To free the land, you must first free your mind...

This is a conceptual platform for the expression of ideas and issues initiating discussion and action. The communiqué's are my perceptions, opinions and vision about contemporary issues/causes, people I admire & respect, and my goals for the future. My main focus is on the Chahta People by sharing our past to plan for the future today!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why a woman for Chief of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma? Why not!

This is my formal declaration that I am voting for Deborah "DJ" Battiest for Chief in the election on July 11th. As Chahta people, we ARE a matrilineal society that has been pushed back from a male dominant society. It is important that we return to our ways and install a woman to be our Chief. It has always been a woman's role to nurture and create a solid stable household. If the Chahta people want to see a change, this is your chance, not solely because she is a woman, but because she is a woman who has the experience and skills to manage human resources to create an efficient operation. She has the peoples concerns at heart, talk to her and share your concerns so that she will know more about what she can do. For the first time in 40 years, I am hopeful that we can begin to move forward in the ways our nation have always fallen short. Ben Carnes

This was my post last weekend on Facebook after our candidates forum here in Broken Bow, and in discussions with my wife, she suggested I expound my my reasons and after further thought, I agree.

As Chahta people, women has occupied an important role in our society, as well as the societies of other Indigenous Nations. In the Iroquois Confederacy, the women, known as Clan Mothers were entrusted with the inherent inherent right to the title of "Chief" and whom they selected to serve in that capacity. They also held the right, if the "Chief" disobeyed the Clan Mothers, to remove that title and select another. In Chahta society, the women remained within their clan and could divorce their husband by setting his personal effects outside the door. The children would remain with the Mother and her Clan so they could be raised raise in the ways of her people.

When the European immigrants who came to our hemisphere, fleeing their own for religious persecution or in pursuit of wealth, their society viewed the status of women as property. They would only deal with the men of our people, who deliberated in council with the other Peace Chiefs and War Chiefs, including spiritual leaders and women. The immigrants, who created their own Nation called the United States of America, felt that our process was too cumbersome and selected those they wanted to deal with. Why our people acquiesced at the time, I do not know. I only wished our ancestors had been more adamant, and quite possibly, we would still be living in Mississippi rather than being exiled to what was called "Indian Territory".

We all know, in general, about the "Trail of Tears and Death", the Supreme Court decisions that determined we were to be wards of the federal government, the false promises that we would never be made into a state or become part of the US (Article IV of Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek), the treachery of the Dawes Allotment Act, the imposition of the State of Oklahoma upon our remaining territories and the 1924 Citizenship Act, all the way to where Harry J.W. Belvin, a Choctaw Chief appointed by the US President, proposed legislation terminating the Choctaw Nation through liquidating our assets. It was a Chahta woman who told her son, upon receiving a letter notifying her of the pending termination, that she instructed her son to stop this. Randy Jacob felt that he was a nobody and had no power to stop a Chief appointed by the US President or a congressional legislation. Yet, in Indian ways, he obeyed his Mother wishes and sought out other Chahta people and began the efforts to fight for our survival. They eventually succeeded in averting termination, but secured our right to electing our own Chief, taking away the US Presidents practice of selecting who would be the Chief he would deal with. Today we are recognized as the third largest First Nation in the US, with a billion dollar a year industry.

That victory did not come without setbacks, in gaining our election, Belvin crafted the election rules ensuring that he won the election as Chief. Later David Gardner, whom Belvin had disqualified based upon the rules he made up won the next election in 1975, but died in 1978. Hollis Roberts ascended to the position and served the remainder of Gardner's term, before winning the next election where he served for 19 years until he was convicted of sexually assaulting a female employee in the offices of the Choctaw Nation. During Roberts tenure, numerous allegations persisted of campaign fraud and coercion of votes and favoritism towards those loyal to Roberts. Roberts had been indicted earlier for embezzlement, but through the efforts of his attorney, Bob Rabon, Roberts succeeded in reducing the felony to a misdemeanor to which he pleaded "No Contest".

