There was no one left to fight for me. So I decided to fight for myself.
She said. “You should see the way he lights up when even her name is spoken. He beams when she walks into the room and he can’t move fast enough to embrace her.”
“You see, he’s over you. He may have never really been into you. He was bored. He was filling the time since you were around. You were always around.”
I’m not, traditionally, a Christmas person.
When I was very young my family were on the receiving end of gift giving programs. My parents were broke and we had a large family. The holiday put a lot of unnecessary guilt and pressure on. Often us kids would dream for weeks, as we rummaged through the Sunday circulars making up wish lists of toys we don’t need and eventually, finally, decide on one. Sometimes my folks were able to get the one gift we chose. Sometimes not. I remember in 5th grade I wanted a package of pastels so I could make art on newspaper. I got the pastels but never made art.
By that time though, my sisters and I were in social program that allowed us time to volunteer for the same gift giving programs that gave my family presents. I didn’t put much perspective on that experience then as I do now. I just remember the joy it was to fill those Christmas wish lists for kids my own age. Wrapping the presents and making a nice package for homes like mine.
As I got older. I realized I never needed presents. I wanted more time with family and that was a tough gift to ask for. My dad went to prison. Siblings went to treatment programs, mom worked 3 or more jobs just to make ends meet. I worked too, and used my money to help where needed. Year after year, the holidays just didn’t make the kind of time we wanted together. The family was drifting away from one another. Then I was 15. My only grandma passed away at the end of October, my dad passed on shortly after, the first week of December. The loss was felt deep, grief sunk hopes. My older siblings coped with drugs and alcohol and the fabric of our family was forever changed. Like an oil stain on your favorite pair of jeans. You stop wearing the jeans. You put them in a box and never look back. Or maybe, you just throw them away. Before this year, the stain was always washable. People came back you tried to come together again but this year. It changed, no one came back.
For years afterward I didn’t buy gifts, and I awkwardly (though gratefully) accepted, when I was given them. When I turned 18 I decided everyone was getting a gift. Like our thank you ceremonies, everyone was getting a blanket and cash. I made sure of it. For my mom, my twin sister and I teamed up and got her a Gold necklace with a gemstone representing all six of her children. She was also getting all new kitchen accessories because we’d been using the same ones that survived us kids being kids! They needed to be retired. I really thought if I were intentional about bringing gifts to the family, the family would magically come together and we’d take steps to be closer. My mom was grateful that year but I learned a lesson. None of us really need stuff. We need to learn how to be a family again. I started to build up resentment towards happy families and the holidays just fueled that isolation. On two fronts, first the joyful peace you should have as a family and the second my inability to elevate the consumerism and value of things like the happy people did. If we can’t come together and give each other nice things what’s the point? Self shaming and guilt over my own means.
A few years ago, I met someone. He made me feel alive. I loved him. Gawd I absolutely adored him and thought I could conquer anything because he was beside me. I imagined a world of time with each other and all that I had longed for as a young person I had. The holidays were warmer and then reality started setting in. Something wasn’t right. When it didn’t work out, I was crushed. It was my own decision to leave because he was coping the same way my siblings had years before and I couldn’t have that in my life. We tried to make it work, but in the end I made the most difficult decision to leave. For the better.
Through my grief I realized the problem the whole time wasn’t necessarily all the things going wrong, family not getting along. the problem was me. Even now, I’m a fairly happy person yet every time the holidays come around I let my self shaming and guilt take over. I’m realizing that through all the tough times, loss and times of need. People were there. I have experienced such incredible kindness and generosity. Instead of feeling shame or guilt I’ve started to embrace and accepte that there are times of need and you can change the way you look at situations and how you then will act.
We make our own memories. My family members may not always want to get together. But persistence will pay off I believe. Now that I have nephews who look up to me. I know I have to change. No more being a big cry sack. I can be fun and loving and make the best out of situations. There are few gift giving programs like the ones I grew up with but these boys will learn the value of service and of giving.
I still don’t expect gifts. But I will celebrate Christmas. These boys will remember me. Not because of what things I give them. But for the times we had.
I may do different than most, and in the true spirit of the times, I will celebrate Christmas.
