financial management

Bad with Money Podcast: COVID's Economic Devastation on Tribal Lands


Gaby Dunn speaks with Karen R. Diver (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa), Director of Business Development for the Native American Advancement Initiatives at the Native Nations Institute and appointee of President Obama as the Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs. They discuss tribal economies, the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, how Native American nations have been handling the spread of the virus and the ways the federal government has failed the tribes during this pandemic and beyond.

Resource Type
Dunn, Gaby. "S6E14: COVID's Economic Devastation on Tribal Lands." Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn. Stitcher. July 21, 2020. Retrieved on July 22, 2020 from

Navigating the ARPA: A Series for Tribal Nations. Episode 2: How Tribes Can Avoid Leaving $12 Billion on the Table


The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides the largest single infusion of federal funding into Indian Country in the history of the United States. More than $32 billion is directed toward assisting American Indian nations and communities as they work to end and recover from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic – which was made worse in Indian Country precisely because such funding has been so long overdue. From setting tribal priorities, to building infrastructure, to managing and sustaining projects, ARPA presents an unprecedented opportunity for the 574 federally recognized tribal nations to use their rights of sovereignty and self-government to strengthen their communities. As the tribes take on the challenges presented by the Act, the Ash Center’s Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development presents a series designed to assist tribes, to help tribes learn from each other and from a wide array of guest experts.

This second session, titled “Where Other ARPA Monies Live -- How to Avoid Tribes Leaving $12 Billion on the Table” will feature a range of experts including:

  • Stacey Ecoffey, Principal Advisor for Tribal Affairs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Heather Dawn Thompson, HLS 2000, J.D, Director of the Office of Tribal Relations, USDA Burton Warrington, President, Indian Ave Group
  • Moderated by Karen Diver HKS 2003, M.P.A., Board of Governors, Honoring Nations, Harvard Project

Presentation slides:  ARPA Breakdown by Department, Agency   |   U.S. Treasury Deadline Update   |   USDA

Navigating the ARPA: A Series for Tribal Nations. Episode 7: Direct Relief for Tribal Citizens: Getting beyond Per Caps


From setting tribal priorities to building infrastructure to managing and sustaining projects, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) presents an unprecedented opportunity for the 574 federally recognized tribal nations to use their rights of sovereignty and self-government to strengthen their communities. As the tribes take on the challenges presented by the Act, the Ash Center’s Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development is hosting a series designed to assist tribes, to help tribes learn from each other and from a wide array of guest experts.

During this session, the seventh in the series, following a round of discussion between the panelists, a brief Q+A session will be held to maximize the opportunities for audience participation. This session, titled "Direct Relief for Tribal Citizens: Getting beyond Per Caps" will feature:

  • Rodney Butler, Chairman, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
  • Cathy Chavers, Chairwoman, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
  • Miriam Jorgensen, HKS 1991 MPP 2000 PhD, Research Director, Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona
  • Kevin Killer, President, Oglala Sioux Tribe
  • Karen Diver, Moderator, HKS 2003 MPA, Board of Governors, Honoring Nations, Harvard Project

Presentation slides:  Strategic Dimensions of Revenue Distribution   |   Additional Resources

Tribal Leaders Handbook on Homeownership


As Native populations grow rapidly, tribal leaders are challenged as never before to provide their members decent housing. Expanding homeownership is a huge part of the solution for reservations and Indian areas, but until recently lenders just didn't extend home loans in Indian Country. The Tribal Leaders Handbook on Homeownership is the essential guide to understanding a process that has so much potential but is still in its infancy. The handbook is your guide to the new mortgage programs (government and private), the new kinds of lenders (loan funds, Native CDFIs), and the new energies that are transforming Indian housing.

Resource Type

Kunesh, Patrice H., ed. 2018. Tribal Leaders Handbook on Homeownership. Center for Indian Country Development of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and Enterprise Community Partners. Minneapolis, MN: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Adam Geisler: What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office

Native Nations Institute

Adam Geisler, Secretary of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, discusses the diverse set of challenges he faces as an elected leader of his nation and discusses some of the innovative ways that he, his leadership colleagues, and his nation have worked to overcome those challenges. He also offers a number of pointers for how to lead effectively based on his own experience.

Resource Type

Geisler, Adam. "What I Wish I Knew Before I Took Office." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. November 6, 2013. Presentation.

"Thank you, Renee [Goldtooth], for inviting me out here. It's an honor to be here. It's an honor to have the opportunity to speak to all of you. You're probably looking at me wondering, "˜Who's this kid? What can he say, what can he share, what does he know?' I'm going to hopefully enlighten you a little bit on some of the challenges that I endeavored through. My name is Adam Geisler. I'm the secretary for La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians. I've been in office for five years. I have been working for my tribe since I was 14 years old and I guess I'll just kind of start with, 'Tribal council, are you ready?'...

A little bit about the photo. We have a five-member council. We have roughly 10,000 acres with about 700 enrolled members that live on and off the reservation. We have roughly 189 houses, about 15 miles of roadway, three separate water systems, and the major northern loop of the utility for feeding San Diego running through our reservation. I always like to talk about my council because I think a lot of times in Indian Country we hear about all the politics and everybody fighting and people don't like this or that, somebody didn't get a house because of this or that and the road didn't get taken care of. I'm really blessed to be able to sit with a council that works together, communicates well, and really has been a solid opportunity for me to learn some things. The woman in the middle is actually my mother. Her name is LaVonne Peck. She is the chairwoman for our tribe.

In the first two years that we were in office, we went through a process with UCLA law department to update, revise and bring back our constitution, all of our ordinances and all of our bylaws, because they hadn't been touched in about 30 years. So there was a lot of things that didn't make any sense when you read through them from everything from enrollment to land. The reason why I say that's my mom is because number one, I want to acknowledge the fact that she's my mom, but anytime we're doing business I call her 'LaVonne' or 'Chairwoman.' Nepotism exists in Indian Country. I'm not going to act like it doesn't, but I did run for a separate office. In my second term, I ran unopposed. The same thing goes for her and I just want...I guess I'm coming from a unique perspective because what I didn't realize coming into this was how challenging it would be working with a family member as close as your mother in this process, but it has been very rewarding and I'm very fortunate to be able to have gone through this.

Some other things that I didn't quite understand when I got in...I was always sitting out in the general membership kind of wondering, "˜Hey, why aren't they doing this? Why aren't they dealing with that? How come I didn't get a budget for this?' And I had no idea the type of time obligations that that was going to require and I had no clue when I got into office that this position was going to afford me the opportunity to learn about energy, learn about gaming, learn about finance and I'm going to highlight some of those as we move through this.

So something that I walked into right away that I wasn't prepared for, I got in council when I was 25 years old, I'm now 29, and I had no clue that I was going to have the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] show up one day on my doorstep and say, "˜Hey, the Mexican cartel just grew a field of marijuana on the backside of your mountain.' "˜Okay. Well, how do I deal with this?' "˜Well, why don't we take you up in the helicopter so we can take a look at this and understand how these guys are moving product in and out and how we can work with your law enforcement to make sure that we can monitor this more closely.' That kind of dives into Public Law 280. California is a Public Law 280 state, which means that we have concurrent jurisdiction. Some of you probably come from reservations that are directly funded through the federal government for your police, your prisons or jails. We're not. Although we can establish them if we have the money to do it, we're really relying upon the Sheriff's Department, which doesn't always respond in a timely manner because they're small not necessarily because they don't want to. The days of that are gone. But that's part of the situation that I wasn't aware of.

The other big aspect that I wasn't ready to come into was domestic violence. I have it in the letters on the bottom; we lead statistics in some really sad areas. I didn't know coming into office that a woman will go back to her abuser 11 times before she's either killed or before she finally leaves the guy. In a community as small as mine with 700 members, this was actually something very prevalent that our community was tired of and finally addressed. We wrote some grants, we held the first ever Domestic Violence Walk in the state of California, which is partly why I have that purple ribbon there, and we brought out all kinds of people from both tribal and non-tribal to support the efforts that we're making towards these things.

We sat through a ton of meetings in my first couple years dealing with these issues, where people were coming and talking about the meth head that lives next door or the dealing that might have been going on. And by the way, my community is a beautiful community. I'm just highlighting some of the challenges that are there. Making it sound like La Jolla, you're going to walk in, there's going to be like people high all over the place or something. It's not like that at all, but the reality is that you all have these, Native or not, you're going to have these folks in your family, you know who they are, and the funny part is that the neighbor who might not be in your family is coming to you telling you to deal with it and you're sitting there trying to figure out, "˜Well, man, how do I deal with my cousin? How do I deal with my brother or my uncle?' And those things are very real when you get into this office and there's expectations on both sides. Your families are going to come at you and expect you to protect them, the public is going to come at you and expect you to uphold the ordinances and the laws and enforce the job that you're there to do. And so right off the top, I had to realize that being impartial...I've always been fairly impartial about things, but these types of issues really started to test your ability to do that on a daily basis because these things just happen.

