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Building the Pillars of Freedom

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In all cultures and peoples, those from within (members) must often engage, and most importantly, educate those from without (strangers). This is an area of great tension throughout the world. Some places people are killing each other, daily, over such in-group/out-group tensions - horrible brutalities that must repulse any decent human being. Of course, at the same time, great and sincere and mutually-supportive relationships develop between peoples of different ethnic and cultural groups. It's all in how we go about it, how we choose to remember our histories and whether we prefer to emphasize the negative or the positive in our strategies for improving our communities, both from within and from without.

American Indian tribes - leadership and membership - cope with this issue every day. Particularly among tribes with growing organizations and enterprises, large numbers of non-member professionals and other employees and partners now often cut through the influence and decision-making circles. Perhaps it has always been so, but nowadays this condition is much more prevalent. This is a hugely important and yet difficult topic and we must find good ways to discuss the issue. We are urged to seek fair ways to arrive at good solutions that will ensure Indian control of Indian institutions and Indian assets into the seventh generation yet to come. At the same time, we must fully understand that all team members deserve and must have respect, a sense of mission and a feeling of belonging. This is the basis of long-term loyalty and true understanding.

The capacity of non-Natives and non-members within tribal systems to be increasingly educated on fundamental tribal strategies of self-governance, growth and prosperity should be a dominant quotient in the new enterprises being built across Indian country. Cultural sensibility and loyalty to tribal self-governance, tribal wellbeing and prosperity are qualities to be exalted among tribal members and team-members.

It makes a huge difference in the interweaving of new people into Native systems to properly orient everyone, and particularly non-Native peoples, on the fundamentals of tribal affairs. Tribal elders and leaders who can supply good superlatives or principles from their cultures and traditions, for how to impartially conduct and manage enterprises, are at a premium. Good, well-trained management needs to re-conceptualize and impart these messages and these unifying concepts. Not nearly enough thought and education is presently going into this particular dynamic, and many are the tales from tribal organizations and enterprises where tension, power cliques and outright dysfunction emerge that traumatize and can even paralyze tribal operations.

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Finding the right balance is as precious as it is difficult. Tribal members everywhere will complain that they are not hired or are being passed over for strangers. In fact, there are many cases where Indians are pushed out by fear among co-workers of a rising star. But tribal members can also be notoriously troublesome in taking direction from non-tribal management, with fault cutting both ways. Tribal leadership that pays attention to the education and socialization of tribal members is also of essence, everywhere. Only the strength of understanding and the resistance provided by robust thinking and action can sustain the national Indian recovery.

This is a very important issue, as a great deal of potential strength is lost in the proliferation of conflicts and attitudes that weaken trust and diminish the efficiency of any operation.

Presently, there are numerous enterprises in Indian country employing tens of thousands of people. Through these operations pass tens of millions of people every year. Yet, very little still is being done to educate these folks on the fundamental principles of American Indian cultures and legal foundations. The opportunity that is lost is irrecoverable; it passes each time but once. American Indian nations need to forcefully and substantially reach out to the American public and make it aware of the present and historical bases for the rebuilding of Indian country. Indian nations cannot afford to employ people who do not learn about these principles and bases. Indian nations can not afford to miss any opportunity to educate the American public and what better opportunity than to do so with hotel patrons, with restaurant patrons, with even the gaming clientele, which in subtle ways can become aware of the Indian realities, as the participation in an Indian casino has a social benefit. We understand that there are many gaming patrons who could care less about Native issues, and the intention is not to detract them from their particular entertainment pursuit - but, nevertheless, Indian nations cannot afford to miss the opportunity to reach as many among the American mainstream base as possible over the next few years.

Nor can Native leaders afford to let other management styles (management contracts) and/or prerogatives deter their outreach on this level. In every Indian hotel or lodge, there should be a copy of an Indian newspaper available - any Indian newspaper. Each season choose a book that explains well the basis of Indian rights. There are some that are quite easy to read. Have it available in every room. Of the tens of millions of people who pass through Indian enterprises each year, if just 100,000 will positively consider where tribal governments and peoples sit within the American fabric, the Indian country, the gains in understanding will be great. Get creative: Posters, video clips and designs of many kinds - these all can be used to educate in a light, palatable and yet impressive, long-lasting way. Remember: The court of public opinion is the main line of defense of American Indian freedoms.