Carri Jones becomes first woman and youngest tribal chair of Leech Lake



Carri Jones, 32, has become the first female Tribal Chair of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the youngest person to win the top ranking position. The June 12 Leech Lake elections resulted in Jones ousting current Chairman Arthur "Archie" LaRose.

Jones will be the first female to lead the 9,000+ member Leech Lake Band. She has degrees in business administration and accounting from Bemidji State University. She also has more than twelve years experience working with tribal governments in finance-related roles.

The June 12 Leech Lake General Election results, which saw Carri Jones and LeRoy Staples-Fairbanks III oust two incumbents, were upheld as Leech Lake Chairman Arthur "Archie" LaRose and District III Representative Eugene "Ribs" Whitebird withdrew their respective election contests before Election Contest Judge Richard Osburn.

Because there’s no automatic recount, LaRose and Whitebird both asked for recounts. But LaRose and Whitebird withdrew their contests after a pre-hearing conference and a two hour discovery process. Bruce Baird, who represented the incumbents at the hearing, informed Judge Osburn that "the burden of proof is too severe," so the incumbents were dropping their contests. Judge Osburn noted that he would issue orders reflecting the withdrawals of the contests.

The recount brought Jones’ vote total to 1,337, compared to 1,330 for incumbent Arthur "Archie" LaRose. Staples-Fairbanks III picked up an additional vote in the recount to give him 920, compared to Whitebird’s 891 votes. Whitebird received two more votes in the recount.

"We’re all excited to see what happens" once Jones assumes the tribe’s top post, said Steven Howard, executive director for the Leech Lake Band.

"I am very happy for Leech Lake," said Chairwoman-Elect Jones. "The integrity of our election process was upheld and now there is clarity moving forward," she continued.

"It’s time for new leadership," Jones told the Pioneer. "It’s time for my generation to start taking over. I feel I have a lot to offer. I’m thankful and proud to make this mark in Leech Lake’s history."

Jones said she decided to run for chairwoman because of the state the tribe is in financially.

"I base all of my decisions on finance," Jones said earlier. "I think that’s the backbone of a great organization. I know all of the band’s financial background, so I think that’s a huge step up for me."

"The voice of the people was followed today and for that I am thankful," District III Representative-Elect Staples-Fairbanks said. "I am humbled and excited by this opportunity to continue to serve the people of Leech Lake." Staples-Fairbanks has served the Leech Lake Band as Deputy Director for more than two years and has also served in an elected capacity on the Leech Lake Housing Authority Board of Commissioners for the past four years. He has also been active in volunteering with area youth for numerous years.

The contest withdrawals pave the way for both Jones and Staples-Fairbanks to be sworn in to their new positions at the Leech Lake Tribal Council Quarterly Meeting on July 6. The meeting will likely take place at the Northern Lights Casino in Walker, Minnesota.

With Leech Lake voters selecting Jones, four of the six bands comprising the Minnesota Chippewa Tribes are now led by women. The other women are: Marge Anderson, Mille Lacs Band; Karen R. Diver, Fond du Lac Band; and Erma Vizenor; White Earth Band.