July 31, 2014

Meet Native America: Lynn “Nay” Valbuena, Chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Lynn “Nay” Valbuena. I am chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. My nickname is based on the shortened version of my full name—Lynn Rae.

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Chairwoman Lynn “Nay” Valbuena, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Where is the San Manuel Band located? 

The reservation is located near the cities of San Bernardino and Highland in Southern California, approximately 70 miles east of Los Angeles along Interstate 10. 

Where was your community originally from? 

The aboriginal lands of the Serrano people occupy a vast region of Southern California extending from what is now Los Angeles to virtually all of present-day San Bernardino County. Our clan of the Serrano, the Yuhaviatam, originates around the mountain lakes of the San Bernardino Mountains. 

What is a significant point in history from your people that you would like to share? 

In 1866, the Yuhaviatam were victimized by a series of militia raids that drove our people from the mountains, effectively ending a traditional, migratory way of life that had endured for generations. Through the courageous actions of our clan leader, Santos Manuel or Paakuma’ Tawinat, our people survived this period, eventually settling on land that became the Santos Manuel Indian Reservation, named in his honor. 

How is your tribal government set up? 

The San Manuel Indian Reservation, like other tribal lands in the United States, is a sovereign territory with our own system of government. Tribal government consists of two governing bodies: a General Council comprised of adult members 21 years and older, and a seven-member Business Committee elected by the General Council. The Business Committee has a chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer, and three at-large members. As elected officials, the Business Committee is responsible for enforcing by-laws, establishing policies, protecting business interests, and preserving the sovereignty of the tribe. 

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

Elders have a special place as community and cultural leaders for the tribe. They are recognized and often lead the beginning of events and observances. The entry to the General Council chambers is lined with pictures of certain elders of the tribe in recognition of their importance to our community. 

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

The tribe elects members of its Business Committee every two years. 

How often do the members meet? 

The Business Committee meets on a regular weekly schedule, while the General Council holds a regular monthly meeting. We also accommodate Special General Council meetings as needed. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead? 

I have a passion to serve San Manuel and the broader Native community; it’s what I do to help people in any way that I can. This began at a young age with my service as the tribe’s housing commission and broadened to a public service career as secretary and then assistant executive director of what was then the San Bernardino Indian Center. 

Understanding the basic needs on the San Manuel reservation enabled me to apply myself through the Indian Center to advocate for a better quality of life for the broader Native community. I have been able to draw upon my public affairs and communications skills, which I developed over a 16-year career with the City of San Bernardino Police Department, in elected positions as chairwoman, vice chairwoman, and as a member of the Business Committee. The ability to clearly and confidently communicate to others is something that I have carried into tribal service from my professional experience. 

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Chairwoman Valbuena promoting California basketry and other Serrano arts. 

What responsibilities do you have as chairwoman? 

In addition to leading the daily agenda of the seven-member Business Committee, I seek to design and direct a progressive agenda of social, economic, and governance development for the tribal government and tribal community. Additionally, the chairwoman serves as the spokesperson for the tribe, a position for which I have prepared through my years working for the City of San Bernardino. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

My mother and grandmother inspired me to stand up and let my voice be heard. Both women were not afraid to speak up for what they thought was right, and I have been inspired by their example. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who? 

I am the great-great-granddaughter of Santos Manuel, the namesake of the tribe—a revered ancestor who bridged both traditional and contemporary leadership of the Yuhaviatam Clan of Serrano Indians. 

Approximately how many members are in the San Manuel Band? 

There are a little more than 200 members in the tribe, most of whom are under 21 years of age. The population of the reservation numbered less than 30 at the turn of the 20th century and has grown steadily over the last century. 

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers? 

There are only a handful of Serrano speakers remaining. Our tribe has made it a critical mission to revive and maintain the language through multiple programs and efforts with our Serrano Language Revitalization Program. Our focus is on our youth who will carry on our language and traditions and who will grow as Serrano speakers and carriers of culture. 

What economic enterprises does your band own? 

