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Jicarilla Apache Nation President Resigns

From the A Year in Dulce: The SUN's 2018 Coverage of the Jicarilla Apache Nation series
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A petition for the impeachment of Jicarilla Apache Nation President Levi Pesata states he demonstrated “misconduct reflecting on the dignity and integrity of the Tribal Council, and gross neglect of the duty and breach of his Constitutional Oath to protect members of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.” He addressed crowds at the 2017 Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Santa Fe.

Levi Pesata resigned Feb. 15 from his position as president of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

A Nation press release states he resigned due to personal reasons.

“In accordance with the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s constitution, a new President must be elected within 60 days,” the press release states. “In the interim, the constitution mandates that Vice President Edward Velarde assumes all duties as president.”

Pesata served five terms as the Nation’s president, the press release states.

A resolution announcing the election was supposed to happen Tuesday, but has been delayed for one week due to inclement weather.

Bernice Muskrat and her daughter Jennifer Muskrat submitted petitions to the Nation’s Legislative Council in August 2018 calling for the impeachment of Pesata after it was discovered the Nation’s Comptroller Chad Eaton embezzled more than $500,000 from the Nation’s casinos.

Eaton is the son of Legislative Council Member Sheila Vigil. The Muskrats also submitted petitions calling for Vigil and Eaton’s resignations and terminations.

Pesata hired Eaton as the Nation’s comptroller in 2017.

He distanced himself from Eaton at an Aug. 15, 2018 Legislative Council meeting.

“The thing with the casino, I have no direct supervision of the casino,” Pesata told the audience. “It is managed by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is regulated by the Gaming Commission, but when this thing came out, we, I, advised them to contact the authorities.”

After the Muskrats submitted the petitions, the Legislative Council voted to terminate Eaton, but Pesata reversed the decision.

Jennifer Muskrat said she was happy to hear about Pesata’s resignation, but called it a double-edged victory.

“I feel really happy about it because, I don’t know, even standing against Patrón and everything, it feels empowering,” she said.

She said it is like David and Goliath situation, and his resignation proves the powerful and corrupt can fall.

“Sometimes it just takes one rock and sometimes it just takes one stone and it is possible,” she said. “It really is a powerful thing for people to see.”

Pesata could not be reached for comment.

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