At the end of 2011 I was diagnosed with liver disease. I was floored. In shock. I wondered how something like this could take hold when I was seemingly healthy, I have been sober my entire life and here I am. Liver disease. Told I will be in medicine the rest of my life. If the disease progresses I could need a transplant but that, is only if it progresses.
It’s been 4 years since the diagnoses. I’ve had my ups and downs. My weight has too. I had changed my diet in 2012 and lost 60 lbs that year. I changed medication in 2013 and was more fatigued, less active and it wasn’t until 2014 my doctor thought maybe it could be my medicine change. Sure enough after a liver biopsy and 2 trips to the emergency room they realized I had to be taken off a medication as my liver had gotten worse, the medication causing my enzymes to shoot up to over 400 which was too close to shutting down than you’d like to be. Normally you want your enzymes under 40. Mine hover around 130 on a good day.
I have good days. Lately even though I’m having good days I wear my disease on my skin. Bad skin. Dry skin. Rough skin. Flaky skin. Nothing seems to help. Diet change. Using all organic products and foods. Taking meat out of my diet. No sugar. No bread. And people, I’m a foodie. My drug is good food but I keep that in check. Good food is more of a reward now, shared with good people. Making and preparing food is one of the only joys I have left so when my nutritionist, nurse or gastroenterologist tell me I should have certain foods a piece of me dies a little. And not just my liver.
My twin sister is amazing. She may not understand my disease but she tries to help me stay active. If the fatigue doesn’t get to me I’m willing to do as she asks or forces me to do. She’s truly an athlete. A phenomenal mother and role model to her boys. I hope they understand what a gift she is. One year she signed me up for a 10k a half marathon and a mud run. I tell you I went out and bought the cutest outfits and best shoes. I even personalized a couple of t-shirts so the runs we did together, we were a team. Those events were about 2 weeks a part and I felt so relieved when I finished all of them. Did I train? No, but I finished.
This year it’s my turn to sign her up. We’ll be doing another round of the half marathon in 2016 that we ran a couple years ago. My sister has a time to beat and I have another pair of shoes to buy. It’s possible I’ll train more this time, but no matter what and how this disease looks, I know one thing. I’m going to finish.
Day by day. What I start. I will finish.
I’ve done a good share of work at getting policy around issues developed and getting people to elected office. This world, especially in tribal politics can be one that is most polarized, charred earth landscape I have ever experienced. In the world of tribal politics much can be done in four years and all that can change with a new administration. The prevailing narrative in tribal elections is very much a good vs. evil fight where there is profound mischaracterization of the other and side stories of why candidates are not good enough to lead.
In the middle of this arena is an enormous number of our members who our educators, parents, students, common people who want a different conversation about governance, for whom a new form of leadership is critical. Chairman Candidates Mark Fox and Damon Williams hope to take on this role. Are they ready? We need leaders who will move past the polarized and articulate and fight for new possibilities. We need leaders who are not afraid to name power, who seek solutions with community, who read history and who pay attention to what the data is telling us about who is and is not thriving in our current governance system. We need leaders whose deepest commitment is to those with the least power and the most to lose—our CHILDREN. These leaders must be brave.
Voters made their decision during our tribal primary on the top two candidates. Both are attorneys, both are family men, both who have vowed a commitment to the people of the great Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation. I for one, have not made a decision as of this writing. I had a few questions for our chairman candidates, narrowed down to six questions. I want to thank Mark Fox (MF) and Damon Williams (DW) for providing responses given word limits and deadlines. I know if the opportunity to give voice to these questions, the candidates would be willing. These answers are unedited. Thank you again for responding and good luck gentlemen in the general election.
- What are three priorities you believe would have the greatest impact on improving the lives of all of our members?
MF: Although we have many needs to prioritize and address on Fort Berthold, I share the following.
- We have to develop and utilize tribal resources and revenue in the most effective way to improve the standard of living for ALL our membership; regardless of who you are or where you live. Too many of our people have been ignored or “left out” when it comes tribal policy or benefit programs. We will soon have enough revenue to LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND! This should mean increased assistance to help our people deal with day to day life, and the difficulties they face. By properly managing our resources, the tribal government can provide free of charge important things such as education, health care, and basic necessities. Using our resources more effectively also means protecting and preserving for future use the tribes most valuable resources: the land, water, and our people.
