Meet Native America: Jeff Haozous, Chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe

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

Chairman Jeff Haozous
Chairman Jeff Haozous, Fort Sill Apache Tribe.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

I'm Jeff Haozous, chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe.

Can you share your Native name and its English translation? 

My last name, Haozous, can be translated as a pulling up motion or the sound of pulling roots. My grandfather was named Sam Haozous. My father changed his last name to Houser when he was young. I changed it back to Haozous in 2001.

Where is your tribal community located?

Our tribe is headquartered in Apache, Oklahoma, in the southwest part of the state. Our members live all over the United States. In 2002 we acquired trust land in our homelands in southern New Mexico, and in 2011 that land was declared to be a reservation by the Secretary of the Interior. It is the first reservation for the Chiricahua Apaches since our last one was closed in 1877.

Where is your tribe originally from?

Originally our people lived in what is now southwest New Mexico, southeast Arizona, and northern Mexico. The tribe as a whole was referred to as Chiricahua Apache. It was composed of four bands named Chiricahua, Warm Springs, Bedonhke, and Nednais.

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

In the late 1800s the Chiricahua and Warm Springs reservations in Arizona and New Mexico were closed, and the tribe was moved to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona. It was a very difficult period for our people. Fearing for his life, Geronimo, one of our more notable members, left the reservation. This started a conflict with the United States that led to the imprisonment of our people and their removal from the Southwest to Florida, then Alabama, and finally to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where they were released in 1914. This nearly 28-year imprisonment is one of the most significant eras in our history.

How is your tribal government set up?

We have a General Council, which consists of all members of the tribe 18 years of age or older. The General Council votes annually to approve the tribal operations budget and to elect members of the Business Committee.

The Business Committee consists of six members including a chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary–treasurer. The Business Committee oversees the tribal membership application process, maintains the tribal rolls, prepares and manages the tribal operations budget, and supervises tribal government programs.

Additionally, the Business Committee appoints members of boards that are responsible for various aspects of the tribe’s operations, and when applicable approves the boards' budgets.

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

No.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Business Committee members are elected to two-year terms. The terms are staggered so that each year two members are up for election.

How often does your tribal council meet?

The General Council meets on the first Saturday of October, which coincides with Business Committee elections, and as needed.

The Business Committee meets as needed, usually once a month.

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?

I preside at meetings of the General Council and of the Business Committee. I represent the tribe in interactions with other governments and organizations. I’m also chairman of the Board of Trustees of our Economic Development Authority, which oversees our casino and government-contracting businesses. I preside over meetings of the Board of Trustees and provide general oversight for the authority as authorized by the board.

Groundbreaking, Apache Casino Hotel
Tribal leaders, employees, and construction staff at the groundbreaking for the new Event Center at the Apache Casino Hotel. Lawton, Oklahoma, December 2015.


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

My family, as well as our tribe, has always emphasized the importance of education. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to college and graduate school. This has helped me serve in my position.

Also, I worked in the business world prior to coming to the tribe. Through this experience, I developed the skills that help me to lead and oversee our tribe’s business operations.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My father was my first inspiration. He taught me to work hard and to do my best and he emphasized the importance of education. My aunt Ruey Darrow, who preceded me as chairperson, was a great mentor to me. I was also inspired by the examples set by tribal leaders Inman (Cloyde) and Lupe Gooday.

Finally, although he died before I was born, I am inspired by the life of my grandfather Sam Haozous. He was taken from his homeland as a boy and held as a prisoner of war until he was 42 years old. He was released into poverty conditions onto an allotment in southwestern Oklahoma where he and my grandmother raised several accomplished, educated children.

In 1946, he was a plaintiff in the land claim in which we were found to be the legal successor to the Chiricahua Apaches in New Mexico and Arizona. The settlement of this claim led to the organization of our tribe as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe. He did not live to see the settlement of the claim or the subsequent restoration of our tribe. This example of efforts leading to benefits for future generations inspires me as I contemplate projects that I know will not be completed in my own lifetime.

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

Apache Chief Mangas Coloradas was my great-great grandfather. In 1852, he signed the only treaty ever made between the United States and the Apaches.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

We have 730 members.

What are the criteria to become a member of your tribe?

Members must be descended from a person who received an allotment in Oklahoma after our people’s release from imprisonment, have one-sixteenth degree blood quantum, have a natural parent who is a member of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, and have not taken land or money as an adult member of another tribe.

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

Our language is not spoken fluently on our homelands. We have language classes, but no fully fluent speakers.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

The tribe owns the Apache Casino Hotel in Lawton, Oklahoma; the Apache Homelands Smokeshop Restaurant in Akela, New Mexico; and Fort Sill Apache Industries, a government contractor.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

We hold an annual dance and celebration at our headquarters in Apache, Oklahoma, on the third weekend of September. This year it will be held on September 16 and 17.

Fort Sill Apache Gooday Dance Group
Chairman Haozous (second from left) with members of the Fort Sill Apache Gooday Dance Group. 


What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

We have very little land and few attractions except for our casino in Oklahoma and our restaurant in New Mexico.

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

We deal with the U.S. as a sovereign nation in the same manner as other federally recognized tribes. We have no active treaties with the United States.

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

We have a rich culture and a deep history. If you can, please make an effort to learn about it. It doesn’t matter where you live. Call our offices and we can help you.

