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Tribal Council Members sworn in at quarterly meeting

Quarterly meeting seats new Tribal Council members who hear the people’s concerns and advice
By Lailani Upham
Char-Koosta News

Newly elected Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council members take their oath of office at 9 a.m., Friday, January 5, from Acting Chief Judge Brad Pluff. (L to R): Elmo Rep. Len Two Teeth; Ronan Rep. Carole Lankford; Arlee Rep. Shelly Fyant; St. Ignatius Rep. James Steele, Jr. and Polson Rep. Charmel Gillin. (Lailani Upham photo) Newly elected Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council members take their oath of office at 9 a.m., Friday, January 5, from Acting Chief Judge Brad Pluff. (L to R): Elmo Rep. Len Two Teeth; Ronan Rep. Carole Lankford; Arlee Rep. Shelly Fyant; St. Ignatius Rep. James Steele, Jr. and Polson Rep. Charmel Gillin. (Lailani Upham photo)

PABLO — The first quarterly of 2018 for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes welcomed newly elected and returning Tribal Council members. Supportive words for the upcoming team leadership carried a sense of optimism for each other and from elders.

With nearly 150 in attendance, CSKT Chairman Vernon Finley opened up the meeting during his final minutes on the Tribal Council and as chairman Friday. Finley expressed words of appreciation for the opportunity to serve as government leader of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people for the last two years of his four-year term and he wished the best for the upcoming Tribal Council team.

The five recently elected Tribal Council members sworn in included incumbents Shelly Fyant, Len Twoteeth and Carole Lankford, and returning councilmember and past Chairman, James Steele, Jr. along with newly elected Tribal Council member Charmel Gillin.

Newly elected CSKT Chairman Ron Trahan makes his way to the lead seat after voting results were announced. (Lailani Upham photo) Newly elected CSKT Chairman Ron Trahan makes his way to the lead seat after voting results were announced. (Lailani Upham photo)

Following the swearing in was the election of Tribal Council officers.

Ron Trahan, who has served on Council for a total of 14 years, was elected Chairman with a six to four majority over Leonard Twoteeth.

Trahan had served as Chairman once before in 2014. Trahan, a St. Ignatius life-resident and U.S. Army veteran worked for Tribal Health, Salish Kootenai Housing Authority and Kicking Horse Job Corp before joining Council from 2000 to 2008 and 2012 to today.

Hot Springs Rep. Leonard Gray was voted Vice Chair with a seven to three vote against James Steele, Jr. Gray worked 13 years in CSKT’s Probation, Prosecutors and Defender’s office before joining Council in 2012.

Arlee District Rep. Troy Felsman was voted in as Secretary after a third vote tie against Charmel Gillin. Dixon Rep. Anita Matt was voted in as Treasurer with no other nominations for the seat.

Newly elected CSKT Tribal Council members James Steele, Jr., Charmel Gillin, Shelly Fyant, Len Twoteeth, and Carole Lankford take the oath of office at the Friday’s Quarterly. (Lailani Upham photo) Newly elected CSKT Tribal Council members James Steele, Jr., Charmel Gillin, Shelly Fyant, Len Twoteeth, and Carole Lankford take the oath of office at the Friday’s Quarterly. (Lailani Upham photo)

Chairman Ron Trahan opened the floor immediately for Elders to speak their hearts. Stephen Smallsalmon was the first to take the microphone with a greeting and words of wisdom in Salish.

“It’s good to see a lot of people here,” he addressed the crowd. Smallsalmon told stories of his childhood and the words of his Elders stating change was ahead for the people. “And it did change,” Smallsalmon said. He told the crowd that there are not many Elders left and apologized for it. He spoke of losing three prominent Elders this past year and expressed the sadness of this reality. He admonished everyone to be good to each other and to respect one another.

Smallsalmon asked the Tribal Council members about the plans for the recently acquired former Mission Mart grocery building in Ronan.

Arlee Rep. Troy Felsman and Ronan Rep. Carole Lankford said that discussions have been ongoing to convert it into a fitness center with a health and wellness theme that included meeting rooms, or possibly selling the building and use the funds for other tribal membership needs. They both said no final decisions have been made.

Lankford said the discussion has been part of the Ronan District meetings and invited all to attend for their input.

Elder Francine Antoine spoke a few words of congratulations and encouragement stating she felt 2018 was going to be a good year. She added her heart is for kids and believes the new Council will keep the youth in mind.

WWII Marine veteran, Frances Stanger, 90, urges Tribal Council leaders to pray for one another in the coming year. (Lailani Upham photo) WWII Marine veteran, Frances Stanger, 90, urges Tribal Council leaders to pray for one another in the coming year. (Lailani Upham photo)

Frances Stanger, 90, made his way to the mic to raise the spirits of Council and membership to pray for one another, to be kind to one another including their enemies. Stanger, a WWII Marine veteran, reminded all to adhere respect to the American Flag. “Many have laid down their lives for that flag,” Stanger said. He said to always remember the American troops in their thoughts and prayers, and to carry this respect to all.