So DV [domestic violence], drugs, alcohol abuse, and then kind of figuring out how we address that; we formed a program called 'AVELICA.' As I mentioned, in our language that means 'butterfly.' Obviously the women coming out of their situation, being more aware on how to address the DV issues. And one thing that we did is we creatively developed the program, we hired and trained advocates from within our own community, we established domestic violence shelters for the women and these were all things that I walked in, I never had a clue about how to address. And I'll go over some training components later, but just realize this, if you're going to be successful when you come into doing this, if you're motivated, you have a heart and you're willing to get up every day and wear some broad shoulders, you'll be able to make through it.

Jobs; we talked about cousins, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces. Jobs is always an interesting discussion in Indian Country because I appreciate the former, the presentation beforehand about reliance as opposed to... I don't know, I think sometimes our communities get really dependent on these programs that come in. And so... and unfortunately I'm in a community where when I walked in the social norm was seasonal employment. We have a campground. I'm not a gaming tribe, I know a lot of people think, "˜oh, you're a Southern California Indian, you're rich.' Nope, not me. I've got Harrah's Rincon, I've got Pala, I've Pauma, I've got Pechanga, Valley View, but not me. I have a campground that brings in almost 150,000 people a year and supports our tribal economic development and government operations. But back to the idea that people came in wanting to know, "˜Where's my job? I put you in office, I expect you to get me a job.' And I said, "˜When I asked for your vote, I made it really clear to you that I'm not going to promise you anything.' And so my comment about jobs is, when you get into office, don't make promises. The guys that were in there before me, they got in, "˜I'll get you a job. I'll get you on this project. I'll do this, I'll do that.' I have stated...I've stayed where I'm at as long as I'm at because I don't BS my people. Excuse the term. I know we're being recorded. I don't. You have to be up front with your folks. You have to be transparent. You can't be afraid to share with them the truths about the realities that you're in. If there are jobs available, see what you can do to hire your folks. Tribal Force Account is an amazing, amazing, amazing thing that you can utilize. It's a tool that I didn't realize.

Partnerships with, for's a road, this is the picture. I guess talk about the picture for a second. This road is a road that was done by all Tribal Force Accounts, which is really rare in California because we don't really have the dollars coming in federally or always the personnel to be able to staff a full-time roads department or a full-time public health department. And what we were able to do is bring in about 30 tribal members to come in and basically create a road going through the middle of a mountain -- because I'm on the side of a 7,500-foot mountain, which makes development fun -- and we put our guys to work. And what was really amazing about this process was number one, Davis-Bacon [Act] doesn't apply because through our sovereignty, through exercising our sovereignty we created our own Tribal Force Account wages, we set a standard that was proper for what our people were doing and in some cases we are beating Davis-Bacon. By the way, this project, because of tax exempt abilities and delivery onto the reservation, we also built this for one third less than what any other public department could build in the county, in the state or from a federal standpoint. So recognize that.

I'm going to kind of couple this with TERO [Tribal Employment Rights Office]. How many of you guys have a TERO ordinance on your reservation? How many of you guys really use it? When I got into office, no clue about what the heck TERO was, I didn't understand what are these four letters representing, what's the point behind it, why is it here? I learned very quickly that this is another tool that we have in Indian Country that we can utilize, the Tribal Employment Rights, Opportunities and Ordinances that you can establish and then use that in working with the Department of Labor to go after federal contracts and dollars are awesome. That's the part I didn't know about TERO. I didn't realize... I thought TERO was, "˜Oh, you're going to build a project, I'm going to tax it, then I'm going to take it and I'm going to train somebody with that money.' There's a whole other side of TERO that I didn't know about that had to do with federal contracting and compliance.

And one thing that I want to highlight that we were successful in doing in utilizing TERO in San Diego was we actually... we have 18 tribes in San Diego County. How many of you guys have that many tribes in your county? The answer is none because we have the most in the country. Sorry. We have 18 tribes in San Diego County, which means that federal contractors are required to notify all of your tribes about the fact that there's jobs coming online and the reason why that's there... everybody goes, "˜Oh, it's an ethnic thing, it has to do with racism, the Indians.' No, it's a political relationship that the tribes have with the United States government, which is why if you're qualified as an Indian and they're qualified as a non-Indian, you go to the top based upon laws that were passed based upon your political standing. Not because you're Indian, but because of the sovereignty that your tribe exercises and you being a citizen of a nation.

So what we did is we realized that all these federal contractors were coming up and they did not know how to send it out to 18 tribes because some are rich, some are poor, some have fax machines, some have an HR department, some have something in the middle. And so we got everybody together because the federal contractors were tired of getting audited and fined and in all fairness, how do you communicate with 18 different governments that all operate differently? What we came up with was a website called and this... write it down, Google it later. You're going to like what I have to say about this. was a concept that came out in working with the Department of Labor, in working with the federal contractors in San Diego County and in working with the tribes. What we did is we sat down and discussed how can we get this information out collectively for job availability, for contracts that are out there and then how can we also...our tribes ourselves look for these things. Nobody has ever thought about how to create this. Well, we did. We created It's basically an Indian version of Craigslist and mixed into one. You can be notified via email when jobs are available. You can be searching for jobs and the cool part is it's going to be coming actually out here to Arizona and shortly it's going to be heading nationwide because that's the Craigslist part of it. I want to work in Idaho. You click on Idaho and all of a sudden 15 different jobs come up in Idaho that you can be eligible for and that you can qualify for under TERO because they're trying to meet these guidelines. So TERO was something I didn't know a whole lot about. Since then I've created a website to help implement this utilizing the federal TERO policies to employ people, train people and so on and so forth. And I will say this, the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] -- people beat up on the Bureau a lot and sometimes it's deserving -- the Bureau worked with us actually very hard to make this a success because that was the beauty of what we recognized. It wasn't the tribes pointing the finger, it wasn't the businesses pointing the finger, it was everybody just sitting down at the table recognizing that we had some issues to work out and finding a solution for it and the Bureau actually was able to help us find the dollars to get this thing generated through a 638 contract. I'll go over 638 contracts. I didn't know what the heck those were either when I got into office. So

Financial awareness. Obviously, financial partnerships are key for your tribes to succeed moving into the future. In California we have tribes that, yeah, they went out and they made their money in gaming, but the neat thing that we're starting to see is they're getting into banking. There are tribes that own banks. They're getting into real estate, they're getting into, I guess hotels are real estate. They're getting into tourism components. And all these things are capable because, yes, they cut their teeth on the casino development but they realized that through these financial partnerships in leveraging with different industries they were going to be able to grow and maintain the self-resiliency of their tribe. Let's get off the federal dole. I might bother some of you by saying that, but to be real honest with you, my goal by the time I'm out of office is to make sure that I don't need those federal programs. That's what it's about. If we're going to claim sovereignty, if we're going to claim the ability to exercise our own rights and take ownership of our own nations, then we need to understand that there's a financial component with that.

So some terms I wrote over here on the side: profit and loss. Man, my first council meeting where I got a financial statement was a trip. I sat there for probably three hours trying to digest what my CPA [certified public accountant] was feeding to me because he was talking about debits and credits and encumbrances and half the terms that I see over here on the side that I had no clue. Audits: I didn't realize the shape that my tribe was in quite honestly when I got into office. You always hear about, "˜Oh, that guy stole, that guy did this, that guy did that.' Well, when I got in I didn't find anybody that was stealing, but what I did find was that my tribe was on high risk because we had not done the SF425s, the IRA reporting documents, or federal documents. We had not done our reporting to the federal agencies so we went on high risk. And had our administration not come into office at the time when we did, the Bureau was actually ready to yank all of our funding and we were going to be operated and functioning out of the BIA office out of Riverside, our local area office. Luckily, we were able to get all the documents together, complete all the reporting and unfortunately I had to go back two years. So my first two-and-a-half months in office were really, really...they were really boring to be honest with you. There was a lot of stressing out and a lot of numbers, but I got to learn a whole lot.

GAAP, GASPI, the difference between government accounting and standard general accounting practices in the way that tribal governments are unique, and this is a thing I think that states really have a hard time digesting. They don't realize that we have the opportunity to operate both businesses and government, and unfortunately they don't do it very well when they try it. I think tribes are an awesome model of how you can exercise these things and they could really learn a lot from us. I will say this -- in San Diego I think that they are, they're realizing opportunities that are there. Leverage ratios. I never thought I'd be negotiating a multi-hundred million dollar casino deal and I have...this picture is actually with us signing our letter of engagement with Key Bank. I don't know if you guys know Key Bank. Some of you may, some of you may not. They came on to be our financial advisor for our tribe and the gentleman in the middle, his name is Jay Maswagger, and he used to tease us because he said, "˜By the time we're done going through this process you're going to have an MBA, a Maswagger MBA.' The gentleman is Indian from the Middle East, from the East Indian. And he started to give me this huge education on things that I never knew about; waterfall agreements, how to structure debt appropriately, leverage ratios. These guys use these big fancy terms and it basically boils down to, "˜Look, in order for me to give you $10 I need to see that you're going to give me $2 first.' So I learned about things like that.

