July 08, 2016

Meet Native America: Terri Parton, President of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes

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

President Terri Parton
President Terri Parton, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is Terri Parton. I am the president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and an enrolled member. I am also of Caddo descent. I have a 23-year-old son, Jacob, and a 10-year-old nephew, Joshua.

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

My maiden name is Terri Ann Brown. I do not have a Native name.

Where is your tribal community located?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes is located in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Our former reservation boundaries include the northern half of Caddo County, Oklahoma. Parts of Grady, Canadian, Blaine, Custer, and Washita counties are also included in the former reservation boundaries.

Where is your tribe originally from?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes consists of the Wichita proper, Waco, Keechi, and Tawakoni bands. Our tribe is indigenous to Oklahoma, south central Kansas, and most of Texas. Our tribe is the only tribe aboriginal to Oklahoma.

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

The Wichita people once lived in the areas from around Wichita, Kansas, all through Oklahoma and down to Waco, Texas. We were once called the Quivira. We now sit on a former reservation area that we were forced to share with two other tribes. Much of that land no longer belongs to us. The most significant point in our history is when the Wichita, Waco, Keechi, and Tawakoni people were forced to give up our land.

How is your tribal government set up?

The supreme governing body is all tribal members 18 years and older—our General Council. Our tribe elected to be governed by a Governing Resolution instead of by a constitution. The Governing Resolution passed by the General Council delegates authority to a seven-member Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is composed of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and three committee members.

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

We have traditional leadership that mostly focuses on the Wichita–Pawnee Visitation that has gone on for centuries. While we do our best to promote culture and our traditional ways, this is not integrated into the politics of the government.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes holds elections for all seven members of the Executive Committee every four years. Elections are held the third Saturday in July. The next elections will be held this month. A candidate must receive the majority vote of those voting to be elected.

How often does your council meet?

The Governing Resolution of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes calls for an annual General Council Meeting to be held on the third Saturday in July of each year. Occasionally, other meetings of the General Council are called by the president.

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

My life experiences help guide me in everything I do. Every time someone comes in and needs help, I can usually relate in some way to what they’re going through. My life has not been perfect at all. I have lived. I have had bad times, bad experiences, and dealt with the things that many of our people go through in some shape or form. I've chosen to never let those experiences keep me down, though. I learned from them and let those lessons be my guide when helping others.

I have had help along the way when I thought no one could help me, and so I know the importance of being able to help someone when they think there is no hope or help. Helping my people in those instances is the most rewarding thing about my job.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

While there are certain things in our Governing Resolution that are duties of the president, such as presiding over meetings and having supervision of the business of the General Council and the Executive Committee, there is a much deeper sense of responsibility that comes with the position for me.

My responsibility lies in caring for my people. This is carried out in variety of ways. I represent my people to the best of my ability. I work to do my best to make things move in a positive direction for our tribe. I try to filter out negativity and stay focused on the positive side to move our tribe forward.

It is my responsibility to do my best to get to know my people and who they are. I try to be there when needed or asked, at least to do the best I can. There are times I have to take a break, too, though.

Most importantly I am responsible for making sure that our tribe has a future and to keep the best interest of the tribe at heart. I focus a lot on our children, but not forgetting to take care of our elders. I want to know that as I grow older and become an elder, I will feel confident in stepping aside and letting our younger generation lead, while still maintaining a connection to be a mentor. It is my responsibility to share my knowledge to ensure our future.

Red Earth Parade with PrincessesPresident Parton and princesses representing the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes at the 31st annual Red Earth Festival. June 2016, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Who inspired you as a mentor?

The definition of a mentor is “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.” There are a lot of people who were mentors through various stages of my life. Of course my dad, mom, and grandparents were the greatest mentors in raising me.

Mary Bailey, my fifth grade teacher; former President Gary McAdams's wife, Ardina McAdams, who is of Wichita descent; and Anita Ross (Wichita) were mentors from my younger years. They were mentors before I actually started working for our tribe.

I was very fortunate as young Wichita tribal member when I began working for our tribe 18-and-a half years ago to have many Wichita mentors. While I can think of a lot of elders who shared their life experiences and wisdom with me, there are handful of mentors who were at the forefront of why I have been able serve as president for our tribe for the last four years.

Kristoffer Ira Hight hired me and taught me a lot of the things he knew about the tribe and its programs when I first started. He wasn’t afraid to teach me or for me to follow in his footsteps. He wasn’t afraid to tell me when I was wrong, either. That is a mark of good leader. I carry that with me now and do my best to teach our youth what I know. Ira and I remain good friends to this day.

