The Crow Multipurpose Building was filled with more than 300 people late Monday morning for the inauguration of six senators to the Legislative Branch – three returning and three newly-elected.
Returning senators include Carlson “Duke” Goes Ahead, serving his fourth term in the Pryor District; Patrick Alden Jr., serving his third in the Big Horn District; and Victor Nomee, who ran unopposed – a first in Crow legislative elections – serving in the Lodge Grass District. Newly elected senators include Shawn Real Bird of the Center Lodge District, Frank Whiteclay of the Black Lodge District and Harold Male Bear Stone Jr. of the Mighty Few District.
All six were sworn into office by Judge Leroy Not Afraid, repeating that, as elected officials, they “solemnly swear to serve the Crow Tribe and the Crow people with utmost diligence, honesty and integrity.” Sen. Real Bird, in giving the oath of office, chose to speak in his native language.
Giving “all of the credit” to event organizers, Speaker of the House Knute Old Crow said – while he doesn’t tell other senators what to do – economic development has become a main focus for the Crow Nation.
As the inauguration continued, one of the tribe’s most recent purchases, the former Battlefield Express Center – now called the Crow Nation Express Center – held a soft opening to welcome new customers.
Each senator, Old Crow said, will go about fulfilling their goals in their own way while also working as part of the group.
“It’s always economic development, because of the shortage of jobs, the shortage of houses,” Old Crow said. “Quite frankly, there’s a poverty situation that we want to remedy and we’ll keep plugging away at it until finally, some day, we can achieve that goal.”
For example, Sen. Whiteclay, who worked three years for the Old Coyote Administration as a systems analyst and desktop manager, intends to use his business background and tech experience to help the Crow Tribe be economically self-sufficient and stabilize the government.
Under the direction of Information Technology Manager Vincent Bad Bear, Whiteclay helped bring systems imaging and air fiber programs to fruition for the tribe, which he said helps save them an annual amount of up to $250,000 and $125,000 respectively.
“The computer infrastructure was way far behind and we did a feasibility study for each program to get them computers to be compliant with their grants,” Whiteclay said. “With the systems imaging, we were able to reuse old computers…so the grants and programs that were under-budget and over-budget were able to acquire Windows 7 with the ability to upgrade to Windows 8 and Windows 10.”
Sen. Goes Ahead, who expressed happiness that – as a four-term senator – he seems to “be doing a good job,” is nonetheless thankful for the new add-ons.
“It’s good to have newly-elected, because they have a passion and energy that’s really needed,” Goes Ahead said. “Hopefully, we can help them to become good lawmakers and to be positive, but also to be outspoken of their moral issues when it comes to creating good legislation for the Crow Tribe.”
In the keynote address, former Sen. Jonathan D. Stone cautioned incoming senators to stick to their values, citing an incident where he followed the group and voted against his conscience with Judge Not Afraid, before both changed their minds along with former Sen. Jared Stewart.
The change, he said, was brought about by Vice Chairman Dana Wilson, then a senator, who voted opposite everyone else.
“He said ‘Wilson. Mighty Few. No,’” Stone said. “Leroy and I looked at each other like, ‘What happened? We have one guy here who’s willing to stand his ground.’ Leroy jumped up, raised his hand and said, ‘Speaker, I want to know if I can change my vote.’”
Though Wilson’s stand failed to convince the majority of the senators, Goes Ahead, who was present during the vote, admitted they were right.
What Wilson and company opposed, he said was giving away legislative authority to approve funding under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, called “638 funding,” to the Executive Branch.
“We’re settling that with the current administration right now,” Goes Ahead said. “It’s going to be a lot better.”
According to Old Crow, all senators will be going through orientation next week to refresh their knowledge of the 2001 Crow Constitution, rules of order, old business and new business.