our program and actually people who they didn't have to assign to the program at all, the local judges have sent people to our program and has been because they recognize the success of it. So this is another way of building an intergovernmental relationship, building community relations with various institutions with whom you have to deal in the community."

Ian Record:

"And this, from what I understand, this health to wellness court is not so much focused on punishment, but on restoring health and harmony not only to the individual defender, but also to their family, to their community at large. Is that true?"

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Yes. And I think that that part of the approach, restoring balance is important. And I think that's true in a lot of our programs, that's one of the things we try to focus on. And we have, when you follow our traditional teachings, that whole thing of being in balance is your goal, it's the center, it's what you try to achieve, where you're not at any one extreme. No matter how that extreme may seem, as you move towards that, you're pulling away from being in balance and so something else gets out of balance. So the whole goal is to try to maintain that calm center in order to achieve that. In our traditional ways, that's one of the teachings. And so when we apply those teachings to, trying to apply them to court systems, trying to apply them to our various other social programs, frankly I'm working on how we apply the teachings of the medicine wheel to our budgets. How do we take a budget and determine whether that budget is in balance? And I think that the way we spend our money, the way we allocate our resources, can be just as out of balance as any other thing and it can be symptomatic of we might be having problems in our tribal community that are inexplicable to us. And it could be because the way we're choosing to allocate our resources is out of balance. And so, to me, this is something I'm working on and particularly now that I'm no longer the tribal chair, but I have time to reflect on these things. I want to work on that issue and try to see how that can be, that idea can be furthered."

Ian Record:

"Well Frank, I really appreciate your time today. I've learned quite a bit and I'm sure our listeners and viewers have as well."

Frank Ettawageshik:

"Thank you."

Ian Record:

"Well, that's it for today's program of Leading Native Nations. To learn more about Leading Native Nations, please visit the Native Nations Institute's website: nni.arizona.edu. Thank you for joining us."

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times: W. Ron Allen

Producer
Institute for Tribal Government
Year

Produced by the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University in 2004, the landmark “Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times” interview series presents the oral histories of contemporary leaders who have played instrumental roles in Native nations' struggles for sovereignty, self-determination, and treaty rights. The leadership themes presented in these unique videos provide a rich resource that can be used by present and future generations of Native nations, students in Native American studies programs, and other interested groups.

In this interview, conducted in June 2003, longtime Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Ron Allen discusses the role he played in his tribe gaining federal recognition and his work with the National Congress of American Indians. Allen thrives on challenge, greatly expanding the economy of his own small nation while simultaneously working on the national level with NCAI and other intertribal organizations.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Institute for Tribal Government.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Allen, W. Ron. "Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times" (interview series). Institute for Tribal Government. Portland State University. Portland, Oregon. June 2003. Interview.

Kathryn Harrison:

"Hello. My name is Kathryn Harrison. I am presently the Chairperson of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. I have served on my council for 21 years. Tribal leaders have influenced the history of this country since time immemorial. Their stories have been handed down from generation to generation. Their teaching is alive today in our great contemporary tribal leaders whose stories told in this series are an inspiration to all Americans both tribal and non-tribal. In particular it is my hope that Indian youth everywhere will recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by these great tribal leaders."

[Native music]

Narrator:

"Ron Allen, a citizen of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe was born in Sequim, Washington in 1947. With his three brothers and parents he enjoyed a small town life full of the outdoors and sports. Ron notes that he was a wild child during his teens and was not overly fond of school but he also had a curiosity about people and a zest for work and eventually developed a zest also for studies earning accounting and technical engineering degrees from Peninsula College and a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Washington. Ron Allen's interest in his tribe was sparked in the mid "˜70s when he was unable to get a replacement tribal ID card. He had not really been following the tribal story or its politics. Trying to get his card, the tribe told him that the Jamestown S'Klallam was no longer a recognized entity by the federal government; but S'Klallam means "Strong People". Ron decided to pitch in with the effort to make the tribe's strength a present day, not just a past reality. He was asked to serve on the tribal council and by 1977 had become chairman. Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe was restored to federal recognition in 1981. He became its executive director in 1982 with responsibilities for the tribe's programs including education, health and housing, economic development, natural resource management and cultural/traditional affairs. He remains chairman and executive director today. In the tribe's quest for self sufficiency Ron has led it in establishing enterprises that include a seafood operation, art gallery, construction company and a tribal casino. Profits are plowed back into the tribe and the local community to create jobs, school improvements and health services. But one tribe alone cannot meet the many challenges Indian nations face. He is committed to alliances such as the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. He is one of four U.S. commissioners on the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Commission. The organization he holds to be most crucial to tribes is the National Congress of American Indians. He has served as president, vice president and treasurer. Not shy to speak and speak out, Ron has provided congressional testimony numerous times and has actively engaged in media and public relations to educate the public about tribes. On all levels Ron Allen is passionately driven to protect and fight for the sovereignty of tribal nations and treaty rights. He was a leader in a 1994 historic White House meeting with President Clinton and tribal leaders from across the nation. In his home state he helped develop the 1989 Centennial Accord between Washington and its 26 tribes. The University of Washington awarded him a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2001. His travels have taken him not just to tribes around the U.S. but to other parts of the world. The condition of Indigenous people internationally is a growing concern. Though he thrives on his work and calling he is also dedicated to his two children, his garden and his wife whom he says has exerted a strong influence on his life and work. The Institute for Tribal Government interviewed Ron Allen in June 2003."

Parents, brothers and childhood

Ron Allen:

"My early childhood was primarily just a small town, rural, middle class community. My father and mother were as middle class as you could probably get. My father was a mechanic; my mother was a waitress. So they were definitely very people-oriented type of personalities. And we grew up in Port Angeles in very small neighborhoods. When you think of the Norman Rockwell kind of childhood, that's kind of what my childhood was about. My mother was just as outgoing a personality as you could ever imagine, classic waitress and everybody loved... She knew everybody and she was just a veracious reader. Even though she didn't go, neither of them went beyond high school, she was just incredibly bright and we'd get into almost any kind of conversation that we wanted. They were very avid Democrats, even though they weren't active type of Democrats but they were just as loyal to the Democrat Party as you could possibly get. And when I went into college and I ended up shifting more into Republic philosophical perspective. My mother had the hardest time with that. That was kind of an interesting development. But as far as values go, we just lived a very classic life, a classic rural life I guess and I just enjoyed it thoroughly. I just have nothing but fond memories from grade school all the way through high school.

Ryan's parents and the world of Indian issues

Ron Allen:

"My father experienced a lot of racism and my father was more on the fair skinned side as an Indian. And it was always interesting; as he grew up he ended up buying booze for his friends and relatives because he could get it with less hassle than his colleagues. My mother was Scottish-Irish so half of my heritage is from my mother's side. They just weren't very active. My father's father, my grandfather was very active. He was a former chairman of my tribe and very active with the lands claim settlement and so he was very much a part of that aspect of the tribal politics. But my dad just didn't get into it and neither did his brothers. He comes from a large family and there were seven of them. But none of them got interested in it, dad never got interested in it. I was always interested in it when I was a kid. My grandmother was one of the last speaking S'Klallams in our village and I remember her speaking it and I was asking her to try to teach me the language but she had absolutely no interest in it. She felt very firmly that it was dying and that I just needed to learn English well and that was her attitude towards it. So they just weren't active. My mother was very interested in it. She used to listen to the stories that my grandmother used to share about the experiences of the village and her memories of her mother and father, my grandparents of course."

