CHICKASHA, OK — The 2023 General Council Meeting began on the beautiful Saturday morning of June 17, 2023, at 11:00 AM, with the President approaching the podium to welcome everyone in attendance. President Dotson thanked everyone for arriving and expressed how much she appreciated it. A motion was passed to allow the recognition of the children to be recognized first so that families could go and vote. President Dotson mentioned that this will be a historic day in Delaware Nation’s history as it is the first time a female President and Vice Present have held these positions together. Also, this will be the first time in history four females will hold a position in higher offices. The President also mentioned that there would be some heated discussion at the meeting and requested that attendees show compassion by respecting each other.
Tribal Elder Linda Poolaw approached the podium to express her gratitude through a beautiful prayer to the creator. She spoke of a time when she witnessed a giant turtle and how significant it was to her today by reiterating that the creator is still watching over and protecting the Lenape people. Committee Member #1 Terry Williams blessed the meal with a warm prayer. Attendees lined up to enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner catered by Tribal Citizen-owned Native Smoke Barbeque. Everyone enjoyed their chosen two types of meat of amazing smoked goodness and finished with peach cobbler.
After the feast, the meeting began at 12:35 PM, starting with Secretary Ann Brower reading the July 9, 2022, General Council meeting minutes. Meeting minutes were corrected, and motions were passed to approve them by a vote of hand.
Cultural Preservation Director Sonnie Allen approached the podium to begin the incoming/outgoing Princess Coronation Ceremony. Sonnie greeted General Council and expressed her gratitude for everyone in attendance. She started by recognizing the outgoing 2022-2023 Princess Serenitee McCasland and how well Serenitee represented Delaware Nation through powwow, public, and Tribal events. Serenitee was not shy and was eager to jump right in, said Sonnie as she thanked Serenitee and asked her to approach the podium. Serenitee stepped up to the microphone and spoke beautiful Lenape. She thanked her mom, family, and Cultural Preservation for supporting her throughout her reign. Sonnie approached the podium with additional thanks to Serenitee for her dedication to Delaware Nation and thanked her family for contributing to Serenitee’s success.
Cultural Preservation Director Sonnie Allen introduced the incoming Princess Taniah Kay Owings. Taniah approached the podium and introduced herself and her lineage. Taniah is the daughter of Alana Sadongei and the granddaughter of Sharon Everett Sadongei. Taniah expressed gratitude for being selected as the 2023-2024 Delaware Nation Princess. It is a great honor to represent the Lenape people and a meaningful task that I will not take for granted. Thank you for recognizing me at this time, and God bless you, she said.
Outgoing Princess Serenitee McCasland passed the crown along to the incoming Princess Taniah Owings. The crowd cheered loudly as another Lenape tradition carried on! Gifts were exchanged among the Princesses, and the meeting carried on to Youth Recognitions. Treasurer Barbara Nixon gave Serenitee McCasland an Above and Beyond plaque and thanked her granddaughter for her successful reign as 2022-2023 Delaware Nation Princess.
Vice-President Michael McLane introduced an Above and Beyond plaque like Serenitee received to Lenape pro soccer player Luke Brennan. Luke was honored for being the first Delaware Nation professional soccer player with Atlanta United. He is the FIRST Lenape pro player and loves his tribe! Luke and his family were not present but were grateful for this honor.
Secretary Ann Brower introduced an Above and Beyond plaque to Anadarko Warrior graduate Brayden Lemos. Lemos was honored for his full-ride scholarship to play football for Southwestern College. He is eager to take his career to the next level and expressed his gratitude for the support of Delaware Nation. Lemos accepted the reward from Brower alongside his mother, Michelle Woodard-Kelly, in support of him.
President Deborah Dotson introduced all the Tribal Youth making an impact on General Council. Each received a certificate of appreciation for going Above and Beyond. These tribal youth honor Delaware Nation through academics, athletics, skills, and more!