The principal economic enterprise is the tribe’s gaming operation, San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino. However, realizing that a robust economy is a diverse one, we have embarked on several business ventures, including three hotels, one of which involves tribal partners. In addition, the tribe has pursued real estate development opportunities in our region, chief among which has been the development of San Manuel Village—mixed-use retail and commercial space near our reservation. 

What annual events does your band sponsor? 

San Manuel is committed to public education and has engaged wonderful partners in education at various levels to teach the community about the culture, history, and governance not only of San Manuel but more broadly of Native American nations in the United States. Among these events is a week of elementary school programming held in conjunction with the State of California’s Native American Day holiday. Hundreds of fourth graders from the local city schools spend a day learning California Native American culture and history from members of local tribes. Additionally, the tribe hosts an annual Pow Wow which is held the second weekend in October at California State University, San Bernardino. 

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino is the closest gaming destination to the Los Angeles area, located about 70 miles from downtown. We regularly host concerts by world-renowned entertainers and present other major events that bring guests to our land. 

How does your nation deal with the United States as a sovereign nation? 

Our future depends on our ability to maintain our foundation of sovereignty by interacting with other sovereigns at the highest possible levels. We gauge our effectiveness on achieving solid government-to-government relationships with federal and state governments. Additionally, we include significant outreach and education to local governments as a part of our regional efforts.

Our intergovernmental relationships are based not only on law and legal obligations, but on trust, common purpose, and most importantly mutual respect. To this end we are actively involved at all levels of government from local city councils to the U.S. Congress. A hallmark of this involvement is education, a process that is continual and takes into account the general unfamiliarity of Americans about Native American sovereignty. In summary, we do everything from walking the halls of Congress to conducting classes for elementary school students to offer communities knowledge about our shared history and the inherent sovereignty of Native nations. 

What message would you like to share with the youth of your band? 

My grandmother and mother would always tell me, “Never forget who you are and where you come from.” This has always grounded me because it connects me to all those tribal members who came before. The fundamental ties of San Manuel tribal members to our aboriginal lands and shared history are the start to the pattern from which we weave our lives as Native people. I would ask our youth to embrace this teaching because it is the life and spirit of who we are as a Native community. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

As I am reaching the end of my term on the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian, with two years as board secretary, it has been an honor to serve the museum. I have been able to forge relationships with many tribal leaders and communities, connecting San Manuel and myself to indigenous people around the world.

Thank you for your work for the museum and for taking the time to give us this interview.

Thank you. 


Photographs courtesy of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Used with permission.

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. Meet-native-america
From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All photos used with permission. 

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This Day in the Maya Calendar: August 2014

Cholq'ij, the Maya sacred ceremonial calendar of 260 days—a cycle of 20 Day deities and 13 numbers—is the basis of the Maya spirituality that survives to this time, practiced daily among millions of Maya people, in thousands of communities. The interpretation of the days can vary from one Maya people to another. The interpretations given here are based on sustained conversations and participation over three decades with Maya Q'eqchi calendar priest Roderico Teni and daykeeping families in the area of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, by Jose Barreiro (Taíno), head of NMAI’s Office of Latin America, and his wife, Katsi Cook (Mohawk). Glyphs representing the Day lords appear throughout Maya Country; these were painted by Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya) of Cobán.

For more background to this series, please see Jose's introduction, "Living in the Practice." For further insight into the role of the Day lords in everyday life, please see the Maya Journal. For the complete year so far, please see the Maya calendar archive.

Illustrations: Esteban Pop Caal (Q'eqchi Maya), calendar glyphs. Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala; 2003. Paint on wood. Purchased from the artist. 26/2685. Photos by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI 

7 Anil  |  Friday, August 1, 2014

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 7 is a pivotal number. Anil is red, white, yellow, black—the four colors of corn, the seed of life that is the unity of the world. Anil is renewal after death, regeneration of the earth. Anil people are four-directions people and can be good travelers. This is a day of coming back, a day to generate and appreciate abundance, a day of declaring love to create a new relationship, a day to announce the wish to do business, a day of finding lost things, a day to ask for help in overcoming shyness. —Jose Barreiro 

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July 24, 2014

Meet Native America: Sheri Doxtator, Chief, Oneida Nation of the Thames

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh 


Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Sheri Doxtator, elected chief for the Oneida Nation of the Thames. The name Oneida comes from the original Onyota’a:ka, which means People of the Standing Stone. Oneida is a member of the Six Nations, also known as the Iroquois. 