Do your best to get an education. If you plan to go to college, take advantage of our educational assistance. You are the future of our tribe.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It is my life’s mission to return our people to our homelands in New Mexico and Arizona, to provide jobs, then housing, then to establish the institutions that will support a community—schools, health care, cultural centers, etc. I realize that this will not be completed in my lifetime. I’m doing it for the benefit of our ancestors and of our descendants.

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe; 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 08, 2016

The Longest Walk: An Interview with Dennis Banks

Since 1978, American Indian activists have used protest marches across the United States to call attention to issues of great concern to their nations and communities. This is the second post in a three-part series by April Chee (Navajo) on the Longest Walk V: Declaring War on Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence, which will reach Washington, D.C., on July 15. April's first post gave a brief history of the Longest Walk movement. 


Dennis Banks with members of the Lumbee community
Dennis Banks (Ojibwe) meeting with members of the Lumbee and Tuscarora tribes on the Longest Walk V. June 2016, Robeson County, North Carolina. 


Thank you for giving the museum this interview. Many people are familiar with your work, but for those who aren't, could you introduce yourself?

My name is Nowa Cumig, also known as Dennis Banks. I am Ojibwe and Turtle Clan, born April 12, 1937, on Leech Lake Reservation, Minnesota.

You’ve been credited with the idea for the original Longest Walk in 1978. Where did the idea or inspiration come from?

Well, when the anti-Indian bills were introduced, organizations like NCAI [the National Congress of American Indians] were flying delegates to Washington, D.C., to protest the legislation. I kept thinking that AIM [the American Indian Movement] does not have that kind of money to fly out our members to D.C. Then I thought of the Long Walk of the Navajos and the Trail of Tears, and how people were forcibly removed from their Indigenous land. I thought, “We know this country, why not walk across the country and go back to Washington, D.C., with purpose?” We will think about all of our ancestors and the walks they were forced to endure while we walk across the country ourselves.

It [the Longest Walk] would be a forced walk, because Congress was trying to get out of their own commitments, agreements, and declarations by nullifying the treaties. I then proposed the idea to our Oakland Chapter and my good friend Bill Wahpepah (Sac and Fox), and the walk started to come to reality with notable support from Marlon Brando, Carlos Santana, and Tony Bennett, and of course the support from Native people across the country.

Why do you think it was important to emphasize the protest as a peaceful, spiritual march? What was the greater significance?

It meant that it was a departure from the actions at Wounded Knee,. This time we would pledge to walk across with our pipes, and it would be a great spiritual walk. A spiritual movement brought us to better understanding about our spiritual beliefs and who we are as a cultural people. To me that was a huge stand of education that was brought down to seconds and minutes in making our decision on how to proceed with the march. We smoked a pipe at Alcatraz and every day we did the same thing as we walked across this country. It not only beautifies the struggle but it strengthened the struggle, it helped us understand that this is what our people did. To remember our ancestors, we had to make this walk a spiritual walk and remember their struggle in this way.

Longest Walk with the Seminole at Big Cypress
Walkers and supporters of the Longest Walk V with members of the Seminole Indian Nation. June 2016, Big Cypress Reservation, Florida. 


How do you think the relationship between activism and legislation has affected Native communities?

It is a learning experience in what the communities go through, too. Sometimes we put too much weight on our politicians and elected leaders. We trust them to do all of this leg work, and they can’t. We elect them but we cannot expect them to do all of the legwork alone. For instance, if you are praying for an answer, you cannot expect something to happen without your doing something, without taking action. If you want something done, then you have to organize something around it. We need that with our leaders to pave the way to legislation and meeting with members of Congress and meeting with program directors within the US Government. A protest has to take action as well, I don’t want us just to hold signs. Prayer and ceremony demands action.

Each walk interacts directly with issues that Native communities face. What does the Longest Walk V mean to you and different Native communities?

The issue of drug abuse is out of control right now. It is now 2016, and I can say unequivocally that we have lost the right time to strike to end drug abuse. What can we do to end drug abuse, prescription abuse? Walking across the country collecting information is only one part. The only thing that is really going to help us is our spiritual and cultural beliefs. We have to recover using our traditional spiritual beliefs like the Sun Dance ceremony, sweat lodge ceremony, pipe ceremony, walking, and running to have a clean and healthy life.

This is all within our grasp, but if we do not get up and take a stand against drug abuse then we will never get ahead. We are losing generations upon generations of our young people to suicide and drug abuse, and we need to do something to stop this epidemic. We might not be able to stop it within my lifetime, but we need to start something: I will be sure that there is a beginning. We can only blame ourselves if we don’t provide for the seventh generation a much better outlook in life. Let’s start talking about domestic violence, about drug abuse, let’s put these issues on the table and discuss what we can do to help our people.

Could you tell us more about your experience during this walk and the kind of dialogue you hope to create along the way?

Our level of participation across this country coming from Native people has been immense. People themselves want to speak about their experiences with domestic violence and with drug abuse. People speak on their road to recovery from domestic violence, and it’s always moving to hear these stories and how families have come back together in a healthy way, or found ways to take themselves out of unsafe situations to better their lives.

I remember seeing a sign in a home that I visited while on this tour, and this sign said, “I stayed with my husband so that our children could have a father. I left my husband so that my children could have a mother.” This was a powerful statement that stuck with me. We have heard different stories along the way, and some are positive and some had tragic endings. But regardless the first thing we have to do is put these issues on the table.

