August 22, 2014

Meet Native America: Ted Grant, Vice-Chairman of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe

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

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Ted Grant, vice-chairman of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe. The tribal seal in the background shows the seven clans of the Otoe–Missouria, with a prayer feather at the center.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Ted Grant, vice-chairman of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.

Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation? 

My name is Che’Xanje~Obahomani. It's translated Big Buffalo Walks in the Snow. It comes from the Buffalo Clan of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.

Where is your community located?

The Otoe–Missouria Tribal Complex is located in north central Oklahoma in Noble County.

Where were your people originally from?

At one time the Otoes and Missourias, along with the Winnebago and Iowa peoples, were part of a single tribe that lived in the Great Lakes region of the United States. In the 16th century the tribes separated from each other and migrated west and south, although they still lived near each other in the lower Missouri River Valley.

What is a significant point in the history of the Otoe–Missouria that you would like to share?

In the summer of 1804, the Otoe and Missouria were the first tribes to hold government-to-government council with Lewis and Clark in their official role as representatives of President Jefferson. The captains presented to the chiefs a document that offered peace while at the same time asserting the United States' claim of sovereignty over the tribe.

How is your tribal government set up?

The Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe. The Tribal Council consists of seven members elected by secret ballot by qualified voters of the tribe. Each Tribal Council member has responsibilities for certain duties as listed in the Otoe–Missouria Tribe of Indians Constitution

 

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Vice-Chairman Grant (3rd from left) with fellow members of the Red Rock Creek Gourd Society of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.


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

There are our traditional churches, including the First Born Church of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe, Otoe Native American Church, and Otoe Tribal Sweat Lodge.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

The terms for each Tribal Council member are staggered and last for three years. There are no term limits.

How often does the Tribal Council meet?

The Tribal Council holds regular meetings monthly in a place and date determined by the members. Currently the meetings are held in the Council Building at tribal headquarters. Meetings are open to the public, except when the council is in executive session.

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

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

To ensure our tribal members are taken care of, to see that our tribal programs continue to help all of our tribal members, and to do my very best to protect the future and security of our tribal sovereignty.      

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

My mother and father taught me to always keep God in my life, respect my elders, and take care of my family. My father shared a lot of cultural teachings with me. I try to utilize this to assist people and organizations when called upon. My previous work in tribal law enforcement has uniquely prepared me for the challenges presented to a position on the Tribal Council.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My father, William Leroy Grant—Bill Grant, as everyone knew him.

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

Tar-A-Ku (sometimes Tae-K-Kee), which is translated Deer Thigh or Deer Ham, a great leader of his people.

Approximately how many members are in the Otoe–Missouria community?

There are currently about 3,100 enrolled Otoe–Missouria tribal members.

What are the criteria to become a member?

All enrolled Otoe–Missouria tribal members must be one-eighth blood descendants of someone on the tribe’s 1966 base roll.

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

Unfortunately, there are no fluent speakers of the Otoe–Missouria language remaining. Some language is used in cultural events and ceremonies, but most of the language is lost. A tribal language program was created five years ago to retain what little is left and to revitalize the language through archived recordings.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

The Otoe–Missouria Tribe owns four gaming properties, two convenience stores, a hotel, an event center, a propane company, a cattle company, and several online financial services companies.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

The largest gathering of Otoe–Missouria people is the Annual Summer Encampment. It is held each year during the third week of July. This summer marked the 133rd time the tribe has celebrated the encampment.  

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

Other than our casinos, the largest draw for visitors is to attend our first-class concerts. Top performers are scheduled each month at our Council Bluffs Events Center and 7 Clans Paradise Casino.   

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

With great respect and honor, and we would hope to receive the same treatment from them.

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

I would like to encourage you to utilize your education and seek out your personal goal in life, whatever it may be. You are the future of our people; always remember where you come from and be proud of your Otoe–Missouria heritage.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to say thank you for asking me to be a part of this. It’s been great honor for me. May God continue to bless you and your families in the days to come. Aho!

Thank you. It's an honor for the museum. 


All photos are courtesy of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe and are used with permission.

To read other interviews in this series, click on the banner below. 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 14, 2014

Meet Native America: Stephen R. Ortiz, Chairman, Prairie Band Potawatomi 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 

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Chairman Stephen R. Ortiz, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. Photo by Nathan Ham Photography, courtesy of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

Stephen R. Ortiz. I've served on the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribal Council for the past 15 years—as secretary from1998 to 2006, then as chairman from 2007 to 2014. The new chairman will be chosen in a run-off election later this month. 

