Last month, I realized that giving my full report at Tribal Council Meetings was not working well enough to get the information out to the people. So, I made the decision to start putting my monthly reports on the Chairman’s Blog for everyone to access. I also want to be able to give a little more detail and explanation on what is being done. I know that I always wanted to know what the Chairman was actually doing, and not just “attended many meetings”. What does that mean anyway? Someone could attend a bunch of meetings and never say anything, or don’t bring anything back, which does not help the Tribe at all. So here’s my month of November report, to you.
· ITCN- I have been the appointed President for the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada for a couple of months now. The Washoe Tribe has the most votes on this board (5) and we fill all seats. ITCN is in a re-building stage and I provide leadership to assist in getting them back on track. Many of the Tribes in Nevada still rely on ITCN services that they cannot provide for themselves.
· Truckee Meadows Land Management Act- This is the new Washoe County Lands Bill. The old bill died a couple years ago and our current Senate representatives are bringing it back to the table. It is very important that we stay current on this, because we have the opportunity to reclaim lands that are original Washoe Territory, and have those lands put into Federal Trust. There is no actual bill put in place just yet, but we are working closely with Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto’s office to be kept up to date on what is happening with it.
· Executive Working Group- One of the first things I noticed at the beginning of my term was that the Tribe had no Economic Development in place. It was not in any job descriptions, nor was there any team to go over our business structure. So I created a small team composed of our Executive level positions, who have decades of experience in business and economic development, to go over the many opportunities that the Tribe may choose to move forward with. This team is going through the due diligence process and getting answers to these basic questions: Are any proposals would even be worth looking at? What would work best for the Tribe? Is the Tribe going to make money? We have also created a job description for an Economic Development Director position, which I hope to have approved by Council at the December Tribal Council Meeting.
· WaSheShu Casino- I have been in talks with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCBI) about the Casino which we partnered with them on. It has taken me a little while to learn the complex structure that was put in place to resurrect the Washoe Development Enterprise (WDE) and is making more sense as I learn. I am in talks with PCBI to start a plan for the Washoe Tribe to take full ownership of the Casino. I understand that this was the idea from the start, but there was no actual plan in place. We are now formulating that plan and hopes to be in agreement very soon.
· Native Youth Conference- I gave an opening speech at the Native Youth Conference earlier this month. This conference is put on by our own Education Department and Staff. I think it’s very important to continue to provide our youth these types of opportunities to learn things that are outside the curriculum of the school walls. It also gives youth the opportunity to hear about holistic health and learning in other ways. I also want to note that the Washoe Tribe is one of the few who actually put on these types of youth events. They have become rare in Native communities.
· Budget Meeting- Tribal Council had an open Budget Meeting this month, to show where we stand as we start to close out 2019. I brought up a couple topics that may have made some people mad, but when I see money being wasted I am going to bring it up. It is my job as Chairman to address the areas that will affect all Washoe Tribal Members, and I will not remain silent when I find out the truth of things. I fully understand “common practice” and “that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality. But I didn’t run for Chairman to continue old practices that have kept us stagnant for decades.
· NNDA- Northern Nevada Development Association. This is an organization that the Tribe has been a part of for a few years now. I am using their resources to know what’s going on with regional development, recruit high level candidates for jobs, and network with the existing businesses in our area. Their annual meeting was at the Nevada Governor’s Mansion earlier this month. We made some good contacts and found resources that will help in implementing future organizational goals for the Corporation side of the Washoe Tribe.
· Housing Deeds/Titles- Home conveyances and receiving Titles for paid off homes has been an ongoing issue for the Washoe Tribe. I have been working with our Washoe Housing Department, BIA, and Congressman Amodeii in getting this fixed. The voice of the Washoe Tribe was so loud in Washington, DC that the Congressman came down himself to assess the issue. There are many fingers that can be pointed, but that doesn’t concern me. I just want the problem fixed and we are now very close to resolving this issue that has haunted us for decades. Home Titles should start coming out by early next year.
· Monthly Managers Meeting- Every month the Tribal Administrator holds a “Managers Meeting” that consists of all management and above employees within the Tribe. I attend most of these meetings, but not all. My role is to give them all an insight as to what to expect, and how to prepare for changes. Since being seated as Chairman, I do not conduct business in the same manner as was being done before. We are striving for higher standards, accountability, and enforcement of policy. Next year I also plan to start conducting “Leadership Trainings” for employees. We want to keep good people and provide more opportunities for Tribal Members.
