In a hotly contested race that pitted a political newcomer against the experienced leader of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Cheryl Andrews-Maltais was re-elected by a vote of 151-127, according to a press release issued by the tribe.
“I am so grateful to have the confidence and support of my people,” Andrews-Maltais said in the release. “Their continued support energizes me, and makes the hard work and long hours all worth it. I am so deeply honored.”
Andrews-Maltais defeated NaDaizja Bolling, who ran with a contingent of other tribe members calling themselves T8HKEESH (too-keesh), which Bolling said is the Wampanoag word meaning “wake up.”
This will be the fifth term for Andrews-Maltais, although her terms have not been consecutive.
In between her third and fourth terms, Maltais was a White House appointee in the Obama-Biden administration, serving as senior advisor to the assistant secretary–Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, according to the release. “Working within the federal system at that level, providing advice to the agencies and Congress, to help shape federal policy, regulations, and legislation impacting Indian Country provided a great opportunity to more fully understand the complexities of the government-to-government relationship and the Trust and Treaty obligations the United States owes tribes,” Andrews-Maltais said in the release. “It was an amazing experience, and I am grateful to have had that honor.”
According to the release, she will be the longest serving chair, when this term is over, since the tribe gained federal recognition. “It’s such an honor and privilege to serve your people, and to have the time necessary to see some initiatives through is so rewarding,” she said in the release. “Being able to look back on accomplishments that will have elevated the lives and well-being of our tribal community and Indian Country as a whole is so rewarding. I am so grateful to have a position that allows me the privilege to do something that I love.”
Nefititi Jette won the vacated secretary position. Linda Coombs, Kristina Hook, and Camille Madison were elected tribal council members at large. Coombs, Hook, and Madison ran with the slate of candidates led by Bolling.
Bolling provided The Times comments by email about the elections. “This election didn’t go exactly how many of us would have liked it to, but three of the five candidates on my slate were elected, and that gives me hope that some things within our tribe will begin to improve. In the month leading up to the election, there were many indications that the process would not be fair. From the late decision to disallow in-person voting to contradictory and unclear information included in the ballot packages that were mailed out, to many tribal members never receiving their ballots (despite contacting our membership department and our election and constitution committee to update their mailing addresses), we knew it could be a bumpy road ahead. There’s a lot to investigate and to correct for future elections. Some of these things were supposed to be corrected after last year’s election. There’s also a need to increase our civic engagement. I hope that the election and constitution committee, tribal council, and some of the administrative departments will determine that educating general membership on our foundational documents, as well as processes for tribal members to initiate change, is a necessary and worthwhile endeavor. Personally, I believe that everything happens for a divine reason, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to be redirected. There’s a lot of other important work to do for our peoples, so I will continue to rise to the occasion to see that it gets done,” Bolling wrote.