Created in 1995, this Tribally funded program serves 350 students (from toddlers to teenagers) and uses elder-youth interaction, song books, and comic books to teach the Ojibwe language. In addition, the Program broadcasts language classes to local public schools in an effort to teach the Ojibwe language, history, and culture to non-Indian children. Teaching the Band's children their traditional language has allowed Mille Lacs Band members to pass on Tribal values more effectively. At the same time, it has served as an important tool in both preserving the Band's culture and strengthening bonds between Band members.
Working with its neighboring counties, the Band developed a waste management system that includes a tribally owned transfer station, waste collection and recycling, bio-solids and food composting, and an education component. This revenue-generating system has enabled the Band to shut down open dumps, reduce levels of illegal dumping, and avoid the need for a tribal landfill. In addition to revenue from sales of recycling and compost materials, the station also services two neighboring counties lacking federally certified landfills. Environmentally, the waste management program has been extremely effective in cleaning up the reservation—whereas two years ago there were five dumps on the reservation, today there is only one. Finally, the tribe is helping to ensure the program's future success by educating its youth about the need for recycling.
After transferring all health care decisions from Indian Health Services to tribal control over a ten-year period, the Band significantly improved its health care delivery system. Its state-of-the-art Health Center provides health and dental care, behavioral health care and community health promotion, education and prevention programs, and the first-ever on-reservation disability clinic. In addition, the tribe has implemented an efficient billing and records system that has reduced the "red-tape" typically associated with third party billing. By taking a more active role in its reservation health care, the tribally controlled Choctaw Health Center is improving community health and meeting the specific health care needs of its citizens. In 1997, the Choctaw Band's Disability Clinic received the Vice President's prestigious Hammer Award for the Clinic's effective disability determination process.
By developing a plan that includes monitoring, outreach, species management/control, and research, the Tribe is now leading the statewide recovery of the endangered Gray Wolf. The recovery program, which meets the guidelines developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, has resulted in a wolf population that is three times larger than it was five years ago. The Idaho Gray Wolf Recovery Program has brought recognition to the Tribe's ability to manage a complex and often controversial project. By asserting treaty rights as co- managers of fish and wildlife resources, the Tribe has forged solid working relationships with the federal and state governments, and importantly, the Gray Wolf is rapidly nearing de-listing.
Following a major tribally-initiated restructuring in the early 1980s that created a quality improvement committee and a flatter organizational structure, the PTHA has increased patient access for urgent care visits, reduced “no show” rates, created clinical objectives, increased dental treatments, and incorporated the use of traditional healers into health care delivery. The Puyallup Tribe's Quality Improvement Program has enabled the PTHA to address effectively many of the health care needs of the community that were previously unmet under the Indian Health Service's management. With 6 full time physicians and a staff of 210, the PTHA has become a model for other Indian nations seeking to create and sustain health systems that meet the highest standard of excellence.
In 1971, the Indian Claims Commission settled a 1948 case against the U.S. government by awarding the Michigan Chippewa and Ottawa Indians $10.3 million in just compensation for ceded lands. However, the settlement money could not exit Federal government coffers until the tribes decided on a distribution formula, and inter-tribal disagreements prevented its transfer for two and a half more decades.
Fishing, hunting, and gathering have long been central to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s collective identity. So when the Band yielded a large amount of territory to the United States government in Treaty of 1837, its members retained hunting, fishing, and gathering privileges on the ceded land. Unfortunately, ongoing treaty rights violations—and the mere passage of time—left Band members with a limited ability to exercise their rights. Although they continued to hunt and fish in the Treaty area according to Ojibwe tradition, they did so hesitantly and with a certain degree of fear. Their practices were inconsistent with State of Minnesota regulations, and without the protection of clearly enunciated treaty law, Band members were subject to gear seizure, hefty fines, and possible arrest by State game wardens.
By the early 1960s, residents of Rough Rock, Arizona, a town on the Navajo Reservation, had become deeply concerned about their children’s lack of knowledge of Navajo ways. Community members felt strongly that a primary cause of the problem was the “foreign” educational system imposed upon its children. Not only did the U.S. government and state institutions—that is, non-Indians—control Navajo education, but in their hands, education was a means of assimilating American Indian children into mainstream society, removing all traces of Native culture and language. In earlier generations, children had at least received a cultural education at home. But the progressive impact of non-Indian schools meant that fewer and fewer families were able or inclined to teach Navajo traditions.
