Muscogee Creek Nation

McGirt and Rebuilding Tribal Nations Toolbox

Year

The McGirt decision has changed the legal landscape and created new opportunities for tribal nations starting with the Five Tribes in Eastern Oklahoma and potentially for tribal nations across Indian Country. It also has been the source of confusion, hyperbole, and alarm among some commentators.

The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and University of Oklahoma Native Nations Center McGirt Colloquium Toolbox contains a series of briefing papers that explain the ramifications of McGirt in various areas important to tribes and clarify what is and what is not at issue. These briefing papers help affected tribes chart a pathway toward the effective exercise of post-McGirt tribal powers and productive collaboration with state governments. The briefing papers offer ideas and examples of what these processes and outcomes might look like. In particular, they consider at least eight areas through the lens of a tribal government’s responsibilities to its citizens, to other Indians, and to non-Indians on trust lands and fee lands within the external borders of recognized reservations.

We hope these papers will be shared, and the ideas disseminated, in ways that tribal governments and other partners identify as useful for creating dispassionate, helpful guidance to tribes and states in the post-McGirt era.

Resource Type
Citation

McGirt Colloquium Toolbox. 2021. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and University of Oklahoma Native Nations Center. https://sites.google.com/g.harvard.edu/mcgirt-rebuilding-nations/home. The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Retrieved on March 2, 2021.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation: Legislative Functions Excerpt

Year

ARTICLE VI - [Legislative Branch]
Section 6. (a)  Every bill which shall have passed the Muscogee (Creek) National Council, before it becomes ordinance, shall be presented to the Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. If he approves, he shall sign it; but, if not, he shall return it with his objections to the Muscogee (Creek) National Council, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal and proceed to reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds (2 3) of the full membership of the Muscogee (Creek) National Council shall pass the bill, it shall become an ordinance. In such cases, the vote shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the person voting for and against shall be entered on the journal of the Muscogee (Creek) National Council. If any bill shall not be returned by the Principal Chief within ten (10) days, Sundays and holidays excepted, after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be an ordinance as if he had signed it.
(b)  Every order, resolution, or other act intended to reflect the policy of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation shall be submitted in accordance with the rules and limitations prescribed in case of a bill.
(c)  Every ordinance, order, resolution, or other act intended to reflect the policy of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation shall be stamped with the Seal of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and be signed by the Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program

Year

Although the state of Oklahoma has one of the largest prison systems in the US, it provides released prisoners with little post-incarceration support. Many struggle to find their way on the "outside" and are eventually re-incarcerated. In the early 2000s, the Muscogee Creek Nation set out to tackle this problem. The Nation’s Reintegration Program works with tribal citizens before and after they leave prison, paying attention to everything from jobs and housing to counseling and spiritual needs.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

"Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program." Honoring Nations: 2008 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2009. Report. 

Permissions

This Honoring Nations report is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. 

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

Producer
William Mitchell College of Law
Year

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

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

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring Nations: Tony Fish: The Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program Manager Tony Fish explains how and why his nation developed a prisoner reintegration program that reflects its culture, combats recidivism, and makes for a safer Muscogee Creek community.

People
Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Fish, Tony. "The Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program," Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 16-18, 2009. Presentation.

"[Muscogee Creek language] I would like to say I'm honored to be here. I feel a privilege to be here today and to talk about our program. It's something that really affects us all and that's incarceration. If it doesn't effect us by our family members, friends that we know, acquaintances, it effects us as taxpayers. So incarceration effects each and every one of us.

The Muscogee Creek Nation Reintegration Program -- we're a tribally funded program designed to assist Creek citizens make the transition from prison back into society. Our mission is to promote and enhance the lives of our citizens. And we do this through a traditional, modern...we call it a modern yet traditional wrap-around approach to re-entry. The process establishes confidence, responsibility and independence by deliverance of services to meet the client's individual needs. The reintegration program reaches out to those not normally serviced and provides services and creates alternatives to incarceration, producing safer communities by decreasing recidivism through rehabilitation. We are able to achieve these results through a systematic approach of service delivery. And the first approach is addressing the immediate life sustaining needs.