Citizenship Committee Secretary Trinity Guido approached the podium to read the Citizenship Applications. President Dotson conducted the approval of each citizen by vote-of-hand approval. A question from an attendee was asked about the relinquishment of the Delaware Tribe of Bartlesville members to join. Guido explained that the three applicants had relinquished citizenship from their former tribe(s) and met the criteria to be enrolled citizens of Delaware Nation. After the approval of each individual, Delaware Nation has three new enrolled citizens! Trinity Guido thanked the Enrollment Department and Citizenship Committee for their hard work.
Next, was the Delaware Nation’s Financial Report given via video presentation by Comptroller Kyle Dover. Kyle provided the yearly reports to discuss revenue sources, expenditures, and Lenape distributions for Revenue Allocation Plan and noted special items related to the CARES Act and ARPA funding since the fiscal year 2020. Kyle was available virtually for questions by General Council. No questions were asked.
A memorial video was shared in honor of tribal citizens who are no longer with us. Each slide displayed a loving message with a recorded version of Amazing Grace, performed by Canadian Delawares. The touching video warmed the hearts of everyone in attendance and served as a reminder that these loved ones might be gone but never forgotten.
After the memorial video, DNI Representative Jake Bedoka spoke on behalf of the company. Bedoka provided some brief personal information and history. He then answered some questions from General Council. Bedoka explained how DNI is becoming more involved with the Tribal Citizens and responded that they are working on engagement involvement through internships and getting the word out about how to join. Citizen Mr. Williams asked if veterans were employed at DNI, and Bedoka said they were, but he did not have the number available. The citizen then asked how long Bedoka had been with the company and how long DNI had been around. Bedoka answered that he had been there for 16 months, and DNI started in 2011. Bedoka was questioned by Daniel Thomas II about the .4% of Tribal employees. Then Bedoka was questioned on the average salary of $135,000 that employees make through DNI. Thomas II demanded to know how DNI was engaging Delaware Nation youth to become qualified to work in the job place that is owned by Delaware Nation citizens. Bedoka responded that they are passionately working to enable tribal youth to become capable of working with DNI. He reiterated that it’s a goal and that they are a working progress.
After the DNI report, Historic Preservation Officer Katelyn Lucas provided her virtual report. Lucas introduced herself and the efforts she was involved in. Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) status was the first point mentioned. The National Park Service’s collaborated efforts will work within the National Historic Preservation Act to work alongside tribes. A vital step for Delaware Nation’s sovereignty that will increase NAGPRA/106 efforts that interfere with Tribal lands. Decisions will help nominate historic locations to the national register and how to preserve archeological sites. Lucas was pleased to announce that the Historic Preservation Office has established an MOU with Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA) and their Institute for Indigenous Studies (IIS) to move the extension Historic Preservation Office to Lehigh’s campus. Delaware Nation will maintain its relationship with the Museum of Indian Culture (Allentown, PA) but will no longer manage an official office within the museum due to the incompatibility of the weekend-only operating hours. Access to student resources would greatly benefit awareness of Delaware Nation in the homelands. Lucas mentions the collaborations to establish Lenape history awareness in Lenaphoking. The homeland has an extreme lack of legitimate Lenape awareness, creating multiple figures to prosper under the false impression of a recognized Tribal Nation, threatening Lenape sovereignty, and interfering with the relationships between Delaware Nation and local government. The lack of Lenape culture in the area has led to an increase in non-legitimate entities claiming to be Lenape. Too many unqualified non-native folks telling Delaware Nation employees and Tribal citizens who they think are Lenape or not. A total lack of respect for Delaware Nation from non-federally recognized organizations has caused interference in 106 projects and archeological sights. These individuals are applying for grants and undermining Delaware Nation. Awareness and education is the ultimate key to fighting this issue. Lucas encouraged anyone to reach out directly to her office if they have any questions or need anything. Lucas concluded with the Historic Preservation Office Duties and mentioned the downtown offices that will eventually house the Anadarko office. Lucas would like to connect with anyone that would like to come to the homelands and gave her thanks for the General Council’s time.
Committee Member #1 Terry Williams approached the podium and honored Delaware Nation Air Force Veteran Recognition Reynolds French Sr. Terry Williams spoke of Mr. French Sr. inspiring life. Williams expressed his gratitude and then presented an honorary plaque and blanket to him as a small token of Delaware Nation’s appreciation for his service to the United States.
