BIA update on petition to change Constitution

Warm Springs BIA Agency Superintendent John Halliday met with Tribal Council this week, regarding the petition calling for a vote on tribal Constitutional amendments.

Mr. Halliday said he would forward the petition signatures and proposed Constitutional changes to the BIA Regional office on Monday afternoon, Jan. 4.

Regional Director Stan Speaks would then make a decision on the election by January 15. If Mr. Speaks determines the petition is valid, with enough signatures, then the BIA would conduct an election within 90 days from Jan. 15.

The petition calls for a number of changes to the Tribal Constitution. Some of the proposed changes are related, and would be voted on together. Proposed changes that stand alone would be subject to separate ballots, Mr. Halliday said.

The idea, he said, is to avoid a situation where the election results create a contradiction.

The group that circulated the petition last year submitted a total of 1,290 signatures to the BIA. A minimum of about 1,183 signatures is necessary to call for the vote.

The final number of signatures submitted to the BIA Regional Office will likely be somewhat lower than the total number submitted. This is because some of the same signatures appeared more than one time on the petition sheets; some were by non-tribal members, and some were by minors. Some signature names are those of people who were deceased at the time.
Still, there appears to be enough signatures to meet the minimum requirement, Mr. Halliday said.

Some signatures are illegible, but apparently these are valid, as the signature gatherers verified the petition sheets, Mr. Halliday said.

Some on Tribal Council feel the illegible signatures should not be counted, as you cannot prove whether the person is really a tribal member, over 18, etc.

The BIA legal counsel, though, indicates the signature gatherer verification is enough, Halliday said.
Allowing the tribal membership to vote on the question is important, Councilman Kahseuss Jackson said, but the integrity of the process is as important.

The potential of non-tribal member signatures on the petition sheets would be unfortunate, he said, considering the proposal is to change the Tribal Constitution. Councilwoman Evaline Patt expressed a similar feeling.

Councilmen Scott Moses and Carlos Smith said the process needs to go forward, so the membership can have their say.

Proposed changes
This is a summary of proposed changes to the tribal Constitution, as presented on the petition:

Tribal Council would include nine members. Under the existing Tribal Constitution, there are 11 Council members. Three of the 11 positions are those of the Chiefs, who serve for life.

One 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 initial terms. As summarized:

“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.

Another proposal: The Council members would be selected in BIA 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 would be compensates as follows: Chairperson $80,000; Vice-Chairperson $70,000; all other members $60,000.

If the election goes forward, then 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 petition initiators are Mike Clements, Sal Sahme, Wendell Jim, Grant Clements Sr., and Ruth “Pinky” Beymer.