For hundreds of years, the Navajo lived under a traditional justice system composed of both Navajo common law and consensus-oriented judicial procedures. The aim of the justice system was simple: to restore harmony. But beginning in 1892, with the forced introduction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Courts of Indian Offenses, this harmony began to rupture. The break was made complete with the Navajo Nation’s wholesale adoption of a western court system in 1959. Over the next 25 years, the Nation wrestled with the alienating and disempowering effects of laws and procedures inconsistent with their culture and history. Tribal members who were used to resolving their own disputes were made dependent on modern institutions, including western-style police and judiciaries. Self reliance and community participation withered.
In 1991, only 30 percent of children in foster care in Saint Louis County, MN were in Indian homes, despite the legislative attempt of the Indian Child Welfare Act to improve this statistic. Many of these children lived with families who were residents of the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation, which lies primarily in Saint Louis County. Understandably, the staff responsible for social services at Fond du Lac were concerned about the number of Indian children they could not serve. But by 1990, there were 12 Indian foster homes per 1,000 persons on the Reservation, as contrasted with only one non-Indian foster home per 1,000 persons in the surrounding county. In other words, the Fond du Lac Band had reached a saturation point for eligible foster homes, and if more Indian children in need of foster care were to receive the benefits of placement with cultural integrity, those placements could not occur on the reservation. It was vital for Indian children to be placed in off-reservation Indian homes.
In 1994, only 10 percent of the members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe were fluent in the Band’s native language, and the youngest native speaker was 37. Faced with these statistics, tribal leaders had great cause for concern—declining language use was a disturbing indicator of the loss of tribal traditions. The Band’s Chief Executive summarized her colleagues’ sentiment: “Our families were not engaging in our traditions, our children were turning away from our values, and little by little we were losing the battle to protect the uniqueness of our culture.” If allowed to continue, the effects of this change would be broad sweeping. For example, because Band members had long considered knowledge of Ojibwe traditions a prerequisite to leadership, few in the succeeding generations would be prepared to step into leadership roles.
Indians living on the Cheyenne River Reservation in north central South Dakota are among the poorest in the United States. In the early 1990s, 70 percent of reservation’s Indian households had incomes near the poverty level, and the unemployment rate exceeded 50 percent. While these economic conditions are the result of many different factors, one of the earliest and most devastating was the systematic destruction of the high plains buffalo herds in the late 1800s. It was an attack on both the Lakota economy and the Lakota way of life. Today, leaders of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) are committed to improving reservation economic conditions and to doing so within important boundaries: they hope to achieve economic success without causing further cultural disintegration.
The town of Kayenta is located in the north-central region of the Navajo Nation. As the gateway to scenic Monument Valley and other important Southwestern Native sites, the area attracts thousands of visitors each year. Yet despite its prime location, the Navajo community in Kayenta has long been unable to act upon the promise of tourism-related development: Non-Navajos own more than half of the businesses in the area, and the Native unemployment rate hovers near 50 percent.
The vagaries of U.S. government policy toward American Indian nations in the 1900s had a particularly damaging effect on the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB). During various and overlapping periods, they existed as a self-governing Indian community, a non-profit corporation, and a state-recognized Band with lands held by the local county government to meet the housing needs of the immediate Indian community. Finally, in 1980, the Band obtained federal recognition and, in 1988, developed a constitutional government.
Responding to the severe contamination of the Rio Grande River that threatens human health and ceremonial uses of the water, the Pueblo was awarded “treatment as state” status in 1990. Subsequently, the Pueblo developed and implemented U.S. EPA approved water quality standards that give it control over local and regional water issues as well as management of water quality improvement efforts. In 1997, the Pueblo of Sandia received EPA's "Partnership in Environmental Excellence Award" for "outstanding success in developing an environmental management program to protect and manage tribal resources." Most importantly, the Pueblo is acting to ensure the program's future success; by having the Pueblo's grade school students tour the river and test its water quality as part of the school science projects, the Pueblo of Sandia is helping to create a new generation of water quality guardians.
Recognized by state game and fish agencies as being one of the best of its kind, JGFD’s Program includes a game and fish code and a wildlife management fund for habitat enhancement projects. The Program restored the reservation’s mule deer population and trophy trout, and established a commercial elk hunting ranch that produces over $1 million for the Tribe annually. The Jicarilla Tribe's Wildlife and Fisheries Management Program is regarded by both Indians and non-Indians as a model program. In 1987, the Southwest Section of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society honored the Jicarilla Game and Fish Department with its "Outstanding Program of the Decade" award.