Next, President Deborah Dotson introduced Tribal citizen and contributor Daniel Thomas II to give his Corporations Posing As Indigenous Nations (CPAIN) report. Thomas II greeted the General Council in Lenape by saying, “Hè!” Thomas II is the son of Daniel Thomas, the grandson of Art Thomas, the great-grandson of Willard Thomas, and the great great grandson of Willie Thomas. Thomas II expressed his gratitude for being allowed to speak before General Council. He expressed that it was an honor to serve the Executive Committee on the Nation’s behalf and the authority of the Nation. CPAIN is a real threat, and what is happening is that Delaware Nation has been removed from Lenapehoking (the homelands) for so long that corporations have taken advantage of that. Daniel gave a brief history of the relocation from Lenapokhoking to Pennsylvania, then the walking purchase that lead lands being taken once again so the Lenape fought back. The government put a bounty on the Lenape, forcing them to relocate to the Ohio region. For this reason, Non-Profit corporations are saying they stayed behind, and Lenape left the lands and hid in the mountains. Thomas II spoke of the blood quantum and how it set an expiration date for Lenape people and how Delaware Nation going to lineal descendency is bringing a rising population to Delaware Nation.
One of the corporations that Thomas II mentioned is the Ramapough Mountain Indians Inc., with over 10,000 members that claim they stayed behind in the homelands during forced removal. Thomas II reiterated that the Tribe stayed together through thick and thin, no matter what. Everything the tribe did, they did together. The longest walk of any tribal Nation totaling 137 years, with only 80 left in Anadarko, who are ancestors of the current remaining descendants. A deep trauma developed in Lenape ancestors. Thomas II expressed that Anadarko is not the home of the Lenape people and that the homelands have more waterfalls per mile than any place in America, with many rivers that flow through that, flourished with beauty. Thomas II explained that the medicines in the homelands do not grow here. He dreams of his grandchildren someday returning to the homelands, but these CPAIN corporations are actively fighting to keep the real Lenape people out. Thomas II mentioned the ways CPAIN corporations are manipulating photos of Delaware Nation ancestors to seek recognition. Ramapough Corporation was just granted land in the name of the Lenape people.
Thomas II expressed that raising awareness is the best way to combat this because not many people know who the Lenape are. Even tribes in the area are unfamiliar with the legitimate Lenape people and confused with the Ramapough group posing as legitimate Lenape people by building relationships with other federally recognized tribes. They are the Grandchildren that have forgotten us, he said. It states in our constitution that we are the oldest aboriginal tribe in the United States, yet history moves on without the Lenape people. Raising awareness is the first key to combating the threat. Stockbridge-Munsee has been actively participating in efforts to unite the tribes in solidarity against the common CPAIN threat.
Thomas II expressed how Delaware Nation’s sovereignty is at stake. The fake corporations are flooding the area now and that their new game is to change from blood quantum and enroll as many descendants as possible. All 5 Lenape communities stepped on land together that will return to the Lenape people, and this is a first step towards dealing with the trauma Lenape ancestors endured. Thomas II thanked the Executive Committee for their support and for sticking with their guns.
Thomas II then expressed his gratitude towards the Executive Committee by offering gifts from his travels on behalf of Delaware Nation and then reiterated that he does not get paid. Thomas II was suddenly interrupted by Tribal Citizen Inga Burkhardt who was in attendance at the General Council meeting. Burkhardt asked if Thomas II gets compensated for any of this, and he replied that he did not and that he funds all of his travels. If Thomas II speaks on behalf of Delaware Nation and is paid, he donates the funds to the Tribe because he feels like he has crossed the line if he accepts money for his work.
Burkhardt asks Thomas II how long he has been on the roll, and Thomas II asks why it matters. Burhardt then asks where Thomas II comes from and mentions that no one knew Thomas II until 2020. Burkhardt claimed that Daniel disrespected the Nova Nation group of visitors seeking the Lenape. Thomas II responded that Nova Nation is a 5013C Non-Profit Corporation that came to Anadarko, took photographs with a Tribal elder and took those pictures and mixed them with their families, and posted them online. Burkhardt claimed the conversation was disrespectful and asked when Thomas II became a Delaware. Thomas II replied, “When I was born.” Burkhardt demands to know where he came from and what his intent was.
