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Harvard's 'high honors' to eight tribes

ST. PAUL, Minn. - In a ceremony here, eight tribal government initiatives were selected to receive high honors as part of Harvard University's tribal governance awards program.

Those tribal initiatives selected for the awards reflected a wide range of government activities, including social services, economic development, resource management and intergovernmental affairs.

"This year's finalists provide compelling support for one of the Harvard Project's most fundamental research conclusions," said Joseph Kalt, professor of international political economy and co-founder of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

"If tribes want to build healthy, prosperous nations they must first put into place effective institutions of self-governance."

"Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indians" is in its second year. The program identifies and celebrates outstanding examples of tribal governance among Indian nations from across the country. Based at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Honoring Nations is administered by the university economic development project.

Established in 1986, the goal is to understand the conditions under which self-determined social and economic development is achieved among Indian nations. The program is modeled after similar government practices in Brazil, Chile, the Philippines, the U.S. and South Africa.

"With nothing, they have changed things in their communities and they need encouragement," said Oren Lyons, chairman of the 2000 Honoring Nations Advisory Board and chief of the Onondaga Nation.

"There is a lot of innovation here dealing with some serious issues. It's about time they were acknowledged for what they're doing."

Nations receiving the "high honors," each of which received a $10,000 monetary prize, were:

Two Plus Two Plus Two, a program at Hopi Junior/Senior High where students can attain college credits.

Sustaining & Constructing Legacies, Poeh Cultural Center, Pueblo of Pojoaque, a project which generate revenues for cultural activities and the construction of a cultural center and museum.

Elder's Cultural Advisory Council, San Carlos Apache Tribe, a council established to advise the tribe on culturally related matters, to consult with off-reservation entities and to administer and oversee cultural preservation activities.

Economic Development Corp., Ho-Chunk Inc., Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, a program to promote economic self-sufficiency and to create tribal opportunities for its tribal members.

Yukanna Development Corp., Louden Tribal Council in Alaska, a development corporation to address concerns of environmental degradation, environmental justice, training and employment.

Swinomish Cooperative Land Use Program, Office of Planning and Community Development, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, provides a framework based on a memorandum of agreement between the tribe and a local county for conducting permitting activities within the boundaries of the reservation and establishes a forum for resolving potential conflicts.

Navajo Child Special Advocacy Project, Division of Social Services, Navajo Nation, launched in 1990 to provide Western and Navajo therapy to child victims of sexual abuse.

White Earth Suicide Intervention Team, a volunteer program designed to provide support and care to clients and family members and to ensure appropriate intervention and treatment in the event of the consideration of suicide or a suicide attempt.

Those receiving the awards were selected following an all-day public program in conjunction with the National Congress of American Indian's annual convention in downtown St. Paul. The eight tribal government initiatives cited were selected from 16 finalists. Finalists were from an initial pool of 70 applicants from more than 50 tribes.

In addition to the awards, the Harvard Project will prepare reports, case studies and instructional materials based on the honorees' accomplishments. Andrew Lee, a Seneca and executive director of the program, says the material will be distributed widely to allow others to learn from the honorees' successes.