Candidates discuss drugs, blood levels at forum
L’ANSE — Eight Tribal Council candidates and one Chief Judge candidate answered questions compiled by the Keweenaw Bay Ojiibwa Community College (KBOCC) Tribal Government class and the student government on Thursday night at KBOCC.
Warren ‘Chris’ Swartz
Warren “Chris” Swartz is the incumbent running for reelection to the Baraga District and the current president of the Tribal Council. He’s served overseas in the U.S. Air Force and has otherwise lived on the reservation. He gave part of his opening statement in the Ojibwe language.
Swartz said it is important for the tribe to diversify their income from the casino and is a proponent of expanding the KBIC Tobacco company, including nation-to-nation trade. He defended the event center being built in Marquette, saying there is a need for meeting space there, not just concerts and performances.
Swartz said working with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) is important for the continuing effort to clean and preserve the air and water on the reservation.
Swartz said the goal of the KBOCC was to become self-supporting, which is why funds have been regularly cut. He said he supports the community college and would like to keep it affordable for students.
Swartz opposes the wind turbine project proposed for L’Anse Township.
“Solar power is actually better and more feasible than wind turbines,” he said, according to tribal studies.
He said he believes the ultimate goal of developers is to mine the Huron Mountains, and wind turbines are just the opening and a way to build up infrastructure.
The blood quantum issue will need to be addressed “sooner or later” Swartz said. He also wants a chance to discuss pricing on services with the Baraga County Memorial Hospital.
Swartz thinks hemp offers good opportunities for diversification of Tribal enterprises, and pointed out the Tribal Code currently states the tribe will follow Michigan law pertaining to marijuana, which now legalizes the substance.
According to Swartz, the American war on drugs is not working, and addiction should be treated as a social disease instead of being criminalized. He hopes a legal alternative like marijuana could help reduce the opioid problem.
Bill Jondreau is the challenger for the position of Chief Judge. He was offered the chance to respond several but not all of the questions asked of the tribal council candidates. He is a Baraga resident and serves as a trustee on the Baraga Area Schools board. He has served multiple terms as associate judge for the Tribe and also coaches and is a scout leader.
He said it is up to the Tribal Council to create laws concerning hemp or weed decriminalization, and that judges for the tribe can only handle up to misdemeanor cases that carry up to a year of jail time. Anything that requires a more serious sentence has to be handed off to federal authorities.
He promised to be consistent, fair and impartial if elected.
“I’ll be there full-time,” he said.
Bradley Dakota, running for Chief Judge as the incumbent, was not present at the forum.