Housing is one of the biggest factors concerning successful re-entry. Oftentimes, housing is not available to the offender because of the background check. Nobody wants them living in their neighborhoods. And that's where we have gone in and advocated for their best interest. Why wouldn't they want them living in their neighborhoods, if they're going to live in your neighborhoods anyway, whether you know it or you don't know it? So we assist them in obtaining housing conducive to their mental and physical well-being. If they committed a crime in one area of our Nation, we try not to send them back to that particular area. We try to send them to another area to give them a fresh start, where their old haunts are not there and they can start fresh and anew. We have to be compliant with tribal, state and federal laws regarding special offenses -- and that's violent offenses and sex offenses. Our tribe recently voted into law to monitor our own sex offenders within Oklahoma, so that's a step forward for us. Housing must be manageable for the client after services are exhausted. We don't put them in a house that they cannot afford once we pull our services back and we try to do a step-down process on housing. It's usually a couple of months, we'll step it down to a half-month and then we'll try to see if they can walk on their own after that. Now that's not conclusive, each plan is individualized depending on their need. Sometimes we may be there for a month; sometimes we may be there for six months. And I think that has been a contributing factor to our success. I like to say we don't have a specific cookie-cutter approach. We take each individual as a person and we look at what their desires and what their wants are and we develop a plan around their needs. Random housing inspections are conducted to insure safety and sanitary living conditions and to protect the property owner's investment in us. When we first started out, we had a couple incidences where we had to remove somebody from housing who wasn't compliant and in turn they ended up tearing the residence up and/or they left the hot water on, steamed the room up and everything, and it caused us to lose a housing apartment manager. And that's one of the things that we had to change within our program is to monitor that closely. And by doing that we have instilled confidence in the apartment managers to know we're going to take charge and they're going to be monitored to know that...it's also a paradigm shift for a lot of people too, because they haven't rented to people of this character before.

The next thing that we look at is their clothing needs. When they're released from incarceration, most of the time they just have an old tattered pair of jeans, a shirt -- sometimes it'll still say inmate on the back -- and their legal documentation. And that's all they have. So we go out and we get them brand new clothing, usually about $250 worth. We go through and we assist them in the shopping process. We've had a couple of guys here recently that never went out and shopped in a department store before. They didn't know how to size their clothes, their shoes or anything. So that's something that we were able to teach them going through just some of the simple things that we take for granted. We have a one time -- this is a one-time service with the exception of work-related clothing needs. Sometimes they go out in employment, they may need steel-toed work boots, they may need long sleeve shirts and so forth, sometimes the black slacks or whatever and then we can get that for them in addition to their clothing allowance.

From there we also look at the grocery assistance. DOC [Department of Corrections] most oftentimes will discharge the ex-offender with a $50 check. And if they don't have no place to go to, a lot of times they'll spend that on one night in a motel room, if they're lucky to find one that cheap. So we have a, we do a food assistance allocation. It's determined by household size. If it's one person, it's $150, and up to $300 for three or more. We also have an in-house pantry with non-perishable food items and it's basically an emergency on the spot. Sometimes we get people that never, they say they've never heard about our program. They were dropped off in Tulsa and they've got a backpack. And they're walking down there to our office; they show up Friday afternoon at 4 o'clock. Well, it's kind of hard to go and start getting services together, right then and there, especially to the grocery stores and so forth. So we keep a stockpile of items there at our office. We can put them up in a motel room, get them through the weekend, and then start hard and fresh on their case first thing Monday morning. My case managers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they've never hesitated once about going out of their way to help somebody. And I've been real fortunate and I thank them for that.

Career development: participants are required to seek employment unless a debilitating illness is present. And if there is a debilitating illness, then we give a referral to vocational rehabilitation. They may go to the -- if they're a veteran they may go to Veterans Affairs, Social Security Disability, and so forth. They at least have to make that contact and get the process started. Here lately, we've been working with the facility case managers even more, up to six months prior to the projected release. So if we know that they have a disability we can start that process and it's ready for them once they're released.

