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Second petition attempts to oust White Earth tribal council

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
Second petition attempts to oust White Earth tribal council
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Just in time for the White Earth Tribal election, a group of reservation members are circulating a second round of petitions aimed to oust chairwoman Erma Vizenor along with the rest of the tribal council.


The first petition that was denied by the council last month only aimed to remove Vizenor. This time, the group's goal is removal all five member, including two incumbents running for office Tuesday.

So far, almost 600 people signed the petition to remove Vizenor, White Earth member Ray Bellcourt said.

The other four petitions are to remove the following tribal council members: Secretary/Treasurer Franklin Heisler, District I Representative Irene Auginaush, District II Representative Terrance Tibbetts and District III Representative Kenneth Bevins.

Bellcourt said this time the group will get Bureau of Indian Affairs officials involved in the process to make sure the petition doesn't get denied.

And the reason for aiming to remove the four members is because they've backed up Vizenor in the past, he added.

"These guys are way out and beyond what they're supposed to be doing. They're in violation of several constitutional issues," Bellcourt said. "People are tired of it."

White Earth Tribal members continue to accuse Vizenor of disregarding the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution. They say Native American rights are being violated and that non-Indians -- less than one-fourth degree blood born -- are enrolling in the tribe.

Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Executive Director Gary Frazer said even with the petition, tribal council members will have to remove themselves.

"They'd have to vote themselves out," he said. "It's not a done deal, just because you get the signatures, that's not a reason to remove (members)."

White Earth Tribal officials have not received documentation on this round of petitions yet, but Vizenor said in an earlier interview the charges against her are false and "frivolous."

Pioneer staff reports