CONCHO, Okla. – Thanks to their tribes’ protracted leadership dispute, Cheyenne and Arapaho citizens will not be getting their December per capita payments on time.
According to a letter obtained by the Native Times on Nov. 26, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ agency office in Concho denied a drawdown request by the Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell administration from two of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ trust accounts. Among the withheld $3 million in lease funds are $1.6 million in oil and gas leases that provides an annual December per capita payment for tribal citizens.
“Regrettably, the Concho agency cannot honor your request for federal action as of this date because the agency does not know with certainty the identities of the validly seated governor, lieutenant governor and members of the legislature for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes,” agency superintendent Betty Tippeconnie wrote in the letter, dated Nov. 21.
The tribe has been dealing with a constitutional crisis for almost three years, with both Prairie Chief-Boswell and Leslie Wandrie-Harjo each claiming to be the legitimate governor. The two women ran for office and were inaugurated together in January 2010, but their alliance dissolved within a year over a series of allegations. Since the women’s political partnership fell apart, each has formed her own government, claiming to be the legitimate authority over the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Boswell and her supporters are working out of the tribal complex in Concho, while Wandrie-Harjo and her government is based out of nearby El Reno, Okla.
Federal law gives the Prairie Chief-Boswell administration 30 days to appeal the decision to the Southern Plains regional office in Anadarko or it will become final.
The Prairie Chief-Boswell administration did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement posted to her Facebook page, the other claimant governor urged her counterpart to negotiate a compromise in order to have the per capita payment funds released.
“All of us members need those per capita monies,” Wandrie-Harjo wrote. “We have suffered enough.
“Boswell needs to swallow her pride for the well-being of the members and meet w ith me and the BIA to get this per cap out or she needs to step down so the BIA and I can get the money out to the members.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court affiliated with the Prairie Chief-Boswell administration has not handed down a decision in either pending appeal of the tribes’ Oct. 8 primary election. The justices heard appeals from former governor and disqualified gubernatorial candidate Darrell Flyingman and tribal member and employee Joyce Woods on Nov. 15 and initially announced that a decision would be handed down within 10 days. No verdict had been announced by press time.