September 06, 2016

Meet Native America: Mark Gould, Chief of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal 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

Chief Mark Gould
Chief Mark Quiet Hawk Gould taking part in A Day of Celebration! Lenapowsi: Nanticoke-Lenape Music, Dance and Craft. Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center, Millville, New Jersey, September 2014.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

My name is Mark Quiet Hawk Gould. I am the elected chief of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation and have served in tribal leadership for over four decades. I am also vice president of Native American Advancement Corporation (NAAC), a non-profit agency operated by the tribe that provides weatherization services for homes through an initiative under the Department of Energy. Both the tribal headquarters and NAAC offices are located in Cumberland County, New Jersey. 

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

Like many of my tribal relatives, my English name is a Native name, because Gould is one of the core Lenape families of our tribal base rolls, going back to the time of first contact with the English colonists who came to our homeland. My ceremonially given tribal name is Chitkwesit Mexkaniat, which in English is Quiet Hawk. It describes of my relationship with the Creator; I am quiet before him, but rarely quiet with people. 

Where is your tribal community located? 

Our tribal headquarters is located in Bridgeton, in Cumberland County, New Jersey. Our cultural center is located on 51 acres in Fairton, in Cumberland County. Most of our tribal members live and have always lived in Cumberland and Salem counties. 

Where is your tribe originally from? 

Our tribal families have always resided here around the Delaware Bay in South Jersey and Delaware. The core Lenape families on the New Jersey side of the bay intermarried with core Lenape and Nanticoke families from the two continuing historic communities on the Delaware side of the Bay for at least the past 300 years. The intermarriage has been so prevalent that the people of the three tribal communities are all interrelated. 

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

In the early 1970s our lives began to change. There was a lack of work, school opportunities were becoming few and far between, and our churches were becoming integrated, leaving our families without the governance that had been centered in our core churches for more than a century and a half. At the same time, the Piscataway and the Nanticoke offered their assistance in reorganizing into an elected tribal government that was independent from the church. 

The enthusiasm of the younger generation around reorganizing in an open public fashion alarmed our elders, who advised us to be still because of the history of abuse our people had suffered and were still experiencing. Thanks to the Creator, we were pushed forward by two very strong elder women, Marion Strong Medicine Gould and Mary Spreading Eagle Wings Ward. That was the new revitalization of our families. We were then visited by Nora Thompson Dean, a spiritual leader of the Lenape Delaware of Oklahoma. She extended an invitation to our council to visit her community. While there, we were introduced to the Moraviantown Lenape Delaware of Ontario, Canada. 

Our community had chosen to isolate itself, and our people did not want to share our culture with those around us. Outsiders did not understand our life ways. Sharing could bring dire consequences and even punishment by outsiders. The very first informal setting in Oklahoma was not only heartwarming but also eye-opening. Our spiritual leader, Chief Lew Gray Squirrel Pierce, and I found ourselves staring at one of the elders from the Oklahoma Delaware, having to explain that our awkward gaze was not meant to be disrespectful, but was because the elder looked exactly like Lew’s sister back home. We found so many who reminded us of our relatives around the Delaware Bay. 

Reviving ancient connections led to another memorable moment in my own life when I was very ill. Sixteen members of the Moraviantown Lenape came 600 miles to have ceremony and pray for my health. After all these years, I know that prayer works! I also know that we survive by the Creator’s blessing and because we care for one another. 

Chief Gould



Chief Gould teaching rattle-making at the tribe's summer youth camp at Cohanzick, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Grounds. Fairton, Fairfield Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey, July 2015. 

How is your tribal government set up? 

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribal government has three branches—Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Our Tribal Council is comprised of nine members—four members of the Executive Branch who serve staggered four-year terms and five at-large Legislative Council members who serve staggered two-year terms. The Judicial Branch is headed by a Supreme Court of five justices who also oversee lower Peacekeeping Courts. 

Important government functions are divided among four statutory committees: Citizenship, Cultural Retention, Ceremonial, and Government Affairs and Relations. An Elder’s Council and Youth Council—called “New Dawn”—are chartered under tribal law. 

Other volunteer committees organize our annual powwow, summer camp, biannual gatherings, newsletter, buildings and maintenance, etc. Our tribally chartered community services agency provides for social services to our citizens and our tribally chartered community development agency provides for non-profit economic development initiatives. A tribally owned limited liability company oversees tribal for-profit initiatives. 

Our Council meets twice monthly, with the second meeting also being with the general community. 

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman? 

At the age of 74 and working 40 hours a week, I think my tribal family has been very generous. I conduct all meetings, and I am a voting member of all committees. As chief, I have to think not merely of the present goals and challenges, but also of the future hope of our people. What is unwritten is that I am an ear to those who need to be listened to and a hand for those who need help—all while trying to get others to do the same. 

