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    Honoring Nations 2015 Award

Harvard's Honoring Nations Program to Recognize Top Tribal Governments at San Diego Event

SAN DIEGO, CA.   – From 87 applicants, six tribal governance programs have been selected as 2015 Awardees by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development’s Honoring Nations program at the National Congress of American Indian’s 72nd Annual Convention in San Diego, CA. The prestigious Honoring Nations award identifies, celebrates, and shares exemplary programs in tribal governance. At the heart of Honoring Nations is the principle that tribes themselves hold the key to generating social, political, cultural, and economic prosperity and that self-governance plays a crucial role in building and sustaining strong, healthy Indian nations.

As Honoring Nations Board Chairman, Regis Pecos (Cochiti Pueblo) says, “Honoring Nations celebrates the resilience of Indian Nations in response to the challenges they face in the maintenance of the Original Instructions as our Forefathers did, in their time, defining our inheritance of a way of life.”

Administered by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Harvard Project) at Harvard Kennedy School, Honoring Nations is a member of a worldwide family of “governmental best practices” awards programs that share a commitment to the core idea that government can be improved through the identification and dissemination of examples of effective solutions to common governmental concerns.  At each stage of the selection process, applications are evaluated on the criteria of effectiveness, significance to sovereignty, cultural relevance, transferability, and sustainability. Since its inception in 1998, over one-quarter of all tribes in the US have applied for an award; currently 124 tribal government programs have been recognized from more than 80 tribal nations.

Honoring Nation’s Program Director Megan Minoka Hill (Oneida Nation WI) explains, “The Honoring Nations awardees are exemplary models of success and by sharing their best practices, all governments – tribal and non-tribal alike – can benefit.”

Presentations and dissemination of the work of the 2015 Awardees will include exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution, a web platform through Google Cultural Institutes and Google Earth, written and video reports and case studies, executive education curriculum, and national presentations.

The six tribal programs awarded for excellence and innovation in governance include:

Academic Readiness Effort, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians (Honors)

Grounded in the concept of “amuyich” or generosity, the Santa Ynez Academic Readiness Effort tackles their once-major educational achievement gap head-on by providing comprehensive support for their Chumash students at every step of their educational journeys -- from birth through adulthood.  By investing in their people’s education and providing their students with mentorship, tutoring, and assistance, Santa Ynez is positioning itself for an optimistic future.  Last year, an incredible 97 percent of Chumash students graduated high school – and the tribe is poised to reach 100 percent.  That’s right, a 100 percent graduation rate.  Already, their students are becoming leaders and key decision makers in the nation as well as role models for the next generation.

Ho-Chunk Village, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska (Honors)

Like many other tribal communities, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska grapples with a lack of housing for their people, especially for the Tribe’s rapidly growing middle class.  In response, leadership developed Ho-Chunk Village, a 40-acre master planned community that is transforming the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska by purposefully providing opportunities for first-time home ownership, integrated rentals for elders, and space for businesses to thrive in a walk-able community.  In developing Ho-Chunk Village, the Winnebago Tribe is showcasing how a tribal government, nonprofit, and tribal enterprise can work together in creative ways – giving us fresh ideas and an innovative model for how to keep communities together.

Kenaitze Tribal Court, Kenaitze Indian Tribe (Honors)

Recognizing that installing and maintaining a justice system is vital to a strong society and nation, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe of Alaska developed its own tribal court in 1986.  Since then, the court has worked diligently to expand its jurisdiction over a range of areas.  Its leadership in child advocacy has been especially important – and pioneering.  By collaborating with state, tribal, local and nonprofit agencies, the Court is helping to ensure Native children are protected and kept safe.  Today, nearly 100 percent of children in the tribal court system are being placed with family members or other tribal citizens.  The Kenaitze Tribal Court is giving tribes everywhere compelling proof that sovereignty works and that quality Native justice systems are foundational to effective governance.

Nez Perce Tribe Fisheries Department, Nez Perce Tribe (High Honors)

Salmon help define what it means to be Nez Perce.  Yet this precious resource has been under grave threat for generations – not only from dams and habitat destruction, but also a contentious set of legal battles around fishing rights.  The Nez Perce Fisheries Department has emerged as a key ally to the salmon.  With 200 employees and a $20 million annual budget, the Fisheries department provides world-class resource management over a three-state area.  For more than three decades, the department has been working tirelessly to keep the salmon coming home.  And, it is paying off.  As one of many examples, a Chinook run that had declined to only 385 adult fish has been rebuilt to over 60,000.  When it comes to salmon, the Nez Perce are serious…and they’ve been seriously effective.

Ohero:kon “Under the Husk” Rites of Passage, Haudenosaunee Confederacy (High Honors)

Like other Native nations, the Haudenosaunee are grappling with a legacy of colonialism and fragmentation of both land and community.  Perhaps no group is impacted more than the youth who are transitioning into adulthood.  Puberty is tough, especially for those who don’t know where they come from.  Founded in the idea that ceremony, culture, and community are essential for developing a strong and healthy personal identity, the Ohero:kon rites of passage is a seven-year curriculum that includes cultural teaching, fasting, and volunteerism.  The initiative is producing the kind of grounded and thoughtful Haudenosaunee leaders we can all be proud of.  Through Ohero:kon, the Iroquois people are coming together, for the youth, for each other, and most importantly, for those to come seven generations from now.

School Based Health Centers, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes (High Honors)

Situated in the “most unhealthy county in the state” and confronting staggering indicators of poor health among their people, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation decided their children deserved better.  So they made a bold move that is as simple as it is logical:  They established and staffed full service health clinics in the schools on the reservation.  Financed largely by Medicaid reimbursement, today the kids have ready access to high quality health care that includes dental care, mental health services, nutrition counseling, and medical care.  The School-Based Health Centers are not only an outstanding example of self-determination, but also a powerful reminder that healthy citizens are critical for building strong nations.