Frances Wise was the first tribal administrator I worked under. She made me believe that as a young Wichita Indian woman I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. She made me believe that I could be president of our tribe one day. I was cleaning the president’s office one day when I was about 26 years old, trying to file the piles of mail. I was young and didn’t realize the significance of sitting at the desk of the president. She stepped in the doorway and said, “You look good behind that desk. You could be president one day.” It had never crossed my mind until that point. That started about a 10-year journey before I became president. It was rough at first, but she was always there and knew when to call me when I needed that push to go on. She once told me that I had integrity. She helped me believe I could do anything I wanted in life as a strong Wichita woman.

Gerald Collins is a former Wichita Executive Committee member who served with me when I was secretary of the tribe. He now works for the tribe and continues to help me along. He has always had good words of wisdom for me when things got tough.

Doris McLemore, the last fluent speaker of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. Doris is also a tribal elder whom I love dearly. I was able to work with her as I taught our language class to our children several years ago. She taught me a lot about our language. She has become a symbol for me of why I love working for my people. When things get rough, as they often do in tribal politics, I often go to her for hugs to help me remember why I am on this journey.

Gary McAdams in my eyes was a great leader for our people. He cares about our people and preserving our culture. He has been my friend and mentor and was a major influence in my journey to becoming president of our tribe. I believe he enjoyed giving me more work to do when he realized the journey I would take someday as president. There wasn’t anything within our tribe that he held back teaching me. I’d like to think that he saw a leader in me. He believed enough in me to teach me many things about our history. I believe he trusted me and knew that I would carry on those things he taught me for our people. He knew even when it got tough as a tribal leader that I would always find my way keeping the best interest of our people at heart.

Stratford Williams was the mentor of all mentors for me. He was first person I saw when I first started to work for the tribe in 1998. He asked me about my family. We were both Wichita and Caddo. He called me his granddaughter on the Caddo side. He taught me everything he could about being a leader over a span of many years. He taught me how to be the leader that I wanted to be. To always help people even if they weren’t always the nicest to you. He cared about our people and our future. You could see it on his face and hear it in his prayers. He taught me about our history, politics, family, and prayer. He believed in my leadership possibilities and helped me believe in myself as a leader. I continue to honor him as I carry on the things he taught me.

The people I named are people I worked with daily at the tribe. They helped shape the leader that I am today. I can’t forget to mention James Ross, William Norman, Gladys Walker, Joni Williams, Kay Ahtone, and Marvin Delaware for their mentorship as elders and friends, for their advice, and for helping me keep my faith at times when things got rough these last four years. While I mention all of these mentors, there are still many more people who have helped me along the way. I have been blessed with a lot of mentors in my life.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader?

My father was Oscar Bruce Brown, Jr., who was Caddo/Wichita. My grandmother was Myra Ross Brown, who was full-blooded Wichita. My great grandfather was Charlie Moore Ross, who was full-blooded Wichita. My great-great grandfather was Walter Zumah Ross. Walter Zumah Ross was a sub-chief. He was photographed by Edward Curtis. There are also many books that talk about him. Our tribe had various bands with various chiefs.

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes has 2,953 enrolled tribal members as of June 22, 2016.

What are the criteria to become a member?

As of June 22, 2016, you must be one-eighth Wichita to be enrolled. There is a provision for a blood consolidation of other Indian blood. On July 16, 2016, there will be a vote of the tribal membership on whether to lower the blood quantum.

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

As I mentioned earlier, we have only one fluent speaker left. Her name is Doris McLemore, and she is an amazing woman. At 89 years old, she still worked for the tribe cooking breakfast for staff and teaching language. Recently she has had to remain at home, but she still loves to speak and teach our Wichita language.

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

Our tribe owns and operates Sugar Creek CasinoHinton Travel Inn, Wichita Tribal Smoke Shop, Wichita Travel Plaza, and the Wichita Child Development Center. We also have two Small Business Administration 8(a) companies—Anadarko Industries and Wichita Tribal Enterprises.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

The Wichita Annual Dance is held the second week of August of each year. It begins on Thursday and ends on Sunday. A Spirit Walk is also held in conjunction with the dance. It is our biggest event and the event that draws many of our Wichita people to come home. We also have a lot of programmatic functions on annual basis. We recently started a Community Easter Event to give back to our community.

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

We are in the process of constructing the Wichita Historical Center north of Anadarko on highway 281. It features a thatched grass house and summer arbor. We also have the Sugar Creek Casino located in Hinton, Oklahoma. There are other attractions in the area that are not tribally related.

