For many years, due to the Tohono O’odham Nation’s location in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the sparse population, Nation members did not have access to reservation-based long-term or post-hospital care services. This was particularly true for O’odham elders. Elders admitted to the Sells Area Indian Health Service Hospital for acute care who subsequently required follow up long-term skilled nursing care or a place for post-hospital recovery were discharged to nursing home facilities in the Tucson, Arizona area.
Forced relocations, loss of lands, and the economic necessity of moving away from home and community are common histories in Indian Country. Yet, despite these tragic circumstances, tribes continue to assert their sovereignty in order to improve the lives of their people. One of these remarkable stories comes from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN). In 2007, tired of bandaging a failing constitution that did not meet the cultural needs of the Nation, CPN citizens ratified a new governing document that resulted in a significant transfer of power and realigned the constitution to Citizen Potawatomi culture. The Nation moved from a five-member business committee with representatives only from Oklahoma to a sixteen-member legislative body with regional representatives for all CPN citizens, wherever they reside. In addition, it established checks and balances and further clarified roles and responsibilities within the governing system. Perhaps most important of all, it strengthened the Nation’s self governance by removing the clause that required the US Secretary of the Interior to approve future changes to CPN’s constitution.
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians have long depended on the fish that live in Red Lake, the sixth largest body of freshwater in the United States. Both the waters and walleye of the lake are central to the Red Lake Band people, its history, economy, and culture. But by the mid-1990s, the walleye population had collapsed from over-fishing. Taking drastic but necessary action, the Band negotiated a consensus arrangement with local fishermen and state and federal officials to ban fishing in the lake. Over a ten-year period the fish recovered at an astonishing rate. The tribally led Red Lake Recovery Project now determines when, how, and who can fish the historic waters from which the Band claims its name.