Helen Camel speaks out on the “silent issue” of Alzheimer’s disease in the community.  (Lailani Upham photo) Helen Camel speaks out on the “silent issue” of Alzheimer’s disease in the community. (Lailani Upham photo)

Helen Camel spoke about tribal language preservation during the open mic. She told a brief story of remembering it being common place to hear tribal Elders speak it fluently everywhere she went as a youth. “I think I am the last generation to hear it,” she said. She said although she doesn’t speak the language herself, she acknowledges the importance of this loss in the community. She said her way of contributing to the language revival is donating to the Nkwusm Salish Language School.

Camel also brought up an issue she felt hasn’t been looked at much, Alzheimer’s disease. She said there is no placement for them and it’s not a top concern with Tribal Health. “There’s people in the community trying to take care them (Alzheimer’s patients),” she said. Camel stated it’s not an easy job because some Alzheimer’s patients tend to be volatile and have a tendency to run away. “It’s a hidden issue hanging out there,” she said. She added her fear for lack of support and care for such a disease, “It’s a growing problem and I’m getting scared because my memory is not as good (as it used to be),” she said.

Patricia Camel Kelly, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and nurse faculty at Salish Kootenai College speaks out on the exceptional quality of education SKC is putting out for not only CSKT tribal members but members of other tribes across the country as well as non-Indians (Lailani Upham photo)Patricia Camel Kelly, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and nurse faculty at Salish Kootenai College speaks out on the exceptional quality of education SKC is putting out for not only CSKT tribal members but members of other tribes across the country as well as non-Indians (Lailani Upham photo)

Patricia (Camel) Kelly, was next in line to take the floor and reassured her sister Helen that she would take care of her.

Kelly, a Registered Nurse and retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel announced to Council that in her past three years at Salish Kootenai College she has seen great things happening with incoming and outgoing students. She praised the caliber of students that cross the campus over the years. Kelly said over the years before she worked at SKC she drove up and down the highway passing it and never knowing what a prestigious college it was. “There are a lot of bright stars that want to make their lives better and others,” she said. “It’s amazing to see them grow and go back to their reservations and take care of their own. Any hospital you go to there is an SKC graduate nurse.” She urged everyone at the meeting to get involved with the happenings at SKC. “If you have a chance to go to the powwows or activities, come.”

Elder Tom Camel, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, shared with Council his concern of feeling unsafe where he lives due to drug users. Although he admitted to being no stranger to war and taking down an enemy he told the Council to think on ways to keep Elders safe.

Elder Chuck Tellier urged the Tribal Council during the Quarterly Meeting to form committees in their districts to help combat community struggles. (Lailani Upham photo) Elder Chuck Tellier urged the Tribal Council during the Quarterly Meeting to form committees in their districts to help combat community struggles. (Lailani Upham photo)

Chuck Tellier offered words of advice and suggested Council canvas the districts – makes assessments – and find out who are active in their communities to form committees to do things that should be done for change. “Everyone who walks in here think you all have the answer,” he said. And he added his suggestion to relieve the redundant burden that is endlessly put on them. “There are so many talented people on the Rez and they are not being used to their fullest (potential),” he said. “I don’t think it all should be put on you ten.”

Randall Michel spoke to Council on the importance of a Wellness Center. He said there is too much enabling and manipulation in families of addicts and help is needed. He added the idea of SKC creating internships for students to work at the Wellness Center as well.

Kathy Felsman recapped the role of the Council in her moment on the stage. “You work for us don’t ever forget that. The Elders said you lead by example. You talk about putting your differences aside; we’d like to see that. If you lead by example the membership and those in these buildings will follow. Listen to us – you got away from that,” she said. Felsman said the chance for members to voice their opinion should always stay intact. “So you will know what’s going on and hear what the people think.” Felsman added that the Hot Springs Bath House should be revived as a business. “It can be a real money maker, but what will be the long term vision,” she said. She pointed out how SKC started and how the dream did not happen overnight. She suggested that when hiring people in positions to ask them what their vision is and to keep the question in mind if it is “For themselves, or the good of the people.”

Attendees pay respect to the drum by standing during an honor song from Buck Shot singers at the January 5 Quarterly meeting. (Lailani Upham photo) Attendees pay respect to the drum by standing during an honor song from Buck Shot singers at the January 5 Quarterly meeting. (Lailani Upham photo)

Felsman strongly pointed out that additional jail space was not needed but a Wellness Center was. “Don’t build another jail build a treatment facility. Involve the culture so they (incarcerated) can walk back into their community (healthy).”

Elder James Steele, Sr. praised the new Council and that each come from a generational leadership line. “I served with all of your folks.” Steele went across the semi-circle pointing out each Council member’s family predecessors.

Steele urged them all to hang on to their saddle horns. “Things are going to get tough,” he said. Steele said when differences tend to get the best of them he told them to sit down and get it out of their system – talk it out. “Honor the people and get back to business. We have a great year ahead of us. You can all do this,” Steele said.

Chairman Ron Trahan responded and addressed the crowd after Steele’s closing. “We are already doing this, just what James Steele Sr. said. It’s not personal it’s business,” he said.

(Due to length, the January 5, Quarterly Meeting will be printed in a series. Next week’s final component will include updates from Council.)

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