In the fight for sovereignty, the citizens of the Mohawk Nation recognized that self-determination was critical in education. The Akwesasne Freedom School (AFS) was created as a place for wholly Mohawk education. Grounding learning and teaching in Mohawk lifeways, the School has survived political, financial, and institutional challenges to become a respected and supported institution of the Mohawk community. Through the ongoing efforts of parents, families and the larger Mohawk Nation community, AFS has played a critical role in the formation of Mohawk identity, citizenship, and nationhood for the past twenty-five years, extending even beyond those who attend the school and into the next generations of Mohawk leadership.
In 2002, the Cherokee Nation carried out a survey of its population and found no fluent Cherokee speakers under the age of 40. The Cherokee Principal Chief declared a state of emergency, and the Nation acted accordingly. With great focus and determination, it launched a multi-faceted initiative designed to revitalize the Cherokee language. Using state- of-the-art knowledge and techniques of language acquisition, the Project includes a language immersion program for pre-school children, a university partnership degree program for certifying Cherokee language teachers, and a set of community language activities. The Project brings together elders, young adults, and children in an effort to preserve not just a language but a people who see in their language the foundation of their own survival.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has created a vibrant economy, and one of the underpinnings of its success is its court system. Organized independently of elected leadership, the court provides an arena for the fair, reliable resolution of disputes. Intent on not becoming just another adversarial court of law, the Choctaw Tribal Court strives to incorporate traditional Choctaw values into its law and practices, to help both victims and offenders, and to pay particular attention to tribal youth. In so doing, the Mississippi Choctaw have developed a comprehensive judicial system that responds to the needs of all its citizens.
In response to the challenges of meeting the public safety needs of their citizens across multiple jurisdictions, all with limited human and financial resources, and increased problems of drug and alcohol related crime, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and the City of Flandreau joined legal and financial resources in a working partnership to establish the Flandreau Police Department. Operating under a jointly run, independent Public Safety Commission, the Flandreau Police Department strengthens the ability of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe to exercise its right to protect and serve its citizens while demonstrating its commitment to safety for an entire community. In the process, all citizens Native and non-Native realize improved community safety.
Reclaiming traditional lands has been a primary concern of the Hopi Tribe for the last century. In 1996, significant land purchases became possible under the terms of a settlement with the U.S. government, but the tribal government then faced the problem of developing a plan for land reacquisition. In 1998, responding to this challenge, the Hopi Tribe created the Hopi Land Team. With the goal of striking a balance between preservation and the future, the Team works to identify potential purchases, evaluate their cultural and economic significance and potential, and recommend purchases. The work of the Team has led not only to new development initiatives that have increased tribal revenues, but it also brought back to the nation critical cultural resources and sacred sites that play a major role in the life of the Hopi people.
The reservation lands of the Miccosukee Tribe lie largely within the Everglades National Park. Development on these lands is subject to elaborate regulations by a host of federal agencies. This hindered economic development and other uses of their lands by the Miccosukee people, including the building of traditional dwellings and family gardening. Tribal citizens had to negotiate a time-consuming, regulatory maze almost every time they engaged in land-use activities. With the Section 404 Permitting Program, the Tribe set out to streamline the regulatory process and, more importantly, to win for itself a stronger role in regulatory activity. By contracting on-reservation authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corp of Engineers to issue land permits, enforce environmental codes, and manage permit violations, the Miccosukee Tribe is not only enabling its citizens to improve their own homes and engage in traditional cultural activities, but it is also expanding the reach of the Tribe's own governmental powers by managing and enforcing permitting through national channels.
In 1994, after 120 years of struggle, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians finally re-obtained federal recognition. Ever since, tribal priorities included strengthening self-governance and the tribal economy. Their economic strategy followed two paths: the development of tribal enterprises and the encouragement of citizen-owned, small businesses. In tribal discussions, many citizens indicated an interest in starting business of their own and the Band responded by implementing a work readiness and job training for teenagers and young adults. Five years ago, the Band's planning and education departments joined forces to create the Migizi Business Camp for tribal youth. For six days, students are taken off the reservation to learn business development concepts and build entrepreneurial skills. They complete business plans and present their ideas to a panel of judges. The Camp represents a conscious effort by the tribal government to involve its younger citizens in the effort to build an economic future for the Nation.
The Navajo Nation is the largest coal-producing tribe in the U.S. and, historically, its government has relied on tax and royalty revenue associated with coal production as a primary source of revenue. Today, however, both depletion and a desire to lessen the Nation's dependence on income from non-renewable resources have led the Navajo Nation to consider new ways to generate revenue for governmental operations. In 2002, it began levying the first comprehensive Native nation sales tax on goods and services sold within reservation boundaries. By law, revenue from the tax is earmarked for the Nation's Permanent Trust Fund, land acquisition, and local government, among other uses, before the remainder flows to the nation's General Fund.
In the 18th century, when the Oneida Nation was located in what is now New York State, the Nation's fields and orchards were vast and productive, reflecting its core cultural tradition of sustainable agriculture. A long history of land loss and forced migration diminished the Nation's ability to maintain its agricultural traditions resulting in the disconnection of tribal citizens to their customary practices and the land. More than two hundred years later, the Nation is recovering land and finding ways to restore its agricultural heritage through the Oneida Nation Farms and related programs. By reacquiring land, the Nations is returning to cultural roots in a modern, sustainable way, while also addressing important health concerns, and economic development needs.
After realizing that plentiful jobs did not always translate into employed citizens, representatives from a group of tribal services and businesses came together to address the underlying causes of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation's high employee turnover rate. The Professional Empowerment Program is helping create healthy citizens and better employees while improving its community through collaborative efforts, self-esteem building curriculum, and services designed to address the well-being of the whole person.
For years the Blackfeet Nation struggled to create sustainable tribal enterprises that could produce revenue for the Nation and meet the needs of its citizens for jobs and services. Many of these efforts did not succeed because of conflicts within the tribal government. In 1999, the Nation tried a new strategy. It established a federally chartered, tribally owned corporation designed to manage businesses on behalf of the government and protect those businesses from inappropriate political influence. Named after a great Blackfeet warrior known for his fearless leadership, the Siyeh Corporation today runs multiple businesses and promotes economic growth and stability while preserving Blackfeet cultural and traditional values. Siyeh is changing the economic landscape of an impoverished reservation, increasing the Blackfeet Nation's revenues and enhancing Blackfeet self-government.
Facing widespread looting on and desecration of tribal lands and cultural sites, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has developed an initiative to protect and uphold the significance of these sites by training tribal citizens to preserve the land. With a team of 16 volunteers, including two elder spiritual experts, the Tribe monitors its traditional homeland, provides services to other Indian nations in five states, partners with outside agencies in preservation and enforcement efforts, and assists in creating tribal legislation by developing a Cultural Resource Code.
The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council stands as a collective initiative of 63 rural, indigenous communities across Alaska and the Yukon Territory with a mission to monitor, advocate, and advise in order to improve the well-being of the watershed and the people who live within it. The Council has set preservation priorities, increased its own capacity to measure water quality, and successfully advocated to remedy and prevent further environmental degradation of the Yukon River watershed.