- Improve our tribes’ current fiscal management system, assure accountability to constituents, and maximize return on investment to generate additional revenue we can then utilize for beneficial programs and disbursement to members of our nation. We must design and implement an effective means of assessing the needs of our people and then prioritize our expenditure policy to meet those needs! Through communication and input by the people, our Tribal Business Council will fiscally manage our assets in the most positive and impacting manner. In simplest terms: we cut the waste and improve how our government spends our tribal revenue on behalf of the people!
- The third and most important priority is to change and REFORM our tribal government! Our current system of government is plagued by mismanagement, corruption, and self-dealing activity as a direct result of TOO MUCH POWER IN THE HANDS OF THE FEW! We must change how our government operates by increasing the number of those responsible for making decisions, incorporating true separation of powers (3 branches) and checks and balances, while establishing a government that is more deliberate and transparent, responsive to the needs of the people, costs less to operate, and prioritizes revenue expenditures for direct benefits (e.g. peoples fund, per capita payments, affordable housing, etc).
DW: One of our main priorities is to complete is an overall and detailed analysis of the Tribe’s finances. We must know where we are at financially in terms of both tribal revenue and expenditures. After completion of the analysis, we must institute a change in our overall budget policies to move most our current revenue into special trust accounts for future generations. Historically, the Tribe has operated within a funding system where most of our revenue was derived from the federal government. In that system, we had to spend 100% of our funding in order to qualify for the same funding in the next fiscal year.
Today, we are moving beyond the federal-only funding system to one where most of our funding is generated by oil and gas tax revenue. We can still save and invest sixty (60%) percent of our oil and gas revenue for the benefit of our future generations while maintaining a general fund budget to meet all our current needs. We must create special trust accounts to fund critical tribal programs: education, healthcare, housing, elders, veterans, infrastructure, environmental, cultural preservation and future community projects. These trust funds will generate interest income in perpetuity to meet those critical needs that we as a tribe hold as sacred and vital. Further, we will protect the Special Trust Accounts from the tribal council intrusion through use of a provision that requires a referendum vote of the people to utilize the Special Trust Accounts for any other purpose.
The second priority is a true revision of the Tribe’s Constitution. In the past and in the current election, the Chairman / candidates have dictated to the members what the changes to the constitution and our government should be. Their own egos and personal interests motivate these proposed changes, and those changes to our government system are representative of the true will of the membership. As Chairman, I will have the first Tribal Constitutional Convention where all members can participate whether in person or remotely via available technology, and they will decide what our constitution should be. We will utilize experts in constitutional law and tribal constitutional revision to serve as facilitators to the membership in their deliberations. We can begin with the 2006 Draft Constitution that is already in existence. In the first quarter of 2015, the Tribal Constitutional Convention will convene and the people will discuss issues that have promised by the past and current Chairman and candidates: separation of powers, referendum, enrollment, representation, delineation of the actual powers of tribal business council, protection of individual and landowner rights and others.
After the First Convention has reviewed, discussed and approved each Article of the Draft Constitution, we will send out the new draft to each enrolled member for review and comment. After a sixty (60) day review, the Tribal Constitutional Convention will reconvene and go over the comments / issues. At the end of the Convention, the members participating will vote to move the finished document out to the entire membership for a Secretarial Election. If the Secretarial Election approves the proposed Constitution, we will have a new Tribal Constitution by the end of 2015. This is the only way we will have real reform of our government and we will finally see the birth of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation.
The third priority I am proposing that will have the most impact on all our members is the return of the minerals beneath Lake Sakakawea back to the heirs of the original Allottees. When our lands were flooded in 1950’s, our members and our tribe lost much of our identity and we were irreparably harmed socially, culturally and economically. The return of those mineral interests back to the heirs will give back what does not belong to the Tribe. We cannot treat our own members in the same manner that the Federal Government has treated us as a Tribe and as Indian people.
- Our citizens often debate oil production on a scale ranging from the financial benefit of least restrictive drilling efforts to prioritizing environmental protection as the primary goal. Do you believe there is a balance, and if so, what does that balance look like?