Natural disasters: for whatever reason the other two photos didn't show up on here. I've been through two natural disasters, federally declared. My grandma's house burnt down, my mom's house burnt down, my businesses were devastated by flooding, and I had to learn the entire process about how to recover both immediately, so address and respond, but then go into long term and then find the money on how to do that. By the way, something that has changed in the last five years is that you as tribes can now declare your own federal disasters. You don't need to wait for the state to do that, which is huge, that you couldn't do in the past. You might not think it's ever going to happen and then one day it's going to hit you and you'll realize, "˜Man, I wish I would have gone to do some training.' You're actually required by law to get out there and become NIMS compliant, National Incident Management System compliant. So if at all today when you guys go back to your tribes or if you're in leadership positions, go back and ask...oh, there it is. There's grandma's house. If you can, go back and start asking questions. Emergency management is not just about fire chiefs and cops. It really boils down to your community members because they're going to be responding to the incidents first. That's who's there, it's your family, it's your friends.

Energy. That's Secretary Chu before he headed out. I was a year-and-a-half into my term and energy conference in D.C. and lo and behold here comes Secretary Chu and I made sure I sat right behind that guy because I wanted to talk to him about what kind of dollars were going to be available in Indian Country. And he and I had about 15-, 20-minute conversation. Have you guys ever sat down with a secretary of the President's cabinet? It's near impossible if you can ever get there and to get 15 or 20 minutes is almost unheard of. Snuck in there. So again, be motivated, get up every day and do your best to get where you can around these folks. We got to talk about some of the needs and the roll out that was going on under the stimulus program and this conversation really changed my opinion about how I thought about energy in general. I didn't realize how inefficient the homes are on our reservation. I didn't realize the need for R38 insulation. I didn't realize the need for LEED which is like a fancy term for building green. I thought green was like a roof with grass on it or going back to the old days for us with like mud lodges and things like that, although those are actually very energy efficient. But also looking about how can you control your own energy future. We're going to come back to the sovereignty thing. Another part besides being financially astute, aware and responsible is also controlling the energy itself. In the northern loop of San Diego County runs the main distribution line that feeds North County San Diego. Well, guess what, their easement's up in 2021. So in 2021, that means that I can either condemn their lines and they're going to have to go around my reservation, which is all federal land, impossible environmentally, or they can work with me and they can work with me to generate an energy production on my reservation. We're actually starting a 10 megawatt energy production facility of PV on our reservation right now; photovoltaic (PV), photovoltaic panels. So again, another thing that I really wasn't aware of.

Partnership. I'll just go point at these really quick. The main reason I wanted to put this up there is because partner with everybody. Try partnering with people that you think will never partner with you. Have those conversations. Have the uncomfortable conversations because those are the ones that are actually going to bear fruit I think in the end when you really need to talk with those folks. You guys ever heard of Bob Filner. He was our mayor that got booted out of San Diego. I just put this up here because he showed up at Native Hire, when we launched These are all chairmen and there in the middle is Mr. Filner and I thought it was interesting because again, you never know where politics are going to lead you. You never know who you're going to meet. But partnerships wherever you can make it happen.

Training. You guys are here. Obviously you're proactive in trying to find training opportunities so just get out there. I was able to take financial training courses; I was able to take energy courses. They have these conferences. If you're elected into office, ATTG, Aid to Tribal Government dollars are a way that we have been able to afford to go out to these things. A lot of times there's scholarships available. I put this photo up here. That's not me speaking at NCAI. It's actually a gentleman from Pala and I put this up here because we're here talking about leadership. He's a former council member, he's actually a hard core conservative and he gave Romney's speech -- I don't know if you guys were there -- at NCAI in front of the whole delegation. And I don't put this up here to be political but my point is this: that's a heavy room to walk into and knowing what you're up against and knowing what people think and just generally how Indian Country operates and to have a man walk up there and speak his mind, speak his voice and exercise the way he thinks was just something that I thought was worth highlighting because he's educated, he's smart, Harvard background, pilot, but he didn't get there by just being lazy, not showing up to things. He got there because he was motivated and he wanted to train himself and it put him in front of a very large audience at a very heavy hitting conference.

Pass the knowledge. You're not going to be there forever. How many tribal councils out there actually picked out people out of their membership to go up and be trained so that they could be replaced into the future? We did. I'm 29. I don't want to be doing this forever, and the reality is that if you're going to do this job effectively on a day-to-day basis, you're going to get a little bit tired. It's not going to be something that you're going to be able to do, in my opinion, I know some guys can do it for 20 or 30 years, but a lot has changed in 20 or 30 years. And when you don't have the dollars like us that means that I'm doing it. I don't have staff, like I said, I don't have an HR department, I don't have an energy department; it's me and it's my council. We have two people that work with us intimately on these projects. So pass the knowledge both here and both with the youth. I should have put a slide up here on education. Maybe you can hit on the educational component a little bit.

Lastly, recognize your successes and your strengths. You wake up every day and you fight for something; water rights, energy, housing dollars, just motivating your people sometimes, but recognize that you do do that work. It's okay to recognize that you do work hard, in a humble way. But then also don't be afraid to share it. I'm happy to be here today to kind of talk about a whirlwind of things that I've been able to be a part of, but La Jolla's actually set the model in a lot of ways and I'll be happy to say it. We are the fastest recovery in Indian Country after our wildfires in 2007. No offense, but nobody's ever beat us in our recovery time; everybody back in their houses in nine months. We were the first tribe in a long time for the Bureau to actually hand us over $2 million and say, "˜Go build the road,' because everybody was scared, the old days of the Bureau. "˜We're not going to give you the cash. You Indians don't know how to spend it. You don't know how to operate your government.' I said, "˜Really? Watch this. Just give me the cash.' Government-to-government contract, here we go and we got the thing done. So don't be afraid to share those successes and if you guys have questions, I'll be happy to answer them later.

Tough stuff. Five things. Most challenging thing about this job: ICWA [Indian Child Welfare Act]. I struggle so hard with ICWA because these are the kids, these are the future, these are people that don't have voices necessarily for themselves, and this is the hardest part. Our council meets quarterly with our ICWA representative, the county case workers, our clinic case workers, and these things just rip your heart out. If you have a heart while you're on council and you go to your first ICWA meeting, you'll understand what I mean because you're hearing horrible stories about these kids and their living situations and the way they were treated and the saddest part is it all boils back down to families that you know. That's the hard part and sometimes you can't do anything about it. Sometimes the mom that is using drugs that is smart enough to take the kid over to her other mom's house so that she can leave for the weekend to go do drugs is not being a neglectful parent because she was of right mind at least to take the kid out of the situation. Now to me I'm going, "˜Mom's using drugs, mom's not really being mom, mom maybe shouldn't have the kid.' Those are the types of decisions that you're going to run into that I was never expecting. And then, when you make the decision for placement, when the county comes to you asking for the recommendation or your tribal court or however your ICWA is set up and you make a recommendation based on the best interests of the kid's health...we had this. I'll be real honest. Our council agreed to take a child from a home and put them into a non-Indian home, which I understand that this is the point of ICWA, but the reality was that to find Indian homes in our area that were going to be healthy for the kid, didn't make sense at the time to transition them out because the home that they were in, the kid's's it going with the kid in this home? 'They're not cutting themselves anymore, they're not drinking, they're not sleeping around,' and I'm going to take a kid out of that situation? ICWA is the hardest thing you're ever going to have to deal with when you're on council.

Last four things, most surprising thing, you guys just heard the whirlwind. If you've got a small council, you're going to deal with everything. You never know what's going to happen in a day. You're going to wake up one day and you'll be talking to Secretary Chu or you'll be talking to the governor and then you're going to get a phone call about the dogs chasing your kids home from the bus. That's just your day when you're on council, it's just how it is. I had to quickly learn about a variety of different laws. One thing I could change that I do a lot better now with is I don't sweat the small stuff. You can't do it all and I'm not saying that you give up by any means, but the sooner you recognize that there are just going to be things that happen that are out of your control, the easier it's going to be to lead more effectively when you're up there. And part of what's helped me do that really comes down to the last thing.

Effective leaders. Yeah, you listen. You guys are all here, you probably understand this. You all listen. You have to be patient. You have to be fair. But for me, the biggest way that I...the main core reason why I'm able to get through this on a daily basis is because I have a connection and a relationship with who created me. I have a religious understanding of how I work with god and how god works in everybody else's life and in mine. You need to stay centered when you're doing this because everybody is fighting with you. Well, a lot of people are fighting with you. There's a lot of great people encouraging you. There's going to be people pulling you this way, people pulling you that way and at the end of the day if you can't stay centered in what you believe, how you were raised and what you think, you're not going to be successful. You're not. You're going to get overwhelmed. So I would just end with sharing that. Wake up every day, reflect on who you are, reflect on what you know, and start there if you're going to get into office because it just gets crazy sometimes. Thank you very much for your time."

Honoring Nations: Miriam Jorgensen: Using Your Human and Financial Resources Wisely

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

NNI Research Director Miriam Jorgensen kicks off the 2004 Honoring Nations symposium with a discussion focused on "Using Your Human and Financial Resources Wisely," In her presentation, she frames key issues and highlights the ways that successful tribal government programs have attracted talent, invested in employees' skills, obtained and managed financial resources, etc.

Resource Type

Jorgensen, Miriam. "Using Your Human and Financial Resources Wisely." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 10, 2004. Presentation.

