Letter: Not everyone on White Earth reservation is happy with Tribal Council
I'm writing to respond to an article published March 21 by Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor.
I'm the person that she refers to that was forced to leave an open meeting. It's supposed to be an open meeting where the people have not only a right but also an obligation to question the actions of elected officials.
In the article the chairwoman mentions someone yelling. There was someone yelling, but it wasn't me. There was a man there that had been drinking. He was yelling and calling them names. There were about 10 cops in the room, yet no one said a word to the individual.
That's when I raised my hand to speak. The chairwoman recognized me and I asked the question, "Why are you enrolling people in secret and people less than one-fourth Ojibwe blood?"
The tribal membership have every right to know who is being enrolled.
The reason I asked the question was because of a court case out of Mahnomen County that we had come across. It involved a green card holder who was charged with having an uncased gun in his vehicle and fleeing an officer. This was on Oct. 19, 1997.
Five days later the Reservation Business Committee passed Resolution No. 01-98-0001 dated Oct. 24, 1997, making the green card holder a full enrolled member with all the rights and privileges. The resolution was signed by Erma Vizenor and Eugene McArthur.
The chairwoman stated in her article that this resolution has never been used since she took office. That's not true. She signed it. This has never been rescinded. To make matters worse, the Reservation Business Committee (Tribal Council) introduced the resolution to the District Court and the Appellate Court as fact.
The courts didn't buy the argument that a resolution can make someone that's not qualified a full member, and he was found guilty. So the chairwoman and the rest of the R.B.C. did use it.
The chairwoman wrote in her article that open meetings are held where everyone is welcome. What good is being able to attend if you can't say anything?
Now you need to ask their permission a week ahead of time to speak, and you need to tell them what you want to ask. Then they will decide if you can ask it. This is democracy? I don't think so.
I don't believe what the chairwoman says about the majority of the people being satisfied with the tribal council's actions. The people have in fact expressed their concerns with a petition asking for her removal.
Reservation Business Committees are not sovereign governments. They are agencies of the federal government incorporated into the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe under federal charter pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. This is why the federal government deals with them as quasi-governments.
It negates the idea of indemnity. In other words, they are not fully sovereign with full sovereign powers. The Constitution of the Minnesota Chippewa is one of limited authority. It has power clauses and nowhere in it are there any policing powers or court systems.
These are serious infractions that need to be addressed. The power of government was and still is reserved to the real sovereign, the people.
Nothing will ever change for people on reservations until some of our main problems are dealt with, such as absentee voting.
Absentee voting is for people in the armed services or the hospitalized who couldn't make it home to vote. The way it is now leaves too much room for abuse.
The people living on the reservations know what really goes on here. That's why you always see candidates the people don't want lose on the reservation's vote.
Until this changes we will never have a say. -- Ray Bellecourt, White Earth