ELKO – Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone voters have rejected a petitioner’s effort to amend the tribe’s constitution on descendancy to do away with the requirement that members be at least one-fourth Te-Moak.
According to the unofficial results provided by U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Superintendent Joseph McDade, there were 312 votes against the proposal and 199 in favor. The ballot asked voters to say yes or no to changing the constitution so all those in direct lineal descent from enrolled tribal members could be enrolled.
“I respect the results. However, the vote was decided by only 13 percent of eligible voters,” said Shelly Herrera-White, the petitioner who got the question put to voters. “I am disappointed my initiative to move to direct lineal descendancy and end blood quantum and its detrimental effects on our tribe did not pass.”
She said that “many members’ children and grandchildren are now unable to enroll, which will eventually lead to the extinction of the Te-Moak Tribe.”
Opponents of the proposed amendment said they were pleased the ballot proposal failed.
“I am satisfied with the way the vote came out. It showed the majority of people who voted are satisfied with the one-quarter quantum degree,” said tribal member Lyle Yowell, a former BIA enforcement officer.
Felix Ike, a former tribal chairman and critic of the way the election was slated, said the “people were initially shocked” over the election process, but “we were happy it failed. The results speak for themselves.”
Herrera-White said in a June 30 email she believed had more tribal members voted “the election would have had a very different outcome.”
She said 2,300 election packets were mailed to enrolled Te-Moak members over age 17.
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“Over half of these packets were returned undeliverable due to the fact the Te-Moak enrollment office does not have members’ correct addresses. Thus, people both for and against lineal descendancy did not have the opportunity to vote,” Herrera-White said.
Ike said on June 30 that every general election for the Te-Moak Tribe has a small turnout.
Herrera-White, who lives in Las Vegas but is a tribal member, obtained 186 signatures on her petition seeking an election to change the tribal constitution. That was enough to require the BIA to call an election. The BIA oversaw the election done with mailed ballots.
Her concern expressed in an earlier fact sheet was that many current Te-Moak members are only one-quarter Te-Moak, so their children and grandchildren could be less that the one-quarter blood quantum, preventing them from being enrolled in the tribe.
Leta Jim, who has served on the Te-Moak Tribal Council and Elko Band Council and had spoken out against the election process, said on June 30 that opponents had arranged a community meeting to explain the issues.
“We were surprised. There was a good crowd. I think over 100,” she said.
McDade, Elwood Mose of South Fork and Herrera-White made up the election board for the tribe, which includes the Elko, Wells and Battle Mountain colonies and the South Fork Indian Reservation. The board counted the ballots after the 1 p.m. cutoff time June 28.
Results are posted at the BIA Eastern Nevada Agency office in Elko at 2719 Argent Ave.