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Chief Sheri Doxtator, Oneida Nation of the Thames.

Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation? 

Teyotawunli (pronounced day yo dah wun lee), it means Travelling Woman. A'no:wál niwaki’taló:tʌ̲ is how to say, "I am of the Turtle Clan."

Where is your nation located? 

Our physical location is Southwold, Ontario, Canada, but we refer to our territory as Oneida Settlement. We are located next to the Thames River, and this is why we refer to ourselves in English as the Oneida Nation of the Thames.

Where were the Oneida people originally from?

What is now known as New York State, in the U.S.A.

What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share?

May I quote from an article by Eileen M. Antone, an Oneida and member of the faculty at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education? 

Oneida Nation of the Thames holds a unique position among the First Nation communities in Canada in that we purchased our lands and arrived as settlers from New York State. Our original homelands are in the Madison County area of New York and well beyond. However, following the American Revolution, the Governor of N.Y. saw fit to reward returning American soldiers with parcels of Oneida lands.

Documented from living memory of stories handed down (orature), money was thrown at the feet of Oneidas by the N.Y. officials, telling them that this was payment for their lands and they should leave the state. Arrangements were quickly made between Oneida Castle and the Land Commission of Upper Canada to purchase the land in Delaware Township along the banks of the Thames where we now reside in collective ownership.

Two-hundred-forty men, women, and children arrived at the settlement in 1840, and each paid $42 to settle here. The settlement later became Reserve No. 41, after the Oneidas were unable to pay the  huge debt of back taxes, most of which had been accumulated by the previous owners.

You can read more in Prof. Antone's History of the Oneida of the Thames Move to Canada. An excerpt from the book describing the earlier history of the Oneida is available online courtesy of the Oneida Language and Cultural Centre

It should also be noted that Oneidas remained in New York and also settled in Wisconsin. Our Oneida sisters and brothers are located all over Turtle Island. However, we have tribal lands in Ontario, Canada, and in New York and Wisconsin, in the United States. 

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Graphic design by Chancey Teholatanek Chrisjohn based on the Hiawatha Belt, a symbol of the agreement among the five original Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) nations and their promise to live in unity and stand by one another in times of trouble. © Chancey Teholatanek Chrisjohn, used with permission. 

How is your government set up? 

We currently have elected governance and traditional governance systems. As we move into building our nation stronger, we hope that our systems will continue on a path of unity. As the elected chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames, I hold my seat with pride and honor to represent Onyota’a:ka with twelve elected councillors. They are listed by our clan system as follows:

Ohkwa:lí̲ (Bear Clan): Carolyn J. Doxtator, Charity J. Doxtator, Sue Doxtator, Ransom Doxtator, Zelda Elijah, Olive Elm, Randall Phillips

A'no:wál (Turtle Clan): Sheri Doxtator

Othahyu:ní̲ (Wolf Clan): Joel Abram, Clinton Cornelius, Gloria Doxtator, H. Grant Doxtator, Harry Doxtator

Our newly elected council—which took office as of July 9, 2014—is excited to nurture our relationship with the traditional governance systems in our territory. As Onyota’a:ka we all believe that we have a responsibility to our future generations and that our ancestors watch over us. The elected leaders convene our council meetings using the traditional medicines that the Creator has provided for us, offer an opening and closing prayer in the Onyota’a:ka language, and sit according to clans.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

We currently follow the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada regulations with regards to our elections. This means that elections occur every two years.

How often does the council meet?

We have established regular meetings to be four times a month, but we realize that special meetings may need to be called from time to time. The council relies on a portfolio system that may see regular monthly meeting of various committees dealing with a large variety of issues concerning our nation.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your nation?

I feel that I am honored to have been chosen to take over the “family business.” My father, Harry Doxtator, and grandfather Manson Ireland also held elected office as both chiefs and councillors.  It is with great love and respect to my mother, Linda, and my grandmothers Christine and Elsie that these men and I have been able to hold these titles.

