Matters of Trust, Honor & Betrayal

There’s a Tribal Cemetery Project update meeting scheduled for tonight, Wednesday February 19, 2014, from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. in the Business Committee Conference Room on the 2nd Floor of the Norbert Hill Center.

Related to that meeting is the following video from the November 7, 2013 Community Development Planning Committee (CDPC) meeting in which Tribal Development Division Director (and Oneida Total Integrated Enterprises Board Chair) Butch Rentmeester states that it will take at least 3 to 5 years to determine whether or not the ‘French tile drain system’ being installed in the Tribal Cemetery can adequately deal with the ongoing problems of surface water and groundwater in the cemetery area.

We had a meeting yesterday with the Trust and Enrollment Committee and Vice-Chairman Matson and the technical team and we’re putting together a proposal for a French drain and some monitoring wells and we’re working on an [Request For Proposal] for a Maintenance agreement for next year. …I did hear this morning that due to the rain there was some water out there this morning[.] …We need to manage the lake level and we want it so it optimizes the habitat there and also put the French drain in so it deals with the surface water issues and any subsurface water issues, and then we’ll have the monitoring wells to measure it so we can assure the membership that the water level is being controlled, is down below the graves, and then that’s the short term. The long term is we’re going to look to the east and maybe, when we do the lake project – because it takes, well, Steve [Linskens] says we should monitor them about three to five years in the monitoring wells because the groundwater water fluctuates that much[.]

How many more bodies could be buried in the Tribal cemetery in the next 3 to 5 years only to have to be exhumed along with the 50 or so buried there now if the experimental French tile draining system proves to be inadequate? How much money will have been wasted on trying to remediate an area that was never an approproiate choice for a cemetery in the first place?

Butch Rentmeester also acknowledged that the water level of the body of water near the Tribal cemetery which is designated as ‘Where the Water Birds Nest’ does impact the amount of flooding in the cemetery. What does that mean regarding the possibilty of formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals leaching into the water birds’ nests?

Given the fact that the Onieda Tribal Cemetery was built in a watery area which is inappropriate for a cemetery, and that the Tribal Cemetery may be leaching hazardous chemicals into an ecologically sensitive area affecting water fowl, and that the Tribe is admitting that it will take at least 3 to 5 years to find out if the attempts to continuously drain the Tribal Cemetery area even works, is it any wonder that the Village of Hobart has filed a Petition For A Writ of Certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the Seventh Circuit Court’s decision regarding the Oneida Tribe’s storm water drainage plans and implementation?

Apparently the Trust & Enrollment Committee and the technical team expect Tribe members to simply trust them and to allow them 3 to 5 years to decide if the bodies in the Tribal Cemetery will have to be exhumed and moved to an area which is proven to be an appropriate place for a cemetery.

The problems with the Tribal Cemetery have gone unaddressed for years by the Oneida Trust & Enrollment Committee, of which Carole Liggins is Chair and Loretta V. Metoxen is Vice-Chair a member, and this is why the importance of ‘trust’ in Tribal representatives needs to be addressed. [CORRECTION: Jennifer Hill-Kelley is listed as the Trust & Enrollment Committee Vice-Chair on the Tribe’s website.]

The Cemetery Law identifies that the Enrollment Department is responsible for carrying out the provisions of this law. The Enrollment Department reports to the Trust/Enrollment Committee, therefore the Trust/Enrollment Committee has the Cemetery Issues/Updates on both the Enrollment and Trust agendas every month until further notice. The Trust/Enrollment Committee meets on the 1st and 4th Tuesday of each month. These meetings are open to the public, but please contact the Enrollment or Trust Departments if you plan to attend for location of meeting.

Loretta Metoxen was until January 26, 2014 the Chair of the Oneida Nation Veterans Affairs Committee (ONVAC), and Oneida Eye has reported on how she misused that position to guarantee that she and other ONVAC members would be able to travel to attend the November 20, 2013 Code Talker Medal Ceremony in Washington, D.C., while she neglected to take the necessary steps to secure travel arrangements for the families of the Oneida Code Talkers, even though emails show that the representative from the U.S. Treasury had informed Loretta that the Code Talkers and their family members were the most important attendees for the ceremony and the ones for whom the seating in the first few rows was being reserved.

It was not until Oneida Eye raised the issue that steps were taken to make sure that family members of all of the Oneida Code Talkers were provided with the means to attend the historic ceremony.

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