"My name is Miriam Jorgenson, and I'm the research director of the Harvard Project of American Indian Economic Development, and also the associate director of research for our sister program, the Native Nations Institute, which is at the University of Arizona. Just by round of introduction, I grew up in a town called Vermillion, South Dakota, and it was an interesting time to be growing up there. I'm now almost 40 years old, and I say that with a little bit of embarrassment, but during my young childhood one of the earliest events that I remember was Wounded Knee II. And it was a really interesting time to be growing up in a university town, which was sort of a mixture of both Indian and white politics, and liberalism and populism, and things like that. A lot of excitement, and it got me charged up at a really young age about American Indian affairs and American Indian issues. What a big motivating event, and I'm very honored and glad to be working for the Harvard Project, to be able to still be involved in these issues, and still on what really is the cutting edge of American Indian policymaking in the United States.

Well, this general assembly is about 'Using Human and Financial Resources Wisely.' Now, it is almost a dry topic to start off an incredibly exciting symposium with. But I think it's an important topic to begin with, because as we look across all the winning programs, 16 programs in each of four years -- I don't know, can I do the math that fast? -- 64 winning programs, and if we look across, the applicants that were extremely successful, but didn't rise that high. When you look at the things that they share in their success, and you think about our five criteria and what leads to marking high on those five criteria, using human and financial resources well is something that really helps programs succeed. It's what helps them live on and become sustainable, it's what helps them have good effectiveness, and things like that. And so I think although it seems, in some senses, a dry topic, it's really at the core of what makes these programs succeed. I want to just highlight a few points about what I think it means to manage human and financial resources wisely that we've learned from these programs through observation. Some of these are more universal. They're not just about Indian Country. And in that sense, I'm going to turn to our presenters in the second half of this presentation -- our representatives from the Lummi Nation and from the Chickasaw Nation -- to give us more specific, on-the-ground examples of how these things are being applied in Indian Country in a Native way.

But to start with human resources, I wanted to relay a story that Joe Kalt was telling to me last night. You know that this is our second symposium of our learning that we get out of the Honoring Nations programs. Our first one was three years ago in Santa Fe. And Joe said, 'do you remember how when we were sort of trying to ask the participants, 'what makes your program a good program? Give us some feedback and ideas about what is it in your mind, as program managers and administrators, that makes your program succeed.' He said, 'every answer we heard was some version of, good people. Good, committed people is what makes our programs go.' I think that's absolutely true, and I want to explore that a little bit more. How is it that you get good people and manage those people well, so that you're getting the most out of them? I think that one of things we've learned from looking at Honoring Nations is that you start with really good, raw material. You recruit great people to these programs or you develop good people in them; sometimes it's a little of each.

On the recruitment side, we're seeing, sort of three different things occurring. One is, recruitment of, by happenstance sometimes, having the best person for the job being the founder of the program, or being in the community, who can really run it, get it going, draw other people to them. Those are sort of those lucky circumstances where you have the best person for the job right there, ready to take the reins. In other situations --and I think this is particularly true when we're talking about some of the programs that have extremely technical elements or certain specific skill elements, where there has to be some recruitment from the outside -- I'm thinking about some of our natural resource management programs, like the Columbia River Fish and Wildlife program, the Umatilla Basin...the Salmon Recovery Project, even things like the Gila River Police Department, where there are specialized skills, where there is recruitment from the outside. And by outside, I'm thinking of two different things, where you're recruiting your own tribal members, who may not be actively engaged within the tribe and the tribe's mission at the time, encouraging them somehow to come back and work for the community. In other cases, it's recruitment of other Indians from other tribal communities, to work for your nation, your causes. And sometimes, it's experts who are non-Native, who are coming to work for the program. But it's this concentration of getting the best people and, once you get them, managing them well. Whichever source of those people, I think it's also the case that one of the things the winning programs do really well is do something to tie them to the program, to inspire those people to give the best possible for the program. To get them bought into the mission and the ideas and the goals, so that the program really can be the best it can be. Now, how does that happen? How does that sort of motivation and firing up take place? How do you take someone who might be, sort of, really good raw material, the best person for the job, and turn them into somebody who's highly skilled? Again, I think there is wonderful learning from Honoring Nations on that.

One of the things we've seen in this is really just the creation of opportunities for learning. Some of this is obviously by necessity, as we look at the programs of one Honoring Nations. Very few of them have large staffs. I think there's one that's listed, the Gila River Police Department, for instance, is listed as having at one point 92 employees. That is an enormous program for Indian Country. Most of the programs we're talking about may have staff of no more than three or four. An average program is five or six or seven. And so, there's of necessity, creating this situation of cross-training, teaching each other about the work that you do, and giving each other challenges to stay engaged with the job and to create a really good program. So, again, some of it is by necessity through the size of the program. I just also think it's smart human resource management that's saying, people are going to really fired up about this program and do it well, if they understand the various ins and outs of the program, if we can substitute for each other in various ways and take advantage of our different skills and play off each other.

I think another thing that really is about managing the human resources well within these programs is most of the Honoring Nations winners are really taking seriously the notion that you make a successful program if you create an environment where it's okay to take risks, where it's okay to say, 'I don't know the answer to that but I'm going to try to find out.' Programs do this in a variety of ways, and we'll be talking about some more of these in our political session tomorrow, but I think a really important way is when tribal politicians support that kind of risk-taking, learning environment. I'm thinking in particular of two examples, the Fond du Lac tribe, and also the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska, have very consciously at their leadership level told their winning programs -- Ho-Chunk Inc. at the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska, and the online pharmacy program and also the foster care program at Fond Du Lac -- they've said to them, 'Look, take risks. We know you might not succeed. We know you may lose some money, but we'll never be out there with that innovative cutting edge program to solve our people's problems unless you do have our support in taking this risk.' And I think that's really an important aspect of management.

I think another -- and I'll just end with this point on human resources and move to financial resources -- another thing that the winning programs are doing incredibly well is really linking the people who work for the program to the community, and having the community see what they're doing, and having the folks working for the program get that support and encouragement from the community. I'm thinking, for instance, of the Ya Ne Da Ah School, in Alaska, where you've got community members certainly very involved with the school, but also the people working in the school and volunteering in the school, and even the students at the school feel like, 'You know what, the community is behind us,' and that makes all of those working in the school feel like their job is important, and it's being done well. Also, the Kake Circle Peacemaking program is another example of this, where you've got a lot of community involvement, certainly. But because the people working with that program feel the strong support of the community, it energizes them and encourages them.

I want to move on, now, to talking about also managing financial resources wisely. Now, I think one of the biggest things again, if you look both just at the raw material that we're looking at when we're assessing Honoring Nations winners and when we're getting out into the field on site visits, and when we're hearing you talk at symposia and conferences, one of the things that we're seeing that makes really successful management of financial resources, is to not have sole dependence on a single program within the federal government. Almost none of the applications that we see, if you remember, those of you who filled out these applications, there's a little blank that says, 'How much of your money is coming from these various sources?'  Almost none of the programs that are really rising to the top as successful programs are putting 100 percent federal. And it's not just that they're not putting 100 percent federal, they don't have sole reliance on one federal program, and oftentimes they don't even have sole reliance of federal programs. Winning programs are seeking a variety of funding sources. And that's just smart, because it means that those programs aren't tied to the vagaries of federal funding, they're not tied to what Congress may decide to do next year, and it often means that they're being really creative and innovative on the finance side, which has payoffs for the programmatic side. I want to give a couple of examples. Government reform at Navajo, for instance, has raised some money from foundations to do some things that they otherwise wouldn't be able to do. I think some of this has happened at the Lummi tribe as well. We see a lot of partnership within organizations and Chuka Chukmasi from the Chickasaw Nation will talk about this some more. Partnerships are a great way to draw in additional financial resources that you might not be able to take advantage of.

One of the other innovative ways, and we're seeing this more and more outside of Indian Country, but I would argue that it's taken place first in Indian Country in a lot of senses, is realizing the sort of business side of some of these government programs too. Unashamedly, many of our programs have a pure business side. The Jicarilla Wildlife Program, the White Mountain Outdoor Wildlife and Recreation Program, are two very similar programs that say, 'You know what? We have this business side of our work that raises money and pays for and helps support our very programmatic service side of our work.' I'm also thinking of the Yakama Nation land program, which says, 'Hey, you know, our goal is to get all of land back, to get the Yakama Nation's traditional land back to our nation, but we know that we can't do that just through grants from our own tribal government or from the federal government or through philanthropic spending. We're going to raise money by developing some of the land that we buy back, so that we have more money to buy more land back.' So it's this very virtuous cycle of innovation on the finance side, that's keeping the service and programmatic side alive and doing well.

I'm just going to close with two challenges for the human and financial management. I think I've spent sort of the last ten minutes sort of extolling the virtues of saying, things that programs are doing well, there's some Native twist to the way these things are happening too, even though are some universal themes in this good financial and human management. One of the things that I think on the human side, all programs, but perhaps particularly successful winning programs, have to struggle with on the human management side, on the human resources management, is making sure that folks don't get too burned out. Making sure that those folks who are so highly successful, running great programs, aren't turned to and asked to do so much that they just get all of their energy and zeal sucked out of them. Some programs are doing this to some extent, but again, I think that it's a challenge, especially for successful programs, to make sure that that aspect of managing human resources well is really honored, that people aren't sort of asked to do too much so that, in the end, the program can suffer.

