If only Indians could once again rely on the sacredness of truth spoken
among real human being - as before a sacred pipe or a sacred fire - perhaps
the nations could once again secure a path of survival, recognition and
Instead, it seems most nations are continually called to conflict with each
other. There is nothing new in this; the bulk of the conflicts in Indian
country are certainly imported - the results of imposed conditions of
conquest and the distorted tendencies of colonization.
The problem is that solution-oriented strategies are mostly lacking.
Win-win strategies among the various Indian parties in so many conflicts
are too often cast aside in the new comfort zone of lawyerly thinking and
its inevitably costly litigation.
Costly it is, both in fees to the arbiters of the craft of suing,
litigating and legislating against other people and in the occasional
horrible losses in the high courts, from which it is not possible to emerge
Here is a thought: Would that Indian leaders, particularly those of
historically and kinship-related peoples or busted-up confederacies, march
one by one into their tribal civil houses, take appropriate seats and
endeavor to iron out the cases that they have in common and have not
resolved among themselves, and which as a result are up for a state or
federal court to resolve - likely by imposing decisions that diminish all
the conflicting tribes.
In the context of self-realization and empowerment, however, there is but
one requirement. All lawyers must be checked at the door. The talk must be
among Indian tribal leaders, elders and elected officials; all must
actually represent constituencies. A talking circle must be sponsored, only
of leaders, but with the impetus to solve problems to benefit the actual
First and foremost: the consideration of why confederated Indian unity is
so crucial. Such circles need to begin with respect for hearing the full
oratory of each and every party with agreement to go home and ponder, and
answer next time. There would be no need for immediate agreement, only the
agreement to hear each other's needs.
Hypocrisy, double talk and the head-spinning of legalese would be replaced
in this forum with hope and the heart, and with the good-mindedness of
thinking deeply about the rights, needs and responsibilities of the
great-grandchildren and the ongoing nature of Indian nation struggles,
while being considerate of the effects of today's decisions "onto the
seventh generation," as the Iroquois tradition advises.
Just beginning to talk, as Indian leaders used to, among heads of families
and communities would be a huge improvement, even if it took years for one
true common idea to emerge.
One true idea among Indian leaders is better than 100 devious ones. Evil
always circles back to its source, whereas one true idea begets another;
and perhaps the creativity of the people themselves would provide the spark
that is needed to move along the many issues facing their nations - among
each other - before running to the governors of states and the courts like
domesticated herds to the slaughter.
Truth-seeking and respectful, old-time Indian meetings must be generated
again. Again, harsh words must be generated again. Again, harsh words must
be checked at the door. Later, in the days following the Indian-to-Indian
talk, each delegation can go back and debrief ideas and suggestions, get
the reasons against, study the legal arguments and potential frameworks and
pitfalls of any proposals.
But among Indian leaders, meetings must be convened that tap the spiritual
sincerity that is the only true weapon any Indian people has ever had. The
call is for the Indian leadership to speak - before, or as before the
sacred pipe, the sacred fire, as before the most revered altar of your
peoples, as before the sacred tombs of your most revered ancestors - about
what you truly carry in your hearts and minds about the best possible
future for your grandchildren, your peoples and your lands.
The high level of hostility toward and betrayal - real or perceived - of
Indian tribes by other Indian tribes must be seen, in itself, as the number
one enemy. There are many factors that stimulate inter-tribal conflict, but
it takes vision, commitment and courage on the part of tribal leaders to
tackle the central factors of Indian defeat: tribal dysfunction and
internal conflict that always grows when tribal leaders forget that only in
Indian unity around integrity of heart and mind is there a possibility of
true, self-determined futures for our peoples.
Indian leaders need not be heroes to do what is best for their people, nor
do litigation strategies need to pervade every decision made on behalf of
an Indian government. The deepest and most tranquil wisdom, one with a
persistent sincerity of good intent, is highly encouraged in tribal