MF: I am a staunch advocate of what I refer to as “Responsible Development” for oil and gas production on Fort Berthold. By sitting down with the oil industry and figuring out together how to continue development in such a way as to least endanger the environment and ensure that our children and grandchildren have a safe and healthy place to live!!! Fossil fuel development in western ND has a limited life, and we must demand that oil industry respect the fact that our people will be living here long after the oil is gone! Those who wish to continue business with our tribe and reservation must understand that they must make long-term commitments to invest in protecting our land, water, people, and way of life! Acceptance by industry of our people’s desire to protect our environment not only guarantees a place to live for our younger generations, but will ensure that long-term oil/gas development will continue because we are doing it RESPONSIBLY! This is the BALANCE we must have, which will allow our people to continue to enjoy royalty as well as other economic opportunities, without sacrificing the beautiful land we call Home!
DW: As a government, we have a duty to use our regulatory authority to ensure the responsible development of the Reservation. We cannot continue to enact ordinances and regulations without proper study and technical knowledge. The membership should demand a Chairman who understands what and how tribal laws & regulations should work, but also that person have an understanding that we must balance the tribal interests with the individual interests of the tribal membership at large.
One of the most fundamental flaws of our current government is that there is no remedy against the tribal government for when the government harms an individual member. You cannot regulate and harm the membership with impunity without ruling our tribe as a dictatorship. In meeting and talking to our membership on and off the reservation, they have shared their concerns, distrust and overall disgust of our tribal government and same old recycled leadership. We can only protect our people and our lands with a Chairman that is untainted by political favors to the past administration and industry influence. We must have a Chairman who doesn’t speak in half-truths and misrepresent themselves for personal or political gain. We must demand a Chairman who knows the law and is willing to make all those who work for the people to act in a fair and lawful manner.
- Many families on our reservation have been disrupted by intergenerational trauma and substance abuse. What do you view as the best way to help our families and communities to be empowered to take ownership of breaking the cycle of dysfunction? Are there programs already doing this work?
MF: Some programs have been doing a good job for decades, and we need to commend them and support their continued efforts. But the advent of the oil boom has brought additional hardship and burdens in contending with our nation’s problem with substance abuse. To date, our tribal government has failed in responding to this latest challenge. Our tribal nation’s revenue increases daily, but currently our government does not prioritize at a level necessary to combat substance abuse and make an actual difference! If I’m elected, this will change! Not only will we strategize and improve effective outreach and prevention, but we will focus on major initiatives such as building our own Drug Treatment Center and supporting programs that have a significant impact to reduction of drug and alcohol abuse! But it starts with the tribal government itself and leading by example of the change we seek! This includes mandatory drug-testing, starting with the Tribal Business Council, and all those who are employed by our doing business on behalf of our nation!
DW: The only way the tribal government can really begin to empower and assist in healing our people is to allocate real resources to combat these societal issues. We can use our resources to employ more trained law enforcement and station those officers in our communities. We can improve our court system to allow for alternative sentencing in order to give our at-risk membership a chance at improving their lives.
We must build a modern treatment facility on our reservation that can begin the healing process of those addicted members and their families. It begins with a real understanding of what is happening to our members and a desire to make actual change happen. We must move back to a humble style of leadership that encompasses an approach of bring all our members back to the Path of the People instead of the type of governance that is driven by an ego driven “me” first mentality.
Most of the employees in the tribal programs that work in those areas are trying to meet the demands of those positions: law enforcement, tribal health, social services, CHR, mental health and Tribal Court. However, those programs need to know both financially and morally that we support them and their efforts. It seems tragically ironic that the past and current management of the Tribe talk about supporting those departments and their employees, yet consistently fail to support them and their efforts year after year. All those agencies except for key political appointees are underfunded and underpaid by the Tribe and at times crucified for doing their jobs. If we are going to really tackle these issues for the betterment of our members, we must remember that those front-line individuals need our support and encouragement each and every day because the jobs they do are not easy and often emotionally draining. We owe each of those individuals who work in those departments a great deal of thanks for their commitment to the their jobs and their communities.
