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American Indian Constitutional Reform and the Rebuilding of Native Nations

Edited by Eric D. Lemont
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  • Book Info
    American Indian Constitutional Reform and the Rebuilding of Native Nations
    Book Description:

    Since 1975, when the U.S. government adopted a policy of self-determination for American Indian nations, a large number of the 562 federally recognized nations have seized the opportunity to govern themselves and determine their own economic, political, and cultural futures. As a first and crucial step in this process, many nations are revising constitutions originally developed by the U.S. government to create governmental structures more attuned to native people's unique cultural and political values. These new constitutions and the governing institutions they create are fostering greater governmental stability and accountability, increasing citizen support of government, and providing a firmer foundation for economic and political development.

    This book brings together for the first time the writings of tribal reform leaders, academics, and legal practitioners to offer a comprehensive overview of American Indian nations' constitutional reform processes and the rebuilding of native nations. The book is organized in three sections. The first part investigates the historical, cultural, economic, and political motivations behind American Indian nations' recent reform efforts. The second part examines the most significant areas of reform, including criteria for tribal membership/citizenship and the reform of governmental institutions. The book concludes with a discussion of how American Indian nations are navigating the process of reform, including overcoming the politics of reform, maximizing citizen participation, and developing short-term and long-term programs of civic education.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79584-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-8)

    Hassen Ebrahim, the former Executive Director of South Africa’s Constitutional Assembly, writes that a constitution “must be a reflection of a people’s history, fears, concerns, aspirations, vision, and indeed, the soul of that nation.”¹ In many ways, this book is about the soul of American Indian nations.

    Tremendously important and exciting changes are taking place within the 562 federally recognized American Indian nations and Alaska Native villages in the United States. On the one hand, centuries of land seizures, physical relocations, chronic disease, and federal policies of assimilation (and even termination) have taken their toll. The 2.4 million American Indians...

  5. Part One

    • One REMAKING TRIBAL CONSTITUTIONS: Meeting the Challenges of Tradition, Colonialism, and Globalization
      (pp. 11-34)
      Duane Champagne

      Native communities in the United States, like all contemporary governments, are confronted with globalized markets, politics, and culture. Globalization is multidimensional and is more than the expansion of global markets, but also includes intensified exchanges of culture, information, international law, and human rights.¹ If Native peoples are going to assert their nationalities and maintain their cultures they will need to have strong leadership and government organization capable of representing and defending their interests at local, state, and national government levels. Furthermore, Native peoples will need to develop a degree of economic development capable of supporting their assertions of sovereignty and...

    • Two SEASONS OF CHANGE: Of Reforms, Melees, and Revolutions in Indian Country
      (pp. 35-48)
      David Wilkins

      Indigenous nations, like all human collectivities, are fluid and dynamic polities in a perpetual, if futile, quest for long-term stability and security. Human nature—rational or irrational, noble or ignoble, innately conservative or essentially progressive—limited and finite natural resources, and changing demographics are three of the major factors that historically have served as effective deterrents of long-term stasis and continuity in the community life of Homo sapiens. There are simply too many unknown dimensions and unknowable factors that mitigate against indigenous or nonindigenous communities’ locating that perfect place of balance and harmony in their ever-changing interpersonal, interracial, and interspecies...

      (pp. 49-82)
      Elmer Rusco

      There is a widespread view in Indian Country that the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 set back self-government for Native people in the United States. According to one aspect of this conception, the IRA, seen in overall terms, was another national statute pushing in the direction of forced assimilation. In other words, its intent was to require Native Americans to abandon their own governing institutions and cultural distinctiveness and “assimilate” to the general culture of the United States.¹

      A particular aspect of this negative view of the IRA deals with its impact on the right of Native Americans to govern...

      (pp. 83-104)

      [Navajo introduction] I’m a member of the Salt Clan.

      For those of you who love to eat with salt, I’m your man. I’m also born for Bitter Water. My fathers are of the Bitter Water Clan. My paternal grandparents are of the Tall House people, and my maternal grandparents are of the Walkabout Clan. So that’s who I am.

      I’m reminded of a story, and I’ve told this story before because it really points out to me the problem that we have in terms of looking at the same thing and having different interpretations. We think we’re talking about the...

  6. Part Two

    • Four MEMBERS ONLY: Designing Citizenship Requirements for Indian Nations
      (pp. 107-143)
      Carole Goldberg

      Indian nations’ constitutional reform efforts encounter some of their most paralyzing conflicts over criteria for membership.¹ Three years ago, I initiated the Tribal Legal Development Clinic at UCLA, whose purpose has been to assist Indian nations in building their legal infrastructures. This Clinic has provided free consulting and drafting services to Indian nations seeking to establish or modify tribal constitutions, codes, or justice systems.² As the Clinic embarked on several constitution drafting and revision projects, controversies over membership—or citizenship, as we preferred to call it—readily and regularly escalated from negotiable differences among tribal participants to heated stalemates or...

