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Opinion
Yellow Bird: The growing pains of tribal leaders


"For the past 60 years, many tribal governments have become more and more like the federal government, while others have become less and less stable. As these novices step into the world of big bucks and politics, some struggle. These tribal leaders, in other words, are amateurs compared with many state and federal officials.

In May and June, two tribal chairmen have been ousted or resigned before their terms ended. The most recent is the chairman of the Spirit Lake Dakota Sioux, Valentino "Tino" White, who was recalled last week for allegations that range from gross negligence to abuse of authority.

In early May, Lovelin Poncho of the Coushatta tribe in Louisiana resigned over allegations in connection with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And opponents of Leon Bear, tribal chairman of the Skull Valley Goshute tribe of Utah, have been trying to unseat him. With Bear's plea of guilty to tax fraud, he may well be the third in two months to leave the office of chairman.

Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first woman president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, faced accusations that she had mismanaged a Head Start program and showed disrespect toward elders on a radio program. The hearing on her case was suspended.

Yet out of some 540 tribes, the number of chairmen forced out of office actually is minimal. The rulings also show the steadily increasing involvement of the membership of the tribes. They are willing to take a stand and keep their leaders accountable."

Get the Story:
DORREEN YELLOW BIRD COLUMN: Tribal leaders earn decent grades (The Grand Forks Herald 6/28)

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