May 13, 2016

Meet Native America: Chairman Tony Johnson, Chinook Indian Nation

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

Tony Johnson
Tony A. Johnson, chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation. In addition to serving in tribal government, Chairman Johnson is an artist and Chinook language teacher and the education director of the neighboring Shoalwater Bay Tribe.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is Tony A. Johnson. I'm chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation (CIN).

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

It's naschio. It means Little Brother. It was originally given as a nickname, but it has come to mean a lot to me.

Where is your tribal community located?

We live by the mouth of the Columbia River and along the adjacent seacoast. The CIN includes the five westernmost Chinookan speaking tribes—the Clatsop and Kathlamet from present-day Oregon and the Lower Chinook, Wahkiakum, and Willapa from Washington State. Our tribal offices are currently located in the traditional village of Bay Center on Willapa Bay in Washington.

Where is your tribe originally from?

We are fortunate that we still live on our aboriginal homelands. However there are many issues our nation deals with today because we refused to participate in the relocations proposed for us.

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

Our people signed treaties in 1851 that were never ratified. These Anson Dart treaties, which were negotiated on the treaty grounds at Tansy Point, were good for us, because they allowed us access to resources and, most importantly, they allowed us to stay in our villages. They say that the next winter was one of our worst—the government never came through with the goods promised at the negotiations. 

The treaties of 1851 weren’t ratified because some in Congress wanted to remove us east of the Cascade Mountains. 

In 1855 we participated in another treaty negotiation with our neighbors. At that treaty council we learned that the rumors we had heard were true and that we were being asked to move north away from our traditional territory. We refused, along with our closest neighbors. Naturally the people from the lands we were to be removed to agreed. They had a treaty ratified later that year, but the Native people of southwest Washington and the mouth of the Columbia River were left without a treaty. All of the tribes from this area are still suffering the consequences of these actions, or this lack of action. Most of the tribes are federally recognized, but do not have large reservations or other treaty-guaranteed rights. The CIN, however, still lacks official federal recognition today.

How is your tribal government set up?

We transitioned from a traditional form of government to an elected form of government under a constitution in the early 1950s. A point of pride with us is that the original writers of our current Constitution were all hereditary leaders within the community. In fact the first elected chairman was an important hereditary chief.

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

Hereditary leadership is still valued and in some cases has more weight than the elected government, but the Chinook Tribal Council runs day-to-day business.

Johnson McIsaac canoe carving

Chairman Johnson and artist Adam McIsaac (background) carving a canoe for the Community of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Western Oregon.


How often are elected leaders chosen?

We have a nine-member council, with members serving staggered three-year terms. Elections for three positions happen every summer at our annual General Council meeting.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

Our Constitution requires monthly meetings, but we meet more often as needed. 

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?

I am most concerned with the big picture of the preservation of our community and the lifeways associated with it. Our people have a right to exist in our territory and to access its resources. This drives me every day.

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

I was enrolled when I was three months old. My father was elected to our Council the same year. Chinook politics have been a part of my life from the beginning.

Despite our lack of federal recognition, we have always had certain rights and we have always been treated as Indians. When I was a young man, these rights were being challenged, and I grew up watching our community fight for them. Without federal acknowledgment and treaties, many of these rights have been stripped from us in my lifetime. This includes the basic right of fishing in our rivers to feed our families.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

We had very hard-nosed leaders when I was growing up. Watching them pound the table and defend us in the strongest way possible was very inspiring. Nearly all the leaders of that old group are gone, and I miss their fire every day.

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

oskalawiliksh was a treaty signer in 1851. His wife akensi was also a person of high status. They are not the only ones in our family line who are significant, but our inheritance from them is important for our position in the community. My wife is also a descendant of one of our treaty signers, a chief named wasilta. He is also not the only prominent person in her family. These are important inheritances for our children.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

We have about 3,000 members.

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

We had three citizenship rolls commissioned by the U.S. government in the early part of the 1900s. A person must have an ancestor on one of these rolls to be considered eligible for enrollment.

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

Three languages were common in our area until recently. Many others were spoken as well. Chinook and Kathlamet are the primary languages of our ancestors. They are the two westernmost Chinookan dialects. Most of us are also descendants of our Salish neighbors, so their languages were common here as well. These are primarily the Tillamook and Chehalis languages.

Our ancestors also created a pidgin language known as Chinuk Wawa or Chinook Jargon. This was used widely and for many generations as a common language for people who did not otherwise share a language.

Today there are very few people who speak any of the Chinookan dialects. Salish languages and Chinuk Wawa became more prominent in our lands because of the disruptions associated with Americans and Europeans arriving here. More people understood those languages, and they were more useful over a broader area. Of Chinook, Kathlamet, and Chinuk Wawa, Chinuk Wawa is closest to flourishing, but it is still endangered. I am a good speaker of Chinuk Wawa.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

We do not have any significant economic enterprises today. 

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

We sponsor community events such as our First Salmon Ceremony, a number of paddle events, an annual Winter Gathering and a Storytelling Gathering. The community also has a large canoe family that practices the canoe culture of our ancestors. 

B2

The Chinook Indian Nation canoe skakwal taking part in the 2006 Tribal Canoe Journey. That year the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, whose lands lie along South Puget Sound, hosted the journey's traditional five-day potlatch. 


