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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 1, 2003 - Issue 99


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Harvard's Kennedy School Announces 2003 Finalists for American Indian Tribal Governance Awards


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A tribal telecommunications company that brings affordable phone lines and internet service to an underserved Indian reservation, a tribal government injury prevention program that encourages healthy habits, reduces health care costs, and saves lives, and a tribal court in Alaska that uses peacemaking circles to address juvenile crime are among the 16 finalists in Harvard's 2003 American Indian tribal governance awards program.

Administered by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations ("Honoring Nations") identifies, celebrates, and shares outstanding examples of tribal governance among the more than 550 Indian nations in the United States. Currently in its fourth year of awards, Honoring Nations is a member of a worldwide family of "governmental best practices" awards programs that spotlight innovative public sector initiatives in order to shift public perceptions about government and to encourage the replication of effective problem-solving. Since Honoring Nations' inception in 1999, 48 tribal government programs and initiatives have been recognized. The Ford and Rockefeller Foundations are the primary sponsors of Honoring Nations.

"Honoring Nations is grounded in and inspired by the Harvard Project's 17 years of research and fieldwork, which consistently finds that tribal success in economic, social, and cultural spheres depends, to a large extent, on tribes' ability to function as self-governing political entities," said Andrew Lee (Seneca), who directs the awards program.

This year's 16 finalists were chosen from a pool of 114 applications from 61 Indian nations and 13 inter-tribal collaborations. At each stage of the selection process, applications are judged on the criteria of effectiveness, significance, transferability, creativity, and sustainability. On Tuesday, November 18, in Albuquerque, NM, the finalists will make presentations to the public and the Honoring Nations Advisory Board, which will then select eight programs to receive "high honors" and $10,000 to share their success stories with others.

2003 Honoring Nations Finalists:

Assuring Self Determination through an Effective Law Enforcement Program
Gila River Police Department, Gila River Indian Community (Sacaton, Ariz.)

Serving a population of 17,000, the 92-employee Gila River Police Department operates a multifaceted law enforcement program that includes community-based policing, neighborhood block watch programs, a citizen's police academy, and bike patrols. Since assuming control over law enforcement in 1998, the Department has improved police response times significantly and seen a reduction in criminal activity on the reservation, which borders the cities of Phoenix, Chandler, and Tempe.

Cherokee National Children's Choir
Cherokee Nation (Tahlequah, Okla.)

Launched in 2000, the Children's Choir presents an innovative approach to promoting and encouraging the use of the endangered Cherokee language among its youth while also instilling Cherokee cultural pride. The award-winning choir – comprised of 40 young Cherokee ambassadors – has performed in venues across the US, including the Native American Music Awards, Ground Zero, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Choctaw Community Injury Prevention Program
Choctaw Health Center, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (Philadelphia, Miss.)

Responding to alarming rates of preventable accidents on its reservation, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw created a comprehensive community injury prevention program in 2001. Through seat belt and child safety seat campaigns, strict enforcement of motor vehicle laws, and community-wide education initiatives, the Program is successfully changing behaviors, saving lives, reducing injuries and disabilities, and lowering health care costs.

Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program
Division of Housing, Chickasaw Nation (Ada, Okla.)

Created in 1998 to increase home ownership among Chickasaw citizens and other Native Americans in Oklahoma, the Chuka Chukmasi ("beautiful home") Home Loan Program is a secondary market home loan program that has helped more than 200 families to realize the dream of home ownership. Collaborating with investor and lender partners, the Program provides pre-home ownership education, credit and loan counseling, and down payment and closing cost assistance.

Cultural Resources Protection Program
Natural Resources Department, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Pendleton, Ore.)

Frustrated by how tribal cultural resources were managed on tribal, federal, state, and private lands, the Tribes developed their own cultural resources protection program. The 15-year-old program is leader in educating non-Indian agencies about pertinent laws and treaties, strengthening cultural resource laws and policies, crafting government-to-government relationships, training other tribes, and incorporating Native knowledge into a field historically dominated by non-Indians.

Family Violence and Victim's Services
Department of Family and Community Services, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (Philadelphia, Miss.)

Addressing the often-stigmatized issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and elder abuse, the Family Violence and Victim's Services (FVVS) provides a "one-stop-shop" for victims, providing access to legal services, counseling, and therapy. In addition, FVVS drafted a strict tribal domestic criminal code, and it continues to administer re-education programs for batterers, educational campaigns, and training seminars for law enforcement, security, and the tribal judiciary.

Gila River Telecommunications, Inc.
Gila River Indian Community (Sacaton, Ariz.)

