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Tribal elder warns about Trump as council reorganizes

Chambers dedicated to Boyd

 

Mel Tonasket

Members of the Colville Confederated Tribes, in a packed room at the Lucy Covington Government Center, heard a retiring elder give advice for the future at the swearing-in ceremony for the new Colville Business Council July 13.

Retiring after 47 years, former vice chairman Mel Tonasket received a traditional retirement blanket and a gift card as a substitute toward a traditional rifle (to laughter and applause) from Chairman Michael Marchand.

Tonasket, who fought termination of the reservation early in his career, warned the new Colville Business Council of serious challenges ahead.

"I want you to understand how serious this business is," Tonasket said. "With Trump in the White House, and Sessions as Attorney General, we are close to termination again today. We don't have logical thinkers (in DC). We are safe now, but will we be safe tomorrow? We have enemies walking the halls of Congress. As long as we have land, water, and sovereignty, people will want our natural resources."

Tonasket encouraged the new council to study the law, and wished them luck in the challenges they'll face in the future.

At the ceremony, the CBC chambers were dedicated to Jim Boyd. Boyd, the former chairman who was first elected in 2012, died unexpectedly in 2016 at the age of 60. His widow, Shelly Boyd, spoke eloquently about him after being presented with a Colville Confederated Tribes flag and the unveiling of a large, framed dedication to Jim Boyd that will hang in the council chambers.

"He really believed in us as people. He had a high regard for work," Shelly Boyd said. "He believed in our creativity and our ability to create beautiful things."

She spoke in traditional language and then translated, saying that the late chairman made decisions by asking himself the questions: "What's best for the land?," "What's best for the water?," "What's best for the natural resources?," and "What's best for the people?"

"Natural resources" isn't a truly accurate translation, she said, explaining that, "taking care of natural resources is the same as taking care of ourselves. It's not a resource, it's a relationship."

Shelly Boyd also spoke about concerns with the Trump administration. "I feel this lurking at the federal level," Boyd said. "A man named Trump, I really think he doesn't like us. He doesn't want us here. I think that our leaders right there, they need us behind them. They need us pushing them, because they have a lot of hard work in front of them."

Jim Boyd and Sharon DeLeon's son, Joel, is among those newly elected to the CBC.

The dedication to Boyd closed with a traditional song.

Newly elected members of the CBC are: incumbents Jack Ferguson, Andy Joseph Jr., and Susie Allen, who were sworn in alongside newcomers Norma Sanchez, Melissa Louis, Rodney Cawston, and Joel Boyd.

The council, composed of 14 members altogether, holds elections for seven positions each year, with members serving two-year terms.

The newly elected join Michael Marchand, Edwin Marchand, Willie Womer, Bessie Simpson, Sheilah Cleveland, Larry Allen, and Joseph Somday, each of whom will be up for re-election next year.

After swearing in, the new council took their seats, and members were then assigned to positions based on votes from the council members themselves.

Newly elected members of the Colville Business Council take the oath of office at the Lucy Covington Government Center July 13 before BIA Northwest Regional Director Stanley Speaks. From left to right are: Andy Joseph Jr., Jack Ferguson, Susie Allen, Melissa Louis, Norma Sanchez, Joel Boyd, and Rodney Cawston. - Jacob Wagner photo

Michael Marchand will continue as chairman, the only nominee for the position. Edwin Marchand won the vice chairman position over Jack Ferguson, with an 8-6 vote. Sheilah Cleveland won the secretary position over Melissa Louis, with an 8-6 second vote following a 7-7 tie.

Jack Ferguson will chair the Management & Budget Committee, with an 8-6 decision over Susie Allen following a 7-7 tie. Norma Sanchez is chair of the Tribal Government Committee, winning a 9-5 vote over Joel Boyd. Rodney Cawston chairs the Natural Resources Committee, favored over Joseph Somday 9-4. Joel Boyd won 8-5 over Sheilah Cleveland for the Law & Justice Committee.

Andy Joseph kept the Health & Human Services Committee chairmanship, 7-5-2, over Melissa Louis and Georgia Simpson. Louis chairs the Employment and Education committee after a second vote of 8-6, following a 7-7 tie, over Simpson. Edwin Marchand took the Community Development Committee leadership over Simpson, 9-5. Willie Womer won the Culture Committee chairmanship over Joseph Somday, 9-5. And Larry Allen was uncontested to lead the Veterans Committee.

This article has been corrected with Joel Boyd’s mother’s name.

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