Vizenor, tribal council failing the people of White Earth
The ugly face of reservation politics has arisen!
For several months I have sat on the sidelines observing and listening to the plight of the Anishinaabeg on the White Earth Reservation. It is clear that as members of the White Earth Nation, we need to stand up and take charge of our future!
On March 10, Chairwoman Erma Vizenor stood before 700-plus tribal members at the State of the Band Address committing to uphold the vision of the White Earth Tribal Council.
She praised and credited the Tribal Council for being progressive, strong, and stable. Erma also stated her responsibility as chairwoman "to take the time to listen, to respect the words of each council member, to allow good discussion, and to bring us together on consensus in decision-making for the good of the entire tribe."
Well, Chairwoman Vize-nor, Secretary-Treasurer Bud Heisler, and District 3 Representative Gus Bevins, you are falling short of your duties and responsibilities to the White Earth People!
To illustrate just a few of my concerns, let me address five that are on the forefront of my mind:
1) The Shooting Star Casino just had its two most profitable years in 18 years of operation. In a recession, mind you! It subsidizes the shortfalls of tribal operations.
Last year, casino profits subsidized the tribe more than $3 million. The casino employs nearly 1,000 people in the region and is the tribe's most profitable business.
2) White Earth is the only reservation in Minnesota that has a policy in place that requires successful candidates of the primary election to take a non-paid leave of absence from their jobs if they are tribal employees.
Does this policy really serve the best interests of tribal members that have something to offer by seeking elected positions? Or does it handicap, deter and serve as a hardship for those that choose to become involved in politics?
How can the council expect an individual to sustain their family obligations for 10 weeks without an income? Incumbents are allowed to receive their paychecks under the disguise of, "government must go on."
Hats off to (tribal council members) Terry Tibbetts and Rene Auginaush for attempting to change this absurd policy!
3) Tribal employees are not allowed to campaign on company time. This policy makes sense and should be upheld throughout tribal operations, including the two highest executive positions.
4) The Depot in Detroit Lakes continues to be an embarrassment and an operational and financial burden.
Investing $800,000-plus into a leased piece of property that wasn't a good business decision to begin with remains appalling.
How then, does the tribe pay more than $20,000 annually to lease it? How then, can the tribe not sublease space? How then, did the tribe purchase a $30,000 sign -- rather than a modern digital sign that could promote other aspects of tourism and business for the White Earth Reservation?
5) The most recent concern is two-fold, and concerns the White Earth Department of Transportation (DOT) headed by Bernie Tibbets.
Why is this department allowed to build a landing strip on non-native owned land, using tribal employees and tribal equipment and materials?
It seems odd that a tribally funded landing strip built on a non-native's land is not a concern to Erma, Bud, or Gus.
In addition, why does this department not take advantage of the matching funds available from Becker County?
I agree with Chairwoman Vizenor that we should commend the majority of White Earth's hardworking, dedicated administrators, directors, managers, and staff.
I do appreciate and value the work they all continue to do for us. They truly are the ones that influence the progress and stability of White Earth.
Yet, the lack of leadership and disregard for constituents that consistently is demonstrated by three of our council members is unacceptable.
I hope other members of the White Earth Nation address these issues and hold elected officials accountable for their decision making.
-- Natalie McArthur, White Earth
(McArthur is the wife of Shooting Star Casino manager and candidate for tribal secretary-treasurer, Eugene "Bugger" McArthur)