The Meaning of Sovereignty
A Statement from Tribal Chairperson Brenda Meade
Sovereignty is understood worldwide as the right and power of a governing body to govern itself, its people and its lands without outside interference. In political theory, sovereignty means the supreme decision-making authority of a government.
For Coquille people, sovereignty is an inherent right and responsibility that has been upheld by our Tribal leaders since time began.
Today, sovereignty is the principle that the United States government and the Coquille Indian Tribe understand and agree on when we talk about the importance of taking care of our people and the lands that we come from.
The Coquille Tribe’s sovereignty is tied to who we are and who we have always been. It is reflected in how we treat one another and our neighbors in the broader community. It is tied to our culture, our heritage, and the responsibility we feel to address the needs of our people, to ensure the future of our Tribal nation and the health of these lands and waters.
Since our creation, Tribal leaders have always recognized and prioritized the needs of our people. Those priorities consistently have been to ensure health and safety; to care for our Elders; to teach our young people; and to offer opportunities for Coquille people to stay strong, healthy and proud of their heritage. Sovereignty also means protecting our sacred places and the lands that support our traditional activities and teachings.
It is important to know that the Coquille people never gave up their sovereign rights. Despite unratified treaties, removal from our lands to reservations, vigorous assimilation programs, and the termination policies meant to extinguish Indian identity, the Coquille Indian Tribe never abandoned our sovereignty or our desire to be recognized as the people of this land. We never forgot the importance of sovereignty to the health, wellness and future of our people.
The Coquille people persevered through decades of devastation. After much personal dedication and sacrifice, we regained our federal recognition on June 28, 1989. It was a day that changed the future of our people – a day we will celebrate forever.
We understand that we must uphold our sovereignty and our culture. We must never forget who we are and where we come from. By remembering to “take only what we need and to leave some for the others,” we ensure that Coquille people will always be here on this land.