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Former Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians chairperson and a well known Indian Country leader Aaron Payment is ready to reenter tribal politics. On Friday, he announced he is seeking a seat on the Sault Tribe Board of Directors. The election will take place on June 27, 2024.

While serving his fourth term as chairperson of the tribe, Payment resigned in May 2022 after being censured by a political faction of the tribal board of directors. At the time of his resignation, Payment was facing allegations of wrongdoing that never led to any criminal or civil charges, nor any disciplinary action. Payment said he chose to resign because he was serving as the first vice president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and he did not want to bring any negativity to his tribe or NCAI. At the time, Payment was serving his second term as first vice president of NCAI. In total, he had almost a decade in leadership roles within the organization, including Midwest regional vice president and two terms as recording secretary.

“My institutional tribal knowledge and my experience of securing pandemic relief and infrastructure funding for my tribe will make me an asset to our tribal board of directors and our new tribal chairperson,” Payment said.  

In addition to his service to NCAI, Payment served on the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee including as Vice Chair. He chaired the National Institutes of Health Tribal Advisory Committee, was Tribal Health Research Advisory Chair, and was on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Tribal Advisory Committee. 

After leaving tribal elective office, Payment worked for the National Indian Health Board as Director of Government Relations, where he worked developing and deploying a successful strategy for winning congressional approval for Advanced Appropriations for Indian Health Service funding.

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He currently works remotely and provides senior leadership for Kauffman and Associates, a Native woman-owned consulting management firm. Initially, he was  hired as director of education. Within three months,he was promoted to Vice President of Tribal Relations and Learning and focuses on works that matters and benefit tribal nations.  

Payment, who has a doctoral education degree, a master’s in education specialist, a master’s in education administration and a master’s in public administration.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said the tribal election will be held on June 20, 2024. The actual date of the election is June 27, 2024.






The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa is loacted in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is the most populated federally recognized tribe east of the Missiissppi River with over 44,000 enrolled tribal citizens.


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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].