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As Sovereign as You Act

 Edward L. Cline, Sr came from a long line of leaders. Both grandfathers and his father served on the Umonhon Tribal Council, and so did Mr. Cline himself at various times in his life. His granddaughter, Kyla Cline-Snake, remembers times when her grandfather would speak passionately about the days of old and how everyone would call each other by their given Native American names. Edward L. Cline, Sr. was Waca’be Zhinga, or Little Black Bear. He was often heard saying “you’re as sovereign as you act” and there is a lot of meaning in those 6 words. Sovereignty has been said to deliver a connection, which bares responsibly, to work in the best interest of the people. As with many great leaders, it is this responsibility that drives individuals to accomplish great things.

As a young man, Waca’be Zhinga, was a keen observer. Growing up during the depression, very few jobs existed and tribal people faced tremendous struggles on many fronts. Lack of appropriate education, good health care, homes, and solutions to address social issues, left many in Indian country looking for answers. Witnessing these struggles first hand, Waca’be Zhinga with our tribal leaders and many of the leaders across native lands, worked as advocates for change to address these and many other challenges for all people. Waca’be Zhinga was part of the Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards that reformed education for the Umonhon people, and resulted in our Macy Public School System. He drove efforts that led to the Carl T. Curtis Health Care facility and developed housing programs and social programs. Additionally, much of our governance structure along with the Justice center has been grown through the efforts of Waca’be Zhinga and the Umonhon tribal leaders. While researching documents, Waca’be Zhinga discovered that thousands of acres of land were taken from the Umonhon people. A shift in course of the Ni shu da, the smoky waters of the Missouri had happened, and land reemerged to the Iowa side to be claimed by white farmers. Waca’be Zhinga stood strong with persistence and tenacity along with our other tribal leaders to win a battle that took decades against the federal government and white farmers to reclaim the Blackbird Bend land for the Umonhon people. As a tribal leader and chairman for the Umonhon Nation, Waca’be Zhinga, carried the virtue of humility, not wishing to take credit for the many things he worked to accomplish, however we owe much to our current and past leadership for the efforts and actions they take. I believe the legacy of Waca’be Zhinga leaves behind wisdom for all about this responsibility to work in the best interest of the people and I am proud that our new Macy Facility, Waca’be Zhinga Higher Education Center (Little Black Bear), carries his name.