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

We have consultations with the government. Those consultations aren’t always what tribes expect, though. We have 638 contracts through the BIA and Indian Health Services. We interact in various other ways, such as attending meetings of the National Congress of American Indians; working on initiatives with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Native American Enterprise Initiative; and participating as a member of the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Tribal leaders of Oklahoma also meet with the governor at least once a year.

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

Always be proud to be Wichita. For all Indian youth, be proud to be Indian. Be proud of who you are. Don’t forget who you are and where you come from. Get to know your people and your tribe. Learn as much as you can. Get an education so you can be game-changers for our Indian communities. You will be the leaders of our tribes one day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Listen to your elders even when you don’t always agree. As you get older you’ll realize why they took the time to tell you the things they knew. They see something in you and they want to share that knowledge with you.

Be good to each other. Don’t be afraid to teach those younger than you. Always do things with a good heart when you’re working for your people. Love each other and forgive. You never get anywhere by yourself. Have faith in our Creator and don’t forget to pray. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t be afraid to make them. You will fall at times, but always pick yourself back up. Do the best you can do in all you do. Rise up and be great leaders for your tribe.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I have been blessed to be able to work for my tribe for 18-and-a-half years. There have been a lot of ups and downs and highs and lows, but it has been a great journey. I completed my Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration and my Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law degree while I was president. I was 36 years old when I went back to school. I was 38 when I became president in 2012. Don’t give up on your dreams and don’t think you're too young to live those dreams.

Our Creator has blessed my life by allowing me to serve my Wichita people. I know he will direct my steps and those of our tribe in the future. I’m thankful for my family, friends, and mentors, and my Wichita people. I appreciate this opportunity to share a little about me and about my journey as president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes over the last four years.

So:ti:c?a. [Thank you.]

Thank you.


Photos courtesy of President Terri Parton; 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 01, 2016

The Longest Walk: Activism and Legislation in Indian Country

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. Beginning today, a short blog series by April Chee (Navajo) traces the history of the Longest Walk movement and reports on the Longest Walk V, which will reach Washington, D.C., on July 15.


The Longest Walk 1978

 

Participants in the Longest Walk marched the length of the country, from Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, to the nation's capital. 1978, location unknown. Photo courtesy of the National Walk Director, Longest Walk V.


The first Longest Walk, in 1978, was a 3,000-mile march across the United States to bring attention to the rights of Native people in the United States and to protest 11 anti-Indian bills introduced in Congress that threatened treaty rights. Emphasizing the walk as a peaceful spiritual protest, thousands of Native activists, allies, and community members gathered together to support the movement. After a ceremony on Alcatraz Island, the group began their walk with thousands of people taking part. By July 15, an estimated 2,000 people walked into Washington, D.C. They stayed in the capital for the following week to ensure that their voices were heard and to conduct workshops to educate others about Native people, bringing together members of different Native nations to share knowledge and experience.

This historic movement attracted support from every walk of life. A notable picture from the Longest Walk (below) includes prominent Native and non-Native activists. The Longest Walk was deemed successful in reasserting treaty rights and bringing attention to Native issues. Ultimately, not one of the 11 bills before Congress was passed.

Concert in support of the Longest Walk, 1978

Activists came together with marchers for a concert to mark the end of the first Longest Walk. From left to right: Muhammad Ali, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram. 1978 Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of David Amran, from IndiVisible: African–Native American Lives in the Americas.

 

Since the original Longest Walk, there have been four additional major walks. The Longest Walk II, in 2008, called attention to environmental rights and the protection of sacred sites. In 2011 the Longest Walk III: Reversing Diabetes focused on the health of Indigenous peoples and working against diabetes, a disease that many Native people struggle to combat. In 2013 the Longest Walk IV: Return to Alcatraz was unique in that it began in Washington, D.C., and ended at Alcatraz. This walk focused on reaffirming Native sovereignty in the United States, recognizing that we are still nations with inherent rights to govern ourselves.

This ongoing march for Native rights has a direct correlation to the standing of Native people in the United States. From the occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 to 1971 to the Apache-Stronghold today, Native people have a record of contemporary activism directly affecting legislation. Protecting who we are as Native people in the United States, however, oftentimes requires more than appeals to government. Honoring our ancestor’s sacrifices means protecting our land, our water, our languages, our cultures, our women, our children, who we are as Native people. Time and time again, Native communities have banded together to take action to defend these inherent, sovereign rights.

The Longest Walk V: Declaring War on Drug Abuse and Domestic Violence will reach the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on July 15. Two further posts in this series will continue to cover the history of the Longest Walk movement and the current walk as it makes its way into the nation’s capital.