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

Mon-wah M’jessepe, Wolf Clan. It means Dark Wolf that Travels along Big Bad River at Night that Travelers Hear Rustle along the Riverbank Scouting.

Where is your nation located?

Our Government Center is in Mayetta, Kansas, located in northeast Kansas.

Where were the Prairie Potawatomi originally from?

The Great Lakes region.

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

As I was told by my family elders, all Potawatomis who did not flee elsewhere in the 1800s were gathered up and relocated to Kansas. Upon getting to Kansas, a split occurred when the U.S. government offered the Potawatomis citizenship and land in Oklahoma. The Potawatomis who chose to stay and not accept the offer became known as the Prairie Band Potawatomi Indians. The U.S. government surrounded the Prairie Band Potawatomis, who were willing to fight and not to go to Oklahoma.

At this point for some reason the U.S. government left the Prairie Band Potawatomi in Kansas and granted them a reservation. The reservation was 30 square miles—later reduced to 11 square miles, where we are today. In 1998 the tribal government consisted of 85 employees and had a $2.1-million annual budget. Today we stand at 1,021-plus employees working for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in our government operations, healthcare facility, casino, and Economic Development Corporation.

How is your tribal government set up?

A tribal constitution was established creating a General Council membership who vote for seven Tribal Council members—chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer, and three members—to perform the duties described in our constitution.

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

No.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

A Tribal Council term is four years, and council seat elections are staggered so that there is an election every 2 years. The order is that the chairman, secretary, and one council member are voted on in one election, then vice-chair, treasurer, and the remaining two council members in the next election.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

Tribal Council meetings are held twice a month and as needed depending on the situation. General Council meetings are held four times a year, and special General Council meetings can be called as needed. 

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

To protect the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation's rights inherent in the United States Constitution, our treaty rights, and other rights that arise from statutory law, executive order, tribal or other law, and judicial administration. To ensure that those rights will be fully protected, exercised, and preserved; to ensure justice and our security; to maintain Potawatomi traditions and customs; to promote harmony, the common good, and social and general welfare; and to secure the blessings of spiritual, educational, cultural, and economic development for ourselves and our posterity. 

I have also tried to serve Indian Country through work on the Secretary's Tribal Advisory Committee of the Department of Health and Human Services (where I am co-chairman), the Oklahoma City Inter-Tribal Health Board (vice-chairman), the advisory team on Tribal Consultation Policy for the Department of the Interior (member/alternate), the National Indian Gaming Commission Health and Safety Committee, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's Council of Economic Advisors. 

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Members of the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division host Chairman Ortiz and other members of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation to honor Native American Heritage Month and the contributions of Native servicemen and -women. Fort RIley, Kansas; November 27, 2012. Chairman Ortiz was guest speaker for the event. Photo courtesy of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

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

I served in the U.S. Marines Corps from 1969 to 1971 and left with an honorable discharge and the rank E-3, then from 1973 to 1975 in the U.S. Army Reserves, 410th Evacuation Hospital unit (SMBL), honorable discharge, specialist E-5. I graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, with a Bachelor of Business Administration, then went on to work 24 years in the corporate world with IBM as an administrative assistant, with Kansas Power & Light as an area manager, then with Hallmark Cards, Inc., as a plastics manufacturing section manager.

These experiences gave me insight into working with others to manage an ongoing operation for a profit, leadership skills to develop personnel to run an ongoing operation, customer satisfaction skills, and what brand loyalty can do to overcome competition. 

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My uncles, who were leaders in the Native American Church, and who gave me my ceremony and my Indian name when I was six months old.

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

Yes, I'm a descendant of Chief Shab-eh-nay through my grandmother Minnie Wahwassuck Jessepe.

Approximately how many members are in your nation?

There are 4,729 enrolled members.

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

Members must have 1/4 degree Prairie Band Potawatomi blood from the 1940 rolls.

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

The Potawatomi language is spoken fluently by 1 to 2 percent of the Prairie Potawatomi.

What economic enterprises does your nation own?

The nation's economic enterprises include the Prairie Band Potawatomi Casino and Resort, a propane company, two convenience stores and gas stations, health contracting services, and two smoke shops.