Preparation for leadership did not necessarily begin in Ron's youth: Play, work and the Vietnam issue

Ron Allen:

"We used to party and drink a lot and basically do those kinds of things so I was...I think I was known as a bit of a wild child in high school days. In fact I was such a wild child that during high school I basically got picked up a great deal, a minor and possession. It ended up being one of the reasons why I did not go into the military. When I graduated in 1966, actually '67, '66 is when I was supposed to graduate, I was always in so much trouble by the time '66 came around most of my colleagues at the time were graduating, moving on and the guys were all going to the Vietnam War. And of course I had one more year to go and '67 we were still immersed in the Vietnam War and by that time I'd already been picked in minor possession 19 times and I had a couple of assault charges, getting into fights and things like that. Often they weren't necessarily fights that I incited, they were just things I was defending people that were friends of mine, and you're at the wrong place, the wrong time. And that was a lot of my story back in the high school and post high school years. And so I was not really being much shaped as a leader. I was always interested, I was always vocal but I was not necessarily shaping my leadership skills at the time. And when I got out of high school and of course the Vietnam War was moving along and I got my draft notice. I remember going in and passed the physical fine and then you have to sign up all this stuff that you did and I had to tell them all these minor possessions and the assault charges. And I remember the recruiter was looking at it and kind of going, "˜What is this?' And I said, "˜Well, you know, I kind of had fun during high school.' And I put all the stuff down because I was not really interested in going to Vietnam. My friends wanted to go there, paratroopers and what have you, and I was not interested in the war at all. I did not like it, I did not feel good about it, everything I read about it I didn't like it and so I told the guy, the recruiter, I said, "˜I'm not interested. If this keeps me out of the military, fine.' And I got a notice months later that gave me a 4F and a little note on the side attached to it and the recruiter says, "˜Well, bub, this is the best I can do for you.' So that kept me out of the military. I always had mixed feelings about that as I grow older and think about my friends who did serve and sometimes I wish I would have and did, I wish I did do that but I just didn't. And that's just the way it goes and I don't think twice about it and don't look back at it and think lesser of myself because I didn't do it. I am proud of my friends and those who have actually served in the military and am very appreciative of them doing that. But after high school then I started getting, I tried to go to college and it didn't work. I was not interested in anything, I couldn't stay focused, my grades were just terrible cause I just...I was not interested in school. I was always, all the way from grade school all the way through, well, my whole life; I've always been a worker. So because we were really a poor family, we didn't have much, anything that I wanted I had to work for. So I remember even as a teenager when I was 15 and 16 years old, I went up to Alaska and fished on a commercial seiner up in southeast Alaska and I'd come home with a lot of money. I had a lot more money than most of my friends just cause I had a little connection and I worked hard and I made money and then when I was in high school I always worked. I remember working as a mechanic in a bowling alley all the way through high school. So I'd go to work at 7:00 or 8:00 at night and not get off until 1:00 in the morning and then go to school the next day. So working was never a problem for me. As a matter of fact, when I was grade school and junior high I used to have three paper routes. They didn't want you to have three paper routes but one paper route wasn't making enough money for me so I figured out a way...we had three different papers at the time so I had all three routes in my area so I'd make a few more bucks. So I was never...I was always working and never was afraid of working."

The 1960s: Skills emerge in the counter culture experience, as does a fascinating with people

Ron Allen:

"So then my organizing and management control skills started emerging. I was always the one who handled the money for all my friends. If we were going to do anything, if we were going to...just manage everything from the household responsibilities to special events and we lived on a big farm out in the field and we would throw these small little mini rock festivals. I was the one who organized it, I was the one that put everything together and organized getting the beer and getting the bands and making sure the bandstand was all organized and figuring out how to hook up, make sure all the electricity was there and so forth and orchestrating who could park where and that's pretty much the world I came out of. And I was searching for something higher and searching for understanding of life without really knowing it. And then I was driving a logging truck and making pretty good money and all of a sudden I found myself reading a lot of magazines. I was just kind of fascinated with what it took to understand the people around me and people's personalities "˜cause I was always fascinated by people and wanted to understand what made them tick and why they acted and responded in a certain way, where their disposition led them as people. So I was trying to understand those issues. So then when I started reading and studying these different topics I just realized that driving a logging truck was not going to be a good enough deal for me. That was not the kind of vocation I was interested in. I was interested in something much more than that so I decided to go back to school."

Playing basketball in Indian tournaments, Ron gets carded

Ron Allen:

"I would always at the rebound and that was my main job, go get the ball and then get that thing out in the fast lane and I'd rough people up pretty good. And then pretty soon people were wondering about me cause I have fair skin, probably taking more after my mother, the Scottish-Irish side of my family. And they kind of went, "˜Who's this White guy out here? Is he really Indian?' I'm going, "˜Those are my brothers over there. You're not questioning them,' "˜cause they were more darker skinned than I was. And so they said, "˜We don't care. We want to see your ID.' And of course I didn't have it because I'd lost it on a fishing trip. I just loved basketball too much, I wanted to play so I went back to the council and said, "˜I need my ID, can you get me another ID?' And they said, "˜Well, actually we can't. The BIA has decided to no longer recognize our tribe and we are in the middle of reestablishing our standing as a tribal government and being recognized as a tribe.' That was the mid "˜70s, like 1974 pretty late in the fall cause we were playing basketball. So I was going to school and I was playing basketball and then all of a sudden that's when my whole career with the tribe emerged. I says, "˜Well, what's the deal with...how do we get the cards?' And they said, "˜we have to get recognized and there's a process called the Federal Recognition Process that they're...and we have a lawyer that we've hired,' through an organization the tribe was a member of called the Small Tribes Organization of Western Washington.'"

Ron is invited to fill a slow on the tribal council as he continues classes at Peninsula College

Ron Allen:

"So the guy says, "˜Well...' I said, "˜What does it mean?' And he goes, "˜Well, you just sit on the council and help us make decisions on what the tribe needs to do in terms of getting recognized and try to build up our ability to serve our people.' I went, "˜Okay, so I'll do that. If that means I can help get this card,' and that's all I was interested in was getting the card to go back and play basketball. So they appointed me to the chair or to the vacant council member in 1975. And then I started working with the lawyer and the anthropologist in terms of putting together the petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Meanwhile I was going to school at Peninsula College and all of a sudden those two simultaneous tracks started in my life, which kind of changed what I was doing. All of a sudden I became interested in what the tribe was doing and started asking questions, "˜What do we do, how do we provide services, where do we get our revenues?' We didn't have a land base. We didn't...we would meet in people's living rooms or at the VFW in Skwim and so that was kind of how we would orchestrate ourselves. Our files were...whoever was going to keep the files in their trunk and bring it to the meeting and that's pretty much how we handled business. The second two years at Peninsula College I was much more interested in politics and I became the president of the student body and then became only the second person to ever be the president two years in a row and was just very active on the campus and got more and more active with the tribe. And next thing I know by 1977, I was well into the engineering program up at PC, into the politics, and by that time I got elected the chairman of the tribe. Then all of a sudden my tribal career took off."

