Per Capita to be Debated at GTC Meeting
By Travis Cottrell - Kalihwisaks
As the May 5th General Tribal Council (GTC) meeting
approaches talk of the proposed per capita agreement begins to heat up.
The issue of per capita payments to Oneida Tribal citizens
has and will continue to present challenging discussions between Tribal leaders
and the GTC.
As Oneida Tribal Treasurer Tina Danforth states, “The per
capita issue is never going to go away for the Tribe and we know that, we
understand that. What’s important
about it for me is that this is one of the few things everyone shares in
equally. I know some people say
it’s an entitlement, but it’s not an entitlement.”
A majority of the 17,000 Oneida Tribal citizens don’t live
on or near the Oneida reservation and are unable to receive the full extent of
services offered by the Tribe, making the per capita payment one aspect that
all citizens have a stake in.
Inevitably, paying a large amount of money to all members of
the Tribe puts further stress on an already strained Tribal budget.
“We fund what we can, we fund what we are supposed to, we
fund the General Tribal Council mandates and we provide the things to the
extent that we can,” said Danforth.
With budget in mind the Oneida Business Committee (OBC)
offers up a pair of options for the per capita payment.
Option one would issue an annual payment $800 plus up to 2%
cost of living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index inflation rate.
Option two offers a payment of 15% of the Net Profit of
Gaming and Retail. The payment
would be based on the results of the prior fiscal year (I.E. FY2014 payment
based on FY2013 results).
Despite the options offered by the OBC a petition will be
heard at the May 5th GTC meeting. The petition, which is sponsored by Oneida tribal citizen
Yvonne Metivier, proposes an annual payment of $1,500.
“The Oneida Business Committee was given a directive by the
General Tribal Council in 2008 to bring forward a 10-year plan for per capita
and to bring that plan to the General Tribal Council. The 2008 resolution, 5-10-08-A, states ‘now therefore be it
resolved that the OBC is directed to present a proposed annual per capita
payment plan to GTC prior to FY2012 and to begin in FY2014 for a period not
less than ten years.’ I brought
the petition for per capita because the Business Committee didn’t follow the
directive of the GTC and bring a plan to the GTC before 2012. It’s 2013,” Metivier said.
With the petition going before the GTC there is a
possibility it could be accepted.
With that comes the possibility of sacrifices in other tribal services
“I think if it happens there are some financial consequences
and impacts to that. It would mean
that we have to pull back. So then
that becomes a real challenge for the organization. It’s not that it can’t be done; it’s just not going to be
comfortable,” Danforth said. “Some
things will have to go. But
generally speaking some things may need to go anyway. That’s the hard question that lends to restructuring right
The possibility of seeing cuts or a hold back in funds and
services is something Metivier has seen before and expects to see when per
capita is being discussed.
“When the people ask for a fair share they (OBC) will tell
you: 1. We have a deficit, 2.
We’re going to lose jobs, and 3. You’re greedy and blame the people for our
money problems,” Metivier said.
“The chairman sat down to have coffee with an Oneida elder,
Teresa Reed, and explained that the Tribe cannot afford this per capita,
expenses have gone up. Theresa
said, ‘so have ours’. We use that
money wisely for rez cars, for milk, food, diapers, gas, clothing, and
Christmas presents,” Metivier added.
Although similar payments have been made in the past to
tribal citizens, Danforth states the national economy is still not in a good
place and those factors have an effect on Tribal revenues. This could cause leadership to be more
creative in how tribal money is handled.
“If people really want to see that happen
then they need to accept that it will change how we run the organization. That could be positive that could be
negative. It could be positive in
the fact that we are really forced to be more efficient we are really forced to
identify our priorities and stand behind them. It could be hard because some of the things we feel proud to
be able to provide may go away. So
that’s the tradeoff,” Danforth said.
The per capita petition is currently on the agenda for the
next GTC meeting. The meeting is
scheduled for Sunday, May 5th at 1:00pm at the Radisson Hotel and