Negotiating a Future: Indigenous leadership through the ages

Lisa J. Watt

Lisa J. Watt

Director of the Indigenous Leadership Program

Map of the Oregon Territory. Source: New York: J.H. Young: Sherman & Smith, (1844).

In addition to the recording of the briefing below, you will find a range of supplemental resources to deepen your understanding of Indigenous leadership, leaders, and communities, including the tribes of our speakers.

Negotiating a future

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

In the mid-1800s, many Northwest tribes signed treaties to reserve an area of their traditional homeland for their perpetual use. Using the Walla Walla Treaty Council as the setting, Roberta “Bobbie” Conner (Nez Perce/Cayuse) will explore the circumstances and significance of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s Treaty of 1855. What happened at the Treaty Council? Who was there? What was said? And, most important of all, what did tribal leaders of the 1850s have to consider and negotiate to ensure a future for their people? Next, W. Ron Allen (Jamestown S’Klallam) will discuss the challenges Indigenous leaders have faced over time, the current issues, and what the future might hold for tribal nations.

This was extremely educational. As an Indigenous person myself, I gained so much from that hour.”

— Negotiating a Future Briefing attendee

Download a transcript of commentary from our panelists. 

Recommended Resources


Roberta (Bobbie) Conner – Interviews with the Confluence Project

The river Bobbie refers to in these videos is the Columbia River, one of the great waterways of the North American continent, or Turtle Island, and the home of Indigenous peoples since the beginning of time.

Intestinal Fortitude (2019) (2:24)

American Policies of Divide and Conquer (2019) (1:35)

The Extinguishing of Property Rights (2019) (1:42)


Oklahoma State University


A state-tribal government-to-government relations law, the first in the U.S.

Making a difference

Please learn more about and consider financially supporting the following nonprofits Bobbie and Ron champion:

About the speakers


Native people were not merely victims of colonialism. They have taken agency over their fate since that time, and continue to do so.


Roberta “Bobbie” Conner is the executive director of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, the award-winning museum and research institute of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon. Bobbie is a leader in the national museum community, a noted historian, and committed horsewoman. She was the 2007 ILA Awardee.


Tribal nations are thriving in many instances, and can be, will be, a model to the rest of the country for societal, environmental, economic health.

—W. Ron Allen

W. Ron Allen is the CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. He is a past president of the National Congress of American Indians and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. Ron has served on numerous federal and state advisory boards, covering a multitude of issues important to Native peoples. Ron was the 2005 ILA Awardee.




Recordings and resources from the second of four virtual briefings on Indigenous Leadership.



Recordings and resources from the third of four virtual briefings on Indigenous Leadership with Nicole Borromeo and Joe Nelson presenting.



Recordings and resources for the final of four virtual briefings on Indigenous Leadership with Dave Tovey and Robert Miller presenting.

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