Jamestown Village was a cohesive community, which Ron got to know through his grandmother

Ron Allen:

"She always wanted me to come down and stay with her and so I did. I used to...summers I would go down there and stay for weeks on end. We used to have this little tiny hut on the beach. It was basically a two room place with an outdoor toilet and it didn't even have a shower. You had this little tiny bathtub in it. I mean it was the dinkiest little thing you could ever imagine. It's a good thing I was small back in those days. But I used to spend time with her on the beach and so I knew the community quite well. In those days what we referred to as the Jamestown Road was just all Jamestown people with a couple of non-Indian farmers around us. Today, because it's such a beautiful beach, it got bought up by a lot of very wealthy people and eventually pushed out a lot of our people. The prices of land taxes went up and it got exorbitant for many of our community. And so we really only have about a dozen or so of our members that actually still own land down in the original Jamestown Village. We're working hard at preserving more and more of that property and picking up pieces here and there to try to restore it as much as possible, but it's pricey for us. So we're doing that. But I was down there and was very much a part of the village. I didn't really realize that we were not an organized tribal entity. Before I became aware of it, I knew that there was a tribal police, there was actual IHS, Indian Health Service assistance that was made available down there, we had our own Shaker Church and it was just a very organized village and I guess you just didn't think about it. So I never thought much about it either and then all of a sudden all those factors became factors with the petition."

Juggling school, work and the rules of the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Ron Allen:

"Cause I pretty much had exhausted what educational assistance I could get from the tribe I had to basically earn my way through. So I used to work on a graveyard shift from 11:00 to 7:00 in the shipyards as a ship fitter. I worked down at Lockheed and there was one other company I worked for early on but basically that's what I did for four years. Then I would go to school during the daytime and then I would run over and deal with the tribe in the afternoon, come back usually on the ferry at night. So I'd go over the Skwim two to three times a week and come back and basically it was one of those sleep fast kind of periods for me where I just had to figure out where I could find 15 minutes to sleep, on the ferry. It's one of those things, you're exhausted so you just sleep that half hour and somebody's knocking on your window telling you to get off the ferry. And so it was kind of intense for me. But I had high energy and so I just kept chipping away at earning a living, making sure I had money to pay for school and living expenses with myself and my wife -- I got married in 1981 -- and going over to the tribe and managing the tribal affairs. During that time when I went to the University of Washington in '79 we were finally getting to where we got a handle on the federal recognition process and so the BIA, cause part of our problem was the BIA kept shifting the rules, kept shifting the standards, which you had to meet; the criteria, standards and criteria that you had to meet in order to be qualified, to meet their criteria and be recognized as a legitimate government. And we had full support, we'd gotten full support from our sister tribes, Lower Elwha S'Klallam Tribe and the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe and then also the surrounding tribes. So the support was really, was well established. When the process actually emerged they actually moved us up on the wait list, and so we went from I think #19 up to #2 behind the Grand Traverse Tribe up in Michigan. And so that was a fast track for us. That happened in 1980 and then all the anthropologists and all the BIA teams started coming out and visiting us and going through our documents and visiting the tribe and making sure that we were "legit". So we got recognized in February. We passed all their tests and criteria. And February 10th, 1981, we were recognized. The summer of '81 we got a $30,000 grant from the BIA to help set up our governmental operation. By October of '83 we received $180,000. So now we were opening up shop. We had opened up a small little two-room office in Skwim, in this place called the Boardwalk Square. And so that I was coming over and actually dealing with tribal affairs; I was hired as the executive director in the summer of '82 and that's when I became the administrative head for the tribe. So that was the pattern. And then in '83, a year later, while I was working half time as the administrator for the tribe I finally graduated so just everything kind of happened. In the summer of '83 my wife and my newborn baby, my oldest son Joe, we moved back to Skwim. And during that time we were able to also secure a HUD grant. So we had put together a HUD grant and bought a little two-acre piece of property. Couldn't do it in Jamestown because Jamestown was designated a flood plain zone so you couldn't spend federal dollars there. So we ended up finding a site near one of the other village sites on Skwim Bay, it was the best we could do and we said, "˜This works.' And so that's how we actually got located where we are because we had to move fast and we found a site that worked on the Bay. And then on that particular site was a little house and I moved into it and just basically lived the tribal politics ever since then."

Response of surrounding communities to the tribe's restoration

Ron Allen:

"Indifference; indifference without a doubt. I think that the local community really didn't pay a whole lot of attention to us. The local Skwim community knew us as the Jamestown Village and knew the families that lived there and lived in the Skwim community. They didn't pay any attention to us. They didn't ever even think of us as a government. It just never crossed their mind. They were just "those Indians" who lived on the beach who were here forever and we like them. Most of our people were very likeable people and if you asked some of the old pioneers of the community they would say, "˜Yeah, I knew the Jamestown. I knew Lyle Prince real well, I knew Bill Allen real well, I knew Bill Allen's dad Joe. Yeah, I remember him.' County commissioners, they didn't pay much attention to us at all and just shrugged their shoulders. There was actually...there wasn't all that much engagement with the Lower Elwha S'Klallam Tribe and they just didn't pay much attention to them. So they weren't going to pay attention to that reservation that was well established since the 1930s then they certainly weren't going to pay any attention to us. And so we were not on their radar screen for many, many years. I think that when we first got on their radar screen was after the settlement. There was a settlement in 1985 for the land and we purchased some property and one of the pieces is actually where our casino is at right now. But on that property we ended up selling fireworks and that got their attention. Okay, now there's this Indian fireworks stand. So that's the first time they really started resonating that, um, we've got to deal with these Indians and that respect that they had no control over what we did on our property. That annoyed them but we were still so small, we were only a tribe of 250 people, they didn't pay much attention to us. And as we started developing businesses, I think that they started developing a confident level of who we were and how we interacted with the local community. They looked at us...I think many would look at us with a jaundice eye or a little bit of a skeptical eye but many said that, "˜Well, actually they're doing quite well and they're taking care of themselves. They're being very resourceful and very independent,' which is a very strong characteristic that we always took great pride in. S'Klallam means 'Strong People' and so...we took a lot of pride in the meaning of our people's name. So I think the local community actually developed a positive attitude towards us. We were always very progressive and we were never afraid of pursuing businesses off the reservation or out of the area. Often in reservation communities the people want to see the businesses where they actually can see them, they can know where the business opportunities are, job opportunities are, and the idea of owning businesses out of sight, off the reservation is something that creates a bit of anxiety and distrust. We never had that problem at all so we had a number of businesses that started off the reservation, out of the area altogether and we managed them to develop business credibility."

Strategies for economic development

Ron Allen:

"Our fundamental philosophy was to go slow, go after capital intensive businesses, get them solidified and strengthened and then step off of them to go after labor intensive businesses that create more job opportunities for our tribe. And as we moved along we had more successes than failures. We had a couple of failures, disappointing but we had far more successes and we made it work and I think the community opened up to us with strong reception that we are part of the community. I still don't think that they thought of us as a government. I think they thought of us as a business entity, kind of like a little association and that they have this unique authority to engage in businesses as an association. That's the way I read their attitude towards us. So I think it worked quite well and as time went along our businesses became more and more successful and all of a sudden we became one of the stronger employers in the community. Then we raised the eyebrows of the political sorts and the general public realizing that we made a huge difference. But also at that time we started raising the attention of those who were basically the anti-Indian sentiment, the people whose mentality was, "˜We defeated these Indians, why do they have these special rights, why do they get these special opportunities and why do they not pay taxes.' And so all of a sudden you started seeing, people started throwing rocks at us because of jealousy and envy."

