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Hillaire re-elected Lummi chairman

LUMMI NATION, Wash. - On Feb. 6, Darrell Hillaire was elected to a second term as chairman of the Lummi Nation.

The Lummi Indian Business Council chose Perry Adams to serve as the tribe's vice chairman. Sheri Williams was re-elected treasurer; William Jones was elected secretary.

The officers and winners of the Jan. 25 election were sworn in that evening. Council terms are for three years; the council has 11 members.

The election results:

Position A -

Tim Ballew, 343

Ray Morris, 334

Position B -

Henry Cagey, 367

Gordon Adams, incumbent, 316

Position C -

James Wilson, incumbent, 359

Charlie Scott, 325

Position D -

Merle Jefferson, incumbent, 362

Dean Williams, 322

Out of 1,001 registered voters, 696 votes were cast. Penny Hillaire, sister of the chairman, was not a candidate for reelection for Position A.

"I want to thank all those who have supported me as a leader of this community," Chairman Hillaire said. "We have a lot of work to do and a lot of issues to solve, but I humbly accept this great honor to serve as chairman."

The swearing-in of the chairman, officers and council members followed in the wake of a challenge by Adams, who alleged that Cagey had registered relatives to vote absentee although they were not qualified voters. Cagey said the relatives - including his mother and brothers - live in Whatcom County as required by law and are enrolled members of the Lummi Nation.

Cagey's election was upheld after a council hearing Feb. 5. "Any normal government would do the best they could to protect the integrity of the election process," Hillaire said. "The challenge is a normal demonstration of that."

The new council seems uniform in its priorities, such as fighting drugs, boosting economic development and providing more housing opportunities for tribal members.

Chairman Hillaire said the fight against drugs on the reservation is a top priority. He said the Community Mobilization Against Drugs plan will "provide a safe, supportive and attractive community and living environment for all members of the community."

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Hillaire also cited economic development and education as priorities.

Position A

Ballew is a former tribal council chairman and works in the tribal probation department. He said he supports the council's initiatives, specifically the crackdown on illegal drugs and alcohol abuse. During the campaign, Ballew called substance abuse a region-wide problem and said he supports education as a weapon against drugs.

Position B

Cagey served as tribal chairman for nine years before losing reelection to the council in 1999 by two votes. When he was first elected to the council in 1989 at age 29, he was believed to be the youngest tribal council member in Indian country. He served as a vice president of the National Congress of American Indians in 1997-98.

Cagey wants to create more jobs for Lummis at the Silver Reef Casino. "The employment rate is 40 percent (Lummi). It should be a lot higher," he said. "Yakama's is 100 percent. In my view, 40 percent is not acceptable. There are a lot of people ready to go to work."

Cagey wants to examine how money is being spent on recovering and reburying bones dug up in 1999 by the City of Blaine's wastewater treatment plant construction; Blaine gave the tribe $1.25 million to recover and rebury the bones, and the nation dropped a $40 million lawsuit.

Cagey said more than $2 million has been spent on sifting through dirt for artifacts and bones; he said the money would be better spent on education and health services. "We should be spending money on living people, not on bones."

Cagey wants to develop more housing opportunities. Resolving the undivided land issue could open up land claims to 600 tribal members. A large portion of the Lummi Reservation cannot be developed because it is tied up in undivided heirships - land owned by heirs of original allotment owners. In many cases, the owners don't live on the reservation, are not tribal members or cannot be found. One 80-acre parcel has 300 owners.

"Housing is the foundation of keeping strength in the family unit. Without it, it's really hard for our families to raise their children," he told The Bellingham Herald during the campaign. "We need more homes that they own, not rent."

Position C

Wilson, a fisherman, wants to continue helping displaced fishermen find work. He also wants to work on protecting the watershed and salmon.

"That's pretty near all we have left out here and we are losing it - the watersheds are the environment for fish to grow in," he told The Bellingham Herald during the campaign.

Position D

Jefferson, the tribe's natural resource director, wants to finish some natural resources projects. The Lummi Nation is in court trying to resolve treaty-related conflicts over the Sandy Point tidelands, water rights and salmon recovery.

Jefferson also supports casino expansion.

About the Lummi Nation

The Lummi Nation has 4,000 enrolled members. It is located in the northwest corner of Washington state, eight miles west of Bellingham, 100 miles north of Seattle, and 20 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border.

The nation occupies more than 12,500 acres of land on two peninsulas, and holds 8,000 acres of Puget Sound tidelands surrounding the reservation.

Its economy consists of salmon and shellfish hatcheries, a seafood processing plant, a convenience store, marina, and foreign trade zone. Its natural resources consist of salmon, crab, clams, oysters, herring, forestry, agricultural land, ground and surface water, and tribal tidelands.

The Lummi Nation's education system consists of Head Start, elementary, middle and high schools, and Northwest Indian College.

Correspondent Richard Walker reports from the Pacific Northwest. Contact him at (360) 378-6289 or by e-mail at