The resume preparation: we have a resource directory at our office. We teach them how to write a resume. We give them sample resumes; how to talk to the employer, how to sell their self basically with the skills that they have. They must fill out weekly job contacts, kind of like the unemployment office -- that there just shows their initiative to go out and to actively seek employment -- and we provide them a list of offender-friendly employers. I had somebody ask me one time, 'Why do you do that? How come you don't go out and have their job ready for them?' And I tell them that this is something that needs to be learned on their own. We're there to help them and guide them through this process, but it's not something we're going to do for them. We're going to walk with them but we're not going to walk in front of them or we're not going to walk behind them. It's kind of like the old proverb says, 'You give a man a fish, you feed him for today; but you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.' And that's what we're trying to do, is we're trying to teach these guys skills that they can utilize for the rest of their life.

Educational opportunities are available to participants who are interested in developing their skill level. We have GED classes, vocational training, trade school and we have college classes. We had here recently, we had two graduate from the Tulsa Technology Center. They're still incarcerated. The college goes out there to them, teaches the courses. And we provide the tuition and the books to take care of that. So we were excited about that. We also have agreements with trade schools where we can go in and get certifications in welding and carpentry and plumbing and different skills. It's not really a lengthy process, but it's something they can do in about six or eight months and get out into the job market and be successful.

Specialized re-entry services: we do a lot of mentoring and faith-based support. I don't know if anybody's familiar with the 12 steps in the medicine wheel, but we have a facilitator in our office. She goes out and we hold groups in the prisons and we facilitate the 12 steps in the medicine wheel. It's been really successful. We started off with a group of about 15 and now we're in about our fourth or fifth group and we have about 25. One of the biggest things for me was is not all of them are not Native American. It's been able to be adapted to different cultures and races. So that's something that's been exciting to me. We try to get them involved in a higher power, their spiritual side. We believe that's very important in their success is to rely on your spiritual side -- whether it's traditional, ceremonial, the Stomp Dance, or if it's the Native American Church, or however their faith is -- we try to get them involved back into that.

Personal guidance and counseling: we give referrals to the Tribal Behavioral Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and state behavioral health agencies. Oklahoma is the largest provider for mental health services in the state of Oklahoma; the Department of Corrections is the largest provider. And so for...we have a high percentage of clients who have either mental health or substance abuse issues. So that's something that we're really big on addressing those needs. We also do substance-abuse testing within our program. Participants must submit to random substance abuse testing, and this testing is for prevention and intervention purposes only. It's not to say that we got you, that we're trying to get you out of the program. If there's a need there that we see, then we're going to try and turn you into the right direction. Maybe you need more intensive outpatient treatment, maybe you need to go to inpatient treatment but we make sure that those needs are taken care of.

Service payback -- it's a really unique part of our program. We have guys a lot of times who are still looking for jobs, they're kind of in between. What we do is we require them to volunteer. And basically it's, 'You go out back into the community and you want to give back a little bit maybe of what you took. You can't give it back to the person you took it from, but through society as a whole.' We believe that it builds a lot of self-confidence and self-esteem to our clients. And it also changes the paradigms of the public, because a lot of times people have in their mindset what they see on TV and they don't see a person for who they actually are. So that gives us a chance to bring some of those walls down. We may send some of our clients out to cut grass for some of the elders who can't do it. And the elders, they really appreciate that and it's something that we need to do and something that we've done traditionally is take care of our elders. So it's really been beneficial to our clients and to our citizens as well. It may be moving furniture. We may have them volunteer at the Salvation Army cleaning shoes or putting clothes away or so forth.

Our caseload over the years has steadily increased. We have, from 2007 to 2008 we increased on an average of 150 cases on average per month. This year we have averaged at least 50 more than that. We were getting to the point where we were getting bogged down a lot and not addressing some of our main issues that we started with. And thankfully our tribe has agreed to give us additional staff members. They have bought us a new building to get into and it's going to have some acreage with it and we're going to look at doing some culture relevance things there, putting up a sweat lodge. A sweat lodge is one of the things that DOC [Department of Corrections] recognizes as a Native American practice and it's something that they want to continue on. So we want to build that and facilitate that for them as part of their cleansing.

