The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has new leaders including president, Pechanga Tribal Chair Mark Macarro.
Rhonda LeValdo has more.
New NCAI president Mark Macarro was officially sworn in with other leadership positions Friday as the organization’s annual convention wrapped up in New Orleans.
Macarro says his priorities as president will include being more vocal in Washington D.C.
He also says there needs to be healing with state-recognized tribes, upset with this year’s membership amendment vote that would have stripped them of their voting rights and leadership positions at the organization. Those amendments failed.
“I want to get all of us used to coming to D.C. to reengage in a better way the mission of NCAI, which is being present in D.C. to Congress, the Administration, and the White House to advocate priority issues.”
Outgoing NCAI president Fawn Sharp reflected on some of her greatest contributions as NCAI president.
“Continuing to advance tribal sovereignty in the face of a myriad of challenges including, just three months after my election, a global pandemic and disproportionate funding that left us vulnerable. And we achieved equity with state, local government. I think that laid a foundation for our advancements in tax policy. I was the first tribal leader to receive diplomatic recognition to join the U.S. delegation to COP 26 and 27. The U.S. looked to us to lead a high-level conversation between the United States directly with Indigenous leaders from every continent.”
Sharp says she’ll continue to work to make an international imprint as she works to get tribal nations more visible outside of the United States by attending a meeting with Indigenous leaders in Dubai as Macarro starts his term as president.
As part of Native American Heritage month, the American Bar Association recently asked a group of Native women to talk about how they became lawyers and trailblazers.
The panel included the U.S. Interior Secretary, Alaska’s former Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson (D-AK), and other Native women, who have made their mark in the legal world.
As Rhonda McBride from our flagship station KNBA reports, their path wasn’t easy.
The common thread among the women – a strong desire to serve their people, along with encouragement from their elders, especially aunties and grandmas, who helped them fight loneliness and isolation during a time where there weren’t other Native women, let alone other Native Americans, in law school.
For Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), her journey began when she was 28 – a single mom who worked to put herself through law school and occasionally had to turn to food stamps.
She told the group, she’s happy to see more Native women in law, but says progress comes amid “somber reminders” – from the marginalization of Native Americans to the chronic neglect of Missing, Murdered and Indigenous People.
“The MMIP Crisis will take the brilliance of legal minds like yours to overcome the jurisdictional challenges that make it difficult to address.”
When she worked as a legislative aide to put herself through college, she noticed that lobbyists armed law degrees had the most success in changing government policy.
Davidson, now President and CEO of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, says a law degree gave her a seat at the table as decision-maker and a game-changer.
“Not only being at the table but designing a different table that is more inclusive is setting up a level of expectation and upping everybody’s game.”
Judge Abinanti says that difference leads to a more diverse legal system. The judge says tribal courts regularly introduce new concepts into the legal system – such as a program her tribe developed, a self-referral system, to give those at risk a chance to ask for help before they get into trouble with the law.
While the panelists agree that tribal courts have a lot to offer, they say they are a long way getting the respect and appreciation they deserve.
Stacy Leeds (Cherokee), who is the Willard H. Pedrick Dean and Regents Professor of Law, became the first Native American woman to serve as a law school dean. She says there’s room for Native expertise in so many facets of today’s legal practice.
“The number one thing the ABA can do is learn that we live in an America that has three sovereigns.” said Leeds, who hopes that someday, when the words “federal and state” are spoken, the word “tribal” rolls off the tongue with the same ease.
Valerie Davidson says in drafting legislation and government policy, tribal inclusion can be as simple as picking up a pen.
“Actually, a Sharpie, would do. Add a comma and the words ‘tribes’ and ‘tribal organizations’, you will do more to advance our efforts than you would imagine.”
The ABA panel discussion was held earlier this month.
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