This article examines how tribal education department leaders perceive the process of educational policy problem recognition and definition in their governments. This piece presents the perspectives of two education department directors working in two different federally recognized tribal governments located in Northern California. The data presented in this article was gathered through multiple interviews with the education department directors. The interviews were recorded, then transcribed and analyzed for themes sentence-by-sentence with the use of open coding methodology. The study argues that policy problem recognition and definition processes are, in part, shaped by (1) the expertise and ideologies of the department leadership within tribal governments; (2) the hands-on work of department leadership in the community; and (3) the flow of policy problem indicators from departments to council.

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