Tribal Council Issues Statement on Postponed Referendum

May 17, 2016

Akwesasne, NY — On May 5, 2016 the Community had been notified through the Indian Times Newspaper that a referendum was going to be part of the upcoming election on June 4th.The purpose of the referendum was to seek direction from membership on two proposed initiatives—medical marijuana and industrial hemp. A third referendum question was to obtain input on the criteria to be used to determine tribal membership.That referendum will now be postponed.During the afternoon of Wednesday, May 11, 2016, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council unexpectedly received notification from the Tribal Clerk that she would not certify the referendum questions to be voted on during the June 4th Tribal Elections.

In accordance with the Tribal Procedures Act (amended in April 2013), a majority of the chiefs voted to present three referendum questions to the community in order to obtain guidance from the membership on the proposed exploration of medical marijuana and industrial hemp, as well as clarification for determining tribal membership. As a result, Tribal Council prepared tribal council resolutions to present the following referendum questions before the tribal members for a vote on June 4th:

Question #1: Should the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe explore options to legalize, license and regulate the cultivation, production and distribution of MEDICAL MARIJUANA?

Question #2: Should the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe explore options to legalize, license and regulate the cultivation, production and distribution of INDUSTRIAL HEMP?

Question #3: Do you approve of TRIBAL MEMBERSHIP being determined by blood quantum or lineal descendancy?[ ] Lineal descendancy or [ ] Blood quantum

The tribal council resolutions were properly presented to the Tribal Clerk for certification of the tribal chief’s signatures, but the Tribal Clerk declined to provide the verification on the ground that she believed more time was needed to conduct community education on medical marijuana, industrial hemp and tribal membership. Even though the Council believed there was sufficient time to educate the public on these issues, with three meetings scheduled, without that certification the referendum could be subject to legal challenge, so the Council concluded that all it could do is postpone the referendum.

The Tribal Council is disappointed by the referendum’s postponement, as it delays the opportunity for tribal members to have their voices heard on these issues. It also delays membership from determining if tribal resources should be devoted to explore initiatives that may benefit the Akwesasne community,

The Tribal Council plans to present the questions by a referendum in the near future. In the meantime, the annual Tribal Election will proceed on June 4th from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Community Building for the election of one (1) Tribal Chief, one (1) Tribal Sub-Chief, one (1) Chief Judge, and two (2) Traffic Court Judges.


The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.