Meet Native America: Interviews with Indigenous Leaders

November 01, 2016

Meet Native America: Vinton Hawley, Chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, President of the Executive Board of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, and Vice-Chairman of the National Indian Health Board

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

Chmn Hawley US Capitol
Vinton Hawley, chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, president of the Executive Board of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, and vice chairman of the National Indian Health Board (NIHB). NIHB Board of Directors meeting, January 2016, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Chairman Hawley.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

My name is Vinton Hawley. I'm chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, or Kooyooe Tukaddu (Kooyooe Eaters); president of the Executive Board of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada; and vice-chairman of the National Indian Health Board (NIHB). I am an enrolled member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and also Hopi–Tewa (Tobacco Clan). 

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

Two Native names I've been given are Sahkoo Penge (Black Pipe) and Saah Ehnoo (Tobacco Boy). There are many other names that were given, as well. 

Where is your tribal community located? 

Pyramid Lake is located 27 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada. We have three towns that comprise our reservation—Wadsworth, Nixon, and Sutcliffe—and a huge water base in rural Nevada. On the Hopi–Tewa side of my family, I come from the Tewa Village First Mesa, Polacca, Arizona. 

Where is your tribe originally from? 

Pyramid Lake is the traditional homeland of the Kooyooe Tukaddu (Kooyooe Eaters). The arid desert and mesas in Arizona are the traditional homeland for the Hopi–Tewa people. 

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

Pyramid Lake has been at the forefront with water rights. The tribe recently finalized the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA), a 20-plus-year water negotiation between the tribe, local governments, the City of Reno, and the City of Sparks that will provide economic development opportunities and funding to the tribe. We are working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Department of the Interior Office of the Special Trustee to gain access to the economic development funds that are attached to the finalization and implementation of TROA. 

The tribe’s Section 17 Corporate Charter was also recently approved by the BIA. 

In somewhat older history, the tribe recognizes battles that took place on the reservation against settlers and the U.S. Army. 

O'Sullivan, 1867, Pyramid LakeThe Pyramid and Domes, 1867. Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Photo by Timothy O'Sullivan. Collections of the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/98503891/.


How is your tribal government set up? 

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe is governed by ten Tribal Council members who are elected biannually in December to staggered two-year terms. The officers, including the chairman and vice-chairman, are part of the ten-member council. The tribe operates under the Indian Reorganization Act Constitution and By-Laws approved in January 1936 by the Department of Interior. 

How often does your Tribal Council meet? 

The Pyramid Lake Tribal Council meets three times a month. Council meetings are held every first and third Friday of every month, and we have a Water Team meeting on the third Wednesday of every month. The Water Team meeting is held with the tribe’s water attorney and addresses only water issues. 

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

Unfortunately, we have lost a large portion of our people who have this kind of traditional knowledge. The majority of our members are now involved in Native religions outside of our own Paiute culture. They are mostly involved in the Native American Church and Sundance religions. There are a few families who continue to practice our old way, but Paiute life is simple and I think that is why it can’t compete with the more popular and glamorous Native cultures. 

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

I was raised in most part by my great-grandmother Gussie Dunn Williams, who lived the old ways. We would get up in the morning and eat breakfast and then go visiting our relatives on our reservation. We didn’t own a car and we walked all over. Each visit involved conversations in Paiute about everyday happenings, dropping off food for those who needed help, checking on others who might not be able to leave their homes, and just plain old visiting. 

I learned traditional activities such as weaving, gathering, doctoring, etc. It wasn’t the show that it seems to have become today; it was just day-to-day living. I learned the priorities of our old people and I was taught what is really important to our tribe to ensure our survival. My life was simple, and our life is simple, but what is most important is that our people survive, that our environment is protected, and that water is life. I learned to understand the language at an early age and began speaking. I learned the survival arts of the Pyramid Lake Paiutes. I also learned a lot from my Hopi–Tewa grandparents, who were very hard workers and have instilled in me what exactly a simple life is. 

Lower Truckee River at Nixon—Paiute ReservationThe Truckee River shortly before it drains into Pyramid Lake. Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation near Nixon, Nevada. Photo courtesy of truckeeriver.org. 


