Douglas tribe elects council

Regional director assists in council elections

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2003

Fifty-seven members of the Douglas Indian Association cast ballots Tuesday to fill all nine of the association's council seats.

Official election results had not been released by Thursday afternoon, but the preliminary count seemed to be fairly accurate, said Tony Strong, a Juneau lawyer who supervised the elections.

Norman Sarabia, Clarence Laiti, Gloria Sarabia, Jim Marks, Charles Williams, Frank Miyasato, Henry Howard, Katherine Miyasato and Andrew Ebona earned the most votes in the election, which allowed voters to choose or write in one to nine candidates.

The DIA is a federally recognized tribe with about 400 members. It has lobbied for subsistence fishing rights, ownership of Mayflower Island near Savikko Park and reconstruction of traditional Tlingit villages. It also distributes federal funding for social programs for tribal members.

The election was the first official DIA vote certified by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs since an election in January 2001, which then-Tribal President Dorothy Owen declared "null and void because of irregularities," she said.

Niles Cesar, Alaska regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, recognized the tribal government in place before that election, on condition that another election be held as soon as possible.

But no election was held until March of this year, when four of the nine seats were filled by Henry Howard, Charles Williams, Jim Marks and Bradley Fluetsch.

Cesar advised the association against holding an election for four of the council seats in March. He said the five members who sat on the board before the election had long passed their term limits, and an election for all nine members was necessary.

Instead of discounting the March election entirely, Cesar recognized the four elected members, and asked them to appoint five interim council members until a full election could be held.

"We felt that the best possible outcome given the circumstances was to insist that those four people were only elected to go through the process so we can get a full and complete election," Cesar said.

The newly elected members appointed Andrew Ebona, Frank Miyasato, Clarence Laiti, Gloria Sarabia and Norman Sarabia to fill out the council until a full election could be held, Cesar said.

The council then worked with Strong to hold Tuesday's elections.

"I'm just supervising the election," Strong said. "I'm setting the date, making sure everybody follows the basic rules set out in their ordinance."

Of the nine interim council members, only Fluetsch was not elected to serve a full term in this week's election.

Fifty-seven ballots were cast and all but one were counted. Strong has not decided whether to count the one ballot in question, but said it would not affect the outcome of the election.

Not all members of the long-divided tribal leadership believe Tuesday's election was fair.

"I don't support it," said Dorothy Zura, a former council member. She would not comment further on the election.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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