—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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Thanks April for bringing awareness to the Longest Walk. LW5 will be in DC on July 15, 2016.

June 22, 2016

Meet Native America: Audrey Hudson, Mayor, City Manager, Tribal Chairwoman, and Police Commissioner of the Metlakatla Indian Community

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

Mayor Hudson

Metlakatla Indian Community Mayor and Tribal Chairwoman Audrey Hudson at Celebration, a biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures. June 2016, Juneau, Alaska.

 

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

Audrey Hudson, mayor, city manager, tribal chairwoman, and police commissioner of the Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve, Alaska.

A more traditional introduction would be: My full name is Audrey Meri Louise Hudson. I am the daughter of Alice (Walker) Dundas, Tsimshian/Inupiaq of Metlakatla and White Mountain, Alaska. My maternal grandmother is Janet Louisa (Marsden) Hanson. My maternal great-grandmother is Louisa Feak Marsden. We are all of the Tsimshian Gish-but-wada Clan in Metlakatla, Alaska.

Can you share your Native name with us? 

My Tsimshian name is Galksiyaa da mangyepsa tgwa. It means She Who Walks through the High Glass. When the members of our community voted for me to be mayor of Metlakatla, I broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman ever to be elected to this position of leadership. This name was gifted to me by my close friends Gavin Hudson, David A. Boxley, David R. Boxley, and Kandi McGilton. My name is very precious, and every day I work to keep my name good and full of integrity.

Where is your tribal community located? 

The Metlakatla Indian Community, Annette Islands Reserve, is the southernmost community in Alaska. We are two hours via Alaska Airlines from Seattle, Washington, plus a ferry ride from Ketchikan, Alaska. Annette Islands Reserve consists of 132,000 acres of land and water base. Metlakatla Indian Community has exclusive commercial and subsistence fishing rights to the islands’ waterways extending from 3,000 feet at mean low tide. We are the only reserve in Alaska. In the 1970s, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was accepted by other tribes in Alaska. Metlakatla is the only tribe that opted out. Metlakatla will forever be grateful to our leadership of that time for making that wise decision. 

Where were your people originally from? 

The Tsimshian originated in the headwaters of the Skeena River, in what is now known as British Columbia, Canada. 

What are the criteria to become a member of the Metlakatla Indian Community?

Metlakatla’s enrollment is based on lineage, not blood quantum. If you are not of lineal descent from Metlakatla, but you are Alaska Native and would like to become a member, you must reside in Metlakatla for one year. The Community Council has the authority to set a non-lineage quota per year.

What is a significant point in Metlakatla history that you would like to share? 

The settlement of New Metlakatla was formally established by ceremony on Annette Island, Alaska, on August 7, 1887. So, every year on August 7, we have a large Founders Day Celebration. Many members of the community return home for this time of celebration, cultural dancing and feasting. 

Tribal Chairwoman and Mayor Audrey Hudson
Mayor and Tribal Chairwoman Audrey Hudson, Metlakatla Indian Community.

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader? 

As mayor and tribal chairwoman of Metlakatla Indian Community, I preside over all Council meetings. As city manager, I supervise and manage all professional officers and the directors of federal, state, tribal and revenue programs. As police commissioner, I supervise the work of the Metlakatla Police Department and the representative of the police force to Council. The chief of police is a separate position that handles day-to-day situations.

How is your tribal government set up? 

Metlakatla Indian Community was founded as a federally recognized Indian tribe under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act 25 USC, Section 426, with a Constitution and By-laws. The Metlakatla Indian Community of Annette Islands is the local governing body. A twelve-person Council governs the community. The mayor, secretary, and treasurer are elected by the general voting membership of the community. Each of these is elected for a two-year term. Council seats are staggered, resulting in the election of six Council seats each year and three executives every second year.

How often does your government meet? 

Our Tribal Council meets the first Tuesday of every month. Any member of the community may request a Special Council Meeting if he or she is able to obtain five Council signatures. Council has committees that meet regularly and handle particular issues and projects pertaining to finance; health, education, and welfare; community realty; law and order; planning; and natural resources. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

When I was a child, my inspirations were my aunts Margaret J. Williams, Anna Walker, and Mary L. Mandan, and my great aunt Margaret M. Marsden. My aunty Mae was the first woman ever to hold the position of executive secretary within our government. During this time, my great aunt Lena Dundas was a magistrate judge. In those particular years, I would listen in on conversations between Aunty Mae and Aunty Lena as they would discuss politics and I was intrigued by the various political angles and points of view.

