Tribal Constitution amendment petition at BIA

A proposal to amend the Tribal Constitution, regarding the Tribal Council and elections, may have enough signatures to require a tribal referendum, to be conducted by the BIA.

The group that gathered the signatures submitted the petition and signature sheets recently to the Warm Springs Agency BIA Superintendent.

The group submitted a total of 1,290 signatures of tribal members 18 and over. This would be more than the one-third requirement of 1,183 signatures needed to call a referendum.

BIA Superintendent John Halliday then posted the “Statement of the Proposed Matter of Petition for Amendment of the CTWS Constitution.”

A copy of the petition and signatures is available for viewing by authorized tribal member voters, upon request at the BIA office at tribal administration.

A challenge to a signature on the petition must be filed in writing with the BIA Superintendent within 15 days of the initial posting.

As the posting was made on Nov. 17, the date to submit a challenge to a signature is at the end of the working day on December 2.

As stated in the Superintendent’s posting, “No challenge will be considered which is not accompanied by supporting evidence in writing.”

After the 15-day period, and if enough valid signatures remain on the petition, then the BIA would submit the matter to the BIA Northwest Regional Area Director for approval to conduct a secretarial election.

Tribal members 18 years and older would need to register to vote with the BIA. The referendum would pass with a majority voting in favor; and seeing at least one-third of the registered voters participate.

The proposed changes are significant in regard to the Tribal Council of the Confederated Tribes.

For instance, the proposal calls for a Tribal Council of nine members. Under the existing Tribal Constitution, there are 11 Council members including the three Chiefs who serve for life.

The proposed amendment would make all of the Council positions subject to a term of years, with no life-term positions.

Under the proposal, the terms would be for three years, with the exception of some of the initial terms.

This proposed amendment is summarized in the BIA “Proposed Amendment Comparison”:

“The elected members will be numbered 1-9 based on a drawing of numbers 1-9. Numbers 1, 4 and 7 will be in the first election after three years; 2,5 and 8 will be in the second election the following year; 3,6 and 9 will be in the third election the following year. The election process for Council will follow this numbered process annually thereafter.”

So after the initial three-year period, there would be an election of three new Council members each year, under the proposal.

And according to the proposal: The Council members would be selected in secretarial elections by eligible, entitled voters. This would be another significant change, as current Tribal Council elections are conducted tribally.

Under the existing Tribal Constitution, three Council members are elected from the Simnasho and Agency districts, and two are elected from the Seekseequa District.

Under the proposed amendments, the Council members would be elected by the membership at large, rather than by district.

Also among the proposed Tribal Constitutional amendments:

“The Tribal Council members shall receive as compensation for their services as follows: Chairperson $80,000; Vice-Chairperson $70,000; all other members $60,000, and mileage from home to place of meeting and return at a rate used by the federal government. Expenses shall be paid from available tribal budgeted funds. Benefit programs and reimbursement expenses will follow tribal organization polices as budgeted. Tribal Council members will be available to the membership, committees and necessary business on behalf of the tribe beyond the monthly Tribal Council agenda from their office.”

Another of the proposed changes reads: “The Council may expel a member for cause by a 2/3 vote, after notice of charges and allowing that member an opportunity to be heard.”

The petition initiators are Mike Clements, Sal Sahme, Wendell Jim, Grant Clements Sr., and Ruth “Pinky” Beymer.

“It has been a long process for those of us that have carried the proposal,” Mike Clements was saying recently.

“Now that we are done with this effort, as initiators we want to thank all those who listened, considered and signed the petition. We look forward to what the future brings with this historical effort.”

If the election is carried out, and is successful, it would be the first amendment by members in the history of the Confederated Tribes, Clements said.