On the financial management side, I want to say that this is a sort of success that we already see and something that I think I want to challenge programs to do as well. It's clear that really successful financial management also depends on financial controls, things like annual audits and budget hearings and reports and things like that. Successful programs do these things really well. But really successful programs are taking advantage of these opportunities to say to themselves, 'Are we just reporting out to an outside entity, to the federal government, to our tribal government, to our philanthropic funder, or are we using these opportunities, that we're forced to do because we have to do them for our reporting purposes, to look at ourselves and to do self-examination, to use this audit process to say, 'Am I on mission?  Am I using my resources in the best way possible? Am I keeping to my service population in the best way that I can be?''  So that, again, is another challenge. On the human side I say, find ways for successful programs not to get their people burned out. And on the financial resource side, find ways to use forced controls upon you, to really figure out even stronger ways to make the programs move forward.

Those are just my thoughts, from the standpoint again...I will admit this, because [as] the director of research, I frequently am looking at things in sort of an abstracted way, and now, I'm hoping that we'll hear some more specific examples through stories of programs about the successful management of human and financial resources. And again, looking for some specific Native programs and specific Native nation ways that these have been occurring. To hear about that, I'd like to introduce several people to you. From the Lummi Nation, we have two representatives. We're very honored to have Chairman Darrell Hillaire here, who's going to be talking some about the Safe, Clean Waters Program, but also about some of the other exciting things that they're up to in the Lummi Nation, and giving you some of the ideas about how they're managing their human and financial resources through some of these interesting innovations. And with him is Sharon Kinley, who is from Northwest Indian College, but also works for the Lummi Nation, and she'll be giving a presentation following Chairman Hillaire. After their talk, we have representative Kay Perry from the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program, and she'll be talking more about that program and also offering some of her insights and ideas as well."

Terrance Paul: Building Sustainable Economies: Membertou First Nation

Native Nations Institute

Chief Terrance Paul shares the keys to a sustainable economy through examples from the Membertou First Nation.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Paul, Terrance. "Building Sustainable Economies: Approaches and Perspectives." Emerging Leaders seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. March 25, 2010. Presentation.

Terrence Paul:

"[Mi'kmaq Language] I would first like to begin by thanking the Native Nations Institute for inviting me to this seminar and you for being here. It's an honor to have been asked to give a presentation on Building Sustainable Economies: Approaches and Perspectives. I hope through my presentation you will receive valuable information.

To begin, I thought I'd start this presentation off by showing you this photo. This is a photo of a stop sign in my community. The reason why I chose to share this with you today is because although it's a simple road sign it represents so much more. And let me talk to you about the background.

In our community...we have the local municipality. In our community, we live in the city and it's called City of Sydney, and they have an agreement with the Department of Indian Affairs to provide us services, infrastructure services. One of them is keeping the traffic signs up to date there. So we lost some stop signs either through snowplowing when we do get snow and perhaps vandals coming from anywhere, they could have came from town, we don't know. Those things happen from time to time probably everywhere in the world.

Anyway, after two years of writing to them and asking them to replace these signs we weren't getting any responses and that showed how much disrespect they had for us. So we decided then after a really good meeting about it and because we were concerned about the safety of our children and our people in the community and others that come in, we decided that enough was enough. We decided to put up our own signs and in fact when we did put up our own signs we would have them in our language. So that's why these signs, and if you go there today, when Manley was there he might have seen them, that's naqa'si, which means stop.

So what happened after that, we got a very nasty and terse letter from the local municipality there telling us that... And I didn't understand some of the words so I know that a lawyer wrote these. So we're not about to argue with a lawyer; we'll get another lawyer to do that. So we got hold of our lawyer and we explained the situation to them and we helped develop a letter responding to them because in the letter they accused us of stealing these signs and that we were subject to perhaps a criminal charge for theft.

They also accused us of surreptitiously doing this. And I didn't know at the time what that meant and I had to ask our lawyer. "˜What do they mean? Are they being mean to us or are they being nice to us? I'm just worried.' And we got two meanings from this word and one being that we did it without telling them or we did it secretly, and I can assure you that we did not do that secretly. We didn't tell them, but we felt that after two years of asking them to do this and not doing anything, we felt that it was time for a change. And there was a good way of filling that field. They vacated it. It's a jurisdictional issue here and this is where we feel that we're starting to get control of our lives by deciding what traffic signs go up and in what language. So we have all of the stop signs in our community in our language. We also have all our street signs in our Mi'kmaq language and all our buildings are in the Mi'kmaq language. So that's the beginning of taking back control of who we are.

Now, who we are: Membertou is an urban Mi'kmaq community made up of 1,205 band members. There are approximately 774 on the reserve and 429 off reserve, but if you were to go to Membertou, there is much more people that even our population. There's thousands of people that are there; either they're working or they're socializing or they're utilizing our facilities, either its gaming or the trade center or the market or the plaza. There's a lot of people that are there day in and day out. Membertou is named after Grand Chief Henri Membertou. As you can see, he was over 100 years old. Some say he was 120 years old when he died.

On a side note, this year I had the opportunity to travel to France on a trade mission. This trip was very important to our community. Actually this summer Membertou is celebrating its 400th anniversary of the baptism of the Grand Chief Membertou. Most Mi'kmaqs in the land of Canada are Catholics. Some are very devout. The missionaries who baptized him originated from the very region of France that I visited. At a reception there I had the opportunity to sign a commemoration of friendship with a representative from the town of LaRochelle, that's where the missionaries... In fact that's a Basque district. We feel that they were Basque missionaries. It was a [memorable] experience and so important considering this year's anniversary.

Part of the Unama'ki District of the Mi'kmaq Nation is Membertou. It's called Cape Breton Island, we call it Unama'ki and it doesn't mean Cape Breton Island. What it actually literally means, land of the fog. I know we have... we get fog, but it's not every day so I don't want to scare people away who just are thinking about coming to Unama'ki. We get a lot more sun than fog. It's one of the five communities around Cape Breton Island, around Unama'ki and it's one community of 13 in all of Nova Scotia. Membertou is the only Mi'kmaq community in Atlantic Canada that's located within city limits. Sydney has a population of over 100,000 people.

In 1970 the chief and council began to take control of federal programs and services. Now, this just didn't happen. It was the result of a policy, a federal policy that the government tried to implement in 1969. It was called the White Paper Policy. And in fact, it was the then Indian Affairs Minister was a person named Jean Chretien. You might have heard of his name, but he later on moved to the Prime Minister of Canada. So that incident to me, as I remember, and I was a student back then, galvanized the Aboriginal people right across the country. We were very upset about this policy and really... putting it in a nutshell, the policy would eliminate your Indian-ness. You wouldn't be Mi'kmaq anymore, you wouldn't be Cree anymore, you wouldn't be Haida anymore, you wouldn't be Ojibwe anymore and so on. So we would be like the rest of society and they thought that was the way to... that was the answer to our problems and that, which was absolute nonsense to us. So there was protests, blockades, everything going on right across the country so finally the government relented and withdrew that policy. So soon after that a lot of the Aboriginal people in the country got organized and began to go after the government for much better services and deals. So they began to loosen up at least their administrative hold on all our programs so at least that created some jobs.

Membertou has also played an important role in the evolution of Aboriginal law in Canada. Membertou has also played an important role in the recognition of Aboriginal rights and treaties. The two most important issues for us was the Donald Marshall, Jr. decision and that was a fishing case and also his wrongful conviction. His wrongful conviction came in the 70s. And what happened to Donald Jr. was that he spent 11 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit. So we knew... we found out that the judicial system was against him every turn of the way, in every level of the judicial system, right from the probation officer to the judges and everybody in between.

And what happened after that when it was proven that he was innocent, there was a public inquiry carried out. And what that did was to help change the laws not only in Nova Scotia, but in the country so that Aboriginal people in the country when they have to face the courts -- and we certainly outnumber anyone per capita in the court system -- that we're treated a lot better, and that there are different circumstances to consider when you need to answer a charge. So it is a lot better, but there is a lot more ways to go as far as the judicial system is.

Donald Marshall Jr. was a band member of Membertou and he was also the son of the late Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Donald Jr. passed away last year, in fact it was last August that he passed away. He's left a tremendous legacy for all of us to benefit and to learn from.

As I said, Jr. was responsible for a court challenge that was taken to the Supreme... all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada is the supreme law of the country. That's where it ends. That's the highest court that you can go and they confirmed that we had an inherent right to a livelihood fishery. It was interesting at the time because I was directly involved in Jr. when he was being charged for fishing. He was harassed and hassled. He had his nets being taken away, his boats. In fact he bought new nets and they took those away. So finally when... and he kept in contact with me as he was fishing and as these things were happening.

So of course we had our lawyer involved in this and he certainly understood the treaties and the rights that we have. And after a very short discussion about what was going on, we were advised to tell Jr. to keep fishing. So Jr. had called me about three or four times and that was my answer, "˜Keep fishing.' So finally the government took us to court. This is what everybody wanted to do anyway. We certainly wanted to do it because we believed that we had that right and the treaty gave us that right. Also, as I said before, Donald Marshall Jr's wrongly conviction... major changes were made in Canada's judicial system when it came to convicting Aboriginal people. It's a little better, but it's certainly a long ways to go yet.

