After a narrow win in last week's special election, former Chief Judge of the Wind River Tribal Court John St. Clair has been sworn-in as the sixth member of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council.
St. Clair and current Chief Judge of the tribal court Sara Robinson emerged as front runners in the election, which was called after former Business Council Co-Chairman Leslie Shakespeare resigned from his post in November. St. Clair ultimately edged out a victory by just four votes.
After taking his oath of office on Tuesday, St. Clair said protecting the tribe's treaty rights, including its newly affirmed right to off-reservation hunting, would be a priority during his nine month term on the council.
"We need to dedicate ourselves to the goal of protecting and preserving our rights and sovereignty, so that our future generations can have a place to live and enjoy the special rights that we have," St. Clair said.
St. Clair served briefly on the council in the mid-1970's and also practiced as an attorney before joining the tribal court. During his more than 30 year tenure as Chief Judge, St. Clair was one of the authors of the Shoshone and Arapaho Law and Order Code, which continues to govern life on the Wind River Reservation today.
Vice-Chairwoman of the Business Council Karen Snyder said after Tuesday's ceremony that St. Clair's legal expertise will be an asset to the governing body.
"We could always use somebody that is trained in law and can give us that legal analysis on the spot," Snyder said. "Because we go through a lot with the courts, and if we can have that interpretations from someone who authored the [Shoshone and Arapaho Law and Order Code], that's very valuable. I think, indispensable."
St. Clair said he looks forward to serving as "in-house legal council" to his fellow Business Council members and to tribal departments, especially since the tribe's Attorney General works off-site.
The 77-year old decided to run because he saw the short term as an opportunity to give back to his tribe during a time of transition. When asked if he would run for a second term, St. Clair said he would re-assess after a few months of service.
"I'll have to see what it's like, how I feel as time goes by," St. Clair said. "Because you're looking at a four year term. And I'm not that young anymore."
The Eastern Shoshone Tribe will hold a general election in the Fall of 2020. At least three Business Council seats, currently belonging to St. Clair, Chairman Vernon Hill and Vice-Chairwoman Karen Snyder, will be up for grabs.
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