What annual events do the Prairie Band Potawatomi sponsor?

We host the Prairie Band Potawatomi Pow Wow every year in early June.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

In addition to the casino and annual pow wow, we manage a buffalo program with a herd of some 200 bison. 

NA Day At Capital-2012 b
Representatives of the Iowa Tribe, Kickapoo Tribe, Prairie Potawatomi Band Nation, and Sac and Fox Nation join Governor Sam Brownback for the signing of the proclamation creating the first Native American Day at the Capitol. Topeka, Kansas, February 8, 2012. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor.


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

Over the years, Tribal Councils have developed working relationships with key regional directors of U.S. agencies and departments in the U.S. government and Kansas state government, including the governor. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation has also taken the state of Kansas to the U.S. Supreme Court over issues. 

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

Developing communication skills is key to leadership and resolving conflict. Understanding that all enrolled members, living on the reservation or off, are entitled to be treated fairly and are entitled to services set forth by guidelines. If you are elected to Tribal Council, leave your conflicts with others at the front door and work for the benefit of all, both on and off the reservation.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Our tribe has a number of community programs, including a financial assistance program to support members in their education, free rent to tribal elders who are disabled, a tribal meals program, and quarterly per capita payments to all members. We offer health care services to non-tribal members with insurance. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation's social service programs providing Tribal Victim Services and SAFESTAR (Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations, Support, Training, Access, and Resources) have been cited for excellence by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

Due to the cooperation of Tribal Council members over the past 15 years, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is debt-free at this time.

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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July 31, 2014

Meet Native America: Lynn “Nay” Valbuena, Chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission 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. 

Lynn “Nay” Valbuena. I am chairwoman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. My nickname is based on the shortened version of my full name—Lynn Rae.

SMBOMI_Chairwoman Valbuena_2a
Chairwoman Lynn “Nay” Valbuena, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Where is the San Manuel Band located? 

The reservation is located near the cities of San Bernardino and Highland in Southern California, approximately 70 miles east of Los Angeles along Interstate 10. 

Where was your community originally from? 

The aboriginal lands of the Serrano people occupy a vast region of Southern California extending from what is now Los Angeles to virtually all of present-day San Bernardino County. Our clan of the Serrano, the Yuhaviatam, originates around the mountain lakes of the San Bernardino Mountains. 

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

In 1866, the Yuhaviatam were victimized by a series of militia raids that drove our people from the mountains, effectively ending a traditional, migratory way of life that had endured for generations. Through the courageous actions of our clan leader, Santos Manuel or Paakuma’ Tawinat, our people survived this period, eventually settling on land that became the Santos Manuel Indian Reservation, named in his honor. 

How is your tribal government set up? 

The San Manuel Indian Reservation, like other tribal lands in the United States, is a sovereign territory with our own system of government. Tribal government consists of two governing bodies: a General Council comprised of adult members 21 years and older, and a seven-member Business Committee elected by the General Council. The Business Committee has a chairman, vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer, and three at-large members. As elected officials, the Business Committee is responsible for enforcing by-laws, establishing policies, protecting business interests, and preserving the sovereignty of the tribe. 

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

Elders have a special place as community and cultural leaders for the tribe. They are recognized and often lead the beginning of events and observances. The entry to the General Council chambers is lined with pictures of certain elders of the tribe in recognition of their importance to our community. 

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

The tribe elects members of its Business Committee every two years. 

How often do the members meet? 

The Business Committee meets on a regular weekly schedule, while the General Council holds a regular monthly meeting. We also accommodate Special General Council meetings as needed. 

How did your life experience prepare you to lead? 

I have a passion to serve San Manuel and the broader Native community; it’s what I do to help people in any way that I can. This began at a young age with my service as the tribe’s housing commission and broadened to a public service career as secretary and then assistant executive director of what was then the San Bernardino Indian Center. 

Understanding the basic needs on the San Manuel reservation enabled me to apply myself through the Indian Center to advocate for a better quality of life for the broader Native community. I have been able to draw upon my public affairs and communications skills, which I developed over a 16-year career with the City of San Bernardino Police Department, in elected positions as chairwoman, vice chairwoman, and as a member of the Business Committee. The ability to clearly and confidently communicate to others is something that I have carried into tribal service from my professional experience. 

