Meet Native America: Interviews with Indigenous Leaders

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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July 08, 2016

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

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

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

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

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

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

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

Where is your tribal community located?

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

Where is your tribe originally from?

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

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

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

How is your tribal government set up?

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

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

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

How often are elected leaders chosen?

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

How often does your council meet?

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

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

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

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

What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?

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

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

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

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

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


Who inspired you as a mentor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you a descendant of a historical leader?

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

Approximately how many members are in your tribe?

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

What are the criteria to become a member?

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

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

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

What economic enterprises does your tribe own?

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

What annual events does your tribe sponsor?

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

What attractions are available for visitors on your land?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is there anything else you would like to add?

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

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

So:ti:c?a. [Thank you.]

Thank you.


Photos courtesy of President Terri Parton; used with permission.

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

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