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Women of Kickapoo Tribe Protest in Okla.

December 22, 2003

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Ten women belonging to the Kickapoo tribe have barricaded themselves inside tribal headquarters, saying they won’t leave until their tribe is investigated for misuse of funds.

The women _ ranging in age from 19 to 50 _ took over the headquarters Friday after finding a back door unlocked. The group then piled desks and filing cabinets against the doors, keeping tribal police at bay.

The headquarters is located in McLoud, about 20 miles east of Oklahoma City.

The women say their protest stems from a recent tribal election board ruling that threw out the results of a recall election that would have removed tribal chairman Tony Salazar from office. They also allege money from the Kickapoo casino has been misspent by its leaders.

Salazar did not return a call seeking comment Sunday, but told the Shawnee News-Star on Friday that funds were being properly spent.

Auchee Wahpepah, a tribal elder, said that while in the headquarters, the group has examined tribal documents that suggest questionable practices.

``They need to make people accountable for the misuse of funds,″ said Glenda Deer, 50, one of the protesters.

Family members and supporters have been bringing food, water and medication.

``They’re very proud of us,″ Wahpepah said. ``They’re praying for us.″

The women also said they want their tribe’s assets frozen, and urged members of the tribe’s business committee to resign.

The women had recently asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to mediate. It was unclear if they would be charged.