SMBOMI_Chairwoman Valbuena a
Chairwoman Valbuena promoting California basketry and other Serrano arts. 

What responsibilities do you have as chairwoman? 

In addition to leading the daily agenda of the seven-member Business Committee, I seek to design and direct a progressive agenda of social, economic, and governance development for the tribal government and tribal community. Additionally, the chairwoman serves as the spokesperson for the tribe, a position for which I have prepared through my years working for the City of San Bernardino. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

My mother and grandmother inspired me to stand up and let my voice be heard. Both women were not afraid to speak up for what they thought was right, and I have been inspired by their example. 

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

I am the great-great-granddaughter of Santos Manuel, the namesake of the tribe—a revered ancestor who bridged both traditional and contemporary leadership of the Yuhaviatam Clan of Serrano Indians. 

Approximately how many members are in the San Manuel Band? 

There are a little more than 200 members in the tribe, most of whom are under 21 years of age. The population of the reservation numbered less than 30 at the turn of the 20th century and has grown steadily over the last century. 

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

There are only a handful of Serrano speakers remaining. Our tribe has made it a critical mission to revive and maintain the language through multiple programs and efforts with our Serrano Language Revitalization Program. Our focus is on our youth who will carry on our language and traditions and who will grow as Serrano speakers and carriers of culture. 

What economic enterprises does your band own? 

The principal economic enterprise is the tribe’s gaming operation, San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino. However, realizing that a robust economy is a diverse one, we have embarked on several business ventures, including three hotels, one of which involves tribal partners. In addition, the tribe has pursued real estate development opportunities in our region, chief among which has been the development of San Manuel Village—mixed-use retail and commercial space near our reservation. 

What annual events does your band sponsor? 

San Manuel is committed to public education and has engaged wonderful partners in education at various levels to teach the community about the culture, history, and governance not only of San Manuel but more broadly of Native American nations in the United States. Among these events is a week of elementary school programming held in conjunction with the State of California’s Native American Day holiday. Hundreds of fourth graders from the local city schools spend a day learning California Native American culture and history from members of local tribes. Additionally, the tribe hosts an annual Pow Wow which is held the second weekend in October at California State University, San Bernardino. 

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino is the closest gaming destination to the Los Angeles area, located about 70 miles from downtown. We regularly host concerts by world-renowned entertainers and present other major events that bring guests to our land. 

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

Our future depends on our ability to maintain our foundation of sovereignty by interacting with other sovereigns at the highest possible levels. We gauge our effectiveness on achieving solid government-to-government relationships with federal and state governments. Additionally, we include significant outreach and education to local governments as a part of our regional efforts.

Our intergovernmental relationships are based not only on law and legal obligations, but on trust, common purpose, and most importantly mutual respect. To this end we are actively involved at all levels of government from local city councils to the U.S. Congress. A hallmark of this involvement is education, a process that is continual and takes into account the general unfamiliarity of Americans about Native American sovereignty. In summary, we do everything from walking the halls of Congress to conducting classes for elementary school students to offer communities knowledge about our shared history and the inherent sovereignty of Native nations. 

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

My grandmother and mother would always tell me, “Never forget who you are and where you came from.” This has always grounded me because it connects me to all those tribal members who came before. The fundamental ties of San Manuel tribal members to our aboriginal lands and shared history are the start to the pattern from which we weave our lives as Native people. I would ask our youth to embrace this teaching because it is the life and spirit of who we are as a Native community. 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

As I am reaching the end of my term on the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian, with two years as board secretary, it has been an honor to serve the museum. I have been able to forge relationships with many tribal leaders and communities, connecting San Manuel and myself to indigenous people around the world.

Thank you for your work for the museum and for taking the time to give us this interview.

Thank you. 


Photographs courtesy of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. 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 24, 2014

Meet Native America: Sheri Doxtator, Chief, Oneida Nation of the Thames

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.

Sheri Doxtator, elected chief for the Oneida Nation of the Thames. The name Oneida comes from the original Onyota’a:ka, which means People of the Standing Stone. Oneida is a member of the Six Nations, also known as the Iroquois. 

SheriPink a
Chief Sheri Doxtator, Oneida Nation of the Thames.

Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation? 

Teyotawunli (pronounced day yo dah wun lee), it means Travelling Woman. A'no:wál niwaki’taló:tʌ̲ is how to say, "I am of the Turtle Clan."