- When there is such a rapid rate of change it should be no surprise that the MHA Nation’s citizens will question our elected leaders about the measure of their communication and accountability. Regardless of who votes for you, you will be everyone’s leader if elected. What actions will you take to respond to the curiosity and inquiries of the citizens to maintain their confidence in fulfilling your duties?
MF: Communication and accountability to its constituents is at the core of what is necessary for good governance! It is the responsibility of the Tribal Business Council to keep our membership informed as to ALL aspects of what our government is doing! Transparency is essential to this process! Tribal members should have the opportunity to understand our tribal budget (and participate in its formulation), revenues received, expenditures made, government actions contemplated, and all business activities being conducted or proposed! This responsibility can be supported by quarterly financial reports, broadcasting and recording of all TBC meetings for those who cannot attend, community forums, and dissemination of information by publication and internet! This will help build the confidence of our people in our tribal government system, as well as address their basic right to be informed!
DW: We begin by actually communicating with all the membership as to how our governments operates by disclosing the annual budget and quarterly statements as to how our tribal funds are be utilized. The level of secrecy used by our past chairman cannot work when we are now dealing with billions of the people’s money instead of just hay bales and tribal vehicles. The Chairman must realize that he works for the people and the people do not work for him.
As Chairman, we will provide a referendum vote provision that will protect each of the Special Trust Accounts we create to provide funding in perpetuity for our critical programs. If the current or future leadership of our tribe attempt to borrow, encumber or use any of the interest income or principles of the Special Trust Accounts for any other purpose without the membership’s approval, the people will be able to stop such actions through injunction or lawsuit. We must protect ourselves from ourselves when we are dealing with the amount of money the Tribe is forecasted to receive in the coming years.
The Tribe must also provide a referendum approval process to allow the membership the right to approve any expenditure or investment that exceeds a certain threshold. Large investments or purchases that use the membership’s money must have their approval before any type of action is approved by the Tribal Business Council or entered into by the Chairman. We must engage real expertise to help protect and make our tribal revenues grow for the benefit of all current and future tribal members.
Finally, we will enforce the ethics ordinance upon all elected and appointed officials. As a licensed attorney, I must follow all laws, whether state, federal or tribal. Personal & professional ethics and simply refraining from potential conflicts of interest should not have to be written into laws for our Chairman to act and govern appropriately. As an attorney, I have had to operate under a stricter set of rules then our Tribal Ethics Ordinance for my entire career. I will advocate that all our leadership adhere to a higher standard of ethics to regain the trust and confidence of the membership.
- There are two ways to look at self-determination. One is simply under PL 638 where we have a trust relationship with our federal trustee. The other is our ability to exercise our ancestral rights of self-rule to identify, organize and act as a nation. What changes, if any, in our current system of governance would you support making?
MF: It is my position that we need to radically-change our mind set and perception as a tribe what “self-determination” means for our people! We must continue to hold the federal government’s “feet to the fire” to fulfill its trust obligation, to compensate us for what has been taken away from us as an indigenous nation. But we must also accept the fact that the federal government will NEVER take full measure to reestablish what our nation once had, but lost due to failed federal policy! Our government and people must stop waiting for rectification to happen!
We must begin to take BOLD steps to become a nation whose future depends on itself and not others! That means re-gaining and re-assuming our OWN economy, especially in light of the recent oil/gas development that exploded on our lands! We must position ourselves to export our own products and commodities to outside markets, and generate our own energy by incorporating and developing technologies for RENEWABLE sources! We must learn to grow and consume our own food including mass farm products and processing our own beef from local tribal ranchers! And we must take sound measures to establish our own credit and financial systems of capital, while spurring opportunities for individual tribal business development! We must become the leader and prominent example to Indian Country in what it means to be a sovereign nation that truly determines the course of its own growth and prosperity!
DW: We must seek a balance between our legal rights as a Sovereign Indian Nation and those responsibilities owed to us by the Federal Government. It is too easy to just say we are sovereign and ignore the huge debt owed to us by the United States. We cannot disregard all resources available to our Tribe in order to address all issues affecting our membership and our lands.
