October 10, 2014

Meet Native America: James Roger Madalena (Jemez Pueblo), New Mexico State Representative

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 

James Roger Madalena 1
New Mexico State Representative James Roger Madalena, New Mexico Legislature. Photo courtesy of the New Mexico Legislature.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

James Roger Madalena, State Representative, New Mexico Legislature.

What is your Native community?

I'm from Jemez Pueblo. It's tribal name is Walatowa, which means Place of Peace.

Where is your community located? 

In central New Mexico, 50 miles northwest of Albuquerque.

Where was your community originally from? 

We were from northwest New Mexico, in the Mesa Verde Area and Chaco Canyon Area.

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

It's the loss of our aboriginal acreage. Under both the Spanish and American governments, our lands of more than 200,000 acres of mountains, meadows, streams were reduced to a mere 98,000 acres of dry, rolling hills of sand, sagebrush, and cedar.

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

We have two branches: One is the Secular Branch, where the governor, lieutenant governor(s), tribal sheriff, and their five aides deal with day-to-day outside issues. We also have the Traditional Branch, where our war captain, lieutenant war captain, and their five aides deal with traditional activities and functions. Our fiscale, lieutenant fiscale, and their five aides deal with Christian church issues, deaths and burials, and some other traditional issues.

How are leaders chosen? 

We are a non-constitutional tribe—our leaders are appointed annually by our highest traditional leaders. All the positions mentioned above are appointed.

How often does your Tribal Council meet? 

Our Tribal Council meets at least once a month; our Traditional Branch Council meets once a year at year-end to make appointments for leadership. 

What responsibilities do you have as a state representative? 

I represent the interest of seven pueblos in Sandoval County; two Navajo Nation chapters in Sandoval County as well; the Jicarilla Nation in Rio Arriba County; and two Navajo chapters in San Juan County. Sixty-eight to 70 percent of my constituents are Native; the remaining 30 percent are a mixture of Anglo, Hispanic, and other.

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

Having good, responsible parents is first. I had a personal interest in education and opted out of trade school to get a college degree in sociology and political Science.

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

My only mentors were my grandpa Joe Madalena and my dad, Frank Madalena. The rest of my motivation was my interest in the fields of politics and sociology.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 

No, I am not.

Approximately how many members are in the Pueblo of Jemez? 

Enrolled membership is over 3,000 people. Half of those citizens reside within the pueblo; the other half are scattered. 

What are the criteria to become a member of your Native community? 

A person must have one-quarter Towa Indian blood.

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

I'm proud to say that the Towa language is strong, and our youth are being taught the language at an early age within their homes as well as in Head Start

Walatowa Visitor Center
The Walatowa Visitor Center and Museum of History and Culture offers information on Towa life and traditions, tours of the Jemez Red Rocks, and works by contemporary Jemez artists. Photo courtesy of the Walatowa Visitor Center.

What economic enterprises does your Native community own? 

Location being location, Jemez Pueblo only has a small convenience store and gas station. There is also the Walatowa Visitors Center, and tourists do stop by to see our small museum and handicrafts.

What annual events does your Native community sponsor? 

During warm months, the pueblo will sponsor the Jemez Red Rocks Arts and Crafts Fair; and there is a Veterans Social on Veterans Day.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land? 

New Mexico State Road 4, which passes through the pueblo, is a recognized National Scenic Byway heading north to our traditional mountains where there is fishing, camping, hiking, hunting, and picnicking in campgrounds. Our most traditional site is Redondo Peak and the Valles Caldera, and visitors can enjoy seeing hundreds and thousands of elk and deer as they come down from higher elevations to feed by the stream in the evenings.

Along NM Rt 4
Cottonwoods turn yellow in October along New Mexico State Road 4, a National Scenic Byway that leads to the mountains north of Jemez Pueblo. Photo courtesy of the Walatowa Visitor Center.


How does your Native community deal with the U.S. as a sovereign nation? 

Jemez Pueblo has a government-to-government relationship contracting most programs under PL 93-638. The Pueblo knows its needs better than someone up the bureaucratic level.