After Roberts was remanded into federal custody to await transportation to begin serving his sentence at a federal prison, the Chahta people felt the iron-fisted reign of fear and intimidation was over. That was short-lived when it appear that Pyle, who served under Roberts from from 1984 until Roberts conviction in 1997, was more subtle and refined in whom he rewarded for their loyalties. Calls for reform in election rules, campaign finance and transparency remained ignored. That is until a employee of a contractor of the Choctaw Nation discovered irregularities in the invoicing. She was told to ignore the matter, but she turned the information over to the federal authorities which led to several indictments. The latest conviction was of former Senior Executive Director, Jason Merida. At trial Merida testified that his role was to direct prospective, and current contractors to attend the Chiefs fundraisers and to contribute generously, implying it would aid in securing or maintaining their contracts.

Interestingly, for the third time, an assistant Chief ascended to the Office of Chief when  Pyle announced his resignation in April 2014. There had been rumors it was health related, while others speculated it had to do with the ongoing investigation. Seven months later, Pyle, Batton and Casino Executive Director, Janie Dillard were called to testify in the Merida trial. The defense attorneys had submitted a brief alleging that both Pyle and Batton were "unindicted co-conspirators" in the corruption, money laundering, and bribery investigation.

The trial revealed what so many Chahta's had long suspected of the upper management officials who enjoyed lavish shopping spree's, hunting trips and vacations. Batton, when asked by the federal prosecutor about the amount of money in the campaign account (held in several banks) that Pyle signed over to him, he replied that it was a little over a million dollars. The trial lasted over the course of several days and was attended by several Chahta's. Some attended the entire trial and reported daily through social media the events of the day until the closing where the federal prosecutor assured the Chahta's in the audience that their investigation is not over and told them they had a lot of work to do, meaning the lack of transparency and accountability by elected public servants of the Choctaw Nation. (I'm awaiting trial transcripts which should be available in about 2-3 months, when I'll write more quoting direct testimony of all the witnesses exposing a practice of corruption and fraud). 

After what so many people heard, they were amazed that Batton or Pyle had not been indicted already. They felt Merida was offered up as a scapegoat. I have spoken with Mr. Merida and he told me that he thought they were all his friends until his arrest. He said that what you all heard at trial was nothing, there is a lot more and I hope that it will all come out. I wanted him to come onto my show and tell his story, but he was awaiting sentencing and could not speak about his case. I sympathized with him in his feeling betrayed by those whom he trusted, just as the Chahta people have in those they have elected. I left my card with hopes that someday he may contact me and be prepared to share more.

Immediately after his conviction, Chahta's formed a grassroots group raising specific issues relating to election reform, campaign finance reform and ongoing efforts at amending or creating a new constitution that would embed checks and balances. They've traveled to different communities sharing what they heard at trial and what their proposals could do to clean out an institutionalized system of wrongdoing. In response, Batton selected individuals he trusted to form an Election Reform Task Force to produce recommendations. Doug Dry, a long time proponent for election reform and transparency was invited on the committee. He had been asking the meeting be open to the public and the request was not granted until the third meeting. Even then there had been resistance from other members while Yannash Scott and I waited outside the conference room to be allowed in. After about 40 minutes, they opened the door. The following were the four recommendations by the task force:

  1.  A  motion  to  vote  on  a  recommendation  that  access be  given  to  community  centers  for  tribal  political  candidates  passed  unanimously. 
  1.  A motion  to  vote  on  a  recommendation  that we  have  a  standalone electoral  publication  for  tribal  political  candidates to use  as  a  platform passed  unanimously. 
  1.    A  motion  to  vote  on  a  recommendation  that  Chief  begin  the  process  to  reform  and  regulate  campaign  financial  transactions  passed  unanimously.
  1.    A  motion  to  vote  on  a  recommendation  that  Chief  review  and  regulate  to  protect  the  integrity  of  the  absentee  ballot  process  that  is  fair  to  voters  and  candidates  passed  unanimously.  

