Aaron Payment serves as chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and as vice president of the National Congress of American Indians. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Aaron Payment seeks re-election as leader of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe

Aaron Payment is seeking another term as chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the largest Indian nation east of the Mississippi.

A high school dropout at the age of 15, Payment earned his general equivalency degree at 16 and went on to earn a bachelor's degree, three master's degrees and a doctorate degree in educational leadership. In addition to leading his people, he serves as vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, chair of the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, president of the United Tribes of Michigan and president of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes. He also serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, as co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education and as co-chair of the Tribal-Interior Budget Committee for the Midwest region.

"The role of Chairperson in representing my tribe at all levels is so important," Payment said in announcing his re-election bid on Saturday. "I have worked hard to build our standing as a tribal nation at the highest levels for the benefit of our tribe and all Indian people."

As chair of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe since 2012, Payment has focused on treaty fishing rights, economic development, expanding gaming operations and improving services for his fellow citizens. He hopes to continue his efforts should he win another term in office.

"I absolutely love representing, advocating and fighting for my people and hope Sault Tribe voters will give me the opportunity to finish what we've started," said Payment, who won re-election in 2016 to a second term in office. Previously he served one term as chair, from 2004 through 2008.

The tribe has scheduled a primary election on May 22 for the Chairperson position as well as six seats on the board of directors, according to a January 31 notice. The general election is set for June 25.

The Chairperson and members of the board of directors serve terms of four years. The board of directors has 12 seats -- elections are staggered in that half of the seats are open during each cycle.

The Sault Tribe is headquartered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It boasts a citizenry of about 44,000 people.

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