In class this week, we walked through a few of the main arguments that set the theoretical framework for building effective tribal governments (See Rebuilding Native Nations).
According to the authors’, one of the key elements for building effective tribal governments is for tribal leaders to engage in strategic decision making. The whole section reminded me a bit of the biblical adjuration, Where there is no vision, the people perish. I think that passage is actually talking about prophetic visions, but divorcing a quote from context has never stopped me before.
Regardless, the point is the same. In order to run an effective government, organization, institute, non-profit, etc., there has to be some vision toward which the entity aspires. For tribes, some of the questions include, What kind of society do we want to create? What’s our primary objective? What values guide our decision making? Where do we want to be in ten years? How do we get there from here? How do our values inform our policies? And, fundamentally, What do we want?
While the text applies these considerations, quite correctly, to tribes, the potential applications ofsuch analyses are actually much broader. In fact, they even lie at the heart of the U.S. Presidential Election:
- What kind of country do we want?
- Would we shut the borders of the United States to Muslims seeking entry?
- Would we seriously consider deporting 11+ million illegal immigrants?
- Why are we afraid to categorize people who are here illegally as illegals?
- But, is deportation the best use of our rather finite National resources?
- Are we content with a criminal justice systems that disproportionately affects blacks?
- Are we content with a nation where top officials can flaunt their violation of our strictest national security laws?
- What kind of person would we like to see on the Supreme Court?
- How can we provide health care in such a way that we maximize the Liberty interests of citizens, while delivering the best possible service?? etc…
The point is simply that the questions besetting tribes are no different than the kinds of questions that we face as a Nation. The only difference is that tribes must ask such questions not as free peoples exercising their right to self-government, but as wards under the guardianship of an external government that has assumed the authority to nullify their decisions with the stroke of a pen (See Congressional Plenary Power).
And so the question remains for tribal governments, When will the moment in time be right to challenge the legal presumption that Congress has absolute authority over American Indian tribal nations?
Granted, the time isn’t now. But when the time comes, what is the strategy for throwing off the yoke of Washington in order to truly allow tribes to engage in their own exeperiment in government by the consent of the governed? And make no mistake, consent is key here. Any exercise of tribal self-determination must begin with the will and consent of Indian peoples.
Even so, what’s the plan? What would that form of sovereignty look like?
Lots of questions to explore and it’s only week one. Onward…