Meet Native America: Ted Grant, Vice-Chairman of the Otoe–Missouria 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
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
Ted Grant, vice-chairman of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.
Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation?
My name is Che’Xanje~Obahomani. It's translated Big Buffalo Walks in the Snow. It comes from the Buffalo Clan of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.
Where is your community located?
The Otoe–Missouria Tribal Complex is located in north central Oklahoma in Noble County.
Where were your people originally from?
At one time the Otoes and Missourias, along with the Winnebago and Iowa peoples, were part of a single tribe that lived in the Great Lakes region of the United States. In the 16th century the tribes separated from each other and migrated west and south, although they still lived near each other in the lower Missouri River Valley.
What is a significant point in the history of the Otoe–Missouria that you would like to share?
In the summer of 1804, the Otoe and Missouria were the first tribes to hold government-to-government council with Lewis and Clark in their official role as representatives of President Jefferson. The captains presented to the chiefs a document that offered peace while at the same time asserting the United States' claim of sovereignty over the tribe.
How is your tribal government set up?
The Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe. The Tribal Council consists of seven members elected by secret ballot by qualified voters of the tribe. Each Tribal Council member has responsibilities for certain duties as listed in the Otoe–Missouria Tribe of Indians Constitution.
Vice-Chairman Grant (3rd from left) with fellow members of the Red Rock Creek Gourd Society of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.
Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?
There are our traditional churches, including the First Born Church of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe, Otoe Native American Church, and Otoe Tribal Sweat Lodge.
How often are elected leaders chosen?
The terms for each Tribal Council member are staggered and last for three years. There are no term limits.
How often does the Tribal Council meet?
The Tribal Council holds regular meetings monthly in a place and date determined by the members. Currently the meetings are held in the Council Building at tribal headquarters. Meetings are open to the public, except when the council is in executive session.
Additionally, a General Council Meeting consisting of all enrolled tribal members over the age of 18 is held each year on the first Saturday in November.
What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?
To ensure our tribal members are taken care of, to see that our tribal programs continue to help all of our tribal members, and to do my very best to protect the future and security of our tribal sovereignty.
How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?
My mother and father taught me to always keep God in my life, respect my elders, and take care of my family. My father shared a lot of cultural teachings with me. I try to utilize this to assist people and organizations when called upon. My previous work in tribal law enforcement has uniquely prepared me for the challenges presented to a position on the Tribal Council.
Who inspired you as a mentor?
My father, William Leroy Grant—Bill Grant, as everyone knew him.
Are you a descendant of a historical leader? If so, who?
Tar-A-Ku (sometimes Tae-K-Kee), which is translated Deer Thigh or Deer Ham, a great leader of his people.
Approximately how many members are in the Otoe–Missouria community?
There are currently about 3,100 enrolled Otoe–Missouria tribal members.
What are the criteria to become a member?
All enrolled Otoe–Missouria tribal members must be one-eighth blood descendants of someone on the tribe’s 1966 base roll.
Is your language still spoken on your homelands? If so, what percentage of your people would you estimate are fluent speakers?
Unfortunately, there are no fluent speakers of the Otoe–Missouria language remaining. Some language is used in cultural events and ceremonies, but most of the language is lost. A tribal language program was created five years ago to retain what little is left and to revitalize the language through archived recordings.
What economic enterprises does your tribe own?
What annual events does your tribe sponsor?
The largest gathering of Otoe–Missouria people is the Annual Summer Encampment. It is held each year during the third week of July. This summer marked the 133rd time the tribe has celebrated the encampment.
What attractions are available for visitors on your land?
How does your tribe deal with the United States as a sovereign nation?
With great respect and honor, and we would hope to receive the same treatment from them.
What message would you like to share with the youth of your tribe?
I would like to encourage you to utilize your education and seek out your personal goal in life, whatever it may be. You are the future of our people; always remember where you come from and be proud of your Otoe–Missouria heritage.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to say thank you for asking me to be a part of this. It’s been great honor for me. May God continue to bless you and your families in the days to come. Aho!
Thank you. It's an honor for the museum.
All photos are courtesy of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe and are used with permission.
To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below.
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.