Harvard Tribal Leadership Program, Vice-Chair Loni Greninger and Secretary Rochelle Blankenship (Jamestown S'kallam Tribe)

Indian Voices
August 16, 2023

We were honored to be able to participate in the inaugural Tribal Leadership program at Harvard School of Business in Boston, Massachusetts. This program was sponsored by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. There were 80 attendees representing Tribes from all over the United States and several First Nations from Canada, many of which have similar successes and challenges as Jamestown.

The rigorous program covered topics such as strategic leadership, environmental and natural resource management, governance, and strategic thinking for social change. Each day we studied examples of how leaders led through crisis, ethical dilemmas, the role of boards and managers, negotiation skills, the responsibility of leadership to its people, finding purpose and mission within a government or organization, and the importance of self-care. We were challenged to analyze these real-life examples of successful businesses, governments, and organizations, as well as those that failed in critical areas. Our assignment was to be prepared to discuss, each day of class, the positives and negatives of how these issues were handled. Throughout the week, the class also discussed how we take these non-tribal examples and translate them into our own values and cultures; we tribes handle crises, ethics, councils, boards, committees, mission, purpose, partnerships, relationships, and self-care in our own ways that reflect our tribal identities; it is expressed differently from our greater non-native communities, though we may also find some similarities at the human level.

While staying on campus for the weeklong program, we were able to learn from some of the most respected educators in the U.S. as well as hear other Tribes’ experiences. As this was the first leadership course of its kind, the professors were quick to acknowledge they were there to teach Tribal Leaders and learn from Tribal Leaders. There were difficult conversations about colonization, boarding schools, negative laws and policies, and discussions of how to navigate relationships that have gone sour between Tribes and non-tribal partners. However, many Tribes were encouraging with their stories of determination and strength to endure!  

We both agree that the program was inspiring and rewarding and we raise our hands to NCAI and San Manuel for their leadership and funding to afford us this life changing experience. The opportunity to refine leadership skills is a gift and we do not want to take that for granted. We thank you, our Tribal Citizens and Descendants, for supporting us as we learn and grow. Our next step is to figure out how to implement this knowledge at Jamestown in the best way that fits our community!