What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman? 

It is my responsibility to make decisions that ensure our way of life continues. So many people associate money with success, but that isn’t our way. The level of our lake is our success. To ensure that our tribal language and traditions are sustained is my priority. My people are my responsibility. It is my commitment to this that I carry each day. 

Decisions made must ensure that the future membership is cared for and protected, our lake is sustained, and our land and its boundaries remain as close to their original state as possible. 

I continue to advocate for the sustainability of the Paiute culture. However, despite my position, culture is not funded by the tribe, nor do we have a grant to assist cultural sustainability. Tribal members in our community volunteer to maintain the culture and have classes on a weekly basis. I have to give high praise to those individuals who are as passionate about cultural preservation as I am. 

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

I am inspired by my elders, by our old people who have lived a simple life filled with our beautiful language and traditions. 

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

All Natives are historical leaders. Without their leadership and courage, none of us would be where we are today as Native peoples. We are still here! 

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

Currently our tribe has increased to 2,803 enrolled members. 

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

All persons of Indian blood whose names appear on the official, certified Constructed Base Roll of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation as of January 1, 1935; or all children born to any enrolled regular member of the tribe who is a resident of the reservation at the time of the birth of said children, provided it is proven that said children are direct lineal descendants of a Base Enrollee as identified above.

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

A handful of tribal members still speak Paiute. The number of tribal members who understand Paiute is a lot higher, but they do not speak. Our language is going to become extinct if we do not take measures to sustain and teach our people! 

What economic enterprises does your tribe own? 

Currently our Tribal Enterprises comprise three stores on our reservation. We are in the process of increasing our economic development and are looking at a multitude of business opportunities that will generate revenue for the tribe. 

What annual events does your tribe sponsor? 

We have an annual powwow and handgame tournament in the summer and a rodeo in the fall. 

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land? 

Pyramid Lake is widely acclaimed as North America’s most beautiful desert lake, but it’s actually the world-class fishery that has brought Pyramid Lake worldwide fame. Pyramid Lake is the only habitat in the world for the kooyooe (cui-ui) fish that has been around for over two million years. 

The Pyramid Lake fishery also includes the famous Lahontan cutthroat trout that have grown to record sizes and have lured fishermen from all over the world for several decades. Celebrities, foreign royalty, and even a U.S. president have come here in hopes of catching trophy fish at Pyramid Lake. 

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

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has a government-to-government relationship with the federal government. The tribe contracts with or receives grants directly from federal agencies or the State of Nevada, to provide services to tribal members and residents of the reservation addressing issues that will impact the tribe. 

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

To learn your language and your traditions; to commit yourself to higher education and to bringing back your knowledge to sustain our tribe; and to see what you have been blessed with, which is to be Numu, and to always be proud of who you are and where you come from! 

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


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

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September 06, 2016

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

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

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title. 

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

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

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

Where is your tribal community located? 

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

Where is your tribe originally from? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chief Gould



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

How is your tribal government set up? 

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

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

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

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

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman? 

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

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

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

Who inspired you as a mentor? 

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

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

Approximately how many members are in your tribe? 

There are about 3,800 tribal citizens. 

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

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

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

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

What annual events does your tribe sponsor? 

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

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

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

Thank you. 

Thank you. 

 
Photos courtesy of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation; used with permission.

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

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August 26, 2016

Meet Native America: Dr. Michael E. Marchand, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

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

Chairman Michael E. Marchand
Chairman Michael E. Marchand, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Photo courtesy of the Colville Tribes.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

I'm Dr. Michael E. Marchand, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

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

It's Qualth-a-meen. It means Wolverine.

Where is your tribal community located?

The Colville Indian Reservation covers 1.4 million acres in north central Washington.

Where is your tribe originally from?

The 12 tribes that make up the confederation—their English and French names are the Colville, Nespelem, San Poil, Lake, Palus, Wenatchi (Wenatchee), Chelan, Entiat, Methow, southern Okanogan, Moses Columbia, and Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce—were from a large area, including parts of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. They hunted buffalo over an even larger area of the Great Plains in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Alberta. 

