October 9, 2007
"Before you make a decision on which Amendment to vote for or against, these are the things that you may need. Also, this is a special election and need to register if your are not
A copy of the current Constitution, a copy of the 25 CFR Part 81, Tribal Reorganization Under a Federal Statute, a review of your Roman Numerals Guide, a Sharpie Fine Point Marker, a ruler, a thorough understanding how our present governing system works, and its problems, and how it will be affected either by a YES vote or a NO vote of any one of these amendments.
Also, this is a Secretarial Election conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Rather you are a currently registered voter with the Nation or not, you need to register with the Secretary of Interior to be able to vote on these proposed Amendments to the Constitution. The qualifications to participate in this election are that you be an enrolled member, age 18 or older as of the election date.
Under Amendment A. Article VI-Elections and Nominations. (Add Sec. 6 to Article VI.)
Article VI remains the same then, add F-Section 6 as is in the proposed Amendments.
My opinion: This amendment adds a primary and run-off election with a spin. A primary is asking any tribal member desiring to run for Tribal Council to sign up. Lets say there are 10 candidates and the Nation conducts this election. Only the top 2 candidates receiving the highest number of votes are eligible for the Run-off election 4 weeks after the closing of the primary. I want a primary and run off but not sure about the 50% plus 1.
Under Amendment A, one candidate will get 50% + 1 then there is no run-off and this candidates wins. My candidate gets 35% >, he/she doesn’t go to the run-off.
With a primary and run-off of the two top candidates, the candidate with second highest votes may have chance to win over the candidate with the highest votes. In this run-off election the winning candidate will have a higher percentage than 50%. This will show that a good majority of voters are supportive of this candidate.
Then in case of a tie either a coin toss (not Heads I win and Tails you lose) or a drawing of straws if more than two candidates tie. How often has there been a tie in our elections? Maybe we need something.
Under Amendment B. Ethical Responsibilities of Officials. (Add New Article, does not replace).
New Article VIII. If passed, there will be one other election and added cost even if one election coincides other elections.
In my opinion, we all know we are in need of an Ethics Policy but not defined and fine- tuned in our Constitution. A constitutional authority clause delegating power to TC to create a Commission, Policy and Procedures is what is needed. Why? If this Amendment passes, if we had to change it again later for whatever reason, it would take another lengthy Secretarial election.
If delegated to TC, changes can be made in the Policy and Procedures, seek public comment, finalize and then seek approval from GC at minimal cost and less time to Nation.
Note: In this case, who’s to blame for such a long delay? TC or BIA.
This Amendment might be over kill of fine details in our Constitution and it may cause a she-she contest between EC and the Tribal Council. It will add more administrative costs to the budget but don’t know how much yet until the TC approves an Ethics budget.
Under Amendment C. Dispute Resolution System. (Add New article, does not replace).
In my opinion, we don’t want to tie the Courts hands with small details by approving Amendment C that might do just that. We need a Separation of Powers Doctrine establishing a Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government and let them define Policy and Procedures. They are the professionals, not us.
Under Amendment D. Governing Body. (Replaces paragraph B, Section 2).
Article IV and V will be totally omitted if this Amendment is approved. Amendment D replaces the current constitutional language.
In my opinion, we all desire to have a Tribal Council that creates a successful tribal government and profitable businesses. They need the flexibility to conduct business and report such so that we know what is happening. There should be built in accountability to prevent any wrong doing in our Policy and Procedures at our tribal government level and supported by Constitutional authority.
We elect those that we feel will take care of our business by trusting them in their responsible and ethical ability to do so. To tie their hands this way is saying we elect you but we don’t trust you.
Article V: Enumerated Powers of Tribal Council is totally omitted from the current Constitution and replaced by the proposed language if this Amendment D passes.
In my opinion, and this is important to know, the Secretary of the Interior is totally omitted from our Constitution. Even though I would be the first to say we don’t want them, there still are certain treaty and trust responsibilities that need to be recognized by us in our Constitution. Its not going to hurt us to leave them in and study this option in the near future but lets not terminate ourselves when the federal government has been trying to do that for the past two centuries.
What is important here, if this Amendment passes, is what is being omitted? A careful review would have to be done, line by line, to determine if this new Amendment is better, doesn’t apply or worse, doesn’t protect.
For instance, Article V Sec. 1 (b): is protection from unethical attorneys that use to steal from us by using crafty and weasel wording (treaties) contracts in today’s world. The BIA reviews these attorney contracts for fairness in our favor but then sometimes they were worse, but still they provided that cost free service. If bad situations occur then we need to correct our BIA.
Paragraph c: Very important to keep because in Shabbona land negotiations, a newspaper reported that we (our TC) wanted to waive sovereignty and give some of our trust lands away, for free, without the consent of the Nation. Even though there was a crafty GC resolution to proceed with Shabbona business, this violated our Constitution and we do not have authority to give away our congressionally approved Indian trust lands. Shabbona erred when he did this because even though it was given to him and his band, he didn’t have title to this land. That’s why it’s still ours. If we sever federal ties, will they help us resolve the Shabbona land claim?
