This week I am attending workshops in Tempe, Arizona, on topics related to leadership and ministry in Native Christian Churches. (Saying "Native American Churches" means another thing.) Here are a few random thoughts from today.

1. You can learn a lot about a town by riding city busses. To save money I and the person I traveled with took a city bus from the Phoenix Airport to the Cook Conference Center/School (founded years ago to serve Indian Churches). Phoenix folk were very friendly and helpful, driver and passengers. My opinion of this town now is higher.

2. Have I ever mentioned I am frugal? I refer to myself as a true conservative--I read all restaurant menus from right to left.

3. Our dominant culture is crazy. Along University Avenue I see grass planted, with sprinkler systems installed. You have moved to the desert, people! It is dry here. Go with it, don't fight it. Adapt, change. Instead we usually seek to dominate our local environments. As the Phoenix area grows, where will the water come from to water this turf?

4. I am one of the few Anglos here. Most of the attendees are tribal. In conversation I find that tribal governments are universally despised as crooked, incompotent, etc. I ask why so? One of the more intriguing explanations I heard today: democracy is an alien imposition on tribal cultures which have other ways of raising up leaders; democratic processes tend to reward politicians (in the bad sense of the word) rather than raise up leaders. Ironically enough, the Founders of the US would have understood. By "tribal governments" we do not mean the Bureau of Indian Affairs, etc., but rather the self-government structures of each tribe.

5. Another explanation of the above: since friendship and kinship ties matter so much for tribal people (as they do in all traditional societies), then people in power necessarily reward their friends and relatives. In another context, (a discussion of gang activity on reservations), one man said--our tribe has found we have had to federalize gang-related law-breaking. They are not afraid of the tribal police or jails, they say, "go ahead, put me in jail, my aunt ----- will bring me food I like and my uncle ----- will let me out nights."

6. National gangs are a growing problem even on reservations. Perhaps more on this later.