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

I identify with the saying, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” because I know that I am that child. I think that almost every elder woman either spanked me, pulled my hair or ear, or sent a message home for my parents to handle me. The men taught by example and life lessons. Some lessons were harsh and very costly, but I realize that it was for my safety and wellbeing. I don’t know if this prepared me for leadership, but it did prepare me to be a man of—and for—my people. My own preparation was to surround myself with well-educated, compassionate people who loved our families and loved and feared God. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

As a young man, I did not realize the reason for so many of our tribal citizens to be involved in my life lessons. Everyone wanted to protect me and make me into a person with compassion and strength. During the years that my father was a POW in WWII, my mother and my grandmother taught me to care about myself and others. They also taught me how to be accepted and respected outside of our community. My Aunt Esther tried to save me academically. 

The adult lessons were not taught but experienced: How to be strong, how not to be afraid, and how to recognize a fraud. When I tell people who my mentors are, they are puzzled. Their teachings have saved us numerous times. Harry (Rusty) Wright, Donald (Duck) Gould, and Jesse (Doobie) Gould—some of their wisdom was passed on with cryptic proverbs like, “Ain’t no hill to a climber.” (There is nothing you cannot do if you put your mind to it.) Or, “All goodbyes ain’t gone.” (There is nothing you can do to stop me. Don’t view my retreat as defeat. I’ll be back). 

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

There are about 3,800 tribal citizens. 

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

To be a tribal citizen, you must be one-quarter blood from our base roll. 

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

The tribal citizens are involved in reviving the Southern Unami dialect of the Lenape language through a tribally based program of instruction. I’m not sure how I will make out, but the younger ones have surprised everyone. 

What annual events does your tribe sponsor? 

We sponsor an annual Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Pow Wow, two spiritual gatherings, a weekly senior lunch, and a summer youth camp. 

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

Educate yourself about the problems facing your people. Give freely of your time. Always remember that you do not have a clue how many tribal citizens were involved in your safety, your education, and the assurance that you do not have to endure the punishment and discrimination that they suffered. 

Thank you. 

Thank you. 

 
Photos courtesy of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal 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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August 19, 2016

Meet Native America: Theodore Hernandez, Chairman of the Wiyot 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

Chmn & Ms. Hernandez
Wiyot Tribal Chairman Theodore Hernandez and his wife, Rose Hernandez. March 2016, Loleta, California.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

I'm Theodore Hernandez, chairman of the Wiyot Tribe, located on the Table Bluff Reservation.

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

My nickname with the youth on the Table Bluff Reservation is Gray Wolf. Most people know me as Ted.

Where is your reservation located?

The Table Bluff Reservation is in Northern California on the outskirts of Loleta, California. Our main office and tribal reservation overlook Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Where is your tribe originally from?

Wiyot people have always lived along the Pacific Ocean and around Humboldt Bay. Before the 1850s and the times of the Gold Rush, the Wiyot people covered 40 miles of coastline, going inland about 10 miles. The tribe’s ancestral territory includes Little River to the north, Bear River Ridge to the south, and from the Pacific Coast out to as far as Berry Summit in the northeast and Chalk Mountain in the southeast.

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

For the Wiyot people there are a couple points in history that are unquestionably significant. We can never forget about the lives we lost during the massacre in the 1860s on Indian Island in Humboldt Bay, as well as on the banks of the Eel River and Mad River. This major event in history practically brought the Wiyot people to extinction. In fact, in the early 1900s there were only about one hundred tribal members.

Shortly after the early 1900s though, the tribe began to prosper again and grow our membership. Sadly, hardship hit the Wiyot people again, this time in 1961 when the California Rancheria Act terminated the legal status of the tribe and the Wiyot effectively became non-Indian Indians. A major thank-you goes out to Wiyot tribal members Albert and Beverly James and their families who fought to get the tribe's rights back and ultimately succeeded. In 1975 the tribe filed suit against the federal government for unlawful termination, and in 1981 federal recognition and trust status was reinstated.

How is your tribal community government set up?

Our Tribal Council is made up of seven tribal members who are elected by the tribal membership. The Wiyot Tribe has a chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer and three members-at-large who assist with representing the tribal membership.

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

The Wiyot Tribe has committees that council members and other interested tribal members sit on. These committees represent our membership and tribe throughout the organization. Traditionally we respect our tribal elders and their wisdom, which is often consulted.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Council members of the Wiyot tribe have a staggered four-year term for each position on the Tribal Council.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

Our Tribal Council has Business Council meetings twice a month. Tribal membership is also asked to attend these meetings and take part in the public forum. The council also meets at different times throughout the year for committee meetings and economic development meetings. In addition to our Business Council meetings, we also have General Council meetings twice a year.

