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Tribes approve office standard

Members of Minnesota's Chippewa Tribe have overwhelmingly approved changes to the tribe's constitution restricting who is eligible to hold office. Close to 83 percent of the approximately 4,900 members who voted Tuesday in an election conducted b...

Members of Minnesota's Chippewa Tribe have overwhelmingly approved changes to the tribe's constitution restricting who is eligible to hold office.

Close to 83 percent of the approximately 4,900 members who voted Tuesday in an election conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs said convicted felons or anyone convicted of taking tribal funds should not hold tribal office.

The same percentage said candidates for tribal office should be residents of their respective reservations at least a year prior to an election.

Although the vote on the constitutional questions took place on Tuesday, ballots were not counted until Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone who wants to protest the election has three days to file a challenge with the secretary of the interior. The secretary has 45 days to decide whether to validate the election results.

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VOTE JUMP

"It (the vote) is definitely a strong statement that the membership wants constitutional change. The next step we need to take is to separate the judicial system from the tribal council," said Erma Vizenor, chairwoman of the White Earth Band of Chippewa.

White Earth is the largest of the six bands that voted in Tuesday's election. The others were Boise Forte, Fond du lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake and Mille Lacs.

Vizenor, who is several months into her second year as leader of the White Earth band, campaigned on an anti-corruption theme that focused on her 2004 election opponent, Darrell "Chip" Wadena.

Wadena, chairman of the White Earth band for 20 years before his defeat at the polls in 1996, was convicted that same year of 15 federal charges, many having to do with misapplying tribal funds.

Recently, federal officials charged Wadena with fraud, accusing him of working with a Florida automobile dealer to use the White Earth title office to obtain clean titles for damaged, destroyed and stolen cars.

In Tuesday's election, 4,127 tribal members voted yes on the question of whether candidates for office must live on the reservation for a year prior to an election. The no votes totaled 846.

On whether to bar convicted felons from office, 4,133 voted yes. The no vote was 844.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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