The long Tribal Appellate Court process is trying on a person. It all began in hopes of fairness for all. I filed a protest Oct. 12, 2010. It's become a political game with no real winners, with the cards stacked against us every step of the way, the election committee having the advantage financially and politically.
There was a protest in 2005 based on a technicality. That board acted quickly. Within a few days they set up a new election. There was another protest to follow, which went through the judicial system, and a special judge ruled for a new election, which was overturned by the chief appellate judge in favor of the Election Committee. The chief appellate judge based her decision on the grounds that the original judge did not have the jurisdiction to overturn the Election Committee’s decision. This judge has connections to tribal legal personnel. What good are the Chippewa Cree Tribal constitution, laws and ordinances if they are not being followed?
Don’t expect any form of fairness or any justice, unless you’re politically connected. Judges have had a history of sitting on a case and dragging it out. I learned from this case that if we're determined and refuse to let the system run over us, we eventually can make a difference.
We're common people with no real political leverage, asking that rights guaranteed us by the constitution be fulfilled. We shouldn't be looked upon as troublemakers. We're not out to harm anyone. A person shouldn't have to be watched or be threatened for speaking up for his or her rights. The freedom to speak out and express our feelings is something that's a given right. Our basic message is for the courts to live up to the constitution and other laws that fall under it. We all fight our everyday uphill battles in life. In our case, we're struggling but it's the only way to hold that piece of paper to its purpose.
There have been public meetings where people voiced their concerns and frustration about the courts, elections, law and order. Along the long legal road we traveled, there were other serious issues brought up within this case that will have to be addressed. I believe the felony requirements and the election of judges should be put back on referendum for vote. Does the state and federal government allow felons to run for high office? There's an overwhelming demand by the reservation that the section on felons in the election ordinance be re-written. The felon issue raises too many concerns.
Judges are hired by the Business Committee. Still, there is no true separation of powers. Rights of the common, enrolled member have been violated too often. Have deceptive practices been used? Maybe. I’m hoping it doesn’t have to go to the next level. Accountability, transparency and change? Where is it? It’s time their promises become reality.