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

I believe that all my life experiences, both good and bad, helped me to become who I am today and have aided me has a tribal leader. Throughout life I gained experience in everything I did and specifically by taking part in the workforce. I started as a laborer and worked my way up to management, developing business leadership skills. I regained my cultural drive to lead the tribe when I was able to participate in my daughter's coming-of-age dance. This moment in my time brought the tribe's culture back into my life and motivated me to make it my goal to reach tribal leadership and strive to do better for the tribal membership.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

I consider my main responsibility as the tribal chairman to be to provide for and make the best decisions for tribal members. It is especially important to provide for the youth of the tribe and to insure their well-being and success, since they after all will be the future of our tribe.

Chmn Theodore HernandezChairman Hernandez taking part in the unveiling of a mural created by students at Humboldt State University in collaboration with the artist Saba (Randy Sabaque) and the wider community. The mural celebrates the cultures of traditionally underrepresented students at Humboldt State. December 2015, UC Quad, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California.


Who inspired you as a mentor?

My mother was the biggest inspiration in my life. She possessed strong leadership skills and outstanding morals. There have also been numerous elders who have influenced me through their teaching of our culture and their stories.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

There are approximately 640 enrolled members in the Wiyot Tribe.

What are the criteria to become a Wiyot tribal member?

Our membership requirement is through blood quantum. Each member is required to have one-eighth Wiyot blood to be considered for enrollment. Furthermore, if you are a descendant from a base roll member you are automatically qualified to be a Wiyot tribal member.

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

There are no remaining fluent Wiyot speakers that we know of at this time. The last known fluent speakers died between the 1940s and 1960s. Some of their descendants know some words or phrases, but there is no one left who could have a full conversation in Wiyot. At this time Dr. Lynnika Butler, the tribe's language specialist, is learning the Wiyot language from audio recordings, written word lists, stories, etc., that were gained from the elders who spoke the Wiyot Language. Dr. Butler then teaches Wiyot to the youth and other tribal membership through language workshops.

What annual events does your tribal community sponsor?

One of the biggest events that the tribe hosts is the annual Wiyot Days. Wiyot Days brings Native American dancers and drummers from across the Northwest to perform during the ceremonies. At Wiyot Days there is also a friendly competition among the men of the Wiyot Tribe in traditional game sticks, a salmon feed, and various things offered by local vendors. In addition to Wiyot Days, in 2014 the Wiyot Tribe started observing our World Renewal Ceremony, which hadn’t been done in over 150 years. The tribe is also proud to support the Boys and Girls Club of the Table Bluff Reservation and local youth sport teams.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

The Wiyot Tribe on Table Bluff Reservation overlooks Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean, so our scenic views and beach access are like nowhere else. Moreover, the Wiyot Tribe also has an onsite Heritage Center where priceless artifacts and one-of-a-kind paintings can be viewed. If the beach and bay are not your thing, if you visit the Wiyot area you can also hike along the redwood trails and enjoy the towering redwoods above you.

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

I would like to encourage the youth in our tribal community to continue to practice our beliefs, traditions, and language, to keep our cultural alive and to pass it on to future generations. I also would like to encourage our youth to seek higher education, to enrich their lives as individuals and make them able to offer their hand to our community and assist the tribe in growth and development with the wisdom they gain. I also believe our youth should always listen to the elders in the community, to learn from their stories and pass our history on to future generations.

Thank you.

Thank you.


Photos courtesy of the Wiyot Tribe; used with permission.

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

 

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August 02, 2016

The Longest Walk 5: Visions

Since 1978, American Indian activists have used protest marches across the United States to call attention to issues of great concern to their nations and communities. This is the last post in a three-part series by April Chee (Navajo) on the Longest Walk 5: Declaring War on Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence. April's first post gives a brief history of the Longest Walk. In the second post, she interviews Dennis Banks, a leader in the American Indian Movement from the beginning, about his goals for activism, in past decades and today. 

LW5 AmigoNonProfitFilmsThe Longest Walk 5 reaches its destination—the Lincoln Memorial, the site of so many important demonstrations for civil rights. July 15, 2016, Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of AmigoNonProfitFilms, used with permission.

 

It has been a little more than two weeks since the Longest Walk 5 made its way into Washington, D.C. Into the nation’s capital, where it is not every day that you see a tipi on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Not every day that you hear the sound of a powwow resonating as tourists capture their photos of the memorial pool, Native supporters showing up in their traditional clothing, adorned with beadwork, turquoise, and feathers, their moccasins tied tight. It is a remarkable sight to experience, in the center of a city where Supreme Court decisions are made, our president addresses the world, and Congress discusses legislation, the words spelled out for all to see from a distance away, “WE ARE STILL HERE.”