What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Our homeland is beautiful—one of the most incredible places on the planet—but we do not operate any significant tourist activities.

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

We fully expect to be treated as a sovereign nation, and despite a current lack of clarity on our federal status we receive that treatment. We consult on a nation-to-nation basis on projects in our area at the county, state and federal level. Amazingly, all branches of the federal government, including many offices within the Department of Interior, treat us as sovereign. Only the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)—in fact, only a part of the BIA—doesn’t recognize our sovereignty.

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

We can’t let our youth accept our current status—lack of land and diminished rights cannot be considered acceptable. I am 45 years old, and many of these rights have been taken in my lifetime. My father and his brother were raised on Indian Trust land. Our grandparents were forced to go to Indian Boarding Schools. They were all given allotments. So much in our lives is affected by the abuse and neglect that we have experienced.

Our young people need to know that while recognition will not be perfect for us, it will at least raise us up to be on an equal standing to the other tribes. As my dad has often said, we are third-class citizens. We need to be able to be self-sustaining, to be able to govern our own land base and to access our own natural resources for the preservation of our culture and sustenance of our children. We must fight as a community for this. We have been here 10,000 years and have an inherent right to be here another 10,000!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

An amazing story: My father was the chairman of the Chinook Indian Nation at the end of a 23-year process through which we had petitioned the federal government to clarify our status. In January 2001 we were given federal acknowledgment. Then-Assistant Secretary of the Interior Kevin Gover, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, apologized for the incredible treatment we had received over the years, and it was finally done. Justice had happened, and the Chinook were again a federally recognized tribe of the United States of America.

As chairman of the federally recognized Chinook Indian Nation, my father attended a luncheon hosted by President George W. Bush that was intended to honor the tribes along the Lewis and Clark Trail and kick off the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. That was on July 3, 2002. My father and mother stayed in Washington for the Fourth of July, and while they were walking in the city on the July 5, they received a call from the BIA. Under the new Bush administration and with a new assistant secretary, the BIA had rescinded our federal acknowledgment. Rather than judging us on our own merit, the broken system of the bureau's Branch of Acknowledgement and Research acted on the objection of another federally recognized tribe. What happened at home that day as the word spread is another story. We still have not recovered.

Thank you for sharing this with us. 

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Chinook Indian Nation, 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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May 06, 2016

Meet Native America: Glenna J. Wallace, Chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe 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 people today. —Dennis Zotigh

Chief Glenna J. WallaceChief Glenna J. Wallace, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. 


Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Hello, my name is Glenna J. Wallace, and I am chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. My Indian name, Ni ni le wi pi mi , comes from the Eagle or Chicken clan and means An Eagle Overhead Watching Everyone.

Where is your tribe located?

The Eastern Shawnee Tribe is one of three federally recognized Shawnee tribes, all located in Oklahoma. We Eastern Shawnees are in the extreme northeast corner of Oklahoma, in an area where three neighboring states can be accessed within minutes—Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas. The tribe borders Missouri, and we can be in Kansas or Arkansas in 30 minutes, max.

Where are the Eastern Shawnee originally from?

We were known to be a wandering, traveling tribe, living in close to thirty states until we settled in Ohio in the early 1700s. We eventually shared a small reservation there with the Seneca Cayuga Tribe. Together we were known as the Mixed Band.

After the passage of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, the Mixed Band was the first group to be forcibly removed to Indian Territory, a journey we made on foot with more than 15 percent not surviving the ordeal. That occurred in 1832, and we remained the Mixed Band until 1867, when we were separated into two distinct tribes, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe and the Seneca Cayuga Tribe. Both tribes remained in the northeast corner of Indian Territory, which became the state of Oklahoma in 1907.

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

We are a small tribe, approaching 3,300 in number, but just prior to 1900 we were down to only 73 people. Historical documents state that we had only seven or eight men over the age of 21. It truly is an example of almost total genocide.

At that time our culture had so few people to support the ceremonials and dances, those practices became dormant. Not extinct, but dormant. Some way, somehow, the tribe, both men and women, miraculously held on, and in 1939 our first Constitution and Charter were approved. These documents served as our guidelines until 1994, when a new Constitution was adopted, making the chief a full-time position equivalent to a modern CEO. Today more than two-thirds of our membership lives outside our service area.

How is your tribal government set up? Is there a functional traditional entity of leadership, in addition to your modern government system?

The Eastern Shawnees are a self-governance tribe with a structure most similar to that of the United States—three separate but equal powers invested in executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The legislative branch is comprised of six individuals: three councilmen, a treasurer, and a secretary, plus the second chief who chairs the meetings but has no vote except as a tiebreaker. The chief comprises the executive branch and has no vote but does have veto power. At the present time we defer to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Court for the judicial branch. Terms are four years in length, with no term limits. To stagger terms, an election is held each year, conducted by absentee voting.

We have no additional leadership entity in our modern government system with the exception of our Annual Council. The Annual Council meets each September at tribal headquarters following the annual election. And of course tribal citizens have the right to submit initiatives or referendums for action by the Business Committee or by the General Council comprised of all registered voters.

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

I am now in my tenth year of serving as chief, having been elected in 2006. Before then, I served on the Business Committee for 18 years. Those years and experiences were invaluable in preparing me for my current responsibilities.