Another major historical event was the relocation of our people, our community from Membertou from the Sydney Harbor, which was just below the hill where we are now presently. In 1916, Membertou became the only one, the only community, Native community in Canada that was affected by this law that the government enacted. In fact, the government enacted this law to deal with an issue in British Columbia, I believe it's the Musqueam Band. And they enacted this law to go after them, to relocate them because they were in Vancouver prime real estate, probably the primest in Canada. So for some reason that issue resolved its self. So the bureaucrats got together, whoever in the bureaucracy knew that there was issues in Membertou on the east, furthest side of the country and they decided to use the law against us so that's how they were able to relocate us. So that's the only time that law was ever used.

Going forward Membertou success can be traced back to the adoption of good governance, financial management, accountability, transparency, education and a belief in our people. The people. We hire Band members that have education and the experience. We hire the best people to do the job and job-coach younger community members to gain valuable experience. Now we have a policy of hiring our people that have... that are qualified. If they are not, then we have to hire the most qualified person, whoever they are. It doesn't matter what color, as long as they're qualified and they help us move. But, we have a proviso in that when they are hired, that a band member will be taking this job at some point when they are qualified and we help them get qualified. We just don't say, "˜You're not qualified, go away.' It's not... If a person is interested in that, work your way up, get your education, we will help you get there.

Financial accountability and stability: We provide community members with audited statements, our annual audited statements. Every household in our community gets audited statements and they have the ability to ask any questions they have on those audits. So we feel that this is part of not just saying that we're accountable, not just saying that we're transparent. They're nice words, but they don't mean a thing if you don't do anything with them. We prove it by providing this. We inform our community very much, well informed.

We have a weekly newsletter that goes out every week and we talk about like what our plans are, what are we doing, we have open houses on our plans. We invite the community in to have their input in these plans and that way you get the commitment and the backing of the people because they know what you're doing. And also the newsletter can be used for people that want to complain about us. All we say is that, "˜don't be cursing when you write to us and don't slander people.' And also very important is that you back it up by signing your name to it. We do not accept anonymous letters. You have to sign it. And we assure them that there is no backlash. You have a right to do that and it helps us work better and plan better and helps us understand where the people want to be.

Good governance. We partner with organizations such as the National Center for First Nations Governance to improve and develop new ways of governing because we're in the process of establishing a self-governing process in our community.

Political stability, very important we feel in our leadership roles. Most of the Membertou Band councilors have been on council for over a decade, some over 20 years. I myself as Manley indicated, it'll be 26 years this June I'm chief. So there's continuity and then there's stability. In my... I don't really campaign really. I used the same platform when I started 26 years ago and that's being honest, honesty and fairness. Even when you have to fire someone, be fair to them. And although it's a difficult thing to do, they feel much more respected when you talk to them about the reasons and how the person can change and help them change and help them move on.

Looking at competitive advantages, partnering. We partner with a number of First Nations, private businesses and we feel that in order to grow our economy we can't stay within the boundaries of the reserve. We have to realize, and if all Aboriginals realize that the market is the world, that's where our market is and don't be afraid to go after that market. You know that in Canada that less than .1 of one percent of the private capital that's available is all what Aboriginals get. Most of our capital is public money and with very stringent rules. So it's really difficult to operate that way. The government certainly does not operate at the speed of business and it's very key to have timely... to have your packages and your plan in a timely basis because it's not going to stay there. Business moves.

We also believe in the treaty economy, trading and purchasing goods and services with other Aboriginal communities from across North America. My colleague here, Richard, which I hope he'll be back pretty soon, he's here, like he's here talking to a number of tribes. In fact he has a meeting tonight to talk to a local community here about fish. We sell fish. We know the casinos utilize fish so why can't we trade and why can't we buy from each other and whatever goods are here we could exchange or buy. That way the market is created. We have a philosophy back home in Nova Scotia and they like it, the government likes it and private business likes it an what we say is that, "˜What's good for Membertou is good for Nova Scotia and vice versa,' and so that helps open up doors.

We also feel that you need to be bold and what I mean by that is that sometimes like some communities, and we were like that, we come up with all kinds of ideas and all kinds of plans and then we get so many ideas and plans we end up doing nothing. So pick a winner, pick the one that you feel has the best chance of succeeding and take action, do it. Take action. But at the same time, be accountable and be transparent and not just use the words. Like I said before, prove it, show that you are accountable, show that you are transparent and live that way. Live it.

Membertou, our people, our best resource: Membertou believes that our people are our best resource. Identifying and recruiting community members that have professional level education and real world experience is a key to Membertou's success. And as an example, Richard who is missing, is that. He's gone out and got his education, a really good education. He got really good job experience in the rest of the country. He's been probably in every province and a lot of states. So he has that experience with him, which is very helpful not only to the council, but to the individual people in the community."

Manley Begay:

"And he's not Tom Selleck."

Terrance Paul:

"Yeah, but you may be mistaken for Tom Selleck, but that's not Tom Selleck. That's Richard. He reminded us of that this morning. He thought it was Tom Selleck.

We also encourage our young people to go into fields that have really good job prospects. A lot of our kids go into the arts and that's needed, but it seems like there's too many that go in that area. We need people in the sciences and engineering and business and education in the emerging industries that are relevant to a transforming economy like the alternative energies field, which is sort of like in the beginning stages of it and if we don't do anything we're going to miss that boat too. So we certainly have made sure that we're very involved in that area. It's a new industry, it's growing and there's part of our future is that.

Every year almost 100 percent of our Membertou eligible high school students graduate and go on to higher education. Some years we don't. Some years it's 90 percent. It's a really good statistic that we have and we're really proud of that. Membertou is the first Aboriginal community in North America to be ISO certified. Membertou recognized that in order to be taken seriously it had to demonstrate and adhere to the highest management practices. By doing this we have increased our credibility with all stakeholders including government, financial institutions, industry and more importantly, probably most importantly, our community members. We selected the ISO standard because it's recognized internationally.

Just for a bit of information, ISO is not an acronym; it's a word. I think it's a Dutch word because it began in Belgium in 1948 where a person wanted to... it's just the letters lend itself as an acronym, International Standards Organization. But if you look up ISO, you'll understand that it's a word and this is what it means. It's very interesting.

Obtaining and maintaining ISO certification wasn't easy, but it was transformational. It demonstrated Membertou's ongoing commitment to the best management practices and continuous improvement. ISO certification gave old and new partners confidence in us and attracted new business opportunities to Membertou. I'll give you a little example of that where it was the very next day when we made the announcement that we were ISO certified that we got a call from a very large defense contractor and that was part of the reason why they called us. They heard that we were ISO certified. So they explained to us, "˜That tells us that we don't have to be concerned about your management structures, your credibility,' because as I said before, it's not easy to get this designation. It's even harder to keep it. We go through an audit every year. We don't pick all the programs, but the programs are selected by the auditor on what they're going to audit to keep that certification. But every three years we have a full audit where they audit all the programs and then we need to do this in order to keep that certification. So we've been lucky enough to go through two complete audits and we're still certified.

Diversifying our economy. Gaming initially provided the financial economic catalyst for Membertou's transformation. Our gaming operations are not like the U.S. scale casinos. In fact we're not allowed to call our gaming facilities casinos. There's a long story behind that, but we still make a lot of money. It provides stable employment for our people and an economic base upon which to build from and an annual community dividend. Every year... we don't call it dividend. Just for tax purposes we have to call it a donation.

So every year every community member in Membertou gets $1,500 as a donation as a result of our profits in gaming, and every child from zero to 19 gets this donation and it's put away in a trust for them. And in the meantime, the people that look after the trust from time to time regularly come to our community and sits down with the kids to talk to them the importance of making your money work for you. So by the time they're 19, they're fully aware of how this money could grow for them if they utilize it right. So we feel that gives them a better chance of keeping their money longer.

Gaming also led Membertou to develop a 50,000 square foot convention and meeting facility. The Membertou Trade and Convention Centre is also home to Kiju's Restaurant. We just recently had a name change to Kiju's. We used to call it Mescalero's and maybe some people here will recognize that name, Mescalero's. My former CEO was traveling through, in fact it was Arizona at some meetings and he ate at a restaurant, it was called Mescalero's and it was a steakhouse. And he loved it; he loved the meal and everything. So he asked, he asked the owners... he told the owners we were building a restaurant back home and could he use the name Mescalero's because we wanted to build a steakhouse so they allowed it.

So for about the first five years of the restaurant we were calling it Mescalero's. It sort of ran its course and the food was the same, the chef wasn't moving for us. So we changed it and the chef was let go. We brought in a new one. We felt that we needed a new change, we needed to renovate the restaurant, which we did. We closed down for a month and we changed the name too to a Mi'kmaq word. Kiju means either mothers or grandmothers depending on whom you're speaking about. So we thought that was a nice name for the restaurant. People identified with that. It's really... it's packed. We can't believe how successful this is. In fact we can't make reservations for this restaurant because there's too many other people utilizing it, a lot of people from town. And they just... it's like chalk on a board, you scrape like the way some people pronounce it. They say kay-jus, key-jes, ku-jus. It's Kiju's.