Aware or unaware, we are all standing in the midst of history. One day you are simply reading about the American Indian Movement and the lengths protestors took to have Native rights heard, and the next you are in the midst of it all, meeting people who walked that walk in 1978. Thirty-eight years after the original Longest Walk, “We are still here.”

The Longest Walk 5: Calling an End to Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence was not a walk just for Native people. It was a walk for all of humanity, calling attention and asking for action on issues that to some degree affect every single person living in this great nation. Calling attention and asking for action to protect our generations to come, to protect those who are still here, to re-establish that connection to a healthy, positive life. To heal our communities and move forward in a way that benefits not only ourselves, but also our families, neighbors, coworkers, friends, and fellow citizens. This is a call to end the high rate of suicide among our Native youth, to end the statistic that one in three Native women will be the victim of sexual abuse in her lifetime. The Longest Walk 5 did not take the journey across the United States lightly. The people who made the walk carry a burden felt by all of Indian Country.

As part of the walk, people across the country conducted forums and discussions on what can be done to end drug use and domestic violence. By holding on to the healing that comes from spiritual and cultural connections that have long helped Native people survive, we are still here. Surveys were conducted, talking circles were held, and healing was offered to those who needed it most. Like the walk across the country, that journey will be long. 

Longest Walk 2 2016-07-15
Since the American Indian Movement organized the first cross-country journey in 1978, the Longest Walk has called people's attention to treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, the protection of sacred sites and the environment, healing drug abuse and violence against women and children, and other crucially important issues. July 15, 2016, National Mall, Washington, D.C. Photo by April Chee, NMAI.

On July 15, 2016, people arrived at Arlington National Cemetery at 8 in the morning to begin their walk to the Lincoln Memorial. Artist Kid Valance performed a theme song and reflection. A traditional Native American Water Ceremony was conducted, followed by remarks on the movement by members of the Longest Walk 5, Dennis Banks, and allies. Longest Walk 5 members plan to continue to collect data as they did on their journey. They will make this information available to Native nations and communities both to support more funding for resources and to give community members who have first-hand experience with these issues more input into healing.

After a 3,000-mile walk across the United States that spanned a five-month period, the Longest Walk 5 convened on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. On the steps of a memorial to a U.S. president who gave the word to have 38 Dakota prisoners executed in 1862, members of the Longest Walk 5, an American Indian Movement–led walk, stood to say, “We are still here.” To have survived hundreds of years of wars, termination, removal, and assimilation, Native Americans are still here and still fighting for our people.

—April Chee, NMAI

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

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July 28, 2016

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

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

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

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

Can you share your Native name and its English translation? 

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

Where is your tribal community located?

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

Where is your tribe originally from?

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

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

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

How is your tribal government set up?

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

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

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

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

No.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

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

How often does your tribal council meet?

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

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

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?

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

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


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

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

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

Who inspired you as a mentor?

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

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

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

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

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

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

We have 730 members.

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

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

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

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

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

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

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

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

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


What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you would like to add?

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

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe; used with permission.

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

 

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July 08, 2016

The Longest Walk 5: An Interview with Dennis Banks

Since 1978, American Indian activists have used protest marches across the United States to call attention to issues of great concern to their nations and communities. This is the second post in a three-part series by April Chee (Navajo) on the Longest Walk 5: Declaring War on Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence, which will reach Washington, D.C., on July 15. April's first post gave a brief history of the Longest Walk movement. The final post describes the arrival of the Longest Walk at its symbolic destination, Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington.


Dennis Banks with members of the Lumbee community
Dennis Banks (Ojibwe) meeting with members of the Lumbee and Tuscarora tribes on the Longest Walk 5. June 2016, Robeson County, North Carolina. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Longest Walk with the Seminole at Big Cypress
Walkers and supporters of the Longest Walk 5 with members of the Seminole Indian Nation. June 2016, Big Cypress Reservation, Florida. 


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

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

Each walk interacts directly with issues that Native communities face. What does the Longest Walk 5 mean to you and different Native communities?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Longest Walk 5 will officially end after three separate walks. We are doing the southern walk right now, and next year we will cover the middle states. Then after that walk we will walk the northern states of the U.S. and some of Canada, always ending in Washington, D.C. The ultimate goal is recovery. Helping our people who are addicted to drugs to take part in recovery programs through spiritual healing. Lead our people back to our traditional way of life.

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

Is there anything else you would like to say?

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

Thank you.

—April Chee, NMAI

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

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