Could the Hia-Ced District of the Tohono O’odham Nation dissolve come tomorrow’s primary elections?

Tohono O’odham Vote Saturday on Dissolving Troubled District

Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan

The Tohono O’odham Nation may dissolve one of their districts if there are enough votes in their 2015 Primary Elections.

The Initiative Proposed by Petition INT-01-14 is entitled “Dissolution of the Hia-Ced District.” Lorraine Eiler submitted the Initiative to the Elections Office of the TON in Sells, Arizona, on December 3, 2014. Eiler, a Hia-Ced O’odham, was one of the TON Legislative Representatives for the Hia-Ced District until the Hia-Ced District removed her.

In the TON Initiative Publicity Pamphlet, there are statements from Eiler and other Tribal Members for and against the Initiative. According to the pamphlet Eiler states the Hia-Ced District is only concerned with money and not supporting or helping Hia-Ced District members.

Eiler adds, “The 2013 Budget line items, salaries, per diem but also mileage of $51,076 and $0 for Membership Assistance. The 2014 Budget also includes an increase in the mileage to $55,500 and total of four line items of $47,000 for membership.”

Eiler goes on to talk about an open Hia-Ced District Council meeting she attended in December 2013 and was not happy with the way the District Council members handled decisions.

On the contrary, Hia-Ced District Chairwoman, Christina Andrews feels that the INT-01-14 is personal and political.

“When will this injustice stop not only to the District by the Nation,” Andrews said. “All we want to do is build homes, develop our community in terms of programs and physical infrastructure. Over the past year we are spending money and time defending the desires of our constituencies.”

When the Hia-Ced District found out about the Initiative, they launched a “VOTE NO on INT-01-14 Campaign.” Andrews said the district felt it was important to education TON members on both sides of the U.S./Mexico Border. The district’s presentation touched on unfounded accusations of embezzlement, defining original intent, misrepresentation of dissolution, and Hia-Ced District is a viable district.

“We are presenting what we feel are the issues since we were never given a presentation by Lorraine Eiler and her supporters (as to why she filed the initiative),” Andrews said. “We also have our attorney Verrin Kewenvoyouma assisting us in researching legal aspects.”

The Hia-Ced District became the 12th district of the TON in June 2013.The Hia-Ced O’odham is a band of O’odham in Southern Arizona with its traditional lands stretching west to Yuma, Arizona, north to Phoenix and as south as Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

The Hia-Ced O’odham meaning sand people were never recognized by the federal government and were thought to be extinct at one point. However, in the 1980s the TON did work and help the Hia-Ced O’odham on varies issues like health care and college funding.

If INT-01-14 passes, the Hia-Ced District will be dissolved. All 2013, 2014 and 2015 funds whether budgeted or not will be returned for equal distribution to the 11 districts. All positions within the district will be terminated and no further payments of any kind will be made or processed whether pending or submitted.

All enrolled Hia-ced District members will transfer back to their previous district or will be able to select the district or regional area where their parents are from. Hia-ced District property, purchases and rentals will become property of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

All compiled information concerning the Hia-ced O’odham will be entrusted to the Tohono O’odham until legal standing is acquired.

Hia-Ced District land becomes an executive branch asset and not part of any district.

Resolution 16-84 under the Tohono O’odham Nation will continue in legal and financial assistance to Hia-Ced matters. All Hia-Ced District Resolutions become null and void.

All confiscated documents pertaining to the Hia-Ced District financial findings will remain with the proper authorities until full adjudication is completed through tribal, state, and federal jurisdictions. And lastly, all actions will commence after the enactment of this initiative.

The 2015 TON Primary Elections will be April 25 and their General Election will be May 23. 

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