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Diane Fox on Sovereignty and Tribal Government

North Dakota Native American Essential Understandings number five is about tribal policies, treaties and sovereignty. It states native people practice self-determination, developing tribal policies, and practicing political activism. Despite a history of U.S. Policies and treaties that have often been detrimental. Native people are members of sovereign nations that predate the U.S. Government.

Today on Dakota Datebook, we'll be hearing about sovereignty and tribal government from Diane Fox, educator and enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.

Diane Fox:

You know, a lot of our generation don't know a lot. And so, one of the first things I do is I say, "Who knows what sovereignty means?" And what I would do is I write it on the board. "Who can pronounce this word?" And they'll kind of look at it and they'll look at it, and I'll tell them what it is, sovereignty. If you're Native American, you should know what this word means. And I explain to them what it means, that power to rule ourselves. But to get that, we went through a lot and a lot was taken from us and slowly coming back to us, but it's going to take us a long time to get where we were before. So tribal government is probably one of my ones I like to teach a lot. I have a small class in that one, but it's really a one-on-one, so I like it.

We talk about the different policies, the different laws that we have, the different tribal structures. My father is from the Ho-Chunk Nation and that's in Wisconsin. And so their tribal structure's a little bit different than ours. So I do a little comparison. And with all the tribes in the United States, every tribe is different. Down south, they still use traditional war chiefs and village chiefs as their tribal structures. So we compare and we contrast. But with the Ho-Chunk Nation, they're kind of set up like the United States. So they have a president and then they have a three-branch system. As of here, we have a seven-person council that makes the rules for us. So then they're like, "Oh, I thought that was all the same. I thought everyone had a tribal chairman." Well, ours is the president where I'm enrolled at. And I know a few things there, and I know a lot here. So like I said, we do a lot of comparisons.

If you'd like to learn more about the North Dakota Native American essential understandings, and to listen to more Indigenous elder interviews, visit teachingsofourelders.org.

Dakota Datebook: Teachings of Our Elders is produced with support from and in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

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