Chairman candidates look at future promises, today’s challenges
By Jerry W. Kram
The Three Affiliated Tribes are at a crossroads, and Mark Fox and Damon Williams were in New Town on Thursday, Oct. 23 asking tribal members to decide which way they want to turn.
The two candidates for the position of chairman of the Tribal Business Council participated in a debate at the Northern Lights Building. They each gave a short presentation of their platform and then responded to questions submitted to the debate moderators by the audience. Williams won a coin toss and went first and the participants alternated for the rest of the evening.
Williams said this was an historic time for the tribe because for the first time it has the resources it needs to improve the lives of its members. His platform includes free healthcare for members, especially elders, increased financial assistance for veterans, financial aid for students that would be forgiven at graduation, additional tribal housing, and transferring federally held mineral rights back to individual allottees.
"Our tribe is at a historic moment," Williams said. "Our tribe has resources to draw on for the first time in years. The tribe can finally help you."
Williams also wants to call a constitutional convention among tribal members to rewrite the governing document of the MHA Nation. The current constitution dates back to the 1930s and Williams said it needs to be updated. He would like to see a government with a clear separation of powers, and independent judiciary, and more transparency in its decision making. However, he added, what a new government would look like would be up to the will of the tribal members. He would like to schedule a vote on a new constitution by the end of 2015.
"It is time to change how we govern," Williams said. "We want our children to have a better future. We want Indian people to succeed."
Mark Fox framed his opening remarks by saying he wanted to stop the fear that is stalking the reservation. He said he wasn’t just talking about the fear of crime, drugs and environmental damage that have come with the oil boom, but also people’s fear of losing everything because of medical bills and fear of being homeless because there isn’t anyplace affordable to live.
Fox said his years as a tribal council member and as the tribal tax director gives him a strong background in money management. He said the tribe needs to know how much money is coming in and where it is going. He promised his administration would have more openness in the budget process. He said he supports per capita payments to tribal members. He also said that financial aid for students should be in form of grants and not loans to be forgiven. He also said he would implement ethics rules for tribal council members.