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December 31, 2013

This Day in the Maya Calendar: January 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 Kame  |  Friday, January 31, 2014
 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 7 is a pivotal number. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —Jose Barreiro  

6 Kan  |  Thursday, January 30, 2014 

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 6 is a middle, even number. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B.  

5 Kat  |  Wednesday, January 29, 2014 

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 5 is one hand. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B. 

4 Aqbal  |  Tuesday, January 28, 2014

262685_AqbalCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 4 is a balance. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B. 

3 Iq  |  Monday, January 27, 2014

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 3 is a rotor. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

2 Imox  |  Sunday, January 26, 2014

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 2 is duality balance. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B.  

1 Ajpu  |  Saturday, January 25, 2014

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 1 is the beginning. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

13 Kawoq  |  Friday, January 24, 2014 

262685_KawoqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 13 is the highest turbulence. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B. 

12 Tijax  |  Thursday, January 23, 2014 

262685_Tijax

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 12 is the highest balance. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B.  

11 Noj  |  Wednesday, January 22, 2014

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 11 is high turbulence. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B. 

10 Ajmac  |  Tuesday, January 21, 2014

6a01156f5f4ba1970b01a511a2ada0970c-200wiCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 10 is a high balance. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B. 

9 Tz'ikin  |  Monday, January 20, 2014

262685_Tz'ikinCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Tz'ikin. Tz'ikin is Bird, best represented by the Hummingbird, also the Quetzal and Eagle; 9 is a triple rotor. Tz'ikin carries messages between the Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky. Cold, heat, light, air, cloud are its elements. Love, intuition, precognition are strong in those born on this day. Tz'ikin is a good day for humans to follow birds to the corn—to find good material luck. This is a good day to ask for revelation and intelligence, for vision, and for abundance; a good day to ask for collaboration in projects or for personal freedom. On this day, women have the privilege to ask for their husbands and sons to triple the family money. —J. B. 

8 I'x  |  Sunday, January 19, 2014 

262685_I'x

Corresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 I'x. I'x is Jaguar; 8 is a double balance. I'x is woman's energy day. This is a day to connect with your own land and to pray for its original owners; to pray for and appreciate your house; to pray for the finances to buy and sustain land; to ask for fertility in humans and animals; to request vigor and strength for reproductive organs, particularly female. I'x is a good day to pray to the mountains in favor of the land. It is a good day for a woman to request strength in her husband's commitment to matrimonial stability. People born on I'x have a close relationship to el Mundo and receive good access to precious metals. I'x is a good day for solitude and meditation. —J. B.  

7 Aj  |  Saturday, January 18, 2014 

262685_AjCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Aj. Aj is Cane Reed; 7 is a pivotal number. Aj begins the women's cycle, sentiments of family and home, the spinal cord. Aj is life and receives life. This is a day of resurgence and renewal, as in the reed and the corn; a day for the triumph of good over evil, life over death; a day of happiness, renewal of food, money, the heart of life. People born on this day renew their communities; they are sickly as children and sturdy as adults; they are especially lucky; they are good awakeners of their families and communities; they make good midwives. Aj is a good day to ask for clarity of destiny, a good day to pray for the protection of your life and of the newborn, a good day to pray for twins, a good day to pray for humanity. —J. B. 

6 Eh  |  Friday, January 17, 2014

262685_EhCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Eh. Eh is Bobcat, also the Path and the Tooth; 6 is a middle, even number. Eh can orient individuals, groups, or communities to their destiny. Eh is the day to ask for protection from dangers and obstructions during travels—specifically, that on your road the attention of thieves or highway police or border inspectors will be deviated from your trajectory. Solitude is in Eh, light rain, kindness, alignment. People born on this day can be good counselors, spiritual guides with the gift of prayer to Ajaw (Creator) on the destiny of things. Also, good dentists are born on this day. Eh is one of the four pillars of the 20 days, a Yearbearer—a strong, especially sacred day. A prayer started in Batz can be carried by Eh through the full cycle of 20 days. —J. B. 

5 Batz  |  Thursday, January 16, 2014

262685_BatzCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Batz. Batz is Monkey; 5 is one hand. Monkey braid, monkey fingers, monkey tail, Batz is the grasp of the monkey's hand so tight and braided the fist will not let go, even in death. Batz is a good day for beginnings, and for some Maya daykeepers, Batz begins the 20-day calendar. Batz is unity, a good day to tie things together, a good day for a marriage or to start a construction, a good day for initiation into the ways. Batz is the thread of time that rolls out from under the earth, weaving life until cut, weaving time into history. People born on Batz are calm and self-confident; they make good spiritual guides and leaders, and goodhearted architects. —J. B. 

