A tribe in Utah has removed its tribal chairwoman for receiving extravagant gifts from the Washington football team’s Original Americans Foundation.
The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah unanimously passed a resolution on Sunday accusing Tribal Chairwoman Gari Pikyavit Lafferty of going on an all-expenses-paid VIP trip to Washington, D.C., where she and family attended a Washington football team game in September of last year.
The Original Americans Foundation, a nonprofit funded by the Washington football team to garner support for its embattled team name, paid for Lafferty's travel, including room and board, according to the resolution.
During a hearing on March 31, Lafferty admitted to the accusations, and on April 2 she was officially removed from office.
“The role of a tribal official is to act to make the tribe better, but the actions of Gari Lafferty since she took office have served neither the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah nor its elected council,” Vice Chairwoman Jeanine Borchardt said in a press release sent to ICTMN. “Gari Lafferty’s actions served only her self-interest. We are deeply saddened in taking this action.”
Lafferty claimed at the hearing that she had previously filed a report to the Tribal Council informing the tribe of her travel to Washington, D.C. and the game.
“That is not true, and is not supported by the record,” the press release reads.
One week before she flew to Washington, D.C., Lafferty participated in the council’s conflict of interest presentation on September 16, the tribal council said.
“By soliciting and/or accepting these gifts, it gives the appearance that you, as the Tribal Chairperson and spokesperson of the Tribe, are allowing the WROAF to influence your position on a matter of public debate and controversy regarding the use of the name Redskins,” Sunday’s resolution reads.
After news broke Monday about the accusations lodged against Lafferty, an image surfaced on Facebook of Lafferty with Washington football team President Bruce Allen.
Facebook user Phil Gover tagged Lafferty to the photo and wrote, “Next time you take a bribe, don't post pictures of the crime on Facebook.”
Lafferty responded to the post several hours later saying, “Thanks. I’ll remember that.”
Former Paiute Tribal Chairwoman Gari Pikyavit Lafferty, right, poses for a photo with Washington football team President Bruce Allen, center. The Original Americans Foundation paid for her travels to Washington, D.C., to watch a game. Her family allegedly joined her during travel.
Washington football team owner Dan Snyder founded the Original Americans Foundation to stave the controversy miring his team prompted by the team name, which is defined by the dictionary as a disparaging and offensive term used to reference Native Americans.
This isn’t the first time the Original Americans Foundation has tempted Native Americans with money and gifts.
Last July, news broke that a tribe in California attempting to raise $250,000 for a skate park refused money from the Original Americans Foundation, calling the team name “inappropriate.”
Quechan tribal president Keeny Escalanti Sr. told the Associated Press that they would not accept the money and would not side with the team regarding its name.
“No, we’re not going to accept any kind of monetary offer to side with allowing them to utilize the inappropriate name for this NFL team,” he said.
Last October, disgraced Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly was photographed sitting alongside Snyder in a VIP box suite at a Washington football team game. Shelly, who has previously been charged with fraud, conspiracy and theft, was chastised on social media for acting against the will of the Navajo Nation.
Likewise, Lafferty’s removal from office was also due to a compounding record of misbehavior, the tribe said.
“The Tribe’s decision to remove the chairwoman was also based upon a larger pattern of behavior documented over a long period of time,” the press release states.
The tribe has scheduled a special election for April 30 where tribal members will elect their new chairperson. Per the tribe’s constitution, the candidates are the current council members.
The tribe will announce the results of the special election on May 1.