Tribal Members File Petition on Settlement Money
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
A group of Hoopa tribal members gathered signatures over the weekend on a petition calling for a referendum vote to equally divide $49.2 million in trust fund settlement money among the tribe’s membership.
Danielle Vigil-Masten, Sharon Branham, and Viva Campbell, lead a grassroots committee working to bring the issue to a vote.
“We’ve been rocking it today,” said Vigil-Masten. “I think we’ll be done by the end of the weekend. Our goal is to have it turned in on Monday.”
The group rented the conference room at the Tsewenaldin Inn in downtown Hoopa over the weekend. Inside, volunteers sat waiting to check people’s names against the list of enrolled and registered voters from Tribal Elections.
“We had to turn a couple of people away because they weren’t registered to vote,” Vigil-Masten said. “They’re going to go down and register to vote Monday.”
By Saturday, Oct. 20, at around 5 pm, the group had gathered over 100 signatures, and more tribal members kept showing up as word spread through Facebook about the petition.
The volunteers told people to ‘tell your friends to tell their friends to tell their friends to come down here.’
Rhonda Bigovich, one of the group’s volunteers, was behind a banner marked with the first seven letters of the alphabet.
“These ladies have been at it seven months now,” Bigovich said. “I’m just helping out today.”
The petition calls for an election to be set up according to tribal election laws, with two yes or no questions on the ballot.
It asks if 100 percent of the trust fund settlement money be distributed among enrolled tribal members, and it asks if fifty percent of minor’s shares should be distributed to their parents if they request it.
In addition to the volunteers staffing the Tsewenaldin conference room, volunteer George Moon was taking the petition door to door to elders who couldn’t travel to the inn.
Branham said, “We work hard to do this for our people.”
The group completed their signature drive and turned the petition in to Tribal Elections on Monday, Oct. 22.
If Tribal Elections verifies that there are at least 240 valid signatures of enrolled and registered Hoopa tribal members, then an election would be held within 45 days.
Vigil-Masten said, “Now we’re going to concentrate on rocking the vote.”
The Hoopa Valley Tribal Council has called for a general meeting on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 for the membership to address the trust fund settlement.