The 1855 Point No Point Treaty made clear that the signing tribes retain the right to fish, hunt and gather. The 1974 Bolt decision affirmed equal fishing rights

Ron Allen:

"We're fish people. We grew up being fish people. We lived on the rivers, we lived on the beaches, fish and shellfish, that's our way of life and that's who we are. And it was true for the Jamestown S'Klallam people too and that is how we basically lived. I remember grandma telling me how they used to go get crabs and go eat Elkin clams and load it up on a wagon and actually take it to Port Angeles to sell to make a few bucks. So when we got recognized then it became evident to me that first things first, we need to make sure that we intervene in the Bolt decision, that we have equal fishing rights. So that was a huge issue. The Point No Point was the vehicle that we should be organized to manage the fishery and enforce the fishery and provide the fishing opportunities for our community. And of course the Northwest Indian Fish Commission was the collective entity that the 20 signatory tribes, including us at Jamestown, was organizing to deal with the state and deal with the federal government. In those days there was just five commissioners. It was organized by treaty area. So there's the five treaty areas: Point No Point, Point Elliott, Quinault and Macaw and Nisqually, Medicine Creek and that's how it was organized. And we had representatives in that forum representing the Point No Point treaty council. Then I started getting involved in that forum as well and became much more involved in reorganizing the Northwest Indian Fish Commission and I got more active in both forums, Point No Point and Northwest Indian Fish Commission reorganizing. So I started spending a lot more active energy in fisheries itself trying to help protect our interests and make sure that we were carving out our fair share. That included we, that Jamestown needed to make sure that we were preserving our unique exclusive areas, which is in front of our village, inside the Dungeness Spit was a very tense and still is a tense discussion because our sister tribes have their exclusive areas, the Gamble Bay for the Port Gamble S'Klallam and Freshwater Bay over there in front of the mouth of the Elwha River in front of the Lower Elwha Tribe."

How to balance work for one's own tribe with work for multiple tribal issues

Ron Allen:

"That's not an easy question to answer. If you're out there in the political forum, whether it's in the local regional level or the state level or the federal level, there are political issues, policy matters, that affect your rights, your political fishery rights, whether they're legal rights or whether they're just policy matters, and you have to protect and/or advance your interests in those forums. Your tribe has an interest but somebody has to take the lead to champion our interest in those various forums. And so when you're doing one you're doing the other. If you're a part of an aggregate that really means that you're championing your interest as a tribe but it just so happens you're wrapped up in the interests of your colleague, your sister tribes. And so that's true at a local level like Point No Point among the four tribes, it's true at Northwest Indian Fish Commission with regard to the 20 tribes, it's true in the Northwest if you're dealing with the northwest issues in the multiple forums. And some of the best examples are the Pacific Fishery Management Council forum where they manage the fishery from Puget Sound all the way down the coast, up the Columbia River and down the coast of Oregon or the U.S.-Canada Pacific Salmon Commission forum where you're dealing with the management of harvest management of fisheries from Alaska all the way down to the Oregon coast and up the Columbia River. So that's a very extensive area and in each of those forums you have an interest because the fish do not know any boundary, they don't know borders, they don't know do they belong to this tribe or to that non-Indian or to this Alaskan and so forth. So what you have to do is you have to go out there and negotiate and try to manage a fair share in terms of even defining what fair means to each respective party and you just get very involved in it. So while you're doing that, you're advancing the interests of the collective good. The collective means you're inside it, inside you're affected by it so you look at that with a very close eye to make sure that your interests are being protected as well. But you happen to be, because you're an active tribal leader in those forums, you're in a very fortuitous position to protect your tribe's community's interest in those forums."

Ron has participated in many fish forums and is one of four U.S. commissioners on the Pacific Salmon Commission, which represents treaty tribes from Washington and Oregon

Ron Allen:

"And actually since 1985, I've been active in the U.S.-Canada Fishery forum and eventually I became active on what's called the Frasier River Panel that actually actively manages the Frasier River Sockeye and Pink Salmon which was a big fishery for our people, the S'Klallam people and the Jamestown people. And so I was very actively involved with that for eight years. And then you take those issues and move them back to Washington, D.C. where you have the Magnuson Act and other fishery legislation whether it's being passed or whether it's being amended or whether it's being proposed and then you have to be back there championing those issues including the appropriation process that allocates budget for managing fisheries, protecting the habitat, advancing enhancement programs and so forth."

In the years of fish negotiations, the most difficult decision

Ron Allen:

"Persuading the tribes that...it basically is two fold. In the PSC forum, Pacific Salmon Fishery forum, in '85 there was lots of people who really believed that this was a bad deal for us, that it was a bad deal for the tribes and I believed that it was a good deal because even back then with limited experience and expertise and knowledge about fisheries and politics, it was evident to me that we were in a fish war and that war had to be stopped and we had to try to...we had to stop the bleeding of the decimation of our fishery. And that treaty was the vehicle to make it happen, to start forcing some actions. So I was pushing real hard to make that happen and likewise it ended up having its problems in implementation and lack of definition. And back in '85 we ended up negotiating another settlement, a revised and amended settlement of that treaty in 1999. And that was very difficult because it was not just the 20 tribes, which included my tribe, but it was the four tribes of the Columbia River that we had to persuade this was a good deal for us and we needed to move it forward and trying to make something happen that satisfied everybody was impossible. There were many others that were similar, shellfish negotiations or negotiations of exclusive areas even for my own tribe among the Klallam tribes. It's about trying to find some sort of common ground. And in every community you have a set of positions that can be the extreme and you can't...you can never settle any dispute on any end of the extreme. It just can't be done so you have to find that common ground and I've done it in countless forums. Sometimes people have accused me of being the negotiator of the middle ground and that that's to the detriment of the interest of the tribes. I don't agree with that at all. I agree that if you're going to lead then you need to lead and provide a path which you're going to be able to build and then if you make adjustments because you were not observant about one factor or another or a key issue then you go back and try to correct it. You work hard at trying to correct it because you now have more knowledge and more information with regard to that matter in terms of making some adjustments to improve it."

How resistance to tribal fishing rights changed over time

Ron Allen:

"The non-Indian community, over the course of the last 20-25 years, really has shifted its attitude towards the tribes as managers, the tribes as experts. The last, oh, gee, 5-7 years it's been real interesting because the state and federal government are essentially robbing our staff in terms of getting better staff. So for...from the "˜80s, early "˜80s all the way through to the mid "˜90s I think that we probably had among the best staff, the best technicians, best managers in the northwest. And then in the mid "˜90s then there became new problems. The ESA Act emerged and other kinds of problems emerged on its heels and there was a need for more and better expertise. And so they started providing the tribal staffers with better opportunities, more salary, better benefits and so forth and we had a tough time competing with them. The good part is that we trained them and they understand our rights and who we are and they have a stronger propensity to work with us. But on top of that, politically, the different organizations who represent different interest groups, the sport groups, the commercial groups and so forth. They started realizing that we are a friend and an ally and that we're really working closer together. And so you found us actually working on solutions in that forum, in the political forum in Olympia and in Washington, D.C. mutually going after resources to do a better job for management, to do a better job for enhancement and habitat protection. The alliances started shifting dramatically. There were still a number of very negative biased and racists personalities and organizations that are out there, they're still out there today. Some are even getting stronger in their organizational capacity and trying to be very clever in how they're spinning their attitude and the general public's notion of the tribe's unique rights."