4 Tzi  |  Wednesday, January 15, 2014

262685_TziCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Tzi. Tzi is the Canine, the guardian; 4 is a balance. Dog, Wolf, Coyote, Tzi can be snarly, terrifying the unprepared with his bark and his bite. Tzi people are zealous to guard the sacredness of ceremony, to identify and punish "intruders," those not disciplined to participate. Benevolent to friends and fierce to enemies, Tzi is steady to reward or punish. Tzi will punish those who disrespect the Days and the spirit of the family. This is a good day to ask for mystic insight for leaders so that they can seek and discover hidden things, so that they can be just. Tzi has strong sexual energy, hard to restrain. When this energy is defined, people born on Tzi make loyal friends, husbands, and wives. —J. B. 

3 Toj  |  Tuesday, January 14, 2014

262685_TojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Toj. Toj is the mystic Fish—the tear of jade and drops of rain, water falling; 3 is a rotor. Toj is a day of making even, a good day to pay spiritual and financial debts and to collect what you are owed. This is a day of evenness for a family, a good day for parents to pay the family's debt to el Mundo, good for the oldest son to appreciate the father and the father to appreciate the mountain. Illness can be deviated from the family by making a ceremonial offering on this day. —J. B. 

2 Anil  |  Monday, January 13, 2014

262685_AnilCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 2 Anil. Anil is the fertility in the seed, Anil is Rabbit; 2 is duality. 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. —J. B. 

1 Kiej  |  Sunday, January 12, 2014

262685_KiejCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 1 Kiej. Kiej is the Deer; 1 is the beginning. Kiej is the four directions, four hoofs striking the earth at once, the quaternity of the cosmos linked to prayer, highest aviso to el Mundo—the living world. Kiej is the staff of authority, keen energy of a chief to detect danger, perception of the leader buck, his horns. Kiej is a good day to pray for mental and physical agility, a day of agile travelers and good communicators. It is a day also to ask for clarity before gossip and ill intentions. A major gift of nature, Kiej holds indefatigable energy. He is one of the four main carriers of time. —J. B.   

13 Kame  |  Saturday, January 11, 2014 

262685_KameCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 13 Kame. Kame is the Owl and the recognition of death; 13 is the highest turbulence. A day that recalls the night, tranquility, and silence, Kame is a good day to ask for the ancient and recent ancestors who have gone on, to thank them, and to remember them with purpose. This is an appropriate day to extend reconciliation, to feel and give forgiveness, to develop patience, to invoke against mortal illnesses, to access superior knowledge. Without fear, it is a good day to approach the spiritual dimension, "the enchantment." —J. B. 

12 Kan  |  Friday, January 10, 2014 

262685_KanCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 12 Kan. Kan is the Snake; 12 is the highest balance. Kan is the ancient origin—Gucumatz, the Plumed Serpent. This is a day of strict and impartial justice, a day of definition and maturity, and a good day to offer respect and to thank the corn. On Kan, matters of justice, judges, and courts can be cleared up. This is a good day to pray that truth and justice are manifest in the Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth; a good day to put aside jealousies and request equilibrium in life and in the family. It is a day to ask for physical strength and patience, to contemplate our spiritual evolution, and to rekindle the internal fire. —J. B. 

11 Kat  |  Thursday, January 9, 2014 

262685_KatCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 11 Kat. Kat is Spider, also Web and Fire; 11 is high turbulence. On Kat the unity of the people is paramount, and knowledge is deepened. Kat is the network of the sacred heart, the family hearth. Today is a good day to pray for your family fireplace, the spirit of the fire that belongs in the home, the one that calls other spirits to ceremony and speaks for them. Kat is the net that hauls in the fish and the net that holds the ears of corn, a day that can bring the fruition of things and the untangling of complications. This is a good day to help free prisoners from captivity, to request vigor and power for the weak. —J. B. 

10 Aqbal  |  Wednesday, January 8, 2014

262685_AqbalCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 10 Aqbal. Aqbal is the Dawn, also Bat; 10 is a high balance. Aqbal is clarity, the separation of darkness and light as the Sun disperses the fog and obscurity of night. This is a good day to ask for a peaceful and happy daybreak, a day to find hidden and lost things, a day to wash away tears of sadness. On Aqbal, the sacred fire is recognized and appreciated. Aqbal is a good day to clean the ashes (renew the heart) of a fireplace and to present a new baby to el Mundo. A potential bride or groom can be revealed on this day. Harvesting of corn can begin on this day. People born on Aqbal relate in the present and are a special link between past and future. They are early risers, good workers, tranquil and kind, strong before an enemy, good researchers and finders of hidden things, often called "the candle of the home." —J. B. 