What is your ultimate goal in completing this major walk for now the fifth time?

The Longest Walk V will officially end after three separate walks. We are doing the southern walk right now, and next year we will cover the middle states. Then after that walk we will walk the northern states of the U.S. and some of Canada, always ending in Washington, D.C. The ultimate goal is recovery. Helping our people who are addicted to drugs to take part in recovery programs through spiritual healing. Lead our people back to our traditional way of life.

I believe that we can still function as traditional, spiritual people and still successfully participate in American life. We are ultimately looking for recovery, for healing our people. We have found that once you begin discussing it, people will come to the table and say, “Yes, it’s wrong,” that drug and alcohol abuse needs to come to an end.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I have a strong belief that in the end of any situation, goodness will prevail, that love of ourselves will prevail. We can coexist with people even if our beliefs are different. Whatever helps a person to be a better person, then I pat them on the back for what their beliefs are. Full steam ahead, never give up, never give in.

Thank you.

—April Chee, NMAI

April Chee (Navajo) is Tábąąhi (Waters Edge Clan) born for Naakaii Dine′é (Mexican People) from Coalmine, New Mexico. April is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico and will graduate in fall 2016. She was selected as a Smithsonian intern for the summer of 2016 and is working in the Public Affairs Office of the National Museum of the American Indian.

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Meet Native America: Terri Parton, President of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes

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

President Terri Parton
President Terri Parton, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is Terri Parton. I am the president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and an enrolled member. I am also of Caddo descent. I have a 23-year-old son, Jacob, and a 10-year-old nephew, Joshua.

Can you share your Native name and its English translation, or your nickname?

My maiden name is Terri Ann Brown. I do not have a Native name.

Where is your tribal community located?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes is located in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Our former reservation boundaries include the northern half of Caddo County, Oklahoma. Parts of Grady, Canadian, Blaine, Custer, and Washita counties are also included in the former reservation boundaries.

Where is your tribe originally from?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes consists of the Wichita proper, Waco, Keechi, and Tawakoni bands. Our tribe is indigenous to Oklahoma, south central Kansas, and most of Texas. Our tribe is the only tribe aboriginal to Oklahoma.

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

The Wichita people once lived in the areas from around Wichita, Kansas, all through Oklahoma and down to Waco, Texas. We were once called the Quivira. We now sit on a former reservation area that we were forced to share with two other tribes. Much of that land no longer belongs to us. The most significant point in our history is when the Wichita, Waco, Keechi, and Tawakoni people were forced to give up our land.

How is your tribal government set up?

The supreme governing body is all tribal members 18 years and older—our General Council. Our tribe elected to be governed by a Governing Resolution instead of by a constitution. The Governing Resolution passed by the General Council delegates authority to a seven-member Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is composed of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and three committee members.

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

We have traditional leadership that mostly focuses on the Wichita–Pawnee Visitation that has gone on for centuries. While we do our best to promote culture and our traditional ways, this is not integrated into the politics of the government.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes holds elections for all seven members of the Executive Committee every four years. Elections are held the third Saturday in July. The next elections will be held this month. A candidate must receive the majority vote of those voting to be elected.

How often does your council meet?

The Governing Resolution of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes calls for an annual General Council Meeting to be held on the third Saturday in July of each year. Occasionally, other meetings of the General Council are called by the president.

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

My life experiences help guide me in everything I do. Every time someone comes in and needs help, I can usually relate in some way to what they’re going through. My life has not been perfect at all. I have lived. I have had bad times, bad experiences, and dealt with the things that many of our people go through in some shape or form. I've chosen to never let those experiences keep me down, though. I learned from them and let those lessons be my guide when helping others.

I have had help along the way when I thought no one could help me, and so I know the importance of being able to help someone when they think there is no hope or help. Helping my people in those instances is the most rewarding thing about my job.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

While there are certain things in our Governing Resolution that are duties of the president, such as presiding over meetings and having supervision of the business of the General Council and the Executive Committee, there is a much deeper sense of responsibility that comes with the position for me.

My responsibility lies in caring for my people. This is carried out in variety of ways. I represent my people to the best of my ability. I work to do my best to make things move in a positive direction for our tribe. I try to filter out negativity and stay focused on the positive side to move our tribe forward.

It is my responsibility to do my best to get to know my people and who they are. I try to be there when needed or asked, at least to do the best I can. There are times I have to take a break, too, though.

Most importantly I am responsible for making sure that our tribe has a future and to keep the best interest of the tribe at heart. I focus a lot on our children, but not forgetting to take care of our elders. I want to know that as I grow older and become an elder, I will feel confident in stepping aside and letting our younger generation lead, while still maintaining a connection to be a mentor. It is my responsibility to share my knowledge to ensure our future.

Red Earth Parade with PrincessesPresident Parton and princesses representing the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes at the 31st annual Red Earth Festival. June 2016, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Who inspired you as a mentor?

The definition of a mentor is “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.” There are a lot of people who were mentors through various stages of my life. Of course my dad, mom, and grandparents were the greatest mentors in raising me.

Mary Bailey, my fifth grade teacher; former President Gary McAdams's wife, Ardina McAdams, who is of Wichita descent; and Anita Ross (Wichita) were mentors from my younger years. They were mentors before I actually started working for our tribe.