Where is your nation located? 

Our physical location is Southwold, Ontario, Canada, but we refer to our territory as Oneida Settlement. We are located next to the Thames River, and this is why we refer to ourselves in English as the Oneida Nation of the Thames.

Where were the Oneida people originally from?

What is now known as New York State, in the U.S.A.

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

May I quote from an article by Eileen M. Antone, an Oneida and member of the faculty at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education? 

Oneida Nation of the Thames holds a unique position among the First Nation communities in Canada in that we purchased our lands and arrived as settlers from New York State. Our original homelands are in the Madison County area of New York and well beyond. However, following the American Revolution, the Governor of N.Y. saw fit to reward returning American soldiers with parcels of Oneida lands.

Documented from living memory of stories handed down (orature), money was thrown at the feet of Oneidas by the N.Y. officials, telling them that this was payment for their lands and they should leave the state. Arrangements were quickly made between Oneida Castle and the Land Commission of Upper Canada to purchase the land in Delaware Township along the banks of the Thames where we now reside in collective ownership.

Two-hundred-forty men, women, and children arrived at the settlement in 1840, and each paid $42 to settle here. The settlement later became Reserve No. 41, after the Oneidas were unable to pay the  huge debt of back taxes, most of which had been accumulated by the previous owners.

You can read more in Prof. Antone's History of the Oneida of the Thames Move to Canada. An excerpt from the book describing the earlier history of the Oneida is available online courtesy of the Oneida Language and Cultural Centre

It should also be noted that Oneidas remained in New York and also settled in Wisconsin. Our Oneida sisters and brothers are located all over Turtle Island. However, we have tribal lands in Ontario, Canada, and in New York and Wisconsin, in the United States. 

Hiawatha belt-teholatanek a
Graphic design by Chancey Teholatanek Chrisjohn based on the Hiawatha Belt, a symbol of the agreement among the five original Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) nations and their promise to live in unity and stand by one another in times of trouble. © Chancey Teholatanek Chrisjohn, used with permission. 

How is your government set up? 

We currently have elected governance and traditional governance systems. As we move into building our nation stronger, we hope that our systems will continue on a path of unity. As the elected chief of Oneida Nation of the Thames, I hold my seat with pride and honor to represent Onyota’a:ka with twelve elected councillors. They are listed by our clan system as follows:

Ohkwa:lí̲ (Bear Clan): Carolyn J. Doxtator, Charity J. Doxtator, Sue Doxtator, Ransom Doxtator, Zelda Elijah, Olive Elm, Randall Phillips

A'no:wál (Turtle Clan): Sheri Doxtator

Othahyu:ní̲ (Wolf Clan): Joel Abram, Clinton Cornelius, Gloria Doxtator, H. Grant Doxtator, Harry Doxtator

Our newly elected council—which took office as of July 9, 2014—is excited to nurture our relationship with the traditional governance systems in our territory. As Onyota’a:ka we all believe that we have a responsibility to our future generations and that our ancestors watch over us. The elected leaders convene our council meetings using the traditional medicines that the Creator has provided for us, offer an opening and closing prayer in the Onyota’a:ka language, and sit according to clans.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

We currently follow the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada regulations with regards to our elections. This means that elections occur every two years.

How often does the council meet?

We have established regular meetings to be four times a month, but we realize that special meetings may need to be called from time to time. The council relies on a portfolio system that may see regular monthly meeting of various committees dealing with a large variety of issues concerning our nation.

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

I feel that I am honored to have been chosen to take over the “family business.” My father, Harry Doxtator, and grandfather Manson Ireland also held elected office as both chiefs and councillors.  It is with great love and respect to my mother, Linda, and my grandmothers Christine and Elsie that these men and I have been able to hold these titles.

I have been involved with leadership roles and youth councils at the Assembly of First Nations and the National Association of Friendship Centres and in almost every educational institution I have attended since I started school at the age of four. My work experience with a variety of Indigenous organizations on Turtle Island at local, regional, national, and international levels has also prepared me for my current role as elected chief. 

What responsibilities do you have as a chief?

The elected chief is accountable to all the people of the Oneida Nation of the Thames. As the top spokesperson for our people, I take my direction from them and by extension the elected council. Our decision-making process is one of consensus. Our hope is to move forward in the spirit of unity and build the strength of our nation. As the elected leadership, we develop key priorities to focus on.

