Inconsistency of DIA is appalling

Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The Douglas Indian Association (DIA) has yet again suspended Article III, Section 2 of its own constitution by failing to hold an annual election. The DIA constitution requires an election each year to seat four or five board members to a two-year term in order to maintain a council of nine members. DIA tribal members have been deprived of their right to vote since January 2001. During that election, the current council members were heavily outvoted. Regrettably, the council refused to step down, they challenged the results, and they have thwarted every attempt to hold an election since then. Consequently, the DIA council consists of members who were elected to office more than two years ago or who were appointed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to fill vacant seats. No current board member has been duly elected to remain in office.

I have lost count of the number of times since January 2001 the council has promised to conduct a new election only to postpone each one at the 11th hour, despite strong urgings from the BIA to proceed. It is clear to me the council is incapable and/or unwilling to conduct an election. In either case, DIA tribal members have been denied the right to vote for over two years.

The council, against the advice of the BIA, is attempting to limit the number of seats up for re-election from nine to four. This is but one example of the council's appalling inconsistency. Two years ago, the council accepted the election of all nine seats as a consensus point. Consequently, tribal members expect to vote for nine members. I offer two suggestions for re-instating the staggered two-year terms: 1) The top four vote-getters hold two-year terms and the next five vote getters hold one-year terms; or 2) Candidates apply for either a one-year or a two-year term. To avoid further alienation of tribal members, the current council must run for re-election and not arbitrarily hold on to five seats.

The BIA has offered to give the council technical assistance to facilitate an election on Feb. 3, 2003, a date chosen by the council. On Jan. 17, I called the DIA office to inquire about the election, and was told that it would be held "sometime in March." Given that response, and the current council's track history, I am concerned that the council will again postpone the election.

If the election is not held on Feb. 3, I strongly urge the council to recognize their inability to conduct an election, and to resign from office. True leadership occurs when individuals earn the respect of their communities, and maintain that respect by exercising integrity and respect for the rights of individuals. As a tribal member, I am deeply dismayed by the current council's apparent eagerness to deprive me of my right to vote. I hope that the DIA council proves me wrong by holding an election that allows tribal members to elect in nine council members on Feb. 3.

Lillian Petershoare


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