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Petition aims to oust Erma Vizenor

The White Earth Tribal Council quarterly meeting turned into a protest against tribal government Thursday.

When White Earth member Harvey Bonga presented a petition signed by 567 people asking to remove Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor from office, a crowd of more than 50 people continuously shouted out "leave Erma," "get outta here."

And when the police were brought up to escort Bonga out, the same crowd stood behind him, to let him explain what was in the petition and prevent the police from removing him

Bonga accused Vizenor of disregarding the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution. Others in the audience seconded him by adding that their tribal rights are violated, they're not able to work at the Shooting Star Casino and that non-Indians, who are less than one-fourth degree blood born, are enrolling in the tribe.

"You guys have to have her removed right now," Bonga said as the crowd applauded. "There is a lot of things these people try to do to keep us quiet."

He added that the current council is taking away members' hunting and fishing rights and instead calling them "privileges."

At that point, Vizenor got up and left the meeting, while the crowd shouted out "two more to go" - referring to District I and II representatives Irene Auginaush and Terry Tibbetts.

Following the meeting, Vizenor denied the charges and said 90 percent of the people are satisfied and "very pleased" with the council.

"Their charges are frivolous," she said in an interview. "They don't like the court system and they don't like law enforcement."

In response to what the protestors said about not being able to land jobs at the Shooting Star Casino, she said it's because they're not qualified.

They don't pass the background checks and they're informed of that, Vizenor said, adding "they can go ultimately to tribal court."

The Tribal Council will review the petition and the allegations against Vizenor before making a decision, possibly by early next week, she said.