The Rafeedie decision, one of the most significant advances for Indian fishers since the Bolt decision

Ron Allen:

"Particularly, in light of the fact that shellfish became the new core fishery program as the fin fish continued to diminish and the market continued to diminish, the shellfish industry for gooey duck and crab and shrimp, sea cucumbers, started to emerge. So that Rafeedie decision was a huge deal for us and now we're still in the middle of settlement. We're just now closing that settlement out in terms of clarifying the relationship between the tribes' rights and the growers who also were acknowledged in the treaty days and so we had to work out some sort of a compromise and we're doing just that. The Bolt decision dealt with only the fin fish, the salmon. It did not deal with the shellfish, the crab and the gooey duck, the little necks and manila clams, which was an introduced clam to the northwest area. And it made it real clear that we preserve 50 percent of the harvest of the shellfish. So that made it real clear to the state that they had to co-manage the fishery with the tribes for those fisheries. Because those products became very marketable and increased stronger than the fin fish, it became more important to the Indian fishermen because they shifted their gear and their ability to harvest from fin fish to shellfish."

Elected officials in the State of Washington: friends and enemies of tribes

Ron Allen:

"For the longest time it was either hot or cold. Either you were supportive and sensitive to the tribes' rights and interests or you just were dead against it and you just, philosophically, did not agree with the tribes' rights. Over the time we've had a lot of different personalities out there. The former senators Magnuson and Jackson, they were strong supporters of the tribe. They unequivocally were supporting our rights and were huge champions, well liked by many tribal leaders and they had a very strong relationship. Then you move forward and then you had a series of different kind of players out there but Senator Slade Gorton was one of our deadly enemies, no question about it. He just philosophically...it's not that he...I don't think he hated Indians. I just think that he philosophically did not believe that the tribes should be dealt with differently and specially and that the treaties did not mean that they have special rights. Philosophically he didn't agree with that and he did everything he possibly could to object to that. From the time when he was the attorney general in the appeals to the Bolt decision and he lost all those appeals all the way to the Supreme Court to the time he became a Senator and tried to introduce legislation. We've had numerous congressmen in the area trying to introduce legislation that would undermine the tribes' treaty rights and they worked real hard at it. Fortunately we had a lot of friends and from the senators, Jackson and Magnuson, to today Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell -- I'll come back to Maria Cantwell in a second here -- but they have been good friends to us and we have worked well together. We've had numerous congressmen led by Norm Dicks who actually used to work for Maggie as the chief of staff and moved into Congress himself and has become quite powerful as a ranking Democrat in the House and has been a very, very strong supportive. We've had numerous congressmen who started off being against the tribes and being supportive of the non-Indian constituency and always being influenced by their contributions to their campaigns and so forth and advancing legislation that was detrimental to the tribes and trying to undermine the tribes' legal standing and rights. They lost a lot of battles and they started realizing that the tribes' political clout and knowledge or skill at fighting political fights in Washington, D.C. was ratcheting up dramatically and we had become, tribes in the northwest, including tribes across the nation, had become very good at watching what's going on in Congress in these different forums and spotting these riders that are being slipped into these various bills and generating support to oppose them or get them removed. In state politics for years and years a lot of the politicians didn't realize that they had absolutely power over the unique federal tribal relations that the authority over the tribes' unique right was at the federal level, was in Washington, D.C., it wasn't in Olympia. And they would try to pass pieces of legislation that was absolutely illegal that would get thrown out by courts left and right because they had no authority over tribes' jurisdiction. One, a Republican Representative currently, a job named Jim Buck, he's from my area as a matter of fact, and he was very much against the tribes' unique rights and thought that they should be changed. But this is where Billy Frank entered into the picture and really persuaded him, "˜Well, read the treaties and then if you still believe we don't have a right, then let's talk about it.' So he did. He actually sat down and read the treaties, read the unique relationship between the tribes and read the Bolt decision and all of a sudden came out, as conservative as he is, he's a very conservative, not a right winger but he's a very strong heavy to the right conservative Republican and he flat out believes that the tribes are right, that they're absolutely...they're co-manager and he's become convinced that we're good managers and that the state benefits from our collective efforts and has become quite knowledgeable about the truth of harvesting and protecting the fishery, which is a high interest of his."

The impact of Washington tribes on the Senate race of 2000

Ron Allen:

"Slade Gorton had been a senator for a couple of terms and introduced countless pieces of negative anti-Indian legislation and we had to spend a lot of energy and a lot of money fighting those bills and those riders that he was introducing and beating them. We finally said, "˜Well, we can either keep fighting him in those forums or we can fight him in the political election and just flat out tell him, we don't like you, we don't agree with you philosophically and we don't want you to be our senator anymore.' And so the tribes got more actively involved in that particular election in 2000 and I was an early proponent of Maria Cantwell. I remember her as a former congresswoman. She'd dealt with the Tulalip Tribe and was very fair and understood their position and was probably a good candidate. There were a couple others out there that we were interested in but she's the one that resonated; she's the one that rose to the top from my perspective. So we did two different things. One, we started generating money for her to help her campaign and number two, we started getting our people registered and we kept convincing our people that we have 100,000 Indians in Washington State and if we can just get half of them, if we can get 40 percent of them in the elections and to vote it's going to make a difference. And so we initiated some vote registration campaigns throughout the different communities, different people took responsibility for it, we held different meetings to get people enthused about it and help with Maria's campaign in terms of getting signage up and doing whatever we could to help the campaign resonate and that worked out quite well for us and we stuck by our guns. I remember that I had conversations with Slade Gorton's chief of staff, Tony, but his comment to us was, "˜Well, we're going to win and when we're done we'll talk about Indian rights and Indian issues.' His comment was, "˜You don't understand us.' I says, "˜Well, actually we do understand you. We understand when you're advancing legislation that is terminating our rights, that is eliminating our unique authority and that's undermining our governmental status,' I says, "˜we know exactly what you're doing. So I don't care how you want to rationalize it, you can do that all you want, but you're against us and we know it.' So we championed that legislation, excuse me, that campaign and we won. And in the end the 2000 votes, we contend were Indians votes. If those Indian voters, we got an additional we think somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 voters out there, if they'd stayed home, Maria would have stayed home too and Slade would still be in office. We chalked it up as an Indian victory, no question about it. Yes, when you're talking about the two million votes that are out there, that a lot of people contributed to it, no question about it, but without the Indians they didn't win the election and we think that was a statement from the Indians to politicians that we're not afraid of you, that we're willing to weather the consequences of any kind of retribution that you may want to levy against tribes. And I remember talking to a lot of my colleagues and they were very, very skeptical of doing this. They thought, "˜No, he's going to come back, he's going to win and he's going to nail us.' And I went, "˜He's nailing us now so what difference does it make, so stand firm, stand strong.' And we've started to get much smarter about that in terms of getting our people out and voting and getting our people motivated to contribute money to campaigns and we're getting smarter about how we contribute. We just don't dump money into a Democratic or Republican Party. We want to know, what is it you're going to do with this money? How is this money going to be able to benefit our community? How are you going to spend money to help us get more of our people registered and get engaged in politics? And how are you going to reach out to the tribes and so forth? So tribal politics has shifted in the "˜90s and now in the 21st century. You're now starting to see tribal people become more players, you're starting to see fundraisers and tribes being much more active. The numbers are rising because the tribes now have money because of the success of the gaming industry primarily, that has made a big difference in our ability to participate in the political process at all levels. I think the Republican Party really does want to try to mend fences between them and the Indian communities and its leadership."