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

As Natives, partake of community dances and ceremonials. Practice and strengthen your minds and bodies from your surroundings. 

As Native youth, you also need to involve yourselves in civic and political functions. Once you are in the process, study and learn your colleagues' behaviors on issues, how people react and how they handle themselves through trial and stress. Learn how people handle themselves in forums, gatherings, and formal settings. Learn from them by being calm and collected and patient. Such is growth and success in the long run.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Just a few words of thanks and appreciation for an opportunity convey my 40 years in the field of politics. New Mexico is one of only two or three states governed by a citizens’ legislature. We are not salaried, and my whole life has been dedicated to public service. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I am proud to have been of service to the most neglected and needy—our Native American population—and to have done so without being an insurgent and or radical. 

Thank you. 

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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As Natives, partake of community dances and ceremonials. Practice and strengthen your minds and bodies from your surroundings.

nice post

October 07, 2014

“So, what’s up with all those questions about treaties on columns throughout the museum?”

Treaties interactive a1
What's the story behind the purple columns around the museum? We're glad you asked. They're interactive learning stations for the
new exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American
Indian Nations,
 and we hope they'll prompt visitors to keep asking questions.

American Indian treaties are a topic about which visitors have a lot of interest and curiosity. Engage them in a conversation about treaties, and they will often shake their heads and say, “Oh yeah, those,” and then begin to ask questions: “Are treaties still valid?” “Do treaties give American Indians special rights?” “Aren’t treaties bad for American Indians?” “Weren’t all the treaties just broken anyway?” Starting with such foundational questions, the exhibit team that produced Nation to Nation” Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations is using a well-known educational strategy to attract visitors to the major new exhibition on view in Washington through fall 2018.

On the Potomac level and on the 3rd and 4th floors of the museum, selected columns have been painted “wampum purple”—a Nation to Nation design theme—festooned with the flags of Native Nations, and fitted with wooden interactives that pose and answer important questions about treaties. The purpose of these treaties stations is to pique visitors’ interest in the Nation to Nation exhibit. But their content is not just typical Q & A. 

The treaties stations employ an educational technique known as “inquiry-based learning.” The idea behind this approach is to engage learners in a discovery of the content, instead of just telling them everything you want them to know. The “telling” approach is not the most effective educational strategy and often results in something my mother used to characterize as “going in one ear and coming out the other.” Inquiry-based learning begins with something that is compelling—for example, an image, a question, an object, or a combination thereof—then encourages people to explore it. 

Interactive 1b Interactive 1c

Interactive-1-d
Panels from a treaties interactive. (Click
each image for a larger view.)

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


At each treaties station, visitors are engaged with a question and image or images related to treaties (above, left). Visitors then rotate the panel manually, but instead of finding the answer on the next panel, they find a new image, quotation, or excerpt from a historical document—something that requires them to think again (above, right). Visitors then rotate the mechanism to a final panel, where the answer is revealed and a more detailed explanation is offered (right)

Each of the treaties station columns has the words “Find out more in the Nation to Nation exhibit,” stenciled on it. Our hope is that more visitors will be intrigued to learn what is inside the exhibit by interacting with these important treaty questions outside the exhibit. We plan to evaluate the interactives’ effectiveness in a formal way.

So, when you visit the museum, try them out. We hope that they’ll help you build your basic knowledge about treaties and that you’ll find yourself thinking about the history of treaties and their ongoing importance before you even reach the exhibit on the 4th floor. 

Then let us know what you think.

—Ed Schupman            

Ed Schupman is a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and works in the museum's education department supporting exhibit teams and developing resources for K–12 students and teachers.

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September 25, 2014

Meet Native America: Robert J. Moody Jr., Vice Chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Robert J. Moody Jr., vice chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians

Robert J. Moody Jr.
Robert J. Moody Jr., vice chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

What is your name in your language, and what does it mean? 

It's Migisi Nag Wiid Disowen, which means My Eyes Are the Eyes of the Eagle, or Eagle Vision. 

Where is your tribe located? 

Southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana. That area is also where we are originally from. 