9 Iq  |  Tuesday, January 7, 2014

262685_IqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 9 Iq. Iq is Wind, also Moon; 9 is a triple rotor. Wind is powerful, violent, driven of itself, identity. A day of strong emotion, Iq is also a healing day. Good wind is nutritional for human minds; it is the mystic breath and vital inspiration of nature. On Iq, a breeze or wind that splits against your face is a blessing and a cleansing to purge your head and body of illness. Respiratory ills are prayed over on this day. This is a good day to appreciate all of Creation. The Day lord Iq is one of the four Yearbearers, or mams, a creator who helped finish the world and put breath (essence) in human beings. People born on Iq are inclined toward spiritual ways and can impulsively tap into cosmic sources. —J. B. 

8 Imox  |  Monday, January 6, 2014

262685_ImoxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 8 Imox. Imox is Lizard; 8 is a double balance. Imox is the very force of gravity and a good day to pray for creativity and for rain. Imox can open el Mundo to receive cosmic messages. Known as a "crazy" day, Imox requires much concentration and control. A day of high male intelligence, also impatience and agitation, Imox can be difficult. Grounded on its left side, left arm, this day is easily unbalanced and in need of clasping left and right hands. Imox can be good if held in the balance of the Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth; unattended, Imox can manifest imbalance, mental nervousness, and even death. People born on Imox are open and sincere, but indecisive—in need of ceremony to set the positive to override the negative. —J. B. 

7 Ajpu  |  Sunday, January 5, 2014

262685_AjpuCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 7 Ajpu. Ajpu is Caracol, Spiral Shell; 7 is a pivotal number. Ajpu is the Sun, captain of time, a day of personal strength and for good to triumph over evil. Ajpu, who cares for boys and guides men, begins the men's cycle. This is a day to connect with the ancestors, who can reward and punish. Death is reachable and amenable; spirits can ask permission to enter el Mundo, the living world. Day of the warrior and blowgun hunter (cerbatanero), Ajpu is the strong blow of the dart that hits its target, a good day to pray for stealth or for a break in enemy lines. Ajpu is also a good day to start building on a house, a good day to make prayers for women and for success in lactation. —J. B. 

6 Kawoq  |  Saturday, January 4, 2014 

262685_KawoqCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 6 Kawoq. Kawoq is Turtle, also Sky Serpent; 6 is a middle, even number. Kawoq is a high woman day—a day of duality in all of nature and a guardian of contentment. It is the day of woman and man, lightning and thunder, fecundity and imagination; a day of midwives; a day of prayer for unity within the home, strength within the family, renewed strength for convalescents, and the smoothing of all irritation. This is a good day to turn bad medicine back on itself. Kawoq attends to young women in pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to full realization for all women; it is a day of their sash. Kawoq is also a good day to commemorate the Staff of Authority, a good day for the men of a family and community to pray for the coffers (good fortune) of the women and for the protection of the home. Good midwives, writers, and architects are born on this day. —J. B.  

5 Tijax  |  Friday, January 3, 2014

262685_TijaxCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 5 Tijax. Tijax is Fish, also Obsidian; 5 is one hand. Tijax is a day of doctors, good to pray for surgeons and all medical practitioners; a day of sacrifice and liberation from suffering; a day of sharp, cutting objects, of knives and scalpels and scissors. Tijax is a safeguard for domestic animals against predators, a good day to pray for all animals that are sacrificed, both in ceremony and in everyday life. Tijax is a good day to use metal (a machete, scissors) to "open the sky"—to solicit rain, solicit life, split black clouds. Gossip, calumny, and sorcery, on money and sexual matters, can be overcome on this day; on a high-number day, disputes can turn public and become debilitating. Tijax is a good day for seasoned masters to fortify daykeeping trainees against ridicule by envious countrymen or evangelicos. It is not a good day to plant. —J. B.  

4 Noj  |  Thursday, January 2, 2014

262685_NojCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 4 Noj. Noj is Woodpecker; 4 is a balance. Noj is a woman's highest intelligence. Maya knowledge and wisdom live in this day—good science to support positive deeds, good projects, good business, a good home. On Noj good ideas are available through the intelligence connected to the movement of the earth. Boys born on this day have important female qualities and can be attentive to the knowledge of nature, which rules all. Girls born on this day can be clear leaders. This is a good day to hear advice and make decisions, a good day to feed the mind, recognize curiosity, and strengthen memory. Noj is one of the four Yearbearers. —J. B. 

3 Ajmac  |  Wednesday, January 1, 2014

6a01156f5f4ba1970b01a511a2ada0970c-200wiCorresponding with this day in the Gregorian calendar is 3 Ajmac. Ajmac is Bee, also Vulture; 3 is a rotor. On Ajmac ancestor spirits can detect and smooth the thread of time in our lives. Prudence, intelligence, ancient wisdom are in this day. This is a day to plead forgiveness for serious faults and to be judged. It is a day that demands moral rectitude, respect, and sincere analysis. On this day our faults (stains) must be faced and paid for; humble request for pity is encouraged. Ajmac is a propitious day for the women of a household to make peace with one another after conflict, to apologize for sharp words; it is a good day to pray for smooth relationships and the renewal of agreements among women. Hard luck can face those born on Ajmac. —J. B. 