I have been involved with leadership roles and youth councils at the Assembly of First Nations and the National Association of Friendship Centres and in almost every educational institution I have attended since I started school at the age of four. My work experience with a variety of Indigenous organizations on Turtle Island at local, regional, national, and international levels has also prepared me for my current role as elected chief. 

What responsibilities do you have as a chief?

The elected chief is accountable to all the people of the Oneida Nation of the Thames. As the top spokesperson for our people, I take my direction from them and by extension the elected council. Our decision-making process is one of consensus. Our hope is to move forward in the spirit of unity and build the strength of our nation. As the elected leadership, we develop key priorities to focus on.

Due to the short length of term in office, leadership has been limited on what can be accomplished. Through a review of our election code and improved engagement with our people, we hope to reduce the constant changes of leadership and goals that seem to come every two years. 

Long-term planning is important for all our success. Specifically, elected leadership works with various levels of government—municipal, provincial, and federal—to advocate for Indigenous issues, concerns, and legislation. We provide a number of services for our people, such as housing, education, health, child welfare, and safety, to mention a few. As is true of many of the First Nations in Canada, we are very limited on funding, and this creates a sense of dependency on governments who control the purse strings. Thus, we are looking at increasing our own-source revenue streams, developing fundraising strategies, and creating social enterprises. 

Our larger goals are expressed in our mission statement: 

We the Oneida people will strive to strengthen and restore a better understanding of the Great Law, our spirituality, history, language, culture and traditions in order to retain our identity and values as Unkwehonwe people;

We the Oneida people recognize the need to create a safe, harmonious and self sufficient community that will provide a clean environment, healthy life choices and a sustainable economy for the benefit of all;

Together we the Oneida people will strive to govern and manage our own affairs with the courage to exercise our sovereignty and independence as we evolve into the future.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My parents and grandparents are the most important mentors and influences in my life. In everything I do, I always ask myself, “Would this make my grandma proud?”

My father has been and is still a leader of our community for over four decades. This position can be challenging at times, and he gained respect from our people, our councils, and other Indigenous leaders from around the world.  He makes me proud, and I hope to be half the leader he is.

He did it with my mother by his side. She is a strong woman who taught me that strength is not measured by our physical being. Rather we build our strength from one another, and our love grows with each passing day. 

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Harry Doxtator, Sheri Doxtator's father, current elected Councillor for Oneida Nation of the Thames and a former elected chief who served for 24 years. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?

None that I know of.

Approximately how many members are in your nation?

The currently population for Oneida Nation of the Thames is almost 5900.

What are the criteria to become a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames?

We currently recognize our people through the clan system. If you are born into Bear, Turtle, or Wolf Clan, then you are Oneida. Through the federal system, the external government has created a numbering system to identify our people as Status Indians as recognized under the Indian Act. This is legislation that the government of Canada still adheres to maintain control over many First Nations in Canada. 

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?

We only have 63 master speakers. They are fluent elders within our settlement. We encourage language use in our early years and elementary education system. We also have developed a relationship with a local university to have our language taught and accredited.  As leadership, we are committed to language revitalization and are learning new words, phrases, and sentences every time we conduct a council meeting.

What economic enterprises does your nation own?

Our for-profit arm, Twataya’Takenhas, Incorporated (TTI; the full name is pronounced dwa dah ya dah giin haas), has made investments in mySmart Simulations (mSS) and D’Arcy Lance Incorporated (DLI). mSS is a software development company that focuses on e-learning for healthcare professionals. DLI is a local registered massage-therapy school that focuses on both human and equine massage. 

What annual events does your nation sponsor?

Our nation supports local athletes in a variety of sports. This year we supported Oneida athletes in their various sports at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) held the week of July 20, 2014.  We also support our young hockey players at the Little Native Hockey League (Little NHL) tournament held every year during our spring break in March. This Little NHL event sees children and youth—ages 3 to 18—from all over Ontario come together in a show of sportsmanship.  

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

We currently have a re-created Iroquoian village that is located five minutes from Oneida Settlement. It is called Skanahdoht, meaning, “A village stands again.” On the settlement we hope to see investment in a language and cultural center.

