Secretarial Election Slideshow Presentation Notes: Oops! Oneida Business Committee Vice-Chair Melinda Danforth’s Rabid Cat Got Out Of The Bag

On Saturday March 21, 2015, an Oneida Tribal Community Meeting was held at the Norbert Hill Center and was video-conferenced at the Milwuakee, WI, Southeast Oneida Tribal Services (SEOTS) facility regarding Secretarial Election planned for May 2, 2015, regarding proposed amendments to the Oneida Tribe’s Constitution.

The proposed amendments include:

  • Reduce the Tribal voting age from 21 to 18
  • Change the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin’s name to ‘Oneida Nation’
  • Remove the United States Secretary of the Interior from an oversight and approval role with the Tribe
  • Formally establish a judicial branch within the Constitution
  • Remove the requirement to hold the Annual GTC Meeting on the first Monday in January and the requirement to hold the Semi-Annual GTC Meeting on the first Monday in July

As the Community Discussion progressed, Tribe members at SEOTS asked questions about the information in the packet they were provided and Oneida Business Committee Vice-Chair Melinda Danforth said that they had been mistakenly provided a copy of the information with her notes, which she said they were not supposed to receive.

Oops! That darn cat!

Among the highlights:

The page marked ‘6’ says that “30% of [those who registered to vote in the Secretarial Election] must actually vote in a Secretarial Election in order for the election considered to be valid.”

However, Tribe member Brad Graham spoke with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Secretarial Election Board Chairman, Scot Cameron, and Brad says that Mr. Cameron confirmed that 1/3 (one-third) of the ~13,000+ Oneida Tribe members age 18 and older had to register to vote in order for the election to be valid.

In other words, ~4,330 Oneidas must register with the Secretarial Election Board as wanting to vote and ~1,299 of them must vote in the Secretarial Election in order for it to be valid. Therefore, ~662 voters must vote to approve an amendment in order for it to be adopted.

Yet Melinda Danforth’s Secretarial Election presentation slideshow fails to mention that crucial first requirement, and if 1/3 or those eligible to receive ballots don’t register and 30% of those who receive ballots don’t vote then none of the proposed amendments will pass.

For comparison, a general survey sent to Tribe members in 2010 received only a 24% response rate. (Ouch.)

With regard to lowering the voting age to 18, Vice-Chair Melinda Danforth’s notes contain a very interesting note on the page marked ’19’:

Met with [Oneida Nation High School] students and gave them an exercise. They came back and said they felt that they were not mature enough to deal with issues that [General Tribal Council] deals with.

Hmm.

So Tribe members who are 18 or about to turn 18 had the wisdom to admit that they weren’t mature enough to vote in GTC Meetings or Tribal elections? Well, that’s more than can be said for OBC.

Quite frankly, it’s difficult enough for Tribe members 21 and older to get enough straight information from the Oneida Business Committee to make informed decisions.

Since coming into office in August 2014 the current OBC members have refused to publish their Executive Meeting Agendas, have failed to post one single BC Meeting video since September 2014, and are often out of the office or otherwise unreachable for contact by Tribe members.

Those who attended the March 21, 2015, Community Meeting about the Secretarial Election said Vice-Chair Melinda Danforth was upset that information about the ONHS survey was released to the public, but isn’t that exactly the kind of information that Tribe members should have access to when they’re being asked to lower the voting age?

As for changing the name of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin to just ‘Oneida Nation,’ it’s been noted that this would cause confusion of OTIW with the Oneida Indian Nation in New York, as well as the Oneida Nation of the Thames in Canada.

Last Fall Oneida Eye’s editors received phone calls from Green Bay media outlets looking for comments on the Oneida Tribe’s radio advertisements against the use of the name ‘Washington Redskins,’ and it had to be explained that those ads were actually the work of the Oneida Indian Nation in New York and not sponsored by OTIW.

Oneida Eye wonders why the amendment doesn’t call for the name Oneida Nation in Wisconsin just to make things clear, but not having had that amendment to the Constitution hasn’t stopped OTIW’s goverment from pre-emptively misusing it anyway. In fact, sowing unnecessary confusion seems to be the Oneida Business Committee’s specialty.

Vice-Chair Melinda Danforth’s private notes state that the proposed Constitutional amendment to remove the Secretary of the Interior from an oversight and approval role with OTIW “is our main focus” (page marked ’22’). However, her notes also state that a majority (54%) of Tribe members who responded to the survey either oppose the change or aren’t sure what it would mean, and that among the concerns of those who support and oppose the change, or don’t know yet, are as follows (page marked ’23’):

Support–: …Concerned about tribe’s accountability if removed, and [see it as an] Unnecessary position.

Non-Support–: …Concerned about tribe’s accountability if removed, and [are] Concerned about losing federal assisstance or support.

Not Sure–: …Need more information, and [are] Concerned about the tribe’s accountability.