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

Leopold Pokagon negotiated the 1833 Treaty of Chicago, which secured the right of the tribe to remain in Michigan and not be removed to the west. In 1994 the federal government, through congressional legislation, restored all rights to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi as a federally recognized tribe. 

How is the Pokagon Band government set up? 

The Pokagon government consists of a legislative branch—the Tribal Council—and a judicial branch—the Tribal Court. Our Tribal Council consists of a chairman, vice chairman, treasurer, secretary, six members at large, and an elders’ representative. We have a total of eleven seats on our Tribal Council. 

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

We have an Elders Council. We also have many pipecarriers and a very active veterans group

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

As provided by our Tribal Constitution, we have staggered, three-year terms of office. Tribal elections are held every July. 

How often does your Tribal Council meet? 

Tribal Council meets once a week, generally on a Monday, with an additional meeting on the second Saturday of each month. All meetings are open to tribal citizens. Meetings are also webcast for those who may not have the opportunity to attend. 

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

In the early 1980s, I began to be involved with tribal politics along with my grandmother. I served as a Tribal Council member at large until the 1990s. Late in the 1990s I was honored to serve as the tribal chairman. My service was shared with responsibilities and activities on many boards and committees of the tribe. Restoration of our sovereignty provided many challenges as to the proper structuring and implementation of government and government services for our citizens. 

Vice Chairman Moody at Pokegnet Edawat
Vice Chairman Moody at the opening celebration for 32 new homes built for Pokagon citizens at the tribal village Pokégnet Édawat. October 30, 2013; Pokagon Band Community Center, Dowagiac, Michigan. 

 

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader? 

As vice chairman, I have the duty, first and foremost, to work for the people, tribal citizens, and for many generations to come. The day-to-day activities consist of meetings, correspondence, giving direction, consideration and development of new legislation, representing the tribe, and fulfilling all duties of the office in the absence of the chairman. 

Who inspired you? 

My mother and my father, along with my grandmother and my uncle, were all my mentors. Leopold Pokagon and his vision have always been a deep inspiration and guide in my life. 

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

My great-grandfather, R. C. Mix, was instrumental in working with the federal government to reinstate our rights. He served on Tribal Council in the 1950s and was an inspiration to me. One of the foremost reasons I got into tribal leadership was to pick up his crusade and continue it. 

Approximately how many members are in the Pokagon Band? 

As of August of this year, the citizen or membership count is 4,936. 

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

Although tribal rolls are now closed, the criterion for membership is that one must provide documentation of relationship to any of the names appearing on the Cadmun Roll of 1895 or the Shelby Roll of 1896. 

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

Our language is still spoken on our homelands. There are a few fluent elder speakers, and although the tribe has many other speakers, we continue working towards making Potawatomi the first language and English the second. Not only do we offer weekly Potawatomi classes in several locations to many age groups—including our Head Start students—we have two language apprentices who live and study with native speakers. Once they are finished with their apprenticeship, the two will be fluent speakers and will teach other Pokagons the language.  

What economic enterprises does the Pokagon Band own? 

Four Winds Casino, with locations in New Buffalo, Hartford, and Dowagiac, Michigan, provides economic sustainability and fuels the needs of our current citizenship, with the commitment to provide for several generations to come. The tribe's economic development authority, Mno Bamadsen, was chartered in 2007 to diversify economic development opportunities; it is the non-gaming economic arm of our tribe. Currently Mno Bamadsen owns and operates Seven Generations Architecture & Engineering, Bent Tree convenience store and gas station, and Accu Mold LLC plastic engineering. Mno Bamadsen is certified under the Small Business Association 8(a) program and is qualified for other contracting incentives under the U. S. Code. 

Robert Moody Jr. at Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow
Bob Moody dancing in the competition at the Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow. August 2014; Rodgers Lake campus, Dowagiac, Michigan.

What annual events does the Pokagon Band sponsor? 

Oshke-Kno-Kewewen, our traditional powwow, is held every Memorial Day weekend at our powwow grounds. We host a contest powwow, Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa, every Labor Day weekend. We also reach out to many surrounding communities and sponsor various charities, events, and causes, like the Four Winds Invitational Ladies PGA golf tournament, which helps support Memorial Children's Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. 

