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CSKT Tribal Council elects McDonald as chairman

by SCOT HEISEL
Lake County Leader | January 12, 2022 12:00 AM

The Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes held its quarterly meeting Friday at the Tribes’ headquarters in Pablo, with the selection of new Council leadership high on the agenda.

The meeting opened with the swearing in of representatives elected in the Dec. 18 election, followed by prayer and a song by drum group Yamncut.

The Council then turned to the business of electing officers, including a new chairperson to replace Shelly Fyant of the Arlee District, who lost her re-election bid.

Pablo District Representative Martin Charlo opened by nominating Tom McDonald to serve as chairman. The motion was seconded and carried by a unanimous voice vote.

McDonald is a fish and wildlife division manager in the CSKT's Natural Resources Department. He claimed one of the Council’s two new at-large positions in the December election. Initial voting for the second at-large position is scheduled for 2023.

Members of the Council then selected three other officers — vice chair, secretary and treasurer.

Leonard Twoteeth of the Elmo District was elected vice chairman. Charlo, who previously served as treasurer, was elected secretary. Charlo then nominated Ellie Bundy of St. Ignatius as treasurer. Bundie previously served as secretary, and members quickly elected her as treasurer.

All officer selections were made by unanimous vote and without debate.

Along with McDonald, two other new members joined the Tribal Council on Friday.

Jennifer Finley now represents the Polson District after defeating incumbent Charmel Gillin in the December election.

In the Arlee District, former representative Jim Malatare rejoins the Council. Malatare represented the Arlee District nearly a decade ago. He lost his seat to Fyant in 2013, but won it back in 2021 as a write-in candidate.

Twoteeth is one of two incumbents who retained their seat in the most recent election. The other is Carole Lankford of the Ronan District.

Other current members of the Tribal Council include: Anita Matt of the Dixon District, who served as vice chairwoman during the previous Council; Fred Matt of St. Ignatius; James “Bing” Matt of Arlee; and Mike Dolson of Hot Springs.

Following the election of officers, the Tribal Council took time to honor longtime Tribal attorney Rhonda Swaney, who retired in December.

Swaney most recently served as managing attorney for the Tribes, overseeing a staff of 11 attorneys. She had held that position since 2014 and served as a legal representative for the Tribes since 2005.

She was voted as a member of Tribal Council in 1994 and was the first woman elected to serve as chairperson.

Swaney played a critical role in securing passage of the CSKT-Montana Water Compact and expanding the Tribes’ water rights.

Prior to working for the Tribes, she was employed in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Northwest Region office in Portland.

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