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Peoria Tribe elects first woman chief

MIAMI, Okla. - The Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma has elected Robbie Hedges its new chief. She is the first woman elected to the position.

Some years ago, a woman who was a second chief took over duties as chief following a resignation.

Being a woman never came up as an issue in the election process, she said. "I thought maybe because my name is Robbie and they don't know who I am."

The Sept. 2 special election followed the resignation of Chief Joe Goforth.

Hedges' decision to run wasn't for any lofty political ideas. "There was one person running and at that point, nobody had given any indication that they would run, and I believe people need a choice, so I ran."

She will serve the 18 months remaining in Goforth's term - until the next general election at which time a chief will be elected for four years.

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Hedges, a former office manager, is getting used to her new job. "I had no political agenda. The political arena is not where I ever saw myself," Hedges said.

"My main thing is to help people remember the concepts of respect and simple human kindness; we have essentially lost sight of that in this dog eat dog world."

As a mother and grandmother, Hedges fills in her spare time with family, which she says is very important to her. She wants to see her children and grandchildren inherit a better world, she said.

Hedges is following a family tradition of service to the tribe. Her grandmother was very involved with tribal affairs and was the oldest member of the tribe at her death at 108.

Her biggest obstacle in tribal government will be proving herself as a leader, she said. "Not only for those who don't know me, but even for those who do." She added that tribal members shouldn't expect to see a shake up in tribal employees because she isn't there to rock the boat or to fire people.

Her main goal is to unite the Peoria people. "I just want everyone to see things as a whole, not lose focus on one primary function that the tribe is involved with. I just want to see everyone united.

"I know I can't change the world or the tribe. I can't change my family sometimes. I hope to make a positive difference and get everyone focused as a whole."