Poll-watchers counted votes giving Rosebud Sioux Tribe citizen Noah “Sandy” Tucker of Mission, South Dakota, a seat on the Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative board of directors. Photo courtesy Rosebud Cordier
National | Politics

Native Sun News Today: Rosebud Sioux Tribe lands another seat on utility board

Five-year campaign by Sicangu pays off

RST snags 50% of seats on Cherry-Todd Electric Board
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

MISSION – Participants in the grassroots Oyate For Fairness & Equal Representation (OFFER) counted another victory October 27, in their five-year campaign to elect Rosebud Sioux tribal members to the Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative board of directors.

The election this year of tribal member Noah “Sandy” Tucker of Mission, for the one vacant Todd County seat on the eight-person board gave the Sicangu Oyate 50 percent of the directors’ positions, the most in the history of the member-owned electrical service utility.

“We didn’t think we’d be able to do it,” OFFER Coordinator Ron Neiss told the Native Sun News Today on October 28. “It was a historic day, definitely a significant page in tribal history,” he said.

Tribal constituents sang a Lakota honor song for Tucker at the culmination of vote counting. “I feel like I’m just walking on air,” Neiss said.

The Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative elections determine board directors to represent each of the counties in the service area: Cherry County in Nebraska, and Todd and Mellette counties on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.

The coop is the sole power company for the reservation, and tribal enrollees comprise an estimated 80 percent of coop membership. However, in its 71-year history not a single tribal citizen got elected to the board until OFFER and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe started sponsoring empowerment gatherings, meals, and transportation to annual elections.

This polling day, they achieved the largest turnout ever, with 379 votes cast. Tucker garnered 196 votes to unseat incumbent Dick Schneider of Kilgore, Nebraska, who split the remaining ballots, 130-53, with JR Reagle, also of Mission.

Tucker joins tribal enrollees Shawn Bordeaux, who represents Todd County, and at-large representative Kathleen Wooden Knife, both elected in 2016 for the board’s staggered three-year terms, as well as Mellette County representative Whitney Meek, whose second term expires in 2018.

With more balanced representation, OFFER expects more equality and transparency in treatment of coop members and electricity users, Neiss said. “Maybe next year we’ll get the seats to have a majority.”

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe and former coop board candidates of the Sicangu Oyate Rose Cordier, Shawn Bordeaux and Ann-Ericka White Bird are suing the Cherry Todd Electric Cooperative in tribal court for vote fraud and discrimination against tribal members.

The charges stem from 2013 board elections, in which none of the tribal candidates won a seat, although tribal enrollees appeared to constitute about half of the voters in the meeting room. Plaintiffs claim tribal members were barred from voting and non-tribal members got to vote more than once.

“I was so disappointed I felt like crying,” Neiss said of that election. “But we didn’t give up. We dug in our heels, and I think our momentum’s growing.”

Support Native media and read the rest of the story on Native Sun News Today: Five-year campaign by Sicangu pays off

Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today