Dissident Says Canceled Election Proves His Point
CARNEGIE, Okla. (AP) _ The leader of a two-day protest at the Kiowa Indian compound over a vote for tribal chairman says it helped demonstrate that he and his followers are ″not afraid to act in our own behalf.″
″In the future, after having learned that we can act, and if it becomes a matter of need, we will do it again. We still have the opportunity to go back if we want to. We can continue our fight to straighten things out,″ Herschel ″Ace″ Sahmaunt said.
Sahmaunt began the protest Thursday to try to head off an election Saturday for tribal chairman. He had won an election for that office in June, but was later disqualified from serving or from being on the ballot in the new election.
The voting Saturday was canceled, but not because of the protest, according to a tribal member who was at the Kiowa’s temporary headquarters and would not give his name. He said that since the dissidents controlled the original ballots in the compound, tribal officials hastily had new ones printed and some were faulty.
After the cancellation, Sahmaunt and about 50 of his followers left the tribal compound.
Sahmaunt said the protesters feared Bureau of Indian Affairs officers outside the Kiowa complex would remove them. ″We wanted to leave with our heads held high,″ he said.
Merle Zunigha, a bureau official for the area, said, ″We’re relieved nobody’s been hurt and at least this part is over.″ He said no decision had been made about filing charges.
Sahmaunt, principal of Elgin High School, says his election as tribal chairman in June was thrown out because of an incorrect interpretation of the tribal constitution to mean that anyone who has ever owed the tribe money for more than two years is ineligible to run for office.
Sahmaunt said he has repaid $400 he once owed.