Aaron Payment
Aaron Payment. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
Prominent leader of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians censured
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Indianz.Com

Aaron Payment, the prominent chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is losing his national leadership positions after being censured by his board of directors.

At a meeting last week, the tribe’s board of directors voted 10-2 to censure Payment. A news release issued by the governing body from Monday cited a number of complaints against the chair, including allegations of violating tribal law.

In taking action on January 4, the board effectively revoked Payment’s ability to represent the tribe in other leadership capacities. As a result, he said he already lost his position as Secretary of the National Congress of American Indians, the largest inter-tribal advocacy organization in the United States.

“Their actions violate basic tenants of the U.S. Constitution of Equal Protections including prohibitions against Bill of Attainder and Ex Post Facto laws while excluding any semblance of due process of law,” Payment said the tribe’s board of directors.

“The board acted as judge, jury and executioner by imposing sanctions without a single piece of evidence,” Payment said on Wednesday, after learning that he no longer holds his NCAI position. “They are now covering their tracks just before an election cycle by desperately looking for evidence after the fact.”

Besides losing his role at NCAI, Payment faces removal as president of the Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, as president of the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan and as president of the United Tribes of Michigan. He said the loss of his positions would only end up hurting the Sault Tribe by “erasing our political capital on the national scene.”

In hopes of retaining his stature, Payment last week began circulating a petition within his tribe, seeking to overturn the board’s action. But his fellow leaders are standing firm in their decision.

“We believe it in the best interest of our tribe that we do not comment any further on ongoing and active investigations,” the board’s news release stated. “The chairperson’s actions have led to this decision and, contrary to other statements, his actions alone resulted in Tuesday’s censure.”

Payment joined his tribe’s board of directors in 1986 and won the position of chair for the first time in 2004. Last year, he was elected to a fourth term as chair of the tribe, which boasts 44,000 citizens, making it one of the largest Indian nations in the U.S.

Payment had won election as Recording Secretary of NCAI as the organization’s annual meeting last October. He was the only candidate nominated for the position.

Payment most recently served two consecutive terms as 1st Vice President of NCAI. Due to the organization’s term limits, he was barred from running for the position again.