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"Traditional Tribal Government"
by Franklin H. James, Sr.


June 02, 2004

Description and duties of Tribal Council Members and Clan Structure:

Our tribes must honor and respect our relations and ancestors upon whose lives, our lives are built, who established our civilization countless generations ago --- a distant time celebrated and remembered in our oral history, sacred ceremonies and traditions, expressed in our artistry, and the distinctive signs and symbols of our people and culture. (Non-Natives have no clue, for they have never practiced our ways)

A Tribal Elder had to have the following characteristics; honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness, truthfulness, intelligence, self - discipline, understanding, caring - good work habits, honorable, a good record, productive, kindhearted. They had to be well versed and have knowledge of tribal laws and customs, law - abiding with no criminal record. They needed to be a person who could publicity expressed themselves, a person that could represent their people with honor and respect.

All Tribal council members have the right to voice their own opinions; a council member who can not work with other council members, and continues to use poor and unjust judgments, can be considered a trouble maker. Their position, whether it is of the President, Chairperson, Tribal Spokesman, Council Person, or whichever, does not exclude them from being removed from the Tribal Council by petitioning the full Tribal Council, Tribal Members or Clan.

Our traditional Natives never had any Kings, Queens, dictators, rulers or Chiefs in their villages and/or Tribal Councils.

No one individual exercised absolute power or control over the rest of the Council of Elders, village, Clan, Tribe or Nation. No one individual could make major important, unilateral decisions alone. On matters of importance, the Council had to be in agreement before any significant actions could be undertaken. The Tribal leader or spokes-person was subject to the advice and consensus of all Tribal Council of Elders on all matters.

When someone was accused of something wrong, and there were no witnesses present, they would bring it to the Council's attention; judging was never done by one person. There was no such thing, as a head Council person making decisions by themself. All Council members are, considered equal, and the final decision were made by the Council.

If a person was wrongly dismissed from the Council and/or wrongly fired, that should be brought to the attention of the council, and that problem should be solved; not by attorneys, non-Native courts, but in-house without publicity.

In council meetings, non-natives have no voice, and can not speak, unless they are called upon by the Tribal Council of Elders.

Plotting to have full control, power, making threats, such as; stating to another council member, watch how you vote or talk, or you will be censored, are not the Native ways, you could be removed for those remarks.

It does not matter how old you are, or how long you have been on the council, you always have the right to voice your opinion.

I will reiterate, all issues should be solved in-house, people that air Tribal problems out to the public, really do not understand our traditional ways. Problems should be solved in closed sessions; if you can not solve those problems of concern, then you must address it to the Tribal Elders and get their advice.

Franklin H. James, Sr.
Ketchikan, Alaska



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