Recognizing the need for affordable and reliable telecommunications services, the Tribe founded Gila River Telecommunications, Inc. (GRTI) in 1988. A pioneer in telecommunications in Indian Country, GRTI offers affordable landline phone service, dial-up and DSL Internet service, and satellite television. GRTI has seen residential penetration of access lines grow from 34% to nearly 50% in six years and plays an important role in meeting the needs of the Community's fast-growing economy.

Honoring our Ancestors: The Chippewa Flowage Joint Agency Management Plan
Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Hayward, Wisc.)

The Joint Agency Management Plan brings together three governments – the Lac Courte Oreilles Band, the State of Wisconsin, and the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service – to co-manage the Chippewa Flowage, a 15,300-acre reservoir created in 1923 that inundated a tribal village. Taking into account the cultural, aesthetic, and economic value of the Flowage, the Plan provides a framework for the three parties to coordinate management activities and decisions through a consensus-based approach.

Kake Circle Peacemaking
The Organized Village of Kake (Kake, Alaska)

Restoring its traditional method of dispute resolution, the Organized Village of Kake adopted Circle Peacemaking as its tribal court in 1999. Circle Peacemaking brings together victims, wrongdoers, families, religious leaders, and social service providers in a forum that restores relationships and community harmony. With a recidivism rate of nearly zero, it is especially effective in addressing substance abuse-associated crimes.

Menominee Community Center of Chicago
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (Keshena, Wisc.)

A unique partnership between an urban Indian center and a tribal government, the tribally funded Community Center serves nearly 500 Menominee tribal citizens living in the greater Chicago area. The Center and the tribal government work together to ensure that all of its citizens are actively involved in tribal affairs by organizing trips to the reservation, providing full electoral rights for off-reservation citizens, and by holding official tribal legislature meetings at the Center.

Na'Nizhoozhi Center, Inc.
The Navajo Nation in cooperation with Zuni Pueblo, City of Gallup, McKinley County, and the State of New Mexico (Gallup, N.M.)

Responding to the distressing rates of accidents, deaths, and other alcohol-related problems in Gallup, NM, the Navajo Nation partnered with Zuni Pueblo, the City of Gallup, McKinley County, and the State of New Mexico to establish the Na'Nizhoozhi Center in 1992. The Center has been an effective force in promoting wellness and safety by providing protective custody, shelter, referral services, and culturally based in-patient and outpatient substance abuse treatment services to meet the needs of its Indian clients.

Navajo Nation Corrections Project
Department of Behavioral Services, Navajo Nation (Window Rock, Ariz.)

Established in 1983, the Corrections Project facilitates, coordinates, and advocates for the use of spiritual ceremonies, cultural activities, and counseling for Navajo and other Indians in correctional facilities. As the liaison between inmates, their families, and Indian and non-Indian government agencies, the Project researches, and implements unmet spiritual, cultural, and legal needs. In 2002 alone, the Project visited 30 correctional facilities and served more than 2,000 clients.

Northwest Intertribal Court System
Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (Mountlake Terrace, Wash.)

The Northwest Intertribal Court System (NICS) assists tribes in developing tribal courts that provide fair, equitable, and uniform justice for all who fall within their jurisdiction. Owned by a consortium of tribes in Washington State, NICS recognizes the sovereignty, individual character, and unique needs of individual tribes. Its services – which include code writing and technical assistance – help Indian nations develop the necessary legal infrastructure for handling a full array of civil and criminal matters.

Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board
The 43 federally recognized tribes of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho (Portland, Ore.)

Serving tribes in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHN) was created in 1972 to increase tribes' ability to exercise control over the design and development of tribal health care delivery systems. Governed by tribal government delegates, NPAIHB facilitates intertribal coordination and promotes intergovernmental consultation. A leader in data collection and advocacy, NPAIHB also administers the first and largest tribal epidemiology center.

Quil Ceda Village
The Tulalip Tribes (Tulalip, Wash.)

Developed to achieve economic diversification while exercising tribal sovereignty, Quil Ceda Village is the first tribal city in the US. Chartered under tribal laws and governed by a council-manager form of government that enacts local ordinances, the Village has emerged as a thriving retail, recreation, and hospitality destination. The Village employs 500 Indians and non-Indians and is home to a business park, a new casino, and acreage for future development.

Trust Resource Management
Office of Support Services, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Pablo, Mont.)

For more than three decades, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have been building capable governing institutions and taking over management of resources and programs previously managed by outsiders. Recognizing that self-management both allows the tribal government to determine its own priorities and has positive bottom-line effects, CSKT is a leader in incorporating tribal values into natural resource management and in delivering first-rate services to its 7,000 citizens.

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