Two other life experiences shaped me as an individual. When I was nine and in the fourth grade, our family left Oklahoma and moved to the West Coast. There we became a migrant family, moving from community to community and working in all types of migrant labor. My four siblings and I were expected to reach a certain quota each day to contribute to the support of our family. Any earnings beyond that quota went to us as individuals, to spend as we wanted. At an early age I became an overachiever. I learned to set goals, work toward those goals, develop a work ethic, and think long-range, and I realized the value, self-worth, and confidence that come from those achievements.

The second life experience that shaped my entire essence was education. I was the first young woman in my family to graduate from high school, the first to graduate from college, the first to pursue postgraduate degrees, which resulted in my being a college instructor and administrative leader for almost 40 years. Those years prepared me for my current role, which ironically is as the first woman to be chief of any Shawnee tribe.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My mother was my personal mentor. She was a woman who had little, materially speaking, in life. Her mother died when she was only seven years old. She did not finish high school. She moved across the state in a covered wagon with her father and two younger brothers, whom she basically raised, leaving her three older sisters where they had grown up. Later she married and had five children. My father became disabled at a young age, leaving my mother with few options.

She never complained. Instead she taught the five of us to be proud, to work hard, to be honest, to manage our resources and be the best we could be. None of us wanted to disappoint her.

Additionally my first academic dean and two college presidents saw abilities in me that I didn’t know existed. Each challenged me, each gave me opportunities that enabled me to grow and to reach heights I hadn't known were even possibilities. These individuals made me who I am today.

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

Membership in the Eastern Shawnee Tribe is through continuous lineal descent. A citizen today had to have a mother or father who was a citizen who had to have had an Eastern Shawnee mother or father who was also a citizen and so on.

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

I mentioned earlier that when our membership was so low that even our survival was in question, our culture became dormant. Today I am not aware of a single Eastern Shawnee who is a fluent Shawnee speaker. We do have some, however, who are semi-fluent, working to become fluent. Fortunately we have two other Shawnee tribes in Oklahoma who do have a few fluent speakers, and they are of immense help in our efforts to reawaken our dormant culture and language. At the present time we employ two fluent Shawnee speakers who conduct classes or serve in a myriad of other ways advancing our language and cultural opportunities.

What events does your tribe sponsor?

Today we have weekly language classes and a cultural gathering each month with activities ranging from stomp dancing in the spring and summer, to beading, to making moccasins and regalia pieces, to cooking demonstrations, to language workshops. We host a large annual powwow the third weekend in September, with this year being our 25th celebration.

We also have a most popular children’s powwow, known as the Shawna Stovall Back to School Powwow, the first Saturday in August where we provide backpacks and school supplies for all attending children 12 and under. That night we have contest dancing for those youngsters, as well as cultural demonstrations and vendors of all types, including Native arts and crafts and food.

This year we will have our third annual History Summit, where knowledgeable tribal citizens and professional researchers present and discuss Eastern Shawnee topics. We also host a Children’s Culture Camp each June, participate in state language contests for youth, host an annual Winter Gathering as well as an annual Elders Dinner, and offer many other activities and opportunities. We work hard at sponsoring cultural activities, events that will bring our tribe together.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

The year 1984 was a pivotal one for the Eastern Shawnee Tribe: That was the year we started our first economic venture in the world of gaming. At first we were limited to bingo and pull tabs in a joint venture with a private individual. Three years later we assumed total responsibility for our gaming enterprise. We added on to our first building three times, then opened Bordertown Casino and Bingo in a new building in 2003.

In 2012 we relocated to new facilities on Highway 60. Indigo Sky offers diverse forms of gaming including off-track betting, bingo, table games, and poker machines. The hotel has 117 rooms, conference facilities, and two restaurants. This year a Convention Center and approximately 125 additional rooms will be added. After opening Indigo Sky in 2012, we reopened Bordertown Casino/Arena in 2015. Gaming revenue has enabled us to purchase additional economic enterprises, including majority ownership of People’s Bank of Seneca, which has now expanded to three locations; Native2Native Solutions (N2N), a tribally owned holding company providing services in human resources, education, tire and automotive, freight and transportation, and hospitality; and the Eastern Shawnee Travel Center. From the original casino there now stand three, each one unique. Our land base has grown from 58.19 acres acquired in 1939 to approximately 2,500 acres today.

Equally important as economic ventures are tribal programs and services. We are located near a small town of approximately 2,300 residents. Our Senior Nutrition program serves about 100 people a day. We have an Early Childhood Learning Center for children 3 months to 5 years old, a Housing Authority enabling home ownership, and twelve rental Independent Elders Living units. We partner with the Wyandotte Nation to provide a health clinic to citizens of both tribes, Bearskin Health Clinic. We have our own Police Department, a tribal tag program, our own print shop, a state-of-the art Wellness Center open to the entire community, and six miles of walking trails. We own and operate a successful Recycling Center. We provide numerous programs to serve those in need, to prevent family violence and violence against women, drug abuse, and suicide; promote Indian Child Welfare   provide assistance via the Child Care Development Fund; and offer professional counseling, including equine therapy for youth.

