August 21, 2007
"A Yes or No to a per capita increase is unfair for me to decide because there is not enough financial information to make this decision.
Before our Casino, the BIA did not take care of all tribal members. Tribal members took care of the Tribe and its leaders. Now that we have the Casino many tribal members feel the Nation should be taking total care of them. Untrue, but an elected official will lose public favor if they didn’t service everyone equally. If most tribal members had a non-tribal job then look at the program services savings for other critical projects.
Is the Casino making less money or is the Nation spending more money? And our enrollment increases maybe the reasons for less per capita than we have been receiving. So why ignore this condition before controlling the other failing variables and ruin our only business generating needed income.
Reform of the Nations programs is an administrative duty. The Nation needs to hire only what they can afford and what needs to be done. Policies must be fair and equal but not for total care of person or persons desiring not to work. Family care is a personal responsibility and not the Nations responsibility. Utilizing outside resources must be attempted first before totally relying on tribal resources. We are incurring a growing debt and disabling the family nucleus that should be creating a stronger community.
The Shabbona land purchase was a rushed, political project with no income assurance and was extremely expensive. The Supreme Court Gas tax exemption loss was extremely harmful to our sovereignty and economic future. How many other big projects are using tribal money that provides a community service but no financial return? Most tribal programs are paying money out with no plans for return income. There are no short or long term strategic plans.
Voters are for candidates that will give them the most per capita. Is this what we want? Tribal priorities must be the land, people, language and tradition, without these we would cease to be a sovereign Nation.
Since it appears the Nation is using our money first for federal projects that is their responsibility. Again, we are incurring long-term debt. Apparently, there was perception of unfair and unequal tribal services that called for the per capita increase. If the Casino generated increased income, perhaps the original percentage would have sufficed most. But some want that and more tribal services that also deem unfairness.
There must be a sound, cost effective tribal plan for services. Can there ever be fair or equal services depends on that plan. Where will the funds be taken from if the 48% is approved? We can develop that plan first and then consider a per capita increase. But to approve an increase first and then try to undo it would be political suicide.
We often hear stories how a larger per capita can create more problems than it helps. Without knowing how the increase will affect tribal services and what is the lesser evil here burdens me on an irrational decision."
Thomas M. Wabnum, Age: 57
Bureau of Indian Affairs and
Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, Retired