As reported earlier, the results of the last tribal election indicate that the Northern Cheyenne electorate favors new and fresh faces to serve as their elected officials.
The upcoming election for both President and Vice-President will provide an opportunity for some to serve for two years, completing the balance of four year terms, caused by the resignation and quick departure of former tribal President L. Jace Killsback and the impending resignation of Vice-President Conrad Fisher, the exact date of his leave having changed several times, as the tribal council is loathe to let him go, recognizing the important of a steady, experienced hand at the helm.
Fisher, a veteran tribal servant, first extended his service so that the Tribe would not be leaderless in a time of election transitions. Second, on November 19, the new tribal council urged him to stay at the helm until mid-January when the election for President and Vice-President will be finalized. Personally, I think that was a wise decision. Graciously, he agreed.
As I have often written, leadership among the Northern Cheyenne is a heavy burden. While many of the brightest and the best seek this challenge, many more eschew it. In addition to dealing with frustrated and needy constituents, tribal presidents must constantly deal with federal, state and local county governments, which provide funding to keep the tribal government afloat, an ongoing struggle. They are expected to get economic development going in a very bleak and rurally isolated environment and finally, the biggest challenge keep the tribal council content as not to get impeached.
For example, since 1983, seven top leaders have been removed by the Tribal Council and others, while surviving office have been constantly beleaguered. Sometimes, it is puzzling why anyone would seek such heartache and stress. Many of our former leaders have inherited health problems, no doubt from the stress.
On the current slate of candidates for Tribal President there are some fresh faces in addition to many who have served before in one capacity or another. Conrad Fisher, by choice is not on that slate of want-to-be Tribal Presidents. Yet, now he is the acting Tribal President and by right as the Vice-President, under the tribal constitution, could easily step into that chair. A very traditional and respectful man, he has refrained from criticizing tribal government, only citing personal issues for resignation, though I assume that a rowdy powerhungry tribal council, usurping the authority of the Executive Branch, might be the real reason.
So, it is very interesting to learn that a grass roots effort is taking hold to conduct a write-in campaign for Conrad, a familiar and friendly face in the upcoming primary election for Tribal
President. A write-in campaign, while challenging is difficult, but not impossible as Llevando “Cowboy” Fisher proved in a recent election, winning the Tribal Presidency.
Conrad is not the architect of this current effort, not actively seeking this burden, in the manner of traditional chiefs. Yet, Fisher recently told me in a personal conversation, that if the people select him, he will serve. Duty to fellow kinsmen requires nothing less.
So, let me tell a little about Conrad, of my same generation. First, he is a very traditional man, coming from a long lineage of tribal servants, his grandfather, Henry Fisher, a previous tribal leader of long standing as was his Uncle Llevando “Cowboy” Fisher, thirty year tribal council member and two time Tribal President. They schooled him well about tribal service and the personal sacrifice associated with that.
Conrad is a fluent Cheyenne speaker, ever emphasizing the importance of that. He also has his own drum group, a very good lead singer, knowing many of the old songs and melodies, encouraging the young ones to learn. He participates in many of the Cheyenne ceremonies and his drum group is often on center stage at tribal events.
Conrad, who gained a bachelor’s degree and worked on a master’s degree, is also a fluent English speaker, more than once accused of having a “silver” tongue. For many years, he has been selected as the MC at the Battle of the Little Big Horn anniversary, representing the Northern
Cheyenne, gaining the attention and respect of both Native and non-Indian audiences. Conrad has also been frequently called upon to speak for the Tribe at many other state and national forums. Though I sometimes disagree with his environmental views, I also admire his eloquence. We need such a diplomat to represent the Tribe.
Conrad has been a successful man. For many years he was the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. During that time, it was very common for tribal elders to congregate in his office, drinking coffee, sharing stories and gentle joking. They liked him and he honored them. As Tribal Vice-President and now acting President, Conrad has followed that style. A tribal member can always see Conrad, and though he may not be able to solve their immediate dilemma, at least he provides a friendly and sympathetic ear, offering hope.
As THPO officer, Conrad was responsible for writing federal and other grants to keep that office going, filing many reports, completing detailed federal and state permits and keeping in good contact with funders and dealing with many large corporations. So, he is familiar with the responsibilities of federal program directors which the Tribal President, with the assistance of the tribal chief executive officer, must supervise, ensuring all goes well. If a federal program encounters difficulty, the dire brick of responsibility will fall squarely upon the Tribal President’s head.
Finally, Conrad, to my personal delight is a horse person, owning several and is thus a “Permittee”, leasing tribal grass, which gives him an affinity with local ranchers, the mainstay payers of grazing fees to keep the tribal general fund solvent.
Finally, I cannot resist a tease. A nice-looking man, he also follows another tradition of the old time chiefs. That is, having many good looking wives, some from other tribes.
Thus, I think we, as Northern Cheyenne voters should seriously consider the opportunity to join a write-in vote for Conrad Fisher.
Clara Caufield can be reached at email@example.com.
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