The plan was to call for nominations from the floor for the United South and Eastern Tribe’s officers on October 9, the first day of the organization’s annual meeting at Mohegan Sun in Montville, Connecticut, and then hear the candidates present their platforms and vote the next day. But when no nominations were forthcoming, the slate of incumbent officers was re-elected by a vote of acclimation.
The re-elected team includes USET President Brian Patterson (Oneida Indian Nation), Vice President Randy Noka (Narragansett Indian Tribe), Secretary Brenda Lintinger (Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana), and Kirk E. Francis Sr. (Penobscot Indian Nation). The offices collectively are called the Administrative Operations Committee (AOC). The AOC officers will serve a two-year term until October 2015.
The motion to re-elect the officers was made by Narragansett councilman Hiawatha Brown and seconded by Catawba Indian Nation Chief William “Bill” Harris and passed unanimously by the USET Board of Directors.
Patterson is beginning his fourth term, as president of the 26 member inter-tribal organization that focuses on enhancing the development of Indian tribes, improving the capabilities of tribal governments, and assisting the member tribes and their governments in dealing effectively with public policy issues and in serving the broad needs of Indian people. USET advocates for Indian nations both regionally and in Washington. Indian Country Today Media Network interviewed Patterson right after his re-election.
How do you feel about being re-elected without a challenge?
It speaks to the USET Board of Director’s commitment to the continuity of leadership and direction to move forward and develop our strength in unity. It’s not about running unopposed. We have a great set of officers that perform well in their duties and responsibilities. It also speaks well of the staff and senior leadership that they put forth. If they did not perform well it would not have been possible for us to run unopposed. It speaks volumes about our board leadership and the organizational leadership to help fulfill USET’s vision, goals, and objectives.
What are your top three priorities for this term?
The first one is to accomplish the goals and objectives that we have identified in our strategic plan for fiscal year 2013. It is the third year that USET has had a one-year strategic plan. So the USET officers have a duty to meet those priorities. In the next term for USET officers and leadership, we need to build out our planning to a three-year strategic plan to be able to measure our progress, success, and use it as a tool to further develop the strengths of our organization. Second our children have a dependence on older generations to help pave the way for their futures back in their ancient homelands. That includes looking after their health, providing opportunity for education, and overall community health. The third priority has to be protecting the sacred trust responsibility that the federal government has to our nations. There are so many things to consider like Carcieri, Patchak, and Cowlitz cases and other frontal attacks on our sovereignty. To work on that USET is building its internal capacity and has filed for a 501(c)4 to help us become more engaged with national and state leaders. [USET’s current non-profit status does not allow lobbying. With 501(c)(4) status it ill be allowed to further its social welfare purposes through lobbying as its primary activity without jeopardizing its exempt status.] So it is not enough to build those meaningful collaborative relationships, we must bring structure to leverage those relationships so Indian country can speak with a cohesive voice and a cohesive message. This has to be a top priority.
What are your top concerns (or fears) for the future for Indian country?
Indian country must be ready to meet the challenges. We have many different layers of challenges on social and economic platforms in Indian country. We see actions and decisions that are made in Indian country that are narrow in focus, in my opinion. In my opinion, I have seen decisions made while only thinking about the economic benefits. The best decisions are those that are rooted in culture, heritage, and in the treaty relationship or in a manner that defines us as a people. Decisions are made solely on economic fronts without looking at what defines our community, our people, and traditions; well, that is a concern for all of Indian country. And we need to be cognizant of what defines us as a people and nations and use that as a starting point to develop cohesive strategy to Indian country that allows it to flourish. It is a fear that I see this trend with our nations where we only make decisions on profit. But I also see an opportunity too. It is an opportunity to gather and have discussions and use the power of the good mind and create solutions and a better future for our children.
What are your proudest achievements in you first three terms?
That would be bringing structure to the Tribal leaders’ vision at USET. Forty-four years ago four founding tribes gathered under a great oak tree in Florida to create this great organization. They were the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, Mississippi Band of Choctaw, Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. And they put their minds together and created a vision. Forty-four years later we are still advancing that vision. We are bringing our moccasins on the path that those leaders created. We are now challenging our leaders to think critically, be proactive, and develop resources to lift the bitter yoke of poverty. In order to be successful we must have a strategic plan that sets out our goals and objectives. This is the third year that we have implemented a one-year strategic plan. We are now working on a three-year plan and this promises to help define where we are going and evaluate our progress. This may not seem like a great movement or innovation. But, it is critical to identify the needs of our nations and create strategy to provide them resources. This has not been done historically at USET. This also will empower USET’s dedicated and highly capable staff.