West Segment Representative Candidates Meet and Debate in Mandaree

By Sherry Stevens, Editor

Mandaree, ND – KMHA 91.3 FM Radio assisted in broadcasting The West Segments Representative Candidates Political Forum at the West Segment Water Chief Hall in Mandaree on Thursday, August 27th. Present were Candidates seeking a position as West Segment Representative in The MHA Nation’s Business Council. Following are names set to the ballot in the upcoming November 2020 elections. The event was broadcast live while candidates took to the podium to inform voters of why they should be chosen for the office as West Segment’s Representative and what services they had to offer should they win this year at the ballot box. 

Candidate Speakers include; Koty Brugh, Kelly Bradfield, Lewis Gwin, Harriet Goodiron, William Reeves, and Gladys Sherry Turner Lone Fight. Each was given a 10-minute window to outline their policy to the onlooking and listening community members.

Each candidate took liberties to spell out their position in effecting change and improvement within the MHA community. They did this by outlining their upcoming term agendas and carefully highlighting their experience and ability to carry forward if elected. Below is a summary of each of their speeches:

Candidate Koty Brugh made an appearance telephonically and opened by announcing his team will be fully ready at the scheduled Candidate Dinner Rally on September 22nd and invited listeners to stay posted on the details regarding that event by indicating a desire for full member participation.

First on Brugh’s agenda was Tribal healthcare; if elected, he would like to look into changing the Tribe’s current health insurance provider, Boone, to Blue Cross / Blue Shield of North Dakota.

He also expressed an urgency in taking steps to preserve the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation’s culture. In turn, he expressed an open concern for some members’ apparent insulation from vital Tribal culture exposure through the overuse of cell phones, and other electronic apparatus by stating, “Much of today’s technology gets in the way of keeping our culture alive.” 

He moved onto concerns over environmental health, air pollution, and agriculture by stating his intention to, “[P]rotect today’s ranchers from many things like the ongoing effects the pandemic has had on the rising price of meat throughout the United States and here on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Brugh also mentioned the importance of equality among Tribal employees, and all members need to have a voice. He also drove home the need for awareness and authority’s attention to the widespread drug epidemic within the MHA community. He cited a definite need for more treatment centers and aftercare.

He qualified his intentions by stating, “I am talking from an open mind and an open heart, and if you want change, I am the guy who will step up.”

Candidate Kelly Bradfield also attended the event telephonically in part due to COVID safety measures and concerns describing her idea of an elected position as being, “[O]ne of servant leadership. This position should not be of power and should not be of authority. Instead, serving the community fairly, equally, and respectfully. It also should be approached from a position of continuous learning and not thinking you ‘know it all.’”

Bradfield also believes the peoples’ voices need to be heard, valued, and respected. When it comes to decision making, she stated, “I am very stern, proud, and fast.” She described the issue of instituting comprehensive protective measures for the elders within the community to fall back on. Further stating, “If I am elected, I will make sure our elders have a voice and will acquire this through the development of an Elders Advisory Committee.” Also cited were concerns for veterans and much needed support as she intends to continue by working through the community board to form a West Segment Veteran Center to assist veterans with health care costs, housing, education, and employment assistance.

Bradfield further added her intentions to work with federal and state agencies by assisting in making needed changes to many of its programs, including the MHA Nations local schools’ mental health awareness and facility services, various corresponding forms of healthcare, and finally, substance abuse programs. She also mentioned federal housing programs such as those that facilitate remodeling and working with programs to help everyone have a home.

Bradfield brought up a point about needing transparency in MHA Governmental operations by performing comprehensive audits and by implementing more supervision on each federal program as to ‘what and how much’ is being spent.

Candidate Lewis Gwin spoke in the Hidatsa language for the first portion of his speech, saying, “I figured since we were Hidatsa, I should speak in the native tongue.” Lewis drove home the notion of the importance of ‘community.’ This appeared to be a fundamental cornerstone of his speech and motivation in his campaign as he stated, “Our community needs to come together, and many of the answers we seek to help our community can be found inside of our community.” He intends to work to improve law enforcement and especially for the children stating, “[S]o they can play in a park [setting] without worrying about harm coming their way.” This led to the overall need Lewis sees to protect the MHA Nation’s children, as a whole community, in order to make it better and safer for the children.

Lewis addressed the budget process in local and government-funded programs, and his desire “[T]o create a way where everyone is equally assisted.” He is demanding change in a lot of programs stating,    “[W]e know how it is and it doesn’t have to be like this.”

His next item was on the subject of leadership as he stated, [We need] the people working for the people and not the almighty dollar”. Lewis also offered up his background of diversity and years working with people of different races and backgrounds as he has also experienced working in many locations around the United States. He believes everyone has a voice their voice needs to be heard. Again, he stood on the topic of community and its dire need to come together by stating, “I want to be the one to bring everyone together to help bring change for the better of everyone, and that everyone has a voice that needs to be heard.” He described himself as a conduit (referred by his late brother, Alex), “I want to be that conduit for the community, and I need your help as I cannot do it alone. I cannot make this community a better tomorrow without your support and vote.”