The lack of sufficient federal funding and the real impact of societal problems on Fort Berthold require the Tribe to appropriate its own funds to address these issues. We need more qualified law enforcement to help protect our people and our communities. We also need to treat those who protect our families with their lives as valuable members of our communities. We need to build and operate a full-scale drug and alcohol treatment facility on the reservation to help treat and heal our at-risk membership. We need to protect our lands through real environmental regulation and enforcement. We also need to protect and encourage the preservation of the language and culture of all three tribes. All these activities and others will require sufficient tribal funds to address immediately and into the future.
At the same time, the federal government also must bear some or most of those costs with regard to our lands and our people. Healthcare, Environmental and Criminal enforcement, Illegal Drug enforcement and any current federal duty must be enforced to its statutory and legal mandate. We must continue to push, demand and litigate if the federal trustee does not meet its legal duties to us as a Tribe and Indian people. We cannot let the federal government forget what is owed to our people.
- Governance includes how we organize ourselves, how we make decisions, how we settle disputes, creating the rules of law, and how this aligns with our core values as the MHA Nation. What kind of manager of governance will you be? and What are indicators that we should look for to measure the success of our tribal government?
MF: My ability to manage relies heavily on cost effectiveness and efficiency! Only through strong organization and constant due diligence can we avoid the wasteful spending that plagues many governments! This means decreasing or eliminating government expenditures on what our people deem as unnecessary or unimportant! Efficiency comes into play where we strive to meet government responsibilities without excessive costs, duplication of services, and having a comprehensive plan and strategy on how to maximize tribal development and implement beneficial services to the people! Basic indicators of government success would include such things as reduction in crime, unemployment, and homelessness! Indicators would also include an increase in businesses owned by tribal members, increased participation in effective tribal programs, fewer members living in poverty, and decreases in negative impacts to our environment!
DW: As Chairman, I will push our Tribal Business Council and our tribal employees to follow all laws and regulations as we have that legal duty to the membership to operate in an ethical and lawful manner. I will allow our program directors and administrators to manage their departments without creating a dictatorship type of government that we have all suffered under during the last four years. I will eliminate the “management team” of political enforcers who only served one person and not the entire tribal business council. Anyone who is willing to work hard for the entire membership will have opportunities with our Tribe and our tribal entities.
We have to move beyond our current style of government that creates an ego driven chairman and move back to one where success is not just measured at election time but how the lives of all members are improved and protected. We must have a government that is fiscally responsible and transparent so all members are fully engaged and informed as to what is happening with the membership’s money. We must be truly proactive and engaged when we regulate and manage the affairs and lands of our tribe.
Leadership and success of the Tribe must be measured in how the much the people who need the most help are treated and provided sufficient opportunities to improve their quality of life. The success of our Chairman should be measured in how many people he can truly help and how he was able to do that without sacrificing his integrity, character and his own identity. We cannot rely on the same recycled “good old” boy type of Chairman who tells you what he will do or what he has claimed to have done. We need a Chairman who looks to the people for guidance and counsel. Our success will be measured by lives of our future generations and how we as Indian people collectively worked to change our quality of all our lives.
Another election year, another Little Shell celebration seeing what seems to take place every two years; the presence of awkwardly toe stomping political candidates asking for our votes. If you were enjoying that roasted corn, cold lemonade or other powwow indigifare you may have seen them. First up was George Sinner who is a candidate for United States Congress. Sinner isn’t new to North Dakota politics. George is the second oldest of ten children of the George Sinner Sr., who served as ND governor from 1985 to 1992. After 35 years as a small town banker, from Casselton ND, George Jr., ran for a Senate seat in the state legislature, in which he was elected in 2012. As a banker, George Jr. helped small business grow, farmers to continue their industry, and young families buy their first home. George cares about people, and that’s why he decided to run for the sole Congressional seat in the United States House of Representatives.
As George addressed the Little Shell Celebration on Friday, he spoke of how important the Native Vote is. In not so many words, he did his best to lift up the role we have played in electing leaders who make decisions at the federal level that affect tribal governance.
