GTC zips through agenda at semi-annual meeting

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By Dawn Walschinski - Kalihwisaks

The General Tribal Council (GTC) rejected two referendum questions and a petition at the Monday, July 1 Semi-Annual GTC Meeting held at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center. 1932 Oneida citizens attended the meeting.

A referendum question and petition were both about term limits for boards, committees and commissions and were presented together. The first referendum question from the 2012 election read “Should there be term limits for all board, committee and commission positions including the Business Committee?”  The question was disregarded by GTC and accepted as For Your Information (FYI) because adding limits to the Oneida Business Committee (OBC) candidates would take an amendment to the Oneida Constitution. 

The petition, presented by Linda Dallas, read “Direct that all elected and appointed positions for all Oneida Boards, Committees and Commissions, excluding the Oneida Business Committee, shall be for a four (4) year term, with a term limit of two terms (totaling eight years), a two (2) year waiting period before running for the same board, committee or commission, and shall be effective for the elections of 2013 and all future elections.” The motion was later amended to the 2014 elections and excluded the Oneida Nation Commission on Aging (ONCOA) and the Oneida Nation Arts Board as both programs receive state funds.

“People are in those positions for a very, very long time,  and elected and appointed position are not intended to be careers,” said Dallas in her presentation.

However, GTC member Elijah Hill stated he disagreed with the petition during discussion.

“People have the right to vote for whoever they want in a position,” said Hill. “If you’re in a position already, you’ve gained all that experience and then to me it seem it’s almost got to work backwards to put someone new in.”

The motion to accept the term limits would have needed a two thirds majority to pass, but OBC Chairman Ed Delgado stated it was clear during the hand vote that the petition didn’t have enough support, and the motion failed.

The second referendum read “Should school board members have educational backgrounds?” Councilman Brandon Stevens told the GTC members that they would have to define “educational background.” Stevens also noted that other area school boards had no such requirement, and it is currently difficult to attract people who want to serve on the school board. Currently the only requirements are that the nine member board all be Oneida citizens and that at least seven members are parents or guardians of a student in the Oneida Nation School System.

GTC member Linda Powless argued against the referendum during discussion.

“The whole point of parental involvement was to get control of our education so that we could support the cultural knowledge that we hold within our communities,” said Powless.

The GTC denied the referendum.

Earlier in the meeting, the GTC approved minutes for the July 2, 2012 semi-annual, the September 17, 2012 FY2013 Budget, and the November 19, 2012 special meetings.

Treasurer Tina Danforth gave her semi-annual report. She explained that the tribe was working on paying down debt and had created set asides to do so.

The GTC accepted the Treasurer’s Report, however, the body tabled a request to accept the 2013 Semi-Annual Report when some members of the GTC complained that they hadn’t received the packet and didn’t know what they were approving.

Secretary Patty Hoeft explained that Oneida citizens needed to return their postcard to receive the annual and semi-annual reports in the mail, and that the material was available online at the members’ only website (https://oneida-nsn.gov/MembersOnly.aspx).

GTC member Diane McLester-Heim admonished the other attendees to be prepared for meetings.

“Take responsibility and seek out the information?” she said.

Councilman David Jordan gave a report on plans to implement a new parent communications and grievance process for the Oneida Childcare Department. He stated that the policy was moving forward and they are creating a parent-teacher association. The report was accepted by the GTC.

Councilwoman Melinda Danforth gave status report on conducting a US Department of Interior Secretary election to vote on changes to the Tribe’s constitution.

“We think we’re close, but we’ve been close for a long time,” said Councilwoman Danforth.

She pointed out that voting might be limited to people who live on the reservation, and that she was working to fight that limitation.

The five proposed changes to the constitution would be to change Oneida’s official name from “Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin to “Oneida Nation, lower the voting age from 21 to 18, remove language referring to the Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary of Interior, include a judiciary, and remove the first Monday of January and July requirement for the Annual and Semi-Annual GTC meetings. The report was accepted by the GTC.

Councilwoman Danforth also gave an update on the Judiciary Act, stating that elections would be held in the July, 2014 election and the court would be in place in November 14 of 2014.

“We are on schedule,’ she said.

The GTC accepted the update and passed a GTC resolution that would allow language in existing laws to be changed from referring to the Oneida Appeals Commission or the Oneida Tribal Judicial System and replace with terms consistent with the Judiciary Law. The resolution passed with the required two- third majority.