When final Oglala Lakota tribal election results, including all resolved challenge votes, were announced Wednesday morning, Scott Weston’s tally of 2,721 votes to incumbent John Yellow Bird Steele’s 1,414 stunned even the winner following the November 8 election.
In the race for vice-president, newcomer Darla Black posted a solid 2,096 to 2,004 victory over Wanblee native, and three-term incumbent, Tom Poor Bear.
Weston was twice elected tribal council representative from Porcupine and served back to back two year terms from 2010-2014. Reached at his home following the election, the Tribal Chairman-elect expressed humility and gratitude. “First I want to thank our veterans for giving us the chance to live the lives we’re living. And I’m humbled the Oyate gave me this responsibility.”
Weston said that while serving on the council he began to develop ideas about a good way the tribe could go. “My number one initiative is to listen to the people. They want to be heard, they want economic development, they want change.
“The point I’ve made in the past is our constitution needs revision. Since it was installed in 1935, we’ve had to live by it. But we can change it. We can do surveys and go through referendum votes to change the laws so that they work for the people. So we don’t have to just sit here and be complacent because we think nothing works.
“This was my platform: to create a plan for a new process for change. We don’t want to obliterate our old constitution, but we can, based on our priorities, strategically plan a better way ahead. What are the most critical things we need to change? We can start that process now, and then move on to the next thing.”
A key provision for change, Weston believes, is that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has established a “Promise Zone” on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Promise Zone initiatives provide financial incentives for tribally chartered non-profit (501(C)3) organizations to seek community based infrastructure building solutions for their communities. “It’s through these Promise Zones, and programs like it, that I believe will lead to sustainability,” said Weston.
Because all elected tribal officials are limited to two-year terms, the Porcupine native said he is ready to get started. “We plan to hit the ground running, we’re not going to be like the past two administrations, we need to get business done – not haggling over everything.”
Still, said the incoming chairman, “change will not happen overnight. If done correctly, it will be a slow and well thought out process.” Weston revealed the first scheduled meeting for the newly elected council will be on December 6. Agenda items include the election of executive board members, to include the fifth member, secretary and treasurer at that meeting. The inauguration has been tentatively set for Friday, December 9, and will be held at the Porcupine Elementary School starting at 1 p.m.”
The wave that swept over the tribe’s executive branch missed most of its legislative office holders. Several recent elections saw tribal members voting in majorities of first time council representatives; however, out of 20 total council members, 2016 will only usher in first time council representatives from Oglala District, Valentina Merdanian and Stephanie Star Comes Out-Leasure, and, in Wounded Knee District, Lisa Jumping Eagle-DeLeon.