Tribal land is a scarce resource, and tribal leaders often face competing demands concerning land use. Especially pressing are the potential tradeoffs between development and environmental stewardship. The Lummi Nation was eager to develop housing and commercial properties but wanted to make sure that these projects would not damage ecologically sensitive areas on the reservation. To help manage development on its lands, the nation created the first tribally operated commercial wetland mitigation bank in the country. The Lummi Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank sells mitigation credits to both tribal and non-tribal projects, helping the nation balance its development and preservation goals.
Many American families dream of owning a single family home in a suburban subdivision. Yet on tribal lands this type of housing can have devastating social and cultural consequences— especially for a community like Ohkay Owingeh, whose residents traditionally lived in high density housing surrounding central plazas. At Ohkay Owingeh, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies supported the construction of new suburban subdivisions over the rehabilitation of traditional pueblo dwellings—and homes at the pueblo’s core that had been occupied for generations slowly were being abandoned. The pueblo undertook to revitalize the historic village center in a way that celebrates traditional culture, bringing life back to the plazas that are the cultural heart of the nation.
Children are the future of any nation. In the US, a misguided and shameful history of removing Native children from their homes destroyed families and communities. Although the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 affirmed tribal nations’ role in child protection, assimilationist policies have an ongoing influence, and Native children taken into the homes of non-Native families typically grow up with no connection to their extended families and lose their cultural identity. The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (PGST) resolved to create its own Child Welfare Program and recently took complete control over federal funds for child welfare, a first among tribes in the US. PGST provides services that are culturally sensitive and integrated with tribal programs to protect children and strengthen families.
Proud of the increasing number of citizens pursuing college degrees, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN) leaders became concerned that their talented students were not getting enough education in what it means to be Citizen Potawatomi. To nurture the nations’ future political leadership, the tribe launched the Potawatomi Leadership Program, which gives students an unforgettable “crash course” in CPN government, economy, and culture. In doing so, program graduates are armed with the cultural and political knowledge they need to become the leaders they were born to be.
In many parts of the United States, there is a long history of mistrust between Indian nations and neighboring municipalities. Officials lack an understanding of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, leading to strained or even hostile relationships. In Scott County, tribal and nontribal government officials recognized that, by working together, they could stretch their scarce resources further, resulting in a win-win for all area communities. The Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency, known as SCALE, fosters intergovernmental cooperation and furthers the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s ability to improve its citizens’ quality of life.
As the climate changes, abnormally high or low temperatures, strong storms, tidal surge and sea level rise, and unusual precipitation patterns are affecting our environment in many ways. After experiencing numerous extreme weather events, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (SITC) decided to put in place a far-reaching action plan to prepare for future climate changes. The Swinomish Climate Change Initiative takes a close look at possible climate related impacts and brings the community together to deal with threats to the Swinomish way of life.