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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 29, 2003 - Issue 101


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Harvard’s Kennedy School Honors American Indian Tribal Governments

by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Press Release

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Last night, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government awarded eight American Indian tribal government programs $10,000 each in recognition of their outstanding achievements. The ceremony, which took place at the DoubleTree Hotel, was attended by hundreds of American Indians from across the country who had gathered for the 60th Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).

The awards were given as part of Harvard’s Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations (Honoring Nations) program, which identifies, celebrates and shares exemplary tribal government programs among the more than 550 Indian nations in the United States. “Indian nations are crafting innovative solutions to critical public policy concerns,” said Oren Lyons, a traditional chief of the Onondaga Indian Nation in central New York and chairman of the Honoring Nations Advisory Board. “From resource management to social service delivery, and from economic development to the administration of justice, the tribal programs being highlighted are truly inspiring.”

This is Honoring Nations’ fourth year of awards. Since the program’s inception, about one-quarter of the tribes in the United States have applied for an award and 64 tribal government initiatives have been honored. “It is exciting to see tribes learning from each other by sharing best practices,” noted Andrew Lee, the program’s founding director.

The eight “high honors” recipients for 2003 are:

Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program
Division of Housing, Chickasaw Nation (Ada, Okla.)
  Family Violence and Victim’s Services
Department of Family and Community Services, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (Choctaw, Miss.)

Created in 1998, the Chuka Chukmasi Home Loan Program is a homeownership support program operated in partnership between the Chickasaw Nation, PMI Mortgage Insurance Company Underwriters, First Mortgage of Oklahoma City, and Fannie Mae, which serves Chickasaw citizens nationwide as well as citizens of other tribes living within the Chickasaw Nation’s jurisdiction. The Program offers secondary home loans (to cover down payment and closing costs), first and second mortgage processing, and in-depth homeownership counseling. The Program has developed new products specifically for tribal citizens, new ways to share risk, and new means of evaluating Indian borrowers’ creditworthiness. The Program and closed 202 loans in its first five and a half years (65% were to first-time homeowners). In so doing, it improves opportunities for tribal citizens, and builds community wealth.


The Family Violence and Victim’s Services Program was created in 1999 to address the harsh realities of domestic violence and sexual assault within the Mississippi Choctaw community. The challenge was to bring these issues to the public’s attention through culturally appropriate education, prevention, and assistance programs that both protected victims and treated (rather than simply punished) perpetrators. The Program achieves these goals by providing its clientele with a “one-stop shop” that offers legal services, counseling and therapy, a “re-education” program, and assistance in finding alternate housing, employment, and transportation. The Program’s success stems from its ability to acquire, enhance, and maintain several victim-oriented grants into a program with a single mission, to achieve attitudinal and legal changes that make domestic violence unacceptable, and to promote Choctaw values through its services to victims and offenders.

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

The Joint Agency Management Plan is an agreement between the three major governmental owners of the Chippewa Flowage – the Band, the State of Wisconsin, and the U.S. Forest Service – designed to uphold treaty rights, promote respect for Lac Courte Orielles ancestors, and protect the natural beauty and productivity of the lake, which is the third largest in Wisconsin. The Plan has created a consensus-based process for coordinating the parties’ management activities and usage decisions, specifies fundamental decision-making principles designed to harmonize their respective values and interests, and sets forth common baseline understandings and goals for the future. Not only has this successfully institutionalized agreement achieved coordinated management of the Flowage, but it also acknowledges and promotes respect for Lac Courte Orielles Band members’ grief over the past inundation of their gravesites, homes, and traditional hunting and gathering areas.


Instituted in 1999 and serving as the Organized Village of Kake’s tribal court, Kake Circle Peacemaking is a community-based restorative justice process for both adults and juveniles in the Village that state judges can defer to for sentencing decisions and that community members can turn to before problems escalate into official judicial concerns. Kake Circle Peacemaking is about how balance is maintained in one’s life, family, clan, tribe, and community and seeks to right wrongs not only through the healing of ruptures in community life, but also through the healing of offenders. Echoing the almost-forgotten Tlingit tradition of the Deer People, who were traditional peacemakers, Kake Circle Peacemaking has led to decreased offending and decreased substance abuse among the Village’s 480 citizens and has led to greater tribal self-determination in an institutional environment where such progress is difficult.