I was very fortunate as young Wichita tribal member when I began working for our tribe 18-and-a half years ago to have many Wichita mentors. While I can think of a lot of elders who shared their life experiences and wisdom with me, there are handful of mentors who were at the forefront of why I have been able serve as president for our tribe for the last four years.

Kristoffer Ira Hight hired me and taught me a lot of the things he knew about the tribe and its programs when I first started. He wasn’t afraid to teach me or for me to follow in his footsteps. He wasn’t afraid to tell me when I was wrong, either. That is a mark of good leader. I carry that with me now and do my best to teach our youth what I know. Ira and I remain good friends to this day.

Frances Wise was the first tribal administrator I worked under. She made me believe that as a young Wichita Indian woman I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. She made me believe that I could be president of our tribe one day. I was cleaning the president’s office one day when I was about 26 years old, trying to file the piles of mail. I was young and didn’t realize the significance of sitting at the desk of the president. She stepped in the doorway and said, “You look good behind that desk. You could be president one day.” It had never crossed my mind until that point. That started about a 10-year journey before I became president. It was rough at first, but she was always there and knew when to call me when I needed that push to go on. She once told me that I had integrity. She helped me believe I could do anything I wanted in life as a strong Wichita woman.

Gerald Collins is a former Wichita Executive Committee member who served with me when I was secretary of the tribe. He now works for the tribe and continues to help me along. He has always had good words of wisdom for me when things got tough.

Doris McLemore, the last fluent speaker of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. Doris is also a tribal elder whom I love dearly. I was able to work with her as I taught our language class to our children several years ago. She taught me a lot about our language. She has become a symbol for me of why I love working for my people. When things get rough, as they often do in tribal politics, I often go to her for hugs to help me remember why I am on this journey.

Gary McAdams in my eyes was a great leader for our people. He cares about our people and preserving our culture. He has been my friend and mentor and was a major influence in my journey to becoming president of our tribe. I believe he enjoyed giving me more work to do when he realized the journey I would take someday as president. There wasn’t anything within our tribe that he held back teaching me. I’d like to think that he saw a leader in me. He believed enough in me to teach me many things about our history. I believe he trusted me and knew that I would carry on those things he taught me for our people. He knew even when it got tough as a tribal leader that I would always find my way keeping the best interest of our people at heart.

Stratford Williams was the mentor of all mentors for me. He was first person I saw when I first started to work for the tribe in 1998. He asked me about my family. We were both Wichita and Caddo. He called me his granddaughter on the Caddo side. He taught me everything he could about being a leader over a span of many years. He taught me how to be the leader that I wanted to be. To always help people even if they weren’t always the nicest to you. He cared about our people and our future. You could see it on his face and hear it in his prayers. He taught me about our history, politics, family, and prayer. He believed in my leadership possibilities and helped me believe in myself as a leader. I continue to honor him as I carry on the things he taught me.

The people I named are people I worked with daily at the tribe. They helped shape the leader that I am today. I can’t forget to mention James Ross, William Norman, Gladys Walker, Joni Williams, Kay Ahtone, and Marvin Delaware for their mentorship as elders and friends, for their advice, and for helping me keep my faith at times when things got rough these last four years. While I mention all of these mentors, there are still many more people who have helped me along the way. I have been blessed with a lot of mentors in my life.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader?

My father was Oscar Bruce Brown, Jr., who was Caddo/Wichita. My grandmother was Myra Ross Brown, who was full-blooded Wichita. My great grandfather was Charlie Moore Ross, who was full-blooded Wichita. My great-great grandfather was Walter Zumah Ross. Walter Zumah Ross was a sub-chief. He was photographed by Edward Curtis. There are also many books that talk about him. Our tribe had various bands with various chiefs.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes has 2,953 enrolled tribal members as of June 22, 2016.

What are the criteria to become a member?

As of June 22, 2016, you must be one-eighth Wichita to be enrolled. There is a provision for a blood consolidation of other Indian blood. On July 16, 2016, there will be a vote of the tribal membership on whether to lower the blood quantum.

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

As I mentioned earlier, we have only one fluent speaker left. Her name is Doris McLemore, and she is an amazing woman. At 89 years old, she still worked for the tribe cooking breakfast for staff and teaching language. Recently she has had to remain at home, but she still loves to speak and teach our Wichita language.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

Our tribe owns and operates Sugar Creek CasinoHinton Travel Inn, Wichita Tribal Smoke Shop, Wichita Travel Plaza, and the Wichita Child Development Center. We also have two Small Business Administration 8(a) companies—Anadarko Industries and Wichita Tribal Enterprises.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

The Wichita Annual Dance is held the second week of August of each year. It begins on Thursday and ends on Sunday. A Spirit Walk is also held in conjunction with the dance. It is our biggest event and the event that draws many of our Wichita people to come home. We also have a lot of programmatic functions on annual basis. We recently started a Community Easter Event to give back to our community.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

We are in the process of constructing the Wichita Historical Center north of Anadarko on highway 281. It features a thatched grass house and summer arbor. We also have the Sugar Creek Casino located in Hinton, Oklahoma. There are other attractions in the area that are not tribally related.

