Vi Waln: Native Nation Rebuilders program helps strengthen tribal governments

Vi Waln

Sicangu Scribe
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Columnist

Those of you who’ve attended an awesome conference know how it feels to come home with a burning desire to change the world. Well, maybe not the world, but you definitely want to improve your work environment. You might even float on a natural high on the trip home; thinking about all the great things you’ve learned, anxious to put them into practice.

When you return to your office, you share all the new concepts with your co-workers. Some of them act interested by agreeing things could improve at work. Yet, as the days go by and nothing changes, you realize the reality of your workplace culture is going to require more than the post-conference excitement you brought back to the office. Change is hard; most people would rather keep the status quo.

When I was notified of my selection for Cohort 7 of the Native Nation Rebuilders Fellowship last year, I was elated. I experienced that natural high on the trip home from the first session with my colleagues last December. I had learned so many new things in a short time. I wanted to come home and change the world.

The Native Nation Rebuilders Fellowship targets tribal citizens residing in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota who have an interest in strengthening tribal governance. Participants are challenged to engage in new ways of thinking about tribal government. This is an excellent opportunity for tribal citizens who wish to run for office or develop their leadership skills.

Twenty-two tribal citizens form Corhot 7 of the The Native Nation Rebuilders program. Photo from The Bush Foundation

The Native Nation Rebuilders program also helps participants examine tribal governance from a new perspective. During the first year, rebuilders make a commitment to attend 4 sessions in person. The sessions cover a variety of tribal governance topics. The program is set up to recruit members from 23 tribal nations to participate in 10 Cohorts, each lasting about 2 years.

I am a member of Cohort 7. Brandon Ecoffey, Editor of the Lakota Country Times, is a member of Cohort 6. Two other citizens from Rosebud have successfully completed a Native Nation Rebuilder Fellowship. They are Shawn L. Bordeaux (Cohort 3) and Mato Standing High (Cohort 5).

I’m confident my fellow tribal citizens would agree that their experience as a Native Nation Rebuilder helped them to develop into who they are today. Shawn Bordeaux is now a member of the South Dakota State Legislature, representing the people living in District 26A. He previously served on the tribal council at Rosebud. Mato Standing High currently serves as the South Dakota Indian Education Director. He previously served as Attorney General of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Participants are exposed to a variety of resources to assist in efforts in improving tribal governance. For instance, most tribal governments today operate from a standard approach. Participants in each cohort are exposed to an innovative rebuilder approach, which makes a lot more sense than the standard approach.

I challenge all tribal citizens in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, who are considering running for political office, to apply for a Native Nation Rebuilder Fellowship. The process could help you better understand the workings of your tribal government. The program also helps participants learn more about themselves, an essential process in becoming an effective leader.

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Rosebud needs more representation in the Native Nation Rebuilders program. The chances of improving tribal government through nation rebuilding are likely when more of our citizens complete the program. You have nothing to lose. Please consider applying to the Native Nation Rebuilders Fellowship. Applications are available online in July 2016.

I also challenge all the sitting tribal council representatives and constitutional officers at Rosebud to apply to the Native Nation Rebuilders program. We have nothing to lose when more of our people commit to improving tribal government. We owe it to our descendants to rebuild our Nation.

The learning process in life is never ending. A new approach in tribal government could lead our tribe in a more lucrative direction. It’s time to throw out the status quo.

Visit to learn more about this opportunity to improve tribal governance.

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