Yellow Bird: Re-examining tribal governments

"Hardly a month goes by without some kind of indictment, ousting or indication of wrongdoing by some tribal council. The introduction of casino monies in and on reservations seems to have only added to the stories about corruption.

This is not to say that all tribal officials are corrupt, nor is it to say that the tribes have a monopoly on corruption. Certainly, we know that some federal and state government officials have dipped into that vat, too; and when you compare tribal governments to state and federal governments, you see some of the same kind of shenanigans going on in state offices and on the Hill in Washington.

But just because there is corruption in other governments doesn't mean we can condone poor leadership in our tribal governments.In our discussions about tribal governments Thursday, the Montana representative noted that tribal governments actually are “political” governments. In other words, they are not like the governments that tribes once had before the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

At that time in history, most tribal governments were formed and patterned after the federal government. On the Great Plains and High Plains of Montana, most traditional Indian governments before the Indian Reorganization Act governed communities not unlike towns or cities we are familiar with, yet they had more responsibilities and governed with more authority.

Back then, the leaders of most of these governments were chosen by consensus. They weren't elected; instead, they were chosen from people whom the community thought were good leaders, usually by elder groups or leaders of the tribe.

Decisions were made by these governments after long discussions and oration."

Get the Story:
Dorreen Yellow Bird: Tribal governments inspire sadness, hope (The Grand Forks Herald 7/21)

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