Ron is a moderate Republican who has supported, admired and learned from Democrats

Ron Allen:

"First and foremost, I defend tribes rights, tribes sovereignty, tribes treaty rights. That's the bottom line for me. In college I developed a much more conservative philosophy towards independence of individuals and communities and the laissez faire economic development philosophies. And so I was actually quite conservative coming out of college. Since college and because of my experience in politics, watching how politics works, learning how it actually works and how you work out the differences of opinion about different philosophies and different issues that affect our communities from so-so issues to natural resources to political institutions that are important for us and so forth, it's come to my perception that my notion is still strongly Republican from economic development perspectives but I've become much more moderate. And a man who's really influenced me on that philosophy and approach is Dan Evans. I thought Dan Evans was a fabulous governor for Washington, I thought he was a fabulous Senator. He advanced a lot of legislation that advanced our issues in a dramatic way. And so his approach, his philosophical approach made sense to me. So it wasn't about your philosophy, it is about the objectives...goals and objectives you're trying to advance. And for me, my primary goal and objective was creating a political, legal environment that tribes could pursue their goals and their objectives and become truly self-determined and self-reliant on their own terms and that they could co-exist with their colleague governments that are out there, whether they exist on the same actual political, legal level or not. In other words, we primarily deal with ourselves with the federal government but we have a relationship with the state government. So for campaign purposes, it's about what do you stand for and how does your political position and platform mesh with the tribes' agenda? Are you going to be respectful of tribal governments? Do you believe we exist as sovereign governments and we have that unique relationship? Do you believe that our treaty rights are a very special contractual commitment between the federal government in our communities that cannot be broken, that holds the sacred...the sacred promise of the nation to Indian peoples or not? So the issue is if it's positive then my disposition is that you're a friend."

The need to educate the American public about tribal nations

Ron Allen:

"So I think that we really need to continue to work harder in terms of educating the society and the policy people. It's ever changing. The fundamental knowledge about who Indian tribal governments are or our communities and how we co-exist in the state, is a topic that really is developed in grade school and the middle school years. That's where the seed is really planted and we just have to work harder at shifting the curriculums and shifting the materials so that they more accurately reflect who the tribes are and what our history is because you're dealing with 250, well, actually more, 500 years of history but 250 years of history within this state, within the United States in this political relationship and most of them don't quite understand how we fit. And as you see the changing of the guard in Olympia for the state legislature or in Washington, D.C., it's about people who don't have a good fundamental educational background about tribal governments and treaty rights and the unique relationship between the United States society including Washington society and the Indian communities. So we're very conscious that we have to ratchet up our ability to change the curriculum in the educational institutions but also to work harder through the various other educational communication vehicles. It's using the media; all forms of the media -- the broadcast media, the print media, the magazine media -- every form of media that's out there in terms of getting our messages out there. Not just the controversial stuff, which is easy for them to print and cover, but the stuff that are fascinating stories, spending money to basically cause people to have a better understanding of who we are and how we make a positive contribution to our society and to our economy and to our mutual goals and objectives, and then reaching out to the special interest groups that are out there. It wouldn't matter whether it's associations or organizations of different sorts, whether it's church groups or whether it's Rotary and Lions Clubs and chamber of commerce organizations, you're reaching out to them to cause them to know who you are and staying engaged in that way while you're doing that you're educating. And you don't try to overwhelm them, you don't brow beat them but you just take a very subtle, very soft educational approach. So it's never too late but if we're going to change a society, a cultural attitude, it's more at the grassroots and more at the younger level. That's where you're going to make a huge difference. Indians can't stamp out racism faster than African Americans or Asian Americans and so forth, Latinos. It's just racism is racism out there and it's ugly roots are deep and it's going to take a long time to root them out. We're just a part of it and our focus just happens to be with regard to the Indian communities and our unique governmental relationship that the other ethnic groups don't have that unique relationship."

The extreme importance of an effectively run tribal government

Ron Allen:

"I firmly believe that the success of a leader or the success of a tribe is relative to the quality and effectiveness of their staff. You really need to have quality staff in order to get the job done. We're governments. That means that we have all the responsibilities of governments. Our community depends on it. It's easy to take shots at the governmental leadership and the governmental programs and the bureaucracy, if you will, but the bottom line is, if you're performing, you're not providing the kind of services that is expected. And as governments we have every responsibility that any other government has it just changed in scope relative to the magnitude of the size of your reservation and number of people you serve. But you have to take care of natural resources, you've got to take care of enforcement in court systems to protect the public safety, you need to take care of the educational interests or the healthcare interests, which is a very volatile arena and a very important one for us to focus in on, and housing needs and jobs opportunities and employment mobility and support systems that are important for our community, and all the family and community support systems that's important to strengthen, protecting and advancing your culture and your traditional practices with languages and stuff like that, taking care of your elders, having special programs for your youth so they are very comfortable with who they are. Those are all governmental functions and responsibilities to just mention a few. The Skwim community where Jamestown tribe is set up is very pretty, it's very rural, it's very safe, it's very comfortable and throughout the year and we've been blessed by being approached by some talent, some people who have just some talent. I've been a real strong support of women working in our environment and an upward mobility opportunity for women. So the majority of the heads of my different programs for our tribe are women. If they're the ones that get the job...I have one woman who is a high school graduate and she is just brilliant, absolutely brilliant and we've moved her up, against the objections of some people who have...who insist on higher collegiate degrees and training but this person has been able to do the job as well as anybody. And so we provide the opportunity for those who perform and produce the products that we're looking for, the service that we're looking for. So we've been doing quite well as a small tribe. We're only about 525 people right now. So that makes a huge difference. And then personally, it's about leadership and leadership is about being accessible. I firmly believe that. I've always been a high tech personality. When they first started making portable computers, I remember the first compact computer and it was as big as my suitcase. And I remember having to carry that around trying to get it on the planes and just to be able to get to where I needed to go and to get the job done. I remember Wilma Mankiller, the former chief of the Cherokee, at our big White House meeting that I helped orchestrate, she referred to me as the Cyborg chairman because I was so into technology and producing documents and briefing materials and data. So I had a lot of real strong technical skills. And in those days we didn't have a lot of money so I basically did a lot of work myself. I do a lot less now because I don't have to. I've got too many talented people around me but I review that kind of stuff myself very closely to make sure that it reflects the professionalism. That old notion, you only get one shot at a first impression, I don't even care if it's just a draft document, I want it to look good; check the grammar, check the spelling, check the format, making sure that it looks good. So I pay a lot of attention to that kind of stuff. If people call me then I call them back. If they email me, then I email them back. If I'm busy and I can't get back to them right away, I'll just leave a simple message saying, "˜I'm really, really busy. I'll call you in day or two.' And so I let them know. So they know that I got their message and that I'm going to respond to them. As a general rule I don't have to do that. As a general rule I will stop almost anything I'm doing to deal with my people cause they're my priority."

