Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised



Sovereignty is one of those concepts

that seems to allude some of us. It’s this lofty goal and

expectation for our tribes, yet it impacts us individually,

communally and socially. My immediate impression is when we rely on

the government to provide financial resources to sustain our own

tribal government then how are truly sovereign are we? How can we

achieve sovereignty and be economically sustainable?

Economic development is essential to

making a sovereign government. Yet rural tribal communities have been

unable to establish a tax base and resources to sustain itself. The

money that is allocated to tribal governments is not enough to cover

the basic needs of its tribal citizens.

Poverty is difficult. Being poor is a

luxury that none of us can afford. Many reservations continue to have

80 percent unemployed, with the largest employer usually being the

tribe or a church organization. Essentially, we are reliant on hand

outs from the government and ‘good’ church going people to

sustain ourselves. This is ludicrous.

Self-governance is an ideal. We elect

our government leaders every four years and it changes. There is no

investment in the long-term vision of the tribe. Newly elected

officials take a few years to understand the inner workings of

government then begin to make change. Suddenly, they have to figure

out how to get re-elected to fully realize their promises and

campaigning begins again. No matter how many free turkeys, gifts for

kids or money for propane that is given there is a time in those

leaders lifespan that they must demonstrate true leadership.

Freedom is a state of mind. When some

of our own people are trapped in their own trauma and sedating

themselves with alcohol or drugs, then how are we free? When

generations of our children witness this type of behavior, they

become who they are surrounded by. A generational pattern is

inherited and given without any forethought.

We are trapped by our own limited

thinking. If we do not see our place amongst the nation then how can

we truly be sovereign? What economic force are we to reckon with?

What do we offer the country we reside within? How does our way of

life contribute to nation-to-nation alliance? When are we needed or necessary? Why are we needed?

Traditionalist vs. non-traditional is

an argument that tears our community apart. Traditionalist continue to believe in the old way of life.

There is a nostalgia of holding onto those traditions and an attempt

to bring them forward into our

contemporary lives. Traditionalist are oftentimes the gatekeepers of culture, a culture that defines us as a

people. They are the keepers of the language, of our stories, of our

rituals and of our traditions. If they are unwilling to establish

themselves as contemporary people living in a fast paced world and

not allowing culture to adapt to its contemporary life then I’m

afraid it will not survive. What is kept in the dark will eventually


I’d like to propose a radical idea. I

look to our indigenous cousins, the Hawaiians, who have utilized

their culture as a source of strength and a source of economic

development. There are organizations that people will pay to go to a

‘real’ Indian reservation. It is here that reservations can begin

to establish an economic base: placate to tourists, identify cultural

teachings that are able to be shared, demonstrate a teaching or two

to tourists, share our food and share a moment of our way of life.

But, create an opportunity to educate them about the contemporary

realities of Native America.

We are a people at a cross roads. We

have been building up to this for a few generations. Our children are contemporary American children

yearning for an identity. They will seek out the identity that they see in mainstream media. If we do not

provide them with a foundation of who they are then they will disappear into the ether. They will

leave our sovereign nations searching for their place in the world.

Nation building is difficult. Nation

rebuilding is equally as hard. We must come together to create a common vision for our sovereign

nations. We must agree on the manner in which we build it. We must

agree in the long-range vision and not get caught up in the fighting

amongst each other. We must elect acculturated leadership who can

help us move our tribal communities into the contemporary world that

we exist in and we must develop our own economic base to operate


We are a proud people. We continue to

be proud. It is my hope that our pride will not get in the way to building a sovereign nation. A nation

that is self-sustaining, a nation that is recognized for the cultural

force that it was destined to be. I know all of this is possible. It

has been foreseen in many of our visions: a time when our people

would inhabit the land again, when we wouldn’t know hunger and when

our children would be proud. Our Seventh generation of children are

here, let’s give them the tools they need to bring us home.