Governance expert: 'Change doesn't happen overnight'

Indian Country Today

On today's show, Wayne Ducheneaux, executive director of the Native Governance Center, joins us to talk about what newly elected tribal leaders can expect when they take office. Plus, Stewart Huntington shares the latest on Rapid City boarding school land.

As the ballots are being counted and the winners are being named, some might say the easy part is over. Now, those newly elected leaders need to do just that: lead. How can they do that effectively? 

The Native Governance Center based in St. Paul, Minnesota, offers classes for newly elected tribal leaders on tribal governance, leadership development and community engagement. Wayne Ducheneaux is the center's executive director, and he is enrolled in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and worked for his tribe overseeing some enterprises. He also served a two-year term as its vice chairman. 

He joins us today to talk about what newly elected leaders can expect when they take office.

Plus, freelance journalist Stewart Huntington shares the latest information on Rapid City, South Dakota, boarding school land. 

Some quotes from Wayne Ducheneaux:

"It's about being patient and having some opportunity to understand tribal leaders are like no other elected leader in the nation. ... I defy you to find another elected leader in the nation who has to be as responsive to their constituency as a tribal leader. For instance, they have to be able to fly to Washington, D.C., and negotiate with federal administration or congressional folks on bills, or policy enactment. They then have to be able to come home and sometimes get down to the granular level of making sure grandma has propane or wood for their fire for the winter. And so I don't think you find another elected leader across the country that is as responsive or more responsible to their constituents than an elected tribal leader. And so what they've taught me is you have to be well-rounded, you have to understand things from a local, regional and a national level in order to do your job right."

"I think most tribal leaders understand ... this Indigenous mindset that we have, the seventh generation philosophy, right? Where the decisions we make today are responsible out to the next seven generations. But I had a great mentor in my life, Regis Pecos from the Southwest, who kind of contemplates and contextualizes the seven generations a little different. He takes a look at it from you being the middle of the seven generations, and you have your parents and your grandparents and your great-grandparents behind you. You have your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren in front of you. And so Indigenous folks, when we're taking a look and contemplating you know, just what is our mission? What do we have to do once we get into elected office? It's grounded in either one of those perspectives about seven generations. And it really helps us to be more, more thoughtful forward-thinking, understanding that there's a lot more at stake than just making sure that we can be elected in the next two years, or four years, or however long our term may be."

"You'll often notice that those folks in Congress that have longevity, the ones that are serving three, four, five, 10, you know, multiple-year terms, their messages about future, and it's about forward planning. It's having that strategic orientation. It's ensuring that the promises that they make, the statement stands, that they take that they're always continually working to fulfill and progress towards. Oftentimes it's not going to happen in that two years. The other thing they do great is community engagement. They talk with their constituents. They help them understand that, you know, change doesn't happen overnight."

"I can't even remember how long it has been since the founding of this country. Indian nations are even older in time than that."

"Really, those leaders that have longevity are the ones that can make that case, that it's going to take more than just two years to make change."

WATCH ELECTION NIGHT WITH INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY.

Live news broadcast starting at 8 p.m. Mountain Standard at IndianCountryToday.com.

(Look on our website for a list of stations airing the program.)

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Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider. 

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