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White Earth Tribal Chair: Terry Tibbetts points to experience on tribal council, has mixed views on two new casinos

Terry Tibbetts and Mindy Iverson are competing for the position of White Earth tribal chairman in the general election Tuesday.

Each candidate was invited to respond to questions. Here is Tibbetts’ response:

My name is Terrence “Terry” Tibbetts. I am 57 years old. My jobs include 23 years of service for the Public Works Department on the White Earth Reservation as a water operator and construction.

I hold a Minnesota State Class D Water Operator License, and Class C Wastewater Operator.

I have been married to Carol for 37 years. I have seven children and 14 grandchildren.

My hobbies include hunting, fishing, wild rice harvesting and taking care of my grandchildren.

I am a dedicated lifelong resident of my community. I was born and raised here on the White Earth Reservation and have resided here my entire life. I have traditional values and close family ties with our people.

I was elected into tribal office in 2006-2014 as a district representative. I also served as vice-chair for three years. I have eight years’ experience working in tribal government.

Related: Polling places for the White Earth General Election

Related: Mindy Iverson vies for White Earth Tribal Chair

Question 1) Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

Answer: I have excellent experience in working with our tribal government. I understand the needs of my people. I have knowledge of the government functions, programs and policies.

I have worked with Gov. Dayton and his staff, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Peterson, and Sen. Al Franken and his staff. I have experience in working with all other five tribal governments within the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, as well as other tribes throughout the nation, including Mississippi Choctaw Nation and the Seneca Nation in New York.

I have served on the Shooting Star Casino Gaming Commission and understand the cooperative side of tribal business with management of sound practices, and handling the needs of both governmental and tribal enterprises.

I have served on the White Earth Housing Board as the tribal council liaison for five years.

I served on the Naytahwaush Charter School Board of Directors as co-founder. I created the 1855 treaty commission and was chairman for five years.

I have the ability to step into the chairman position and continue the function of a successful and effective tribal government.

Question 2) What is the biggest problem facing White Earth and how would you address it?

There are four major problems we face today. Those include the drug epidemic, inadequate funding from the Indian Health Service, poverty and the lack of jobs, and lack of HUD funding for substandard housing.

Problem No. 1 is the drug epidemic: In 2012, White Earth declared a state of emergency due to the drug epidemic which still continues today. We are facing a huge problem with chemical dependency in epidemic proportions.

Heroin and methamphetamine are destroying our families and lifestyles. This leads to homelessness, broken families, and destruction of our culture and traditions.

I would address it by working to combine all internal and external resources to combat this epidemic that continues to threaten our way of life.

I would look for funding to development an on-reservation treatment facility that includes evaluation, dual diagnosis and comprehensive assessments along with chemical dependency, mental health, and historical trauma issues.

My vision is to also create a detox unit with 10 to 15 beds with 24 hour nursing staff.

Question 3) What has White Earth done right and what would you do to continue that success?

With the collaboration between White Earth Reservation and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, we have offered the opportunity for our tribal members and their families to receive public assistance.

This includes medical assistance, SNAP program, Minnesota Family Investment Program, general assistance, Minnesota Supplementary aid, Diversionary work program, and group residential housing.

With good sound leadership in place, this progressiveness will continue.

Question 4) Do you agree with the plan for the new casinos near Bagley and Dent? Why or why not?

I don’t agree with the Bagley site, because of the short distance from the Shooting Star Casino. We will be serving our same customer base. We will also be taking money away from the off-site casino locations.

I am concerned with the site development and lack of infrastructure such as the water supply, wastewater management, electrical needs, and roadway development. I also question the feasibility study of this casino.

I believe the Dent site has the potential to be a successful business due to the location.

My opinion is the band members should be asked through a referendum vote. Our people need to know how much is being spent, how far in debt we will be and for how long. When is the return on investment? These are essential questions that need to be answered for future development of reservation plans.

We need to meet with local governments for services required, including police protection, fire protection, ambulance services, and waste management.

Question 5) Does the MCT need a new constitution? Why or why not?

The MCT needs to let each reservation redevelop the constitution they have in place.

All of the band members need to be included in any change that occurs to the constitution. We need to keep the MCT together as a whole or risk the loss of federal recognition.

We need separation of powers, fair and equal representation to all tribal members both on and off the reservation, recognition of all MCT and Anishinaabe blood, and election reform.

The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe should send out ballots to all eligible voters and keep all information updated such as addresses, names, etc. This will ensure that all our voices are heard in the election cycle.

All White Earth candidates will be issued an updated list of names and addresses from our enrollment book. This will ensure fair and equal voting.

These are just a few issues I have worked on and will continue working toward making a reality for our people.

There are many other significant accomplishments and challenges such as economic development, housing, and renewable energy that are also important.

Positive changes take time and happen in small steps but can be accomplished if we work together as Anishinaabe people using Anishinaabe values.