A lot of times people ask me, 'Why do you want to help people that's been in prison, why?' And my question to them is, 'Why wouldn't you?' It just makes the most sense to me. Traditionally in our culture, once you pay your debt to society, we brought you back in, we restored you back into the tribe. And that's the same philosophy we're bringing in and teaching and trying to instill back into our citizens. These guys are going to be released one way or another. Whether they're released with nothing at all into your neighborhoods, into your streets with nothing and the chances of committing another crime is higher, or somebody out there helping them, guiding them, directing them, providing services to them; they have an alternative, a place to go to, desperation doesn't exist as much. What makes you feel safer? I know the services make me feel a lot safer and that's what our number one intention is, is to create safer communities in our Indian countries. It's something that to me, it's more of a calling. I don't look at this as a job; it's a calling in my life. It's something that I've been given the opportunity to, from the Creator. I've been blessed. And one day when I stand before him I want to be able to say I done everything I could according to what I have been instructed to do. Thank you." 

Honoring Nations: Hepsi Barnett, Tony Fish and Joyce Wells: Reclaiming Native Nations (Q&A)

Producer
Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
Year

Native leaders Hepsi Barnett, Tony Fish, and Joyce Wells share a deeper level of detail about the roots and impacts of their nations' Honoring Nations award-winning programs.

Resource Type
Citation

Barnett, Hepsi. "Reclaiming Native Nations (Q&A)." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 16-18, 2009. Presentation.

Fish, Tony. "Reclaiming Native Nations (Q&A)." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 16-18, 2009. Presentation.

Wells, Joyce. "Reclaiming Native Nations (Q&A)." Honoring Nations symposium. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. September 16-18, 2009. Presentation.

Michael Lipsky:

"I'd like to ask the first question of Tony Fish. You said...you were very eloquent on the importance of restoration of community members. But I wonder if there was any conflict within the community as you began to do this work, and how you interacted with the community in order to help people understand what you were trying to do?"

Tony Fish:

"Initially, there was some conflict within the community. A lot of people [were] not buying into the idea that we should try and bring these people back into our communities, or give them a second chance in society at that. A lot of the initial response was, 'Well, it must really pay to be bad then. Should we go out and be bad so we can get this?' And my response to them was, 'No, it doesn't pay to be bad, but what good is it going to be to continue to downtrodden our citizens like this.' And then at that time, that's when I brought in to the scope of things about our culture and what we did early on as far as a Nation and a tribe on how we handled the people who committed crimes. And through that and through constant fostering of ideas to create the safer communities and going out into the communities and just talking with them and bringing people with me who had been incarcerated. A lot of times you cannot tell them from the next person you're sitting beside, so it was an eye-opener for them."

Michael Lipsky:

"So do you have questions for our panelists? Yes. We have a microphone. Would you tell us your name and where you're from as well as ask the question?"

Mary Lee Johns:

"My name is Mary Lee Johns. I'm from the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. I'm the senior advisor for Rio Tinto Mining Company; it's an international mining company. My question is for Tony. Since the reservations have incredibly high amounts of problems with violence and a lot of problems with drugs and all that stuff -- that's not my question -- but being that that's kind of the setting right now, I was just wondering on your reservation or your area, when these individuals come back from being incarcerated -- actually I have two questions -- one is how do you, do you do some kind of like ceremony to bring them home so that, like a sage ceremony or anything to cleanse them or anything like that? That's one question. And then the second question is how do you keep them from getting back involved with their old buddies and continuing the crazy life?"

Tony Fish:

"To answer your first question, at each of the facilities they have a Native American group. And in that Native American group, there's a spiritual advisor. And what we do is we provide the sacraments -- the sage, the cedar, the sweet grass -- we provide that to them. They have somebody come in and they bless those sacraments and before they are released. They have their own ceremony where they do exactly what you're talking about, the purification and to bring good honor back upon them. And the...could you repeat your second question?"

Michael Lipsky:

"How do you prevent them from going back to their old buddies?"

Tony Fish:

"It's basically, it's an incentive approach. We try as hard as we can to deter them. If we feel it's going to be a bad situation for them, then we may not be able to help them with that. So we kind of...we don't hold services back, but we may halt services in order to try and maybe change their mind a little bit. Sometimes they want to go out and try it on their own and see for their self. And then they come to us and say, 'You know what, you're right, it's not working. I'm clay: mold me.' So that's basically what we try to do."

Michael Lipsky:

"Questions? Please introduce yourself."

