Delvin Cree: Favoritism in Turtle Mountain tribal employment

When favortism takes place within a tribe, not too many of us pay attention because the practice of hiring family members, close relatives and friends happens all the time.

Our sovereign status enables our leaders to continue this practice and it is not right. Most importantly, many of our tribal members who are unemployed, laid-off and some who are highly qualified for employment purposes are neglected from fair opportunities when favoritism takes place.

If our sovereign status were used in the right way and for the right purposes, many of our tribal members will benefit. Today, this is not happening and favoritism is the culprit of all bad things. Several of our tribal leaders have supported this behavior since they took office.

For example, our chairman's close relatives are benefiting. Some are currently working on the Center of the Earth building project in Dunseith. These same individuals are getting paid from our gas tax dollars and these same dollars are not for salary purposes.

Cindy Malaterre, one of our tribal representatives, mentioned at our last open public meeting these gas tax dollars are to be used for tribal programs, not people's salaries. She said tribal leaders voted and made into resolution the list of programs and projects the gas tax monies were to be spent on.

And she is right. If the gas tax monies are to be used for tribal programs then they should be used for that purpose. Instead, the chairman and a few other tribal leaders are using it for favoritism purposes. Malaterre pointed out at the open public meeting the chairman's brother and close relatives are receiving payments from our gas tax dollars and she also mentioned Jeff "BJ" Delormes family members getting paid from these same dollars as well. Delorme has two brothers working for the tribe.

Another concern our tribal members should be aware of -- during this same open public meeting, our financial officer had mentioned the tribe has been having some difficulty making payroll. When our leaders took office over a year ago, some had created new administrative positions. These new positions are an overcost to the regular budget.

The chairman for example helped create a position for a close relative -- she is his administrative assistant. Another position he helped create is a public affairs officer position. These two positions, which were unnecessary, have put the tribe more in the red zone.

I have to note the chairman's son was also working and may still be working for the tribe. The funding to pay these salaries have not come from gas tax dollars rather the funding came from another source. Now, if some of these job creations have never happened, I'm wondering if we would be having a shortfall when making payroll.

It may seem I have put much of my focus on the chairman. But you know, our main leader has been elected to lead by example and he was to show our tribal community that he is a true leader. But, instead he is teaching everyone how to be the wrong person. In the next year before the next tribal elections, I'm hoping he works more with the entire tribal council instead of his voting quorum. He needs to collaborate more and be part of our wonderful community.

On a last note, the chairman made a promise to have round table discussions to discuss how to improve our tribal community. This was an election pitch which many tribal members remember. I'm hoping he sticks to this promise and creates a mission statement following these round table discussions that will benefit all tribal members. In doing this, the chairman will start the process of working with our tribal community.

Delvin Cree is a writer and columnist for The Tribal Independent, an alternative online news source for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Cree is also a contributor to the tribal newspaper, The Turtle Mountain Times.

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