Reaching Your Target Audience
AI/AN: Protocol for Working with Tribes
It is important to understand the aspects of working with tribes in order to conduct AI/AN outreach. Tribal leaders rightfully feel you should understand their culture and traditions and respect the leadership within their community. Following is a suggested protocol for working with tribes compiled by the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission (2005):
- Understand the unique relationship between American Indians, Alaska Natives and the United States government. It is a political relationship that is not based on race. The history of this relationship is relevant and important to understand.
- There are more than 560 federally recognized tribes, each with its own history, culture and language.
- Do not assume one tribe or one leader speaks for all. Take the time to find the key players in each community.
- Those you consult with might not be able to answer questions immediately. They may need to think about it and consult with others.
- American Indians object to being "consulted" or "studied" by people who have little intention of doing anything in response to their concerns. Be prepared to negotiate and to find ways to accommodate the tribe's concerns. Be prepared to respond with reasons why their advice may or may not be followed.
- Meetings with tribal councils and tribal elders should, if possible, be conducted with officials at those same levels.
- Most tribal governments are not wealthy, and it may be difficult for tribal officials to attend meetings or exchange correspondence. In addition, tribal governments in general do not have a large support staff to handle meetings or follow-up.
- Formal notices or invitations should be addressed to the tribal chairperson and/or the appropriate council representative or committee, with a copy to the tribal program director.
- Do not rely on written communications. Follow up on written correspondence with telephone calls, or in-person meetings.
- Traditional authorities often prefer face-to-face consultation to written communication. During negotiations, prepare to discuss all aspects of an issue simultaneously rather than sequentially.
- Respect tribal chairpersons and tribal council representatives as elected officials of a government, and refer to them by their appropriate title.
- Like all business relationships, honesty and integrity are highly valued. While a sense of humor is appreciated, serious, business-like behavior is appropriate.
- Shake hands when being introduced, meeting a person or departing. Be sure to shake hands with everyone in the room.
- If possible, provide refreshments and/or a meal during meetings. Doing this is important and appreciated.