Also, omitted is to advise the Secretary of Interior of the cost of federal projects/contracts. We are saying that we don’t need your money and we have enough to fund our own programs. We don’t get involved in federal budgeting and free them of their responsibility. I still want their money and more, its treaty rights. Leave this in.
A YES vote omits the Secretary of Interior and by not saying that in plain language anywhere in the amendments package is trickery.
Under Amendment E. Article VIII – Meetings would be replaced entirely.
Finally, since it was proposed in July 1999, the quarterly general council meetings will be tribal law in our Constitution if this Amendment passes. The agenda items approval is a 20-day advance notice or ¾ of sign-in members may change agenda.
In my opinion, many problems can and should be handled at the administrative level. Many problems may be handled at the monthly TC meetings. TC and GC need agreement as to what issues should be discussed at quarterly meetings otherwise strategic business may not be conducted properly. Let’s enjoy our success and talk about more.
Also, resolutions required for approval of large-scale business should not be done towards then end of meeting when barely a quorum remains (65). Amendment E-Section 4. Quorum and Vote Requirements, second sentence. “The GC may take official action upon the majority vote of the members in attendance.” Should large-scale business transactions be voted on when there is 300+ members or 65 members?
Under Amendment F. Article XIII – Amendments would be replaced entirely.
If this Amendment passes, it omits the Secretary of the Interior from approving any future constitutional amendments or conducting Secretarial Election(s).
If this Amendment fails, that leaves the Secretary of the Interior in our Constitution.
These are my opinions that are not legal or complete but only what I can analyze between the Constitution and proposed amendments. Since there is no assistance offered by TC or BIA, I feel the need to let our people know what these amendments mean if passed.
I am grateful to the Constitution Committee for presenting a change for improvement with hopes to strengthen our government.
Also, I am very grateful for the Committee’s vision in attempting to promote true self-determination and an autonomous Constitution. I think the Nations members will eventually enjoy a more active participation and hope this letter does not discourage anyone.
I am surprised that such a massive change was authorized by the BIA when their duty according to 25 CFR Part 81.4 – Assistance from the DOI. “Representatives of the DOI will cooperate with an offer advice and assistance (including the proposing of amendments), to any tribe in drafting a constitution and by-laws, an amendment, a charter or charter amendment, or in revocation of constitutions.”
In all fairness, there was no final GC consultation, requesting BIA attendance, before these amendments were mailed out. Maybe the GC should request for the Nation to provide them with a legal consultant of their choice to represent them concerning these amendments.
These amendments, if passed, are approving tribal laws for the Nation to fund more committees and resources to provide accountability no matter whom we elect? Or is it because we don’t receive enough information from the TC to honor them with trust.
In these amendments, we are indirectly trying to establish a Separation of Powers doctrine in our Constitution and we should. For example, the following is two different Nations’ Separation of Powers clauses.
(Article IV. Distribution of Powers. The powers of the government of the XXXXX Nation shall be divided into three (3) separate departments: Legislative, Executive and Judicial; and except as provided in this Constitution, the Legislative, Executive and Judicial departments of government shall be separate and distinct and neither shall exercise the powers properly belonging to either of the others.) OR
ARTICLE V - DIVISION OF THE POWERS OF GOVERNMENT. Section 1.The powers of the government of the YYYYYYY Nation shall be divided into three (3) distinct departments: 1. Legislative 2. Executive 3. Judicial. No person or collection of persons, being one of those departments, shall exercise any power properly attached to either of the others.
What these amendments seem to do is cloud up the Constitution with more, smaller details than we need. In essence, we are tying our own hands and putting strict limits on what the TC can do and can’t do. Our Constitution is protection for our TC and GC. If we don’t amend properly then we are declaring our TC or Administration as constitutional violators when they are trying to do the right thing. Not so important but this may also promote an attitude of good will for bloggers to compliment a government of the people and for the people. The GC is still the governing body that approves amendments and that’s the way it should be.
The Constitution is law of the land and is approved by the Nations members and forwarded to the Secretary of Interior for review to enhance protection, promote development and a stronger business environment. It is not to prohibit any tribal governmental process because if it does then we go to Court and only then. If the Secretary of Interior clauses do not inhibit this in any way then leave it there because we don’t know the consequences for its removal.
The Constitution declares our inherent sovereignty and the right to govern us. We need to outline in it what should be done but delegate that authority to the TC to create policy and procedures. These P&P can be changed easily and often no matter how many times we do it and it is not as costly, timely or confusing as a massive electoral amendment process.
I tried to keep this from becoming a lengthy or confusing document but explanations are needed to solidify my opinions with some form of credence and integrity. Other tribal members may interpret these amendments in other ways and we should know if they are confusing. We need to wring out the unclear, ambiguous and conflicting amendments to do this right.
Whoever is elected, we need to support them without prejudice and let our Constitution guide them. With them understanding us and we constantly encouraging them to lead our Nation will be a national symbol of power and we will always be Prairie Band Potawatomi."
Amendment A - Vote NO
Amendment B - Vote NO
Amendment C - Vote NO
Amendment D - Vote NO
Amendment E - Vote NO
Amendment F - Vote NO
Thomas M. Wabnum