James R. Gray:

"My name's Jim Gray, I'm Principal Chief of the Osage Nation. I have a question for Joyce. In Oklahoma, as you well know, there's a lot of slash in the makeup of our citizens in our communities -- Choctaw slash Chickasaws, Choctaw slash Cherokee -- and so if you have a lot of citizens that may be of mixed Indian blood in the public school systems, do you broaden that out to include those or is it primarily just focused on the Choctaw students that are enrolled?"

Joyce Wells:

"We go into the classroom as a whole. So we have a very diverse group of students that we visit with. And that was one of the things that I think Clair thought about when she started this program and then we tried to follow up with as well. That our Assistant Chief Gary Batten, what his comment was to me was that, 'We are of the community, so if we can help our neighbors then that's the way to do it, is in those second-grade classrooms.' So everyone is involved in that second-grade program and it works out really well."

Michael Lipsky:

"Thank you. Question. And you are?"

Audience member:

"Just a quick question: why'd you pick the second grade?"

Joyce Wells:

"I believe that when Clair was doing these studies on this, they thought that that would be a good age group to help mold them in some of the activities that they were starting to act out upon. With the Choctaw Nation, we are very blessed to have a really good Head Start program. So we know that they're getting targeted in that age group. So we moved on to the second grade and she kind of looked in that area. With that said, numerous schools have contacted us wanting us to do follow up programs for the third, the fourth and fifth grade. That's something else that we would love to get going as well. Like I said, it's a long process. I don't know, someone was talking earlier today that everything, they want it just to happen, and I'm one of those individuals. So it's [taken] me to have the patience to realize it will all come about in due time."

Michael Lipsky:

"Joyce, is Clair still in the room?"

Joyce Wells:

"Yes."

Michael Lipsky:

"Would it be okay with you if we asked her to say something?"

Joyce Wells:

"Yes, yes, yes."

Clair Richards:

"Initially when I approached the Choctaw Nation -- to answer both questions -- the tribal leaders, I said, 'Do we want this to be only for the Choctaw students?' And they said, 'Absolutely not. This is for everybody. If this is good for our kids, it's good for everybody. And it's good for the entire town, it's good for the entire community.' So that's the first answer. And the second answer is when I came in again to that same meeting, I had this grand idea of being in every elementary classroom, first through fifth grade, and following up every year so that the kids have it from the very beginning. But that was completely not possible. So second grade was early enough that the kids would still be very impressionable. I'm the youngest of three. I thought my brother and sister were pretty much as close to God as humans could be. So it's a very impressionable age. And the teachers in the classrooms were very easy to work with and very welcoming of the project."

Michael Lipsky:

"Thank you very much. Any questions? You are?"

JoAnn Chase:

"Hi, I'm JoAnn Chase. I have the good privilege of being on this Honoring Nations Board of Directors. I just want to say thank you, first to all, of the panelists. This is one of the most enjoyable experiences I look forward to. The participation and the depth of the dialogue and the inspiration that we leave with is just a real blessing. So thank you to all of you. I have, however, a specific question for Hepsi. And I was really intrigued by the legislative approach. And you made some reference to that obviously over a legal remedy, but I was hoping maybe you might just talk a little bit more about some of the challenges and the risks that were involved in that approach and how you overcame them. I have also the privilege of knowing the Principal Chief, and know that he's a very powerful and forceful and tenacious and well-respected advocate. So I can appreciate his role very much in that. But if you would talk just a little bit more, I think it would be helpful to the group, and I'd certainly be interested in hearing a little bit more about, why that approach over a legal remedy?"

Hepsi Barnett:

"Well, I think obviously we had tried to work through the courts and we had really exhausted that remedy. And I think for a lot of people, they were ready to give up at that point. And what really started it was when the new tribal council came in, the 31st Tribal Council. They really came in because the Osage people wanted to see that change. They had had a taste of when...during that three years when that government was, really it was almost imposed as well through the court system, but there at least was some Osage citizen input into that process.

So they had taken a few individuals who had brought the case, the Fletcher case, and they had had them work with folks on the federal side to create a constitution, our constitutional form of government. Again, it was semi-imposed, but some great progress occurred during those three years. And so I think that for the Osage people they saw that change was possible even though that remedy had been exhausted. And so they really looked to that tribal council; that newly elected tribal council. There was a complete turnover in the tribal leadership and everybody that came in with the new tribal council came in on sort of that campaign promise of bringing membership to all Osages.

