The American Indian World - Position Paper by the National Tribal Chairmen's Association
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                    * Unity * Strength * Justice *

               1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 406
                        Washington, D.C., 20006
                            (202) 343-9484

                         -- ORGANIZED 1971 --

           T H E   A M E R I C A N   I N D I A N   W O R L D

          These are exciting but critical times for Indians in 
     the United States in terms of the present and the future. 
     Identification of Indian situations and expressions of what 
     Indians want their life to be have become enmeshed in 
     popular movements of contemporary America. This frequently 
     obscures what Indians really want, what they really want 
     their future to be, and how this is to be accomplished.  
          The United States Government has extended a legal and 
     moral commitment to a special segment of this country's 
     Indian population. President Richard M. Nixon, in his now 
     historic message to the Congress, July 8, 1970, reaffirmed 
     this commitment for all of the Federal Government. In that 
     message, the President expressed the principles of self-
     determination and consultation for the Federally Recognized 
     Indian. For the first time in history, this placed a 
     responsibility upon Indian leadership to articulate what 
     that leadership desired the Indian destiny to be and to 
     provide the basis for consultation.  
          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association is comprised 
     of leaders of Federally Recognized Tribal Governments. The 
     accompanying position paper represents what the elected 
     Indian leadership believes is needed to consummate the 
     longstanding relationship of the United States of America 
     with the Federally Recognized Tribal Governments. It 
     establishes priorities and objectives both for the Federal 
     Government and the Indian. It provides the initial basis for 
     a dynamic and vital relationship, recognizing the need for 
     amendments and modifications as necessitated by changing 
     conditions and by time. It is to this principle and the 
     promise of a better future for the American Indian that this 
     paper is dedicated.  
     President, NTCA
                             February 1974

                             THE POSITION
                                OF THE

          It is time for the legally constituted reservations and 
     other Federally recognized governments of Indian Tribes 
     elected by democratic processes, so sacred to all segments 
     of society, to speak out for their tribal members and 
     exercise their legal and rightful leadership role. Tribal 
     officials should now ask the Federal Government, the 
     Congress of the United States, and State and local 
     governments to decide what consideration they will give to 
     the elected representative voice of the Indian people. The 
     National Tribal Chairmen's Association wants to know now if 
     the people in all levels and all branches of government are 
     going to be responsive to the elected tribal leaders as the 
     official spokesmen for Indian tribes.  
          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association believes it 
     to be morally wrong when resources are provided by anyone to 
     a small minority to impose its will upon the majority, which 
     the elected officials represent. It is wrong to expect 
     elected officials to follow the will of anyone except the 
     people they represent and who elected them. This wrong 
     covers issues which enjoy the majority of community support 
     for decisions made by their elected officials.  
          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association calls upon 
     the states and local governments to concern themselves with 
     Indian-identified needs as their responsibility, especially 
     where funds are being received by these units of government 
     for the purpose of meeting Indian needs.  
          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association welcomes and 
     appreciates the cooperation and support of everyone who has 
     the welfare of Indian people at heart in its effort to 
     secure self-determination and sovereignty for Indian people, 
     which is the purpose of this paper.  
          From this general but important position, the National 
     Tribal Chairmen's Association can then move in more specific 