Burkhardt then demands Thomas II answer the title claims of Hereditary Chief that Thomas II was utilizing in the homelands. She then demands to know how long Thomas II has been on the roll. Burkhardt expresses that there are a lot of questions from the people. Thomas II thanks Burkhardt for her questions and then responds to the Nova Nation questions but is interrupted by Tribal Citizen Evelyn Kionute. Burkhardt asks how long Thomas II has been enrolled. Burkhardt asked Thomas II if it was his age, and he responded, no. Burkhardt expressed how Anadarko is the home and base of Delaware Nation and not in the homelands that Lenape was forcibly removed from. Honestly, I don’t give a sh*t what goes on up there, Burkhardt said. Burkhardt stated that she knew her people and showed disinterest in the efforts towards combating CPAIN. Burkhardt makes a motion to hand the microphone to Tribal Citizen Evelyn Kionute.
Kionute expresses that she did not want to be interrupted and confirmed that she had the floor. The President confirmed and gave Kionute her time to speak. Kionute immediately started the conversation by mentioning negative comments made by Daniel Thomas II on social media. She claimed the comments were offensive and designed as a smoke screen to fool people. Kionute stated that the Executive Committee never asked the General Council to ask this man to represent Delaware Nation. Kionute makes a motion to have Daniel Thomas II removed from his duties effective immediately and that the Executive Committee send letters to Tribal and State governments that he is not the hereditary chief of Willie Thomas. It was not passed on, she claimed. Kionute reinforced that she would like to make a motion that Thomas II to be removed from his duties and not represent the Tribe.
Tribal Citizen and contributor Nick Logan took over the microphone to defend Thomas II’s efforts saying that Thomas II is doing his best to protect the Nation. Logan claims Thomas II used the title Hereditary Chief as armor to combat the CPAIN threat, stating that Thomas II would not have had the same impact without it. Logan claimed that Thomas II is doing this work for the better of all Delaware Nations. A small group of Kionute family members form around Burkhardt and Evelyn then begins to speak towards Logan that his defense was in vain. Logan states that he is fighting for Delaware Nation and defended Thomas II’s actions and even mentioned Thomas II not using the title. Logan then asks the group of ladies if they have done anything to confront these groups. Former President Kerry Holton raises his hand to speak and give his point, but Logan replied, “I’m not going to listen to you, pervert. Keep your arm down.” Burkhardt responds that there doesn’t need to be any name-calling as Holton stands to his feet in defense of the comment made towards him. “That was uncalled for!” was heard as Logan thanked the attendees of the General Council.
President Deborah Dotson demanded that General Council be respectful. Tribal Citizen Evelyn Kionute demanded not to be interrupted again and then stated that the Nova Tribe visitors were legitimate and that her department was cut off from communication with the Nova Tribe.
Former President Kerry Holton is handed a microphone and explains that he understands what the Nation is doing but doesn’t think it’s being done by the right people. Holton states that combat is not the Delaware way. “We don’t troll people on the internet. Dox our tribal leaders but that’s what happened.” Holton gave former advice to Thomas II in his efforts but claimed that Thomas II was not going about it the right way. Holton’s bottom line was that the Tribe need to handle this issue but not with Thomas II.
Tribal Citizen Victoria De La Rosa-Felciano provided a recommendation in response to Burkhardt’s argument that she understands the perspective and she also understands what Thomas II is doing. Victoria recommended a group be established to handle this matter and thanked the General Council.
President Deborah Dotson then asked Thomas II to address the General Council’s concerns about his involvement in Lenapehoking and asked if anyone else had any comments regarding the matter. Kionute responded that six elected officials need to be going to the Northeast seaboard to represent the Nation. Kionute asks what the Executive Committee has been doing and if they have even been out to the homelands. President Dotson responded that she had and so had Vice President Michael McLane. Kionute responds that all six need to be involved because that is what they are elected for. President Dotson asks for additional comments, and Tribal Citizen Mr. Williams asked if there is a NAGPRA program in the homelands, and the President responded that there was through our Tribal extension office on behalf of Delaware Nation.