 After the last motion was passed, Batton was asked by Sandy Stroud about when they should meet again. His response was "I don't care what you do. I have what I need right here.", while waving his notes. Neither Yannash nor I were were allowed to participate, just observe. At the following council meeting, they voted to allow inserts in the tribal paper. Short of the recommendations of the task force, and even less than what the people wanted. The council called it a big step. Do those people realize that we have eyes to see through what they are doing? Ears to hear their hollow words? And an intelligent mind to understand they are not really changing anything! I know they do, but it is sheer arrogance that they feel we are ineffective to make a difference. My question to the readers is this, if a caring woman was in those offices, would they shame us in this manner? I believe the answer is a resounding NO! Especially a woman who has not been groomed to maintain a 37 year dynasty where corruption has become an acceptable institution!

Prior to the candidates submitting their names to the ballots, it was widely believed that he will win the election. When two challengers filed, Batton and Rabon filed to disqualify them. Rabon and the election board disqualified Sherman "Bo" Miller, but were unsuccessful in disqualifying Deborah "DJ" Battiest. She brought mountains of evidence to substantiate her residency, including affidavits from those who know her. So she is a candidate.

The question that emerges is if we believe the system is so unfair and unjust, why do we even bother to give Batton the appearance of a fair race? That is easy, we aren't giving Batton anything, instead we are rallying our people who want a change for the better. Someone who won't resist and fight us for the honorable principles we have been putting forth. If Ms. Battiest doesn't win this election, the concerns will not go away. In fact, I believe the post-election mood will be even more determined in preparation for the next two elections within four years.

It will be difficult in a male-dominated society for a woman to be accepted as a credible candidate. In social media, it was even implied that women aren't good at politics, especially at a certain time of the month. I know that is far from the truth, men may not have a menstruation cycle, but I believe I have been around enough men to recognize when their testosterone can cause bad judgement. The prisons and death row are full of them.

So much of the headway made through political arena's have had Native women as the backbone. There is a Cheyenne Proverb that says "A nation is not defeated, until the hearts of its women are on the ground." In Fact, Dr. Henrietta Mann said
You’re not going to meet any more formidable advocate than a mother," speaking of women activists. In my estimation, a woman, a mother is not going to blink twice about saying, ‘I’m going protect the integrity of my tribe, my children,’” she said.

Last year, at the annual Choctaw Festival in Tushkahoma, Batton invited Oklahoma Governor, Mary Falling to attend and unveil a statue "Honoring the Giver of Life". That drew the immediate outrage from numerous Choctaw women. Summer Wesley, both a Choctaw member and an Oklahoma-based Tribal Law attorney, couldn’t believe her eyes when she read the announcement: “Mary Fallin has demonstrated to not be an ally to Native tribes, yet has been chosen to not only appear at Choctaw Fest, but to unveil a statue in honor of our women,” Wesley said. “As a Choctaw woman, I am appalled that she is being given a platform for her insincere pandering and her participation in the unveiling causes the statue to lose all honor to me. Further, I think this sends the wrong message to Indian Country regarding the Choctaw Nation's priorities and loyalties. Fallin's participation implies that our Nation condones her anti-Native policies.”

 The first time a woman ran for Chief was in the special election following Gardner's death, Minnie J. (Thomas) Voyles. Roberts was elected Chief in a run-off against Charles Brown. The next woman to run was in Aug 20,1983,the votes came to:
Hollis Roberts 1,701
Wyndle David 1,738
Ed Curtis 661
Harriet James 399
James Jones 263
Jonas White 63
Total Cast    4,825

A run-off between Roberts and David on Sept. 17, 1983 came to:
Hollis Roberts 2,594
Wyndle David 2,310
Total Cast 4,904

 With the history and information shared here, I hope that many of us can take a long hard look at what we really need for our Nation, just not what we can personally benefit for ourselves, but a lasting legacy that comes from fairness, honesty and integrity. Ms. Battiest does not have a million dollars to conduct a campaign like Batton and Pyle generated through the very virtue of their office from hopeful contractors and others who liked business the way it is.
The numbers outweigh us in whom we can contact with almost 80% of the registered voters casting their absentee ballots. They do not get the news from here, except with what we can share through social media. But it is happening, here's one video prepared by a young Choctaw voter in New Mexico:

It is time for our women to have their voice and I hope that many of you will join me and many others to cast your vote in making this stand for our people.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

It’s called the “Nobel Peace Prize” not the “Egomaniac Prize”

by Kalyn Free, Choctaws Rising

Does Chief Batton suffer from “delusions of personal greatness,” which is one of the definitions of an Egomaniac? You tell us. Below is a direct quote from the recent interview with Gary Batton in a June, 2015 issue of the Durant Democrat:

“I see that but one of my goals I want to do is win the Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian efforts. If we ever have that happen to me that would be one of the coolest things to leave as a legacy, to be able, and I think we kinda started off with that.” 

For the full interview, (click here). We certainly know from Batton’s own words that humility is not one of his virtues.
The definition of humility is – “having a clear perspective and respect for one’s place in context.”
So, Chief Batton believes he belongs in the same legion as, just to name a few, notable humanitarians like Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Kofi Annan, Dalia Lama, Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and Liu Xiaobo.
Perhaps Judy Allen can Google some of these names for Batton. She will find that Elie Wiesel’s mother and sister perished in the gas chamber at Auschwitz and his father died in Buchenwald, with Elie being rescued at the age of 17. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against violence, repression and racism.
Desmond Tutu received the award for his lifelong opposition to apartheid. The Dalia Lama for his struggle for the liberation of Tibet. Liu Xiaobo received the Peace Prize for his long struggle for fundamental human rights in China – calling for political reforms and the end of communist single-party rule.
Interestingly enough, the single-party state is exactly what we have in the Choctaw Nation.
Then we have Mother Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity members must vow to “give wholeheartedly free service to the poorest of the poor.” Sorry, Chief Batton, your Cabela’s shopping spree and big game hunt paid for by convicted felons knocks you out of her league.
"There is overwhelming evidence that former Choctaw Assistant Chief Gary Batton, former Choctaw Chief Greg Pyle, and other listed government witnesses are unindicted co-conspirators," Merida's attorneys wrote in a brief last week

To even suggest that he should be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize is ludicrous and laughable. It does nothing more than reveal his egomania and ignorance of the criteria for the awards. See, Chief Batton, these awards are given to people who fight for and dedicate their lives to democracy and ridding the world of oppressive regimes, not to totalitarian dictators who prop up banana republics and fight transparency, accountability and fair elections.
“He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

"Kalyn Free is a Chahta (Choctaw) attorney who has long worked to bring about social justice. I invited her to share her piece and thankful she has agreed. We hope to hear more from Kalyn here at Eaglemanz.

Kalyn Free


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Grass Still grows: American Indian Citizenship Act (June 2, 1924)

"There, beyond the limits of any State, in possession of land of their own, which they shall possess as grass grows or water runs. I am and will protect them and be their friend and father"
Andrew Jackson (message to the Chahta People)

It is sad to say that in 9 years, there will be celebrations in honor of this day, but neither the President or the local Kiwanis Club will ask me to speak about what the 1924 American Citizenship Act means to me. My opinion on this is too controversial to those who grew up saluting the flag and reciting the pledge of allegiance. We were all conditioned to believe the lies our teachers taught us in school with their fairy tale version of history and mythical holidays like Thanksgiving.
The imposition of the citizenship act was like shackling us in manacles and throwing away the key. Up until that point, our ancestors had been hunted down and massacred for defending the land and their people, jailed or punished for adhering to our spirituality and customs, their children kidnapped and reprogrammed in their boarding schools, if they lived through the heartbreaking experience. The motto was kill the Indian, save the man. Native people were exiled from their homelands into a concentration camp for prisoners of war that they called Indian Territory. Some went under duress, while others were placed in chains and made the brutal journey that was described as a "Trail of Tearss and Death". Even once we were all here, it still wasn't good enough.