My grandmother Janet L. (Marsden) Hanson is an inspiration. She told me to pray and look to the Lord for daily guidance. Her words to me were, “Your life is what you make it. Always make good choices.”

Is your language still spoken on your homelands?

Metlakatla, Alaska, has approximately five fluent Sm′algyax speakers remaining. All of our fluent speakers are over the age of 60. So there is an urgency to revitalize our language. We have worked in partnership with Annette Island School District in obtaining a federal grant with the goal of cultivating a new generation of children who are fluent in both English and Sm′algyax. The project is in its first year and is showing great promise.

What economic enterprises does your tribal community own?

Metlakatla Indian Community owns and operates a small Casino and Bingo Hall that features 90 class II electronic gaming machines. We own a fish-packing plant—Silver Bay Seafoods–Metlakatla, LLC—which buys salmon, halibut, sea cucumber, and geoduck from our local fishermen. We have always prided ourselves on the excellent quality of salmon caught in our waters. We have a tourism program that is growing every year.

What annual events does the Metlakatla community sponsor?

Every year, Metlakatla hosts the 7th of August Founders Day Celebration. The celebration this year will consist of a community-wide church service at the David Leask, Sr., Memorial Town Hall and go into a parade, followed immediately by the field events at the Russell Hayward Memorial Park. In the early evening there will be a semiformal dinner for adults over the age of 16, during which we will tell the history of our people. To end the night there will be a fireworks show. Founders Day is always a wonderful time in Metlakatla.

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land and waters?

Annette Island has an array of sightseeing opportunities. Whether you decide to climb Purple Mountain, walk to Sand Dollar Beach, hike Yellow Hill, or drive Walden Point Road and appreciate the view on our Official State Scenic Byway, we can assure you that at the completion of your visit, your heart and your stomach will be full.

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

Most recently, my administration has worked very hard to reinvigorate a good working relationship with various heads of departments within the federal government. Some of the relationships that we value are with the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Division of Energy and Mineral Development. Metlakatla has come upon many issues that deal with the effects of climate change. Whether it may be increasing municipal water source levels or assistance with the hydroelectric plant, we are beginning to experience the benefits of strong professional relationships with the United States government and the State of Alaska.

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

I was recently asked to speak at the middle school promotion and at the Metlakatla High School graduation ceremonies. The one thing that I portray to them is very simple: Your life choices are your choices. You will decide to push forward and succeed. You will be the one to determine where you will be sitting in ten years. Hard work always reaps benefits. Make good choices and always, always, always be true to yourself.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to acknowledge and thank my family for their support. My husband, Conrad Hudson Sr.; our son, Conrad Hudson Jr.; daughter, Lakin; and son-in-law, Warren Brendible. Recently we have been blessed with our first grandson, Kaspen Everett Brendible. 

On November 5, 2013, I was elected by the members of the Metlakatla Indian Community to be the Mayor and Tribal Chairwoman of Metlakatla, Alaska, Annette Islands Reserve. Up to that date, in all of Metlakatla’s 127-year history, there had never been a female mayor. I am the first.

I have been in this office for two-and-a-half years, and I can proudly say that I have worked very hard for the people of my tribe.

My hopes are for a community where the children will flourish, where the government is stable, and where power struggles are a thing of the past.

I dream of a community that functions as a safe haven where we can all work together towards our common goals. We are heading in that direction, and all in all, I love my job!

Thank you.

I thank God for examples of strong, modern women, and for the many opportunities he has brought before me. I thank him for the vision of a brighter future for my people.

And I thank you, for the opportunity to reach out to your readers with this interview. 

Photos courtesy of the Metlakatla Indian Community; 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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June 13, 2016

Meet Native America: Walter D. “Red Hawk” Brown, III, Chief of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe and Chairman of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation

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 Walter Brown III
Chief Walter D. “Red Hawk” Brown, III, leads the sacred pipe ceremony to celebrate the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe's closing on the purchase of a 163-acre tract of tribal land. In the last seven years, the tribe has bought back 263 acres of land in Southampton County, Virginia—part of the 41,000-acre reservation granted to the tribe in 1705 by the Virginia House of Burgesses. Cattashowrock Town, near Courtland, Virginia; April 23, 2016. Photo by Bert Wendell, Jr.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

My name is Walter D. “Red Hawk” Brown, III. I am chief of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe and chairman of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation, Inc. Cheroenhaka—which is pronounced pretty much as it's spelled: Che-ro-en-ha-ka—means People at the Fork of the Stream. It is the true name of the Nottoway Indians. We are a Virginia-state recognized tribe. The foundation is a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit organization created to support the tribe's cultural and educational goals. 

