Building Diplomatic Relations to Strengthen Tribal Economies

Guest Commentary

Published December 8, 2019

Tribes have progressed throughout the recent expansion period and continue to find ways to build capacity as a sovereign nation. This has included Indian gaming for the past 25 years, the growth of tribal business entities and harnessing sovereign policy that supports the evolution from profit to the development of strong tribal economies and Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

Dr. Eric Trevan

Recent presentations have shown that some of the poorest counties in the United States still have GDP levels above mid-size casino financial performance. In order to build long-term economic stability, evolving to a functioning economy needs to focus on stopping economic leakage and support multipliers within tribal economies and cooperation with external economies…the United States and international relationships.

In order to promote strong economies, we need to equally support strong relationships across political borders. The United States’ market instability has seen challenges because of international disagreement on trade policy and the importance of international relations has a direct impact on the domestic economy. Tribes also have a need to form strong relations with other nations to strengthen the tribal economy.

Native American nations continue to exercise tribal sovereignty and form relationships with other sovereign nations. Recent developments have highlighted the need to evolve the capacity of out tribal governance and relationships. Research has shown how strong Native governance structures have a causal relationship with economic benefits of Native American nations.

Increased participation in the federal government has increased through Native Americans Deb Haaland (Pubelo of Laguna) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation) of Kansas recently winning elected office with the US Congress in November 2018. They join existing Native American representatives Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation) and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation).

Currently former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Economic Policy Gavin Clarkson (Choctaw Nation) is running for US Senate in New Mexico. Earlier this year, outgoing National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri was appointed as the Ambassador for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. According to the nation “….strengthen the Nation’s sovereignty and allow for a sustained the tribal nation’s presence in Washington, D.C.” As an ambassador, Chaudhuri will assume a diplomatic role beyond the capacity of an attorney or lobbyist. The nature of the position will still allow Jonodev to work with other clients through Quarles and Brady, LLP.

Other Native Americans are also recognized by their tribe as an asset to represent their Nation in multi-national relationships. Kim Teehee was appointed as the Cherokee Nations Delegate to the US Congress. Negotiated through the Treaty of Echota in 1835 securing an agreement between the United States and the Cherokee nation to provide a delegate to the U.S. Congress, as a non-voting member, similar to held by representatives of Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the United States Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Ambassadors (delegates, diplomats, representatives or other related Intergovernmental appointees) represent the elected leadership of the representative nation; in the United States, they represent the president and the executive branch. With the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the ambassadorial representation focuses on the principal chief. Both assuming diplomatic relations with foreign nations, this allows a greater focus on multinational relations-with the unique relationship between tribal nations and the United States-relationships will secure favorable governance conditions to support favorable market conditions.

The importance of national ambassadors and diplomats are highlighted in recent news, tribes have a great opportunity to find tribal citizens who provide representation and expertise, not just in one focused career, but moving between the legal, economic, social and political fabrics with other sovereign nations. Increased responsibilities globally exist with sovereign nations and their elected tribal leadership; however increased responsibilities, challenges and opportunities still at home.

Yet tribal citizens look to these leadership structures to also maintain external national relations, serve on the local Chamber of Commerce, participate with their tribal nations and take care of their family! It is important to invest in additional capacity, beyond legal advice, to find leaders within their tribe that can represent tribal leadership, build trusting relationships with other United States leadership and a variety of Intergovernmental relations. Building governance capacity to secure favorable conditions for cultural and market growth can run parallel with each other if diplomatic relations can continue through the establishment of ongoing ambassadorial relations, a commitment to multi-national relations and embracing the responsibilities of a sovereign nation.

Eric Trevan, Ph.D. is a tribal citizen of the the Match-E-Nash-she-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) and a national advocate for entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development. He focuses on working with small, minority and Native American businesses. He is a member of the faculty and on the tenure track for Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Trevan recently ended a term as chairman of Gun Lake Investments, which fosters tribal economic development. He is the past president and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.

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  1. Atila Matamoros 2 months ago
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