YUMA, Ariz. - A local Native American tribe is reaching out to the community and calling for help within their tribe.
The Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe was scheduled to have a special council meeting Friday evening to restore their election that took place December 5. When members of the Quechan tribe arrived at the meeting's location they found an empty and locked building, with just a note on the bulletin board stating the meeting was canceled.
On Election Day 580 tribe members casted their votes for their next term council members. The votes were finalized December 7, and according to tribe members, three current council members lost seats. Tribe members say that Friday's meeting was supposed to restore their democracy and they say they are disappointed and frustrated that their voices are not being heard.
"We all came up here expecting to have a meeting with our council," shares Quechan Elder Stacy O. Durand. "In the rain, there was more of us here, we waited and waited and we didn't know what was going on."
"I think that I'm trying to stand up for our people's rights, which I feel are being denied," explains Quechan Elder Lorraine White. "We have the right to a free election which was conducted in the proper manner and now they're claiming that the election was invalid. We feel like it was a proper election."
"There's the Quechan way that has to be followed," stresses Quechan Elder Preston Arrow-Weed. "This is no way to treat people."
"They're not doing things right," shares Quechan Elder Melton Jefferson. "They could've at least let us in and told us, 'Hey look. We're not gonna have a meeting.' Instead of doing that they just locked the doors and walked off."
Tribe members say that because Fridays's meeting did not occur, their new council members will not take office and the current council will remain seated until it does.
The Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe council members serve two years in office. Their President and Vice President serve four years. This was a mid-term election, so only council members are scheduled to take office.
We reached out to the current president of the Quechan tribe, but have yet to hear back.