      (pp. 144-165)
      Joseph Thomas Flies-Away

      My grandma, Lois MarieWildavs¹ Irwin,² was a “full-blooded” Hualapai.³ She was an enrolled member⁴ of the Hualapai Tribe, although—other than attending the Valentine Indian School—she never resided on what is now the Hualapai Indian Reservation.⁵ Her people, her father’s and mother’s relatives, lived near what is now the Town of King-man and the Walapai Mountain area of Arizona. Her people, the Hualapai, descend from the thirteen Pai Bands who once occupied what is now northwest Arizona, the ancestral homeland of the Hualapai. Today, almost everyone of Hualapai blood is “related” somehow, and every tribal member can link...

    • Firsthand Accounts: MEMBERSHIP AND CITIZENSHIP
      (pp. 166-183)

      My name is Jaime Barrientoz. I’m the vice chairman for the Grand Traverse Band. I’ve been involved with constitutional reform since I came into the tribe as a council member in 1997. I’ve been working through this process ever since then as the chairman of the Constitutional Reform Committee. It seems like a long time, but yet it’s gone by fast. We’ve made some great improvements to some of the things that we’ve wanted to see in the constitution that reflects the people’s wishes and the people’s will.

      I came into office in 1997 and prior to that time there...

    • Six Constitutional Rule and the Effective Governance of Native Nations
      (pp. 184-219)
      Joseph Kalt

      Native America is at a critical juncture in its drive for self-determination and political sovereignty. With their de jure sovereignty under persistent attack,² it has become critical for tribes to demonstrate their capacity for effective self-governance. Without this capacity, Indian nations are sitting ducks for those who would wish to limit tribal sovereignty by pointing to examples of political disarray, unenforced law, and irrationally enforced law. At the same time, the evidence is overwhelming that political self-rule is the only policy that has enabled at least some tribes to break out of a twentieth-century history of federal government–dominated decision-making...

      (pp. 220-234)

      I’ve represented the Northern Cheyenne for a long time. I’ve just finished my twenty-eighth year, and it’s the first tribe that I ever did work for. I didn’t know anything about Indians or Indian law when I began. I’ve done work for the Cheyenne continuously since then and for a number of other tribes. But I have to confess that there’s nothing like the Cheyenne. It’s a great Indian tribe, tremendous history, brilliant people, very poor, very, very principled.

      The Northern Cheyenne reservation is very much intact and has grown over the years. It began with something less than 300,000...

  7. Part Three

      (pp. 237-251)
      Eric Lemont

      Practically speaking, how can American Indian nations realize the goals discussed throughout this book? Who within tribal nations will be charged with balancing traditional methods of political decision-making with the demands of globalization? Or wrestling with often competing cultural, legal, and economic pressures over membership criteria? Or determining how political power can be separated among branches of government?

      For many Indian nations, resolving these deeply ambitious and politicized challenges requires citizen input and approval. Yet the seemingly simple notion of citizen participation is a real concern for constitutional reformers as well as tribal citizens. Within Indian Country, constitutional reformers are...

      (pp. 252-271)
      Steven Haberfeld

      These are exciting times. American Indian nations across the country are taking steps to revise their constitutions and reform their governments. They are “reinventing” their political systems to better fit their own cultures, traditions, and relationships, and to better cope with changing political and economic realities. The significance of these current reform efforts cannot be overestimated. To the extent there is widespread involvement by the community in this “reformation” process, American Indians will have a greater sense of ownership of their political institutions and a greater willingness to view such institutions as legitimate—something that has been seriously lacking under...

      (pp. 272-286)

      My name is Beverly Wright and I’m chairperson of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, Aquinnah. We are the people of the first light. We are the tribe that met the Pilgrims. So, if it weren’t for us, all of you non-Natives wouldn’t have been here. I always start off by telling a little joke. When I first became chair, which was ten years ago, I was in an elevator and a woman got on the elevator who saw my nametag. And she couldn’t pronounce Wampanoag. She’s squinting and she’s looking at it, so I said to her, “It’s Wampanoag...

    • Nine OVERCOMING THE POLITICS OF REFORM: The Story of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Constitution Convention
      (pp. 287-322)
      Eric Lemont

      On a cold night in February 1999, seventy-nine citizens of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (hereinafter the Nation) gathered in the auditorium of a local university for the first day of the Nation’s constitution convention. The gathering was historic not only because it was the Nation’s third constitution convention and first since 1839. More important, it was taking place during the tail end of a constitutional crisis that had ripped the Nation in two. For two years, the Nation had suffered through a series of events leading to the existence of dual governments, complete with two courts and two police...

      (pp. 323-332)

      Let me begin by saying some of the things I am going to say would be fighting words back in Cherokee Nation. So I want to make it very clear that these are my opinions, they’re not that of the entire delegation. These are my words and mine alone.

      My name is Martha Berry. I was raised in Northeastern Oklahoma, in Tulsa. Since moving with my family to South Texas in 1977 at the age of twenty-nine, I have never lived closer to Tahlequah than three hundred miles. I am a Cherokee tribal citizen, a homemaker, and an artist. I...

    (pp. 333-340)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 341-344)