Due to the short length of term in office, leadership has been limited on what can be accomplished. Through a review of our election code and improved engagement with our people, we hope to reduce the constant changes of leadership and goals that seem to come every two years. 

Long-term planning is important for all our success. Specifically, elected leadership works with various levels of government—municipal, provincial, and federal—to advocate for Indigenous issues, concerns, and legislation. We provide a number of services for our people, such as housing, education, health, child welfare, and safety, to mention a few. As is true of many of the First Nations in Canada, we are very limited on funding, and this creates a sense of dependency on governments who control the purse strings. Thus, we are looking at increasing our own-source revenue streams, developing fundraising strategies, and creating social enterprises. 

Our larger goals are expressed in our mission statement: 

We the Oneida people will strive to strengthen and restore a better understanding of the Great Law, our spirituality, history, language, culture and traditions in order to retain our identity and values as Unkwehonwe people;

We the Oneida people recognize the need to create a safe, harmonious and self sufficient community that will provide a clean environment, healthy life choices and a sustainable economy for the benefit of all;

Together we the Oneida people will strive to govern and manage our own affairs with the courage to exercise our sovereignty and independence as we evolve into the future.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My parents and grandparents are the most important mentors and influences in my life. In everything I do, I always ask myself, “Would this make my grandma proud?”

My father has been and is still a leader of our community for over four decades. This position can be challenging at times, and he gained respect from our people, our councils, and other Indigenous leaders from around the world.  He makes me proud, and I hope to be half the leader he is.

He did it with my mother by his side. She is a strong woman who taught me that strength is not measured by our physical being. Rather we build our strength from one another, and our love grows with each passing day. 

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Harry Doxtator, Sheri Doxtator's father, current elected Councillor for Oneida Nation of the Thames and a former elected chief who served for 24 years. 

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

None that I know of.

Approximately how many members are in your nation?

The currently population for Oneida Nation of the Thames is almost 5900.

What are the criteria to become a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames?

We currently recognize our people through the clan system. If you are born into Bear, Turtle, or Wolf Clan, then you are Oneida. Through the federal system, the external government has created a numbering system to identify our people as Status Indians as recognized under the Indian Act. This is legislation that the government of Canada still adheres to maintain control over many First Nations in Canada. 

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

We only have 63 master speakers. They are fluent elders within our settlement. We encourage language use in our early years and elementary education system. We also have developed a relationship with a local university to have our language taught and accredited.  As leadership, we are committed to language revitalization and are learning new words, phrases, and sentences every time we conduct a council meeting.

What economic enterprises does your nation own?

Our for-profit arm, Twataya’Takenhas, Incorporated (TTI; the full name is pronounced dwa dah ya dah giin haas), has made investments in mySmart Simulations (mSS) and D’Arcy Lance Incorporated (DLI). mSS is a software development company that focuses on e-learning for healthcare professionals. DLI is a local registered massage-therapy school that focuses on both human and equine massage. 

What annual events does your nation sponsor?

Our nation supports local athletes in a variety of sports. This year we supported Oneida athletes in their various sports at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) held the week of July 20, 2014.  We also support our young hockey players at the Little Native Hockey League (Little NHL) tournament held every year during our spring break in March. This Little NHL event sees children and youth—ages 3 to 18—from all over Ontario come together in a show of sportsmanship.  

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

We currently have a re-created Iroquoian village that is located five minutes from Oneida Settlement. It is called Skanahdoht, meaning, “A village stands again.” On the settlement we hope to see investment in a language and cultural center.

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

Oneida Nation of the Thames is committed to nationhood with the Iroquois people. We assert our inherent rights as sovereign people by living along and crossing the U.S.–Canada border.  Our people stand united as Iroquois, and we continue to live and work freely in North America. We also meet with elected officials of other Iroquois nations through the Iroquois Caucus. Collectively we represent approximately 70,000 people.

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

Our youth are leaders. I have learned a lot from listening to our youth. They are intelligent, well-spoken, and will be holding my seat as chief and seats as members of the council in the future. As a role model, I am an abstainer from alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. I speak with a clear mind and in a good way. I believe that revitalizing our language will strengthen our nation. I will continue to be an ambassador of the Oneida Nation and represent our people to the best of my abilities. I will be quiet and listen to our people, when required, and will continue to “make decisions that would make my grandma proud”!  

