Meet Native America: Interviews with Indigenous Leaders

April 29, 2016

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

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

Councilman Jim Taylor
Elnu Abenaki Councilman and Elder Jim Taylor.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

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

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

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

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

Where is your tribe located?

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

Where is your tribe originally from?

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

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

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

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

Recognition

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

How is your tribal government set up?

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

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

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

How often are elected leaders chosen?

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

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

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

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

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

Who inspired you as a mentor?

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

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

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

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

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

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

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

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

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

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

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

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

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you would like to add?

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

Thank you.

Wli'wini—thank you.


Photos courtesy of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe of Vermont; used with permission.

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

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April 22, 2016

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

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


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


Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

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

What tribes are you affiliated with?

I am an enrolled Northern Arapaho.

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

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

How is your state government set up?

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

How are leaders chosen?

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Do the Native people in Wyoming vote in state elections?

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

How often does your state legislature meet?

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

What responsibilities did you have as a state representative?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who inspired you as a mentor?

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

Are you a descendant of a historical leader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you would like to add?

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

Thank you.

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Goggles family; used with permission.

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

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April 12, 2016

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

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

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

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

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

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

Where is your tribal community located?

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

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

Where is your tribe originally from? 

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

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

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

How is your tribal government set up? 

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

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

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

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

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

How often are elected leaders chosen? 

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

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


How often does your Tribal Council meet? 

Twice weekly.

What responsibilities do you have as Governor? 

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

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

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

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

TorresFamily

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


Who inspired you as a mentor? 

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

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

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

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

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

There are currently approximately 2,729 tribal members.

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

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

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

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

What economic enterprises does your tribe own? 

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

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

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

What annual events does your tribe sponsor? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

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

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

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


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

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

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March 23, 2016

Meet Native America: Clarena M. Brockie, Dean of Students at Aaniiih Nakoda College and Former Member of the Montana House of Representatives

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 

Dean Clarena Brockie
Clarena M. Brockie, Dean of Students at Aaniiih Nakoda College and former member of the Montana House of Representatives.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

My name is Clarena M. Brockie. I am Dean of Students at Aaniiih Nakoda College and a former representative in the Montana State Legislature. My Indian name is Watsi, which means Plume. I come from the Frozen Clan and the Fast Travelers Clan. 

What tribes are you affiliated with? 

I am an enrolled member of the Aaniiih Nin (also known as Gros Ventre) of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Montana, where the Nakoda (Assiniboine) also reside. 

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

I'd like to talk about three significant points in our history. The first is the Grinnell Agreement of 1895: In 1888, by executive order, the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation was established for the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes. (Earlier treaties of 1851 and 1855 created a much bigger territory.) Around the same time, two trespassing miners discovered gold in the Little Rocky Mountains, within the southern boundary of the reservation. In the 1890s, the tribes were pressured to sell the area where gold was discovered and to accept a price of $360,000. That was the Grinnell Agreement; there is a notch called the Grinnell Notch where the land was carved out. The mining of this area produced billions of dollars. The tribes were later paid for the value of the land in the 1890s and the interest made off of that value. Oral history tells that the Indian agent took the funds for taking care of the tribes. 

By the 1990s, the Little Rocky Mountains were the site of the second largest "leach-pit" mine in the world. Extraction ceased 20 years ago, but the area continues to be monitored for the devastating effect the mine has had on the environment and the health of the people, and for the damage it has caused to sacred sites. 

The second point in history is the Winters Doctrine: The Supreme Court's decision in Winters vs. United States (1908) established Indian Reserved Water Rights for all tribes. This case originated from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. In essence the land was worthless without the proper amounts of water to sustain the reservation, which was established to encourage communal living and to promote farming. 

The third is the idea of Vanishing Indians: In the late 1800s, forced to live on the reservation with limited hunting, many of our tribal members died, especially the young and old. No more buffalo, no way of building buffalo-hide lodges, those lodges that did exist were full of holes. Many people slept on the ground and froze to death. Many starved. By 1905, the Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) tribe had dwindled down to fewer than 500 members. This is from an estimate of 15,000 members before the establishment of the reservation. Al Kroeber, an anthropologist, visited Fort Belknap in 1908 to collect what he could from the Aaniiih to insure the history was intact. On Kroeber's heels came Clark Wissler, collecting what he could on the Aaniiih. One evening during this time, a Gros Ventre chief told the people, “We are going to rebuild our tribe. Those of you of marrying age, by nightfall I want all of you to select your mate.” No one would refuse an offer of marriage. This was so true of many tribes who just fell off the face of earth. Today the enrolled membership of the reservation is approximately 7,000; the Aaniiih make up a little more than half of that population and the Nakoda a little less than half. 

How is your state government set up? 