 

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December 20, 2013

Meet Native America: Richard W. McCloud, Tribal Chairman, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa 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 peoples today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Richard W. McCloud, tribal chairman, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Where is your community located?

The Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation is in Belcourt, North Dakota.

Where were the Turtle Mountain Chippewa originally from? 

The origins of the Pembina Chippewa are associated with the trading post established at Pembina in the northeastern corner of North Dakota in 1801. For many years this post was the focal point for many Chippewa hunting and trading in the region. Anishinabe, meaning the first or original people, is our name for ourselves. The spelling of Anishinabe has many variants depending on whether the name is singular or plural, or which tribe or band is using it. 

Chairman Richard McCloud
Richard W. McCloud, Tribal Chairman, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Photo courtesy of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.


What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?

To preside at all regular and special meetings of the Tribal Council. To vote only in the case of a tie. To see that all council resolutions and ordinances are carried into effect, or to veto any resolution and ordinance. To exercise general supervision of all other officers and employees and see that their respective duties are performed. To be the chief executive officer of the tribe and to give the State of the Tribe Address.  

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

Sitting on local boards—the school board for 15 years, the gaming board, the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance (TERO) board—and the national board of the U.S. Postal Service showed me the path to successfully lead our tribe to the next level.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My parents, who taught me to be the best I can be.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 

No. 

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

The McCumber Agreement of 1892, also known as the Ten Cent Treaty. [This Act of Congress greatly reduced the lands and enrolled membership of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. It is called the Ten Cent Treaty because the U.S. government paid ten cents an acre for nearly one million acres of Chippewa land along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota.]

How is your tribal government set up?

The government of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians consists of a Tribal Council, chairman, and court system. The Tribal Council must meet at least once a month, and its meetings are constitutionally required to be open to the public unless council members are discussing protected personnel information or confidential business contracts. The tribe is supported by federal funds and by a percentage of profits of the SkyDancer Casino. The tribe also gains revenue from various tribal programs that charge fees and from interest on treaty funds. The constitution adopted in 1932, established the Tribal Council—then called the Turtle Mountain Advisory Committee—made up of eight enrolled tribal members. 

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

No. The concept of traditional government changed in 1891. A committee of 16 mixed bloods and 16 full bloods, called the Committee of 32, replaced the traditional Grand Council of 24 members under the hereditary leadership of Chief Little Shell.  

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Every two years.

How often does your council meet? 

Special Meetings are held weekly and a Regular Open Public Meeting is held monthly.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

We have approximately 30,000 enrolled tribal members. Of those, 18,000 live on or near the Turtle Mountain Reservation.

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

Membership in the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa requires a one-quarter quantum of Indian blood. This is due to federal law and not the beliefs or traditions of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. The enrollment office of the Turtle Mountain Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Belcourt maintains the enrollment rolls for the tribe and is responsible for providing documentation of enrollment and issuing Indian tribal membership identification cards.

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

The Anishinaabe language is still spoken. Approximately ten percent of the people are fluent speakers.

What economic enterprises do the Turtle Mountain Chippewa own? 

The Sky Dancer Casino and Hotel, Chippewa Tribal Industries, Turtle Mountain Heritage Center, Center of the Earth/Eagle Heart Cultural Center, Veterans Memorial Park, and Turtle Mountain Tribal Arts Gallery.

What annual events does your community sponsor? 

We hold the Little Shell Pow-wow, Turtle Mountain Days, Turtle Mountain Community College Spring Pow-wow, National Youth Sports Program activities, Chippewa Downs horse racing, Turtle Mountain Roping Arena, Turtle Mountain Wellness Conference, Sitting Eagle Unity Ride, Medicine Moon Run, and Family Week.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land? 

The Anishinabe Learning, Cultural, and Wellness Center and, in addition to the events listed above, the St. Ann’s Novena and the Keplin Fest Métis music festival, 

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

Like family. From jigging to fiddle playing to dances, cultures are very diverse.

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

Always strive to be the best you can be! Bullying won’t get you far. Education will fulfill your dreams.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

As chairman for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, I continue to work for all tribal members to create and improve manufacturing jobs, new projects, retail opportunities, a movie house, new casino expansion in the west, and education all around, from Head Start to college levels. 

Thank you. 

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. 
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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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December 12, 2013

Meet Native America: Lewis J. Johnson, Mekko Apoktv (Assistant Chief), Seminole Nation of Oklahoma

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 peoples today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI 

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Lewis J. Johnson, mekko apoktv (assistant chief), Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Lewis J. Johnson, mekko apoktv (assistant chief), Seminole Nation of Oklahoma

Can you give us your Native name, its English translation and/or a nickname? 