How does your nation deal with the United States and Canada as a sovereign nation?

Oneida Nation of the Thames is committed to nationhood with the Iroquois people. We assert our inherent rights as sovereign people by living along and crossing the U.S.–Canada border.  Our people stand united as Iroquois, and we continue to live and work freely in North America. We also meet with elected officials of other Iroquois nations through the Iroquois Caucus. Collectively we represent approximately 70,000 people.

What message would you like to share with the youth of your nation?

Our youth are leaders. I have learned a lot from listening to our youth. They are intelligent, well-spoken, and will be holding my seat as chief and seats as members of the council in the future. As a role model, I am an abstainer from alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. I speak with a clear mind and in a good way. I believe that revitalizing our language will strengthen our nation. I will continue to be an ambassador of the Oneida Nation and represent our people to the best of my abilities. I will be quiet and listen to our people, when required, and will continue to “make decisions that would make my grandma proud”!  

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I thank the Creator every day for all creation and for the opportunity to represent my people.  Yaw^ko—an Oneida word meaning, “Great big thanks!” 

Thank you.


All photographs courtesy of Oneida Nation of the Thames, used with permission. 

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. Meet-native-america

From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All photos used with permission. 

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July 17, 2014

Meet Native America: Paul Brooks, Chairman, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh 
 

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Chairman Paul Brooks, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is Paul Brooks. I am the chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. My childhood nickname is Bean. I was raised in a family 14, so I’m not sure how I got that name.

Where is the Lumbee Tribe located? Where was your band originally from? 

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is located in Robeson and adjoining counties. We are descendants of the Cheraw Indians who migrated from Virginia to North Carolina and settled along the banks of Drowning Creek, which is known today as the Lumber River. 

What is a significant point in history from your nation that you would like to share? 

One significant point in Lumbee history was the elimination of double-voting in the 1970s in Robeson County. Double voting allowed city residents in Robeson County to vote for both the city and county school board, giving non-Native city residents unusual control over county schools, where most Lumbee children studied. The system was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The movement to end double-voting helped our tribe progress in leadership roles. 

How is your tribal government set up? 

We have a constitutional form of government, which was established by a vote of the people in 2000. We have three separate but equal branches of government—judicial, executive, and legislative. 

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system? 

There is not a traditional entity of leadership in addition to our government system.

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

We have 21 council members who represent 14 districts in Robeson, Cumberland, Scotland, and Hoke counties. The council representatives are elected every three years and can serve no more than two consecutive terms. 

How often does the Tribal Council meet? 

The Tribal Council meets once a month. It may hold special-called council meetings when needed. 

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Chairman Brooks meeting with members of the Lumbee community.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader? 

According to the Lumbee Constitution, the chairman is given all executive powers, including implementation of and compliance with annual budgets. The chairman assures that all tribal laws are executed.

The chairman must deliver to the membership an annual State of the Tribe Address during the first week of July. The address shall include a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The chairman has the authority to veto any ordinance enacted by the Tribal Council. The chairman nominates a Tribal Administrator, and the chairman represents the Lumbee Tribe before all other governments and tribunals, including the United States, the state of North Carolina, and all federal and state agencies. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe? 

The role that my father, the late Pete Brooks, played in my life is what prepared me to be a leader within my tribe. This is my biggest attribute. He instilled in me the importance of education, hard work, and a strong work ethic. 

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Greg Richardson, director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, presents Paul Brooks with the Order of Long Leaf Pine. 39th annual North Carolina Indian Unity Conference, Raleigh, March 2014. The award honored Chairman Brooks for hs achievements during 40 years of public service.

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

The people who inspired me as mentors were my father and my cousin, the late Dexter Brooks. Dexter Brooks was the first American Indian Superior Court Judge in North Carolina. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 

I am a direct descendent of Joe Brooks, one of our historical leaders. Joe Brooks was instrumental in working on behalf of the Lumbee Tribe during the time of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

There are about 55,000 members in our tribe. 

What are the criteria to become a member of the Lumbee Tribe? 

Our tribal membership is based on descendancy from the tribe’s base rolls and maintaining contact with the tribe. 

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? 

Our language was lost years ago.  