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I thank the Creator every day for all creation and for the opportunity to represent my people.  Yaw^ko—an Oneida word meaning, “Great big thanks!” 

Thank you.


All photographs courtesy of Oneida Nation of the Thames, 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 17, 2014

Meet Native America: Paul Brooks, Chairman, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina

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 
 

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Chairman Paul Brooks, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is Paul Brooks. I am the chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. My childhood nickname is Bean. I was raised in a family 14, so I’m not sure how I got that name.

Where is the Lumbee Tribe located? Where was your band originally from? 

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is located in Robeson and adjoining counties. We are descendants of the Cheraw Indians who migrated from Virginia to North Carolina and settled along the banks of Drowning Creek, which is known today as the Lumber River. 

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

One significant point in Lumbee history was the elimination of double-voting in the 1970s in Robeson County. Double voting allowed city residents in Robeson County to vote for both the city and county school board, giving non-Native city residents unusual control over county schools, where most Lumbee children studied. The system was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. The movement to end double-voting helped our tribe progress in leadership roles. 

How is your tribal government set up? 

We have a constitutional form of government, which was established by a vote of the people in 2000. We have three separate but equal branches of government—judicial, executive, and legislative. 

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

There is not a traditional entity of leadership in addition to our government system.

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

We have 21 council members who represent 14 districts in Robeson, Cumberland, Scotland, and Hoke counties. The council representatives are elected every three years and can serve no more than two consecutive terms. 

How often does the Tribal Council meet? 

The Tribal Council meets once a month. It may hold special-called council meetings when needed. 

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Chairman Brooks meeting with members of the Lumbee community.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader? 

According to the Lumbee Constitution, the chairman is given all executive powers, including implementation of and compliance with annual budgets. The chairman assures that all tribal laws are executed.

The chairman must deliver to the membership an annual State of the Tribe Address during the first week of July. The address shall include a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The chairman has the authority to veto any ordinance enacted by the Tribal Council. The chairman nominates a Tribal Administrator, and the chairman represents the Lumbee Tribe before all other governments and tribunals, including the United States, the state of North Carolina, and all federal and state agencies. 

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

The role that my father, the late Pete Brooks, played in my life is what prepared me to be a leader within my tribe. This is my biggest attribute. He instilled in me the importance of education, hard work, and a strong work ethic. 

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Greg Richardson, director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, presents Paul Brooks with the Order of Long Leaf Pine. 39th annual North Carolina Indian Unity Conference, Raleigh, March 2014. The award honored Chairman Brooks for hs achievements during 40 years of public service.

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

The people who inspired me as mentors were my father and my cousin, the late Dexter Brooks. Dexter Brooks was the first American Indian Superior Court Judge in North Carolina. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 

I am a direct descendent of Joe Brooks, one of our historical leaders. Joe Brooks was instrumental in working on behalf of the Lumbee Tribe during the time of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

There are about 55,000 members in our tribe. 

What are the criteria to become a member of the Lumbee Tribe? 

Our tribal membership is based on descendancy from the tribe’s base rolls and maintaining contact with the tribe. 

Is your language still spoken on your homelands? 

Our language was lost years ago.  

What economic enterprises does your tribe own? 

The tribe owns the former North Carolina Indian Cultural Center

What annual events does the Lumbee Tribe sponsor? 

Annual events hosted by the tribe include the "Dance of the Spring Moon” Spring Powwow, Senior Ms. Lumbee Pageant, and a Veterans Luncheon. The tribe also plays an integral part in the annual Lumbee Homecoming festivities. 

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

There are several historical sites across our tribal territory, including the former North Carolina Indian Cultural Center. This 389-acre site is the home of the outdoor drama Strike At the Wind!, performed from the 1970s until 2007. The center also includes a golf course, pool, walking trails, and campgrounds.

The Indian Normal School, now known as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, is also an historical site. 

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

The Lumbee Tribe receives federal funds based on our status as a sovereign American Indian tribe.

What message would you like to share with Lumbee youth? 

My message to our youth would be to work hard, be honest, obtain an education, and, above all else, be ready to work for your people.

Also, I would like to add, to get involved with your community. The smallest contribution can have the largest impact. 

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


All photos courtesy of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. 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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