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Changing one’s Governing Document – For a Purpose or for Spiteful Reasons

In any Tribe one of the biggest events that occur are its elections when the membership votes to choose its governing body.  This event brings out some of the bad sides in people as negative campaigning starts to infect the Tribe and as a small group of people with extreme hatred use slanderous and libelous tactics to influence the election.  On my Tribe, though, there is another mechanism to promote hateful attacks on people – this is by way of a provision in our laws that provides for submitting ballot questions (proposed Constitutional amendments or advisory questions).

Quick History Note:  My Tribe is one of the few in the U.S. that rejected the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) done in the 1930’s which was supposed to promote tribal “self-governance”, but then required the Tribes to agree to have the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approve/oversee many functions of the Tribe.  By not agreeing to this the Fallon Tribe was not bound by the same approval process that many Tribes had to go through and this also meant that changing its Constitution could be done locally by my Tribe through its election process.

The downside to this, though, has been the number of questions which don’t relate to making our Tribe at better entity or community, but rather have focused on personal attacks (usually on current Council Members).  For example, our current election there were a few questions submitted (as amendments) with statements such as “should the Election Committee have a criminal investigation done and then publicize that in the tribal newspaper” or “should the Treasurer and Secretary of the Council have the pay cut because I think it is too high compared to when I was Council” (that was nearly 20 years ago).  By the way these are tame to some that have come in the past.

Our Constitution is the governing document of our Tribe to which all other tribal laws, regulations, and policies must adhere to and is designed to promote the general welfare and management of our Tribe, its members, and our resources.  Similar to any other organization which has its charter, bylaws, articles of incorporation, these are documents which are there to provide for overall management of an entity, and shouldn’t be treated as if they are tabloid publications subject to the latest gossip, rumor, or the whims of people with grudges and axes to grind.

 

I wanted to touch on this subject because it highlights an important tip for people to remember.  We all have governing documents that provides for important issues such as governing, mission statement, and roles and responsibilities.  Do we want to put petty issues into these documents or allow infighting to result in the inclusion of items that make us look incompetent?  What good is your governing document if you have a great mission, but then you include provisions related to personal/political attacks – doesn’t that seem to compromise the entity’s values/direction because it now has been compromised with petty/hateful provisions?

While there may a time and place for discussing/addressing these type of topics, I’m saying that these personal/political attacks shouldn’t be part of your governing document which is shared with many external users.  It would bring nothing good to you and would cast doubts with these external users into whether you have an effective organization.  Your governing document should be the blueprint that will guide you to a successful future (a long-term plan/guide) – don’t let it become filled with short-time knee-jerk provisions that in the end won’t help you but will probably hurt you more.

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