Diver wins Fond du Lac vote
Members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have their first female tribal chairwoman. Karen Diver won Tuesday's tribal election, earning more votes in all three reservation districts than her challenger, Clarence "Chuck" Smith. Div...
Members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have their first female tribal chairwoman.
Karen Diver won Tuesday's tribal election, earning more votes in all three reservation districts than her challenger, Clarence "Chuck" Smith. Diver received 649 votes to Smith's 370 votes out of 1,019 regular and absentee ballots cast.
A large crowd gathered at the Fond du Lac Tribal Center Tuesday night to watch as election judges counted the ballots. The room erupted in cheers as the final vote counts were read.
"Fond du Lac has been so progressive as a tribal nation, there are so many opportunities available to us," Diver said Tuesday night. "It will be a challenge for the Reservation Business Committee to come together and capitalize on our strengths."
Diver said one of the first tasks she would undertake as chairwoman is to shed more light on some of the decisions that have been made surrounding the current Black Bear Casino expansion -- specifically, how the band plans to pay back $119 million in debt on the project.
However, an election challenge may be coming from Smith, according to relatives.
Smith's sister, Carol Smith, attended the ballot count on behalf of the candidate. She said Smith was considering filing an protest, based on how band members' names and addresses were gathered to make absentee ballots available to them.
Clarence Smith, reached by telephone late Tuesday, said he was discussing his options.
The election results will be certified today. Any challengers have until Feb. 6 to file a protest.
If a protest is filed, the matter goes before the current tribal council for a decision.
About one-third of eligible voters cast ballots in Tuesday's election. One was 22-year-old Daniel Barney.
"I want to see the rez going in the right direction, more towards the people," Barney said. "I'd like to see better jobs for young people."
The new tribal chair becomes the head of the five-person Reservation Business Committee, sometimes called the tribal council. The RBC is directly or indirectly involved in most of the business on the reservation - businesses that have grown to about $300 million in value and employ about 1,600 people.
The four-year term pays about $125,000 per year, depending on how long the chair holds the office, a past Fond du Lac tribal chairman said.
JANNA GOERDT covers the communities surrounding Duluth. She can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5527 or by e-mail at email@example.com .