New Mashantucket tribal councilors inaugurated

Mashantucket — Two new members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council — Latoya Cluff and Matthew Pearson, both of whom were elected in November — took oaths of office Tuesday during an inauguration ceremony at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.

Councilor Crystal Whipple was sworn in as vice chairwoman of the council.

In a news release, the Mashantuckets announced that a rare artifact, the Eliot Bible, was used in the ceremony. Written by the Rev. John Eliot in the Native American Algonquin language, it is the first Bible published in North America.

“We were fortunate enough to obtain two copies of these precious books about 20 years ago,” Rodney Butler, the council chairman, said. “One was published in the first-edition printing in 1663, and the other was published in 1685 after all but nine of the first-edition copies were destroyed during conflict. We used the second-edition book in today’s ceremony.”

This year marks the museum’s 20th anniversary.

Pearson, whose earlier appointment as secretary of the council became effective Tuesday, has a bachelor's degree in media and communications from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., and a certificate in publishing from the University of Denver's Publishing Institute. Prior to his election, he served as director of the tribe's High Five Project, a grant-funded initiative that aims to improve the circumstances of tribal adolescents.

He also has served as a member of the board of directors of the Mashantucket Business Development Company LLC and as secretary of the board of Eastern Connecticut’s Area Health Education Center.

Cluff graduated magna cum laude from the University of New Haven, where she obtained a master's degree in labor relations with a concentration in human resources management. She has a bachelor's degree in business management from Johnson & Wales University.

Cluff has 15 years of experience in tribal government and with the tribe's Gaming Commission, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Big Night Entertainment Group and Fairview Healthcare. A member of the tribe's Fox Dance Troupe for many years, she represented Mashantucket during the opening ceremonies for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. She competed in basketball at the 1995 Indigenous Games.

Whipple, elected to a third council term in November and, in a separate vote, to the vice chairwomanship, previously had served two years as vice chairwoman and was a member of the board of directors of the United South and Eastern Tribes. She also serves as vice chairwoman of the board of Community Speaks Out, a local agency that advocates for education about opioid addiction. A Ledyard High School graduate, she has an associate's degree in business administration from the University of New Haven.

The seven-member council governs the tribe and oversees management of Foxwoods and its other gaming and nongaming enterprises. Councilors serve staggered, three-year terms.

In addition to Butler and Whipple, the other council members who were not up for election in November were Jean Swift; Merrill "Marvin" Reels; and Daniel Menihan Jr.

Also Tuesday, Marjorie Colebut-Jackson took an oath of office as vice chairwoman of the tribe’s Elders’ Council after completing the final year of Gary Carter Sr.’s term. Carter had been elected council chairman.

Five tribal members were sworn in as members of the tribe’s Youth Council, which represents tribal members under the age of 25. They were: Shaquanna Sebastian, chairwoman; Leyanna Minnis, vice chairwoman; Lanette Hernandez, secretary; Phyllip Thomas, treasurer; and Fatia Rickerson, youth ambassador.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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