Five candidates are vying for two Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council seats, as elders proceed with efforts to recall sitting council members and the chairman.
Marjorie Borst, Lorelei Cloud, Renee J. Cloud, Kevin R. Frost and incumbent Alex S. Cloud are in the running for the two open seats. The election will be held Nov. 6.
Tribal council terms are unlimited, and elections for the seven-member council are staggered over three years. The 2015 election is for seats occupied by Alex Cloud and Ramona Eagle.
This summer, the Southern Ute elders initiated recall efforts targeting Alex Cloud along with fellow council members Melvin J. Baker, Tyson Thompson, Amy J. Barry, James M. Olguin and Chairman Clement J. Frost. Because she is serving the remainder of former Councilman Howard D. Richards’ term, Eagle has been exempt from the recall.
As part of a “revolution of the elders,” several met Sept. 3 to discuss the recall, the perceived need for new leadership on the governing board and which candidates they support.
For the recall, 275 eligible voters must sign a separate petition for each individual council member under fire.
Petition numbers were to be presented this month, but tribal elder Lynda D’Wolf told The Durango Herald on Friday that the signatures likely won’t surface until after the election.
If Alex Cloud is re-elected but later recalled, he would be able to serve six months of his term before having to step aside, D’Wolf said.
“But we (the elders) have two candidates running for council, so we probably will take him out with the election itself,” she said.
If other council members are recalled, they also would serve six months before stepping down.
For the November election, elders support Kevin Frost – nephew to the council chairman – and Renee Cloud.
“Kevin is educated; he’s a lawyer,” D’Wolf said. “We need people who can read contracts. Renee has a master’s degree. They both can read. Some on the council can’t even read, and they agree to everything. We need people that are educated and understand the culture and the language.”
Kevin Frost has vied unsuccessfully for a Tribal Council seat in the past. He did not return phone calls seeking comment but pushed his platform at last month’s meeting, telling elders professionalism was lacking on the council.
“I want my tribal members to come first,” he said. “It takes elders, not people in their 20s, saying, ‘I know.’ They repeat the same mistakes. This has been going on since I was 10. Everyone is still the same. I wonder why we allow ourselves to be stuck in the past?”
Elders estimate they now number less than 150 within the approximately 1,400-member tribe, and their voices are dwindling. They complain that the sitting council appoints too many non-tribal members to government positions and the members lack work ethic, education and appreciation for Native culture.
Elders also protest the Southern Ute Community Action Programs, which they say has outlived its purpose, employs only two tribal members and does not benefit elders.
The elders will meet next week to go over the groundwork for their two candidates’ campaigns.
Lorelei Cloud, who works with the Southern Ute Growth Fund, said she did not have a comment for the Herald about her candidacy.
Attempts to contact the other candidates as well as sitting councilors were unsuccessful.
Registered Southern Ute voters can cast ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Sun Ute Community Center. Tribal members must register to vote no later than 5 p.m. Oct. 28.