Likewise, the page marked ’24’ states that a majority (54%) of Tribe members who answered the survey either do not support or not sure if they support the amendment for the addition of a Judiciary to the Constitution. That page also states:

This amendment is a 2 step process. The 1st step is to place the Judiciary in the Constitution & the next step is to develop and have GTC approve a law that grants judicial authority to an authorized entity.

But that is exactly the opposite of how the Oneida Business Committee has proceeded because they brought legislation to General Tribal Council to establish a Judiciary without any amendments having been made to the Constitution to authorize its authority and it is now already acting as the official judicial body of the Tribe as the Appeals Commission was disbanded as of March 1, 2015. More cart-before-the-horseapples nonsense of the OBC.

According to the page marked ’25,’ even those who support having a Judiciary are “Concerned about fairness, ethics, accountability and…Specific staff qualifications.

Given the information that Oneida Eye has reported it makes sense that majority of Oneidas either reject or are wary about the very idea of establishing a Judiciary, especially the way in which OBC has gone about it.

Specifically, the attempt by OBC, the Oneida Election Board, and the Oneida Law Office to disenfranchise voters by originally planning to exclude the Milwaukee SEOTS polling site from the inaugural election of the Judiciary until Oneida Eye’s Publisher and four other Tribe members filed a class action suit on behalf of GTC against OBC, OEB & OLO, not to mention the violations of the Election Law that occurred during the Judiciary election, plus the dreadful results of the Judiciary election and the antics of the judicial officers thereafter:

Compounding the misgivings of some Tribe members (and outright disgust of others) regarding the way the creation of the Judiciary happened is the fact that this Fall the Wisconsin Supreme Court will be hearing a petition brought before them by Oneida Tribe members seeking to end the transfer of state and county court cases to tribal courts and conducting a general review of such practices which the Supreme Court moved up from Spring 2016 to Fall 2015:

And the conduct of tribal attorneys and judicial officers from other tribes hasn’t helped:

The page marked ’32’ says:

Adoption of the proposed Constitutional amendment [to add a Judiciary] would not affect the existence or activities of the Appeals Commission.

Yet the Appeals Commission was disbanded March 1, 2015, without the adoption of the proposed Constitutional amendment.

Was it illegal for OTIW to have disbanded its Appeals Commission and established a Judiciary before GTC approved an amendment to the Constitution to allow it and without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior? Tribe member Brad Graham said that Secretarial Elections Board Chairman Scot Cameron told him the BIA will be looking into the matter.

As far as changing the dates of the Annual and Semi-Annual Meeting to something other than the first Mondays of January and July, Oneida Eye hopes that the OBC would instead choose to hold those important, mandatory meetings on a Saturday in order to promote the widest possible participation of Oneida people in their governance. Yet when the January 2015 Annual GTC Meeting was cancelled due to dangerously cold weather, the OBC rescheduled it to another Monday evening even though they had the opportunity to choose any day of the week they wished. That is just part of an ongoing pattern of the current OBC to act in ways which seem designed to disenfranchise GTC and to make sure that only a small number of Tribe members can participate in important meetings.

The most frightening change that would occur if the amendments to the Constitution were adopted and the Secretary of the Interior was removed from a role of oversight & approval with the Oneida Tribe is spelled out on the page marked ’30’:

If amendment [to remove Secretary of Interior from oversight] passes…constitutional change could occur…Via the Business Committee by agreement of 8 of 9 BC members.

Just imagine what kind of abuse of power the Tribe members could justifibly expect from the same crew that illegally schedules unlawful elections, refuses to publish their Executive Meeting Agendas and Regular Meeting videos, claims that including or excluding polling sites is at the mercy of their arbitrary & capricious whim, and (perhaps illegally?) institutes something as important as a Judiciary without first amending the Constitution, not to mention doing everything in their power to prove their undying love & support for the genocidal business model of Tribally-owned Oneida Seven Generations Corporation which they steadfastly refused to hold accountable.

Some Tribe members have suggested that OBC’s ultimate goal is to radically change the Oneida Constitution to eliminate GTC’s role as the supreme governing body of the Tribe and to replace Tribal democracy with governance by unelected Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs, and Clan Mothers.

In other words, turn what is now a radically democratic Tribe into little more than a Longhouse Vatican, or an Iroquois Caliphate.

Will GTC surrender itself to an OBC that has already demonstrated a disregard for law, ethics, morality, common sense, common decency, and basic humanity?

Or will GTC wake up and realize that its demise has been planned and is being promoted by those who took an oath to defend the Oneida Constitution as it stands and yet have acted treasonously ever since?

There is possibly, however, a silver lining to the ham-fisted way in which OBC has acted with regard to the Secretarial Election on their merry way to getting fitted for robes, rings, thrones, and crowns.

OBC never sought GTC’s approval for the specific wording of the amendments to the Constitution and, according to Brad Graham who spoke with Secretarial Election Committee Board Chairman Scot Cameron, the SECB Chair thinks that’s a BIG no-no and it might just undermine the entire process.

Haste makes waste, and in this case… toxic waste.

Democracy: Use It Or Lose It.


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