Tribal Council Appoints Elders Benefit Working Group

Apr 7, 2017

AKWESASNE — In accordance with the 2013 Tribal Election and Referendum Ordinance, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is continuing to take action on the referendum question that was presented and approved by tribal membership on Saturday, Tsiothóhrha/December 4, 2016. The first step was the appointment of an Elders Benefit Working Group to examine options for bringing about the central purpose of the referendum, which was completed this past week.

“The Tribal Council has been busy during the past several months as we continued to take measures to help bring about the intended purpose of the elders benefit referendum,” said Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance. He added, “Tribal seniors are a vulnerable segment of our community whose needs we have always made a priority and will continue to take seriously when considering programs and services that provide the greatest benefit.”

The Elders Benefit Working Group will work in unity with the Tribal Council, the Office of the Executive Director, the Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel, and other tribal staff as needed to find realistic and reasonable options for an elder’s benefit, while protecting services that assist the entire membership and the community of Akwesasne. The Group is comprised of seven (7) tribal members who represent a cross-section of community members; with youth, adults and elders all having a voice.

On Enniskó:wa/March 22, 2017 the Tribal Council signed TCR #2017-18 that authorized the appointment of the following five (5) tribal members to serve on the Elders Benefit Working Group: Lois Thomas, Gary Burnham, James Ransom, Diane Boots, and Brayden Sonny White. The appointment of the five initial members was followed on Onerahtohkó:wa/April 5, 2017 with the signing of TCR #2017-20 that added Chessie Thomas-Panuelo and Dorothy Costello.

“Tribal Council has established the Elders Benefit Working Group to explore options and give recommendations for a program that will benefit tribal seniors,” shared Tribal Chief Eric Thompson.

To be eligible, interested candidates needed to submit a letter of interest with a statement of background; as well as be at least 18 years of age, an enrolled tribal member, pass a criminal background and drug test, reside within the Tribe’s jurisdiction or the designated 15-mile radius of the Tribe in the United States, and to be of good moral character and reputation.

The appointment of the Elders Benefit Working Group concludes the process; as specified in the 2013 Tribal Procedures Act; for the establishment of boards, commissions and committees. The process began with a community callout for members that was presented at the Tsiothóhrha/December 10, 2016 Monthly Tribal Meeting, with a deadline of Tsiothohrkó:wa/January 27, 2017 to formally express interest.

Following the deadline, the Tribal Council met with members of an elder’s group in Tsiothohrkó:wa/January 2017 to review the submissions and make recommendations for appointments. Letters were sent to each successful candidate to accept their appointment to the Elders Benefit Working Group, along with a deadline for the completion of a background check and drug screening.

Some of the tribal members initially selected were unable to complete the requirements, which resulted in additional acceptance letters being issued, along with the same timeframe for completion. This contributed to a delay and two separate Tribal Council Resolutions being issued to complete the individual appointments in assembling a full Elders Benefit Working Group.

“I want to personally thank the seven tribal members who have accepted their appointment to the Working Group, as well as for their willingness to volunteer their time to research and present reasonable recommendations,” said Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. She added, “They will begin their work knowing they have the full support and cooperation of the Tribal Council, Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel, and others, as needed.”

The Elders Benefit Working Group will hold their first meeting in a few weeks to determine their meeting schedule and work to be undertaken; along with setting a deadline for providing a final report that will include recommendations of funding, financial impact on existing services, and various benefit models.

Future updates on the Elders Benefit Working Group will be provided, as they become available.

# # # #

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