On my recent trip to Washington, DC, I was reminded that spring was just around the corner; I saw cherry blossoms and flecks of green peeking through the brown carpet of grass and winter grime. It was a trip about planting the seeds of support for cross-governmental projects among tribes, federal agencies and Congress, and for explaining the Bush Foundation’s work in supporting these efforts with our 23 partner tribes.
Every year about this time, many elected tribal leaders make the trek to DC to testify to Congress about the coming year’s budget and appropriations. From my previous work in Senator Tim Johnson’s office, I know that “March madness” is a hectic time of year, not just on basketball courts, but also in the halls of the Capitol building. It’s a time when lots of constituents are vying for a few minutes of time with their member of Congress and/or staffer to try and affect the budget and appropriations cycle for the next fiscal year.
Jaime Pinkham and I used our time in DC to catch up with tribal leaders from near and far, as well as acquaint ourselves with the staffs of the North Dakota and South Dakota Congressional delegations and with several high-ranking officials serving in the federal bureaucracy [including two Bush Fellows—Jodi Gillette (’02) and Patrice Kunesh (’09)—who both work at the U.S. Department of the Interior].
We shared the mission and strategy of the Foundation and the status of work with each of the tribes who share the same geography as North Dakota and South Dakota. We listened as Congressional staff told us about projects they are working on with tribes and shared with them other cross-government collaboration opportunities that exist.
As part of the Native Nations Team's efforts at the Bush Foundation, we aim to assist tribes with cross-boundary relationships that would strengthen each tribe’s governance and improve its relationships with other governments. As this work begins, we know it will take courageous leadership to resolve the intergovernmental challenges that tribes face, be they newly emerging or age-old problems. Some of these issues may be ripe for resolution.
We know that each tribe is in a different place with regard to its nation-building vision and its intergovernmental relationships. Elected tribal leadership sets the agenda for its nation, and where its goals align with our governance work, we’re very willing to help accomplish those goals.
Talk Back to Bush:
What cross-boundary projects do you see where you live? How does your local, county, state or tribal government already collaborate across boundaries or jurisdictions? What issues in your community are ripe for resolution? We want to know what you think.