The government of Montana has legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Within the legislature, there are 100 representatives and 50 senators. Elected offices within the executive and legislative branches have term limits. 

How are leaders of the legislature chosen? 

Representatives and senators who want to serve in leadership will let others know they are seeking this position, or members will be asked if they would like to be in a leadership position, especially those members demonstrating particular skills and abilities. 

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

Republicans control both the Montana Senate and House, although the governor is a Democrat. Voting within the legislature is along party lines. Certain issues, however, receive support from both parties. In some cases, Republican House members are divided on certain issues. 

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

Montana has nine Native members of the legislature, more than any other state. 

 

Sen Windy Boy, Rep Brockie & Rep Whitford

Montana State Senator Jonathan Windy Boy (Chippewa Cree), Representative Brockie, and Representative Lea Whitford (Blackfeet) at the Capitol in Helena, Montana. 


How many tribes live in your state? 

Montana is home to 10 federally recognized tribes—Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Chippewa, Cree, Crow, Gros Ventre, Salish, Kootenai, and Sioux—and one state-recognized tribe—Little Shell. 

Do you ever meet with the Native people of your state? 

Although I currently am not a representative, I continue to meet with the Montana and Wyoming tribal leaders and with people at tribal colleges and public schools located on reservations. I am particularly interested in hearing about people's experiences with issues such as education, land, jurisdiction, voting, buffalo and bison management, water rights, domestic violence, and childcare. 

Do Native people in Montana vote in state elections? 

Yes, we do, especially when Native Americans run for the legislature in Montana. The voter turnout is better in a presidential election year. Montana Native Americans are mostly Democrats. We have a Native American running for a seat on Congress, Denise Juneau, a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet Tribe, who is currently the Montana superintendent of Public Instruction, which is also an elected position.

How often does your state congress meet? 

The Montana State Legislature meets at the State Capitol every other year. However, members continue to work through special committee meetings or studies. 

What responsibilities did you have as a state representative? 

I represented two tribes as well as the many farmers, ranchers, businessmen, and schools of House District 32. I sat on the Education, State Government, and Local Government committees. Following the session in Helena, I sat on the State Tribal Relations Committee. I was also appointed by the governor to serve on several state committees. Most recently I was asked if I would be interested in serving on the State Probations and Parole Board. I served as the mistress of ceremonies for the State Tribal Relations Committee in 2013 and was the keynote speaker for the State Conference on Violence against Indian Women that same year.  

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

In 1992, an enrolled Gros Ventre tribal member, Loren "Bum" Stiffarm, decided to run in the Democratic primary for representative of Montana’s House District 32. The incumbent was Francis Bardanouve, who by then had been elected to the seat through 15 consecutive campaigns and had served 34 consecutive years. Rep. Bardanouve won the election in 1992 as well, by a large margin, but the outcome was nevertheless fascinating: Mr. Bardanouve garnered 81 percent of the votes off the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Mr. Stiffarm also garnered 81 percent of the votes—on the reservation. Eligible white voters clearly outnumbered eligible Indian voters in the district. Lawsuits were filed to create new boundaries for the legislative districts in Montana that would even out the number of eligible white and Indian voters. This gave Native Americans in Montana an opportunity to engage in the legislative affairs in the state. 

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

I have worked for over 40 years. I have an associate degree in Health Administration and worked for the federal government over nine years. I was also a federal women’s program representative and EEO officer for the Indian Health Service. I was the youngest boss in the Rocky Mountain Region, working as both acting service unit director and administrative officer. I worked for the Fort Belknap Indian Community as the director of vocational education (15 years) and in-kind director for women’s educational equity. During that time I was selected for a Presidential Classroom for Young Americans, an Outstanding Young Women of America, and 1988 Montana Indian Educator of the Year. I also traveled to Norway as a chaperon for the Norwegian Student Exchange Program.

I was originally recruited by Fort Belknap College—now Aaniiih Nakoda College—to get the radio station up and running, including supervising the station's construction. KGVA 88.1 FM went "on air" in October 1996. I worked in Institutional Development writing grants for the college until I was appointed Secretary–Treasurer in November 1997. In November 2000 I was hired as the Dean of Students. In 2012 I ran for House District 32 and was sworn in to the Montana House of Representatives in January 2013. 

I have a bachelor’s degree in Business, with a minor in Native American Studies, and a master’s degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona. I am a rancher and live near the Little Rocky Mountains, close to my children and grandchildren. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

I come from a traditional family, and I would have to say my family. My grandmothers who kept us close to our traditions through oral stories, rituals, such as berry picking, picking roots, and taught us what Aaniiih we know. My grandfather for his leadership and stories. And my parents, who taught me and my brothers and sisters wonderful values and traditions. We continue to participate in our traditions and ceremonies and pass on those stories to our children. 

Are you a descendant of a historical Leader? 

