What does it mean for tribes that they have protection from being sued? Can they use that protection to their benefit as well as in their defense? This video provides answers from experts in the field of nation-building.
Tribal sovereign immunity has far-reaching implications, impacting a wide range of critical governance issues from the protection and exertion of legal jurisdiction to the creation of a business environment that can stimulate and sustain economic development.
Recently, Native Nations Institute (NNI) Radio convened a group of tribal leaders and Indian law experts to discuss tribal sovereign immunity and the need for Native nations to approach the issue strategically. Moderated by Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Co-Director Joseph P. Kalt, the forum provides tribal leaders and their constituents some important food for thought as they seek to protect their nations' interests and advance their nation-building priorities.
John “Rocky” Barrett has served as Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman since 1985. He has served the tribe as an elected official for over 25 years, beginning with his first elected position as Vice Chairman in 1971. He is also president of Barrett Drilling Company, an independent oil and gas production company, and Barrett Land and Cattle Company, a registered Angus cattle ranch.
As the chief elected official of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Chairman Barrett leads a five member committee of elected officials who oversee enactment of the laws and ordinances under which the tribe is governed. He also directs the tribe’s administrative and commercial functions. He was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s current constitution and statutes which have led to the Nation’s extended period of stability and progress.
During Chairman Barrett’s tenure, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has experienced tremendous growth. With some 700 employees, the Potawatomi Nation is the largest employer in the Shawnee area. With an estimated annual payroll and vendor expenditure of more than $15 million in 2001, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation is a major contributor to the economic well-being of Pottawatomie County.
The Potawatomi Nation owns several successful business enterprises: First National Bank and Trust Co.; FireLake Golf Course; FireLake Mini-Putt; the Potawatomi Tribal Stores in Shawnee and Tecumseh; AM 1450 KGFF Radio; FireLake Entertainment Center which houses a bingo hall, off-track betting parlor and a casino; and FireLake Discount Foods, an 82,000 square foot grocery store which opened in May 2001 reflecting a $9 million investment by the Tribe in its future.
Gabriel S. Galanda, a descendant of the Nomlaki and Concow Tribes and enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, practices law in Seattle with Williams Kastner’s Tribal Practice Team. Gabe’s practice focuses on complex, multi-party Indian law and gaming litigation, representing Indian tribes. He also assists tribal governments with economic development and diversification initiatives, and works with corporate entities doing business in Indian Country. Gabe, as past President of the Northwest Indian Bar Association and Chair of the Washington State Indian Law Section, spearheaded the inclusion of federal Indian jurisdiction on the Washington bar exam. He has been honored as National NALSA’s Alumnus of the Year, a Washington Law & Politics Rising Star (five times), the Washington State Bar Association Outstanding Young Lawyer, and one of The Best Lawyers in America in Indian law. He received his J.D. from the University of Arizona College of Law, where he served as NALSA President and Note Editor for Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law.
Joseph P. Kalt is the Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He also serves as faculty chair of Harvard’s Native American Program and co-director of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.
He has represented various tribes in the negotiation of contracts, the rewriting of tribal constitutions, the reform of tribal governments, the mediation of disputes, the design of tribal enterprises, and the securing of compensation for treaty violations and land confiscation. Kalt has testified as an expert on behalf of numerous tribes in federal and tribal courts, and has testified frequently before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He also served as advisor to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
In addition, he is the author of numerous studies on nation building in Indian Country and co-editor (with Stephen Cornell) of What Can Tribes Do? Strategies and Institutions in American Indian Economic Development.
He received his Ph.D. (1980) and M.A. (1977) in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his B.A. (1973) in economics from Stanford University.
Lance Morgan, a citizen of the Winnebago Tribe, is CEO and one of the initial founders of Ho-Chunk, Inc., the development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Ho-Chunk, Inc., won the Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations (Honoring Nations) award from Harvard University in 2000 and the Innovations in American Government Award in 2001.
Morgan previously worked as a lawyer in the Indian Law Department of the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney. He has spoken at more than 20 national and regional conferences on a variety of tribal economic development topics. He received a law degree from Harvard University and a business degree in economics from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Robert A. Williams, Jr., a citizen of the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina, is the E. Thomas Sullivan Professor of Law and American Indian Studies and Director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona.
Williams is the author of several books in the field of American Indian law and policy including The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest (1990); Linking Arms Together: American Indian Treaty Visions of Law and Peace, 1600-1800 (1997); Federal Indian Law: Cases and Materials (4th ed., with David Getches and Charles Wilkinson) (1998), and most recently Like a Loaded Weapon: The Rehnquist Court, Indian Rights, and the Legal History of Racism in America (2005). In addition, he has written more than 30 law review articles.
He has served as Associate Justice and Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona. He presently serves as Judge Pro Tempore for the Tohono O’odham Nation.
He received his B.A. from Loyola College in 1977 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1980.
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