In a festive atmosphere featuring traditional drumming and singing, mixed with contemporary music, the new San Carlos Apache Tribal Council was seated on Dec. 4 at the Apache Gold Casino Event Center during the 2018 inauguration ceremony.
The stands were packed with Tribal members from the four districts who showed up in support of their council members.
There were also dignitaries from local, state and federal level and included members of the Globe and Miami councils, including Miami Mayor Darryl Dalley, Globe Mayor Al Gameros, City Manager Paul Jepson and Economic Development Director Linda Oddonetto.
Paula Antonio sung the National Anthem in the Apache language and the opening prayer was performed by Bishop Fernando Pechuli of the World Evangelism Revival Center. The master of ceremonies was KYAY Apache radio personality Ardell “the Godfather” Ganilla and the San Carlos Apache Veterans Association presented the colors.
Sitting Tribal Council members were introduced prior to the ceremonial introduction of the members-elect. The councilmembers are John Antonio, Jr., Seven Mile District Council; Velasquez Sneezy, Sr., Gilson Wash; Jonathan Kitcheyan, Bylas District; Ned Anderson, Jr., Bylas, and Dr. John Bush, Peridot.
Recently elected council members were introduced one-by-one. Simon Hooke of Gilson Wash was escorted in with a large contingent of family and supporters to take his oath for his third term on council.
Allred Pike, Jr., of Bylas, is entering his second term and was introduced to the sound of Christian rock, but other council members took a more traditional approach.
Bernadette Goode, of Seven Mile, entering her seventh term in office, was escorted in by a large group to the sound of traditional drumming and singing in the Apache language.
The youngest councilmember, Valerie Key Cheney, of Peridot, is entering her first term on council and was accompanied by family members and supporters.
Re-elected Tribal Vice Chair Tao Etpison was escorted in with security, as was the chairman, who entered to chants of “four more years.”
After the oath of office was administered by Honorable Chief Judge Karla Cassa Comanche, each councilmember-elect spoke to the people.
The oath read, in part, “I will defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the amended Constitution and bylaws of the San Carlos Apache Tribe against all enemies in my capacity as a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council…. And I will faithfully and honorably discharge the duties of my office without favoritism to myself, or any member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. And I will faithfully defend the rights of all members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe alike, so help me God.”
The oath of office ended with a traditional prayer by Leroy Kenton.
The speeches began when Hooke thanked Jesus, his supporters, his wife of 35 years and family for their support. He spoke about his service in the U.S. military and the importance of remembering Apache heritage.
“What you practice is what you see today,” he said. “We have a small reservation here, but we have a big heart: We’re Apache. We can never forget that.”
Speaking next, Pike said that he was “nothing without God” and the people of Bylas who put him in office. He also addressed the problems facing the reservation such as crime, garbage being dumped in the desert and sub-standard housing for Tribal members.
“It is an honor, but it is a stressful job. We do this because we love our community,” he said of his service on the council. “All the stress we go through is for the community, for the people of the great San Carlos Apache Tribe.”
Pike added that everyone has to work together and the council needs to create timelines in order to get things done.
Goode talked about bringing the “American dream” to Tribal members, meaning jobs, food, clothing and health care to the people of the Reservation.
“We must all show support for one-another,” she said. “Seven Mile is my home. And I love Seven Mile, I want to see it prosper: I want to see good for Seven Mile and not just Seven Mile but for the San Carlos Apache people.”
She also talked about the council’s responsibility to the Constitution. She called for a bold vision and an aggressive agenda for council.
Key said she chose to run because of the people of Peridot and to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. She too enumerated problems the council must face in order to fulfill its duty to the Tribe and returned to her theme of “homes, jobs, water: the basics of life.”
Key talked about the homes with no electricity that are falling apart and people living in fear of crimes and violence against themselves and their families.
“The only time you really fail is when you totally give up,” she said.
“I’m Peridot born and bred: I’m not a seasoned politician, but an everyday woman,” she said. “It’s not a job I’ll take lightly.”
Former Tribal Chairman Wendsler Nosie introduced Etpison and praised his service to the Tribe.
“The outside world is making more obstacles for us,” he said. “If we fail to protect the people, we fail.”
He also praised the new councilmembers, saying, “They are the leaders we need for tomorrow.”
Etpison returns for a second term as vice chairman under the leadership of Rambler.
He said the job of council is to “protect the assets of the Tribe to make sure we prosper.”
“This is a billion dollar community and I am happy to help guide this Tribe,” he said. “The people have the power.”
Finally, Rambler spoke. He was elected to council in 2004 in the Bylas District and was re-elected in 2008. Rambler became Tribal Chairman in 2010 and won a second term in 2014 by a landslide.
Rambler said he “represents no one district,” but all the people of San Carlos and then enumerated his accomplishments as Tribal chair, such as the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation and Medical Center and his work to bring recognition to the Tribe with the U.S. government and said he hopes to have clean water for all people living on the Reservation by next summer.
“During our campaign, we made promises, promises that we intend to keep,” Rambler said. “We promised four more years of continued growth and opportunity: four more years of unity and collaboration.
“Today, I humbly recognize your choice,” he said. “I recognize the duty and the responsibility you have conferred upon me.
“I stand before you as an Apache, as a man to tell you I accept [that responsibility],” he said. “I will fight to preserve our reservation, expand our water rights and protect our natural resources.”
He added that like the words of John F. Kennedy, “ask not what your Tribe can do for you, but what you can do for your Tribe.”
The inauguration was followed by a meal for all in attendance.
After the inauguration of the new members of Tribal council on Dec. 4, the full council met and in a unanimous vote, approved Per Capita payments — per cap — for all Tribal members.
There will be three disbursements of payments scheduled, the first on Dec. 21, in time for Christmas, followed by another in mid-July 2019 and another next December, according to Peridot District Councilmember Dr. John Bush.
“I voted for it because the people need it for Christmas, but the decision was made because of the election,” Bush told the Moccasin. “We’re taking some of our savings but our people need the money.”
The per capita payments will come from a $63 million settlement with the U.S. Government for mismanagement of natural resources. Bush said the payouts will cost about $27 million in total when the final payments are made.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to replenish it,” he said. “We’re the leaders and we’re supposed to make the right decisions.”
The payouts were approved by a unanimous 11-0 vote.
For information contact the Tribal office at 928-475-1600.