New CSKT elected officials sworn in
FLATHEAD RESERVATION – Members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes convene Friday, Jan. 7, at tribal headquarters in Pablo for the quarterly meeting, which begins with the swearing in of a new slate of elected officials. The general election was held Dec. 18.
With five council seats up for election, incumbents Shelly Fyant of Arlee and Charmel Gillin of Polson were each defeated by sizeable margins, while Len Twoteeth of Elmo and Carole Depoe Lankford of Ronan retained their posts.
Election results, certified Dec. 22, show Fyant losing to former councilman Jim Malatare 476 to 939. Fyant had unseated Malatare in 2013 and was chosen to chair the council in 2020. She was elected in August to chair Montana’s State Tribal Economic Development Commission, and recently served on the Tribal Treaty Rights and Sacred Lands panel during the White House Tribal Nations Summit.
Gillin, who joined the council in 2018, lost her seat to Jennifer Finley, a writer and former English teacher, 409 to 1,010.
Lankford, who outpaced opponent Leonard Michel 1,118 to 311, begins her eighth term representing the Ronan District. A lifelong resident of the reservation, she was first elected to the Tribal Council in 1993, and prior to that worked in Tribal Forestry, Fish and Game Conservation, and Tribal Administration.
Twoteeth, who spent much of his career working in timber sales and land management for Tribal Forestry, bested Art Caye 1,153 to 276 to continue representing the Elmo District.
Tom McDonald, who recently retired as manager of the CSKT Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Division, won a new at-large position, outpacing Dan DePoe, 1,008 to 403. This marks the first of two new council seats (the second appears on the ballot in 2023) designed to increase representation for tribal members across the reservation.
According to tribal officials, voter turnout increased by approximately 6% from the last general election held in 2017. Nearly 37% of eligible tribal members cast ballots for a total turnout of 1,434.
The council consists of 10 members, each serving four-year terms. The next election will be held in 2023 for seats currently held by Anita Matt, Dixon; Ellie Bundy, St. Ignatius; Martin Charlo, Pablo; and James “Bing” Matt, Arlee. The post held by James Steele – who was appointed to represent St. Ignatius after Fred Matt resigned in 2021 – will appear on the ballot in four more years.
The swearing-in ceremony will be live streamed via the Tribal Council’s Facebook page (@CSKTCouncil).