(Hello my friend),
It is officially 2018, and before we know it, it will be time for the annual Family Reunion Festival. Many important things happen during Festival, including our General Council meeting and Tribal elections. This year Vice-Chairman Linda Capps, Secretary-Treasurer D. Wayne Trousdale and district 5, 6, 7 and 8 Legislators are up for re-election.
As of the date of this column’s writing, it is unknown whether either of them will have an opponent, but I am thankful to each of them for running again. Their knowledge and skills are very beneficial to Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and I believe, if re-elected, their service will continue to be invaluable to the tribe.
When we amended our Tribal Constitution in 2007, our people decided to elect representation in our Tribal Legislature for eight districts outside of Oklahoma which had more than 2,000 members each. We did that because we faced a dilemma: more of our people lived away from our Oklahoma lands than near them, but the only land on which federal laws allowed CPN government operation was in Oklahoma.
To balance that, our people also decided to elect eight members of the Tribal Legislature who must reside in Oklahoma. Our Constitution is the only one of its kind among all Indian tribes to reconcile the competing interests of a majority population that lives off tribal lands and the congressional mandate that our tribe conduct its revenue-generating physical business on tribal trust land or be subject to the laws, regulations and taxes of a state.
Our tribal government is much more reflective of a sovereign nation since our constitutional reform, and elections are more secure because of it. At previous General Council meetings, we required members to vote in person, and opposing factions would just call another meeting to reverse elections that took place at the official meeting. It led to many contentious years for the tribe, and I am grateful we will not have to repeat that process. The in-person voting also meant that if you were not able to make it to Shawnee then your voice was not heard. Our new constitution allows us to vote by absentee ballot.
By establishing our government in this way, we might increase the number of tribal members who participate in elections. In 2017 less than 2,000 tribal members voted, which reflects only a small percentage of the tribal members who are eligible to vote. In a highly contested election, many more can and will vote.
Now is the time to begin thinking about your regalia, especially if you are a member of one of our honored families. In 2018, those families include Anderson, Beaubien, Bertrand, Bourbonnais, Ogee, Peltier, Toupin, Wano and Yott.
To participate in grand entry and the honored family dances, you must be wearing proper attire. That means long pants and a ribbon shirt for men and a skirt and shawl for women, at a minimum. Last year, we began gifting a sash or shawl to one man and one woman from each honored family. We hoped that the person who received the regalia would use it to build upon and become a leader for their family during these dances. We plan to do that again this year. If you plan to make your own, look for some of the family patterns used on old regalia that you can copy and color to suit yourself.
For many tribal members, it will be the first chance to see the newly reopened Cultural Heritage Center. Its museum hasn’t been open since it was flooded by a City of Shawnee water line in 2014. The new exhibits tell of our history from pre-contact to present day. The museum staff has added several videos and interactives, so it is sure to be engaging for visitors of all ages.
Several tribal departments helped with the heritage center remodel. Our own FireLake Designs printed and installed many of the murals throughout the exhibits. Our information technology department helped with the technology, including programming the interactives. Our public information department helped with some writing and design work for the exhibits. Even the aviary staff contributed by drawing some of the animals you see in section one. It really was a team effort, but the Cultural Heritage Center’s staff worked hardest of all. Migwetch (Thank you) to them for putting together a center that our tribe can be proud of.
As always, thank you for the honor of serving as your Tribal Chairman.
John “Rocky” Barrett
(He Leads Them Home)