Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Tribes In The Media: Significance Of Mashantucket Election

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an editorial in The Day newspaper of New London on the recent Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council election.

Mashantucket Ire
The Day newspaper
November 5, 2008

The ouster of Kenneth Reels from the Mashantucket Tribal Council may be just the start if tribal leaders do not listen more to the concerns of tribal members.

The Mashantucket Pequots, who voted in tribal elections last Sunday, have a lot in common with voters across the country who went to the polls Tuesday angry and frustrated.

Americans were looking for a change. And so are the Mashantucket Pequots.

Tribal members are upset because they feel disenfranchised and disrespected. They believe the seven-member Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council has too much power and too little accountability. So members voted to unseat longtime councilor and current Vice Chairman Kenneth M. Reels and replace him with newcomer James Jackson.

The Mashantucket members have legitimate concerns. Their tribal constitution puts all the power in the hands of the council. Members want to create a judicial branch to provide a check and balance. A constitution review committee, composed of two members each from the 11 Mashantucket family lines, suggested reforms that the tribal council ignored. The council also ignored recommendations from tribal elders.

So on Sunday members voted to replace Mr. Reels with Mr. Jackson, who is a member of the constitution review panel, realizing it is a small victory in a larger battle. Next November, three more incumbents are up for re-election, including Chairman Michael Thomas.

What the members want is a voice in their government. They want the ability to attend council meetings and comment on council decisions. They want a say in the role and responsibilities of the council and on its expenditures, including tribal council salaries. They want participatory government and transparency.

And they deserve it.

The Mashantucket Tribe and its businesses are too big today to allow the council to continue to make all decisions and establish all policies without member comment or participation. That is not fair or effective government. It's long past the time for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council to acknowledge that.