Florence: Native American tribes set the standard for leadership

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Russ florence

When the Chickasaw Nation announced plans for a $ 300 million resort in Oklahoma City last month, community leaders hailed it as “world class,” “transformational” and something that “will add significantly to the benefits. exciting progress’ happening in the city.

It is all true. Again, the same could be said about a number of Native American initiatives recently.

As elected officials and business leaders battle everything from tax breaks to public health to climate change, our Native American tribes are setting the standard in leadership, economic development and humanitarianism.

In modern culture jargon, the Native American tribes of Oklahoma “are having a good time.”

When the pandemic struck in March 2020, tribal leaders were among the first to take drastic action to keep the community safe. They closed their casinos – at the cost of millions of dollars – while continuing to pay their employees. They’ve canceled culturally significant events or moved them online. They acted quickly to vaccinate their people; Native American immunization rates are among the highest in Oklahoma. Many tribal clinics have even offered free vaccines to non-tribal citizens.

During this time, they built hospitals, opened daycares, and sponsored community events. The Muscogee Nation provided transportation for Hurricane Ida aid workers. The Cherokee Nation bought a dilapidated building that once housed a historically black school and converted it into a boys and girls club.

The list goes on.

Tribal nations are also at the forefront of a cultural renaissance.

The First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City – which started out as a state pledge, then languished for decades – eventually opened, again thanks to native tribes who provided capital and pressed on it. accelerator. It’s a Smithsonian-grade business, drawing visitors from 48 states in its first week.

Dogs Reservation, a critically acclaimed and commercially successful Hulu series, presents a modern and avant-garde take on Native American life. The show was designed by Oklahoman Sterlin Harjo, and was written and filmed in the Indian country of Oklahoma.

United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is a Native American from Oklahoma.

Indigenous outreach even permeated the Girls’ Little League World Series of Softball, which was championed by an Indigenous team from Muskogee.

Looking back, it seems that many virtues of the tribes come from their history: honoring their elders, respecting their land and their water, taking care of each other.

It’s a vital lesson in humility, service and giving – made all the more remarkable when you consider how much they took away.

Russ Florence is a partner in the consultancy firm of Schnake Turnbo Frank.


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