Judges Panel Makes Decision
In a unanimous decision, a panel of three tribal judges has ruled that John Gilbert is the Tribal Chairman of the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, and his council the rightful tribal government.
In a ruling dated Dec. 12 and announced today, the tribal judges found that John Sinclair and his council’s term of office had ended as of midnight on Dec. 31, 2008, and that all actions, including purporteddisenrollments of tribal members, taken after that date were ruled invalid.
The tribal judges ordered that former Chairman John Sinclair and his council are to immediately transfer all property and financial records to John Gilbert and his council.
Tribal Chairman John Gilbert held a brief conference call with fellow council members Saturday morning to discuss their immediate priorities.
“Our Tribal Council is elated at this news and we feel we have been vindicated. Now it is time to get to work on matters important to our tribal members, including federal recognition, enrollments and provision of services, Gilbert said. “We will be setting up our Tribal office in Great Falls shortly, and scheduling a general Tribal Council meeting and celebration event”.
The dispute stems from a May 2009 election, which dissenters claim was wrongfully postponed and candidates were removed from teh ballot without cause.
In that election, Sinclair of Havre was voted in as chairman. However, members of the tribe who felt the election was unfair, held their own election in March 2010, creating the Little Shell Allicance and voting Gilbert of Great Ffalls as chairman.
A three-judge panel of tribal law experts met Dec. 12 in Great Falls to hear arguments in the case.