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

We have consultations with the government. Those consultations aren’t always what tribes expect, though. We have 638 contracts through the BIA and Indian Health Services. We interact in various other ways, such as attending meetings of the National Congress of American Indians; working on initiatives with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Native American Enterprise Initiative; and participating as a member of the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Tribal leaders of Oklahoma also meet with the governor at least once a year.

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

Always be proud to be Wichita. For all Indian youth, be proud to be Indian. Be proud of who you are. Don’t forget who you are and where you come from. Get to know your people and your tribe. Learn as much as you can. Get an education so you can be game-changers for our Indian communities. You will be the leaders of our tribes one day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Listen to your elders even when you don’t always agree. As you get older you’ll realize why they took the time to tell you the things they knew. They see something in you and they want to share that knowledge with you.

Be good to each other. Don’t be afraid to teach those younger than you. Always do things with a good heart when you’re working for your people. Love each other and forgive. You never get anywhere by yourself. Have faith in our Creator and don’t forget to pray. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t be afraid to make them. You will fall at times, but always pick yourself back up. Do the best you can do in all you do. Rise up and be great leaders for your tribe.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have been blessed to be able to work for my tribe for 18-and-a-half years. There have been a lot of ups and downs and highs and lows, but it has been a great journey. I completed my Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration and my Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law degree while I was president. I was 36 years old when I went back to school. I was 38 when I became president in 2012. Don’t give up on your dreams and don’t think you're too young to live those dreams.

Our Creator has blessed my life by allowing me to serve my Wichita people. I know he will direct my steps and those of our tribe in the future. I’m thankful for my family, friends, and mentors, and my Wichita people. I appreciate this opportunity to share a little about me and about my journey as president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes over the last four years.

So:ti:c?a. [Thank you.]

Thank you.


Photos courtesy of President Terri Parton; 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 01, 2016

The Longest Walk: Activism and Legislation in Indian Country

Since 1978, American Indian activists have used protest marches across the United States to call attention to issues of great concern to their nations and communities. Beginning today, a short blog series by April Chee (Navajo) traces the history of the Longest Walk movement and reports on the Longest Walk V, which will reach Washington, D.C., on July 15.


The Longest Walk 1978

 

Participants in the Longest Walk marched the length of the country, from Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, to the nation's capital. 1978, location unknown. Photo courtesy of the National Walk Director, Longest Walk V.


The first Longest Walk, in 1978, was a 3,000-mile march across the United States to bring attention to the rights of Native people in the United States and to protest 11 anti-Indian bills introduced in Congress that threatened treaty rights. Emphasizing the walk as a peaceful spiritual protest, thousands of Native activists, allies, and community members gathered together to support the movement. After a ceremony on Alcatraz Island, the group began their walk with thousands of people taking part. By July 15, an estimated 2,000 people walked into Washington, D.C. They stayed in the capital for the following week to ensure that their voices were heard and to conduct workshops to educate others about Native people, bringing together members of different Native nations to share knowledge and experience.

This historic movement attracted support from every walk of life. A notable picture from the Longest Walk (below) includes prominent Native and non-Native activists. The Longest Walk was deemed successful in reasserting treaty rights and bringing attention to Native issues. Ultimately, not one of the 11 bills before Congress was passed.

Concert in support of the Longest Walk, 1978

Activists came together with marchers for a concert to mark the end of the first Longest Walk. From left to right: Muhammad Ali, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram. 1978 Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of David Amran, from IndiVisible: African–Native American Lives in the Americas.

 

Since the original Longest Walk, there have been four additional major walks. The Longest Walk II, in 2008, called attention to environmental rights and the protection of sacred sites. In 2011 the Longest Walk III: Reversing Diabetes focused on the health of Indigenous peoples and working against diabetes, a disease that many Native people struggle to combat. In 2013 the Longest Walk IV: Return to Alcatraz was unique in that it began in Washington, D.C., and ended at Alcatraz. This walk focused on reaffirming Native sovereignty in the United States, recognizing that we are still nations with inherent rights to govern ourselves.

This ongoing march for Native rights has a direct correlation to the standing of Native people in the United States. From the occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 to 1971 to the Apache-Stronghold today, Native people have a record of contemporary activism directly affecting legislation. Protecting who we are as Native people in the United States, however, oftentimes requires more than appeals to government. Honoring our ancestor’s sacrifices means protecting our land, our water, our languages, our cultures, our women, our children, who we are as Native people. Time and time again, Native communities have banded together to take action to defend these inherent, sovereign rights.

The Longest Walk V: Declaring War on Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence will reach the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on July 15. Two further posts in this series will continue to cover the history of the Longest Walk movement and the current walk as it makes its way into the nation’s capital.

—April Chee, NMAI

April Chee (Navajo) is Tábąąhi (Waters Edge Clan) born for Naakaii Dine′é (Mexican People) from Coalmine, New Mexico. April is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico and will graduate in fall 2016. She was selected as a Smithsonian intern for the summer of 2016 and is working in the Public Affairs Office of the National Museum of the American Indian.

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Thanks April for bringing awareness to the Longest Walk. LW5 will be in DC on July 15, 2016.

June 22, 2016

Meet Native America: Audrey Hudson, Mayor, City Manager, Tribal Chairwoman, and Police Commissioner of the Metlakatla Indian Community

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

Mayor Hudson

Metlakatla Indian Community Mayor and Tribal Chairwoman Audrey Hudson at Celebration, a biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures. June 2016, Juneau, Alaska.

