In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.
Please introduce yourself with your name and title.
Ted Grant, vice-chairman of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.
Can you share with us your Native name and its English translation?
My name is Che’Xanje~Obahomani. It's translated Big Buffalo Walks in the Snow. It comes from the Buffalo Clan of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe.
Where is your community located?
The Otoe–Missouria Tribal Complex is located in north central Oklahoma in Noble County.
Where were your people originally from?
At one time the Otoes and Missourias, along with the Winnebago and Iowa peoples, were part of a single tribe that lived in the Great Lakes region of the United States. In the 16th century the tribes separated from each other and migrated west and south, although they still lived near each other in the lower Missouri River Valley.
What is a significant point in the history of the Otoe–Missouria that you would like to share?
In the summer of 1804, the Otoe and Missouria were the first tribes to hold government-to-government council with Lewis and Clark in their official role as representatives of President Jefferson. The captains presented to the chiefs a document that offered peace while at the same time asserting the United States' claim of sovereignty over the tribe.
How is your tribal government set up?
The Tribal Council is the elected governing body of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe. The Tribal Council consists of seven members elected by secret ballot by qualified voters of the tribe. Each Tribal Council member has responsibilities for certain duties as listed in the Otoe–Missouria Tribe of Indians Constitution.
Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?
There are our traditional churches, including the First Born Church of the Otoe–Missouria Tribe, Otoe Native American Church, and Otoe Tribal Sweat Lodge.
How often are elected leaders chosen?
The terms for each Tribal Council member are staggered and last for three years. There are no term limits.
How often does the Tribal Council meet?
The Tribal Council holds regular meetings monthly in a place and date determined by the members. Currently the meetings are held in the Council Building at tribal headquarters. Meetings are open to the public, except when the council is in executive session.
Additionally, a General Council Meeting consisting of all enrolled tribal members over the age of 18 is held each year on the first Saturday in November.
What responsibilities do you have as a tribal leader?
To ensure our tribal members are taken care of, to see that our tribal programs continue to help all of our tribal members, and to do my very best to protect the future and security of our tribal sovereignty.
To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.