To The Editor
To The Editor,
I recently attended the first monthly community meeting of 2015. Those meetings are required to be held for the benefit of tribal members. I used to think of them as Tribal Council meetings but as time goes on, I realize that is the only place where all of the Chiefs will assemble, or most will assemble, most of the time, to be accountable to the tribal members. I guess that I have changed after going to these meetings.
The voice of the elders in Akwesasne really seems to be coming along, as was seen at the meeting. There is a clear divide in this community. When you are retired, unless you have someone giving you monetary assistance, you just have to somehow make it last all month. I think most of the seniors among us fall into this category. Some of the younger people, even some tribal employees, seem tone-deaf to these matters. Those that think that this situation is put on are likely still at a working age. It is all different when you finish working.
A lot was said about heating fuel assistance at the meeting. It sounds like the distribution plan for this program was changed once again. Once upon a time, notification letters were used to inform tribal members that they had an award and for how much. Then that stopped. At one time, a former Chief told me that the unused heating fuel assistance went back into the Tribal General Fund after a certain date. I feel that after all of these changes, a comprehensive report should be written to track how much has been spent, what went unspent, and what statistics are being kept to prove these decisions are sound. I like the idea of trusting the system when it all works out but I am afraid that no one person is able to bring the full story out. At least from the way that the program is presented anew each year.
It seems like a lot of our homes are not well-winterized or insulated. This leads me to believe that in future planning, the Tribal Council could see that less money would be spent on the heating fuel if the money was first spent on basic home winterization. Why not train the younger people in a Home Reinvestment program that would have these workers sent out to tribal member’s homes and do some basic improvements? There has to be a direct cost benefit to some new doors or windows for seniors and their homes, especially those with family living with them. We could be saving money within one year!
The Seniors Group that has been meeting on Thursday nights at 6 PM is seeking to have a $200 monthly assistance benefit established that would help with utility costs, food and medicine. It surprises me that some elected tribal officials and their highest paid employees would object to this initiative. The lack of support will be heard at the ballot box this year. I can see that even now. After one meeting this year, the energy level seemed low, not a lot of eye contact, the Chiefs looked tired.
If referendum questions are being established as one was about the monthly assistance for seniors, I have another one. Tribal General Fund program directors should be limited to a three year term of office management. After that they must re-apply for the job or take a demotion with a pay cut to stay in the office. Before the tribal election laws changed, these directors often were moved in and out. Not so much any longer. An adjustment is needed.
Peace be with everyone.