Fvs-Hvce-Cvpko. It means Long Tail Bird. I am of the Tallahassee Band and the Bird Clan of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

Where is your nation located? 

The nation’s headquarters are in the city of Wewoka, Oklahoma, which is considered the capital of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. 

Where was your nation originally from? 

The Seminole people are an amalgamated Southeastern Woodland indigenous people who have their beginnings as many diverse tribal towns and small tribes. 

What responsibilities do you have within the nation?  

The Executive Office of the Seminole Nation has the task of efficiently administrating all contracts and grants received from the U.S government, assuring tribal members of fiscal accountability while providing tangible services for them. All funds budgeted by general revenues and judgment funds must also be administered according to tribal law. With nearly 300 employees in many diverse programs and departments directly under the Executive Office, the Principal Chief, all the department or program directors, and I assure that services to the people and fiscal accountability are administered properly.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead? 

I was raised in a family that for decades has taken an active part in tribal affairs within several diverse elected or appointed offices. My father was a General Council member for several terms and very active in committees and commissioned boards for the nation. My uncles were also involved in tribal affairs as band chiefs. Even my sister was the tribal treasurer for many years. Also my great-grandfather was a council member. My band, as stated earlier is Tallahassee, and it was always expected of the ones representing them to speak openly with honesty and integrity. The Seminole often called these particular people their mouthpiece.

I was elected to several consecutive terms as a General Council member and served as band chief for a period of time. Over the span of the last 25 years I was appointed to committees and boards of the nation and by five different principal chiefs. I have worked in the museum field for 20 years, which has contributed to in-depth research projects and studies pertaining to treaties agreements between the Seminole Nation and the U.S government, court of claims cases, jurisdiction issues, and the expressive arts of the Seminole, which of course reflects the culture of the Seminole people.

All of the experience I gained, especially actively participating within the Seminole community and by my family being directly involved in tribal affairs, contributed to a clearer insight to understanding the desires, needs and dreams of our people. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

In an active Seminole community, we have so many individuals who play important roles in the development of a relative, not necessary as individual mentors but as links in the long chain of cultural impartation. All of these relationships we are privileged to be a part of in our lives actually invest in the productive people we become on behalf of tribe as a whole. I suppose it is taking our place of responsibility within the world the Creator has placed us in.

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

I was recently in Washington, D.C., attending the Code Talkers Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony. The Seminole Nation has the only living code talker who was able to make the trip. His name is Edmond Andrew Harjo. He is a relative of mine, and we are both related to Che Neet Kee, also known as John Chupco, a Seminole chief during and after the conclusion of the Civil War. He was known for his integrity and complete dedication to the welfare of the Seminole people. He was also noted to have been one of the chiefs who established the famed Seminole Light-Horse. They were the lawmen of the nation during territorial times and are still in existence today. 

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Lewis J. Johnson. 

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

Although there are several key events in history with a significant impact, I'd like to tell how the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s constitutional organization structure, with the autonomy of the tribal towns or bands, was kept intact, retaining the original identity of these distinct people. This is reflected in the nation’s constitution ratified and implemented in 1969. The nation chose not to organize our constitution under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act or the Indian Reorganization Act, which places the nation in a unique government-to-government relationship with the Unites States. 

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

The Seminole Nation has been blessed to have leaders who have the diplomatic abilities to articulate clearly the nation's voice and concerns to help navigate through the complex issues of the government-to-government relationship with the United States. We have found that taking a strong unified stance backed by formal written agreements and federal law enables the Seminole Nation and the Unites States to keep in perspective the responsibilities both sovereign nations have to one another.

How is the Seminole national government set up? 

The government of the Seminole Nation has three branches. The Executive Department includes the mekko (principal chief) and mekko apoktv (assistant chief). The term mekko apoktv carries the connotation of second chief, or more precisely, twin chief. These two positions also fulfill the duties as chairs of the tribal council, with the principal chief serving as chairman and the assistant chief available to chair if the principal chief is unable to.

The legislative branch is the General Council and is comprised of members from twelve distinct Native bands. Two representatives from each band have seats on the General Council. Within this band structure each band has its own band chief who acts as chairperson at meetings conducted by the band. The Seminole Nation also has two unique bands often referred to as freedmen, and they also send two representatives each to the General Council. These two bands are tribal members of African American heritage who are able to trace their ancestry to the maroons of the Southeast—freed slaves or actual slaves during the mid-1800s. The freedmen officially became citizens of the Seminole Nation after the Civil War under the U.S treaty with the Seminoles in 1866

The last branch of the tribal government is the judicial branch, which operates the court system—the Seminole Nation District Court and the Supreme Court.

