Charles Kader: All-star slate of tribal leaders springs into action

The late Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected to the position of principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. Photo from All Things Cherokee

Charles Kader wonders what would happen if historical tribal leaders confronted the problems facing the nation today:
As the knowledge of modern challenges becomes more apparent to the Native All Stars, the novelty of the differing eras begins to wear thin.

Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa wanted to know about the condition of his people’s land. When told, for example, that the city of Detroit had been in dire straits, he shook his head and wanted to know who was defending those people who lived there? He was informed that those people were told to hope that it would get better, that they should have faith that it would. Pontiac said that was not enough.

Ely Parker, a Seneca who had lived during the American Civil War, was more conservative. He wanted to know how the Great Lakes were doing. He was told that Lake Erie had caught on fire due to environmental pollution in the 1970s but had been improving in recent decades. Parker wanted to know if it was due to mankind’s efforts. The former Union general was informed that nature had done most of the heavy lifting via the invasive zebra mussels that had filtered the water. It figured, Parker snorted.

Water quality and tribal water rights remained a topic of conversation. When Red Cloud, from the Oglala Lakota, heard that California only had one year of drinking water left, he wanted to know what was being done about the people who relied upon that resource. He was told that water could be bought elsewhere and shipped in. When he heard that he almost fell over. Who would be so greedy as to sell off water when people were in such great need? Red Cloud asked about the ocean water but was told that desalinization technology was once considered but had been determined to be too expensive to utilize.

Chief Wilma Mankiller was able to counsel her fellow council members on many subjects from her own lifespan. However, when she was told that a steady disappearance of Native women had continued up to the present day, her spirit was shaken. For as long as we have lived, we have remained under attack, especially to our most vulnerable members, she sadly noted.

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Charles Kader: The All-Star Tribal Council (Indian Country Today 4/2)

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