That is November in a nutshell. I am aiming to have better forms of communication real soon. Be on the lookout for a new Tribal Newsletter in your mailbox. And I am creating an email to allow everyone to voice your opinions and get your specific questions answered. I want to know how you think we’re doing. That’s myself (Chairman), Tribal Council, Community Councils, Administration, Everyone. I can’t fix a problem that I do not see. Be ready for those and I can’t wait to hear from you.
First, we must establish the definition of the Chairman of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. Define what roles are responsibilities are bestowed upon the Chairman. For the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, the main responsibilities are:
1) President of the Washoe Tribal Government
2) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of all Washoe Tribal Corporation Enterprises and Non-profit Programs
3) Chairman of the Washoe Tribal Council
4) And most importantly… VOICE OF THE WASHOE TRIBAL PEOPLE
There are many more direct jobs that the Chairman has to do, like Economic Development, Government Lobbying, Public Relations, Creation and Development, Planning, just to name a few. Oh, and I cannot forget the numerous meetings throughout the year. Each one of these things listed can also be broken down into at least a dozen more jobs to accomplish the tasks that come about. So I guess you can say that the Chairman doesn’t get a whole lot of free time in his life… But hey, that’s what you sign up for! Haha!
As the current Chairman for the Washoe Tribe, I can only describe things to you based on my limited experience so far. Let me tell you, these first nine months have not been easy. There was no laid out plan for me to follow, and many of the years’ worth of records were very disorganized and hard to follow. We have been working hard to build a team of trusted individuals to head the administration of the Washoe Tribe. A team that is dedicated to putting the interests of the Tribe first. I must say that I am proud of our team and look forward to many positive changes in the near future.
Time is not on the side of the Chairman, as elected officials only get their four year term to learn about where the Tribe stands and take action to fix the issues. I am a man of action, but I know that we must take a cognitive approach to ensure that the actions we take will never become harmful to the Tribe, even years down the road. Tribal Leaders serve the people because we care about the future of our people and want to make an impact for the better of all. My approach may be a little bit different than my predecessors, but that’s the reason I was elected by the Washoe People. My approach is to do things that will be beneficial to the Tribe as a whole, and not only to certain individuals. As you may, or may not realize, I get a lot of negative feedback from this. But it’s okay, I will not let rumors, or personal negativity stop me from doing what’s right for all the Washoe People.
That’s about it, in a nut shell for now. Of course, I could go into much more detail, but that will come as the future of the Chairman’s Blog unfolds. We are also working on posting Administrative updates as well. There are so many things that are happening that it is hard to keep everyone informed of all the goings on within the Tribe, but we’re doing our best. We want to have a high level of transparency and keep the Tribe together in a good way. History has shown that we have been our own worst enemy many times. It’s time we Come together, Stay together, and Prosper together.
Welcome everyone to the new Chairman’s Blog. I have developed this blog to tear down some of the barriers we face with communication. There is so much going on within the Washoe Tribe that it becomes difficult to keep people up to date with what and why things are happening. The information on here is for all to read, learn, and share. I will be mainly addressing the Washoe Tribal Membership, but I will also be giving some education that everyone can benefit from. I will be talking about culture, history, government, law, and giving my own perspective on these issues. I will also be sharing my personal experiences and stories for you to enjoy. I would like everyone to know that my opinions about things may change from time to time. I believe in continuously educating myself to become better, so that I can make better decisions for my fellow Washoe People.
Now that everyone has a good idea of what this blog is about, let’s get started. I want to use this first post to talk a little about who I am and why I’m here. My name is Serrell Smokey and I am an enrolled member of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. I grew on the Dresslerville Reservation in Gardnerville, NV. When I turned 18, I joined the Army as a way to leave the Reservation and explore the outside world. I ended up as a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and served with them in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003-2004. I served again with the Nevada National Guard, 485th Military Police Company in support of Operation Spartan Shield 2016-2017. I can honestly say that I gained most of my leadership skills in the military. I began my higher education at Haskell Indian Nations University studying Business and Tribal Management. I ended up moving back to Nevada and changed my major. I have since earned my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I also continue to study and learn, trying to gain as much knowledge as possible.
Aside from my formal studies on Tribal Law and Government, I have been around these topics most of my life. I have many family members who have served many years on the Councils of different Tribal Governments, so I heard all of the rants and raves throughout the years. Native American history was the common topic in the household I grew up in. Many of the major topics that have shaped our history were frequently discussed and debated. We will go into a deeper look at these in future blog posts. I have found out that many of the things that I consider “common knowledge” are not so common. So, I wish to spread that knowledge out to all of you, along with an insight to some of the things that are going on right now. There are many things we are dealing with, both good and bad. I hope we can continue to learn and grow together as Washoe People and Human Beings.