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

I am so grateful for the foresight of our leaders of the past, for it was their wisdom that saw the importance of the Seminoles' always preserving a distinct tribal identity through the original tribal town system and affiliations. In earlier times each town had its own traditional ceremonial grounds. These relationships and this indigenous structure are still prevalent among Seminoles in the 21st century. The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma is the only tribe in Oklahoma that still has such a traditional form of government. 

How often are elected leaders chosen?

The Seminole Nation conducts elections for tribal leaders every four years. 

How often does the General Council meet? 

In compliance with the constitution, the council shall conduct quarterly meetings held on the first Saturday of March, June, September, and December. Special called meetings are also conducted according to constitutional provisions. The council refers to some of these special called meetings as standing call. In total there are at least eight meetings held throughout the calendar year, with the possibility of additional meetings if needed. 

Approximately how many members are in your nation? 

The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has nearly 19,000 members. 

What are the criteria to become a member? 

“The membership of this body shall consist of all Seminole citizens whose names appear on the final rolls of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma approved pursuant to Section 2 of the Act of April 26, 1906 (34 Stat. 137) and their descendants. An enrolled member of another Indian tribe shall not be eligible for membership in the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.” These criteria are found in the Constitution of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Section II, Membership. 

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

Yes, indeed, the language is still spoken, although as with many other Native nations, it is an area of great concern for the language to continue. We have engaged in language-preservation initiatives, establishing an immersion school and developing additional language curricula for tribal members. The number of fluent speakers at this time is ten percent. 

What economic enterprises does Seminole Nation own? 

The Seminole Nation, as with many other nations in Indian Country, has as part of its economic strategy a gaming component. Although our geographic jurisdiction is smaller than most Southeastern tribes' now located in Oklahoma, we have three casinos—the Seminole Nation Casino, River Mist Casino, and Wewoka Trading Post Casino—located at the intersections of key highway corridors within the Seminole Nation. Each of them has a convenience store, and the Seminole Nation Casino, near I-40, has a travel plaza. A master plan with other business endeavors that have the potential of promoting economic growth is currently being developed. 

What activities and events does the Seminole Nation sponsor? 

Annual events that are open to the public include Seminole Nation Days, held the third weekend of September. This is like a homecoming for tribal members. The event has associated with it the annual Seminole Princess Pageant, a tribal baby pageant, a golf tournament, a stomp dance and stickball exhibition, the State of the Nation Address, and many other activities.

The other major annual event is “Celebrating the Tradition of Service.” This is held in conjunction with Veterans Day, usually on the Saturday closest to Veterans Day. Included are a pre-parade program with a keynote speaker associated with one of the branches of U.S. military service, a parade, and a luncheon for all veterans and their family.

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land? 

One particular point of interest in the Seminole Nation is the Mekusukey Mission southeast of the city of Seminole. This is the site of the early Seminole boys academy, also where the annual Seminole Nation Days take place and where large memorial monuments dedicated to each of the fourteen Seminole bands can be viewed.

In Wewoka, the capital of the Seminole Nation, on the courthouse lawn is the old whipping tree used in territorial times to administer public whippings carried out by the Seminole Light–Horse, the lawmen of the day and backed by written Seminole Law. Also in Wewoka is the Seminole Nation Museum, a must-see attraction.   

What message would you like to share with Seminole young people?

We live in a time when most everyone acknowledges the liberties and freedoms we all share as Americans. Part of that is the freedom to choose or make decisions of our own. Young people call this “my business,” and for some reason it takes precedence over everything else.

I remember a time when going to a traditional Indian church or attending the traditional ceremonial grounds was not necessary something you participated in because it was your choice. It was done because it was who you were. You actively involved yourself because it was what you did as member of the Seminole community. Times may be changing, but where culture and spirituality thrive becomes the place where we will survive.

The Seminole Nation leadership will continue to pursue the pathway to prosperity, to secure funding for existing and future programs to help the young people obtain the skills and education needed to compete in today’s career and job market. But even in today’s world of advanced technology, nothing will ever substitute for a stable spiritual life. Our elders have always had it right: What is instilled deep in your heart will be what is projected to action. As the old saying goes, people are more important than things. True riches are a lot closer and more obtainable then most young people realize. They are in the relationships we have with our kindred and the Creator.

Thank you. 

Photographs by Jacklyn Patterson. Used with permission.

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. 
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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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December 05, 2013

Meet Native America: Brian Patterson, Bear Clan Representative, Oneida Nation Council, and President of United South & Eastern 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 peoples today. —Dennis Zotigh, NMAI  

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Brian Patterson, Bear Clan representative, Oneida Nation Council.  With honor and gratitude, I also serve as president of United South & Eastern Tribes (USET).

Can you give us your Native name, its English translation and/or a nickname?