My grandfather, Clarence Brockie, died in 1949. He was the tribal chairman for over 18 years. My father, who will be 87 this year, was on the tribal council for 12 years. 

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

There are 9,338 total constituents of Montana House District 32; 6160 or 66 percent are Native American. 

Rep. Brockie at work
Dean Brockie at work as a member of the Montana House of Representatives.

How have you used your elected position to help Natives and other minorities? 

I sponsored a bill to change the tuition waiver so that it would recognize students from all federally and state-recognized tribes in Montana. Prior to that a student had to be at least one-quarter blood quantum. It is the sovereign right of tribes to determine their enrollment. I didn’t ask that the enrollment be increased or decreased, just that the waiver ought to be available to all students who were federally or state-enrolled. I co-sponsored and carried to passage a Native American language bill that received funding of two million dollars. I co-sponsored a bill that names a portion of Highway 2 after a deputy who was shot in the line of duty and who was also a student at Aaniiih Nakoda College. I tried to testify on all bills that benefited the communities I represented and I testified against those that were detrimental to our communities. I paid for two pages to participate during the legislature. I continue to support voting rights of Native Americans. 

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

I work at a tribal college and am already impressed with the leadership of the young people in community. Two students at Aaniiih Nakoda College took a hiatus to work on a Meth Prevention Project and have attracted the attention of Montana tribal leaders and Senator John Tester. My message to young people would be that they take care of themselves spiritually, physically, and mentally. And I want them to know that there is always someone who will help them along the way. Life presents many opportunities and challenges, but with the right direction they can accomplish a lot. 

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

On the day that Governor Steven Bullock was sworn in, in January 2013 (legislators were sworn in just a few days before), I sat in a special section of seating for tribal leaders at the base of the steps leading to the State Capitol Building. I was with my son Andrew Werk, who was on the Fort Belknap Tribal Council at that time. An honor song was sung by a man from the Salish and Kootenai tribes. You could hear the song's echo sitting in the valley of the mountains. I never felt that I didn’t belong there, and I thought, “Finally we are taking our place in history. How proud our ancestors must be.” 

Thank you.  

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Montana State Legislature, 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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March 04, 2016

Meet Native America: Kevin T. Hart, Manitoba Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations

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 

Kevin Hart
Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin T. Hart, Assembly of First Nations, Canada.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

My name is Kevin T. Hart. I am the Manitoba Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations of Canada. 

What First Nation are you affiliated with? 

The Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Treaty 5. I grew up on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. I presently reside on my wife’s community, the Sagkeeng First Nation, which is a signatory to Treaty 1. 

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

The vision of the elders from the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation to move the community to a higher ground. The elders foresaw that the flood Manitoba Hydro did to the northern region in the 1960s would completely devastate the lands of my people. 

How is your provincial government set up? 

The provincial government is set up like the Iroquois Confederacy. All of the Canadian legislatures and the parliament are built upon the same government system. 

How are ministers chosen? 

Ministers are chosen by their leaders provincially and federally. 

Is there a political party that is more dominant than others in your province? Do legislators vote along party lines?

The NPD (New Democratic Party) is dominant in the province. The Liberal Party is the dominant party federally. Historically, Native people have been loyal to the NDP, but there are other Native candidates running as members of the other political parties. 

Are there other Natives who are elected leaders in your province?

Yes, there are a number of elected leaders in the province: Grand Chief Derek Nepinak for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Terrance Nelson; Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North–WilsonAmanda Lathlin, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for The Pas; Kevin Chief, the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Point Douglas; Brian Bowman, Mayor of Winnipeg; Deputy Premier of Manitoba and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs the Honorable Eric Robison; and Robert Falcon-Ouellette, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre. 

How many bands are in your province? Who are they?

Manitoba has 63 First Nations. Most are signatories to Treaties 1 through 5

Barren Lands First Nation
Berens River First Nation
Birdtail Sioux First Nation
Black River First Nation
Bloodvein First Nation
Brokenhead Ojibway Nation
Buffalo Point First Nation
Bunibonibee
Chemawawin Cree Nation
Cross Lake Band of Indians
Dakota Tipi First Nation
Dauphin River First Nation
Ebb And Flow First Nation
Fisher River Cree Nation
Fox Lake Cree Nation
Gamblers First Nation
Garden Hill First Nation
God's Lake First Nation
Hollow Water First Nation
Keeseekoowenin Ojibway Nation
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation
Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation
Lake Manitoba First Nation
Lake St. Martin First Nation
Little Grand Rapids First Nation
Little Saskatchewan First Nation
Long Plain First Nation
Manto Sipi Cree Nation
Marcel Colomb First Nation
Mathias Colomb First Nation
Misipawistik Cree Nation
Mosakahiken Cree Nation
Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation
Northlands Denesuline First Nation
Norway House Cree Nation
O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation
Okawamithikani First Nation
Opaskwayak Cree Nation
O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation
Pauingassi First Nation
Peguis First Nation
Canupawakpa
Pinaymootang First Nation
Pine Creek Anishinabe Nation
Poplar River First Nation
Red Sucker Lake First Nation
Rolling River Anishinabe Nation
Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation
Sandy Bay First Nation
Sagkeeng First Nation
Sapotaweyak Cree Nation
Sayisi Dene First Nation
Shamattawa First Nation
Skownan First Nation
St. Theresa Point First Nation
Swan Lake First Nation
Tataskweyak Cree Nation
Tootinaowaziibeeng Treaty Reserve
War Lake First Nation
Wasagamack First Nation
Waywayseecappo First Nation
Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation
York Factory Cree Nation 

