"Modern Tribal Governments, Constitutions, and Sovereignty" Session at NCAI's Annual Convention

National Congress on American Indians

This session, convened by NCAI at its 2014 Annual Convention, chronicled the growing movement by tribal nations to reform and strengthen their constitutions in order to reflect and preserve their distinct cultures and ways of life, more effectively address their contemporary challenges, and achieve their long-term priorities. It shared the constitutional stories of four tribal nations who have either reformed their constitutions or currently are in the process of doing so.

The session includes 5 presentations from prominent Native nation leaders and scholars:

  1. Sherry Salway Black and Ian Record provide a brief overview of tribal constitutionalism and the current movement among tribal nations to engage in constitutional reform.
  2. John “Rocky” Barrett, longtime chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, shares how the Citizen Potawatomi Nation long struggled with an imposed system of governance and how it turned to constitutional reform to reshape and stabilize that system so that it is capable of helping the nation achieve its strategic priorities.
  3. Erma Vizenor, former Chairwoman of the White Earth Nation, provides a detailed history of White Earth’s Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) system of governance, and why and how White Earth decided to create an entirely new constitution in order to make its system of governance more culturally appropriate and functionally effective.
  4. Richard Luarkie, former Governor of the Pueblo of Laguna, offers a detailed chronology of the Pueblo’s constitutional and governmental odyssey over the past few centuries, and how the Pueblo is in the process of reforming its constitution to fully exercise its sovereignty and make its system of governance more culturally appropriate.
  5. Justin Beaulieu, Coordinator of the Constitution Reform Initiative for the Red Lake Nation, describes the process that Red Lake designed to engage Red Lake citizens about the nation’s current constitution and what they would like to see in a new constitution.



Resource Type

“Modern Tribal Governments, Constitutions and Sovereignty”. (October 2014). Presentation. National Congress on American Indians's Partnership for Tribal Governance. Atlanta, GA. Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBjQrzrj0Iyu5miLAFGEg9VS6BhS_JS58

Transcripts for all videos are available by request. Please email us: nni@arizona.edu.

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