I’ve decided I am finally in a position to provide you with some information on my journey through politics. I hope most of you will understand that, in life and work, wanting to do something and actually doing it is a difficult task at best, especially when confronted with issues and problems coming at you from all angles. Before I begin, I’d like to go on record as saying that it has been a very rewarding and encouraging experience to be working with our chief and this group of councilors. I think we have a good mix of experience and enthusiasm.
The first part of this journey was orientation, then a whirlwind introduction to all manners of pressing situations, all the while learning to work with colleagues and staff –the rules of engagement, so to speak.
Part of the learning has been to find out how things are done in all areas of government, both Provincial and Federal and by other tribes and nations — to look at the existing system; to find out what works and what doesn’t. There is a lot to learn. In order to come to decisions considered important, all pertinent areas and information have to be explored. In discussions with my colleagues and those affected by our decisions, our efforts to make the lives of our people, both on-and-off the reserve, better for all of us is number one. I have learned firsthand the importance of understanding all sides of an issue. The difficulty of everything we are faced with in our day-to-day lives is made more complex by the system we have to work with on a daily basis. This has brought me to some observations and potential areas to improve our lives both on-and-off the reserve.
I will use my recent visit to the University of Northern Arizona on July 23 through July 25, 2018 as a starting point to my discussion, because what I learned there is a good example and is very relevant in all I have experienced and considered to this point.
The session I attended was organized and presented by the Office of Native American Initiatives at Northern Arizona University, in Arizona. The title of the session was Tribal Leadership Initiative – Tribal Leadership Essentials: Leadership, Management, Governance and Strategy. This session ran for 2 ½ days and presented very useful information in key areas leaders are well advised to learn more about. I’d like to thank Chad Hamill, PhD., for organizing the session and Dr. Manley Begay for walking us through the experience.
I will talk about some of the things that stood out for me that we could potentially consider here at home in working toward improving our nation.
The very first thing mentioned was that across Indian country, the nations who are finding success in moving their nation forward have found a way to combine a traditional way of governing themselves with a system that acknowledges the realities of the times we live in today. The American Indian and the Canadian First Nation experiences have more similarities than differences. All first nations people used different systems that worked for them for thousands of years until the immigrants began to impose their system of governing upon us.
If I understood Dr. Begay right, it is important to understand that in order to be a sovereign people, we must have a system in place that operates in a sovereign way. If we can work towards a goal of improving our way of doing things, by using what we already know that works for us, and what we need to use from the prevailing society, then we will be headed in the right direction.
Institutional development is a term I heard from a fellow in Manitoba, where I attended a session put on by Cando, that talked about the importance of partnerships between first nations and their surrounding neighbors. In order to consider any type of meaningful relationship with our neighbors, we have to be on solid ground. We can achieve this by making our own institutions on the reserve ours. We control our education and health, but only administratively. It’s in our best interest to control the direction we are headed based on our needs and not the federal or provincial government’s idea of what we should be doing in these areas. These are only a couple of examples where we’ve made some in-roads, but we could also include policing, lands, child welfare and housing as important areas as well. Most other aspects of life on the reserve would also benefit from a serious reflection on how we are doing things based on what we need.
Another important concept I learned from those of you I have talked with, and the examples put forth at the leadership session in Arizona, is the need to separate politics from both business operations and laws that help us to get along with each other while making our leadership accountable to our people. Traditional ways, like peacekeeping, need to be strengthened and by-laws that work for everyday matters need to be enforceable. Dispute resolution needs to be strengthened as well.
Business is best left in the hands of business people and not politicians. I believe this to be an important way to ensure the sustainability of the tribes’ business ventures.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope I can continue to provide you with information along with my thoughts and I am available to meet with the public as time permits.
Councilor Tim Tailfeathers is a member on these committees:
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, LANDS MANAGEMENT, KAINAIWA RESOURCES INC., HOUSING.
Email: [email protected]