So we also have Petroglyphs Gift Shop, which consists of our traditional items, regalia, in fact headdresses, baskets, anything cultural we'll sell. We'll even sell for people from other communities and it's doing pretty good. We do the best when the cruise lines come in and the passengers from different parts of the world come in and they... the first place they really want to go to is this gift shop and our restaurant. So we have like a captive audience when they come in on these ships. And we help do that too, we bus them up for nothing as part of our contribution to them. Then we have the Membertou Data Center, which is doing pretty well and we know we're expanding as we go each year.

At the Trade Center we have concerts, weddings and conventions. It fills the Trade Center daily. In fact somebody was kind of joking around about our weddings and even they have pre-wedding shows for the brides to buy their dresses now and sometimes things don't work out. And there was community members that were joking and said, "˜Well, we should do divorces too.' There are people that celebrate divorces. I'm just telling you that these are some of the ideas that we were given. There hasn't been one yet.

The gaming also led to the development of a 1,200-seat Bingo and entertainment facility. There's a niche in Cape Breton. We have probably more Bingo players than anywhere else in the world. They just love the game, so we fill that niche there and it's absolutely doing great. We put up a $5 million entertainment center for the bingo scene. We were in our third year when we started making money and the building is almost all paid for and at the same time we're able to tell the public that we donate all of these Bingos, over half a million dollars a year to charities. Then the charities, we don't donate, the charities do all the work and we get all the credit. So it's just good all around and it helps us... like the relationship between the city and ourselves has just turned around several times. The relationship is much, much better.

Diversifying our economy. Gaming revenue has permitted Membertou to incubate several professional service businesses promoting our treaty business philosophy. As a result of Mi'kmaq treaty challenges the Supreme Court of Canada demanded creation of a Mi'kmaq commercial fishery. Now Membertou operates a successful commercial fishery and seafood brokerage, part of the reason why Richard is here, part of the reason why he'll be coming down with two other communities that sell fish and we're all working together to try to sell fish at the local casinos here, not only here but we're dealing with the Seminoles and we'll be going to the Seminoles and they'll be hosting this presentation with a number of casinos across the United States.

Membertou also operates several successful businesses including an insurance brokerage firm, real estate development and recent investment in renewable energy with prominent international partners. Our treaty economy efforts led to recovering our history and economic development with our Basque partners in Spain, which are tremendous leaders in the alternate energy area. The company that we have partnered with are fully integrated in alternate energy and that is the wind turbines, the biomass machines and the solar panels. And they're a very, very well managed company. And we have sort of the same values as I will explain later.

Continuing on to diversifying our economy. We looked at our history to help identify new opportunities. Membertou focuses on opportunities that have a cultural and philosophical relevance to the community, such as renewable energy and fishing. Once identified, an internal champion, like Richard, there's a few others, we have about half a dozen like him, prepares the business planning documents, budget and presents those to a small committee who recommends continuing our investment in the project. Membertou assists in the building of internal management capacity by providing training allowance to our Native and non-Native employees. We are always in the need of qualified Aboriginal people that have real world experience in business management.

We encourage qualified community members by providing post-secondary educational funding. We do that with all our staff in Membertou. We have a policy that if an individual wants to increase and move up in our system and they need education to do that, we help them get there. We don't ask them to leave the work. Get your education while you're working and that helps them to look after their families and help us by improving their background in the areas that we need. By diversifying our economy we offer community members more career choices and help create an entrepreneurial spirit among our people. I'll show you that has proven itself later. I only got a couple more slides.

So where are we going? Membertou will be focusing on opportunities which will allow us to collaborate with other Aboriginal communities across North America. Recently, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Center of First Nations governance, which is wholly run by Aboriginal people from across the country -- in fact the main office is in British Columbia -- an organization that will assist us in implementing an effective self-governance structure, and that you seen in the picture on the signing of the two people there, myself and the COO, I believe they call him, of the governance center is from British Columbia. So we have one province on the Pacific side of the country talking to another community member that's on the Atlantic side of the country and then we work in. So it's fascinating. It can be done.

Membertou is also gaining momentum in the international markets and will be partnering with the renewable energy leaders in Spain. Our relationship with the Basques extends well beyond business and renewable energy. Very important in this relationship is the 500 plus years shared history the Mi'kmaq have with the Basque, the Basque that live in Spain. I made the mistake of... They're very proud people and they have a similar background as we have, Aboriginal people. They certainly have a similar background as the...with the Mi'kmaq because of their fishing efforts back 500 years ago.

We came to understand that especially in the international markets trying to sell something to them right away is the wrong step to take. You have to develop the relationship and you find a theme that helps develop that relationship and our theme was recovering our history. Recovering our history. And that helped us open the doors to the see the chairmen of all these large companies because they're very, very interested in our history. So we used that theme and that's helped us develop a partnership with a fantastic company called Guascor and they...we're finalizing our partnership agreement with them. In fact, the chairman of the company will be coming to Canada to sign this agreement and then he wants to make a big show of it. So you may hear it here in the States, we don't know, but he wants to make a major thing with it.

Anyway, one time, not too long ago, maybe a year or two ago, in one of the visits -- because we've been visiting back and forth. We've been to the Basque country about a half a dozen times and they have been back and forth about half a dozen times to our country to sort of like kick the tires -- and we were sitting around and we had government people, high level government people there, the Basque representatives, ourselves and representatives of the town that we were...that they were looking at utilizing an empty factory that they have there. So I came up, and they asked me what I thought of this relationship and it just came out that we... I said that, "˜500 years ago the wind brought the Basque to us and 500 years later the wind is bringing us back to them.' It's part of that. It helps move relationship and resulted in mutual and beneficial partnerships.

I believe this is the last slide and it continues on where are we going. And future projects are for example the hotel that we'll be building and it's going to be the Membertou Hampton Inn and Suites, and Hampton Inns are part of the Hilton chain so it's... they're really nice hotels and they're all suites. We're planning on breaking ground this May and hopefully it'll be done by September the following year.

We also have plans for a heritage park because we believe that part of our identity is to show off our culture. At the same time though, doing whatever we can to retain our language because like everywhere else it needs to be really looked at and make sure that we do everything we can to retain or bring back our language. And we know it can be done, especially when you develop economically you have a lot more time to attend to your culture. So we expect to do that probably within three years.

We also have plans to build a multi-functional community athletic center and to me that's just a fancy phrase for saying ice arenas. That's our plan to build ice arena and what our plan is is to build a two pad ice arena because through our studies we found out it costs the same to have two ice surfaces in one, believe it or not. So we could get more people in that way and also using a different type of heating system like the geothermal, that's heat that comes from the ground. That saves, as compared to other arenas that saves you about 75 percent in electrical costs. So that in itself is important to look at and plan the right way. Look at other people, what other people have done and they're very open to tell you about what they've done and what mistakes to avoid. So it's a really good exercise to do that. So we expect to build that within two years.

We also plan on building a new public works building, a new community office, a new elementary school. The business plaza is almost complete now. It should open sometime in May. We're over-subscribed. We have more people wanting to go in there than have space so we call that like... back in our community we call that a happy problem. We like dealing with happy problems. Within that plaza we have Aboriginal incubator units where we set aside a number of units for our people to take advantage of that and help them to develop as entrepreneurs. We give them a preferred rate, we give them a better rate than the tenants that come from town. Although the tenants from town, there's a waiting list of who wants to go in. So already we're looking at perhaps expansion plans because of the interest in Membertou.

We find out that it doesn't matter who people are. People like going to a place where it's happening. People like going to a place where they feel safe like Manley felt. And we ensure that we create that atmosphere so that people will come to us. It won't be a place to just to go by accident, but it'll be like a destination. That's the end of my presentation and it's very exciting times for me and my job. I feel that it's the best job in the world because every day I'm excited to go to work. Thank you."

Manley Begay:

"Any questions?"

Audience Member:

"I have one if nobody else... A quick one. Two. One is how are you... How is your community's economy compared to the surrounding non-Native economy? And related to that you started your presentation sharing with us the story about the stop sign, which was sort of conflict, initial conflict, but throughout your presentation there was a tremendous amount of cooperation and work with the entire community and in the end you said it's part of your philosophy and that you have really good relationships. And so I guess I just have a question of... Do you have an external community relations department or a person that does that? Do you do that? How does that work?"

Terrance Paul:

"Well, you have a number of questions there. You're like a reporter, I'll answer one."

Audience Member:

"Take your pick."

Terrance Paul:

"As far as economically, we're doing much better than the surrounding community and in fact like several times in several different premieres of the province, they would be like a governor of a state, they have indicated publicly that Membertou is an economic driver for the province. So we're a driver here and we employ a lot of people from the outside community. About 30 percent or a little over 30 percent of our employees are non-Indian because our people can't fill them. I can honestly say that... Anywhere I speak I can honestly say that anybody that wants to work in Membertou can get a job. If they're not working, either they're in school or they can't work or they don't want to work, but anybody in Membertou that wants to work can get a job.

So in the other thing, the relationship, yes, that... After the stop sign incident, it took a little while for people to come around and of course people retired and there was change and there's newer people and younger people coming in and they don't have that old... they're not keeping the old habits here. And of course ourselves, we consciously sat down and felt and agreed that it would be much better to build bridges. So we deliberately and consciously made sure that we were respectful in dealing with these issues. And so over time the relationship has... And I think the business community started the relationship before the municipal government and the municipal government started seeing that, "˜Wow, the business community is really attached to what Membertou is doing. Maybe we should change our attitude,' and they certainly have. They bend over backwards to help us now and it's a really good feeling."

Manley Begay:

"Chief Mitchell."

Mike Mitchell:

"I was down at your place a couple years ago with all the World Box Lacrosse Championship being in Nova Scotia. I saw your arena. One of the things that I'm trying to do is go to all our Aboriginal communities and convince the leaders and their people, especially their youth, to get involved in the game of Lacrosse. This is a game that came from our people and it's working. From the Metis to First Nations people are finding out more and more about it. If you're going to put up an arena, just don't think about the winter and relating to hockey because we're trying to get our team to support the notion that we can resurrect our traditional game of Lacrosse and we're trying to get some communities up your way to take an interest in it and get our kids playing the game. As you know, we've have Iroquois Nationals compete in international competition as a separate nation. We're the only one that's recognized to play against Canada and the United States and all the other countries and it's that whole process of our own nation building because we go into these countries with our own passport and we have our own songs for... When they sing Oh, Canada, well, we have our own song. So if you catch the youth at a very young age and put that in their head that these things belong to us and put the pride back in them. So I pass that along to you."

Terrance Paul:

"Chief, that's an excellent idea, very excellent idea and I'll certainly bring that back home. And I know that our people would be interested in a Lacrosse game. It's a fantastic game and I know it was invented by the Mohawk. We invented the hockey game, they invented LaCrosse."

Mike Mitchell:

"That's true. That's not a lie. The Mi'kmaq were hitting our players and our players were yelling "˜hockey! Hockey!' So they called their game hockey."

Manley Begay:


Audience Member:

"Yes, you mentioned that your philosophy is what's good for us is good for Nova Scotia and vice versa. And my question is, how did you get to that point with the province? I think in the states so many tribal-state relations are a bit contentious, that if you are a tribe down here in the United States and you attempted to begin implementing a philosophy like that you would initially encounter a bit of derision because the two tend to be at loggerheads. Did you guys start from a position of conflict with Nova Scotia, and managed to work towards having a situation where everybody including the province believed that philosophy?"

Terrance Paul:

"It depends on how far back you want me to go in history. We certainly had conflicts, wars and to a state of where not even talking to each other. And part of the reason though is that history, and the denial of it, and also like our feelings towards the governments. We refused to talk to them for a great deal of time. It's that like enlightening ourselves. And you may feel good for a while in doing that, but we're still in our state of poverty. So it really doesn't help. And they're part of the... we feel that they're part of the answer. So it is good to be able to talk to those levels of government to ensure that if we work together we've got a much better chance of succeeding. And it took awhile, it took a number of years to be able to get the government to work with us and a lot of it was the result of the court cases that we won. It's pretty well like... a lot of it is not that they want to, it's that they have to. And we feel that we get much further with the government if we deal with them in respect and that they don't feel fearful of us. The biggest thing about the governments or society not changing is the fear that they have. They feel... They think like the fishing... like god, the Mi'kmaq is going to take all the fish when we're less than one percent, less than one percent of the total fishery effort. So that's the reality. So when they find out reality and they find out that we want to fish with them -- in fact we hire some non-Indians in our fishing enterprise -- and they realize we're just as human as anyone else, and we have goals and we have dreams, and we want to see the country improve as a nation, but respect us also. So we've gained that and things are improving... have improved much, much more. But like I said, there's still some fear there that we're going to take everything and we're going to send everybody back home and that's not the case."

Manley Begay:

"Another question?"

Audience Member:

"A very quick thing. How do you educate the [unintelligible] society in which you operate about your [unintelligible] friendship treaties in terms of just making society more aware of the inherent rights that you have? Because there's a community on the west coast, actually my husband's community and he's chief of his nation and he's finding that there's a real lack of understanding of political will amongst the municipality to get... enter into any west coast nation, I'm thinking that there are so many parallels. And there's just no understanding and respect, recognition of the inherent rights to look after the parks or look after the land and oceans."

Terrance Paul:

"I guess from the experience that I've had like it's educating them. They need educating too. In fact there's times when a minister understands the issue, but everyone below them doesn't and that's who runs the programs, runs the country is the bureaucrats and that's who needs to be educated; like developing a policy that changes for our benefit is one thing, implementing it is another, especially where you have bureaucrats that are not on side, that have the old world view and we... I'm constantly educating them to do that. I'm constantly telling the ministers that that's what we need to do. So it's an educational process and it's ongoing because there is a lot of people that are ignorant about our people. There's millions of people don't even know that we exist anymore, they're surprised. There's people that lived within a mile of our community and have told me and written to be saying that because of our improvements like, "˜I grew up in Sydney just about a mile from you, never knew you guys existed.' Imagine, huh?"

Manley Begay:

"One more question."

Audience Member:

"I can see that the... I guess I can call it a First Nation community is there a problem or is it a tribal community, a regional community? Membertou... First Nation?"

Terrance Paul:

"First Nation. Well, that's the popular phrase now. We've branded ourselves to be called Membertou, a Mi'kmaq community."

Audience Member:

"What is your population?"

Terrance Paul:

"It's a little over 1200, close to 1300."

Audience Member:

"The question I have is more related to, in terms of the way you established yourselves as a community, what would you say was the big key priority for you to... in terms of how you established yourselves? I can guess that it has to do more with the business types of things, but now you're looking to new governance and transparency, accountability and all that stuff, even the ISO."

Terrance Paul:

"ISO, yeah."

Audience Member:

"It's something fairly new I guess in terms of really how you got recognition or is it certification that's recognized internationally? How did all of that come about in terms of where you're at right now and I find that it's very interesting that... I find your presentation very interesting as in very solemn stuff as you're presenting it. It sounds like you're really going in a direction where most First Nation communities want to be where you're at. What is the key thing or key part or key priority that places you where you're at right now?

Terrance Paul:

"I can only pick one, eh? It's the people. It's the people. Believing in your people and getting them onboard and having them be part of the visioning process. Include the community. I know that you can't do it every day, but there are appropriate times when you... If you have the community on side, if you have your management working as a team, it makes it much easier to accomplish these processes that you have. In the Basque country we met an individual, I think he's a genius, Juan Azua. In fact he even teaches at Harvard now and then. He's the one that really established a process called clustering. Clustering. And it's putting businesses in strategic areas where they're all competitive, but being in a cluster helps them, but the cluster isn't just the businesses themselves. You need the infrastructures that draws people to there so what do people want? Well, they want good schools; they don't want to go back to a place where it's dysfunctional. So eliminate that dysfunction. Safe, secure communities and we've created that: churches, schools, hospitals are close by. That's an important consideration for people, anyone. And have the governments, the business community, the chambers of commerce, instead of having their own silos working together to achieve this. And to adopt his phrase and what he means by that and in doing that is the process. He calls it the magic of the process. It's just fascinating."

Audience Member:

"[Unintelligible]... What would you say would have been the turning point for your community in terms of looking at it the way you do... [unintelligible]."

Terrance Paul:

"No, this is the turning point. This is the turning point. Stop this dependence. Stop this dependence and look at the world as our market."

Elderly Protection Teams Work to Stop Abuse

Indian Country Today

While more than 30 tribal governments across the country have implemented elder abuse codes, some Indian communities and concerned citizens have taken a more proactive role to ensure these laws are enforced. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council started the first Elderly Protection Team in Indian country 25 years ago...

Resource Type

Rose, Christina. "Elderly Protection Teams Work to Stop Abuse." Indian Country Today. January 10, 2013. Article. (, accessed April 22, 2023)

Forwarding First Nation Goals Through Enterprise Ownership: The Mikisew Group Of Companies


The Mikisew Group of Companies (Mikisew Group) is the business arm of the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN). Founded in 1991 using monies from a $26.6 million land claim settlement with the governments of Alberta and Canada, it has achieved remarkable success. This success is evident in the wide arra y of business practice awards the group and its constituent companies have received, including Client of the Year (2008, Mikisew Group), Alberta Business Award of Distinction Eagle Feather finalist (2010, Mikisew Group), Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board Aboriginal Employer of the Year (2011, Mikis ew Fleet Man a gement), Pacrim Hospitality Company of the Year (2008, Super 8 Fort McMurray), Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association Housekeeping Award (2012, Super 8 Fort McMurray), and the Fort McMurray Tourism Ambassador of the Year (2009, Tim Gilles, general manager, Mikisew Sport Fishing).

But the Mikisew Group is not just a business. It is part of the MCFN’s overall strategy for increasing self-sufficiency and self-determination. Its success in these terms is evident in the substantial revenue it generates for MCFN, the jobs and careers it provides for the nation ’s citizens, and its ability to promote MCFN voice in decisions that affect the nation’s Aboriginal territory. This case study, part of a larger conversation about Aboriginal business achievement, explores the decisions and practices that have contributed to the Mikisew Group’s success.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Jorgensen, Miriam and Rachel Starks. Forwarding First Nation Goals Through Enterprise Ownership: The Mikisew Group Of Companies. Prepared for the Indigenous Leadership and Management Program, The Banff Centre. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy. The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2014. Case Study. (, accessed April 17, 2014)