National figure ousted after historic run as chairman

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BISMARCK, N.D. – Marcus Wells Jr., former vice chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, is now officially that nation’s chairman. Wells was sworn during the early morning hours after the Nov. 7 election, having garnered 1,936 votes to former Chairman Tex Hall’s 1,369.

Hall, one of the most recognizable names across Indian country in the past few years, was the first chairman of the MHA Nation to serve two consecutive four-year terms as chairman.

There were hints that Hall would be in for a political battle when he finished second to Wells in the primary elections in September.

Hall leaves some unfinished business on the table – a plan for an oil and gas refinery, a new hospital and 24-hour care center, a transfer of land back to the tribe from the Garrison Dam project and a new constitution.

Wells distances himself from Hall on the constitutional measure. Wells is against the proposed constitution because, as he said, the chairman would have too much power because the council would be relegated to a legislative body that would meet only once a year, similar to that of the state Legislature.

Hall claimed that a separation of powers was needed for the MHA Nation.

Wells plans to continue many of the projects already started. The hospital is scheduled for completion in 2009, and an $8 million school project is planned, which Wells supports.

Wells, however, is not totally enthusiastic toward the oil and gas refinery. He said he questions the potential environmental impact on the land, but had not reviewed any environmental impact statements before the election.

Wells advocates an open administration with a more inclusive government and working with the tribal council.

He said he would put into place an economic development plan that is based on feasibility studies, and also plans to increase the wages for employees at the Four Bears Casino and continued full employment for the nation.

Wells served on the tribal council for the eight years Hall was chairman; for the last four years, he was vice chairman.

The day after the election, Hall’s staff cleared their desks and departed the tribal offices.

Hall served as president of the National Congress of American Indians for two terms and is involved in many national American Indian organizations. He is currently the executive director of the Intertribal Economic Alliance and on the board of United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck.