Tohono O'odham Nation elects new chairman 5-29-07

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Members of the Tohono O'odham Nation elected a new tribal chairman, ousting Vivian Juan-Saunders as the nation's top leader.

Ned Norris Jr., who won the chairmanship, received 1,766 of the 3,105 total votes, said Matt Smith, a spokesman for the nation.

About 28,000 people are enrolled as members of the nation, but an estimated 51 percent live outside the nation's boundaries, Norris said.

“I knew 30 years ago that I wanted to do this,” said Norris.

Juan-Saunders was the first woman elected to lead the nation in 2003, with Norris serving as her vice chairman. In June 2006, Norris resigned his post.

“I didn't see my leadership skills and my experience being used,” Norris said of why he resigned with just 10 months to go as vice chairman.

Norris said he and Isidro Lopez, his vice chairman, plan to work with district representatives for the nation to find out what people need.

“There are some common needs - education, diabetes, alcoholism, gangs - but there are some very unique needs for some districts as well,” Norris said.

Third World conditions on the reservation are something he'd like to see change, but not everyone wants those changes, and that needs to be respected, he said.

Norris also has served as a judge for the tribal government and has a background in social work.