To continue their genocidal acts, our lands that we were exiled to, was again being high-jacked to destroy our communal way of living. By what right did they have to do this one must wonder? According to Senator Dawes:

"The head chief told us that there was not a family in that whole nation that had not a home of its own. There was not a pauper in that nation, and the nation did not own a dollar. It built its own capitol, and it built its schools and its hospitals. Yet the defect of the system was apparent. They have got as far as they can go because they own their land in common. It is Henry George's system, and under that there is no enterprise to make your home any better than that of your neighbours. There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilisation. Til this people will consent to give up their lands, and divide them among their citizens so that each can own the land he cultivates, they will not make much more progress."

When some of the Natives began resisting the allotment under Chitto Harjo, Muscogee, it was known as the Crazy Snake Rebellion. The government couldn't have someone blocking their intent to "civilize" their Indians. Still, the allotment happened anyway, and our loss came even though the federal government had promised the Chahta people that Indian Territory would never be made into a state or become a part of the Union in Article IV of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek:

The Government and people of the United States are hereby obliged to secure to the said Choctaw Nation of Red People the jurisdiction and government of all the persons and property that may be within their limits west, so that no Territory or state shall ever have a right to pass laws for the government of the Choctaw Nation of Red People and their descendants; and that no part of the land granted them shall ever be embraced in any Territory or State; but the U. S. shall forever secure said Choctaw Nation from, and against, all laws except such as from time to time may be enacted in their own National Councils, not inconsistent with the Constitution, Treaties, and Laws of the United States; and except such as may, and which have been enacted by Congress, to the extent that Congress under the Constitution are required to exercise a legislation over Indian affairs. But the Choctaws, should this treaty be ratified, express a wish that Congress may grant to the Choctaws the right of punishing by their own laws any white man who shall come into their nation and infringe any of their national regulations.

The State of Oklahoma emerged over the objections of the Native people who resided there. And through the work of Angie Debo, the truth of what took place is chronicled in her books. Even when the citizenship act was passed, the Ft. Sill Apaches were still prisoners of war and did not receive a pardon until a few years later. Still, it wasn't until 1957 that Native people were even allowed to vote in spite of having citizenship imposed upon them.

Years ago, the late Carter Camp told me of a meeting the American Indian Movement had with some Black Panthers. They felt we could be more effective if we were to join together since we were all fighting for the same thing. Carter asked, "What is that?" Equality." They replied. Carter said it wouldn't work because we aren't fighting for equality, we are fighting for liberation!

Today, even though we are a sovereign people, we have no voice or vote in the United Nations because we are considered a domestic concern of the United States. Meanwhile, the US continues to erode what sovereignty we have left. Through the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act and the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936, we have a semblance of government. However, just like inmate prison organization, the formation and procedures must be approved by the Warden (BIA).
The Marshall decision in the early 1800's set about some standards that has judicially made us wards of the federal government. Almost 200 years later, we still remain captives of these decisions and the federal government.

Does being born in captivity grant the US the right to catalog like a museum specimen or artifact as "American"? No one has the right to confiscate the identity of another person. And I maintain my right to identify myself and defend our sovereignty. We are still moving towards liberation.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Choctaw Nation Election 2015: time to speak up!

Due to an wave of outrage by the citizens of the Choctaw Nation after the federal conviction of Jason Merida for corruption, Chief Gary Batton, appointed his Election Reform Task Force, to provide him with a bullet-list to present to the tribal council.

One resulting action is that the Biskinik will now have an insert with candidates and election information in the May issue. Another is that a letter was sent to registered voters asking they check box whether they want their addresses released to qualified candidates, those whose replies were postmarked before April 30th will be accepted. It is unknown at this point the number of letters that were returned undeliverable as a result of no forwarding address or if the person was deceased. Some have quoted their sources as saying it numbered in the thousands.

