Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

December 30, 2000 - Issue 26


A New Institute at Portland State University Will Train Tribal Leaders

by Courtenay Thompson of The Oregonian staff

 The program, which starts in February, covers Indian law, federal lawmaking and tribal governance.

When Elizabeth Furse was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, she attended a weeklong training course for Congressional freshman at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, learning the ins and outs of Washington, D.C.

Now Furse, who retired from Congress two years ago, hopes to provide the same kind of crash-course in governance to newly elected tribal leaders.

Furse has launched the new Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University's Hatfield School of Government, which will provide specialized training on federal Indian law, federal lawmaking and the basics of tribal governance to tribes across the country.

Last week, the institute secured its first major financing -- $1.275 million tucked into the Congress' final budget.

Furse said the institute will start in February with its first three-day course for the Grand Ronde tribe, but said she's already had inquiries from the Navajo Nation and from the Alaska Federation of Natives. She said the institute is guided by an advisory board of tribal leaders and representatives of national Native American organizations. It will bring to Portland national experts as needed to help teach courses tailored to individual tribes, on everything from gaming law to Indian child welfare.

She said the institute is unique in the country.

"It's totally focused on tribal governments, capacity building for tribal government," she said. "We believe the same issues are very, very important across Indian Country."

Program meets need

John Echohawk, executive director of the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo., and an advisory board member, said the board talked with other major Indian law and governance programs across the country to make sure the institute would not duplicate efforts elsewhere.

"It's in response to a need that's been felt by Indian Country for a long time, for some kind of formal orientation program for new tribal leaders," he said. "We were real pleased to see Sen. Mark Hatfield, Portland State University and Elizabeth Furse to pick up on that need."

Kathryn Harrison, chairwoman of the advisory committee and the Grand Ronde tribe's top elected leader, said training for new leaders is especially crucial as issues facing tribes become increasingly complex, from running large-scale casinos to establishing health centers or running salmon recovery programs.

"Tribes are getting so much better educated, better prepared," Harrison said.

She said she's particularly excited about plans at the institute for an archival project, which would record the experiences of current tribal leadership for a younger generation of leaders.

"We are always saying our kids are our greatest resource, but we need role models," Harrison said. "People like Billy Frank (of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission) to come over and explain how did (he) make it through those fishing sit-ins?"

Samuel Penney, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho and a member of the institute's advisory board, said he thinks the institute is a great idea.

"It surely would have helped me if I were able to attend something similar when I was newly elected," said Penney, who has served as an elected tribal leader since 1989.

You can reach Courtenay Thompson at 503-221-8503 or by e-mail at



Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.