No longer recognized as the Northern Cheyenne Tribe’s president by both the Tribal Council and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Jace Killsback says he will likely file this week for an elected office he contends he still rightfully holds.
The tribe’s legislative arm last week set a Thursday deadline for candidates to file for a special election for Northern Cheyenne President. The primary election to select the tribe’s top elected official is set for Nov. 28, followed by a run-off election for the top two vote-getters at the beginning of next year.
The term would extend until the next regularly scheduled presidential election in 2020, according to a notice published by the council last week.
The Tribal Council voted to oust Killsback on Oct. 6, based on a complaint submitted by Councilman Dana Eaglefeathers that alleged Killsback lacked "the qualifications to hold his position and has failed to perform the duties assigned to him.”
Elected to a four-year term as the tribe’s president just under a year ago, Killsback has maintained that the council’s vote to remove him violated a judgment by the Tribal Constitutional Court the day before.
The council, however, has argued that an amended complaint was filed prior to the vote, satisfying the court’s initial judgment against Eaglefeathers — notably including a list of specific allegations against the tribal president that was missing from the original complaint.
Through its attorney, the council has refused to make those allegations public, and Killsback maintains he was never served with an amended complaint.
In response, Killsback on Oct. 24 filed a separate complaint with the court, asking the three-judge panel to void the council’s vote and affirm his status as the current president. The court has set a Nov. 6 deadline for briefs from the two parties, after this week’s filing deadline for the special presidential election.
“I most likely will be filing for candidacy under protest, not waiving my constitutional claim on my presidency,” Killsback said.
The council’s timing for the election, he added, was motivated by his recent court complaint, although Councilman Benji Headswift, who serves as the sergeant-at-arms and spokesman for the council, previously said he hoped to hold an election “as soon as possible.”
“They have a chance to respond, and that’s what’s funny about it, while they’re responding they’re holding an election to circumvent” the constitutional court, Killsback said. “Either they’re hiding something, or they’re not wanting to be accountable to the constitution.”
Headswift did not return calls on Monday and Tuesday seeking comment. In an interview earlier this month, he told The Billings Gazette that the council now recognizes Vice President Conrad Fisher as the interim president.