 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Audrey Hudson, mayor, city manager, tribal chairwoman, and police commissioner of the Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve, Alaska.

A more traditional introduction would be: My full name is Audrey Meri Louise Hudson. I am the daughter of Alice (Walker) Dundas, Tsimshian/Inupiaq of Metlakatla and White Mountain, Alaska. My maternal grandmother is Janet Louisa (Marsden) Hanson. My maternal great-grandmother is Louisa Feak Marsden. We are all of the Tsimshian Gish-but-wada Clan in Metlakatla, Alaska.

Can you share your Native name with us? 

My Tsimshian name is Galksiyaa da mangyepsa tgwa. It means She Who Walks through the High Glass. When the members of our community voted for me to be mayor of Metlakatla, I broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman ever to be elected to this position of leadership. This name was gifted to me by my close friends Gavin Hudson, David A. Boxley, David R. Boxley, and Kandi McGilton. My name is very precious, and every day I work to keep my name good and full of integrity.

Where is your tribal community located? 

The Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve, is the southernmost community in Alaska. We are two hours via Alaska Airlines from Seattle, Washington, plus a ferry ride from Ketchikan, Alaska. Annette Islands Reserve consists of 132,000 acres of land and water base. Metlakatla Indian Community has exclusive commercial and subsistence fishing rights to the islands’ waterways extending from 3,000 feet at mean low tide. We are the only reserve in Alaska. In the 1970s, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was accepted by other tribes in Alaska. Metlakatla is the only tribe that opted out. Metlakatla will forever be grateful to our leadership of that time for making that wise decision. 

Where were your people originally from? 

The Tsimshian originated in the headwaters of the Skeena River, in what is now known as British Columbia, Canada. 

What are the criteria to become a member of the Metlakatla Indian Community?

Metlakatla’s enrollment is based on lineage, not blood quantum. If you are not of lineal descent from Metlakatla, but you are Alaska Native and would like to become a member, you must reside in Metlakatla for one year. The Community Council has the authority to set a non-lineage quota per year.

What is a significant point in Metlakatla history that you would like to share? 

The settlement of New Metlakatla was formally established by ceremony on Annette Island, Alaska, on August 7, 1887. So, every year on August 7, we have a large Founders Day Celebration. Many members of the community return home for this time of celebration, cultural dancing and feasting. 

Tribal Chairwoman and Mayor Audrey Hudson
Mayor and Tribal Chairwoman Audrey Hudson, Metlakatla Indian Community.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader? 

As mayor and tribal chairwoman of Metlakatla Indian Community, I preside over all Council meetings. As city manager, I supervise and manage all professional officers and the directors of federal, state, tribal and revenue programs. As police commissioner, I supervise the work of the Metlakatla Police Department and the representative of the police force to Council. The chief of police is a separate position that handles day-to-day situations.

How is your tribal government set up? 

Metlakatla Indian Community was founded as a federally recognized Indian tribe under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act 25 USC, Section 426, with a Constitution and By-laws. The Metlakatla Indian Community of Annette Islands is the local governing body. A twelve-person Council governs the community. The mayor, secretary, and treasurer are elected by the general voting membership of the community. Each of these is elected for a two-year term. Council seats are staggered, resulting in the election of six Council seats each year and three executives every second year.

How often does your government meet? 

Our Tribal Council meets the first Tuesday of every month. Any member of the community may request a Special Council Meeting if he or she is able to obtain five Council signatures. Council has committees that meet regularly and handle particular issues and projects pertaining to finance; health, education, and welfare; community realty; law and order; planning; and natural resources. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

When I was a child, my inspirations were my aunts Margaret J. Williams, Anna Walker, and Mary L. Mandan, and my great aunt Margaret M. Marsden. My aunty Mae was the first woman ever to hold the position of executive secretary within our government. During this time, my great aunt Lena Dundas was a magistrate judge. In those particular years, I would listen in on conversations between Aunty Mae and Aunty Lena as they would discuss politics and I was intrigued by the various political angles and points of view.

My grandmother Janet L. (Marsden) Hanson is an inspiration. She told me to pray and look to the Lord for daily guidance. Her words to me were, “Your life is what you make it. Always make good choices.”

Is your language still spoken on your homelands?

Metlakatla, Alaska, has approximately five fluent Sm′algyax speakers remaining. All of our fluent speakers are over the age of 60. So there is an urgency to revitalize our language. We have worked in partnership with Annette Island School District in obtaining a federal grant with the goal of cultivating a new generation of children who are fluent in both English and Sm′algyax. The project is in its first year and is showing great promise.

What economic enterprises does your tribal community own?

Metlakatla Indian Community owns and operates a small Casino and Bingo Hall that features 90 class II electronic gaming machines. We own a fish-packing plant—Silver Bay Seafoods–Metlakatla, LLC—which buys salmon, halibut, sea cucumber, and geoduck from our local fishermen. We have always prided ourselves on the excellent quality of salmon caught in our waters. We have a tourism program that is growing every year.

What annual events does the Metlakatla community sponsor?

Every year, Metlakatla hosts the 7th of August Founders Day Celebration. The celebration this year will consist of a community-wide church service at the David Leask, Sr., Memorial Town Hall and go into a parade, followed immediately by the field events at the Russell Hayward Memorial Park. In the early evening there will be a semiformal dinner for adults over the age of 16, during which we will tell the history of our people. To end the night there will be a fireworks show. Founders Day is always a wonderful time in Metlakatla.

