A Season of Change
So much change. There’s been so much change in such a short period of time. In late 2019, AIPI had just published the Tribal Technology Assessment and moved from The College to Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. By early 2020, we had our first real grants supporting our work and we were so optimistic. Then it changed.
The changes brought on and accelerated by the pandemic were unprecedented. There were some unexpected and frankly unbelievable gains in 2020 and 2021 as COVID shined the light on things; as Tribes have always been the canary in a coal mine. However, now the policy pendulum is swinging a different way, to a place it’s never gone before. Straying away from decades and decades of precedent, policy is being impacted by recent Supreme Court rulings. Further, our country is more fractured than at any time since the Civil War.
Individual rights as well as Tribal rights have been ruptured. Sovereignty is in jeopardy and significant pieces of the foundation have been eroded. It is devastating to go from seeing deaths in our communities from covid to seeing our sovereignty disintegrated in the span of two years. Unfortunately, I now understand the emotions I imagined these Tribal leaders felt when I see the photo of the signing of the Bosone Bill that terminated tribes in 1953. The picture below, depicts the Chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold at signing of the Garrison Dam Agreement. These pictures say more than I could explain; in thinking about what’s happening now, especially with the ruling handed down in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, as one of my ASU colleagues recently said on a call “Yes, it’s that bad.”
It’s hard for me to be optimistic about things right now. But, we deal with the issues until we make it. I have a team that I lead here at AIPI; they are stellar and THEY are the next leaders, it is imperative to me that I lead them through this so they can lead us out of this. Towards this, I urge every one of you to endevor to #BeTheSolution.
George Gillette, second from left, chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation weeps during the 1948 signing of the Garrison Dam agreement. File AP.