The audience spilled out into the lobby at the Nixyaawii Governance Center Wednesday to witness the swearing in of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Board of Trustees, the General Council and two youth councils.
Tribal Chief Judge William Johnson directed the members as they swore to uphold and protect the Treaty of 1855 between the federal government and the Walla Walla, Cayuse and Umatilla tribes and the CTUIR constitution.
Gary Burke will serve another term as board chairman and made a few remarks afterward. Burke said a two-year term was too short to expect major changes, but he expected to begin seeing improvements.
“It takes time to make the plan right,” he said.
Burke said the board needed support from the General Council and youth councils to explain some decisions to tribal members.
While Burke is a veteran of the board, CTUIR voters installed a new person to lead the General Council — Willie Sigo IV.
Speaking in both Umatilla and English as Thomas Morning Owl translated, the former CTUIR Language Department employee said he put his whole heart into his previous jobs and will take the same approach as the General Council chairman.
Represented by four officers, the General Council is comprised of every adult member of the tribes. The council makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees.
In a four-way race, Sigo defeated incumbent Alan Crawford by 21 votes to take the seat. In a fiery outgoing speech, Crawford listed some of the projects that are now ongoing, like the Wildhorse Resort & Casino expansion, the new Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center facility, and the new building for Nixyaawii Community School.
“It’s going to happen,” he said. “No more campaign promises.”
Michael Ray Johnson and Shawna Gavin joined Sigo as new officers of the General Council.
There weren’t as many new faces sworn in to the Board of Trustees.
Former board treasurer Rosenda Shippentower declined to run for re-election and instead ran for and won one of four at-large seats. Board newcomer Doris Wheeler won the open race for treasurer.
Incumbents Aaron Ashley and Woodrow Star were joined by Shippentower and newcomer Sally Kosey to fill out the four seats, meaning longtime board member Armand Minthorn was voted out of office.
Although Minthorn wasn’t in attendance, Burke praised him for his work in convincing the federal government to re-bury the “Ancient One,” the bones of a prehistoric man that DNA tests determined to be related to Columbia Basin tribes.
Jeremy Wolf, the incumbent vice chair of the board, was in attendance but was not sworn in for another term. After the votes were tallied for the Nov. 14 election, Wolf and challenger Shana Radford were deadlocked at 370 votes apiece. CTUIR spokesman Chuck Sams said Wolf will retain his seat until a winner is declared in a Feb. 12 runoff election.
Contact Antonio Sierra at email@example.com or 541-966-0836.