indigenous, Random Musings

Observations – Tribal nation’s change to leadership dynamic.

Observations – Tribal nation’s change to leadership dynamic.

October 24, 2022

3:00 pm

It is another Monday morning.

Insomnia once again kept me from sleeping a normal schedule. I was awake until about 3:30 in the morning and finally fell asleep after talking to my online person. I woke up briefly at around 7:30 then slept until noon. There have been quite a few thoughts weighing heavily on my mind.

At this time of year, we have our governing council meetings within my tribal nation. I belong to the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. We are part of the Sauk and Meskwaki people of the Lake Michigan and Lake Huron area. The tribe I belong to was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma in the 1870’s.

The thoughts I have been toiling with have to do with my observations of the recent governing council meetings over the last few weeks.

There has been discussion and discourse over the last couple of months related to our tribal government and leadership.

Our tribal nation has always been seen as an ideal governing body. It was always previously lauded as an example for other tribes to follow. In recent years that shine has become lackluster.

The governing body is made up of two parts: the Business Committee and the Governing Council.

The Governing Council is the supreme governing body comprised of tribal members who are aged eighteen years old or older, enrolled on our tribal roll system, making them eligible to vote on the council floor, and in any tribal elections.

The Business Committee is comprised of the following positions and the minimum requirements to be eligible for the positions are twenty-one years of age, member of the Sac and Fox nation, and reside within the geographical boundaries of the State of Oklahoma. The Business Committee acts on behalf of the tribal nation to transact business or act in all matters which the tribe is empowered to act but the Governing Council retains the veto power with a two-thirds majority vote. The Business Committee can appoint additional subordinate committees and representatives to transact business or speak on behalf of the tribe. These leadership positions include:

  • Principle Chief – Presides over meetings of the Governing Council and the Business Committee and to see that the laws of the Sac and Fox Nation are faithfully executed.
  • Second Chief – In absence, incapacity, or vacancy of the Principle Chief office shall perform the duties of that office.
  • Secretary – Correctly record the proceedings of all meetings, make out the order of business for the Principle Chief, notify all committees of their appointments, retains custody of the records and all papers of the Governing Council, be open to inspection of said records by any Governing Council member upon request, keep a correct list of all members of Governing Council and the tribe. Prepare and present a report of the Business Committee actions at the annual governing council.
  • Treasurer – Receive all monies and other assets of the tribe entrusted in his or her care in all accounts and all disbursements. Prepare and present a report of transacted business at the annual governing council.

These are the leaders appointed by the Governing Council through elections staggered in four and two year terms.

This is how our tribal nation is governed, with a grievance committee, and a court system set in place by our current tribal constitution. This constitution also contains a bill of rights that applies to all tribal members.

This system and constitution have been in place since 1937 and was established under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 as well as the United States Code (USC) Title 25 – Indians.

Prior to this act, the Sauk and Fox were under treaty with the United States beginning November 3, 1804, and ratified on January 25, 1805. This was the first of many treaties from 1804 to 1867, these established boundaries of land for the differing bands of the Sauk and Fox people from the state of Illinois, along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to Oklahoma.

This is how tribal nations retained their sovereignty as federally recognized nations, through treaties with the United States of America. This system of forced relocation through treaties for “the Indians own protection” ended when the Indian Appropriation Act of 1871 was enacted. This act no longer recognized groups of Native Americans, as independent nations by the federal government, and made them wards of the federal government. This act created a way for the United States to seize lands previously owned by Native Americans to continue the expansion westward. This act also stated that prior ratified treaties could not be invalidated or impaired.

The caveat to these rules and regulations put into place, was as a member of a tribal nation, we were not recognized as citizens of the United States until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. In spite of this act, some states did not recognize these Indigenous people and they were denied voting rights until the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

As Indigenous people or citizens, we are the only group that has to be certified as a member of a tribal nation through what the United States government established as a “blood quantum” requirement to prove lineage.

This requirement was established under the Dawes Act of 1887 to regulate land rights of tribal territories through land allotments. This was just the beginning of the United States attempt at further division and non-recognition of tribal nations as well as forced assimilation. A requirement under this act gave Native Americans citizenship if they renounced their tribal way of life and became “civilized.”

This continued until the Great Depression when the Indian Reorganization Act on June 18, 1934, was enacted, that prohibited further land allotments but renewed Native Americans rights to reorganize and form self-governments in order to rebuild a land base. This was further clarified under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975.

This is the history of our tribal sovereignty and our right to establish self-governance.

This sovereignty was further established when my tribal nation won their case before the United States Supreme Court in the Oklahoma Tax Commission vs. Sac and Fox Nation. This case was about giving this tribal nation the ability to impose its own taxes, such as a vehicle excise tax to establish its own vehicle tags. The case was won in our favor on May 18, 1993. Thereafter, May 17th was established as Sac and Fox Victory Day.

The Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, my people, have come from an extensive line of fighters to keep our way of life progressing forward. Examples of this push forward can be seen in The Black Hawk Wars to reclaim land from April 1832 to August 1832 in the Illinois and Michigan territory, all the way to our Victory Day in 1993.

That is the leadership from which we have come.

Leaders that had a vision for our future generations.

