Cheyenne & Arapaho leader fights BIA “usurpation” of tribal authority

Concho – Cheyenne and Arapaho Governor Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell intends to fight what she deemed “the erroneous and egregious decision” of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Concho Agency to release all funds, held in the Tribes’ per capita payment accounts, to the suspended Lieutenant Governor, Leslie Wandrie-Harjo. 

The BIA’s Concho Agency action on per capita payments seriously undermined the rightful and duly-elected government of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, a release from tribal leadership said last weekend.

“The individuals composing Harjo’s faction are electing their own tribal leaders, setting up their own court system, and apparently now, due to Concho Agency’s serious gaffe, have fraudulently intercepted the Cheyenne and Arapaho People’s December per capita monies to fund this rogue government,” Prairie Chief-Boswell stated. 
“Suspended Lt. Governor Leslie Harjo is being aided and abetted by federal employees of the BIA in her campaign to usurp tribal authority. The BIA’s continual and serious actions to degrade Cheyenne and Arapaho sovereignty should not go without penalty.”

Each year the Tribes generate revenues leasing land, natural resources, and grazing rights. Those revenues are initially collected by the BIA and released to the Tribes for disbursement to members. December “per capita” payments come from this money. (Historically, the per capita revenues are transferred from the BIA to the Tribes for distribution to each living tribal member.) However, the Concho Agency’s Acting Superintendent Scott McCorkle released all of those funds, over $750,000, personally to Leslie Wandrie-Harjo, who has claimed the governorship of the Tribes for over a year. Her assertions have been quashed by the Tribal Council which overwhelmingly rejected her claims.

“This latest action is a display of her leadership and judgment and merely reinforces the position of the Tribal Council that Ms. Harjo is not suited to lead these Tribes,” Prairie Chief-Boswell said. 

“Ms. Harjo has acted irresponsibly and without the People in mind. Even if she believes her claims to the governorship are valid, she certainly must understand that the government must continue to operate. She acknowledged in a recent Facebook post that, although she intercepted the per capita monies, she had no way of distributing those funds without access to the tribal rolls. What this means is that the money that always goes out to our tribal members right before Christmas will certainly be delayed and the amount most likely reduced.”

Harjo has said she set up a bank account for the purpose of depositing the per capita monies. Such a transaction may, itself, money. Prairie Chief-Boswell said the amount transferred to Harjo, $758,781.12, may be reduced by the time it reaches tribal members because a portion would be needed to establish the bank account.

Governor Prairie Chief-Boswell has written to Acting Superintendent McCorkle asserting that Harjo is not authorized to draw monies on the Tribes’ behalf. The tribal chief executive made it clear that disputes on tribal leadership have been resolved internally. The BIA is not authorized to make determinations as to the leadership of the Tribes, and Acting Superintendent McCorkle has been notified of the Tribal Council’s ratification and confirmation of the new Supreme Court, its support for Governor Prairie Chief-Boswell, and rebuffs of attempts to overthrow the government.

“As the duly-elected Governor of the Tribes, I expect that the BIA will continue to observe its own stated policy of non-interference in tribal matters,” the Governor’s letter states.

The Governor has reached out to the U.S. Department of the Interior, alerting and advising the Department of the Concho Agency’s continued meddling in tribal affairs. Governor Prairie Chief-Boswell said, in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, she is evaluating the Tribes’ legal remedies if the BIA does not work to correct the present situation.