LAME DEER, Mont. - A tribal court order allowed Northern Cheyenne Tribal President Geri Small to resume her duties on Feb. 21. The court claims she was illegally removed from office on Feb. 4 by the tribe's elected Legislature. It also ruled that any action taken by the tribal council in Small's absence be repealed.
In a statement after the ruling, Small said it was her "hope that future victims of unlawful tribal council action use this victory to protect their rights."
After the court announced its ruling, members of the tribe's Legislature staged a walkout. This prompted the tribe's hereditary leaders to take action. The traditional leaders met with both parties and attempted to maintain order.
Councilman Eugene Little Coyote, who led the charge to suspend Small, said officials seeking Small's ouster are not surprised with the Feb. 21 decision.
Small was suspended without a hearing on Feb. 4 for alleged mismanagement of tribal finances and programs. After the 5-4 vote by the Legislature to suspend Small, she claimed her constitutional rights had been violated. The invalid suspension and the court ordered reinstatement have made tribal headquarters a tense place. Police officers, members of the Legislature, hereditary leaders and local residents packed into the building.
In the end, meetings between the tribal leaders and the Legislature, including separate discussions with Small, diffused the situation. Their final decision was to allow the matter to be resolved in tribal court.
In a report in the Feb. 21 Billings Gazette, Leonard Elkshoulder, a member of the council of Traditional chiefs, stated, "As chiefs and society headsman, our job is to provide a peaceful resolution. We wanted a peaceful resolution for both sides."
A hearing on Small's suspension is scheduled for March 6 in tribal court.