Mother, daughter win seats on tribal council
White Earth residents not only made history when they voted all of the incumbents off the tribal council who were up for re-election Tuesday, but they did it again when they voted in a mother-daughter combo.
“It was the greatest night ever,” said Kathy Goodwin, who won the race for District II representative.
“Everybody was just screaming and yelling and hugging each other,” added Goodwin’s daughter, Tara Mason, who is the new secretary-treasurer.
Mason, who lives in Callaway, narrowly defeated Robert Durant, the four-year incumbent and housing director for the White Earth Nation.
It was quite a shakeup for reservation leadership.
“People wanted change — they wanted a new administration,” said Goodwin.
Growing up in Naytahwaush, Tara Mason knew one thing about her mother.
“She’s willing to speak up,” said Mason. “If there was something not quite right she was willing to step up and not only mention it, but she was always willing to do something about it,” said Mason, “and I think that’s very important because I think we all have our thoughts and opinions, but do we have the follow-through to try to address that and try to make it better? I learned that from my mom.”
Although both ladies have always been incredibly active in their White Earth communities — Mason in human services and various family and child advocacy groups and Goodwin with the Community Center and volunteer ambulance service — running for public office wasn’t necessarily on their radar.
But problems on the reservation frustrated them both until that same “let’s help change this” attitude kicked in.
“I had worked for the tribe for five years in human service as a divisional director… 20 years in human service working with youth and families,” said Mason, “and seeing the amount of need… the constant need… I wanted to start looking at different ways to possibly help make those changes in the lives of our people.”
Goodwin, who has lived in Naytahwaush for over 40 years, says her daughter’s goals are like hers in that she wants to make life easier for the people on White Earth.
“Things have gotten worse, not better,” she said, adding that there needs to be more transparency in government and like Mason, she believes the people of White Earth need to become a bigger part of making things better.
“People just want to be heard,” said Goodwin, who spent a lot of time going door to door, talking to people at length about the issues they face. “They’re not asking for much, just to be heard and to try to take action to try to help our people… all the people.”
“It’s their voice,” added Mason. “They’re the ones who vote, and right now we have a lot of people who don’t have hope, who don’t believe things can change. I want to change that. Not everybody will be happy, but they should at least be heard.”
But this mother-daughter team isn’t necessarily cut from the exact same cloth. Despite their similar “big picture” goals, they admit they have differences of opinion on how best to get there.
“We’re both very independent women,” smiled Goodwin, “but I’m sure we’ll work things out just like the other tribal council members.”
While both women have their eyes set on poverty, Goodwin specifically wants to strengthen community center programs and its involvement with the elders and the youth.
Mason is focused on education and building a solid infrastructure to support economic growth.
“Not all tribal members can work at the casino or for the tribal government,” said Mason. “I want to see more opportunities for people to get good-paying jobs in other areas, too… or who want to start their own businesses.”
Mason says seeing this happen will automatically help some of the serious social issues that plague the reservation, like the problem of addiction.
“Ultimately, in a magic wand world, it would be great to take care of those addictions, but it takes real employment and recreational opportunities for our workers and our youth to be able to provide everyone a good and stable life.”
Going forward is a critical time for the reservation, too, as White Earth embarks on the monumental task of transitioning from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe constitution to its own.
Mason and Goodwin know they are stepping into a situation where people are already divided going into the task.
Nobody, including Mason and Goodwin, are under the impression that their jobs over the next four years will be easy ones, but they both say they’re ready to dive in 100 percent.
“It’s huge,” said Mason, “but here we go.”
If election results go uncontested, the newly elected officials will be sworn in July 7.
Steven “Punky” Clark
White Earth District I in the northern part of the reservation now has a new representative.
Steven Clark of the Rice Lake area defeated longtime incumbent Irene Auginaush, also of the Rice Lake area in a close race of 231 votes (53 percent) to Auginaush’s 205 votes (47 percent).
Clark says he ran because he didn’t feel his district has had adaquately represented for a long time, referring to Auginaush, who has had some medical issues.
“We didn’t have anybody at meetings or anybody representing us,” said Clark, who says he now wants to give the people in his district “their voice back.”
“They haven’t really had a voice to say what’s going on,” he said, adding that a priority of his is the Indian Child Welfare.
Clark has made youth advocacy a goal of his, as he serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Club, youth hockey president and more.
Throughout his dealings with area youth, Clark has had three things in his sights.
“Drugs, alcohol and suicide,” he said. “Just about every family around here has some sort of problem.”
Tackling those problems is what has Clark ready to swear in next month, and he said he’s willing to listen to the people.
“My door will always be open,” he said, “I want people to know that they can always talk to me to tell me what’s on their mind.”