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Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today 

Sarah S. Channing was sworn in as chief to the Seneca-Cayuga Nation this week, becoming the first woman ever to hold the position.

“As we all do, I follow in the footsteps of the generations before us who endured unspeakable hardships to make our lives possible today,” Channing said. “The need to preserve our language and culture has never been greater.”

Channing will oversee about 5,500 tribal members across the United States. The Seneca-Cayuga Nation is one of three federally recognized tribes of the Seneca people in the country and is based in Oklahoma. It has been a chartered tribe for 83 years.

She replaces Chief William L. Fisher, who served for seven years. He decided not to seek reelection so he could spend more time with his family.

“I appreciate the support I have enjoyed from our tribe and the elected officials I have served with,” Fisher said. “I’m confident I have the leadership of our tribe in good hands.”

Channing won the vote by 33 percent and faced three other candidates, including another woman, Sharon Katie Birdsong.

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Elections for council persons, the Business Committee and the Grievance Committee also took place.

Channing congratulated the elected officials and said, “We look forward to working together to build a stronger government, improve the delivery of services and find new enterprises and job opportunities for our people.”

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Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at Benallie was once the opening act for a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas.

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This story has been updated to add that Chief William L. Fisher served for seven years and did not seek reelection.