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land and waters?

Annette Island has an array of sightseeing opportunities. Whether you decide to climb Purple Mountain, walk to Sand Dollar Beach, hike Yellow Hill, or drive Walden Point Road and appreciate the view on our Official State Scenic Byway, we can assure you that at the completion of your visit, your heart and your stomach will be full.

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

Most recently, my administration has worked very hard to reinvigorate a good working relationship with various heads of departments within the federal government. Some of the relationships that we value are with the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Division of Energy and Mineral Development. Metlakatla has come upon many issues that deal with the effects of climate change. Whether it may be increasing municipal water source levels or assistance with the hydroelectric plant, we are beginning to experience the benefits of strong professional relationships with the United States government and the State of Alaska.

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

I was recently asked to speak at the middle school promotion and at the Metlakatla High School graduation ceremonies. The one thing that I portray to them is very simple: Your life choices are your choices. You will decide to push forward and succeed. You will be the one to determine where you will be sitting in ten years. Hard work always reaps benefits. Make good choices and always, always, always be true to yourself.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to acknowledge and thank my family for their support. My husband, Conrad Hudson Sr.; our son, Conrad Hudson Jr.; daughter, Lakin; and son-in-law, Warren Brendible. Recently we have been blessed with our first grandson, Kaspen Everett Brendible. 

On November 5, 2013, I was elected by the members of the Metlakatla Indian Community to be the Mayor and Tribal Chairwoman of Metlakatla, Alaska, Annette Islands Reserve. Up to that date, in all of Metlakatla’s 127-year history, there had never been a female mayor. I am the first.

I have been in this office for two-and-a-half years, and I can proudly say that I have worked very hard for the people of my tribe.

My hopes are for a community where the children will flourish, where the government is stable, and where power struggles are a thing of the past.

I dream of a community that functions as a safe haven where we can all work together towards our common goals. We are heading in that direction, and all in all, I love my job!

Thank you.

I thank God for examples of strong, modern women, and for the many opportunities he has brought before me. I thank him for the vision of a brighter future for my people.

And I thank you, for the opportunity to reach out to your readers with this interview. 

Photos courtesy of the Metlakatla Indian Community; 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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June 13, 2016

Meet Native America: Walter D. “Red Hawk” Brown, III, Chief of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe and Chairman of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation

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

 

Chief Walter Brown III
Chief Walter D. “Red Hawk” Brown, III, leads the sacred pipe ceremony to celebrate the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe's closing on the purchase of a 163-acre tract of tribal land. In the last seven years, the tribe has bought back 263 acres of land in Southampton County, Virginia—part of the 41,000-acre reservation granted to the tribe in 1705 by the Virginia House of Burgesses. Cattashowrock Town, near Courtland, Virginia; April 23, 2016. Photo by Bert Wendell, Jr.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

My name is Walter D. “Red Hawk” Brown, III. I am chief of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe and chairman of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation, Inc. Cheroenhaka—which is pronounced pretty much as it's spelled: Che-ro-en-ha-ka—means People at the Fork of the Stream. It is the true name of the Nottoway Indians. We are a Virginia-state recognized tribe. The foundation is a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit organization created to support the tribe's cultural and educational goals. 

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

It's Ga-nunt-quare Cheeta, which means Red Hawk. 

Where is your tribal community located? 

Our headquarters are in Courtland, Virginia, in Southampton County. 

Where is your tribe originally from? 

We're from this same region of southeastern Virginia. We lodged and hunted along the Nottoway, Blackwater, and Chowan rivers. We migrated to Southampton County from Nottoway, in Sussex County—which was originally the southwestern part of Surry County—and from Isle of Wight County. Southampton County was created in 1749 from the southwestern part of Isle of Wight County. 

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

I'd like to share two aspects of our history that are still very relevant today. 

Excavation of the Hand Site in Southampton County carbon dates the ancestors of the Cheroenhaka Tribe in this region to around 1580. On November 2, 2009, a state historical marker commemorating the Hand Site was placed on the corner of General Thomas Highway and Hansom Road in Southampton County. The state notes that the site was “long claimed” by the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe. It is believed that the site was inhabited as early as AD 700. 

Our tribe is currently seeking to have the 132 skeletal remains that were dug up and removed from their resting place at the Hand Site returned and reburied on the 263 acres of ethno-historic tribal land currently owned by the tribe here in Southampton County. The remains were disinterred in 1965, 1966, and 1969 and are now housed in shoeboxes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C.

The second event I'd like to share begins in 1705, when the Virginia House of Burgesses—which became the House of Delegates in 1776—granted our tribe 41,000 acres of reservation land in what is now Southampton County. The grant was made up the 18,000-acre Circle Tract and the 23,000-acre Square Tract. 

On April 7 and 8, 1728, William Byrd II of Westover Plantation on the James River visited the tribe's Indian Town on the reservation land. Byrd described how the men and women looked, danced, and dressed—including that the women wore the colors red, white, and blue. He also described the nature of the palisade fort, longhouses, and bedding. Byrd noted in his diary that the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) was the only tribe of Indians of any consequence still remaining within the limits of Virginia. 