On Monday morning (May 11th) the Election Board at the Choctaw Nation headquarters in Durant will begin accepting applications for candidacy for the offices of Chief and Council. The council seats and incumbents are:
Choctaw District Map

District 1 - Idabel, Thomas Williston
District 2 - Broken Bow, Tony Messenger (retiring)
District 3 - Talihina, Kenny Bryant
District 5 - Stigler, Ron Perry
District 8 - Hugo, Perry Thompson
District 11 - McAlester, Bob Pate

Filing will close at the end of business day on Wednesday, May 13th. After that date, the names of the qualified candidates will be posted along with information on how they can be reached. The date of election is July 11th.

Eaglemanz Commentary

This election year, we have heard that several candidates are running in District 2 - Broken Bow, where long time Choctaw Nation employee, Tony Messenger, is retiring from public service. Names of possible candidates have popped up for this open seat: Ivan Battiest, Tony Ward, Green Davis, Mike Amos and Taloa Gibson. Originally, I had intended to run for Chief this year, but after the Merida trial, attending the the only public Election Reform Task Force meeting and then seeing the resulting tribal council actions, I began to consider running for District 2 council. It wasn't until an incident of  betrayal by a Senior Executive Officer, Stacy Shepard, regarding developing a prison reintegration program for Chahta people leaving prison, that I decided my best course of action was to wait until the 2019 election where I will run for Chief.

My decision based upon the experiences I pointed out above is to demonstrate the capacity of our people to become the leaders we are. Those who are elected are not our leaders, they are the people who willingly offer themselves up for public service. This means they are to be accountable to the people, their actions are open and above board. No secret meetings behind closed doors, no withholding of information affecting the Chahta people and above all no refusal to answer the questions of the Chahta people.

It seems that years ago after the Chahta people won a victory in averting termination by J.W. Belvin and the federal government, we were beginning to recover when we had our only free and fair election that placed David Gardner as Chief. When he died in office, it seemed that a process was put into place that began to disempower the Chahta people. If you spoke out against the chief, you or your relatives were threatened with the loss of their Choctaw Nation job or you might be blacklisted and services were withheld from you. Then the sitting chief was arrested and convicted for embezzlement, but won re-election in spite of that. Then a few years later he was indicted for sexual assault of a female employee and sentenced to prison.

Most everyone had thought the era of fear and intimidation was over. People remembered Chahta people passing out pamphlets printed by "Choctaws for Democracy" and being arrested and charged. This had a chilling effect on the voice of the people that one had better not speak out or up. The issues were a biased election process and a slanted tribal paper that actively promoted the Chief and Tribal Council. People began calling the Biskinik, "The Bisquik: for white and fluffy feel good news", tribal employees were conditioned to tell nursery fairy tales about the administration, or to not speak at all.

The Merida trial exposed more than the administration probably cared for and when it became known of the abuses of office, various groups circulated the information in the social media. It has become known that the administration has began paying attention to various groups that have formed, such as Choctaws Rising, Chahta Veterans for Chahta Civil Rights, Eaglemanz: Chahta Nation, and the Choctaw National Party. These groups are made up of former council members, attorneys, military veterans, medical personnel, a minister, American Indian Movement activists and other Chahta citizens like yourself who want to bring about accountability and transparency in the constitution, elections and the administration of the Choctaw Nation.

