Keynote Address | Native Peoples, Native Politics || Radcliffe Institute | Summary and Q&A

May 23, 2016
Harvard University
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Keynote Address | Native Peoples, Native Politics || Radcliffe Institute


Rob Porter, a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, discusses the importance of tribal governments and economic development in Native American communities, highlighting the need for cooperation with state and federal governments.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How can tribes and state/federal governments establish a cooperative relationship to address ongoing conflicts, such as taxation issues?

Establishing a cooperative relationship requires finding good-hearted individuals in state/federal governments who understand the mutual benefits of collaboration. Educating these officials about the economic contributions tribes can make and the importance of honoring treaty rights can help bridge the gap and foster cooperation.

Q: What are the challenges faced by tribes in economic development and how can they be addressed?

Many tribes lack a tax base and struggle to generate revenue for essential programs and services. Encouraging economic growth, such as through casinos or other businesses, can provide the financial resources needed for tribal governments to support their communities. Additionally, advocating for changes in federal laws that inhibit economic growth can help create more opportunities for tribes.

Q: How can tribes address the issue of fractionated lands and divided land interests?

Tribes can work towards reacquiring fractionated lands within their territories, allowing for greater self-governance and economic opportunities. Efforts to consolidate these lands back under tribal jurisdiction have been supported by the current administration. However, the process is complex and time-consuming, requiring coordination with numerous landowners and legal considerations.

Q: Is it possible to appeal or amend Indian treaties?

While treaties can be amended or appealed, it is a challenging process due to the significance of these agreements. Treaties are binding agreements, and both parties must respect the sovereignty and terms outlined in the treaty. However, changes may occur in exceptional circumstances, requiring the consent and agreement of both parties.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Tribal governments play a crucial role in improving the lives of Native American communities through local engagement and protection of tribal sovereignty.

  • The relationship between tribes and state/federal governments can be challenging, but it is important to find common ground and work together for the benefit of all parties involved.

  • Economic development is a key aspect of tribal sovereignty, as tribes need financial resources to address societal issues and improve the well-being of their members.

  • Efforts to develop a cooperative relationship between tribes and state/federal governments should focus on improving economies, protecting and enforcing treaties, and advocating for tribal rights.

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