My Turn: All tribal seats should be up for DIA election

Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2003

It is entirely understandable if tribal members enrolled in the Douglas Indian Association are expressing frustration with the failure of the current council to follow through with an election. The "interim" council has made a practice of denying members their legal rights and the ability to have their voices heard. The Douglas Indian Tribe has suffered under a self-proclaimed leadership for over two years. They are not elected by DIA tribal members. They are individuals who refused to leave office when they failed to be re-elected on Jan. 8, 2001.

If DIA members remain silent as they expect us to do, we empower their dogmatic "governing body" to continue to unjustly exercise a mock authority over DIA without respect for our legitimate rights as tribal members. They are now trying to prevent us from our right to vote for all nine tribal council seats. Who exactly has the power and control over DIA's election? Why did the January 2003 election have nine seats up for election while the March 2003 once again rescheduled election now has only four seats? Where do we turn to with our right to a fair election and our right to vote for all nine tribal council seats?

To further wrench away the rights of tribal members, this interim council is resorting to picking and choosing only those they feel should have their name on the ballot! They have removed eligible Base Roll Descendant candidate's names from the ballot to continue to run over the tribe's democratic process with their misappropriated authority. All eligible tribal members who have collected the required signatures representing nominations for seats on the tribal council should be able to enjoy the right to have their names placed on the ballot.

Also, the interim council newly devised an election ordinance that allows five of them to retain a tribal office on a non-elected basis. This is simply another tactic to deny tribal members their right to vote in their own leadership. Why are these individuals so fearful of undergoing the same requirements to be placed on a ballot and allowing tribal members the ability to either elect or not elect them to the council? To deny tribal members a voice and a right to vote is a constitutional violation. Furthermore, the recent creation of an ordinance that is geared toward maintaining seats for five individuals who were never elected to office is an insult to the DIA tribal membership. Council members, who act with integrity and respect for their constituents, would work to guarantee our right to choose our own leadership. This certainly has not been demonstrated by the non-elected current council.

Sovereignty is our right as a tribe. The current council's misuse and abuse of their interim and self-appointed "leadership" of DIA's tribal membership degrades the true meaning of sovereignty - a means to empower a tribe and it's people. Sovereignty is a fundamental and historical part of the dignity of our people, and the current non-elected council is making a mockery of it.

As a DIA tribal member, I have the right to expect that all nine tribal council seats be open for election on March 3, 2003. Additionally, every candidate who collected the appropriate number of nomination signatures on the required candidacy petitions should have their name placed on the ballot. To ensure a fair election process, the current non-elected council should be removed from DIA business as they have no legal right to act in the capacity of a tribal council. I know that my voice may speak only for myself as a DIA member. However, if there are any other tribal members who would like to join me in requesting that the foregoing take place in order to assure the future integrity of our leadership, please join me in contacting the BIA area office.

• Dionne Cadiente-Laiti of Juneau is a direct descendant DIA tribal member. Her father, Clarence "Butch" Laiti, is a candidate for election to the DIA Council.

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