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

I would choose the time in the 1970s when termination was stopped. The Klamath Tribe had just been terminated, and we were next in line. A determined effort by us and tribes across the nation stopped this policy, and we were saved.

How is your tribal government set up?

The Colville Tribes adopted a constitution in 1938. It replaced 12 traditional chiefs with a 14-person elected Council. The Council has full powers to manage the tribe's lands and assets, and all activities on the reservation.

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

Yes, but it varies amongst the 12 tribes.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Terms are two years long. Seven seats are up for election each year.

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?

My goals are to protect and manage our lands, protect and enhance our culture and traditions, and protect our sovereignty. Also to help our members achieve their own potentials.

 


Fisheries signingDuring an earlier term as chairman, Dr. Marchand signed the Columbia River Basin Fish Accords on behalf of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. From left to right: Col. Steven Miles, Northwestern Division commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Dr. Marchand; and Ralph Sampson, at that time chairman of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council. Columbia Hills State Park, Washington; May 8, 2008. Photo courtesy of the Columbia River Basin Federal Caucus.

 

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

I worked my way up through the tribe's organization from bottom to top. Went to college. Lived on the reservation, hunting and fishing, participating in community events and traditions, and was lucky to have role models including grandparents and uncles and cousins who helped raise me.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

My grandfather was a chairman, too, and he spent time with me. Dennis Banks was important too—I met him when I was a teen.

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

My grandfather John Cleveland, the grandfather who was one of our chairmen. My family also descended from many of our chiefs, including Chief Silcosasket of the Entiat Tribe and Chief Aurapahkin of the Arrow Lakes Tribe. Both chiefs were important to our people in their day.

Approximately how many members are in the Colville Tribes?

We have about 9,400 members.

What are the criteria to become a member?

To be a member, a person must either be one-quarter Colville blood from the official 1938 rolls or else be a member of the Okanagan or Arrow Lakes tribes from Canada. Some of our people were cut off by the U.S.–Canadian border.

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

Our languages are in danger of being lost. Probably fewer than five percent of the people still speak them. But we are taking steps to save them and to teach the next generation.

What economic enterprises do the tribes own?

Through the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation we own sawmills, casinos, convenience stores, grocery stores, and a security guard company.

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

Many, but a couple important ones are the Nespelem 4th of July Celebration and the Omak Stampede and Suicide Race, held the second weekend of August.

What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

The most prominent attractions are Grand Coulee Damour tribal museumLake Chelan and many other lakes, and our three casinos.

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

Currently we have a lawsuit pending against Canada for lands confiscated from our people. We are very active in U.S. relations.

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

Serve Mother Earth and your people as best you can and get yourself educated.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Tribal people need to step up and save the planet. A lot of effort was spent to destroy us, but we are still here. We need to take advantage of our life now.

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


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

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August 19, 2016

Meet Native America: Theodore Hernandez, Chairman of the Wiyot Tribe

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

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

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

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

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

Where is your reservation located?

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

Where is your tribe originally from?

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

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

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

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

How is your tribal community government set up?

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

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

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

How often are elected leaders chosen?

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

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

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

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

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

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

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

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


Who inspired you as a mentor?

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

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

There are approximately 640 enrolled members in the Wiyot Tribe.

What are the criteria to become a Wiyot tribal member?

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

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

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

What annual events does your tribal community sponsor?

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

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

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

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

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

Thank you.

Thank you.


Photos courtesy of the Wiyot Tribe; used with permission.

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

 

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July 28, 2016

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

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

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

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

Can you share your Native name and its English translation? 

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

Where is your tribal community located?

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

Where is your tribe originally from?

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

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

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

How is your tribal government set up?

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

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

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

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

No.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

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

How often does your tribal council meet?

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

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

What responsibilities do you have as tribal chairman?

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

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


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

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

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

Who inspired you as a mentor?

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

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

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

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

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

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

We have 730 members.

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

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

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

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

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

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

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

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

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


What other attractions are available for visitors on your land?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you would like to add?

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

Thank you. 

Thank you. 


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

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

 

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