Ella Robertson, the chairwoman-elect of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, poses with a campaign sign on the Lake Traverse Reservation. Photo: Ella Robertson

Native Sun News Today: Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate elects woman as chair

Woman elected chairwoman of Sisseton Wahpeton
Sisseton/Wahpeton unofficial election results
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Today Staff Writer

AGENCY VILLAGE – On January 2, 2019, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate on the Lake Traverse Reservation will welcome a new Chairwoman to lead their tribe of 13,872 members.

Ella Robertson, 44, was elected during the SWO General Election on Nov. 6 and defeated incumbent Dave Flute – 1,063 to 891.

Robertson made history as the second woman elected to lead the tribe, whose reservation straddles the border of both North and South Dakota. The first tribal Chairwoman to be elected was Lorraine Rousseau in 1992 when she defeated incumbent Russell Hawkins.

Robertson, mother of four children and two grandchildren, is the daughter of Chyrel Renville DeCoteau and Edward “Toto” Robertson.

The new Chairwoman elect is lifelong resident of the Lake Traverse Reservation, and a member of the Big Coulee District. She is an alumnus of the Sisseton Wahpeton College, University of Minnesota Morris and received her master’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth in Tribal Administration and Governance.

“Since I was little my family always told me that I would lead our people, and I think everything that I have experienced in life, the good and the bad has led me here, now the Chairwoman elect of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate,” Robertson said.

When Robertson announced her candidacy to family and friends she said a young gentleman shared the following story that was passed on in his family, a story that she said further inspired her.

“A long time ago the Wahpe Kute were living down near Nebraska. An enemy tribe attacked the village, the men left to fight them, protecting the people. The women watched from the hilltop as the battle went on below. The Dakota men began to fall, they were being killed and it looked like they were going to lose the battle. So the women ran down the hill, picked up weapons and began to fight to save their men. One woman picked up a bow and shot the war chief of the enemy tribe, ending the battle,” Robertson shared. “This is our history. Our women are strong and they will fight to protect their people. Now is that time.”

The political road hasn’t been an easy road for her as she said it brings division and animosity to her people each campaign season, “What kept me centered was the encouragement of many men and women, young and old that believed in me and what I stood for.”


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Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at staffwriter@nativesunnews.today

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