Shalifoe re-defines referendum vote

BARAGA – Approval of a new Keweenaw Bay Indian Community casino could hinge on who shows up at a council meeting.

At Saturday’s meeting of the tribal Council, KBIC Treasurer Eddy Ewards said for any proposal to pass, “the people, through a popular referendum, would have to give their final approval.”

However the definition of referendum may be about to change.

Traditionally, the KBIC held such votes at the polls, but Tribal Council President Donald Shalifoe Sr. said he plans to institute a referendum procedure that consists of a vote of all tribal members present at the meeting where the decision takes place.

The tribe’s constitution states a referendum must be held to approve any tribal expenditure of $10,000 or more, but Shalifoe said it doesn’t define how that referendum should be carried out.

“$10,000 is a lot less than it was in the 1930s,” when the constitution was written, Shalifoe said, adding that at some point he might try to get that number increased.

Not all tribal members agree with the change, however. There was dissent when the proposal was discussed in council, and a proposed elections ordinance that would have helped define a new “popular referendum” was tabled.

Former long-time council member Fred Dakota said decisions on major issues like the casino, at least, should include the entire community, not just those that make council meetings.

“We should have a real referendum vote, not the new one here, but a full community referendum,” he said during the meeting.