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Wasco people prepare to vote for new chief

Six candidates on ballot

   By Duran Bobb
   Warm Springs Correspondent
   The Wasco people of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have been without a chief since the passing of Nelson Wallulatum in June 2010.
   After nine public meetings, as well as several in-home meetings, Tribal Council representatives have made the decision to go forward with an election process.
   "Four of the six candidates have agreed to an election," Tribal Council representatives said. "We agree that the process to choose a Wasco chief should proceed with a vote among the Agency District Wasco people."
   The candidates are Garland Brunoe, George Clements Sr., Grant Clements, John Katchia Sr., Alfred Smith Jr. and Derek Tasympt.
   Eligible voters will cast their ballots for the new chief on Oct. 30. The vote will be organized and conducted by the Vital Statistics Department.
   The last public meeting on the subject was held Sept. 4, with four of the candidates present to hear concerns.
   "At the last meeting, we made the formal announcement," said Charles V. Jackson, one of the facilitators for the Wasco meetings. "Basically, we told the people the vote would be at the end of October and presented a timeline of crucial dates."
   Other facilitators who have overseen the meetings have been Mike Clements and Terry Courtney Sr.
   The timeline presented indicates that a list of eligible Agency District voters was posted on Aug. 23. A finalized list will be posted Oct. 1.
   At the two most recent Wasco meetings, there was a show of hands, indicating that the majority of the people favored a voting process in selecting a new chief.
   Nine Wasco meetings over two years have only raised more questions regarding the voting process, the traditional process, blood quantum and district enrollment.
   "A lot of people have said that if you're Wasco and registered in the Simnasho District, you shouldn't be able to vote," Jackson said. "Blood quantum is not going to be considered. There are too many errors in that area, in regards to vital statistics. For example, siblings are shown to have completely different Wasco blood quantum levels. If we wait for all of those errors to be corrected, we'd still be in the same predicament this time next year, waiting."
   There are two approaching crucial dates in the timeline presented. Eligible voters will have until Friday, Sept. 28, to make corrections to the list of those qualified to vote. That is also the last day to submit names for the Wasco Elder Panel which will oversee the voting process.
   Oct. 14 is the last day for eligible voters to request an absentee ballot.
   Before the decision was made to proceed with an election, the tribes sent out surveys to 1,200 members of the Wasco district. Of the surveys returned, 80 percent preferred to move ahead with an election process. Fifteen percent wanted to move ahead in another manner.
   Sworn on to Tribal Council in 1959, Chief Wallulatum was the longest serving chief in the history of the Confederated Tribes. He was 84 when he died, so it's not exactly clear what traditional values were used when he was chosen to lead his people. Much of that history has been passed down orally through the decades.
   As the tribe prepares for the election, there remains a vacant seat on Tribal Council. All three chiefs of the reservation's tribes have a lifetime seat on the tribal governing body.