Ron's paramount commitments and concerns

Ron Allen:

"Sovereignty is the foundation of tribes, it is who we are, it's what we're about, it's our land base, it's our people, it's our culture, it's our way of life, it is the basis for our unique standing in America and it has always been under siege. We have some new challenges today dealing with the Supreme Court and its new political desire to redefine 200 years of law and interpretations of that unique relationship. So that's a new challenge for the tribes without a doubt. There's other issues that are out there that take a higher, they take high profile. Nothing's more important than that particular attack and that attack has got some momentum from the anti-Indian coalitions that are out there that are organizing themselves throughout the nation and you'll see them everywhere. You see them in Washington, Idaho, Montana, the Great Lakes area, down here in Arizona and so forth. So they're organizing and that means that we have to be better organized. I think that the importance of tribes being united is probably one of the most important ingredients to preserve our...preserve and protect our unique way of life in this society and its political, legal, cultural system."

The real tasks for the President of the National Congress of American Indians

Ron Allen:

"I learned a lot of difficult lessons as the president of NCAI for four years. One, if you're going to be the president of NCAI, it's not just dealing with Washington, D.C. and the politics, it's understanding the unique interests and issues of all of Indian Country. The Iroquois Confederacy Tribes have different interests than the Seminoles and Miccosukees in Florida. They have different interests than the Great Lakes, the Chippewas or the Crees over in Montana or the Lakota people in the Dakotas or the Northwest tribes, the Alaska Natives. Those interests and those issues are very different and the California tribes, the Southwest tribes, the Pueblos, knowing the difference with the Pueblos and the Navajo, understanding the Navajo/Hopi conflict. And that's just only just touching, there's many elements. Who knows the unique differences in the Hualapai and the Havasupai in northern Arizona down in the Grand Canyon and up on the ridge of the Canyon, what their unique problems and interests are. My good friend Billy Frank, I say one of his favorite phrases and I love it, "˜It's for the cause. It's bigger than you.' Mel Tonasket, another good friend of mine from the Colville Nation, the guy was just always, "˜the cause is bigger than you. You didn't know it was your time, you just rise to it.' Joe de la Cruz, I couldn't speak highly enough for Joe de la Cruz. Influenced me wholeheartedly about getting out there and getting involved and I used to challenge him about the international stuff. I said, "˜You know, Joe, we've got so many battles here in the United States, we're watching the Congress constantly, we're dealing with the administration and we're dealing with ONB, we're dealing with the White House, we've got to go back up to the Congress, we've got to back out to Indian Country and we've got to deal with the state legislatures, the Association of Attorney Generals, all these different organizations and you're basically covering your bases, you're trying to protect your turf.' And I says, "˜I don't know if we can deal with this international stuff.' And his comment to me was, "˜Ron, these are our brothers and sisters; they don't have what we have. We complain about not having enough support, we complain about not having the right kind of setting, the right kind of conditions because of all the economic, social and political factors that you use to measure the welfare of your society and your people. They're worse. We think that we're so low on that totem pole in measuring that criteria, they're worse, they're worse off. They've got worse conditions. They've got people killing them and genocide going on in different forums. They need our support, they need the exposure.' So I became convinced by Joe that those are things that we have to do."

What keeps Ron Allen going

Ron Allen:

"First of all, I'm always a very active personality. They always refer to the Type A personalities; I'm definitely triple A. So I've always had good energy. I've always been a runner. I've always thought my legs were Indian without a doubt cause I can run, I always could run. That was back in my basketball days cause I'd run the dickens out of them. I may not be able to out shoot them but I'll out run them and I'll beat them that way. And I think of my career the same way. I just have an ability to stay focused and don't worry about...there's lots of stuff going on, there's lots of pressures in all different kinds of forums, lots of things to do and it's just a matter of what's the most important thing you need to deal with right now, what's the most urgent crisis, deal with it and move on to the next, deal with that one and move on to the next. For the last number of years I actually didn't take care of myself as well as I used to. I was always a runner and I took very good care of myself and kept my weight down and then for about five years or six years or so I didn't and got real heavy. So I just now recently over this last year shifted and got my weight back down and started becoming more healthy conscience. I didn't want to trigger diabetes and that kind of stuff. I just felt I could contribute, I really feel I could contribute well into my 70s and 80s. And I saw some of my friends who I think a great deal of... Joe de la Cruz died at 62. Merle Boyd the second chief from the Second Flocks Nation, a good friend, died at 62. And I've had some friends having strokes and heart attacks at early ages and it dawned on me that I've got to start taking care of myself. So that's another issue that caused me to become more conscious of taking care of myself so that I can be a better servant to the Indian people, to my people and Indian people in general. And I just stay motivated; I just love doing what I'm doing. I don't know why. I really think it's spiritual, I think it's beyond me that the Spirit has caused me to have certain skills and I'm just driven by those skills. There's certain things I kind of perceive and understand and I just want to share them and want to provide it. I do have a strong voice and I think my voice should be out there."

In 1988 Congress authorized a project called Self-Governance that allowed many programs run by the BIA to be transferred to tribes themselves. Jamestown S'Klallam was one of the first seven tribes to participate.

Ron Allen:

"In 1987 there was this big brew haw about the federal government's mismanagement of Indian programs, a huge exposé, a whole bunch of hearings and so forth. And out of all that process came a challenge by the leadership in Congress to tribal leadership. And people who I was very motivated and influenced by, the Joe de la Cruz's, the Wendell Chinos from Mescalero Apache or the Roger Jordain from Red Lake Apache and Sam Keggy from the Lumbee Nation and so forth. They were all there. And they said, "˜How about if we just...you tribal leaders go up with Secretary Don Hodel at the time under Reagan and Ross Swimmer who was the BIA Assistant Secretary, "˜You guys go figure out what's the best way for us to better serve Indian tribes and Indian communities.' And we did. We came up with an idea of how that should work. Their proposal was a terrible one. Ours was, "˜Let us move this agenda forward on our terms.' We knew that it had to be on our terms. We were smart enough to know that they were trying to out finesse us and propose legislation that absolved the federal government of its treaty obligations or its trust responsibilities to Indian Nations and we said, "˜Absolutely not! There's no way we're letting you off that hook. But, we will propose a piece of legislation that allows us to negotiate our fair share of the federal programs that serve our community, our share from top to bottom, from the Secretary's office on down to the field, and then we will absolve you of any responsibility with regard to those programs and those services and then if there's specific legal matters then we'll negotiate them too so that we have our legal counsel with us in terms of making sure that we're real clear about how we're going to move this agenda forward.' When it started in 1988, they put out a notice to see who was interested in doing this. They said, "˜Let's get 10 tribes,' and they really wanted big tribes. And I kept, I was with them and I wanted our tribe to be a part of it. Here we were a small little 225 member tribe and they kept saying, "˜No, you're too small.' And I said, "˜No, we're not.' I said, 'Seventy-five percent of the tribes in the United States are tribes that are under 1500. Who represents them?' And so I kept making the case. Well, they couldn't find a 10th tribe so then I was leveraging with Congress and a guy named Sid Yates who was the Chair of the Appropriation Committee back then, they basically said, "˜Let them in,' and so that's how we got in. We were one of the first 10 and we have been a resounding success. And since then I basically was the technician and Joe who was the spiritual leader and Wendell and Roger, they're two characters that just was a real blessing to ever have experienced because they were in your face kind of tribal leaders. They did not back off from anybody and Joe used to always talk very fondly of those two. So we got in and then I got involved. Very early on I ended up being the Chair of the Self-Governance Advisory Council for the BIA. I decided that I was not going to get actively involved in the IHS side, just let somebody else spread the responsibility around. But I still am very actively involved."

