Bay Mills Indian Community in the UP makes history with its first all-women council

Local News

Photo courtesy of Whitney Gravelle.

BAY MILLS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJMN) – Back in March, a special election was held to fill the role of chairperson for the Bay Mills Indian Community (BMIC).

This came after former chairman Bryan Newland stepped down from the position after accepting a job at the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Whitney Gravelle, former tribal attorney, ran against two other opponents: River Hascall and Levi Carrick, Sr. Out of 463 ballots cast, Gravelle received 372 of those votes. And on March 19, Gravelle was sworn in as the newly-elected chairperson/president of the BMIC.

Rachel Burtt, Beverly Carrick, Gail Glezen, and Vice-Chairperson Brand Bjork accompany Gravelle on the all-women council. This is the first time in the history of Bay Mills that the elected council has been entirely female.

“It’s great for young men and boys, too, to see [this all women-council] because it’s normalizing that leadership and it doesn’t make it so foreign,” said Gravelle. “So that when these young girls grow up and they’re running for different positions or they’re taking over leadership roles within their community, that’s normal for them. And it can create and establish respect for those positions, absent gender. It doesn’t have to be a man leading those positions, it’s just the position itself.”

“This is today, and you don’t have these old stigmas of, you know, ‘women can’t do this.’ We’re showing them you can do anything,” said Glezen, BMIC treasurer.

In our web exclusive, Gravelle reflects on the day she found out she won the special election:

The councilwomen hope that having an all-women council and seeing women in positions of leadership will influence younger generations of girls.

“It’s exciting that our community is embracing that, and it’s exciting for our kids to see that, you know, women are leaders,” said Rachel Burtt, BMIC councilperson.

“Any girls watching this, you can do it. We did it. We have our families and our other jobs that we do, but nothing can you back. If you want to do it, go for it. If you fall, get back up. Keep going,” said Beverly Carrick, BMIC secretary.

In our last web exclusive, Burtt and Glezen discuss the projects the council has been working on despite the hurdles of a pandemic:

Gravelle will hold the position as chairperson for seven months, until re-election in November. Council members are selected to serve for two-year terms but can re-run.

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