CROW AGENCY, Mont. - A new administration for the Crow Nation took the oath of office with the expectation of a future of wealth, intra-tribal healing and uplifted esteem for the nation.
As Chief Tribal Judge Donald A. Stewart Sr. administered the oath to new Crow Chairman Clifford Birdinground, he spoke of reconciliation. He told the new administration not to blame the past, but to learn from it.
"We must work to recapture the self-esteem that made our forefathers great people," Birdinground said.
The chairman and three other candidates were elected in May to replace the administration Clara Nomee presided over for 10 years. The newly elected officials were seated by a 2 to 1 margin. Nomee has a felony conviction for theft and was under heavy criticism by tribal membership for adopting a resolution that gave her power to make decisions without tribal council approval.
Birdinground said one of his first moves will be to repeal the resolution and open tribal government up to all the membership. Tribal members at the inauguration said they voted for the new administration to allow an open forum for the Crow membership to have a say in the government process. Most people said they stopped going to council meetings because they had no voice. Now, they said, "We have our voice back," and the next item on the agenda will be jobs. People blamed Nomee for having too much power.
But, the new officials said no economic development will come to the reservation without the help of a stable and honest government. They have worked the past few weeks in an office in Billings to categorize tribal programs and prioritize them.
Tribal advisor Luke Enemyhunter said change needs to come to tribal structure to develop accountability and not chaos. He added the new administration is ready for teamwork.
Trimming 150 programs to a dozen or so, is what lies ahead for the Crow Nation. Under the Nomee administration 150 program directors were hired, but Enemyhunter said the new administration may run the government with only 12 directors.
But, for a tribe that claims an unemployment rate higher than 70 percent and economic development that may only be a dream, there is a richness to the people and the land.
"I've never been in the presence of more millionaires," said Vice Chairman Vincent Goes Ahead Jr. "Your land is rich beyond belief."
Secretary Tilton Old Bull added that the water, land and minerals which make up the wealth of the reservation should be taken care of.
The Nomee administration will not go away quietly. After the election Nomee asked that she and many of her appointed employees be given millions of dollars in severance pay.
Goes Ahead said the people will decide that issue, but he added, there would be none. It's up to Nomee to present a resolution to the people. The council will not, he said.
At the first council meeting adult members of the tribe will be given a vote. One of the first items considered will be a proposal to adopt a new constitution.
The main focus from the new administration - communication with tribal members - pleases most of the membership, Goes Ahead said.