Losk^lhakehte’Ko’, meaning Big Fire, is a warrior’s name, and it shows that you will work, fight for, and stand up for the people. Placing this name on me and speaking it to Creator in ceremony was the last official act of my late Bear Clan Mother Marilyn John in the Oneida Nation Longhouse. It is a name that I will have a lifetime of experiences to live up to or grow into.  

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Brian Patterson, president of United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) on podium at a USET event earlier this year. 

What responsibilities do you have within your nation and as president of United South & Eastern Tribes?  

Within the Oneida Nation and as members of the Haudenosaunee, we have the responsibility to safeguard a place for the future seven generations. As leaders we are taught to weigh the effects of decision-making on this generation as well as our children’s children unto the seventh generation

The founding principle of USET is “Because There Is Strength in Unity." That is our true strength. Our mission statement reads:

USET is dedicated to enhancing the development of Indian Tribes, to improving the capabilities of Tribal governments, and to assisting the member Tribes and their governments in dealing effectively with public policy issues and in serving the broad needs of Indian people. 

In part, USET's purpose is to promote Indian leadership in order to move forward with the ultimate, desirable goal of complete Indian involvement and responsibility at all levels in Indian affairs; to lift the bitter yoke of poverty from our people through cooperative effort; to reaffirm the commitments of our tribes to the treaties and agreements heretofore entered into with the federal government in a government-to-government relationship, and to promote the reciprocity of this relationship and those agreements and treaties. USET is entering into its 45th year as an organization.

I also serve Indian Country in my role as senior strategist, Blue Stone Strategy Group. Blue Stone's key areas of service include tribal governance, leadership development, business advisory, and economic development. All our platforms are directed at the protection and advancement of tribal-nation sovereignty. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead? 

I was born to the second post-boarding-school generation. Our people had survived what may have been the greatest effort of the federal government to be done with the "Indian problem." We survived assimilation and the termination era.

As Indian Country lead itself out of the termination era, many accomplishments and challenges were present. I was born on the Seneca Reservation. The Senecas led a great effort to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from claiming Seneca lands to build the Kinzua Dam. Although the lands ultimately were taken for the dam, and Seneca people were displaced from their homes and land, the long battle engaged the spirit of the Senecas. It was as if this event awoke the consciousness of our people. Indian Country began to waken and speak with a voice based on principle of self-determination.

As children, my generation witnessed the passing of the Indian Civil Rights Act in 1968, the takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969, the Wounded Knee uprising in 1973, the Longest Walk Movement in 1978, a new era following passage of the Self Determination and Education Act (1975) and the Religious Freedom Act (1978). This rising voice of Indian Country activism resulted in a need for empowerment to address the many hardships of the U.S. government's failed trust responsibility.

This experience, coupled with time-honored tradition and the rebirth of Indian consciousness, has prepared me for a diverse set of challenges all aimed at achieving the goal of nation rebuilding and addressing the failed trust relationship we find ourselves in today—a post–Self Determination era. We in Indian Country need to stand united or divided we will fall. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

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Oneida Council Representative and USET President Brian Patterson.

Of course, the easy answer is my family. But as I reflect on past influences, I would have to say that I have been guided by the overall legacy of my people, including our culture and heritage. I would also add that the unique heritage of Indian Country and the legacy and struggles American Indians have persevered through also led me to be the person I have become. I think the biggest influence on me beyond family and other Native people is the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

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

The Oneida Nation has many historical leaders, including our famous Revolutionary War chiefs. These leaders, who negotiated treaties with President Washington and other Founding Fathers, include Shenendoah, Good Peter, and Daniel Bread. The legacy of leadership goes back even further, in fact, to Hiawatha and the founding of the Great League of the Haudenosaunee. Although he is Mohawk by birth, Hiawatha remains the patriarch of all the peoples in our great league.

Where is the Oneida Nation located? 

The Great Oneida Nation is located in our aboriginal territory—a land that has embraced the dust of my ancestors since time immemorial, my homeland—in what is now central upstate New York.  Wherever I travel on Turtle Island, though, I feel the patrimony of the people resonate. I feel at home in those territories as I embrace the lifeways of our peoples that define Indian Country. Or as the Mescalero Apache writer and musician once joked, “I am inter-tribal."

Where are the Oneida people originally from?  

Turtle Island. Is that not all Oneida territory? As defined by treaty in 1794, our territory exists within our aboriginal homelands. The treaty declared, in part:

The United States having thus described and acknowledged what lands belong to the Oneidas . . . and engaged never to claim the same, nor to disturb them, or any of the Six Nations, or their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them, in the free use and enjoyment thereof.

For as long as the sun shall give light, as long as the rivers flow, as long as the grass shall grow green. That 300,000-acre tract is located in what is now central New York. This land was stolen even before the ink was dry on the treaty. 

What is a significant point in history from the Oneida community that you would like to share? 