These groups have traveled to a number of communities to help get the word out, even to the gathering in Bakersfield, California. There were several Chahta okla expressed their surprise because they had not known about the trial or the activities of the various grassroots for a positive transformation. Some of the delegation who traveled there were also surprised by the hostilities encountered from the organizers, Bill and Theresa Harrison. Two members, Yannash Scott and Stephen LeFlore, were told they could not march in the arena to honor military and war veterans with their banner "Chahta Veterans for Chahta Civil Rights". Even I was told that if I was going to talk about politics I don't need to come back. I returned on the following day and learned that the organizers had attempted to have campus security remove them from the premises. The day before, Batton was present when the veterans were told they could enter the arena with their banner, during the night and the next morning I learned that Batton had been made aware of the incidents taking place. I spoke with Batton later at this event and he had urged the organizers to not make an issue of it. Apparently, the Harrisons disregarded Batton, so when these men were approached by campus security, Batton sent his personal security officer to intervene as can be seen in the video.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of this event was the "Ugly Choctaw Contest". When I heard this over the loudspeakers, I was stunned. I watched one man urged on by his family to go out into the arena and it appeared he grudgingly stood up and with each step I saw his spirit sink away into the ground. He may have not felt he was the best looking man there, but he did not need this. I cannot explain how heartbroken I felt for this man. I saw others going out without a care, smiling. I turned away from this spectacle and thought about what has reduced us to something as disparaging as this. I've spent most of my life defending Native rights and lands through awareness and direct action. I've written about the conditioning and brainwashing that our people have gone through to make us feel inferior, and that we have to stand tall to make our children proud, to be Native, proud to be Chahta, even if they have other blood coursing through their veins because we all bleed red. We've taken on issues of mascots, policies that affect traditional cultural and spiritual practices and other forms of institutional racism, even from our own people. It was our Chahta people who recently walked off Adam Sandlers set after they had been lied to when they had been assured of a tasteful representation of Native people.

When it comes to institutional racism, we are often told that there are more important issues, I strongly disagree. All of these issues are interconnected, they can be tied into our high rate of alcoholism/drug use, teen suicides and low self-esteem, as well as a societal misunderstanding of whom we are as Native people.  It is hard to break through the steel walls of stereotypes, and people are surprised to find Natives who are educated and work as professionals. The struggle to break through has been ongoing for years.

And for Chahta people, we can look within our own territory and see these things happening, even during Tushkahoma. Instead of Native performers, we see only non-Native performers, we go into the arts & crafts building and see flea market items, and then our traditional stickball games, we see how it has been conformed to fit within another societys form of sports. We had no referees, time-outs, or announcers. It seems as if we are slowly losing our grip on whom we were as Chahta people.

This is where each and everyone of us comes in, we have to begin standing up in our leadership role and demand that the candidates who are going to run for office support what we want. We have to make our voice heard throughout our nation wherever our Chahta people live.

We must be the ones setting up a candidates forum so that we can present the changes that we want to see and find out who will vow to make it happen. One of the key points I feel will weed out the candidates is to ask who will present a council bill in their first meeting to reduce the salary of the Chief and Council:

The Chief makes $281,000.00 per year, with medical and numerous other perks. I would propose lowering that salary to $65,000.00 per year. If the Choctaw Nation health care is good enough for us, then it has to be good enough for them, otherwise, they can pay for superior health care out of their salary or work harder to improve our health care services. The Council members can have their $151,000.00 salary cut to $35,000.00 per year, with the same stipulations as the Chief regarding medical.

Any Choctaw who is making minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) could gross as much as $15,080.00 per year. As a person who has met real traditional chiefs, they are usually the poorest of their people because they give what they have to help the people survive. Our Chief and council should not be living better than the people they have been elected to serve. I can accept that corporate ceo's get paid a lot more, and if our people want that kind of money, then go to work for a corporation. We are not a corporation, we are a Nation of Indigenous peoples and we have a cultural standard of practice that served us well before we began acting like Nahullos. If a person who is elected can show us how they have raised our people above the poverty line and that we have prospered as a people, TOGETHER! Then I say we should reward them with a slight salary increase. The people who run for these positions should do so solely for the love of their people, not for how much money they can pocket.

