Open Letter To Spirit Lake Tribal Council Members

Honorable Spirit Lake Tribal Council Members:

When the Fargo Forum, Grand Forks Herald and Lloyd Omdahl and many other supporters of the Fighting Sioux Logo spoke out in favor of retiring the logo, we had thought the ghastly, unpleasant issue was finally laid to rest. But no, a desperate, last ditch effort by Jody Hodgeson and the Ralph Englestad Foundation, working through tribal members, are demanding that you hold a referendum on the logo issue.

Before you hold a referendum please take the following into consideration:

Ø  First, by far the most important issue at stake here is our sovereignty.  What precedent will a referendum on this issue set?  Who will be the next group to come in and pay money to tribal members to put something on the ballot?  If another group wants something done on this reservation, they will know that they do not need tribal government; they will just side step them and get the people to call for a referendum.  They will hire their "champions" to get out the vote.  Outsiders will then control the tribal government.  How will our tribal sovereignty survive under this system?  

Ø  Second, when any election occurs, the public must be made aware of what they are voting for or against.  Before an election, the tribal government should assume the responsibility and cost of presenting all sides of a political question to tribal members.  Not doing so would make a mockery of tribal government because one side in this issue has access to tremendous economic resources while the other does not.  Should the tribal government allow such a one-sided election, it would show the entire non-Indian world that if you want something in Indian Country, even the government, just buy it.  The tribal government stands for nothing.  If you insist on holding a referendum, conduct it fairly by holding public forums where each side gets up and presents.

Ø  Third, at the very least, the Tribal Constitution suggests that to have a referendum vote, the basis must be action or anticipated action by the tribal government.  In this case, the tribal government hasn't done anything that can be the subject of the referendum.  It is just an outside group trying to get an election over their issue, an issue that hasn't been considered by the tribal government.  No legal basis exists for a referendum vote.

Ø  Fourth, who will pay for this tribal vote?  The tribe will naturally?  Does the tribe believe that this North Dakota issue is a worthy enough cause to consume limited tribal resources?  Worst, if the entities that want the vote are willing to pay for it, they are paying to control tribal government.

Ø  Fifth, according to our tribal constitution, a referendum requires 20% of the voting population.  Why does this group not have to go out and obtain those signatures?  Over 900 tribal members voted in the last election.  Is it possible these tribal members know they cannot obtain 190 signatures?

Ø  Sixth, you should at least consult with tribal members who have actually been students at UND and hear their views concerning their experience at this school as the result of this logo.  Having people who have not knowledge of what actually has been going on deciding an issue is just wrong.  

Ø  Seventh, as leaders is it your responsibility to listen to both sides before you make a decision.  There are over 4500 tribal members living on our reservation.  How is it that a small group of tribal members were able to convince the Tribal Council to hold a referendum?  We tribal members, who actually attended UND could go out and recruit elders and other tribal members also, however, we will not take advantage of our elders nor will we take advantage of tribal members who have no idea what the controversy is all about

Ø  Eighth, why not wait until after the next election which is only three months away? With three members of our five-member tribal council up for re-election in May, it would seem appropriate to wait until after the election.  For that matter, our tribal council's four year terms are staggered, which means every two-years the issue will become a campaign issue.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Erich Longie published on February 19, 2009 4:41 PM.

INDIAN TIME - IS IT A CON? was the previous entry in this blog.

Should You Live Like a Hermit? is the next entry in this blog.

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