Tribal members to vote on remaining funds

Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum


After months of advocating and circulating petitions for a vote to be held on paying out the remaining funds from the Sisseton Settlement Funds, the petitioners got their wish. However, the election didn’t come as a result of a valid constitutional petition being submitted, it came as a resolution by Tribal Council.

At a special meeting held on Tuesday, April 4, Tribal Council passed a resolution directing an election to be held on a Tribal Council sponsored referendum. On the election date, set for Thursday, May 4, tribal members will be asked whether to approve or disapprove the proposed resolution distributing the entire remaining balance of the Sisseton Settlement Funds to the tribal membership.

All this came after Tribal Council found the second petition to be unconstitutional because it did not ask the registered voters to vote upon any enacted or proposed ordinance or resolution, but instead sought to direct an appropriation of tribal funds in derogation of the Tribal Council’s exclusive authority to make such appropriations.

“Tribal Council does not have an issue with allowing our people to vote,” Councilman Kevin R. Frost said. “We’ve listened to those who’ve signed the petitions and have honored your request for a vote … Congratulations Southern Ute tribal membership you will get to vote on the remaining funds.”

Tribal elder, Arlene Millich thanked council for passing the resolution calling for a vote.

“Thank you, I’m glad you’ve done that because I think you need to listen to the people and I think you did and I appreciate that and I honor you all,” she said.

Vice Chairman Alex Cloud spoke to those in attendance saying that at the end of the day, “we are all tribal members.” So he asked that if tribal members vote against it or don’t show up to vote that there be no “ill feelings.”

“If it doesn’t happen lets move on, there are other things in this life more important than this money … there’s love, there’s respect, there’s much stronger things than this money,” he said.

Chairman Clement J. Frost closed out the meeting stating that it is now up to the membership, not Tribal Council, to make the decision regarding the distribution.

The meeting came at a time when some tribal members were saying they felt oppressed and intimidated by tribal leaders. Moments before Tuesday’s meeting a small protest was held outside of Council Chambers with tribal members hoisting signs that said, “Oppression is not democracy. Let the voice of the people be heard,” and “Let Us Vote.”

Tribal Council responded in a prepared statement to being called out as not listening to the membership, oppressing them, and lacking transparency.

“The Tribal Council, like all governments, must balance the needs of all of its constituents. Most importantly, the Tribal Council has to weigh how their decisions affect membership and tribal resources today and tomorrow, with an eye toward maintaining the Tribe’s self-sufficiency and sovereignty. Tribal Council takes pride in listening to the tribal membership, both the criticism and the support. When it comes down to difficult issues on the table, Tribal Council listens to the membership’s concerns but must make decisions based on the Tribe’s laws, including the Tribe’s Election Code and Constitution.”

“Each tribal member that campaigns and is elected by the tribal membership to a seat on Tribal Council must take an oath to uphold the Constitution and make decisions in the best interest of the membership and tribal resources today and in the future. That is not always the most popular decision, but that is Tribal Council’s commitment.”

“The ways in which this Sisseton distribution issue was coming to a referendum was unconstitutional. The power to allocate funds resides solely with Tribal Council. Upon addressing the second petition for referendum with the Southern Ute Election Board and the petitioners, as well as the tribal membership, Tribal Council motioned and passed a resolution directing the Election Board to set a date for a Tribal Council-sponsored referendum. This demonstrates that Tribal Council was listening to the tribal membership. Now it is up to the tribal membership. While there are many projects and initiatives that could benefit the tribal membership and resources today and for the future, that will be determined when the membership go to the polls.”

Per the Election Board, as of Thursday, April 13 the tribe had 950 registered tribal voters. At least 51 percent of registered tribal voters must vote to “approve” the resolution in order to have the remaining funds distributed to the membership.






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