Will the real Crow chairman please stand up?

Competing factions vie for control of Executive Branch
Thursday, January 31, 2019
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Image courtesy of Amber Old Horn

Area residents converge in Crow Agency Tuesday afternoon around the Crow Tribal Finance Building. By 5 p.m. members loyal to Carlson “Duke” Goes Ahead had taken roughly 25-30 boxes in tribal financial documents and stored them in the Legislative Branch chamber.

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Image courtesy of Amber Old Horn

A road grader blocks vehicles from exiting the Crow Tribal Finance Building parking lot on Tuesday afternoon. Early Wednesday morning, Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid decried the release via social media of tribal employee names, salaries and “other personal data.”

What began as a Tuesday afternoon sandwich delivery run for stay-at-home mother Amber Old Horn turned into a standoff at the Crow Tribal Finance Building when road graders and trucks closed off the parking lot exits. Soon, she found herself trapped in Crow Agency because of a struggle between two groups of personnel. One faction, those blocking her car, represented Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid’s administration and the second, loading boxes of financial documents into trucks, represented the potential administration of Carlson “Duke” Goes Ahead.

Well over an hour into her ordeal, she circled the finance building and saw two people engage in a tense argument inches from each other’s face as tribal members honked car horns nearby.

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, that’s enough!” she yelled while recording the interaction on Facebook Live, admonishing the duo both in English and Crow. “Knock it off! This is not the time or the place!”

The Crow government has entered a controversial situation as of Jan. 19, following the first recall election of Executive Branch officials under the 2001 Crow Constitution. If the results are legitimate, former Vice Chairman Goes Ahead has replaced Not Afraid as chairman and former Vice Secretary Shawn Backbone has replaced Knute Old Crow as secretary.

This assertion has been strongly contested both by Not Afraid’s faction and Crow Tribal Court, who issued an order on Tuesday officially recognizing Not Afraid as chairman and Old Crow as secretary. Associate Judge Elishah Reevis, in addition to the order, issued a bench warrant seeking the arrests of Goes Ahead and Backbone.

One day before the election, the court had approved Not Afraid and Old Crow’s temporary restraining order against their Executive counterparts, stating they were not to have any contact with each other “in any manner” and were to appear at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday before the court.

According to a tribal press release, Not Afraid told Reevis during Tuesday’s closed hearing that Goes Ahead and Backbone’s assertions of authority “caused financial institutions to take unnecessary actions, risking the tribe’s financial capabilities to conduct tribal business.”

Goes Ahead and Backbone, rather than follow the court mandate, held the recall election at Crow Agency’s Multipurpose Building alongside a meeting of the general council – an event where Not Afraid was the main speaker – and did not show up to the hearing. Reevis has extended the hearing’s date to 10 a.m. on Feb. 12, where it is set to be examined by a special judge.

Goes Ahead and Backbone sought the recall election in a Jan. 3 removal petition that accused Not Afraid of “misuse of tribal funds” and “abuse of authority.” In such an election, according to the constitution, “The decision of the Crow Tribal General Council shall be final.”

The general council, as defined by the Crow Constitution consists “of all adult enrolled members” ages 18 and older “who are entitled to vote.”

Not even tribal court, Goes Ahead noted, can overturn the transfer of power. Backing this view, Crow Speaker of the House Frank White Clay on Jan. 22, swore in both Goes Ahead and Backbone as acting chairman and acting secretary.

In the finance office parking lot, Not Afraid’s personnel eventually dissipated and let those who had volunteered for Goes Ahead’s faction drive away. They took with them roughly 25-30 boxes of financial documents, which have been stored in the legislative chamber.

Because she was “nosy,” Old Horn said, she scanned the papers and was not happy with what she saw, especially considering the tribe’s current economic struggles. Citing finances and the recall vote, she expressed strong support for Goes Ahead throughout her stream.

“I can’t believe how much some people are making an hour,” she said. “And us, the rest of us, are suffering. Holy cow, man.”

In post made after midnight Wednesday on the Crow Tribe of Indians Facebook page, Not Afraid decried the release of employee names, salaries and “other personal data,” which by then had been shared on social media.

Representatives from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, when contacted, decided they would not be recognizing the court’s restraining order “and only in the event of physical harm would BIA-OJS be involved.”

“That was not good enough,” Not Afraid stated. “This is exactly the type of thing I was trying to prevent and the reason I sought judicial relief.”

Next week, the Big Horn County News will be looking further into the beliefs and legal rationales held by the Not Afraid and Goes Ahead factions.