Speaking to local voters on the east side of the arbor, Mr. Sinner acknowledged how our local history is rooted within our MHA cultures. He supports increased funding for tribal education, improving our criminal justice system, and access to quality, affordable housing in western North Dakota. Furthermore, measures to improve the Violence Against Women’s act to ensure better prevention efforts and victim support. George speaks highly of those who serve and have served our country, and the need to increase non-VA facilities for our Native veterans is a priority for him. As we shared food and laughed over a fire, local voters got to meet this candidate who is relatively new to our part of the state. George may not have his side step down, but his presence alone at our celebration appeals to our better angels, to think about putting a Sinner in the United States House of Representatives.
Strengthening his Hidatsa language skills Taylor made his rounds of the arena visiting with voters. The emcee introduced him as the “tall guy with the white hat” and Taylor greeted us with his best Norwegian. Taylor, a better dancer than your typical cowboy, is a former state senator and is the Democratic Non-Partisan League (Dem-NPL) candidate for North Dakota Agricultural Commissioner. Taylor is a fourth generation rancher who authentically permeates the values of family, community and hard work. He meets you with a smile and a handshake and sometimes a greeting in our own language! He’ll even leave a room with a heavily Norwegian-accented “maacigiraac”. Never without his boots and hat, Mr. Taylor truly embodies the North Dakota neighborly spirit that drives him to serve his people. For years as a state senator, Mr. Taylor championed language and cultural initiatives, and increased funding for higher education that includes our tribal colleges. Similar to his run for governor in 2012, Ryan speaks to the opportunity out here in the west and how working together will result in the best way to handle the growth. Taylor points out that North Dakota Native communities have taken a priority during his legislative career and would continue to do so as Agricultural Commissioner. Our voices have been counted amongst Mr. Taylor’s closest advisors when working with issues affecting Indian country.
The office of Agricultural Commissioner has more power than you can imagine. ND has a legislature that meets every two years, so our government has allowed the Agricultural Commissioner along with two other members, the oversight of permitting and other issues critical to the oil industry. Something we voters at the MHA Nation need to pay attention to. Agriculture and Oil play the biggest roles in our local economy and our votes will matter in this race. A vote for Agricultural Commissioner is a vote for our economy. As a candidate, Taylor has said “We want the oil, but we also want productive land when it’s all done.” Taylor has promised to look at his role if elected as Agricultural Commissioner with a critical eye.
Another Little Shell celebration passed, another dance with political candidates. Who will appeal to your better angels? Who is currently, actively courting our votes? A cowboy as Agricultural Commissioner, and a Sinner for the House of Representatives.
It is that time again. Election season. Campaigning, the typical courtship of those who want to be elected leaders and those who will cast a vote in exchange for leadership; sometimes a change in leadership and sometimes a vote to maintain leadership. As someone who has worked on local, statewide and nationwide voter courtship before, I can tell you it’s a very personal investment of time, talent and money; an investment that shouldn’t be blind. As with any courtship you want to get to know the candidates. Find out what you can. Do they reflect the values of your idea of a leader? Do you trust them? Are they incumbents with a record that shows that we, the people are a priority? Are they candidates making promises? Do they have a plan that will work? Does the candidate work well with others? After all, this is a democracy, our elected leaders have to work with others. Are the candidates capable? Are we voters, capable?
Just as in any other courtship, some candidates just want to feed you and give you shiny objects. Don’t get me wrong, feeding me is good, so is the occasional shiny object; that is kind of expected in NDN country. However let’s not get distracted to the point that we fail to see the candidate for who they are. You know how we get when we find out we elected someone we didn’t really know how they stood on the issues we care about. Some of you get pretty crabby when a courtship goes sour. We become like scorned companions, mistrustful and blaming until the next election cycle at which point we get vengeful and point fingers, blaming anyone who dares step up to civic responsibility for our unhappiness. Ok, maybe I’m going overboard – but my point is how about we NOT do that this year. Don’t settle for a candidate who gives you indigestion; make sure your hearts are compatible. We’re looking to elect leaders so that we can ensure a road to benefit the public good.
