Native American Ethics Today

Contrast this historical view discussed in the previous section with that of today’s non-Indian perspective on Native American ethics. Non-Indian newspapers are quick to print stories on embezzlements, stealing, robberies, Indian on Indian violence, abuse of all kinds. Alas, the portrait of the highly ethical and moral Native American of yesteryears has been replaced by an image of Native American leaders who have little or no moral fiber. Tribal and non-tribal members alike share this perception.

Like all general pictures there are, of course, exceptions. We can all identify many tribal leaders of outstanding integrity. Still, this does not change the fact that our society is different now. Anyone who claims that Native American society is always a role model of ethics for other communities just hasn't been paying attention to some of the scandals and problems afflicting us today.

We hope you did not enroll in this course so you can go out and start accusing different tribal members of ethical violations. Instead, we hoped you enrolled in this course to learn what you have to do to conduct yourself in an ethical manner. Only when you apply and start practicing ethical standards will you have the moral authority to speak up against ethical practices in others.

The section also emphasizes the importance of “sound institutions of government’ as essential to building strong tribal communities and society (Kalt et al, 2007). The report recognizes several tribes that have effective tribal governments: the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the Winnebago of Nebraska. For any government to be effective their leaders have to have a solid base of moral and ethical behavior. I would be willing to bet that the leaders of tribes are highly ethical and moral people. I would also say the majority of tribal workers and/or tribal members would not tolerate any unethical or immoral behavior by their leaders, program directors, and tribal members.