Candidate Harriet Goodiron first commented on noticing many familiar faces as she grew up in the community and spent the last 64 years living on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and has worked within the MHA Nation Community since the tender age of 13. She cited much experience and knowledge gained during those years, and she quipped a light-hearted joke about singing her story to the people, “I’ll sing you my storyyyy…” she started to melodize. She mentioned feeling a commonality amongst herself and many of her fellow candidates as they shared a similar vision for the community, but then she distinguished with, “There are many matters still needing to be addressed.” She stated she was very happy about being present to address these matters and speak on behalf of West Segment and what she can do for the community, further detailing, “We need each other to go forward in the community. The community is our home, where we grew up. Where our children are going to grow up, we want it to be the best it can be.”

In her details about growing up in West Segment, she stated she has always attended community meetings and remembers attending with her grandfather, and more specifically, meetings addressing matters of limitations and powers within the constitution in regards to segregation of power. She further noted how 47 years later, people are still talking about the perplexities of this matter. She would like to find a way to make a change in the community, to tackle the topics such as; requiring more fiscal eyes on what is being spent, more comprehensive audits performed, and a need for everyone to work together in securing this well-needed change.

Her biggest objective is to see the community shine by starting from the ground and being built up together. She stated, “I promise to do my best for you, but I need your support, and I hope we can continue to help each other.”

Candidate William Reeves began his speech about memories as a child visiting Mandaree and Little Shell with his grandparents. He spoke about his background in military school and the knowledge of hard work and knowing the struggle of providing for a family while being young. He talked about his motto of being empowering to the people by community and engagement and what it means to have accessibility by anyone to the new Representative. He demonstrated some occasions of how in the last several years, he has taken phone calls that weren’t his to take, and he began to question the callers, “Why do you call me?” and they answered, “Because you answer the phone,” or “You answer the text.” He feels he was ready to help the community in the past but didn’t have the family blessing, which he now has.

Some of the things he mentioned as important points to consider are:

Having 24-hour availability on-call access to authority and special services to be set up for the community where a person can call whenever, when in need of help, and talk to an appointed person, like the police.

An appointed and regularly scheduled time where the community can come together and simply enjoy a coffee with your council member(s). Where you can just come and visit. In support of this, he mentioned, “How it used to be like this but over time, it has stopped.

Reinstatement of the community board and direct line to the elders having more community gatherings besides holiday gatherings. Community gatherings where we all can sit down together to be involved in budget decisions and plan it out without anything being secret.

A fiscal year budget and on how changing it will make it more accessible

The Community Center needs to be increased in size, and he further went on to compare it to the new Twin Buttes Community Building saying, “There are kids at the court right now, but I know they would rather play basketball in a [larger] gym. It’s needed here.”

Learning the Hidatsa language better by an application platform called ‘The Endangered Language Program,’ “it’s a software program where they (students learning the language) can utilize technology such as phones etcetera, to learn Hidatsa – in order to keep it alive and going, for our youth.

Healthcare budgets, EMS, Firefighters also need to be included everywhere for higher education grants as some fell through.

Drug abuse in the West Segment Community needs a safe haven followed by a statement, “Be part of the solution. We can all throw stones but step up to us and tell us how to fix it. This is our community. Have pride, we are Mandaree!”

Candidate Gladys Sherry Turner Lone Fight:

“I stand before you as a candidate for West Segment. I will be a loud voice, but a respectful voice for our West Segment. I will be honest with you about the challenges. I will do my best to keep you informed. I will ask you for help. Together we must be strong. I will be reaching out to you for your help.” Lone Fight mentioned the employee status quo will not be affected if she is elected into council. However, the employees will be held accountable, and a lot of restructuring will need to be in place for success.

Lone Fight further stated, “I am not a person to take food off of people, and we are living in trying times. I want to establish a community elected board for accountability and ownership of our community. She made several points about the direction she would like to take the community if she were to take the seat as Representative:

Beautify our community; no more ‘third world’ appearance. Who knows our community best? You do.”

She talked about having an assisted living center for the elders and making sure elders in the community have three meals a day, every day, regardless of the virus situation and social distancing requirements. She further mentioned the need to have staff on duty to help the elders, such as; cleaning their homes and spending time with them.

Lone Fight turned discussion onto the youth of Mandaree and the need to have better youth and activity centers for them which would give way to better opportunities.

She led into the need for accountability within the Tribe and the need to account for all of its business assets.

She turned the discussion onto the need to implement trade skills in education, such as banking.

 Animal control, she asked the audience, “Where are they?!

Drug testing; the need for and with everyone, starting with herself, expressing the overall concept that everyone must take part in, if anyone takes part.

She added a big preference and desire for a Drug Rehabilitation Center for the community due to the importance and immediate need.

Changing health insurance.

More facilities and stores in the community.

Affordable housing such as apartments for single or small families.

A Boy’s and Girl’s Club Facility.

Lone Fight wants to provide all of these things with the help of the community; as she stated, “The future depends upon our ability to work together. Let’s work together, our West Segment needs a facelift. I will lead with your best at mind.”

Question and answer forum followed. The event began at 6:30 pm and was held in the parking lot, with corresponding tables and a section for community members to remain in their cars for comfort and to abide by strict COVID guidelines.