Well, then they actually were elected. I think it was a bit of an upset. And they were elected and then they were really faced with the challenge of, how are we going to do this? And so they really began to analyze what the options were. And fortunately for us we had some very good contacts in Washington. An Osage was in Washington, Wilson Pipestem, a lot of you may be familiar with him. They really looked to Wilson to help provide them some expertise that he had as a lobbyist and a lawyer in Washington. If we wanted to do this, if we wanted to go back to the United States Congress, what are the steps that we need to put in place to do that? And so I think the advice from Wilson is, you have to create allies at the state-government level, in terms of the representatives from Oklahoma.

And so at that point, the tribal leaders began to work with the state leaders. And I think they created some very good relationships at that time with the state senators and with the representatives from Oklahoma. And they really, at that level, led the charge. The implications -- I mean, I don't really know how things work at the federal level -- but I know enough at our own level to know one of the first questions asked: 'Is it going to cost us anything? What are we going to have to give up at the federal level?' And I think once there was a recognition that we weren't asking for a settlement, we weren't asking for money, we were just asking them to reaffirm our inherent sovereign right that every other tribe in the United States under the policy of self-governance had.

And so they really took up the cause and that reaching out intergovernmentally was really key to making that possible. So I know that that sounds -- I may be simplistic the way that I'm presenting it -- but I think, and as I'm sure, I think there's a panel here on intergovernmental relations. That for tribes today, in order to make the progress that we need to make so that our people prosper, reaching out intergovernmentally -- both locally in your own communities and then at the state level and then at the federal level -- we have a lot of things to manage besides our own people, but that is just really a cornerstone I think in terms of today's, the realities of tribal governments today."

Michael Lipsky:

"Yeah. Let's take one more question and then...yes."

Susan Jenkins:

"I'm Susan Jenkins with the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. [I] was really interested, Hepsi, in your comment about the citizens-led 25-year strategic plan. Could you explain that a little bit more please?"

Unknown:

"Good question."

Hepsi Barnett:

"Well, again, we were just coming at the tail of the government reform process. I had the privilege of working with that government reform commission as a staffer. And like I said, there was a lot of pressure on us. There was obviously, like I said, with that level of change, there's a lot of conflict to manage. We were trying to do that in a collaborative fashion. In other words, we wanted it to be a win-win. We wanted this new government coming in to be a win-win. We didn't want to compromise, we didn't want to accommodate. We wanted to really collaborate. And what that meant was, we had to get out and we had to do a lot of listening to what the people had to say. I feel like that effort was successful because of that reaching out and engaging the people and it had been a long time since that had happened. Like I said, for most of us as Osages, we weren't really involved in the government. There were no, virtually no young people involved in tribal government. And so going out into the communities, telling people that, 'You matter as an Osage. We want to hear from you,' that went a long way.

And so when Chief Gray came in, was re-elected into the new government, his first charge really to me was...I think he came in one morning, our Congress was meeting and he said, 'You have two hours to create a plan for strategic planning, a 25-year strategic plan, an outline.' And I said, 'You've got to be kidding me?' And he said, 'No. I want to go to Congress and I want to get them to fund this.' He had pitched it to them and they said, 'Well, we want to see an outline of the process.' And so for me, like I said, it was fortunate that I had just came in from government reform. So [it] really took the elements of that that were most effective and sort of embedded that into the outline or the process for strategic planning. And really what it entailed was, usually you hire these consultants. They come in, they write up your strategic plan, it looks real pretty and it's great. And then they hand it back to the tribe to implement. Well, when it's a citizen-led effort, it doesn't look nearly that pretty, but I think what we found was that it meant something to the people. So they thought of things that a consultant or even myself or a tribal leader would never think of in terms of what their priorities were. And again, they had the opportunity to say, 'Yeah, now we have this new government, what are we going to do? And what do we want it to look like for our grandchildren?' And so creating that vision for the Osage people during that time was really critical. And I think going out, having those public meetings, we used a lot of techniques similar to, yes, that she was using. Not so much the moose thing, but engaging people in terms of using exercises that really provided the structure for them to get up and talk about what they wanted.

