Re: “Many tribal members approve of keeping settlement money for programs” (Letters from our Readers, Dec. 26,
I would like to ask both Ms. Joseph and our council who they think these people are? If there are sufficient numbers to counter the petition with over 2,600 signatures on it, many of us who signed would like to see who these people are. More people signed the petition to release funds than voted in the last election, yet council has stated they feel that their “supporters” will vote no and the settlement would be used by council for their “plan” anyway. I want to say that if they are so sure of that, why is our chairman sitting on the petition?
I know that The Star newspaper is aware that there was a rally at our tribal offices and that our elders and others were out in the cold. On that day, I wrote to our council and here is a snippet of the replies from Andy Joseph and John Sirois. Both men are behaving like they think they are doing the right thing, but almost 3000 of their membership are on board with the petition to disburse the remaining funds.
• From Andy, when I asked why council wasn’t responding to membership when they set the amount of signatures we needed and then when we met that amount, they disregarded and went in to hiding: I am not ignoring anyone. Council has not met on the petition we have not had a chance to vote on it. Nespelem Council want it addressed. As for the payment I want and have asked our Council to have 3 meetings one in the Seattle/Tacoma area. One in Spokane and Yakama Area. Then have a big General Membership meeting here where our Members can vote on the $193 million. I am for what ever our membership give us as order or direction that a vote would be. We have accepted the petition with over 1700 signatures and our Election Office will verify the enrollment numbers. As for two Council fighting that is a bad rumor that is being put out there.
• From John Sirois: would like to set aside some time to meet with you and your group! Some of our Council may not be there as well because of similar delegations (Jim Boyd is in BC representing us at Okanagan Nations Alliance treat issues). I recognize the petition and the voices and fully support that right! We differ on how best to take care of those settlement funds, but I will defend all of our rights to debate it. (Note that he states that he recognizes the petition? In the meeting last Thursday, he was sitting on the petition and told elders present he hadn’t even looked at it. To me, that does not sound like he is recognizing his membership. It sounds like TOTAL disregard.)
There are a lot of people hurting, and contrary to Ms. Joseph’s hinting around that we are greedy and don’t need the funds, MANY members of our tribe do need them. There are stories that tug at the heart and stories of people doing without day to day. There are stories of elders and babies going without needed care. Where is her concern for them? I haven’t seen one person sit there and say POOR ME. I have seen young ones create business opportunities that will support themselves and others, I have seen homes being purchased, clothing and needed items for families and extended families and yes even trips being taken to visit family that usually people can’t go and see. I haven’t seen one POOR ME and I doubt Ms. Joseph has either. I am offended that she would state that about her own people.
While Ms. Joseph feels that a new Tribal Administration building would be in order, many believe that funding for a tribal convalescent center would benefit those needing the most — our elders — and even though there is funding available through grants for many things the council wants to spend our settlement dollars on, they choose to not apply for them. PLUS, they have already funneled money off the Wells Dam settlements (we get nothing from that settlement), the casinos (again we get nothing from those either). They choose to continue a stance of disregard of their people and a dereliction of duty in regard to the oath that they swore to uphold.
For many people, it may look like our membership has gotten a lot and ALL OF US appreciate every cent we got. Still, there are needs that are yet to be met and many years of mismanagement and mistrust that does not allow those of us who signed the petition for 100-percent disbursement to just sit back and let council take the reins again. In regard to her statement that “we would much rather see preservation of language” (like giving tribal council families over $100,000 for their very own language programs?) “restoration of land” (like the grants from the federal government won’t work to do this if someone applied for them?) “creation of jobs (so the good ones can go to the choice few who get them always?), I agree; WE would love to see those things, but the huge picture shows us that this council — this current council with both old hats and newbys — are WAY OFF TRACK when it comes to performing their jobs to the oath that they swore to uphold. In my opinion, along with mismanagement of every other revenue source, the mismanagement of the settlement dollars is a train wreck waiting to happen.
Our organizational chart clearly states that MEMBERSHIP is at the top of the chain of command. Yet, Chairman Sirois is continuing to deny our voices to be heard. Yes, there are recall petitions going for ALL tribal council. There is a course of action to get all 14 out. Regardless, they still hold a responsibility to do their job and follow the oath that they took, and they are expected to do that every day they are in office as Council for their people of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
I don’t have my lineage; I am from the Nanamkin and Simpson families and I am proud of them, but I grew up off reservation and regardless of demographic, I love my people and know their hearts are hurting because our council is behaving this way. Ask our elders who lost all of their settlements due to the malicious holds council had placed on them to get even. Ask how holds were taken out of families’ payments for debt owed by deceased parents and 20-plus-year-old debts that were paid but since receipts weren’t kept, had to be paid again. Why would Yvette leave this information out? Oh, yeah … because her family on council had a hand in these holds being placed on people’s settlement payments.
There’s a lot more that the newspaper doesn’t know. I wish you would go and ask around the rez. Find out why council is regarded so shadily.
Laurie Kanzleiter Sison
Enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation