With voting just a little more than a month away, the legislative races for District 2 and District 4 are closing out. Below are voters guide questions for each candidate, both an incumbent and a challenger.
District 2 Race – Eva Marie Carney v. Anthony Cole
Incumbent: Eva Marie Carney
Why did you originally decide to run for the CPN legislature?
It was a great opportunity to get more involved with the Nation. I felt my legal training and work experience – including drafting laws and rules, interpreting legislation, and advocating positions before government agencies and courts – gave me the skills to do the job. It has proven to be a great privilege to serve District 2 and the Potawatomi people. I have greatly expanded my Potawatomi connections and learned an incredible amount about our history and culture.
What family are you from?
The Juneau family. I am descended from Josette Vieux Juneau, the mother of Narcisse Juneau. Narcisse served on the Tribe’s Business Committee and traveled from Kansas to scout out the original Oklahoma allotments in the late 1860s. Many of my Potawatomi relatives settled in the Topeka, Kansas area; others travelled east to New Jersey, where I was born. One of my relatives (Joan M. Hrenchir from Berryton, Kansas) has self-published a terrific family history, titled “Eight Generation in Kansas, The Relatives and Descendants of Narcisse and Madeline (Yott) Juneau.” Potawatomi family names Juneau, Vieux, Yott and Bertrand, among others, are part of our family history.
The current political structure of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation was created in 2008 with the constitutional change, an event which created the legislature. What are your thoughts looking back over the first few years of having a CPN legislature?
I feel that we’ve accomplished a great deal in establishing procedures and structure for our Legislative work. With the breadth of representation, we are now getting input and ideas from around the country. The Legislators have diverse opinions and backgrounds but share the common goal of doing right by our people and preserving our heritage and culture. I think the diversity results in a more expansive vision and even better decision-making than we had with the dedicated, but Oklahoma-centric, Business Committee.
I believe the Legislature has done well in embracing the vision of the Executive Team to grow our enterprises – we’ve been appropriately aggressive in pursuing new enterprises and cautious about our expenditures. And I am proud that the Legislature has fully supported increases to our tribal land base. This includes appropriating the funds to acquire properties that are in close proximity to our existing trust lands and authorizing petition to the U.S. government to move that land into trust for our Nation. rowing our tribal land base is extremely important, as it will give future generations of tribal leaders the flexibility to use the land for the health and welfare of the Potawatomi people.
I am also proud that the Legislature has consistently supported the Nation seeking funds to help protect our women and children who are victims of domestic violence. As a result, since 2009 the Nation has received more than $2 million in grant funds from the Office of Violence Against Women that has been used by our dedicated staff from House of Hope and the FireLodge Youth and Family Services, among other programs, for legal assistance, police training and transitional housing for domestic violence victims and their children.
Are there any new legislative initiatives you’d like to take up should you succeed in your reelection bid?
I would like to build a consensus for streamlining the election process to make it a “one-step” process. I think most of us agree that voting is something all citizens should be doing to participate in the government. Yet voting in our elections isn’t straightforward for those who can’t cast their votes in person in Shawnee each June. If we can make this a “one-step” process so voters use an absentee ballot to both vote and certify their eligibility, we’d save the Nation time and funds but most importantly I believe we would increase the level of participation in our Nation’s elections. I also look forward to working with my fellow Legislators on legislation to implement our newly acquired authority under the Violence Against Women Act for our court system to prosecute non-Natives who abuse women in our community.
Over the course of your time in office, what have you seen as the biggest obstacle facing your constituents? How have you worked to address that?
I think the biggest obstacle is the fact that my constituents are distant from the Nation’s epicenter in Shawnee. If you are living far from Oklahoma it is difficult for many and impossible for others to participate in major cultural events such as the Family Reunion Festival, and it can be daunting to learn our history and language and to feel a full participant in our heritage from afar.
What I’ve tried to do is to make our history and heritage come alive for people in my District. I’ve done so by hosting meetings throughout District #2 with the help of many wonderful constituents. I communicate with fellow Potawatomi through social media like Facebook, and use my website (www.evamariecarney.com) to provide cultural and language instruction information as well as information about any event I attend in Shawnee, other CPN districts, and other Potawatomi tribal areas (for example, the Executive’s meetings and the Gatherings of Nations). District residents receive regular emails from me, if they’ve agreed to be on my mailing list (please send a note to email@example.com to be added). My approach since first elected in 2008 has been to open myself to learning as much as I can about our Tribal operations, history, heritage, and culture and to “download” that information to other Potawatomi who are interested.
Living and working in the Washington, D.C. area also gives me ideas for expanding our’ knowledge of Native history, culture, and art. As a Legislator I have hosted seven constituent visits to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American and to its Archives collection in nearby Maryland. (Photos of the more recent visits are posted to my website, under the Photos tab.) I also broadcast information about local conferences, Powwows, and programs on Native topics that may be of interest.
I view this outreach and communication as a critical part of my Legislative service. It also is personally very rewarding. Seeing expanded interest among District 2 residents in Potawatomi and Native culture and affairs and knowing that fellow Potawatomi are connecting with each other are sweet rewards. And learning last week that two tribal members who met at a local CPN meeting I hosted are planning their wedding is the sweetest reward yet. I can’t promise further successful matchmaking if elected to another term but I can and do promise to continue my active service for Jagenongen (all my relations).
Challenger – Anthony Cole
Why did you originally decide to run for the CPN legislature?
As a tribal member, my family received many benefits from the tribe in the form of health care, food, school supplies and employment. When I reflect back on my youth, it is not hard to see how being a tribal member greatly improved my quality of life. I have a strong desire to repay that generosity by helping improve the quality of life for others. I know that I can do a lot of good if I am elected to the legislature.
What family are you from?
I am from the Yott family. My grandfather was Marvin Yott and I am the son of his daughter Sabrina.
If you win, what is one major issue you’d like to address in your new role as legislator for your district?
One issue I would address is the district offices. These offices cost a lot of money and I don’t believe they are very useful. If elected, I will choose to not open a physical office, but instead, I will implement a virtual office that allows me to conduct tribal business anywhere in the world. I would work to have the cost savings reallocated to more useful projects such as health screenings.
What are some other issues facing voters in your district that you believe need to be addressed in the next legislative session?
Nearly every voter that I have talked to has asked about health care. Our tribe needs to come up with some creative ways to bring health care to the districts. I have floated the idea of performing routine health screenings at the tribal events, similar to the screenings offered during the family reunion. These screenings are low cost and could help alert our members to some serious heath issues they may not know they have.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.” -Benjamin Franklin.
Aside from some differences, what are some current legislative initiatives that you will continue to support should you win?
I love that we have an eagle aviary, I would support the continued success of that project. I would like to get the tribal saving certificate program up and running, I think it is a great opportunity for our tribal members. I would also support the expansion of the tax base on tribal property, allowing private business to lease land from us offers a huge return with very little investment.