          The commitment of the Federal Government to provide 
     normal community services to Indian tribal members is and 
     must remain a continuous one. The delivery of these services 
     has been provided historically by employees of the Federal 
     Government. Since 1834 various acts of Congress have been 
     adopted but have never been fully implemented to allow 
     alternative ways to deliver these services.  
          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association proposes 
     that the commitment of the Federal Government for normal 
     community services to Indian communities be implemented by 
     providing the necessary and adequate financial resources. 
     These resources should be made available to Tribal 
     Governments, organizations, or individuals chartered or 
     licensed by them. Such services should be delivered directly 
     to the Indian people by a system sanctioned by these Tribal 
          If this approach were accepted, the major service 
     functions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs would be to 
     channel funds to the tribes for the delivery of services, to 
     provide technical assistance and advice when requested, and 
     to monitor the delivery system. One way that this could be 
     handled in a practical manner is to transfer the delivery 
     system to the Tribal Governments on a gradual basis, as 
     positions become vacant. This would avoid, in large measure, 
     adverse effects on employees with civil service status. The 
     BIA would then be able to focus its full attention and 
     resources on the main thrust of the Federal Government's 
     responsibility, which is the TRUST RESPONSIBILITY FOR 
          It is apparent to the National Tribal Chairmen's 
     Association that an ever-increasing number of organizations 
     are being funded to provide services on an unprecedented 
     scale to Indians. This distorts those resources and causes 
     duplication of services. These programs must be brought into 
     focus and managed to maximize benefits to Indian people. The 
     National Tribal Chairmen's Association supports sincere 
     efforts to assist Indian people in both the Indian 
     communities and in the urban areas, but there needs to be 
     coordination with elected Indian officials and Tribal 
     Governments on all of the proposals being funded in the name 
     of Indians.  
          As Federal Policy requires any organization, including 
     Indian Tribes and communities, to submit their proposals for 
     Federal funding to State Planning Agencies for approval, the 
     National Tribal Chairmen's Association proposes:  
          (a) All proposals for Federal funding of programs 
              affecting one tribe must be endorsed or approved by 
              the elected Tribal Government of the tribe 
              affected, or  
          (b) In case more than one tribe is affected, by the 
              duly authorized representatives of those tribes.  
          The endorsement or approval of proposals for Federal 
     funding by local Tribal Councils or their duly authorized 
     representatives will provide the needed coordination and 
     required approval by the Tribal Governments before funds are 
     made available and programs are started.  

          Tribal Governments, to whom have been delegated the 
     inherent sovereignty of tribes, have all of the powers of 
     other local governments. This   power includes, but is not 
     limited to, police power and the power to tax to raise 
     revenues for the government to function. The assertion of 
     tribal sovereignty includes territorial jurisdiction over 
     the reservation and over all persons within it. It means the 
     tribal council should be able to govern the Indian 
     reservations just as states govern the territory over which 
     they have jurisdiction. No longer will Tribal Governments 
     accept administrative restrictions on their governmental 
     authority, because Congress has guaranteed the sovereign and 
     inherent powers of the tribe, and only Congress can restrict 
     these powers.  

          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association directs the 
     Congress to place a high priority on appropriations for 
     purposes of carrying out the trust responsibility as 
     follows, to Wit:  
          (1) For the delivery of services to Indian people.  
          (2) For development and enhancement of the economic 
              base for Indian tribal society.  
          (3) To protect Indian-owned natural resources.  
          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association recommends 
     that hearings by Congress, Executive Agencies, and 
     Commissions be held upon request of the affected Tribal 
     Governments. It is now time for Congress, the Executive 
     Agencies, and Commissions to show their good faith by 
     providing funds for existing programs at an adequate level 
     to meet the Indian needs, which are well documented and 
     which are already on file in the Congress, with the 
     Executive Agencies, and with the several Commissions. 
     However, Tribal Governments should be notified and 
     meaningful consultation held on any Federal plans prior to 
     their authorization, execution, or implementation.  
          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association stands ready 
     and willing to help the agencies of the Federal Government 
     establish the needs for appropriation of funds from the 
     Congress and help establish priority of Indian needs. 
     Furthermore, once appropriations are made, in whatever 
     amount, the Federal agencies must work with Tribal 
     Governments to allocate the funds on a priority basis upon 
     which they were justified. The Tribal Governments must be 
     provided the resources to evaluate programs for Indians 
     funded by the Federal Government.  

          Self-determination will become a real and sincere 
     effort when the Federal Government gets back to the business 
     at hand of providing adequate support and resources for 
     programs as determined by Indian Tribes. The National Tribal 
     Chairmen's Association recommends that the Federal 
     Government recognize that the line-staff concept in public 
     administration is well accepted and should not be changed to 
     any great degree. The Federal Government should quit 
     "horsing" around with realignment and get down to the 
     business of delivery of services and protection of Indian-
     owned natural resources.  

