Constitution and Code Drafting for Alaska Tribes

Your constitution is the guide to governing your tribe. It is the cornerstone of a stable tribal government and skillfully balances the rights of the people against those of the government. A well-written constitution and the codes that accompany it promote respect from other governments and institutions, protect Native cultural activities and traditions, and provide for a smooth flow of government and continuity between administrations.

During this class, Alaska tribal government expert Lisa Jaeger* will help you discover how your constitution impacts the way you govern; give you tools to help you use your constitution to manage your tribal organization; show you how to work within the bounds of your constitution as you develop ordinances; and illustrate how to amend your tribal constitution to meet the needs of your growing and changing tribe. If you havenít developed a constitution, youíll learn the functions and purposes of a constitution, key elements of the writing process and what components to include.

If youíre an elected tribal official, part of the tribal administrative staff or a BIA employee with responsibilities related to tribal governments, this class will offer the insight and skills to meet the governing challenges that tribes in Alaska face today.

*Instructor subject to change.

T O P I C S   I N C L U D E
Tribal Cultures and Constitutions
  • Balancing tradition with current demands
  • Incorporating cultural values
  • Maintaining your history
Federal Control of Tribal Constitutions
  • Indian Reorganization Act (IRA)
  • Amendments to the IRA
  • Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA)
  • Case law
Constitution Functions and Purposes
  • Traditional forms of organization:
    • Separation of powers
    • Tribal government models
  • Promoting good government
  • Removal of federal intervention provisions
  • Interpreting constitutional language:
    • Constitutions as seen by courts
    • Avoiding conflict
  • Stability of tribal governments
  • Why constitutions fail:
    • Tribal members’ expectations
    • Unrealistic goals
Writing the Constitution
  • Drafting the constitution
  • The outline — what to include
  • Legal writing using plain language
Features and Considerations
  • Preamble
  • Territory and jurisdiction
  • Adoption and certification
  • Membership and rights of members
  • Enrollment and elections process:
    • Blood quantum
    • Certificate of results of election
  • Sovereign immunity
  • Tribal governmental power:
    • Roles of officers
    • Removal from office and forfeiture
    • Filling of vacancies
  • Council meetings
  • Popular participation in tribal government
Beyond Constitutions
  • The use of ordinances
  • Drafting codes that outline:
    • Tribal laws
    • Election procedures
    • Tribal court structure
  • Authority, purpose and scope
Resolving Conflicts and Challenges
  • Strengthening tribal sovereignty
  • Transitions of power
  • Enforcing the constitution
  • Informing tribal members
  • Case studies
Checks and Balances
  • Separation of powers:
    • The tribal general council
    • Executive, legislative and judicial authority
  • Role of elders, clans and societies
  • Role of men and women
Revising and Amending the Constitution
  • Determining needs and outcomes:
    • Public input
    • Impact on existing constitution
    • Intended and unintended consequences
  • The process
  • Adoption procedures
  • Harmony within the constitution
The Ratification Process
  • Organizing and staffing for adoption success
  • Analyzing your community
  • The constitution survey
  • Political support for change
  • Education and community meetings
  • What can go wrong?

*Topics subject to change.

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