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aacimwita akima: The Chief Reports

Aya, ceeki eeweemakiki!

Greetings to you from your Tribal Headquarters in noošonke siipionki myaamionki Miami, Oklahoma. It is now aanteekwa kiilhswa (crow moon) and we are at the middle of our Tribal work year, and nearing the date of our annual general council meeting on June 30.

My year, personally, has been marked by two very low points, and one very happy event. When you read the obituaries in this edition of our paper you will read of the passing of two people very dear to me and my family. First, in August, my big sister Barbara Lankford Mullin passed away, and in late October my oldest sister Glenda Lankford Fetter also left this life. Our family is still reeling from these losses and our lives are very much altered by the departure of these great women. Pretty much anyone who has ever visited the Tribal headquarters in the past 22 years has met Barb. She was a right hand to our late Chief Floyd Leonard and was one of the individuals who helped start our annual winter dance as well as our pow wow. She worked for the Tribe as the Self Governance Program Director and served on many committees over the years. Some years ago my sister Glenda worked in the Tribal gift shop and so many of you may have met her as well. These women were like mothers to me and my sister Julie. They were over twenty years old when we were born and have been important anchors in our lives. On behalf of my family, I thank those of you who visited or were able to come sit with us during these departures, and those who shared cards, flowers, tears and hugs. We ask you to continue to pray for comfort as we grieve as well as for other citizens in our community who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

While death brings immeasurable change and an ending to so many things, birth is a wonderful event that brings incredible change and beginning, especially if it is the birth of a grandchild! Gena and I are so happy to announce the birth of our 6th grandchild, Fisher Glenn Lankford, born to our youngest son Kolby and his partner Stefani Ray. He is a healthy little guy and I look forward to having
another fishing buddy by my side! 

Our year thus far, in Tribal matters, has been a busy one as usual. We enjoyed visiting with Tribal members at the fall community gatherings in Indiana and Kansas and during the fall camp-out in Oklahoma. Spending time at these cultural gatherings with many of you was very helpful to me. Mihši-neewe.

Our 22nd Annual Winter Gathering was held in January (the 26th and 27th this year). This event is two full days of cultural sharing and has become a favorite for our community. Friday brought presentations, games, a big dinner, and story-telling, while Saturday included a language workshop, followed by the evening dances. We have been most honored by the overwhelming support and attendance of the Native American community in this region at our winter dance. The past three dances our building has been packed, and we are feeling somewhat cramped during the annual General Council meeting as well. With this “good problem” of needing more space, we tasked our grant writer, Flora Elmore, with writing an Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) to expand our Tribal Council Building. We are pleased to announce that the Miami Tribe was awarded this grant and construction is projected to be complete by our 2019 General Council.

Reflecting back on last year’s National Gathering Week events, we gathered in final days of paaphsaahka niipinwiki (mid-summer moon) and the events of the week started with our game day on Thursday, June 22nd. Like any good sportsman, I had my sights set on winning the archery competition. Things went pretty good but I ended up losing to my little buddy Jamison Williams who is only 48 years...my junior! Nilenkwilehsa beat me by one point! Back to practice for me! But big congrats to Jamison- mayaawi teepi!

The big community lacrosse game on Friday morning, as part of our Family Day event, is always a high point and I am looking forward to this year's game. At my age, I have learned to hover on the field and wait for play to come my way, at which point, I jump in the middle of it...and then happily watch it move on down the field. We all enjoy the game, no matter our age.  And believe me, it is all sport, and play gets really intense, but one of the highlights is to hear Myaamia people speaking Myaamia during the game. It can be overwhelming if you let yourself think about it. To hear “miililo” (give it to me), or “naatilo” (get it) while hearing sticks clacking together during the chase makes me imagine what a game would have sounded like when our great-great-great grandfathers wielded their clubs, along with their children and grandchildren. I smile to know we are the living Myaamia, and that we echo our ancestors in word and action and that our voices and steps will sound forward as time passes for our Nation.

The annual meeting of our Myaamia General Council is truly the pivot point to our year. To come together with good hearts to conduct the business of this our sovereign Nation is of immeasurable importance for today, and for our future. This past year we reported on many positive actions and efforts, and updated citizens on the many member services provided by the Nation. We also said goodbye, in service only, to Secretary-Treasurer Sarah Moore, who chose not to seek another term of office, opting instead to dedicate all her time and energy
to her duties as wife and mother. And so now we have a new Secretary-Treasurer, as Donya Williams was elected to that position for a three-year term.
We also welcomed a newcomer to Tribal leadership, Tera Hatley, who was elected to fulfill a one year term as First Councilperson. Tera has worked for the Tribe for 12 years and had served on the Tribal Grievance Committee since 2009. She is employed as Member Services Coordinator and handles the Tribal Enrollment
Database. We also congratulated Rodney Henson for his re-election to a three-year term to the Tribal Grievance Committee and newcomer Chuck North (Tribal Police Officer) for his election to a three-year term to the Grievance Committee. We welcomed Cydney Daylight to her elected one-year term as Miami Nation Junior Tribal Princess.

It is our custom to bestow honor upon those who receive awards for their work or some other aspect of their life in which they have excelled or earned some merit while serving the Miami Tribe. During our General Council Meeting, we took the opportunity to show our respect as a community for our relative Daryl Baldwin and his wife Karen. As many of you are aware, Daryl was honored as a MacArthur
Foundation Fellow (Genius Award) in late 2016, for his hard work and commitment to the revitalization of the Myaamia language. Certainly, we wanted to show our respect to him for all he has done for us in this work. But we also wanted to honor his wife and co-worker, in the world of language revitalization and to thank her, on behalf of all Myaamia people, for her personal commitment, both in hands-on language work, but also in her role of supporting Daryl so that he could do this great work. The two were gifted with honor medals and Pendleton blankets which they humbly, and tearfully, accepted.

Our Miami Nation Enterprises dealt with some real challenges in 2016 and early 2017, and we in Tribal leadership worked hard to make the necessary decisions to support our business entity. We were pleased to introduce during the annual meeting the new CEO of Miami Nation Enterprises, Mr. Peter Murphy. Peter holds a B.A. degree in accounting & finance and has over 20 years of military service.

The next three months are going to be busy with planning for the 2018 National Gathering and Annual General Council Meeting. We enjoy this work and look forward to seeing everyone participating in cultural events and attending the meeting. Our Nation has grown so much, and the challenges of this growth are at the heart of everything we do. We pray for wisdom, strength, and patience and ask all our relatives to join us in prayer, and good thoughts, for the care and protection of the Miami Nation, and for the United States of America.

In closing, I am confident in reporting that thus far this has been a good year for the Miami Nation both culturally and in our governmental responsibilities. Our accomplishments are many, but behind every accomplishment is a task, burden, challenge or responsibility and with these, in order to have success, there is a
committed team of individuals who work hard to design and carry out each event or meeting on behalf of the leadership and our community. On behalf of your Tribal leadership, I extend our great appreciation to these individuals for their service to the Miami Nation. 

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