Do you ever meet with the Native people of your province?

Yes, I meet on a regular basis with the Native people in the province of Manitoba. I make myself accessible for the grassroots people. I believe in the grassroots movement and the grassroots people. I am not a top-down leader, I am a bottom-up leader. 

Kevin Hart 2
Elders Eunice Beardy and Chris Sawatzky offering a blessing for Chief Hart. "This is the time when my people honored me to wear a sacred headdress to represent my chieftainship," Chief Hart explained. "It was done in a ceremony which is truly important to our people. I come from an upbringing of the importance of the ceremonies and protocols of our people. This picture shows the elders praying over me in a good way just after the headdress was placed upon me for the first time."

Do the Native people in Manitoba vote in provincial elections?

Yes and no. Some of the people practice their sovereignty. In the most recent federal election, however, the vote in First Nations northern communities increased by 40 percent from the previous election in 2011. The Rock the Vote movement successfully mobilized First Nations people in northern Manitoba to come out and vote. Through public education, identification seminars, and social media, First Nations came out to vote in record numbers.

How often does your ministry meet?

The Assembly of First Nations executive committee meets quarterly, and its members are in dialogue on a daily basis. There are 634 First Nations communities across Canada that the Assembly of First Nation works with in different regions. The elected leaders of the provincial Assembly of First Nations have responsibility for their regions as well as national responsibility for specific portfolios.

What responsibilities do you have as a provincial minister?

The portfolios that I am responsible for nationally are Water; Infrastructure; Housing; Social, Child, and Family Services; Indian Gaming; Food Security; and Alternative Energy.

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

The year 1990, when the late Manitoba Legislative Assemblyman and Member of Parliament Elijah Harper stopped the Meech Lake Accord. He did this by holding an eagle feather as he stood in the Manitoba legislature and refused to support the accord. He effectively blocked the package of constitutional amendments negotiated, without any participation by the First Nations, to gain Quebec's acceptance of the Constitution Act of 1982. Elijah's stand empowered First Nations people in Manitoba and across Canada.

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

I grew up with humble beginnings—no running water, impoverished—and left home when I was 15 years old. My education and background in Business Administration and Political Science prepared me for the role I am currently entrusted with by Creator to represent and serve my people.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

All our elders—our grandfathers and grandmothers—have inspired me; my parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles; and the many traditional teachers and medicine people. I have had many good mentors politically, as well, such as Hon. Eric Robinson, Hon. Elijah Harper, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.

Are you a descendant of a historical leader?

I am a descendant of Chief Big Bear.

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

The 2011 census of households in Canada shows the total population of Manitoba as being around 1,280,000. Ten percent are First Nations people, and another 6.7 percent are Métis. Manitoba has the highest proportion of Native people of all the provinces. In terms of political representation, there are 57 constituencies, or parliamentary districts, in Manitoba, and three Native MPs: Hon. Eric Robinson for Keewatinook, Hon. Kevin Chief for Point Douglas, and Hon. Amanda Lathlin for The Pas.

How have you used your elected position to help Native and other minorities?

The first goal was to get our people to Rock the Vote, which was a very successful movement that led in October to a new federal government. We are now working with the newly elected Liberal majority on a new nation-to-nation relationship and moving forward. I also have been advocating for various concerns that First Nations people in Manitoba have brought forward.

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

It’s never too late to learn your language and the ceremonies. It’s never too late to learn your identity.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I want to bring attention to the crisis of missing and murdered Native women and girls in Canada. The statistical number from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is 1,200. However, we are aware that there are more than 4,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Over 12,000 children are in care in the Manitoba, and First Nations children account for up to 10,000 of those children in care. We have gained a commitment from the newly elected Liberal government to launch a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women. The new Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in Canada, Hon. Carolyn Bennett, has traveled across Canada to meet with families of missing and murdered women. The Grand Chiefs of Manitoba and I are committed to seeing that the government helps these women and children and their families.

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


Photos courtesy of the Assembly of First Nations, Canada.

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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