What economic enterprises does your tribe own? 

The tribe owns the former North Carolina Indian Cultural Center

What annual events does the Lumbee Tribe sponsor? 

Annual events hosted by the tribe include the "Dance of the Spring Moon” Spring Powwow, Senior Ms. Lumbee Pageant, and a Veterans Luncheon. The tribe also plays an integral part in the annual Lumbee Homecoming festivities. 

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

There are several historical sites across our tribal territory, including the former North Carolina Indian Cultural Center. This 389-acre site is the home of the outdoor drama Strike At the Wind!, performed from the 1970s until 2007. The center also includes a golf course, pool, walking trails, and campgrounds.

The Indian Normal School, now known as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is also an historical site. 

How does your tribe deal with the United States as a sovereign nation? 

The Lumbee Tribe receives federal funds based on our status as a sovereign American Indian tribe.

What message would you like to share with Lumbee youth? 

My message to our youth would be to work hard, be honest, obtain an education, and, above all else, be ready to work for your people.

Also, I would like to add, to get involved with your community. The smallest contribution can have the largest impact. 

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


All photos courtesy of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Used with permission.

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. 

Meet-native-america
From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All photos used with permission. 

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July 10, 2014

Meet Native America: Frank Kengie Paiz, Governor, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, the responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native people today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

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Governor Frank Paiz, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Frank Kengie Paiz, governor for the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. 

Can you give us your Native name?

I can give you my official title on the Tribal Council:Ta-budeh means governor in our native language, Tiwa.

Where is your community located?

The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is located within El Paso County in far West Texas and is comprised of a reservation having a checker-boarded, noncontiguous geography. Its primary land base, housing the tribal government headquarters and residential districts, is surrounded by the cities of El Paso and Socorro. The tribe owns more than 74,000 acres of land with approximately 3,000 acres held in trust by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The tribe has also invested in the acquisition of property for tribal businesses and future development. The tribe owns the Chilicote Ranch, totaling more than 70,000 acres of grasslands, hills, canyons, and highlands located in Presidio and Jeff Davis counties. In addition to the diverse wildlife and plant life, the Chilicote houses the tribe’s cattle ranching operations.

Where was your tribe originally from?

After leaving the homelands of Quarai Pueblo due to drought, the Tigua sought refuge at Isleta Pueblo, located in what is now Albuquerque, New Mexico. The people were later captured by the Spanish during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and forced to walk south for more than 400 miles. The Tigua settled and built the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso, Texas, and soon after built the acequia (canal) system that sustained a thriving agricultural-based community. The tribe's early economic and farming efforts helped pave the way for the development of the region. The tribe maintains its traditional political system and ceremonial practices and continues to flourish as a Pueblo community.  

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Governor Paiz speaking at the annual Honoring Veterans Ceremony, with Councilmen Roberto Pedraza III and Frank Gomez. November 2013, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?  

The governor/administrator is the chief administrative executive for the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, performing executive management and administrative duties in planning, organizing, and directing the administrative systems and direct service programs of the tribal government. The governor/ administrator provides visionary, innovative leadership, supervision, and general direction for the Pueblo management team to coordinate their efforts as they work to achieve departmental objectives. The governor/administrator is the chief liaison between the government administration and Tribal Council. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your Native community?

Born and raised on the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo reservation, I experienced many obstacles and challenges that helped shape the tough exterior and sympathetic heart needed to serve as a tribal leader of a small, tight-knit pueblo. Rooted in deep tradition, my family line prepared me for the leadership role I believe I was born to assume, and I vowed to restore a traditional grounding to the Tribal Council.