What attractions are available for visitors on your land? 

Our tribal campuses include a campground, lakes, administration offices, 64 homes, a community center, Head Start facilities, Tribal Court, sports fields, and playgrounds. In November we’ll open a 36,000-square-foot health center featuring a clinic, a pharmacy, behavioral health, dental services, optical services, and a fitness and therapy center. In addition we have the casinos mentioned earlier in New Buffalo, Hartford, and Dowagiac. 

How does the Pokagon Band deal with the United States as a sovereign nation? 

We utilize and exercise our sovereign in every capacity. 

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

Be aware and understand tribal issues and the importance of these issues as they relate to your family, your clan, and your nation. You are the leaders of tomorrow. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Igwein—thank you—for this opportunity to share in a humble manner. 

Thank you. 


All photographs are courtesy of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians and are 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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Southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana. That area is also where we are originally from.

September 22, 2014

Let’s Begin a New Chapter in NMAI History


This week marks an important milestone for the community of the National Museum of the American Indian —the 10th anniversary of the opening of the museum in Washington, D.C. I’m proud to say NMAI has helped redefine the way our visitors understand the Native American experience and Native Peoples, thanks to the generous support of numerous Native Nations, members, trustees, and staff. More than 25,000 Native Americans gathered for the museum opening in 2004—the largest gathering of indigenous people in Washington, D.C., to date—and we look forward to greeting thousands more over the next decade.

Director Gover NMAI-0283
Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the America Indian.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the museum’s landmark founding legislation; the 20th anniversary of the opening of our first location, in New York City at the George Gustav Heye Center; and the 15th anniversary of the opening of our Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland. These are fine accomplishments, and we are proud and grateful for what we all have done together.

There’s still important work to be done. Most Americans have been taught a limited—and often mistaken—version of Native American history. I still remember the stereotypes that defined my childhood: Indians were figures of the past, often pictured on a rocky hillside dressed in feathers and buckskin. It was images like these that made growing up as an Indian child harder than it had to be.

The true story of our heritage is so much more nuanced, complex, and fascinating. Understanding this complexity can help us understand our present and prepare for our future as a multicultural nation. This is where NMAI can play a vital role in the coming decades, and we are committed to taking on this role with greater focus and intensity. 

NMAI-0080 NMAI-0067


NMAI-0225a

NMAI-0335 NMAI-0344

 

 

 

Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, on view at the museum in Washington from September 21, 2014, through fall 2018. A more detailed caption for these photographs appears below.


Over the next quarter century, we’re committed to telling the authentic history of the Western Hemisphere and Native Peoples to citizens, policymakers, and policy influencers nationwide.  We’re embarking on this new effort in a number of ways, including through groundbreaking exhibitions such as Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, which is now open to the public. We’re also accelerating our efforts to work with educators, providing classroom materials designed to instill a richer understanding of our history as Americans. And we’ve launched an ambitious campaign to fund more than $75 million in projects that will sustain the next generation of our work.

We understand that this kind of change cannot happen overnight. It will take time and resources. But it’s my hope that our work over the next 25 years can begin to correct the deep-rooted stereotypes, inaccuracies, and omissions that defined my childhood and continue to contribute to the challenges faced by Tribal Nations.

Please join me as we retell America’s story and build understandings upon which the Indian Nations can achieve their highest aspirations.

                                                                                                —Kevin Gover

 

For more information on ways you can support NMAI, visit http://nmai.si.edu/support or email NMAImember@si.edu

Kevin Gover is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. 

 

Photo block above: Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, on view at the museum in Washington from September 21, 2014, through fall 2018. 

Top: Examples of early diplomacy between include (left) the 1682 Lenape Treaty with colonist William Penn and (right) the 1794 Treaty of Canandiagua between the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the United States. The Treaty of Canandiagua, one of eight original treaties that will rotate on exhibit to preserve fragile documents from light damage, can be seen now through February 2015. 

