Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Patricia Ripoll


Based on a review of one tribal government's strong membership powers exercised in General Tribal Council (GTC) meetings, tribal leaders do not analyze or review the activities in those meetings on an ongoing basis to determine where or if improvements are needed or are effective when implemented. The purpose of this study was to bridge the gap in empirical studies and to identify a process by which tribes can review GTC meetings to implement continuous improvements. Based on the tenets of Habermas' deliberative democracy framework, this qualitative study used the Discourse Quality Index (DQI) to determine the level of participation and deliberation occurring in membership meetings. Through a content analysis of transcripts from a year of GTC meetings of a single tribe, findings provided insight on speaker interruptions, reasons underlying opinions, respect given to others, and community-based decisions. The findings also identified that GTC meetings score high in all elements except regarding respect for others. By focusing on improvements in deliberative forums, Tribal leaders can create a more inviting atmosphere to individuals to speak, improve community networking, and increase levels of respect for others. Implications for social change are the development of meetings that improve over time, resulting in the generation of a greater range of solutions to public issues and creation of networking relationships as members hear other solutions and positions.