Douglas Indian Association wrangles over leadership

Posted: Friday, January 12, 2001

Some members of the Douglas Indian Association could be left in the dark because of a disagreement over a recent election of governing council members.

"The Bureau of Indian Affairs is meeting this morning and planning to pull their contracts with the DIA," George Mather, one of the five newly elected council members, said today.

Mather alleges Dorothy Owen and Michael Dunlap appointed themselves president and treasurer, respectively, in what he called an illegal election. Because of this, "all the funding for the general assistance program has come to a halt. This means all tribal members won't get money for heating and utilities," Mather said.

The Douglas Indian Association is a federally recognized tribe with 400 members who trace their heritage to the Taku River. In the past, the DIA has lobbied for subsistence fishing rights, ownership of Mayflower Island near Sandy Beach and reconstruction of traditional Tlingit villages.

Mather said the election in question took place last month.

"They have been having meetings all with closed doors, and have fired Evelyn Myers, who was running the Douglas Indian Association, and Andrea Laiti, general assistance manager," he said.

The crux of the current disagreement centers on who the real council members are.

"The old council that was voted out doesn't want to leave," Mather said Thursday. "We held a legal election Jan. 8, monitored by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Douglas elders."

Elected at that meeting were Mather, Henry T. Howard, Norman Sarabia, Frank Miyasato and Jim Marks.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment," Tim DeAsis, tribal operations officer for the BIA, said this morning. "A number of things have been brought to our attention and we are looking at them."

Owen could not be reached for comment because she is in Petersburg visiting her ill mother, her husband Patrick said.

"It's sad they can't take defeat," DIA member Charles Williams said. "They need to learn to lose with honor. The reason Custer got beat is he split up his army. We can't beat anything if we are divided."

Newly elected council member Norman Sarabia said that at an emergency meeting held Jan. 4, "(Owen and her supporters) spoke up against the (forthcoming Jan. 8) election.

"But all the elders said we needed a mediator, that things have been happening illegally. It's getting out of hand," Sarabia said.

Mather plans to hold an emergency meeting of all DIA members to resolve matters. He can be reached at 364-2232.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauem-pire.com.



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