Most importantly, we support a strong benefits program for our tribal citizens which includes a most progressive educational scholarship program for all, but particularly for our young people. We constantly work with our youth, as they are the leaders of tomorrow. Currently we are writing our first children’s book as well as the history of our tribe. Those are both major undertakings as little has been known about the Eastern Shawnee. Both books should be available within the next year.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Our casinos all located within five miles of each other, four beautiful seasons, and immediate access to four states have made us a destination resort area. Indigo Sky is an upscale gaming facility beautifully landscaped with luxurious rooms and fine dining, plus a modern convenient RV resort. OutPost boasts a small, cozy atmosphere. Bordertown Casino/Arena is action-packed, with a large dance floor, cowboys, a mechanical bull plus live indoor bull-riding or live bucking bulls, depending upon the weekend.

Ottawa County, where we are located, is home to nine federally recognized tribes, more tribes in one county than any other place in the United States. In this one county you will find a minimum of 14 gaming establishments within 25 miles. You will also find powwows, cultural events, fine dining, elegant rooms/suites, conference amenities, lake activities, fishing, golf, indoor bull-bucking, and bull-riding within these 25 miles.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, are a small, progressive tribe. We pride ourselves on setting goals, working hard, managing our resources, looking to the future—actually influencing our future—regaining our culture, and taking care of our people.

Thank you.

Thank you.


Photo courtesy of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma; 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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April 29, 2016

Meet Native America: Jim Taylor, Elnu Abenaki Tribal Councilman and Elder

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

Councilman Jim Taylor
Elnu Abenaki Councilman and Elder Jim Taylor.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

I'm Jim Taylor. I'm an Elnu Abenaki tribal councilman and elder.

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

My Native name is Nanabi Wokwses, which is Abenaki for Fast Fox. Many of my people just call me JT.

I am Abenaki and Cherokee. N'wjihla W8banakiak, which means, "I come from the People from Where the Sun Rises." (The letter 8 in the Abenaki alphabet is a vowel with a soft, slightly nasal sound that has been described as sounding like the u in uncle.)

Where is your tribe located?

Our Tribal Headquarters is in the small town of Jamaica, Vermont, in Windham County in the southwestern part of the state.

Where is your tribe originally from?

Our original territories were the southern portions of Vermont and included abutting areas of Massachusetts at one time. Our current home lies at the heart of our ancestral territory.

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

First and foremost, our state recognition on April 22, 2011, which took many years to secure with the Vermont State Legislature. It was a hard fought fight by many elders before me, who saw state recognition granted then taken away in the 1990s. We kept fighting and finally secured recognition for the Abenaki people 17 years later. 

If I might add a second important point in our history, it is our being asked, along with the three other state-recognized tribes—the Nulhegans, Koaseks, and Missisquoi—to be part of a historic Wabanaki Confederacy meeting in August 2015 with our Eastern Wabanaki cousins—the Penobscot, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Passamaquoddy, and Mi'kmaq. Until that day, such a meeting had not been held in Vermont in over 200 years. We came together to affirm our alliance as Wabanaki people, bound by our traditional wampum belts, to help each other and support one another moving forward as one people. 

Recognition

The Elnu Abenaki Tribe and the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe receive recognition by the State of Vermont—official acknowledgment of the Abenaki people's long-standing existence in Vermont, which predates European settlement, and of their carefully maintained oral tradition and traditional arts. From left to right: Jim Taylor, Chief Don Stevens (Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe), Governor Peter Shumlin, and Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki Tribe). Vermont Statehouse, Montpelier; April 22, 2011.

How is your tribal government set up?

We have an elected chief, or sagomo, and two Council leaders and elders—neg8nigo—one male and one female.

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

We have a very traditional tribal society and form of government that we adhere to. Our tribal Constitution is not only on paper in the Vermont state government archives, but also traditionally written in wampum bead strands for our people as well.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Our sagomo is appointed for life or until the chief chooses to step aside or is deemed unfit to hold the position by the Council elders. At that time a Grand Council will be ordered by the Tribal Council, and tribal members will be asked to vote for a new leader selected by the Council elders.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

We meet once a month and at other times when there is an important issue that needs to be heard.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

As a councilman and elder I assist our chief in many areas within our Native community, from repatriation and protection of ancestral sites to working with our younger tribal members on issues they may be having within our tribe. I also work closely with our other councilwoman and elder on issues that pertain to the women of the tribe.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

I would have to say my parents, along with my maternal aunt. My mother and aunt were both very strong, independent female role models in my life. I am also inspired by my father, who was very poor growing up in rural Kentucky, and by descending from a Removal Cherokee great-grandfather. My family imparted many lessons about being humble but proud of who you are, and about never allowing your struggles to define you.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

Of the four Vermont-recognized tribes, we are the second smallest in membership. We have a little over 60 tribal members at this time.

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

We Elnu have the same criteria as many other Native communities: You must provide proof of Native descent or ancestry through supporting genealogy records, documents, and the like. We do not recognize the Anglo concept of blood quantum to the extent that we would ever exclude someone based on current blood quantum.

