First Time Voters Want A Voice On CSKT Council
Tomorrow is the last day to vote in the tribal council election for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Early voting has been going on all week, and on Wednesday, some of the students at Two Eagle River School in Pablo who are old enough to vote went over to cast their ballots.
Rosendo Martinez: We just got back from the tribal complex, and we just got done voting.
Jaylen Ducharme: Most of us, this is our first tribal election that we get to vote for, so it ...
Eric Whitney: So this is the first time you voted ever, right?
JD: Yeah, like, ever, in our whole lives. It’s kind of exciting a little bit.
RM: It’s a great experience.
Martinez and Ducharme say they’re glad they can be involved.
RM: Because we are old enough to to be able to have a part in our future generations. To be a part of it, and help support what we believe is right.
EW: Think it makes a difference?
JD: Yes, I think it has to make a big difference.
One reason Martinez and Ducharme are so fired up to vote is because they helped organize a tribal council candidates forum that was held at Two Eagle River School.
RM: If I wouldn’t have went to the forum, I probably would not have voted. Because I wouldn’t have known - that put them in an uncomfortable circumstance and I seen how they reacted, and it helped me a lot with who I picked when I voted.
Martinez and fellow students in their Teacher Jaimie Stevenson’s Tribal History and Government class spent a lot of time putting together questions for the candidates. They said they were trying to get better answers from tribal council candidates than those they’d seen presidential candidates give in the recent televised debates they’d been watching in class. But Martinez says, that didn’t really happen.
RM: What our discussion, and what we came up with, all of our ideas and everything, were not very big deals to them. It wasn’t very big concerns to what they were dealing with. I feel like we were more asking to save and to help our people, and they were expecting to ask us more questions about financial issues.
Martinez says the students wanted to hear candidates’ ideas to help preserve tribal culture and languages. But he said the students’ top issue was:
RM: Drug use. Drug and alcohol abuse. That is a main thing that I could see, and I’ve experienced living on this reservation. But some of our candidates I feel don’t see that as a big issue.
Several students who helped organize the forum said they think the tribe needs to open a substance abuse rehabilitation center, to deal with what they say is rampant use of methamphetamine and other drugs.
But even if Martinez didn’t get satisfying answers to the students’ questions to candidates, he says the forum was worthwhile - and not just because they had a packed house of interested community members in the Two Eagle River School cafeteria where the event was held. He thinks it was good for the candidates.
RM: Just for them to be able to hear what us as students have to say, what we’re living through, so they get to hear our voices and they get to hear what we have to say about our reservation.