My nation is a founding member of the Great League of the Haudenosaunee. We are the peoples who greeted and treated with the Dutch, then the French, then the English and others who came to the “New World” escaping from religious persecution, beginning in 1613. During the American Revolution, George Washington pleaded with Oneida to join on the side of the colonists, which we did. It is spoken in certain circles that if Oneida did not join with the colonists, this would be a French-speaking country.

The Founding Fathers sat in our League Councils and realized that if “Six Nations of . . . savages” could come to together in a lasting confederation of peace and righteousness, so could the Thirteen Colonies. In 1777 the Continental Congress declared to the Oneida,

We have experienced your love, strong as the oak, and your fidelity, unchangeable as truth. While the sun and moon continue to give light to the world, we shall love and respect you. As our trusted friends, we shall protect you; and shall at all times consider your welfare as our own.

These words seem like forgotten promises. But my people will continue to remind the people of the United States of the promise and commitment they made through treaties. 

How is the government of the Oneida Nation set up? 

We have a modified traditional government, based on our original form of governance, which is rooted in the original teachings we refer to as the Great Law of Peace. We govern through our clan system and operate in council based on a consensual decision-making process.

Our appointment through the clans is a lifelong appointment. We have seats for three principal men from each of the three clans of the nation, so there are nine clan representatives. According to tradition, male council members are responsible for daily decisions while Clan Mothers make long-term decisions.  

How often does the Oneida Nation Council meet? 

We meet regularly in our Council House. This serves as an open meeting for the people to attend and engage with their council. 

Approximately how large is the Oneida Nation? What are the criteria to become a citizen?

The Oneida Indian Nation has about 1,000 citizens. A person is born into the clan of his or her mother. We remain a matrilineal society as defined by the Great Law brought to us by our messenger, referred to in English as the Peacemaker. 

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Brian Patterson discusses tribal issues with tribal youth, tribal Leadership, and members of the U.S. Congress. 


Is your language still spoken on your homelands? 

Our language, as with so many other Native languages throughout the world, is severely threatened. To address this our council contracted with Berlitz and together we formulated an approach to teach our ancient language. We now hold a full-time immersion class where the only focus for our people is the use of our language. This includes our ceremonial language as well as everyday conversational language. 

Our first class was composed of all Oneida women. This pleased me no end: Our language is being embraced with the love of a mother’s heart. Experienced language participants go on and become instructors in other Oneida Nation programs, such as our Early Learning Center. Language is such a foundational base to nationhood. Language was traditionally one definition of a nation. Certainly it is fundamental to the essence of our identity as a distinct people. 

What economic enterprises does the Oneida Nation own? 

The Oneida Nation owns and operates the Turning Stone Casino & Resort (TSCR). This includes three PGA-quality golf courses, three hotels and an award-winning lodge, and a couple of spas, as well as an event center and entertainment complex. Together they make TSCR a true destination resort. We also operate Four Directions Production Company and several convenience stores and marinas, as well as the weekly newspaper—now the media network—Indian Country Today.

What activities and events do the Oneida sponsor? 

Our council has established the Oneida Nation Foundation, which has met countless numbers of donation requests and local community requests, as well as supporting requests from Indian Country. We are a sponsor and host to the NB3 Foundation Challenge, the golfer Notah Begay’s fundraising effort to address the crisis of diabetes and its effect within Indian communities.

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land? 

In addition to Turning Stone, we have the Shako:wi Cultural Center on our homelands, but we also participate in community events, including partnerships and commemorations, with the National Park Service. One example is commemoration of the Battle of Oriskany, where General Washington pleaded with my ancestors to join in the cause of the colonists. We honored his request and became this country's oldest ally. 

As a sovereign nation, how do the Oneida deal with the United States and Canada? 

Our relationship is defined by the scared commitments made by and to my ancestors as signatories to a number of treaties with the United States. I reflect on the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black when he wrote, “Great nations, like great men, should keep their word.” In fact, my nation still receives an annual payment in the form of treaty cloth from the federal government. Our elders have taught us that even if that cloth is as small as the size of a postage stamp, we are still to receive it, as this represents the sacredness of the treaty and the U.S. government's honoring of this treaty.  

What message would you like to share with Oneida young people?

I would remind all our youth throughout Indian Country of the sacred obligation their generation holds for the future of our peoples. Great sacrifices were made in past generations so that we might still hold a place and an identity bestowed upon us by our Creator. I would remind young people to live the life they were destined to live—with strength and courage, with love in their heart, with what the Peacemaker called “the power of the good mind,” to make a difference, to make an impact. For the future generations to follow will greatly depend on the ability of young people today to directly impact the needs of our people and of Mother Earth.

Stand up and be idle no more. The issues are too critical.

Thank you. 


Photographs by Brandon Stephens, courtesy of United South and Eastern Tribes (USET). Used with permission.

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