The following are some points that can be formulated into questions for the upcoming election so that we can find those willing to stand up for the people. More will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

Election and campaign reform: one should not be able to “buy” an election based upon how much money one has or how popular they have made themselves as a result. It should be about the issues that they stand upon and what they will contribute to the Nation as a whole. The hard honest truth is that a candidate needs access to the registered voters, and we have a vehicle for that: 
a) The Biskinik, in the three months prior to an election, candidates must announce their intent to file and present their platforms, the paper must give equal time to all candidates after they have formally filed their candidacy,

b) Our community centers should be made available to the community for a candidate’s forum for council and chiefs. I'm inclined to make attendance by candidates mandatory or they forfeit the race.

c) The CNO website should have a section of the website set aside for the candidates with their platforms, their photo, bio and contact info. With these items, it isn't really necessary to fund-raise, because this will provide at a minimum, exposure and a means of connecting with registered voters.
d) It also needs to be said that no campaigning should be conducted by the candidates while employed by the CNO, nor should volunteers employed by the CNO conduct similar campaign activities. Violators employment will be terminated and future employment will be prohibited. 

(Not all of us have a million dollars to run a campaign with. From the information revealed by Pyle and Batton during the Merida trial, their ability to raise such a massive amount is by virtue of their office creates an uneven playing field. Should this be adopted, then we should ask Batton to transfer the estimated one million dollars to an interest bearing account to cover the expense of mailing the paper and documented related costs. The balance in this account with interest accrued should be published each month. The basis for this is as I’ve stated, this money was raised by the position held in the Choctaw Nation, it would be an honorable gesture.)
After the elections, Battons' Election Reform Task Force will reconvene. We must ask that the candidates present a bill to make all committees, and any meetings called by an official or employee of the Choctaw Nation, public. At the same time, each of our districts needs to organize into groups that can attend these meetings and report back to their community to work on reform provisions.

Constitutional Amendments or a Constitutional Convention: There is a need to strengthen our constitution, after 32 years, we now have an better idea of its shortcomings. We need to know from our candidates if they will support a constitutional convention before the next election in two years. Choctaws Rising has a list of proposed amendments, while I do not support tampering with the blood quantum for holding office, I would support all the other proposed changes.

The Choctaw National Party also has a list of the platforms, take a look at these and see if this is something you will support and ask the candidates to affirm or refuse to support these type of changes.

And because it is an election time for the next two months, maybe we can obtain a public reply from Batton on the Chahta Veterans for Chahta Civil Rights Petition to respond to the Chahta peoples concerns about how this breakdown occurred, where are the checks and balances to guarantee this hasn't happened in other circumstances prior to this federal investigation, and afterwards. There are many questions that have been on the table, but Batton has said he would only meet with the people one on one. I'm sorry, that is not good enough, nor is it productive. It would be more expedient to address a general gathering where we can all hear the questions and the answers at the same time, as well as record it for those who could not attend. This is the accountability that is lacking from our administration. Whenever we ask for answers, no official should refuse to provide it.

We only have two months to get our own forums set up and the Chief will have to (or should) attend forums set up by the people in each district. Especially when we have a candidate for Chief who will be filing this week, D.J. Battiest. I recently heard D.J. speak in Durant and found her to be charismatic, sincere and above all down to earth. We will be looking forward to hearing more from her in the next two months.

The following is my suggestion for a timeline for the districts to host the forum for the candidates/incumbents (Chief and Council) on a Saturday:

May 23rd
District 1, Idabel @ 12pm
District 2, Broken Bow, @ 6pm

May 30th, 
NONE (Memorial Day weekend is when most families have their own time)

June 6th,
District 3 - Talihina, @12pm
District 11 - McAlester @6pm

June 13th
District 5 - Stigler @ 6PM

June 20th
District 8 - Hugo @ 6PM

These are merely suggestions and it could work for those where the locations are nearby that two in one day could be done. The community in each district could host the forums with a potluck and set the stage for future political campaigns, making fundraising an obsolete process. We don't need to see wasteful spending of tour buses, lavish spectacles or big name musicians. We aren't Nahullo's, we just want to hear the truth and see your hearts with no distractions.

Remember several corporations have made political contributions to Batton and Pyle with hopes of obtaining a contract with the Choctaw Nation enriching them with a million dollars to campaign. Lets remove the potential for abuse and take control of our elections. We are the leaders, and they are the public servants. We didn't get this way overnight and it it isn't going to be fixed quickly, we have a long road, so lets begin walking it together with dignity, integrity and a common voice.

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