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

It's Ga-nunt-quare Cheeta, which means Red Hawk. 

Where is your tribal community located? 

Our headquarters are in Courtland, Virginia, in Southampton County. 

Where is your tribe originally from? 

We're from this same region of southeastern Virginia. We lodged and hunted along the Nottoway, Blackwater, and Chowan rivers. We migrated to Southampton County from Nottoway, in Sussex County—which was originally the southwestern part of Surry County—and from Isle of Wight County. Southampton County was created in 1749 from the southwestern part of Isle of Wight County. 

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

I'd like to share two aspects of our history that are still very relevant today. 

Excavation of the Hand Site in Southampton County carbon dates the ancestors of the Cheroenhaka Tribe in this region to around 1580. On November 2, 2009, a state historical marker commemorating the Hand Site was placed on the corner of General Thomas Highway and Hansom Road in Southampton County. The state notes that the site was “long claimed” by the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe. It is believed that the site was inhabited as early as AD 700. 

Our tribe is currently seeking to have the 132 skeletal remains that were dug up and removed from their resting place at the Hand Site returned and reburied on the 263 acres of ethno-historic tribal land currently owned by the tribe here in Southampton County. The remains were disinterred in 1965, 1966, and 1969 and are now housed in shoeboxes at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C.

The second event I'd like to share begins in 1705, when the Virginia House of Burgesses—which became the House of Delegates in 1776—granted our tribe 41,000 acres of reservation land in what is now Southampton County. The grant was made up the 18,000-acre Circle Tract and the 23,000-acre Square Tract. 

On April 7 and 8, 1728, William Byrd II of Westover Plantation on the James River visited the tribe's Indian Town on the reservation land. Byrd described how the men and women looked, danced, and dressed—including that the women wore the colors red, white, and blue. He also described the nature of the palisade fort, longhouses, and bedding. Byrd noted in his diary that the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) was the only tribe of Indians of any consequence still remaining within the limits of Virginia. 

On August 7, 1735, the Indian interpreters for the Cheroenhaka—Henry Briggs and Thomas Wynn—were dismissed by an Act of the Commonwealth. On the same day the first of many land-transfer deeds for the Circle Tract of land were recorded between the colonials and the Cheroenhaka chief’s men. Transfers would continue up to November 1953, until both the Circle and Square tracts—41,000-acres of reservation lands—were in the hands of European-Americans.

In 2009 and 2016, the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe reclaimed by way of purchase a total of 263 acres of land that was once part of the tribe's 41,000-acre reservation. The first purchase was of 100 acres and the second, 163 acres.

Cheroenhaka pipe cermony

Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia Kelly Thomasson and Chief Brown shake hands at the sacred pipe ceremony to commemorate the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe's most recent land purchase. Others who took part in the celebration that day include Irvine Wilson (far left) and Rick Meyers (second from left), Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Cheroenhaka chief men and other tribal members. Cattashowrock Town, near Courtland, Virginia; April 23, 2016. Photo by Bert Wendell, Jr.

 

How is your tribal government set up? 

We are governed by a nine-person Tribal Council. 

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

Yes. As a traditional ethno-historic entity of leadership, we have eight "chief men" and one king or chief. 

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

Council members are chosen every four years but may serve consecutive terms. The chief follows a hereditary line and is elected for life. 

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

Our Tribal Council meets once monthly. The tribal membership meets four times per year—once a quarter. 

What responsibilities do you have as chief? 

I am the tribe's spokesman and principal networker, as well as the tribal historian. My explicit duties include serving as chairman of the Tribal Council and chairperson of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation. 

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

I grew up on our family farm in Southampton County, hunting, trapping, fishing, and tanning hides with my father and learning Cheroenhaka traditions and culture from my mother, father, and grandfather during supper conservations about the history of the tribe. I also spent 28 years on active duty in the U.S. Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel. From my career in the army I was able to glean a host of leadership skills. From the point of view of education, I have B. S. and M.S. degrees. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

My father, Walt “Coon Hunter” Brown, Jr., and mother, Ruth “Cooking Bird” Brown. I would also include my 18 uncles and aunts and the host of leaders I served under during my career in the army. 

Are you a descendant of a historical leader? 

Yes, Queen Edith Turner—whose Native name was Wane Roonseraw—and my great-great-great-great-grandmother Polly Woodson. Polly—who was also known as Mary Turner and whose Native name was Kara Hout—was raised by Queen Edie and Chief Man Alex Rogers. All three are listed on the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian 1808 special census. 

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

We have 425 active, enrolled tribal men, women, and children. 