          The Federal Government is presently involving states 
     and other units of government in the development of broad 
     plans and programs. It must also involve the representatives 
     of Tribal Governments in the development of plans and 
     programs affecting Indians of Federally recognized tribes. 
     Tribes are in a unique position when it comes to government 
     programs, because the Federal Government does not have the 
     same commitment to states and counties that it has to Indian 
     Tribes. A number of Federal agencies have established Indian 
     Desks, commissions, and similar planning groups. In order to 
     make the programs of these agencies fully cognizant and 
     responsive to Indian needs, it is essential that there be 
     broad Indian representation on these various commissions, 
     particularly in the area of Indian resources.  


          The Number One priority of the National Tribal 
     Chairmen's Association is the protection of Indian-owned 
     natural resources for which the Federal Government has a 
     trust responsibility and to which it has a moral and legal 
     commitment. It is recommended then that the Congress, 
     through its authority, and the Federal agencies, through 
     their programs and appropriated funds, now emphasize the 
     protection of our natural resources.  

          The Federal Government, through the Bureau of Indian 
     Affairs, as trustee, should place greater emphasis on its 
     protection guarantees and leave more of the management 
     functions to the Indian owners of these natural resources. 
     This is consistent with the present Administration's 
     doctrine of self-determination.  

          It is imperative that the Federal Government:  

          (a) Secure and protect Indian-owned natural resources 
              for its owners.  

          (b) Not equate these resources with the public domain.  

          (c) Protect them from exploitation.  

          (d) Not proscribe public interest in the Indian-owned 
              natural resources; for the Federal Government to do 
              otherwise would be inimical to the concept of self-

          (e) The Federal Government, through its judicial 
              system, should now reassert its jurisdiction over 
              legal issues which arise relative to Indian trust 
              lands and resources.  

          The Federal Government's trust responsibilities are 

          First, there is a special relationship derived from the 
     Constitution of the United States, various treaties, and 
     statutes of the United States which recognizes tribal 
     sovereignty. There is a trust responsibility in the United 
     States to protect this sovereignty of Indian tribes, so 
     there is no further erosion of tribal sovereignty and tribes 
     are supported in their efforts to enhance this sovereignty.  

          Second, the trust responsibility of the United States 
     should emphasize the protection of tribal assets and allow 
     the Indian owners to assume a major role in the management 
     of their funds and natural resources. The trustee should 
     spend less time and energy protecting these resources from 
     their Indian owners and more time protecting them from 
     outside interests, including the Federal Government itself.  

          And third, flowing from the above, there is a trust 
     responsibility for providing the means by which the tribes 
     can provide community services to members of the reservation 

          Inherent in the protection of Indian assets, in 
     accordance with the trust responsibilities of the United 
     States, is an obligation to fully, vigorously, and, without 
     reservation, advocate the position of Indian Tribes when 
     their assets are threatened, no matter what the source of 
     the threat. In order to do this, the responsible government 
     officials of the United States must be fully charged with 
     this responsibility and must be freed of any constraints on 
     full and vigorous advocacy. The efforts of the Federal 
     Government to eliminate or minimize the conflict of interest 
     are laudable. However, everything that could be done to 
     eliminate or minimize the conflict of interest under 
     existing law has not been done.  

          Concerning the point made above about allowing Indian 
     owners opportunity to assume a major role in the management 
     of their property, the National Tribal Chairmen's 
     Association recommends that Federal regulations and the BIA 
     manual be revised on a reservation-by-reservation basis, so 
     that the regulations and the manual of procedures are 
     tailor-made to fit the needs of the particular reservation. 
     The regulations could then be adopted by the tribe as a 
     tribal code and implemented under the sovereignty of the 
     tribes. These regulations will be approved by the Secretary 
     for the necessary support by the United States. Development 
     of regulations and manuals of procedures on a tailor-made 
     basis may lead to discovery by the tribes of the need for a 
     change in Federal law, which then would be sought.  