Center: A display of pipe bags, represents both the importance of ceremony to diplomacy and the northern Plains Nations that were party to the Horse Creek Treaty (1861). From left to right: Tsitsistas/Shutai (Cheyenne) pipe bag, ca. 1851 (NMAI 8/8037); Sahnish (Arikara) pipe bag, ca. 1880 (NMAI 20/1400); Yankton pipe bag, ca. 1880 (NMAI 16/7255); AssiniIoine pipe bag, ca. 1880 (NMAI 12/7393); Numakiki (Mandan) pipe bag, ca. 1851 (NMAI 8/8088); Northern Inunaina (Arapaho) pipe bag, ca. 1885 (NMAI 23/1176); Apsáalooke (Crow/Absaroke) pipe bag, ca.1870 (NMAI 14/828); Minitari (Hidatsa) pipe bag, ca. 1880 (American Museum of Natural History 50.1/5350B); Shoshone pipe bag, ca. 1870 (NMAI 2/3294). 

Bottom: From the mid-19th century unti the present day, generations of Indian leaders have traveled to Washington, D.C., to remind successive administrations of the United States' nation-to-nation treaty obligations.

All photos are by Paul Morigi/AP Images for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

September 12, 2014

Meet Native America: Gari Pikyavit Lafferty, Chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

MNA Gari 1a
Paiute Tribal Chairwoman Gari Pikyavit Lafferty.

Gari Pikyavit Lafferty, chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah

Where is your tribe located? 

Our tribe is made up of five bands of Paiutes. From the north to south in Utah, we are the Koosharem Band, in Richfield, Utah; Kanosh Band, in Kanosh; Cedar Band and Indian Peaks Band, in the Cedar City area; and Shivwits Band, in St. George. 

Where were the five bands originally from? 

We have always been in central and southern Utah area. 

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

On Febuary 27, 1953, the federal government outlined a strategy for termination. Our tribe was terminated in 1954. Federal assistance ended for our people. It's written that almost immediately after termination began, it became clear it was a mistake. Struggling for survival, the Southern Paiutes in Utah worked their way through an alien legal and bureaucratic maze to finally win restoration on April 3, 1980. During termination the Paiutes lost well over 15,000 acres of land. 

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader? 

Responsibilities comes in all forms, from attending monthly meetings, attending state affairs, federal issues that may have some kind of effect on your tribe. It's vital as well that your Native community see you as often as possible. 

I am on the road a lot, out and about for our tribe. It's very critical for me to be active in my Native community. I like being with the people, and I never forget they are the ones who put me here as chairwoman. I should add, though, that my family time is important to me more then ever. 

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

It's interesting how someone comes to tribal leadership or tribal politics. As for myself, it's something that was instilled in me at a young age. I am proud to say that with my dad and grandfathers and many family members, leadership runs deep in my family. My sister Marguerite Pikyavit Teller was the first woman elected chair of the Paiute Tribe. It was only a matter of time for me.

I am a mother of five amazing children—Heston Smith, Mckinley Smith, Sable Lafferty, Charles M. P. Lafferty, and Aries Jackson. I'm married to one great man, Charles Lafferty, who supports me. At times he doesn't understand why I have chosen to put myself in this position. It's not for everyone. You have to be cut from a different kind of cloth. If you're a weeping willow, it's not for you. But if you can withstand the storm that comes with politics, then this is the job for you.

My dad told me at a very young age, "Gari, you will be sitting at the head of the tribe one day." I have always been active in community affairs as well—school, church, band, tribal. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

MNA Gari 3a
Chief Mckay Pikyavit.

My father is my greatest mentor of all. I am very proud to say that my father was the last chief of our people—Chief Mckay Richard Pikyavit. My dad was so amazing there just isn't enough paper or time to say all I would like to say about him. My father was very much a family man, he took his responsibilities as a father very seriously. My father was a farmhand at a young age, then worked for our county road department. We had a large family, so when my brothers and sisters got older my mother worked as well.

My father was very active in tribal affairs. Community, church, school—my dad said you have to be out doing all you can in your community to make a difference. My father was one that spearheaded the work for our tribal restatement under the federal government. I remember being a young child and seeing my dad traveling the state of Utah to meet with others working towards the goal of our restoration as a federally recognized tribe. After long years of hard work, it came to pass on April 3, 1980, signed into law by President Carter. The dream of action came to pass.

