MESSAGES FROM THE CHIEFS


CHIEF BEN BARNES

As the celebration of Independence Day fades into the background, this is the time of year that the Business Council begins to look toward the next fiscal year and plan programming for Shawnee families. We generally have two sorts of programs: those that come from federal funding sources and those that are entirely funded by the Tribe’s revenue stream. It is the latter that I want to write about. The staff provides feedback to the Tribe’s administration, and we adjust existing programs and add new ones from the analysis of the prior year’s participation and successes. We also take into account citizen feedback throughout the year, and then we work with our staff and administration to approve the budgets for the coming cycle. 

With that in mind, we will be increasing funding to several popular programs and adding new ones to address necessitous issues that arise throughout the year. Just a few of these are additional COVID relief payments to our adult citizens, improved council chambers with multimedia and recording capabilities, as well as one that I hope reaches people in a most desperate need. I am anticipating that the Shawnee Tribe will be a recipient of a portion of the opioid class action settlement very soon. It is my hope that we can use those dollars to send Shawnees to effective rehabilitation centers. Details for this are still emergent, and our team will keep you apprised of details as we receive them via the tribal website. Visit shawnee-nsn.gov. 

The media team has been hard at work revamping the website, and the cultural center will also be announcing very soon not just a reopening but a re-envisioning of its role in our community. The Language program is being used and enjoyed by hundreds of people, and it only makes sense that Culture and Language come together in the same facility. I always hoped that the Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center would be a place for Shawnees to tell their own stories, but now I see a day when they will tell those stories in Shawnee.

Finally, I want to give an update about Oklahoma City and Washington DC. I have been very impressed with Oklahoma Attorney Gentner Drummond, as he upholds the law in Oklahoma. Not only has he tried to hold Governor Stitt to the law, but he has been responsive to requests by tribes, including ours, to reopen and examine missing and murdered Indigenous persons cases here in Oklahoma. In other State of Oklahoma updates, the Tribe joined with other tribal nations and was successful in having the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 249 overturned. Students’ rights to wear their eagle feathers or regalia in graduation ceremonies are now protected by legislation that will become the template for similar bills elsewhere. We also anticipate that our legislative allies in the state capitol have the necessary votes to overturn the Governor’s veto of the tobacco compact legislation that benefits Oklahoma’s tribal nations.

“I always hoped that the Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center would be a place for Shawnees to tell their own stories, but now I see a day when they will tell those stories in Shawnee. “

As your council looks down the road into the future, we will continue to increase our capacity for communication, fighting for Indigenous peoples of all ages, and bringing help to those most in need.

niyaawe, hiini leki.

Chief Ben Barnes


SECOND CHIEF ROY BALDRIDGE

caaki wiyeefa (everyone)—

I hope that everyone reading this article is doing well. In this election cycle, there will be a vote for retaining our current Chief or electing a new one. With that in mind, I decided to cover our constitution and the information it contains about the position of Chief.

Our constitution states:

It shall be the duty of the Chief to call and preside at all meetings of the Shawnee Tribal Council and the Business Council. The Chief shall have general supervision of the affairs of the tribe and shall perform all duties pertaining to the office of the Chief. The Chief shall be responsible for hiring and firing of employees in accordance with the laws to be adopted by the Business Council; day to day operations of the tribe; operation of federally funded contracts; and other executive functions as may be delegated to the Chief from time to time. Such functions may be further delegated through the employment of Tribal Managers who shall report to the Chief.

On employment by the Shawnee Tribe of persons related to the Chairman:

No person shall be employed in any capacity by the Shawnee Tribe who is related to the Chairman by affinity or consanguinity within the first degree. Relation within the first degree includes parent, child, spouse, parent of spouse and child of spouse. All other relatives are not included within the first degree.

On the Business Council:

The Business Council of the Shawnee Tribe shall have the power to transact all business on behalf of the Shawnee Tribe in all matters on which the Tribe is authorized to act. Voting members of the Business Council shall be all members except the Chief. The Chief shall exercise the privilege to vote only when a tie vote occurs among the Business Council. In addition to the transaction of business on behalf of the Tribe, the duties of the Business Council shall be to adopt such methods necessary to comply with this requirement. No Shawnee Business Council member shall be an employee of the Shawnee Tribe, nor shall they engage in business with the Shawnee Tribe for profit unless full disclosure of the transaction is made to the Business Council and approved in advance. Payments received for fulfilling the duties of a Business Council member shall not be considered tribal employment. [As amended, September 20th, 2003.] [As amended, September 17th, 2011.]

Several years ago, our Tribal Council agreed to start efforts to make changes to our constitution in preparation for the future. Members of the Business Council and Tribal Citizens volunteered to meet to discuss options. Out of those discussions, the amendment allowing dual citizenship was made. At the time, our tribe had lost TCNS funds which had allowed us to fund college assistance, school clothing, emergency assistance and general assistance. Voting to allow dual citizenship allowed many of our citizens who were eligible for citizenship elsewhere to have the ability to access needed services that we could not provide at the time. Since that time, we have finished our casino, went through a pandemic and have grown staff to serve our tribal population, which has doubled. My reason for mentioning this is that there is still work to be done. Above, you can see the term Chairman and Chief used. Cleaning up the language of our constitution is something that can now be resumed.

My main point is to show that the position of Chief is a very important one. It is not all-powerful as some might perceive. During Business Council meetings, while the Chief presents the agenda, he/she does not have a vote unless there is a tie. There are limitations on the positions of Chief and Second Chief regarding the hiring of family that do not exist for Secretary, Treasurer, or any other Councilor. I believe that the Shawnee Tribe has been very lucky when it has come to the leaders we have had. Whether the title was Chief or Chairman, they all had successes and failures. They were all human. The groundwork they laid is responsible for our status today. It is our hope that someday they can be appropriately honored.

niyaawe (thank you),

Roy D. Baldridge

Second Chief

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