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

Our Constitution and Bylaws govern the manner in which a person can become a member of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe. To be enrolled a person must submit to the Tribal Council a paper trail copy of his or her genealogy going back to an ethno-historic Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian surname represented in the 1808 tribal census or found among the names of chief men that appear on land deeds between 1735 and 1953. The applicant must prove the bloodline on the mother's or father's side or both. 

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

Approximately 5 percent of tribal members speak our dar-sun-ke (language or tongue) in part. On July 7, 1820, former President Thomas Jefferson sent a copy of the language's vocabulary and other source materials to Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, a student of Indian languages who lived in Philadelphia. On March 4 of that year, John Wood, a former professor of mathematics at the College of William & Mary, had transcribed the language, working with Queen Edie on the tribe’s reservation in Southampton County. Du Ponceau recognized the language as Iroquoian. It has been described as a mixed dialect of Mohawk, Onondaga, Tuscarora, and Seneca.

To help keep our language alive, we do a word-a-week program for all tribal members, adults and children. We are also in the process of producing a spoken-language CD. 

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

Of the 263 acres of land the tribe currently owns, 10 acres are our Powwow Grounds and 2.3 acres are our 17th-century replica Iroquoian palisade village, Cattashowrock Town. We are raising money to build a Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Educational Cultural Center and Museum on 3.6 acres. When it is built, we will have a place to display some 3,000 tribal artifacts—points, ceremonial spear points, scrapers, knives, pottery shards and grinders, etc.—all of which have been found on the tribe’s former 41, 000 acres of reservation land. 

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

We host two powwows every year—a Green Corn Dance on the fourth Saturday in July and the Corn Harvest Dance Powwow and School Days on the second weekend in November. We also have a Primitive Skills Gathering on our tribal land annually in May. 

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

The replica 17th-century Iroquoian palisade village Cattashowrock Town includes walking trails with Iroquoian- and English-language signage identifying the flora and fauna on our tribal land. Cattashowrock Town becomes a “living village” on our School Days. 

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

We strongly believe in sovereignty for all Native nations. In addition, on February 27, 1713, the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe became the last Native nation in the Commonwealth of Virginia to sign a treaty with the Crown of England. Since that treaty was negotiated to include a successor clause and since there has been no act or policy by the U.S. government to supersede it, we still proclaim that the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe is a sovereign nation. 

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

This is something I'd like to share with the youth of all our tribes and nations: Remember that we must keep our culture and traditions alive! Learn the history of your people. Practice your traditions and live your culture. Should you still have your tribe’s language, make sure it is taught to those who will follow you. Always tell the story of our people to whoever will listen! 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes. May your walk in this sacred circle of life make better the walk of others—those who will follow in your tracks, your children. 

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian 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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May 24, 2016

Artist Kay WalkingStick to the Class of '16 at Pratt: "Take some risks. Become resilient. Treasure curiosity and affection."

Kay WalkingStick, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and one of the most celebrated artists of Native American ancestry in the world, graciously shares the commencement address she gave last week to graduates of the Pratt Institute in New York. WalkingStick earned her Master's of Fine Art from Pratt in 1975. 

Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, the first major retrospective of her artistic career, is on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., through September 18, 2016.

Kay WalkingStick
Kay WalkingStick in her studio. Easton, Pennsylvania, 2014. Photo by Julia Verderosa

Thank you. It’s an honor to be here speaking to you all. It is great to be back at Pratt.

I have a young friend named Yael Tsorin from Arcadia University, from whence came my undergraduate degree. She is now attending Pratt in the Master's program in Art Therapy and was my studio assistant a few years ago. I’ve had many former students from Cornell come to Pratt for grad school, but this young woman from Arcadia, my alma matter, particularly pleases me. It feels like the circle is complete.

WalkingStick 1974
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), A Sensual Suggestion, 1974. Acrylic on canvas, 42 x 48 in. Collection of the artist. Photo by Lee Stalsworth, Fine Art through Photography, LLC

It has been a very long time since I attended Pratt. Forty-one years to be exact. The art world has changed enormously over those years. In 1975 the rage was conceptual art, performance art was still big, and Joseph Kosuth was hot. Nobody gave a damn about French philosophers, and deconstruction had to do with demolishing buildings.

I came here to quickly be a better painter and to be able to teach at the college level. I mean to learn and teach painting—as in putting paint on a prepared canvas and believing that people could convey deep and meaningful ideas that way. My painting did improve. I learned how to think about paintings, conceptualize paintings, and how to talk about art. I spent a lot of time in the New York galleries, uptown and in Soho.—None of them were in Chelsea then.—And I was a woman in a seemingly men’s-only art world. But that was changing, or so I hoped!