I saw the long hours, days, months, years it took for this to happen. So I think that if I can do a fourth of what my dad achieved for the Paiute people, I will leave feeling I was a very accomplished leader for our people. Well, I have to say that I am very proud I am the daughter of Mckay Richard Pikyavit, the last chief of the Paiute people.

How is your tribal government set up?

Our government is set up with a tribal chairman and five council members representing the five bands. Six elected office-holders in all sit on our Tribal Council.

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

No, there is no traditional entity of leadership.

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

Elections are held every four years for a term of four years. First, each band area elects its band chairman or chairwoman. Members of the band eighteen years and older are eligible to vote. Once that is done, then all five newly elected band chairs' names go into the election for tribal chair. This election is open to all tribal members living anywhere in the United States.

Each band chair reports monthly to the Tribal Council on that band's affairs. One interesting note: This is the first time our Tribal Council members are all women. 

MNA Gari 2a
Tribal Council of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, 2014. From left to right: Toni Pikyavit, chairwoman of the Koosharem Band; Lara Tom, chairwoman of the Cedar Band; Jeanine Borchardt, chairwoman of the Indian Peaks Band; Gari Pikyavit Lafferty, tribal chairwoman; Hope Silvas, vice-chairwoman of the Shivwits Band; Corrina Bow, chairwoman of the Kanosh Band. 

How often does the Tribal Council meet? 

Tribal Council meets twice a month, more often if necessary. Each band has a representative for health, education, and housing. Together they make up all boards for the tribe. Each band regularly holds a meeting as well, monthly or more often. Some bands have more going on than others in their areas.

Additionally, a General Council Meeting consisting of all enrolled tribal members over the age of 18 is held each year on the first Saturday in November. 

Approximately how many members are in the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah? 

We have around 900-plus members. 

What are the criteria to become a member?

For enrollment in our tribe is you have to have at least one fourth Paiute blood from your mother or father. 

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

Sadly, like for many other tribes, our language is spoken by our elders. And not too many of them have many othes to talk to. 

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

All of our bands have their own economic enterprises. There are lots of tribal members who have their own enterprise for making money from sewing, bead work, painting.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor? 

Annual events vary from each band area. But as far as the tribe, we have our Restoration Gathering, an annual meeting where we hold our powwow, pageant, softball tournament, hand games, feast, parade. This all takes place the second weekend of June. This is celebration of our restoration as a federally recognized tribe, along with the annual meeting that's held in April. 

What attractions are available for visitors on your land? 

A great attraction would be to come and visit us during our Restoration Gathering. Also, we live in the most beautiful place in the world, with many national and state parks around us. 

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

Our concern as a soveriegn nation is just to be a good neighbor and offer support if and where it's needed. 

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

To our youth, I'd like to say that life is short. Enjoy it. Take every opportunity you can to make the very best of it for you and your families. We all make mistakes, but don't let them define who you are, or who you want to become. Use your mistakes as building blocks to your future. Listen to your elders. They may not all have a high school or college diploma, but what they do have is life experiences. And you need both to have success in your life.

You see only one person in me, but I stand on many shoulders of family members, as well as tribal people who have come before me. I will always be grateful for those who have worked very hard to get our tribe to where it is today. We are small compared to other tribes, but we have many great people who are thriving and working very hard for our people today and for those to come.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

I would like to end with saying, we are living our grandparents' dreams, what they hoped would come to pass for our Paiute people. Let's not disappoint them. Just as they were to us, we are to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Let's make sure we are writing their history well. 

Thank you.


All photos are courtesy of the Paiute Tribe of Utah and are 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.         

Comments (3)

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Great wonderful points.
Each and every single point mentioned above has its own importance.

Thanks and Regards,

A very inspiring story of this woman leader. I hope that sometime in my country we can see something like this with the Berbers of North Africa (Morocco, Argelia, Tunez, etc).

Thank you for this great article.

Really very beautiful and very descriptive information. Thank you very much.