Ethical Problems: How Reservation Life is Different

There is an old proverb that "Fish were the last to discover water."

Sure, it's obvious how our ancestors lived differently from white society. However, If you have lived on the reservation for most of your life, as have most of my acquaintances, you may not think very much about the differences that persist between the two cultures today. If we are truly honest and courageous, in the tradition of our ancestors, we need to admit that our current reservation system does not always compare favorably to the way systems work off the reservation.

One of the reasons why there may be so many ethical violations on Indian Reservations is because most Reservations do not have a separation of powers. With the court system directly under control of tribal councils, most ethical violations (and other type of violations as well) never reach the court. This leads me often to say we do not have “Law and Order” on our reservations. Now some tribal members may be of the opinion that Law and Order is “a white man’s way doing thing”. Anyone who makes this claim is ignorant in the ways of our ancestors. Our ancestors lived by certain rules and followed certain codes of conduct. If anyone broke a rule or violated a code of conduct, that person paid a price. In other words, accountability is not a European import. Accountability was part of our lives long before the Europeans appeared on the scene.

I truly believe that the reason workers off the reservations have fewer ethical problems in their workplaces is that there are procedures in place to deal with violations. If I harass my co-workers in the public school, even if my brother-in-law is the mayor, they can still ask to have me fired at a school board meeting, sue me in small claims court, file a complaint with the State Board of Education or take one of many other avenues to get justice.