Tribes today in the self-governance movement

Ron Allen:

"Today there's about 280 of the 560 Indian Nations that are out there. Like I said, we were one of the first 10 and we've expanded now so it's...self-governance is now being advanced in all the Department of Interior so not just the BIA but all the other agencies, Fish and Wildlife, Parks, Bureau of Reclamation, etc. IHS was hot it's heels and that law got passed in 1994. It's moving very fast forward and it's now moving into other agencies and programs in HHS as well. So it's under a program called Title VI and you see self-governance being advanced in housing, over in HUD as well now. So self-governance is really being a phenomenal success. It's about governments acting like governments. You take responsibility for it. That means if you make a mistake, then you own up to it. It's your fault, nobody else's fault. You can't point to the BIA or point to the federal government, it's their fault. You're in control of it."

The cultural programs of Jamestown S'Klallam

Ron Allen:

"I'm very actively involved with in terms of helping shape out what it is we're doing, helping make sure that we're providing resources and support for people who have an interest in restoring some of the artistic skills whether it's basket weaving, carving or other kinds of practices that have been utilized historically, understanding who we are as a people and making sure the programs are there. It was through my leadership that we just got a book published on the history of the Jamestown tribe. So that was really cool that we've documented it now."

Ron has noted numerous people who embody the spirit that drives him

Ron Allen:

"My wife; always there, steadily. When we got married she knew I was active, she knew how important the tribe was and as we had kids we'd talk through it and I told her, I said, "˜Look, I'm just going to travel a lot, it's just the nature of the game,' and we've got two kids to bring up. But she was always there. Always she has such a practical insight. I would share things with her more or less just venting and she was interested in what I had to say and what was going on. But she would ask some of the most practical questions and throw back some of the most logical, simplistic responses and it wads very helpful for me. I just kind of went, "˜Doggone it, that's the answer.' It was real simple, it was right in front of me and my wife just kind of responded to me and gave me the best answer I needed. So she was always there and I can't speak fondly and lovingly enough because of what she's done to influence me to do what I'm doing."

Grooming future leaders

Ron Allen:

"As far as mentoring goes, I always think about Joe de la Cruz's comment cause he got asked this question a lot and it's not...it's a challenging question and it's a difficult one for people. They kind of want you to take your skills and experiences and perceptions and just give it to some young person who's coming along. Joe's comment was that, "˜you have to wait for the right person and the right person has got to come to you and want you to share that with them and to teach you.' And I remember it vividly in terms of trying to be able to transfer what you know and your thoughts and your approach about dealing with Indian politics at a local level versus all the way up to the national level. And we haven't had a lot of kids who are interested. Today's society is a little different generation than what I grew up out of and I'm still trying to understand. But the good news is that we've got a young woman who is very interested in tribal politics and comes to our meetings regularly just to listen and observe and participate when and where she can. So we're working it out so that she works with me and spends time and I spend time talking to her, talking to her about politics and I have high hopes for her. Maybe she will, maybe she won't become a leader. I don't know. Only time will tell and the Great Spirit will make that decision within her walk. So I think the transfer to the youth and the mentoring is about when that opportunity can happen. That's why I liked the Institute for Tribal Governance program because it creates an opportunity to share your perspectives. I think I've earned respect among my colleagues in terms of being knowledgeable about the political process at all levels and how to interact with each other. I've tried to help solve some of the inter-tribal problems and some were successful, some not successful and you've got to roll with it. If you get too wedded to some of these matters then it's a huge mistake because you...it's too emotional."

The passions that drive Ron today and a look at the future

Ron Allen:

"I guess the passion of advancing strong tribal governance is one that drives me the most, that protects our sovereignty and treaty rights and so forth, that drives me the most, wanting the tribal governments to get stronger and more sophisticated. Some of our colleagues are doing a really good job and very, very impressive and I'm just a tip of the hat and huge smile at them. Some have got a long ways to go and there's a lot they need to learn. So that's a huge issue for me. NCAI is a huge passion for me. I love the organization. I think the world of it. I think that Indian Country doesn't really as a general observation appreciate how important it is to the welfare of our people and to be able to always protect the front lines of where the fight in this war with the American Indians and Native Alaskans with our society. It's the entity that makes the difference and I really want it to get stronger, I want it to develop a presence in Washington, D.C. I really...I have a passion that we're going to develop our own Hall of Indian Nations in Washington, D.C. that people are going to drive by and be very impressed with and want to go in and see. So it's not just the American Indian Museum as if we're relics of the past. We're alive and well and doing well as a political set of entities. So that's a big deal to me. And then personally it's just about my own family. I think a great deal of my kids and my family life. I kind of one of these just strange little backyard gardeners; I love gardening. I'm a gardener. I can go out and spend hours. I can be on trips like right now thinking about plants that I'm concerned about that I planted and I want to make sure they take good root and things I want to do to beautify my little five acre track that I think the world of. So I plant what I like to plant and I know what I think it's going to look like in 40 years. I think about that when I think about those trees. In that same context that's what I think about with the tribe and the tribes collectively, what we're doing. I want to think about what we're doing makes a difference to make it stronger and make it bloom better in 20 and 40 years. In that way you feel like you really have made a difference."

The Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times series and accompanying curricula are for the educational programs of tribes, schools and colleges. For usage authorization, to place an order or for further information, call or write Institute for Tribal Government – PA, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, Oregon, 97207-0751. Telephone: 503-725-9000. Email: tribalgov@pdx.edu.

[Native music]

The Institute for Tribal Government is directed by a Policy Board of 23 tribal leaders,
Hon. Kathryn Harrison (Grand Ronde) leads the Great Tribal Leaders project and is assisted by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, Director and Kay Reid, Oral Historian

Videotaping and Video Assistance
Chuck Hudson, Jeremy Fivecrows and John Platt of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Editing
Green Fire Productions

Photo Credit:
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Ron Allen

Great Tribal Leaders of Modern Times is also supported by the non-profit Tribal Leadership Forum, and by grants from:
Spirit Mountain Community Fund
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Chickasaw Nation
Coeur d'Alene Tribe
Delaware Nation of Oklahoma
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
Jayne Fawcett, Ambassador
Mohegan Tribal Council
And other tribal governments

Support has also been received from:
Portland State University
Qwest Foundation
Pendleton Woolen Mills
The U.S. Dept. of Education
The Administration for Native Americans
Bonneville Power Administration
And the U.S. Dept. of Defense

This program is not to be reproduced without the express written permission of the Institute for Tribal Government

© 2004 The Institute for Tribal Government