Media Room

December 16, 2015

I want to begin with some important Thank Yous.  

Of course we must acknowledge our generous hosts, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.  I especially want to thank Chairman Courtney and Chief Executive Officer Michael Rondeau for their hands-on work in helping to organize and put on this summit.  And I want to thank the Tribal Council and all of the tribal staff and the staff at Seven Feathers for making us feel so welcome and well-served. 

I am especially grateful for the attendance of the tribal chairs.  Thank you for making our Government-to-Government relationships a priority, and for striving to bring our governments and citizens ever closer. 

I also want to extend my deep gratitude to Karen Quigley, the Director of the Legislative Commission on Indian Services for taking a leading role in organizing today's Summit, and for thinking deeply about the themes and programs that can help us all work more effectively together.  I've worked with Karen for a long time, and as Governor I am particularly grateful for her dedication and insights.  

And I want to thank everyone present for your attendance, your energy, and your engagement as we have worked through today's agenda.  Your willingness to take the time to be here is a testament to what all of us here today have in common: we believe in public service, and we believe in the power of government to improve the lives of our citizens.  And maybe most importantly, we believe that by working together, the government of the State of Oregon and the governments of the nine federally recognized tribes who make their homes within her borders can improve the lives of all of our people far more than we ever could by acting alone.  

This was a productive day.  We've heard a lot of good ideas, and lots of stories of successful (and sometimes not-so-successful) efforts to work together and to understand one another.  We've talked about communicating and coordinating and consulting and cooperating.  We've dedicated ourselves to working toward a future marked by closer and more trusting ties between our sovereigns. 

I want to add one more word to our list of aspirations for the coming year: LISTENING. 

As everyone in this room knows, there is a strong temptation that comes with governing: an impulse to MOVE, to ACT, to DO SOMETHING, to build and maintain a momentum of accomplishment and action.   

When we are at our best, we remember to resist that impulse --at least for a while -- and to talk with and consult with one another.   But even then, too often "talking with” each other means “taking turns talking at each other,” and “consulting” means merely providing information to each other and then moving on with our day. 

This isn't because we do not value our relationships.   It's not even because we are indifferent to each other's views or ignorant of the fact that others may have ideas or insights superior to our own. 

No, we do this because we are busy, because we are paid to make decisions, and because we rarely have the free time to stop moving long enough to start truly listening. 

Well, I have learned in the last ten months that it is vital that we make the time.  That if we are going to be leaders who truly seek what is best for our citizens, before we start sharing ideas or voicing opinions, we must force ourselves to pause, to seek out those with wisdom, and to listen.  That, as the quote attributed to Winston Churchill goes, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Nowhere is this approach more important than with respect to the State of Oregon's work with her nine sovereign tribes. 

Twenty years ago, Executive Order 96-30 acknowledged the unique legal status of the nine federally recognized tribal governments in Oregon, as well as the importance of recognizing the government-to-government relationship between Tribes and the State of Oregon.  

As we embark on the next twenty years in state-tribal government to government relations, I want to take this opportunity to ask all of the state agency directors and staff in attendance today to reaffirm the most basic tenet of our government-to-government relationships, and to make 2016 a year of Listening First.

I encourage every Oregon agency to meet at least once during 2016 with each Tribe at a mutually convenient time and location, and to consider strongly the potential advantages of conducting listening sessions on tribal lands, when invited.

I ask that Oregon's agencies will embark upon these sessions with the goal of hearing what Tribal Leaders have to say about an area of state policy that affects their interests.  Of course the agencies should be generous with their own information and perspectives, but I ask you all to start by mostly listening. 

My hope is that a year in which the State of Oregon engages in Listening First will improve understanding, mutual trust and respect between our sovereigns.  And that having taken the time to listen, Oregon will be better prepared to tackle the mutual challenges that confront the State and her sister sovereigns. 

Thank you all for attending this year's Summit.  I look forward to seeing all of you a year from now, when we can share what we have learned by listening, and once more talk how to move all of our people forward.