The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has a new Chairman. Long-time Tribal Council member and former Wildlife Ranger Mike Faith defeated the well-known David Archambault in yesterday’s election. Not only did Faith win, but he did so with about 62% of the vote. A humbling – if not embarrassing – result for Archambault, who just a year ago gained national recognition with his role in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests.
While some are suggesting that Archambault’s handling of the protests wasn’t a significant factor in his defeat, I have a hard time believing that. For one reason, Mike Faith was also David Archambault’s opponent for the chairmanship in 2013 when Archambault won. What’s changed since then? I think that answer is clear.
Now, I am not suggesting that the Tribe somehow favors the pipeline. That’s simply not the case. In fact, Mike Faith himself opposes the pipeline. But it appears that voters at Standing Rock felt that the manner in which Archambault handled the protests should have been different.
Mike faith himself eluded to this with the following comments in an Associated Press article:
“We kind of neglected our own. We did what we had to do, but we didn’t realize we were going to hurt our economy that much.”
In discussing the neglect for their own people during the pipeline protests, Mike Faith was referring to things like “health care, education, elderly needs, suicide problems, illegal drugs and a poor economy”.
And he’s right. One of the unintended consequences of the DAPL protests was the resulting boycotts of the Tribe’s casino, which has been their most significant source of revenue for the reservation economy. According to a report back in February, casino revenue took a $6 million hit from 2015 ($14 million) to 2016 ($8 million). That’s not chump change.
And while the Tribe was taking the financial hit as a result of the protests, speculation was rampant that Archambault was actually benefitting financially from them, because he owns the only gas station in the area.
Another consequence of the protests are the stressed relations with government officials, law enforcement, local landowners, and North Dakotans in general. In November of last year, the North Dakota Legislature cancelled it’s traditional “Tribal-State Relationship address”. An address historically given during the first week of the Legislative Session.
An example of the need for healing these relations was found late last month at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. The Bismarck Tribune reported that:
“North Dakotans came together Saturday, Aug. 26, at a Native American cultural event to start rebuilding relationships strained by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
“Reconciliation was the theme of a discussion featuring leaders from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, an official from Morton County, a landowner on the pipeline route and representatives of the Bismarck business community.”
I believe that members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe understood that the only way to begin relieving some of the financial consequences associated with the protests was to begin mending these broken relationships. Thus the reason for the “cultural event” at the Heritage Center. And it appears this understanding culminated in the ousting of David Archambault as Tribal Chairman– giving them hope for a new day on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
3. http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/lawmakers-cancel-judiciary-tribal-addresses-to-legislature/article_55e4c325-4031-589a-98a0-edc4901e61a4.html 4. http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/news/4318313-cultural-event-fosters-healing-after-dakota-access-protests