I can relate to many of our community members and the socioeconomic challenges that oftentimes plague our children and families. Conditions of poverty, unemployment, and discrimination sometimes coincide to paralyze progress. The promise of our children, however, and the assets we possess as a collective pueblo always resonated in my will to institute change. I labor daily to make decisions and chart courses that will lift the pueblo in success and sustainability. As I enter my ninth year in office, I often reflect on the experiences of the past to keep me grounded, humble, and accountable.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

The legacy of tribal leaders in my family line has always been the driving force behind my inspiration to serve in tribal leadership and to promote the Tigua customs and traditions. I remember looking in awe at my relatives during tribal feast days as they stood proud to be Tigua. I am a child of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and was raised and mentored not only by my immediate family, but also by extended family members, neighbors, and elders alike who now serve as my inspiration for creating and administering responsible government.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

Yes, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has a Traditional Council consisting of a cacique (chief), capitan de guerra (war captain), aguacil (tribal sheriff), tribal governors, and four capitanes (captains). The cacique and war captain provide spiritual and traditional guidance. The cacique and war captain are appointed to life-long terms. Members of the traditional council are elected annually on New Year’s Eve and are responsible for maintaining all aspects of Tigua culture, including traditional ceremonies, feast days, marital and death rites, and other related functions. 

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Members of the Ysleta del Sur Tribal Council for 2014. Seated at center: Francisco Holguin, cacique . Standing from left to right: Carlos Hisa, lieutenant governor; Roberto Pedraza III, councilman; Frank Gomez, councilman; Frank Paiz, governor; Bernardo Gonzales, aguacil; Rafael Gomez, Jr., councilman; David Gomez, councilman; Javier Loera, war captain.

What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share?

The All Pueblo Indian Celebration Day at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP) on November 17, 2009, signified a momentous spiritual and historical event for YDSP and all Rio Grande Pueblos: We came together for the first time in more than 400 years to pledge to work in harmony and strengthen cultural preservation, sovereignty, and self-determination. In observance of the YDSP’s inauguration into the All Indian Pueblo Council (AIPC), YDSP hosted the celebration, which was part of a three-day visit of all pueblos convening to hold their quarterly meetings. Together with YDSP, the pueblos gathered to discuss restoring, reconnecting, and strengthening interpueblo relations.  

AIPC advocates for cultural preservation, traditions, and modern day political, economic, education, health, and governance needs. Although the pueblos have worked collaboratively throughout history to address the needs of Pueblo people, the AIPC formally adopted a constitution and bylaws in 1965.

I requested AIPC membership in January 2009, appealing for equal consideration and representation. On August 21, 2009, AIPC voted to instate YDSP.  With YDSP’s membership, AIPC is now comprised of the twenty Pueblos of New Mexico and Texas, including Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Sandia, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Ysleta del Sur, Zia, and Zuni. Combined we are the collective voice of all Pueblos. 

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

As of the first quarter in 2014, the enrolled population is 1,731 with a population make-up of:

  • 54 percent female to 46 percent male
  • 19 percent minors (17 years and under)
  • 72 percent adults (18 through 64 years)
  • 9 percent elders (65 years and over)

Our tribal-descendant population is 1,723 with a population make up of:

  • 48 percent female to 52 percent male
  • 61 percent minors 
  • 39 percent adults 
  • 0 percent elders 

The Pueblo is currently engaged in a citizenship reform effort known as Project Tiwahu to self-determine YDSP membership requirements. Project Tiwahu began when the federal government changed the tribe’s Texas Restoration Act in 2012. The act federally recognized the tribe in 1987. However, restrictive language in the original act only recognized individuals with one-eighth degree or more of Ysleta del Sur Indian blood as enrolled members. The new legislation (Public Law 112-157) empowers the Pueblo and aligns it with other federally recognized tribes whose enrollment membership is not regulated by a federal statute. 

Thank you.


All photos courtesy of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. Used with permission.

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. Meet-native-america
From left to right: Representative Ponka-We Victors (Tohono O’odham/Southern Ponca) taking the oath of office in the Kansas House of Representatives; photo courtesy of Kansas Rep. Scott Schwab. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache) at the Sundance Film Festival; photo courtesy of WireImage. Sergeant Debra Mooney (Choctaw) at the powwow in Al Taqaddum Air Force Base, Iraq, 2004; photo courtesy of Sgt. Debra Mooney. Councilman Jonathan Perry (Wampanoag) in traditional clothing; photo courtesy of Jonathan Perry. Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/Hodulgee Muscogee) at Blackhorse et al. v. Pro Football, Inc., press conference, U.S. Patent and Trade Office, February 7, 2013; photo courtesy of Mary Phillips. All images used with permission. 

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