A Speech By Leaford Bearskin
I frequently talk to the public sector about American Indian Culture, our religion, and other Indian affairs. A question often asked of me is “What does a Chief do?”
I will try to explain in my own opinion, what a Chief does.
All Chiefs, nowadays, are elected by the adult membership of their tribe. Usually, five to six members are elected to run all affairs of the tribe and the Chief serves as Chairman of the Board. He is the top executive who represents the tribe in all governmental affairs with federal agencies. He conducts business dealings with non‑Indians on economic matters. He attends intertribal affairs, social affairs, and serves as chief executive in all intra‑tribal affairs. He is the chief administrator of all federal programs received from the U.S. Government. These include senior citizen programs, home improvement programs, health management, education, housing, historical, pow‑wows, religious affairs, constitutional affairs, and administration affairs. He is responsible for morale, and welfare programs for all tribal members. He conducts funerals, weddings and attends social affairs, and family gatherings. He attends community meetings and becomes involved in community projects such as public schools, fire departments, police departments, community safety programs, community health programs, and little leagues. He visits his tribal members when they are in the hospital.
He is available to the Public for talks and presentations on Indian affairs. He visits schools, colleges, cub scouts, and youth programs that have an interest in Indian lore and culture.
The Chief is available to his people twenty‑four hours a day, seven days a week. There are not many holidays. Being Chief is a job – not a position.