Historic Vote At White Earth Nation Passes - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Historic Vote At White Earth Nation Passes

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Tribal voters of the White Earth band of Ojibwe overwhelmingly passed a plan to scrap a constitutional rule that says tribal membership is based on blood, not family lineage.

With 3492 ballots counted, about 2780 said yes and a little over 712 said no.

Supporters say the tribes shrinking population will get a critical boost and the outcome makes this Minnesota Chippewa tribe the first to change the rules for who can be a tribal member as well as revising its constitution.    

White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor says she's very happy with the outcome adding that "the people have spoken."



An historic vote is scheduled for members of the White Earth Nation on Tuesday. They'll decide whether to approve a new constitution that would  have a major impact on their lives, and the lives of generations to come.

Terry Janis: "This is a huge, huge vote. It is historic."

  A yes vote on a new constitution could roll in an entirely new process of how the White Earth Nation is governed, and who can be a tribal member.

The new constitution would drop the 25-percent blood line requirement and direct relatives of tribal members would be eligible to enroll.

  Since the current law requires at least a 25-percent White Earth blood line to enroll, the children of many folks who were born and raised here can't become tribal members.

Reporter: "You said even your children can't be enrolled, because their blood line isn't 25-percent?  

Damion Badboy, White Earth: "Right. They're like 22-percent, so that's what makes it hard to do."

  Experts say if the blood line requirement is not dropped, that eventually no one would be eligible to become a tribal member.

Terry Janis, Tribal Constitution Expert:  "Within less than a century, the research shows that the birth rate produces a decline in population to almost zero."

  Janis-niece says the discussion of adopting a new constitution started, following the administration of former tribal leader Chip Wadena, who faced numerous charges of fraud and corruption.

 Terry Janis, Tribal Constitution Expert:  "It was after the Wadena administration and the problems during the era that people really started to talk about reforming the constitution."

  A yes vote on the new constitution would also create a completely new tribal government, similar to the U.S. Federal Government, with an executive, legislation and judicial branch to keep everyone's power in check.

    Terry Janis says if the new constitution is approved, that drops the blood line requirement, he does not believe it would mean an explosion in growth to the tribe's population of 19-thousand members. He says an application process would need to be adopted and setup first.

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