Steve Russell: An important conversation for tribal governance

Navajo Nation Council
Inside the Navajo Nation Council chambers in Window Rock, Arizona. Photo from Facebook

Steve Russell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, commends Mike Myers of the Network for Native Futures for talking about reforms to tribal government:
Mike Myers has, to steal a phrase from the late Russell Means, gone where white men fear to tread. Truth be told, Indians are a bit reluctant to wade into tribal governance issues themselves.

I wrote a book about it but it took me years to work up the courage. I did not think I lacked the political science chops or that the principles of political science do not apply to Indians. The problem was that there are hundreds of surviving cultures and my knowledge of them barely reaches double digits.

Like Mr. Myers, I’ve done lots of road trips though Indian country and I’ve also made contacts within the very small tribe of Indians employed by research universities. Like my travels and my contacts, digging in back numbers of most tribal newspapers I have read revealed serious institutional problems with tribal governance.

Indians are supposed to be in government-to-government relationships with Uncle Sam when their own relationships with their respective tribal governments consume a great deal of political energy. We don’t trust our own governments and we don’t trust Sam but either one seems more interested in our welfare than state governments. This is a recipe for political apathy and that cake is well baked.

If you see no governance problems in Indian country, go in peace. I don’t think you’ve been paying attention but you’ll excuse me if I want to discuss the problems with those who see the problems.

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: Tribal Government in the Golden Age: Response to Mike Myers (Indian Country Today 10/19)

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Mike Myers: Restoring traditional forms of tribal government (10/14)

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