This week, on an open agenda at the Keller District meeting, Colville Tribal member Vern Kheel asked about non-tribal members attending the district’s monthly meetings.
This meeting was well attended. Keller tribal members and non-tribals alike seemed united against a suggestion earlier in the day – which I should state found footing on Facebook – to redistrict the reservation.
Though some in attendance couldn’t remember the same, Kheel stated there was a time when a sergeant-at-arms checked tribal identification cards before allowing entrance into similar meetings.
Many of those gathered reacted against a suggestion that non-tribals be denied entrance, and ultimately no action was taken.
I sat there in awkward irony, writing in my reporter’s pad. Being a non-tribal employee I found myself wondering if I would be allowed entrance in such a scenario.
At the Tribune, we treat district meetings as open public meetings, just as we treat Chambers as an open forum until it’s closed and similar to how any journalist would treat any public meeting.
I could also understand Kheel’s point.
Kheel explained himself, noting in a previous meeting a non-tribal had blurted out a Keller project should just be scrapped – there’d been ongoing disagreement on the project that apparently felt irresolvable.
Kheel’s point was that the tribe had to fight for that project and, more to the point, the tribe had to go tooth-and-nail for the funding behind the project. This is a fight that’s different than the fight that towns, cities, counties and states make – they all do go to D.C. to lobby for funding – because behind it sits a much different shared experience.
I can’t disagree with Kheel: To give up any funding would be to give up, and to ever give up, would be to concede sovereignty.