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

Abenaki is still spoken, but sadly fewer than twenty or thirty people in the state are fluent. More people are learning each day, as we have a very strong effort to revitalize the language amongst all of the Abenaki people here and in Canada. Imagine our culture as Abenaki people as a large puzzle that was taken from us and tossed into the air and scattered in many different directions. We have been forced, like so many Eastern Native nations since the time of Contact, to put the puzzle of our culture back together one piece at a time, working with those people who were able to hang on to traditions such as our language, our ceremonies, and our songs. Part of that puzzle has come back to us through our Eastern Abenaki cousins of the Wabanaki Confederacy. For that we are truly grateful and honored.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

Elnu at this time is working with local groups who may be willing to donate a land space that our families can use for hunting, fishing, and a community garden. Also we have many traditional artists in our community who, as our ancestors did, sell their art as a source of income.

Jim Taylor Lake Champlain Museum
Jim Taylor serving as a cultural interpreter during Abenaki Heritage Weekend, discussing the importance of the pipe in Abenaki society, diplomacy, and religion. Photo by Kris Jarrett, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

Elnu started the Abenaki Heritage Weekend. It is held annually on the last weekend in June at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes, Vermont, and all four state-recognized tribes participate. Lake Champlain is an important and sacred area to all Abenaki people. The weekend gives people a chance to meet Abenaki people from the four Vermont tribes, to experience a pre-Contact fishing village and speak with Abenaki cultural interpreters, to meet many Abenaki artisans selling their art, and to see demonstrations in how some of the traditional crafts were made before Contact and after. Also, there are panel discussions featuring the various tribal leaders where people can see, hear, and learn more about issues we currently are dealing with as Indigenous people, in our communities and in Indian Country overall.

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

All of Ndakinna—our homeland, Vermont—is beautiful for a visit. Jamaica State Park has a small area with a display of artifacts collected in Elnu territory. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has a gallery dedicated to the Abenaki people of the Champlain Valley, as does the ECHO, Leahy Center in Burlington, Vermont.

How does your tribe deal with the U.S. and Canada?

Currently we don’t have any issues with either government on the federal level. On the state level, our relationship is one of respect, and the state has been working with us on current issues that affect all of the state tribes, as well as each individual tribe, within Vermont. We look forward to continuing this relationship moving forward.

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

No matter where you may go, remember you are W8banaki. Remember how far we have come and never stop moving forward!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

N’Nanabi Wokwses. N’W8banaki, Plawinno. Wlakamigen! I am Fast Fox. I am Abenaki, Turtle Clan. Peace!

Thank you.

Wli'wini—thank you.


Photos courtesy of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe of Vermont; 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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April 22, 2016

Meet Native America: W. Patrick Goggles (Northern Arapaho), former Wyoming State Legislator

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 


W. Patrick GogglesState Representative W. Patrick Goggles, Wyoming House District 33, during the 2008 Democratic caucuses. March 2008, Fremont County, Wyoming.


Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is W. Patrick Goggles; my Northern Arapaho name is White Grizzly Bear. I am a former Wyoming state legislator. I represented Wyoming House District 33 for ten years—from 2005 until 2014. 

What tribes are you affiliated with?

I am an enrolled Northern Arapaho.

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

I not sure of the date or century, but when alcohol was introduced to our people. The effects have been devastating to immediate family, extended family, band, and tribe. Today our people still suffer from generational alcoholism. Complete families have succumbed to alcohol and alcoholism.

How is your state government set up?

The Wyoming legislature is a bicameral institution, with 60 house members and 30 senate members.

How are leaders chosen?

Party leadership is elected within the party caucus. The leadership of the house and senate is elected by the members every two years, after general elections. I was the minority whip in 2009 as well as the minority leader of the Wyoming House from 2010 to 2012.

Are Democrats or Republicans more dominant in your state? Do they vote along party lines?

Republicans control both the Wyoming House and Senate with a supermajority. There are 25 Republican senators and 52 house members. The Republican Party in Wyoming aligns to the conservative right, from moderate to ultra conservative. 

Are there any other Natives who are elected leaders in your state?

While I served in the Wyoming House of Representatives, I was the only Native American representative. At the local level during that time, the Native population elected a Native woman as a Fremont County Commissioner, a first in the history of Wyoming.


Sen. Obama and State Rep. Goggles
Senator Barak Obama and Representative Goggles during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign. University of Wyoming, Laramie, March 2008.


How many tribes are in your state? Who are they?

There are two tribes, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone. There are also many Native people who are married into the two tribes.

As a legislator, did you ever meet with the Native people of your state? 

Absolutely. I served as chairman of the Select Committee on Tribal Relations for my last terms and was a member of the committee for eight years. I regularly met with local school boards, tribal governments, tribal programs, Native veterans, elders, and all constituents within the district I served. I talked with Native folks daily while I was in office and continue to do so today.

Do the Native people in Wyoming vote in state elections?

The Native American population in Wyoming is active in state elections from school boards and county commissions to state representatives, state senators, and governor.

How often does your state legislature meet?

The Wyoming legislature is constitutionally mandated to meet every year. Even years are budget sessions for 20 days, and odd years are general sessions for 40 days.

What responsibilities did you have as a state representative?

As an elected state representative you’re held to a higher standard. Transparency, accountability, accuracy, being law abiding, a role model, and a good citizen immediately come to mind. The general areas of political, social, financial, and, yes, religious life are fair game. Your give up your free time to serve the people at a significant sacrifice to immediate family and community. Expectations of your service are 24/7, 365 days of the year. You’re expected to be available, accessible, and prepared.