A functioning democracy is critical to the goals and civic mission of governance. If we are to have a governance structure we believe in and trust, we need to be involved. Too long have we been left out of the political process and now that American Indians are proving to be the deciding win factor for candidates, we need to establish long-term political participation in tribal, local, state and federal elections. Democracy is something we can’t take for granted. Remember when we were left out of the process? Didn’t pan out the greatest for us historically. Good governance thrives in an environment where people are participating in and trusting the process. We have a long way to go before we get there, so let the courtship continue. It’s time we all get on the dance floor, engage and vote.
Voting matters. Your vote matters; both to the health of our sovereign nation’s governance system, and to the people who participate in our system. Voting carries a civic benefit to those who participate. Studies have shown that typical voters are invested in their communities, concerned with their peers, are more informed about issues and processes, and have a greater sense of their ability to impact the world around them. Whether or not you cast a vote, you are participating in this system. Not voting is a form of participation in a way that benefits someone or some system, including those you disagree vehemently with. We, as citizens of this nation, should vote. No one should be left off the dance floor.
In this great courtship, the currency is our vote. Either you give it up for the values and work for what you believe in, or you throw it aside to the status quo. What you do is your choice. I’m here to tell you, your vote will matter. As election season heats up, I’ll be here to bring you more information on the process and on the candidates. I’m looking forward to the next couple of months. MHA Nation, it’s time. Let’s dance.
If you needed me for one night or forever ~ I would be there.
You tell me you are like a raindrop in an ocean
You told me of a raindrop that falls into the ocean saying to itself “Am I a raindrop in an ocean?” or “Am I the ocean?”
You said that you would be the ocean
I know you though you say you know yourself.
I know you.
I think, that you are more as a raindrop who could if you wished
you could invoke the force of an ocean and at least,
at least you are a part of the ocean, separate your bounty restricted in the vessel that keeps you
If you are the rain drop in the ocean perhaps I am the vessel
Just as every blade of grass has its space to grow
So does the raindrop in the ocean
The earth and blue sky accommodate the blade
Just as the earth and blue sky accommodate the ocean
But a raindrop that can invoke the ocean
I will accommodate you
You can trickle down me or drown me
I’ll stand my own
For every raindrop falls and flows
To find a home in solid ground
Let me take you
Let me hold you
For your pain your love
You can flood
I can hold whatever you bring
Letting you flow and grow, as currents change across terrain
With greater love
Even the ocean a raindrop can tame
If my dreams would allow I’d travel to the time where you held me close till I fell asleep. I could feel you carry me to my bed and place me down gently. I’d travel to the time that I’d hear you wake before dawn and I would follow you around silently as you prepared to go to the railroad in the morning. You’d pack your lunch, walk to grab your boots, turning around you’d place your finger over your mouth to ensure I stayed silent as I watched you. After you grabbed your coat, your lunch and bag you’d pat me on the head or leave me in the dark telling me to go back to bed. I watched as you left the house and would sit on the couch or go back to the comfort of my shared bed.
we were a family then. A family that was happy. I used to remember everything you said, all the things you did and I held onto those teachings, emotions, hurt and pain for a long time. I remember seeing you in the hospital room, aged. I was heavy hearted as I would comb and braid your hair, or wipe your mouth. You were so frail, changed from the strong man who my dad once was. I didn’t know then, what I know now about your life.
I knew I was going to lose you that December day and I remember thinking about what you used to promise me when you wanted me to do something. “do the dishes and I will dance at your wedding” “clean your room and I will dance at your wedding” “sweep the floor and I’ll dance at your wedding”
At 15 I was angry, and sad. I thought back to gardening. I tried to recall the memories that were good so I wouldn’t think about the anger. I remember hot summer days by the river fishing. I remember cool summer evenings digging in the dirt planting. I remember fried meals and middle of the night road trips. Strawberry Lake, Spirit Lake, White Shield and the cold wind blowing us around in an open pickup bed, piled under blankets and sleeping bags so we could all fit.
Cold December night I sat with you, wiped the blood from your mouth, held your hand as the relatives came to say their goodbyes. I held your hand as I watched you take your last breath and I remember we all prayed. We said the prayer as we let you go into the cold December night. Your battle was over, your life lived, your time complete.
Your friends still call me your daughter. We recall the life you lived, the choices you made and the children you shaped.
Happy birthday papa ~ We remember you this day. Love the little girl.