Was talking with a friend last encouraging him to seriously consider running for a Commissioner of Indian Affairs nomination from a metro area this year. The response was a steady "No."
It wasn't because he didn't think himself a competent thinker or that he isn't knowledgeable about the state or national issues or isn't indian enough. It was because he simply didn't want the flak that came with the application and nomination process muchless the job itself.
The flak that comes with the job. Flak ... Flieger Abwehr Kanonen ... Nazi anti-aircraft guns ... Trying to shoot down Allied aircraft ... Allies ... Dakota.
We verbally shoot at each other, at ideas we don't like, then, as it gets rougher, at the people who create the ideas. Every group does that whether they're black, white, gay, green, neoyorqueño or pakistani. What leaders in these groups have learned, however, is small-group bonding that then creates large-group bonding. Like how Tecumseh and Dragging Canoe formed their coalitions of resistance. Like how a mayor (Hubert Humphrey) was able to get socialist, anarchist, farmer and labor interests - all the progressive elements of his state, together to create the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.
We need good people to run for commissioner nominations. Good nominees need allies. We need groups of people ready to support good people who apply for Commissioner of Indian Affairs' nominations. They need people who can help take the flak, who will help defend against the flak and get their Allies through the process. Organizations sometimes suffice to mark a candidate, like the NRA or ACLU, but parties, like the GOP and DFL and Green and Libertarian make it easier to sort out whose collective side we're probably on in the tugs of war.
If TNNAC gets out of the confidential-information business, who is going to vet the applicants and nominees? Probably not the Commissioners themselves, probably not ACTIA - too hot a potato for either organization. What we need are groups of people who will sponsor applicants and nominees and who will themselves vet their own applicants and nominees and vet the applicants and nominees of others, providing the indian community with a check&balance on the community's right to information and applicants' desire to keep some things private even when entering the public arena.
Is vetting necessary? Back in the 2001 election process there were a couple applicants who were alleged to have had "a record" of sexual offenses. What to do with that information? Who should take responsibility for checking that information out? Should we just leave it to The State to run their own background checks on our final nominees? Wouldn't it be just a little more than a tad bit embarrassing if the Native American community was to propose a nominee who later turned out to have a previously undisclosed criminal record of any kind? Or a nominee who lied on their application? Personally, i can accept some people who have committed crimes in the past and have since turned their lives around. I know several of them - family and friends. The applicants who were accused of crimes back in 2001 were privately checked out, and the accusation proven baseless, which then reflected back directly on the accuser, a person who few if any people trust these days. Then when all the candidates received word that the state would require background checks on any real nominees, several people dropped out of the running ... we assume it was so in order to avoid the background checks, which means that obviously we need them: we don't want to be embarrassed by voting for somebody who has a skeleton in the closet, nor do we want the shame of nominating somebody who the state finds out is untenable as a Commissioner.
We need personal facts checked. We need candidates who can easily state their tribe and enrollment number, or provide proof of their family lineage. We need veterans whose records check out as true. We need people experienced in getting along with others and able to work with opposing viewpoints. If TNNAC can't do it, somebody else should. And since making true statements and checking personal facts appears to be such a contentious issue among some folks, existing organizations and new ones should step up and assume the responsibility of vetting their friends and their opponents.
It used to be that folks interested in getting appointed to the Commission would just write the governor and let him know of their interest, and ask a couple good people to recommend him/her. Those days of seeking the political patronage of non-indians are gone. It's no longer good enough to just get your name in front of the governor, or to be a good person to get elected or appointed. Applicants and nominees need friends who will testify to a person's goodness and who will run both a good defense and a good offense for their candidate, and will keep other candidates honest as well.