You’re expected to maintain and preserve the public trust and to be honest. The compensation you receive is the people's gratitude and thanks. You should not financially benefit or profit from your elected position and should view the state’s financial position in fiscally conservative terms.

You become the standard bearer of your community. You are asked to attend community events, activities and functions. You are asked to speak at political gatherings, graduations, funerals, weddings, birthdays, and just about everything else.

Constituents ask for your help, like testifying in tribal court, state court and even federal court. Speaking on behalf of family in front of various audiences is a constant. In Wyoming the legislature is called a citizens legislature because it is not a professional institution. An elected official such as a representative is considered a part-time employee of the state. Most legislators maintain full-time employment, public or private. In essence an elected official is performing two full-time jobs. At the same time I was serving in the legislature, I have been executive director of Northern Arapaho Tribal Housing. I haven't retired from that position. I haven't retired from politics, either. There is still a lot I'd like to do.

What is a significant point in the Wyoming state history that you would like to share?

In 1978 the State of Wyoming filed suit against the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to quantify the tribes' water rights. To finality the litigation took approximately 30 years and cost millions of dollars, and administrative adjudication continued for another several years. The two tribes share approximately 500,000 acre-feet of water yearly, restricted to agricultural use. The tribes were fortunate in that they were able to afford legal counsel to argue their positions in federal court and ultimately in the Wyoming Supreme Court.

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

I grew up on the Wind River Indian Reservation, in a rural community. Our family was poor but not impoverished, because we hunted, harvested, and raised our own food. I remember work as a daily activity that the whole family participated in. We learned to work at a very early age. Imagine no indoor plumbing or running water, no vehicle, one pair of shoes, no TV or cell phones, none of that. Our life was good, and we got by.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My grandfather Ben Friday Sr. He was a Northern Arapaho councilman for 30 years, ceremonial elder, veteran, Native healer, and my grandpa.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader?

The ancestor I was told about was Iron Eyes, a scout at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Approximately how many constituents are in your district? Approximately how many are Native?

In Wyoming House District 33 there are approximately 11,000 constituents. Voting constituents number about 3,750. Sixty percent are Native.

How did you use your elected position to help Natives and other minorities?

I used my elected position to advocate for federal pass-through and state funds to support programs on the Wind River Indian Reservation, such as resources for schools, new school construction, road infrastructure, social services, and child protection services. I also worked to support the University of Wyoming, Central Wyoming College, and agencies that provide services for people.

I also served on standing committees and select committees that had direct impact on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

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

Western education is a key to a career and future. Western education is also a tool of the mind to help yourself and then others. Don’t let Western education alone define your character; use your language, culture, and ceremonies to assist you in finding a path in life. Be very respectful of your tribal elders, be proud of who you are and your tribal heritage. Learn to be humble but not afraid to try new experiences and venture out in life. Learn to be generous and to help others help themselves.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Believe in the Grandfather Creator. Learn to use prayer. Give thanks for each new day, for water, for Grandmother Earth and our spirit mediators, our tribal medicines, our ways, songs, and sacred covenants. Believe in yourself.

Thank you.

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Goggles family; 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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April 12, 2016

Meet Native America: Edward Paul Torres, Governor for the Pueblo of Isleta and Chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors

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 

GovTorres
Governor Edward Paul Torres, Pueblo of Isleta. Isleta, New Mexico; January 2016.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

My name is Edward Paul Torres, and I am currently serving my second two-year term as Governor for the Pueblo of Isleta.

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

My Native Tiwa name is Kimo, which means Mountain Lion.

Where is your tribal community located?

The Pueblo of Isleta is located in central New Mexico along the Rio Grande River, 13 miles south of Albuquerque. The name Isleta means Little Island in Spanish, as the pueblo was situated on an island within the Rio Grande River when the Spanish colonists arrived in the region. 

I am very proud to say that our Pueblo now consists of approximately 210,000 acres after this winter, when over 90,000 acres of land was placed into trust status by the Obama administration. This represents the largest single transfer of land back to a tribe’s control in U.S. history. 

Where is your tribe originally from? 

Our Pueblo people have been here since time immemorial. We were born of our Mother Earth for our Creator Father. We Isleta natives are the direct descendants of the peoples of the Mesa Verde Cliff-dwellers civilization of southern Colorado. I share an Isleta Pueblo and a Laguna Pueblo heritage. The Laguna Pueblo people are the descendants of the great Chaco Canyon civilization of west-central New Mexico. Both of my peoples maintained contact with and traded with the Mayans, Aztecs, and other great civilizations of Mexico.

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

It was a temptation for the Europeans in the 16th century to let the notion of racial inferiority become an excuse to push the Indians from the lands they occupied. Largely as the result of arguments of Spanish theoreticians such as Francisco de Vitoria, the idea developed that certain basic rights are inherent in men as men—"not by reason of their race, creed, or color, but by reason of their humanity." In 1537, by the bull Sublimis Deus, Pope Paul III gave the Doctrine of Vitoria papal support by proclaiming to the Christian sovereigns of Europe that Indians, and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or lands. A doctrine of respect for Indian possessions became the guiding principle of Spain’s Law of the Indies, and the origin of recognized tribal sovereignty, which is still recognized today, including in a proclamation recently issued by President Barack Obama.

