Valley’s First Tübatulabal ‘Mayor’ Wants to Make His Term Count
Rocky Stone was elected mayor of Whiskey Flat, California in February. But he doesn’t have a town budget to manage, he doesn’t have to preside over council meetings, he doesn’t have to tend to important municipal matters.
The post is honorary, the election part of the lower Sierra Nevada town of Kernville’s annual Whiskey Flat Days celebration February 14-17. “Whiskey Flat” was the name of the community during the mid-19th century Gold Rush. You win by raising the most money; past Whiskey Flat mayors have had names like Dog Ear Dave, Moonshine Mike, Calamity Carrie, Tenderfoot Tony, and Mean River Gene.
But Stone is taking his election seriously. He is the first member of the Tübatulabal Tribe elected Whiskey Flat mayor in the 42-year history of the event. Running as “Rango Rocky” – a reference to the current drought – he out-fundraised his opponent Nicole Kent (aka “Nickel & Dime Nicole”) to win the mayoralty and raise $30,188 for the tribe, 4-H, and the local chamber of commerce, which sponsors Whiskey Flat Days.
Stone, 61, is a utility technician for a mineral company. He’s also an elected member of the Tübatulabal Tribal Council; he said the tribe will use the money he raised for office supplies and “to keep the office open.”
His goal for the year of his honorary mayoralty: To raise awareness in the Kern Valley about the Tübatulabal Tribe, its history in the valley, and its efforts to establish a formal relationship with the U.S. government.
The Tübatulabals signed one of 18 treaties in 1851 that the U.S. Congress failed to ratify. Many Tübatulabals live on land allotted to them by the U.S., and the council has worked with IHS to accomplish clean-water and wastewater improvements on the allotments, which are considered “Indian country” under 18 U.S. Code § 1151. But the relationship with the U.S. only goes so far. In 2011, then-chairwoman Donna Miranda-Begay received a rejection letter from the White House when she asked to attend the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.
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