Jace Killsback

Northern Cheyenne Tribal Chairman L. Jace Killsback. 

ASHLEY NERBOVIG

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe's recently ousted president was the top vote-getter during a special primary election held last week, setting up the possibility he will return to the tribe's top elected office if he wins next month's general election.

Former President Jace Killsback received 342 votes in the Nov. 28 primary, according to the office of interim President Conrad Fisher. The second-place candidate was former tribal councilwoman Donna Fisher, whose 163 votes edged out Henry Speelman by just three ballots.

The Jan. 2 general election will be a run-off between the top two primary candidates. A total of 1,099 ballots were cast during last week's election, with tribal members voting for a field of eight candidates. Another 15 write-in candidates also received votes, according to Fisher's office.

Although a candidate, Killsback has also been contesting what he says was an illegal vote by the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council to remove him from office in October. He maintains he is still the duly elected tribal president.

While noting that the tribe's constitution does not prevent Killsback from running again or resuming his status as president if re-elected, Councilman Benji Headswift acknowledged Monday that the relationship between the council and the erstwhile president remains frayed.

"I personally would like to see him be held accountable for the nine complaints that he had against him," Headswift said. "Those issues are still there to be resolved as well."

The council has declined to make public the complaints it used as a basis for removing Killsback in October.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs later that month affirmed the legality of the council's vote, citing a "legal opinion" the council submitted to the agency's reservation superintendent. However, the BIA has not responded to requests for a copy of the legal opinion.

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Morning Reporter

General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.