Menominee Community Center of Chicago
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (Keshena, Wis./Chicago, Ill.)
  Navajo Nation Corrections Project
Department of Behavioral Services, Navajo Nation (Window Rock, Ariz.)

A unique partnership between an urban Indian center and a tribal government, the tribally funded Menominee Community Center of Chicago serves nearly 500 Menominee tribal citizens living in the greater Chicago area. The Center and the Tribal Legislature work together to ensure that all of its citizens are actively involved in tribal affairs by organizing trips back to the reservation, providing full electoral rights for off-reservation citizens, and by providing social and cultural support to Menominee living in Chicago – whether they be long-time residents or recent migrants. Twice annually, the Center hosts meetings with the Tribal Legislature, which formally recognizes its Chicago based community as an “official community” of the Menominee Indian Tribe. As a result of the Center and its outreach activities, the Tribe has enjoyed a wider electorate base and found ways to further sustain its nation building efforts.


Established in 1983, the Navajo Nation Corrections Project facilitates, coordinates, and advocates for spiritual ceremonies, cultural activities, and substance abuse counseling for tribal citizens and other American Indians in the Navajo Nation Tribal Detention facilities and in the correctional facilities of the states surrounding the reservation (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado). The Project also advocates at the international and national levels for better conditions and treatment of Native American inmates. In 2002 alone, the Project visited 30 correctional facilities and provided information, education, counseling, and ceremonial services to over 2,000 clients. In addition to serving a “watch-dog” function for the enforcement of existing legislation and policies that govern inmates’ access to spiritual practices, the Corrections Project has been successful in formulating and advocating for legislative reforms on both the state and federal levels.

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


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

Both an exercise of sovereignty and an effort to diversify the Tribes’ economy beyond gaming, Quil Ceda Village is a political subdivision and corporate body of the Tulalip Tribes. Chartered under tribal laws and governed by a council-manager form of government that enacts local ordinances, builds infrastructure (i.e., roads, water, sewer, etc.), and manages the Tribes’ economic development ventures, Quil Ceda Village is first and only Internal Revenue Service-recognized tribal city in the U.S. The Village boasts major national chains as its tenants (including Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Bank of America) as well as a host of smaller businesses. It also seeks to re-write the rules concerning tribal taxation authority. Through Quil Ceda Village, the Tribes stand to attract even more businesses, further diversify their economy, and provide thousands of jobs to Indians and non-Indians in this rapidly growing region.   The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have a land base of 1.25 million acres, which includes mountain forests, grasslands, an extensive river corridor, and a diverse array of wildlife and fisheries. For more than three decades, the Tribes have been building capable governing institutions and taking over management of resources and programs previously administered by outside government agencies. These include realty, forest management, water, higher education and vocational training, social services, electric utility, and health services. Recognizing that self-management both allows the Tribes to determine their own priorities and has positive bottom-line effects on productivity, resource protection, and ultimately, the Tribes’ cultures, CSKT is a leader in Indian Country for their top-to-bottom pursuit of 638-contracting, compacting, land-purchases, and assertions of legal powers.

The eight “high honors” were chosen from 16 finalists that were initially selected from a pool of 114 applications representing 74 tribes and inter-tribal collaborations. At each stage of the selection process applications are judged on the criteria of effectiveness, significance, transferability, creativity and sustainability.

In addition to the awards, the Harvard Project will prepare reports, case studies and instructional materials based on the honorees’ successes. In 2004, Honoring Nations will host a symposium on good tribal governance that will bring together representatives from award-winning programs (date and location to be announced).

Based at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Honoring Nations is administered by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, established in 1986. The Harvard Project’s goal is to understand the conditions under which self-determined social and economic development is achieved among American Indian nations. Core funding is provided by the Ford Foundation, which also sponsors similar governmental best practices programs in Brazil, Chile, China, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States.

For more information about Honoring Nations, visit the Harvard Project web site at or call 617-496-9446.

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  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.  

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