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Lummi chairman re-elected: Council may revise banishment policy

LUMMI, Wash. - Darrell Hillaire was elected Feb. 2 to a third term as chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council. William Jones Sr. was elected vice chairman; Gerald I. James, treasurer; and Sheri Williams, secretary.

The vote by his council colleagues came after Hillaire's re-election to the council by Lummi voters on Jan. 24. The chairman's position is full time and salaried. Council members receive $50 per meeting.

Hillaire continues his chairmanship as the Lummi Nation undergoes considerable economic and social change. In September, Lummi will open a new 120,000 square-foot school. Northwest Indian College is planning a new campus and Silver Reef Casino is expanding.

The council continues its campaign to stem the tide of substance abuse - called the Community Mobilized Against Drugs, or CMAD. CMAD's most controversial - and, for many Lummi people, most painful - policy is that of banishment for those convicted of drug dealing.

Lummi spokesman Aaron Thomas said Feb. 10 the council is considering a "second chance" policy, in which banishment is reserved for those convicted a second time.

"We want to be as cautious as possible," Thomas said. "We need to take a stand against drug dealers." He said the Lummi council is trying to balance the fact that some dealers "have shown no remorse," while others say family members convicted of selling drugs have changed.

Twenty Lummi tribal members have been arrested for drug dealing on and off the reservation. Drug dealing is considered a scourge on the Lummi reservation, where 26 percent of the population was unemployed in 2001; another 20 percent was employed but had income below the poverty level. Those figures come from the Northwest Area Foundation, which funds anti-poverty efforts in tribal communities.

The Lummi Council is also considering an all-out ban on alcohol sales at its convenience stores. It closed liquor sales at the tribe's two convenience stores Jan. 23 - 24, the day before and the day of the Lummi elections. Liquor sales were closed for two days in November after a one-month-old baby was killed in an alcohol related vehicle collision.

"If you are addicted to alcohol, then get help," Secretary Williams said in a press release. "If you need that help, we as council are here to assist you in any way to get treatment."

The General Council unanimously voted (28-0) to recommend that the tribal council remove liquor sales for at least two days this year. The General Council is a body of voting members of the Lummi Nation, age 18 and older.

Other efforts: Lummi Council members, health officials, law enforcement communicate regularly with other law enforcement agencies, the FBI, Indian Health Services, hospitals and pharmacies.

CMAD maintains a database of tribal members who get prescriptions for OxyContin, a highly-addictive painkiller that has been problematic in the Lummi Nation. If someone is found to be on OxyContin for an excessive period of time, the appropriate agency can visit the user and investigate.

Lummi set up cameras in the McKenzie neighborhood to document and discourage drug activity there. The Lummi Housing Authority uses drug dogs to investigate suspected substance abuse. Money given to residents to help pay utility bills is now given directly to the utility.

On Oct. 30, renovation began on a former apartment complex, which will become a youth treatment center.

Election winners Hillaire and Perry Adams were re-elected to three-year council terms in January. Elden Hillaire, the chairman's cousin, was elected to a position vacated by Leroy Deardorff, who chose not to seek re-election.

A coalition of four women - Penny Carol Hillaire, Kristin Kinley, Laverne Lane-Oreiro and Candice Wilson - ran in the primary, the largest group of women to run for elected office in a single year in the Lummi Nation's recent history.

Coalition members told the Bellingham Herald they will continue to press for more women on the council, improved health care and health care funding, easier access to tribal services and more tribal resources for real estate and unique land issues.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at irishmex2000@yahoo.com.

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