Thomas II was asked to address General Council about his involvement in using the title Hereditary Chief in the Lenape homelands. Thomas II asks the attendees at General Council if they are so mad at him for the title, why aren’t they angrier at the ones who call themselves chiefs. Thomas II points out that Kionute wanted to work with an individual on the East Coast, but Kionute said it was a representative in Wisconsin that was with the Delaware Munsees. Kionute then states that what Thomas II is doing is worse than what is going on in the homelands of Lenapehoking. Kionute said, “You’re just as bad as those wannabees out there! You’re no different!”
Thomas II responds that he feels like the General Council does not want to hear what he has to say and that they have already made up their minds. Thomas II and Kionute exchange comments before the President stops the chatter and issues a vote on the floor but is interrupted by Thomas II’s defense to the General Council of how he and Katelyn Lucas are doing great work in presenting opportunities to the Executive Committee for them to close the deal. Thomas II reiterated that he had no authority to handle business or make deals and that his position was to warm up contacts to bring to the Executive Committee, eventually leading to getting a word in Congress. Thomas II stated that he has gotten President Dotson in front of Swarthmore College, and the Board of Directors at Princeton University while never once wavering that the Executive Committee is the genuine authority. Thomas II then debates over the hereditary chief claim stating that he is the oldest son of the oldest daughter, coming from Nancy Harry coming from Bill Thomas, all the way back. Art’s daughters and his family have said that Daniel Thomas II is the hereditary chief. Thomas II thanked the General Council and stepped down from the podium as President Dotson conducted a motion made by Evelyn Kionute to vote to remove Daniel Thomas II from all duties and not represent Delaware Nation. A motion and a second were in favor to have Thomas II removed from his position. The motion passed. Kionute mentioned that she and the citizens would like to be informed when the Executive Committee elects an official like Thomas II to represent the Tribe. Kionute states that over 200 years of Lenape tradition were lost. Kionute expressed that she was concerned that Thomas II was going to take Delaware Nation traditions back to the East Coast. “Some of these things we have to keep at home! You wanna learn about your culture and tradition? You gotta come home.” Kionute asks why should we record everything and put it on Zoom for everyone to see online. Kionute’s final request is that these matters are handled through the Tribe because one individual can affect the rest.
Public comments continue as former President Kerry Holton takes the microphone to express his thoughts on the situation with CPAIN in Lenapehoking. Holton mentions that Thomas II had all the right intentions but just didn’t execute them in a manner that benefits Delaware Nation. Holton agreed with Kionute’s statement about learning the culture at home from Lenape and the native people here.
Holton mentioned that he wanted to change the tone of the meeting by pointing out the large number of young people in attendance at the General Council. Holton stood alongside his mother, daughter, and granddaughter, indicating four generations were in attendance at a meeting. It made my heart swell to see so many young people, said Holton. Holton provides a word of caution in learning more about the Nation and its constitution that was ratified 50 years ago. Holton says there are issues with the judicial branch of the government. “Only two! We don’t have a judicial branch in our constitution.” Holton said that there’s a serious problem with jurisdiction and that everyone has a role in the laws of the constitution.
Holton finished that he was happy to be at the meeting with four generations and full of joy to see all the young people. Holton wished the General Council a happy Father’s Day. President Dotson thanked Holton for his comments and responded that he was the one who set up the courts, so she felt confused. Holton said he only set it up for election disputes and The President stated that it was not in the resolution. The President and the Executive Committee have read that resolution numerous times and were clear about its contents. The President differed with Holton’s response, but no further argument was made.
Vice President Michael McLane thanked the hard-working Tribal staff, the people in attendance at the meeting, and Native Smoke Barbeque for the incredible food. McLane concluded by wishing a happy Father’s Day to the attendees. President Deborah Dotson called for a motion to adjourn at 2:57 PM, Kelly Line made the motion and Billie Kionute seconded the motion and all were in favor, the motion passed. Dotson finished by encouraging everyone to go and vote at the historic Election.
Story and photos by Public Relations Officer Wesley Boone