On August 7, 1735, the Indian interpreters for the Cheroenhaka—Henry Briggs and Thomas Wynn—were dismissed by an Act of the Commonwealth. On the same day the first of many land-transfer deeds for the Circle Tract of land were recorded between the colonials and the Cheroenhaka chief’s men. Transfers would continue up to November 1953, until both the Circle and Square tracts—41,000-acres of reservation lands—were in the hands of European-Americans.

In 2009 and 2016, the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe reclaimed by way of purchase a total of 263 acres of land that was once part of the tribe's 41,000-acre reservation. The first purchase was of 100 acres and the second, 163 acres.

Cheroenhaka pipe cermony

Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia Kelly Thomasson and Chief Brown shake hands at the sacred pipe ceremony to commemorate the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe's most recent land purchase. Others who took part in the celebration that day include Irvine Wilson (far left) and Rick Meyers (second from left), Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Cheroenhaka chief men and other tribal members. Cattashowrock Town, near Courtland, Virginia; April 23, 2016. Photo by Bert Wendell, Jr.

 

How is your tribal government set up? 

We are governed by a nine-person Tribal Council. 

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

Yes. As a traditional ethno-historic entity of leadership, we have eight "chief men" and one king or chief. 

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

Council members are chosen every four years but may serve consecutive terms. The chief follows a hereditary line and is elected for life. 

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

Our Tribal Council meets once monthly. The tribal membership meets four times per year—once a quarter. 

What responsibilities do you have as chief? 

I am the tribe's spokesman and principal networker, as well as the tribal historian. My explicit duties include serving as chairman of the Tribal Council and chairperson of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation. 

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

I grew up on our family farm in Southampton County, hunting, trapping, fishing, and tanning hides with my father and learning Cheroenhaka traditions and culture from my mother, father, and grandfather during supper conservations about the history of the tribe. I also spent 28 years on active duty in the U.S. Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel. From my career in the army I was able to glean a host of leadership skills. From the point of view of education, I have B. S. and M.S. degrees. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

My father, Walt “Coon Hunter” Brown, Jr., and mother, Ruth “Cooking Bird” Brown. I would also include my 18 uncles and aunts and the host of leaders I served under during my career in the army. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 

Yes, Queen Edith Turner—whose Native name was Wane Roonseraw—and my great-great-great-great-grandmother Polly Woodson. Polly—who was also known as Mary Turner and whose Native name was Kara Hout—was raised by Queen Edie and Chief Man Alex Rogers. All three are listed on the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian 1808 special census. 

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

We have 425 active, enrolled tribal men, women, and children. 

What are the criteria to become a member of your tribe?

Our Constitution and Bylaws govern the manner in which a person can become a member of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe. To be enrolled a person must submit to the Tribal Council a paper trail copy of his or her genealogy going back to an ethno-historic Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian surname represented in the 1808 tribal census or found among the names of chief men that appear on land deeds between 1735 and 1953. The applicant must prove the bloodline on the mother's or father's side or both. 

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

Approximately 5 percent of tribal members speak our dar-sun-ke (language or tongue) in part. On July 7, 1820, former President Thomas Jefferson sent a copy of the language's vocabulary and other source materials to Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, a student of Indian languages who lived in Philadelphia. On March 4 of that year, John Wood, a former professor of mathematics at the College of William & Mary, had transcribed the language, working with Queen Edie on the tribe’s reservation in Southampton County. Du Ponceau recognized the language as Iroquoian. It has been described as a mixed dialect of Mohawk, Onondaga, Tuscarora, and Seneca.

To help keep our language alive, we do a word-a-week program for all tribal members, adults and children. We are also in the process of producing a spoken-language CD. 

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

Of the 263 acres of land the tribe currently owns, 10 acres are our Powwow Grounds and 2.3 acres are our 17th-century replica Iroquoian palisade village, Cattashowrock Town. We are raising money to build a Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Educational Cultural Center and Museum on 3.6 acres. When it is built, we will have a place to display some 3,000 tribal artifacts—points, ceremonial spear points, scrapers, knives, pottery shards and grinders, etc.—all of which have been found on the tribe’s former 41, 000 acres of reservation land. 

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

We host two powwows every year—a Green Corn Dance on the fourth Saturday in July and the Corn Harvest Dance Powwow and School Days on the second weekend in November. We also have a Primitive Skills Gathering on our tribal land annually in May. 

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

The replica 17th-century Iroquoian palisade village Cattashowrock Town includes walking trails with Iroquoian- and English-language signage identifying the flora and fauna on our tribal land. Cattashowrock Town becomes a “living village” on our School Days. 

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

We strongly believe in sovereignty for all Native nations. In addition, on February 27, 1713, the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe became the last Native nation in the Commonwealth of Virginia to sign a treaty with the Crown of England. Since that treaty was negotiated to include a successor clause and since there has been no act or policy by the U.S. government to supersede it, we still proclaim that the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe is a sovereign nation. 

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

This is something I'd like to share with the youth of all our tribes and nations: Remember that we must keep our culture and traditions alive! Learn the history of your people. Practice your traditions and live your culture. Should you still have your tribe’s language, make sure it is taught to those who will follow you. Always tell the story of our people to whoever will listen! 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes. May your walk in this sacred circle of life make better the walk of others—those who will follow in your tracks, your children. 

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe; 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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