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American Indian Community Data Profile, 2002

Namadji Youth and Elders Project Report, 2001

Forum Reports
1997 Fall: Tribal Sovereignty and American Indian Leadership

1996 Fall: Tribal Governments: What will they look like in the year 2010?

1996 Spring: The Threatened State of Tribal Sovereignty

1995 Fall: American Indian Elders

1995 Spring: Tribal Sovereignty

Tribal Governments in 2010 - Executive Summary

by John Poupart

The following report reflects a discussion focusing on the future of tribal governments held November 1996, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The need for this discussion was driven by recent events involving tribal elections, tribal enrollment, trust land controversies and Indian gaming. Because of its detachment from tribal governments and its non-involvement in these issues, the Institute was in an excellent position to sponsor these discussions. It was anticipated that the manner in which the forum was framed would promote a futuristic tempo for the resulting conversations. That participants, by imagining what tribal structures and functions would be link in the year 2010, would enter an honest and introspective discussion about current tribal governments.

Tribal government functions of many American Indian Nations were prescribed by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. These governments are characterized by a parliamentary style of decision-making heavily influenced by Western ideas dissimilar to traditional leadership styles of American Indians. For more than 60 years, Indian tribes have been trying to adjust to this relatively new form of government. For most of those years, there was very little for tribal governments to govern, therefore governmental reform has received little attention from either within the Indian community or from the outside. While American government systems have changed dramatically over the last century, it is only in recent decades that tribal governments have become prominent enough to warrant consideration.

The forum, by suggesting that we look into the future of tribal governments, caused many to examine what they knew about the present status of tribal government. It might have even caused some of us to realize that we need to be more knowledgeable about the past. Indeed, many say that reform is necessary. But as the forum suggest, if tribal government is to be reformed, both those people for whom the reform is done and those implementing reform must possess knowledge about the history of tribal government as well as the issues facing contemporary tribal governments.

Several comments were made within the forum breakout sessions that are worth noting. For example, it was repeated that:

  • tribal leaders are becoming more astute and seem more accountable to their constituents.
  • the political process seems more real with direct application to members of a tribe.
  • tribal governments need to develop better information systems.
  • there is room for more widespread education about tribal government systems.

The fall forum and its discussions seemed to show that individuals are genuinely interested in learning more about tribal governments. It was an opportunity for people to gather in a non-crisis environment and explore issues that are often discussed mainly through the colored lens of the mass media. Based on the dialogue of the forum, the Institute summarizes recommendations on the topics discussed. In sponsoring the event, the Institute hoped to promote Indian understanding and awareness about tribal governments -- to examine where they have been, where they are and where they might go.

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