Miller aims to become first female president of Seneca Nation - The Buffalo News

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Miller aims to become first female president of Seneca Nation

A tribal councilor hopes to become the first female president of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

Darlene Miller, former acting CEO of Seneca Nation Health Systems, announced her candidacy Monday on the sidewalk outside Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.

She said her motivation in running is the “unborn Seneca children and all Seneca members.” She said she also wants to promote healthy minds and bodies and ensure quality education for all Senecas, and will put people before politics.

“I will look to the people for guidance on issues that impact their community and the quality of life,” she said.

Miller, 66, who also announced her candidacy in Salamanca earlier Monday, has been a councilor for nearly four years. She was acting CEO of Seneca Nation Health Systems for six years, and for 10 years before that held numerous positions in the health system.

A lifelong resident of the Allegany Territory, she was accompanied by fellow Councilors Richard Nephew and Jeffrey Gill. Miller is running on the newly formed One Nation Party, and is the first to announce her candidacy for president. All candidates must file by midnight Oct. 20.

Gill called Miller “somebody that you already know” because of her work as a councilor and with the health system.

“I’ve seen many presidents come and go,” Nephew said. “Her personal integrity is very much needed in this time in the Seneca Nation.”

The Seneca Nation, which operates three casinos, is one of the region’s largest employers. The casinos, however, do not overshadow the traditions of the Senecas, Miller said. “I don’t think it’s overwhelming,” she said. “It’s part of who we are today.”

Miller said that before 1848, women made the critical decisions on who would lead the Senecas, and they taught basic life skills to children. They gained the right to vote in tribal elections in 1964, she said.

She is not the first woman to run for president. Rae Snyder ran unsuccessfully in 1998, as did Sally J. Snow in 2000.

Miller credited several with mentoring her, including former President Robert C. Hoag and former Treasurer Gilbert Lay, who she said “really laid the groundwork for me.” Tessie Snow and Winnie Kettle “were the ladies that took me under their wing and taught me what I needed to know as a woman and female leader,” she said.

She said she wants to strive for a healthy workforce and economic development, as well as quality education and housing.

“Our platform emphasizes putting people before politics, acknowledging the people the day after election and not forgetting who they are,” Miller said.

While she is a tribal councilor, Miller was careful to stage her news conference on the sidewalk outside Buffalo Seneca Creek Casino at Michigan and Perry streets, and not on casino grounds. Her announcement in Salamanca was at Bear Mountain Restaurant.

She said she would work with the Tribal Council on strategic planning and economic development.


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