How is your tribal government set up? 

In centuries past, our Pueblo governmental organization was similar to all other Pueblo governments, headed by a Cacique and other traditional positions of government. The Spanish introduced the position of Governor and other civil officials to carry on the duties of our tribal governments aside from our religious positions. After the Spanish, the Mexican government recognized the Pueblos, and after a war with the United States, we were also recognized by the United States government.

The Spanish king initially presented the Pueblo Governors with a vara or cane of office that represented our sovereign authority. Thereafter, the Mexican government also presented us with a cane to recognize that same authority under their government, and, finally, the United States government, through President Abraham Lincoln, bestowed upon us the Lincoln cane that recognized our sovereign status and government-to-government relationships. Today, all Pueblo Governors maintain their canes of office as symbols of hundreds of years of sovereign authority over our people.

Today, Isleta has a democratic tribal government and a Constitution that was approved in 1947, with three branches of government: the Executive Branch, which is headed by a Governor and two Lieutenant Governors; the Legislative Branch, which consists of a seven-member Tribal Council; and the Judicial Branch, with a Chief Judge and two Associate Judges, as well as an Appellate Court.  

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

As with all Pueblos, our traditional leaders are an integral part of our customs and traditions and play a significant part in our day-to-day activities, our world views, and our belief system.

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

Elected leaders serve two-year terms and may be re-elected for an additional term. In mid-October nominations are taken, and a general election is held the last Saturday in November. The Governor is the chief executive officer of over six hundred employees and is elected democratically. The newly elected Governor selects two Lieutenant Governors, a Sheriff, and an Under-Sheriff to assist during his or her governorship. The Governor is bound by Article IV of the Constitution. Tribal Council members are also elected and serve two-year terms and may run for one additional term of office. Tribal Council members are bound by Article V of the Constitution. 

Governor and OfficialsExecutive officers of the Pueblo of Isleta (from left to right): Sheriff Benedict Piro, Lieutenant Governor Isidor Abeita, Lieutenant Governor Antonio Chewiwi, Governor Edward Paul Torres, and Sheriff Ray Abeita.


How often does your Tribal Council meet? 

Twice weekly.

What responsibilities do you have as Governor? 

The Governor is responsible for directing and administering the civil affairs of the Pueblo in conformity with applicable ordinances, procedures, and policies enacted by the Tribal Council. I represent the Pueblo in negotiations and relationships with other governmental agencies, individuals, and entities. As Governor, I also serve as the official liaison between the tribal government, the tribal religious organizations, and each tribal member. I am responsible for the total welfare of my people and once elected am given total authority over my people.

In January following the election all tribal officials are officially blessed during the Blessing of the Canes ceremony in our historic 400-year-old St. Augustine Catholic Church, where the canes of office are bestowed upon all tribal leaders. The Governor receives the Lincoln cane; the 1st Lieutenant receives the Spanish cane, as well as the New Mexico cane, which was only recently added to the historic canes of office, and the 2nd Lieutenant receives the Mexican cane. This is one of the most historic of Pueblo Indian customs and traditions, passed on for hundreds of years among our Pueblos. With the exception of a Tribal Judge position, I have held every other major position within the pueblo. I was elected into the Governor’s post in 2013, having served as a Lieutenant Governor under a previous administration.     

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

I was raised by a single mother and close relatives and did not know my father nor material wealth. Despite this, I had the love of my mother, who passed away when I was 13 years old, my family, and my Pueblo community to sustain me. I was raised in the pueblo village, attending the local elementary school, then junior high and high school. From this upbringing, I learned that if I was ever to become somebody in life I would have to get there myself. After high school I entered the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Coral Sea in the South Pacific during the Vietnam conflict. I returned home to Isleta to marry the only love of my life, my wife Geneva. Together we raised four children and now have several grandchildren. I always maintained my Pueblo identity and social and community status among my people, and it is here in Isleta where I came back to live, work, and raise my family.

TorresFamily

Governor and Mrs. Torres, with their children. Isleta, New Mexico; January 2016.


Who inspired you as a mentor? 

When I think back in my life about this question, I truly believe that one man really inspired me in my life, and that man was Mr. Pete Delgado, my 11th and 12th grade teacher at Los Lunas High School. Mr. Delgado expressed a sincere kindness towards me, and he inspired me with his passion for teaching and his patience. Mr. Delgado taught drafting, woodworking, and carpentry.

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

I am the proud great-grandson of Santiago Torres, (Sun Clan) and Paulina Garcia Alonso Torres (Eagle Clan), who in 1879 to 1880, together with approximately 150 fellow Laguna Pueblo tribesmen and women, fled the several villages that make up the Laguna Pueblo, walking east through the barren west central New Mexico desert to the Rio Grande Valley to flee political infighting and religious persecution in Laguna. This high-ranking group of conservative refugees consisting of members of all the major Native religious organizations fled Laguna with only the clothes on their backs, ancient ceremonial artifacts intact, and the wisdom and knowledge of the Keresan people from time immemorial.