That forward thinking leadership is not what I saw on display over the last few years and especially the last few governing council meetings.

It was disheartening to see the lack of leadership and the pettiness that occurred during our tribal council meetings. It was coming from a small group of people who did not have the tribe, as a whole, in their purview, instead it was their own self-absorbed issues on display.

That is not what I was taught by my grandparents, especially my grandmother, when I was growing up.

The political activeness she was involved with was geared toward future generations, education, language, and our right to tribal sovereignty.

As I sat their in our governing tribal council meeting this past Saturday, October 22nd, I looked around the room and it suddenly dawned on me, the room was filled with women in our tribe. That was the first time I ever remember seeing that in all the years I have attended council meetings. I started going at the age of ten or eleven and now I am fifty-one years old.

The realization that all our strong, vocal, male leadership was not there, anymore. We have lost many of them due to Covid and other illnesses over the last few years. Then we had two Principle Chiefs resign for unknown reasons within the last six months both of them male.

I did not see any other men within the tribal council stepping up and voicing their concerns. It was like there was a hesitation to take the initiative. That was of a great concern to me because we have always had a balance of power within our tribe, both men and women having equal say. We have always had both men and women of strong virtue to counsel us and help lead us.

It makes me afraid of where we are heading over the next few years.

These exact petty inactions are why our younger generations do not want to get involved with the tribal government. This is why they do not come back and take on jobs within our tribe. We have not been forward thinking enough to provide comparable positions, to the outside work force, which matches their skills and education.

We have failed to continue the legacy our ancestors put forth for us to follow and lead by.

We are failing to grow with the rest of the tribal nations around us.

Our inability to act and take bigger strides is leaving us behind.

I do not understand, why there is not more push towards creating a better economic development plan, or increasing the knowledge and skills of the employees working in the current positions.

In the Special Governing council meeting held on October 15th, the only call to action was that of employees who cannot get along with one another within our tribal government or with those who are in leadership positions. These elected positions or temporary placements are only filled until the next election in 2023. That whole meeting was chaotic and ended in no resolution to solve the issues. It was a failed attempt to overthrow the current sitting business committee.

Yet, those that I saw who brought forth this petition, I cannot see as future leaders. They had a lengthy list of complaints without any documented proof and no obvious way to solve the issues.

In the twenty-nine years I worked within the military and civilian sectors there are a few things that I have noticed about leaders, and the qualities they should have, in order to be effective in creating change.

These include:

Insightful – The ability to understand and utilize one’s own innate talents while leveraging the natural strengths of the team.

  • Humble and authentic expression of personality.
  • Pursuit in seeking betterment to one’s environment.

Selflessness – Willing to reach out and lend a helping hand with no thought of reward, praise, or accolades.

  • Showing compassion and humanity for others.
  • Thoughtful and purposeful action without regards to oneself.

Efficient – Utilizing the strengths and weaknesses of oneself and team in the most productive way possible.

  • Setting the team up for success and not failure.
  • Decisiveness in determining the direction of the team.

Problem-solver – Knowing how to see the challenges ahead and determine the best course of action to take.

  • Willingness to charge ahead into the unknown.
  • Creative thinking in or outside the box to meet an obstacle head on.

Humility – The ability to put others first and downplay one’s own importance.

  • Investing time into developing and bringing forth the best in others.
  • Ensuring that other team members feel comfortable within the environment.

Integrity – To do the right thing whether it is popular or whether anyone else sees you do it.

  • Becoming a positive influence on others.
  • Inspiring others to become a better version of themselves.

Servant – To be devoted to serving others.

  • Providing guidance and the tools to ensure other’s success.
  • Genuine praise for things that go well and taking responsibility if they don’t.

Visionary – To see the potential possibilities and not be afraid to pursue it.

  • Using intuition to guide your actions.
  • Willing to take risks and challenging the status quo.

Open-Minded – To be willing to change opinion or accept the opinions of others.

  • Learning how others think and what influences them.
  • Acknowledging one’s own shortcomings but willing to strengthen them.

Mentor – Becoming a trusted advisor through one’s own experience.

  • Gaining the confidence of others and willing to help guide them.
  • To act as a teacher to others.

Energy – To be the spark in keeping momentum going.

  • The ability to gain enthusiasm from others to keep progressing forward.
  • Active participation in the process, while understanding when it’s time to let go of something that is not working, and try something else.

Leaders are not always born but these skills can be learned if one is willing to step up and take on that role.

I have debated my own active role within our tribal government lately. I am seriously considering running for a position, but not right now, in ten years, when I actually start drawing my military pension.

Right now, I would like to enjoy my life.

I spent the last 32 years taking orders, taking care of others, leading others, and accomplishing the goals that I set for myself.

I would like to just find a companion, to do other things like travel, start a business, and discover new things.

A part of me feels like it is being selfish to not take an active role in changing the leadership dynamic of my tribal nation. The biggest pull is just wanting to no longer be in charge of anything for the moment.

Until that happens, I will continue to keep watch on things, ask questions, learn more, and push for change from the sidelines.

Thank you so much for stopping by.

Have a wonderful week!

Peace, love, happiness, and good vibes, always.

Suzanne