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Tribal council gets new look as Thompson sworn in as chief

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AKWESASNE - The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe welcomed three new officials at a Sunday afternoon inauguration.

Paul Thompson, Eric Thompson and Corleen Jackson-Jacco were sworn in as chief, subchief and tribal clerk in a ceremony in front of approximately 250 people.

“It’s a festival, a celebration for our community, a welcoming for our new council, and a party for our new leaders,” Chief Randy Hart said during opening remarks.

Both the new chief and sub-chief summarized their reasons for seeking office during briefs speeches after taking their oaths. Each addressed the crowd in the Mohawk, followed by English.

“When I took the oath of office previously, there was no waterline spanning the whole community,” Paul Thompson said. “There was no class III casino, there was no senior center. The whole landscape was different.”

After the inauguration, Chief Thompson discussed his plans for his three-year term.“Economic development, that’s my main objective at this point,” he said.

He said he wants to tackle the ongoing issue of seizures by New York state of untaxed Native-made cigarettes. “I’ve been dealing with that for 30 years,” Chief Thompson said.

He previously served as chief from 1996 until 2003. “They [New York state] won’t be happy until they take all our businesses.”

Chief Thompson said he would like to see the tribal council show public support for a recent state supreme court ruling that ordered St. Lawrence County to return seized cigarettes to their owner.

“That was a great ruling, he [Supreme Court Judge David Demarest] hit it right on the head,” he said.

Chief Thompson also said he is looking forward to pursuing opportunities in the green energy field, such as solar panels. He said an option he would like to see the tribal council consider looking into the possibility of manufacturing the panels and outfitting tribe members’ houses with them.

He noted, for example, there are federal grants the tribe could apply for to get into the field.

“Maybe we can give all our people free electricity,” he said.

Eric Thompson, a newcomer to the tribal council, said ihe sought office because he wants Akwesasne to stay Akwesasne.

“I have some concerns about ... preserving what we have for future generations,” he said. “I would like to have our community retain its identity.”

Following the ceremony, Subchief Thompson said he wants to look at improving chemical dependency services.

“The drug problem in our community is of paramount importance to me ... that future generations are raised in an environment without those influences,” he said.

He said he thinks the tribal council should look at an existing holistic detox center, Native Connections, and work on adding services that strengthen and complement that program.

He described a total approach to battling addiction as a chain with links that include preventative services such as awareness education as well as detox centers, rehab facilities, and halfway houses.

“We have to add links to the chain and shore up the rest,” he said.

The tribal council consists of three chiefs and three sub-chiefs.

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