The Isleta people, who themselves are descended from the great Mesa Verde civilizations of southern Colorado, welcomed these refugees, and they became an integral part of the Isleta traditional community. I am the proud descendent of these brave and courageous people whose own ancestors fled the Spanish conquistadores after the Pueblo Revolt and who migrated hundreds of years earlier from the great Chaco Canyon civilization of west central New Mexico. My grandfather Pedro Torres, son of Santiago, was appointed by the Laguna refugees as their Governor-in-exile in 1926, and I myself, was later to be elected to the position of Governor for the Pueblo of Isleta. I am proud to be a descendent of these two great and ancient Pueblo tribes.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

There are currently approximately 2,729 tribal members.

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

Membership is determined by blood quantum, which is prescribed in the Isleta Constitution.

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

The Tiwa language is still spoken within the Isleta village, with approximately 30 to 40 percent of the people speaking fluently. Isleta is one of the more traditional Pueblos in New Mexico, and we still maintain our native Tiwa language and conduct our daily affairs using our native language. 

What economic enterprises does your tribe own? 

Our largest enterprise is the Isleta Resort & Casino, which includes the Isleta Eagle Golf Course, and the Isleta Lakes Recreation Complex. The Isleta Resort & Casino is served by the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, a commuter line from Belen to Santa Fe with a station stop in Isleta. The contemporary resort is beautifully decorated with works by Native American artists and is located approximately 8.8 miles south of Albuquerque on Interstate 25. Besides offering a full array of casino play, this facility includes a hotel and spa, restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife. The resort provides full employment opportunities for many people in the area.

The Pueblo also owns the Isleta Business Corporation (IBC). Among the businesses the IBC manages are:

  • Velocity Build, LLC, a newly created construction company totally owned by the IBC.
  • Native American Insurance Group, an insurance agency licensed by New Mexico and chartered and incorporated by the Pueblo of Isleta to provide products and services tailored to cover both Native and non-Native American communities and commercial customers.
  • The Isleta Travel Center, a branded fuel store and convenience store providing tobacco products, liquor, etc., in line with Isleta One Stop, an independent fuel station and convenience store.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor? 

There are far too many community events sponsored by the Pueblo and the resort to mention. There are events for the elderly and for veterans’ organizations, and everything from competitive recreational activities for our youth to musical concerts at our casino and the neighboring Isleta Amphitheatre. Isleta also celebrates our annual St. Augustine Feast Day on August 28 and September 4 each year. Isleta is the hub of activity for visitors from and to Albuquerque and surrounding communities.

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

Isleta is a member of the oldest Native American political organization in the United States. The All Indian Pueblo Council (AIPC)—now the All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG)—was initially founded in 1598 by the Pueblos of New Mexico to deal with the Spanish conqueror Juan de Onate. The Pueblos have maintained this strong political alliance for over 400 years and have utilized our political clout to assist other tribes within and outside of the United States to deal with Native American issues. On December 17, 2015, the nineteen New Mexico Pueblo Governors and the Governor of the Pueblo of Ysleta del Sur from Texas convened to appoint new officers for the APCG. I was unanimously reappointed as Chairman of this historic council. I am most honored to have been selected for this prestigious position from among my peers.

The Pueblo of Isleta works directly with the United States government either through our Congressional delegation or through the U.S. Department of the Interior. At times we also include the APCG and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) as well.

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

My message to our youth is to stay connected with our customs, traditions, and especially our language. It is so easy for our young people to get lost in the outside world, with its many varied challenges and influences. I take great pride in listening to the following words of my esteemed nephew, Ron Looking Elk Martinez, currently a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe:

Since time immemorial, the Native American people of this region have lived in harmony and respect with their natural environment. Stories of our emergence and our living history are handed down from one generation to the next through prayer and song. The traditional knowledge of our ancestors is the basis for how we live today and is reflected in our “Pueblo-style” architecture, agriculture, traditions, arts and ceremony.

We are grateful for the blessings of our Earth Mother as she provides us with all that we need to sustain our livelihood, now and into the future. As Pueblo people living in a modern time, we have a sacred and inherent responsibility to maintain a balance with our natural environment while also embracing the knowledge of western culture in order to survive and prosper. . . .

I encourage all of our youth to seek out their careers in order to make a good living for themselves and their families. I encourage them to remember where they came from and who they are. And, finally, after they pursue their educational careers, I encourage them to come back to their communities to share their knowledge with our people.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

I take great pride in noting the achievements of the Pueblo of Isleta within the last few years. Through the cooperation of the tribal administration and our Tribal Council, the Pueblo of Isleta has seen a dramatic change in our standard of living. We now have a modern Health Center that provides a full array of medical services including dental services, behavioral health, a diabetes program, and an emergency medical unit. Our brand new Head Start Program is a nationally recognized model facility. We have our large Recreation Center with a spacious swimming pool, in addition to our new Elder Center and Assisted Living and Memory Care Center. We house our administrative services functions in a new Administrative Tribal Complex next to our beautiful Resort and Casino, which all overlook our spacious competitive golf course along the Rio Grande River below the beautiful Sandia and Manzano Mountains to the east.

Our people have lived on this site for hundreds of years since our forefathers migrated here. Our Creator has blessed us with the knowledge to keep and respect what we have been provided. We honor our ancestors by maintaining the ancient customs and traditions that have been handed down to us since time immemorial. 

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


Photos by Richard L. Garcia, courtesy of the Pueblo of Isleta; 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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