          One further point needs to be made concerning the trust 
     responsibility as to tribal assets. There is a need to get a 
     clear understanding on the part of the United States, not 
     just the Department of the Interior, that Indian assets held 
     in trust are not assets of the public. This should lead to 
     the premise that the trust responsibilities to Indians are 
     such that their interests are not to be subordinated in the 
     name and emotion of some particular good of society for the 

          The trust responsibility is the same as in any other 
     trust and, as has been stated, includes, among other things, 
     the duty on the part of the trustee to give full disclosure 
     of information regarding the trust assets to the 
     beneficiary. In order to fully implement this full 
     disclosure and avoid the many instances in the past where 
     the United States Government has taken action on behalf of 
     the general public which adversely affects its trust 
     responsibility for the property of Indian Tribes without 
     full notification to, or consultation with, the tribes, it 
     is suggested that the President of the United States by 
     Executive Order require that any agency of the United States 
     Government which plans to take any unilateral action which 
     would affect the trust property of any Indian Tribe in any 
     way must file an Indian Rights Impact Statement. This 
     statement would be similar to the statement required under 
     the National Environmental Protection Act and would be 
     distributed to the Indian Tribe affected, the Department of 
     the Interior, and any other governmental agency affected. It 
     should include a complete analysis of the effect on the 
     Indian trust property as well as an analysis of alternative 
     methods of reaching the same goal. Such Indian Rights Impact 
     Statement would not relieve the United States of any of its 
     trust responsibility, but would be designed to more fully 
     discharge this responsibility.  

          The primary responsibility of the trustee should be to 
     spend more time and energy protecting Indian-owned natural 
     resources from other parties. It also means that the trustee 
     must act in any adversary role to those parties whose 
     possession and control of property may be in conflict with 
     Indian rights, even as this applies to the United States 


          Recognition of the sovereignty of Indian Tribes, trust 
     protection of their natural resources, responsibility for a 
     sound Indian economy, and delivery of community services on 
     the part of the Federal Government must continue. It is 
     recognized that some internal changes within the tribal 
     structure may be necessary to accommodate changing events in 
     the Indian communities. These changes would be contemplated 
     to facilitate the role of Tribal Government in the 
     management of their natural resources for the maximum 
     benefit of their members.  

          The tribal governmental role must be exercised through 
     processes which ensure continuous assertion of tribal 
     sovereignty and extend equal rights to all tribal members. 
     The Tribal Government will conduct its business of 
     government and management for the best interest of its 
     members. Tribes must be ever watchful and alert to attempts 
     at erosion of the Tribal Government decision-making process, 
     both from without and within.  

          Tribal Governments must be prepared to face the reality 
     of the future and to deal with these realities in a 
     practical and statesmanlike manner. The Indian society must 
     meet the challenges of the future and of survival with new 
     methods, when past methods no longer serve the purpose.  

          Tribal leaders of the past have protected Indian 
     society and it is to their credit that Indian society 
     survives today. For this, all Indians should be grateful. 
     The future survival of Indian society, however, depends upon 
     its ability to project itself into the future. The 
     development of our youth as tribal leaders and their 
     response to the challenges of the future will determine the 
     ultimate destiny of our society. They are the future hope, 
     and it is to them that the present tribal leaders eventually 
     will pass on the mantle of leadership and, with it, the 
     responsibility for protection of Indian-owned natural 
     resources and of Indian society itself.  

          As Indian Tribes face the future, the National Tribal 
     Chairmen's Association advocates strong, meaningful training 
     programs to enable Indian leaders to deal with the future, 
     not only in terms of policy decisions, but in terms of the 
     technical knowledge needed to implement the decisions, 
     especially as they relate to the field of Indian-owned 
     natural resources.  

          It is important therefore that Indian youth be 
     encouraged to select fields of training so that they will be 
     equipped with the technical knowledge to protect and manage 
     these resources necessary for the survival of Indian 


          The National Tribal Chairmen's Association is committed 
     to the progress of Indian tribal society and the protection 
     of Indian-owned natural resources. To this end, the 
     Association expects the Federal Government to honor its 
     commitments to the American Indians in the tribal context. 
     It expects all others who make a commitment to Indians to do 
     the same, because Indian identity is based on tribal 
     culture, traditions, and history.  

          Indian Tribes must endure forever, and that is what it 
     is all about.  

     This position paper in the present form, was finalized by 
     the Board of Directors of NTCA on February 9, 1974. The 
     position paper considered in draft form by the Second Annual 
     Convention, December 1973, had been redrafted and 
     unanimously adopted in principle by the convention. Member 
     tribes were extended a period of time in which to offer 

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