We had a very short amount of time in each of these community meetings, and so we structured it so that it was experiential and people had to get up. And we started really with the history. The very first thing we did was we put up a great big -- have you seen those big sticky boards? We put up a great big sticky board and we gave them however much time to talk about something that they knew about Osage history. And so we first rooted it in, who are we as Osage people? Because what people tended to write about when they talked about what something that they personally knew about in terms of our Osage history was we had them first, sort of create who are we, what are our principles, what are our values, what's most important to us, by having those people write down what they knew about history. So we created this timeline with individual family stories. Once we had it tied to who are we, then we could start to talk about where we're going. Because it's very difficult to determine where you're going if you don't know where you've been as a people.

From that point forward, we then started to talk about the future and I think that that was a, that little exercise in and of itself really set the tone for us to engage in a real conversation about what we wanted. And so what came out of that was sort of six focus areas that we looked at in terms of creating a vision for -- and Chief Gray help me out here if I forget one of them -- but it was education, health and wellness, culture and language, economic development, governance and justice -- and I've left one out, yes -- minerals and natural resources, which is just a given at the Osage Nation. Not a shareholder. It's not quite as important for me yet. So we looked at those six target areas as we began to focus on creating a vision for each. And another interesting thing that I think, that I hope will be a takeaway here is that we didn't have those six focus areas compete with each other when we prioritized. In other words, we felt like each of those areas was important enough to stand on its own. So that when we were creating priorities we created priorities for each of those areas versus having those areas compete against each other. Thank you."

Michael Lipsky:

"Well, now you know one of the things you do when the dog catches the car. I hope you'll join me in thanking our speakers for starting us off so well. Thank you so much."

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Creates Conservation District With USDA

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The Muscogee (Creek) Nation, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has established a conservation district, the two entities announced on November 19...

Native Nations
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Citation

ICTMN Staff. "Muscogee (Creek) Nation Creates Conservation District With USDA." Indian Country Today Media Network. November 20, 2014. Article. (https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/environment/muscogee-creek..., accessed November 24, 2014)

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Launches App to Help Preserve Language

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Year

In an effort to preserve the Muscogee (Creek) Nation language, the nation has developed a mobile app as a way for citizens to learn the language more easily.

The Mvskoke (the traditional spelling of Muscogee) Language App is available free in the Apple store for iPhones and iPads, as well the Google Play Store for Android devices...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

ICTMN Staff. "Muscogee (Creek) Nation Launches App to Help Preserve Language." Indian Country Today Media Network. October 9, 2014. Article. (https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/education/native-education/muscogee..., accessed October 9, 2014)

DOJ Grants Muscogee Creek Nation $3.78 Million for Ex-Prisoner Reintegration Program

Year

The Muscogee Creek Nation has received $3.78 million from the U.S. Department of Justice for the tribe’s Reintegration Program (RIP), which assists tribal citizens who have served time in a correctional facility and are ready to be welcomed back into society.

The grant will go towards the construction and renovation of a regional, Henryetta, Oklahoma-based transitional living facility for these citizens, designed to help address public safety issues. It will also provide a positive and structured environment for clients to receive educational and vocational training by teaching valuable life and job skills and providing core classes...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

ICT Staff. "DOJ Grants Muscogee Creek Nation $3.78 Million for Ex-Prisoner Reintegration Program." Indian Country Today. November 8, 2013. Article. (https://ictnews.org/archive/doj-grants-muscogee-creek-nation-378-million-for-ex-prisoner-reintegration-program, accessed April 5, 2023)

Muscogee Creek Nation Meets Growing Pharmacy Needs Through Bilingual, Self-Refill App

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Year

A new, automated prescription refill system has made time management much easier for Muscogee Creek pharmacy staff.

Nearly a year ago, the tribe tapped Enacomm, a leader in interactive voice response technology, to help the Muscogee Creek Nation Department of Health manage their increasingly high call volumes. Now customers can call in day or night and use a touchtone system to reorder prescriptions. If necessary, they can press zero to speak to a member of the pharmacy staff...

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

ICTMN Staff. "Muscogee Creek Nation Meets Growing Pharmacy Needs Through Bilingual, Self-Refill App." Indian Country Today Media Network. October 29, 2013. Article. (https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/culture/health-wellness/muscogee..., accessed October 30, 2013)