Walkingstick 1981
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Montauk II (Dusk), 1983. Acrylic, wax, and ink on canvas, 56 x 56 x 4.25 in. Collection of the artist. Photo by Lee Stalsworth, Fine Art through Photography, LLC

There was no such thing as a digital world—no web, no cell phones, no iPhones. How did we ever get through the day?

The only computers were huge and klunky. “Algorithms” was a word used only by mathematicians.

Nevertheless, It was a pretty cool world—groovy, we might have said.

So what has remained the same? Anything?

Well, I still believe that paintings—colored mud and oil on a gessoed surface—can carry profound meaning. I believe that people can share ideas through visual means and that we who make visual art in all of its many manifestations are the carriers of our human visual history. We are the inheritors of Lascaux and Hovenweep.

I have high hopes that you all still believe these things, too, although I suspect many of you are not making paintings at all, since painting died some years ago I am told, killed by Arthur Danto and his philosophical buddies. You are no doubt finding other methods to make art in this digital age.

So it goes.

My Cornell colleague Carl Sagan (I actually never met the fellow) said that “science is not so much a body of knowledge as a way of thinking,” and that could be said of art as well. We learn how to think about a visual problem and all of the myriad ways to solve it—deconstruct it, if you will—then proceed to do so. We need the skills—the craft—and the various approaches we could take to accomplish that. All of this we learned at Pratt, and a lot more besides. Education is, after all, about intellectually enriching our lives and finding interesting ways to lead the rest of our lives. And it’s the rest of your life I really want to talk about.

WalkingStick 1991
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Night/ƠRT (Usvi), 1991. Oil, acrylic, wax, and copper on canvas, 36.25 x 72.25 x 2 in. Montclair Art Museum, purchased with funds provided by Alberta Stout 2000.10

With a little luck you folks will probably live for another 70 or so years. Enjoy them, for God's sake! Don’t bore yourself to death with a dull job or a dull partner. Take some risks—I don’t mean speeding at 90 or doing heavy drugs—but take risks to find an interesting, challenging, perhaps difficult profession. Don’t let money be the primary goal, but rather let your goal be interesting, enlivening activity. (Oh, money is important, but not more than the avoidance of boredom.) Take risks to find an interesting life partner—someone who can talk about your profession, whether that is art or not, with curiosity and affection. Take plenty of time with both roles. They last a lifetime, so treasure them.

WalkingStick 2001
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), Gioioso, Variation II, 2001. Oil and gold leaf on wood panel, 32 x 64 in. Courtesy of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis

I found that people had to be good at rejection to exist in the New York art world. Learn to take a hit now and then and brush it off. You’ll meet some very interesting people along the way who can say the darnedest things. Somehow my being part Indian with a funny name brought out a lot of remarks. For instance, Ivan Karp, a prominent art dealer in Soho who was always friendly to artists and a witty man, said when he met me, “You’re an Indian? I always thought you were a Jewish girl from Queens who had changed her name!”

Apparently, it’s always a surprise to people that there are Indians in New York.

Another dealer—a not very nice one—told me to take all of the paintings I had shown him, put them in a pile, and put a match to them. Make a painting bonfire.

And the best, I think, was another who, when she heard my name, immediately started laughing uncontrollably.

She may have been stoned.

So learn to take occasional rejection and keep on working. It’s the work that will preserve and inspire you. And eventually I did find a great and gracious dealer named June Kelly whom I have been with for over 20 years.

WalkingStick 2011
Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935), New Mexico Desert, 2011. Oil on wood panel, 40 x 80 x 2 in. Purchased through a special gift from the Louise Ann Williams Endowment, 2013. National Museum of the American Indian 26/9250

By the way, all those paintings that I did not set on fire are now hanging in the Smithsonian at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Revenge is sweet. Very sweet.

I have not had a boring life, and in fact I’ve had a hell of a run with a lot of fun along the way—a couple of rough spots, too. I’ve taken a lot of risks—usually, not always, thought-out ones. (I did wear a helmet on that motorcycle.)

So challenge yourself, and enjoy every single day.

You are ready for it.

—Kay WalkingStick
Commencement, Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, New York, May 17, 2016


Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee, b. 1935) received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1959 and completed her Master of Fine Arts in 1975 at Pratt Institute, supported by a Danforth Foundation Graduate Fellowship for Women. WalkingStick’s work is represented in the collections of several museums, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is a professor emeritus at Cornell University.

Photographs © the artist. All rights reserved.

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