Benjamen Miyasato resigned from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Tribal Council at its monthly meeting Wednesday night.

“I hereby resign off Sitka Tribe of Alaska Council effective immediately,” Miyasato declared at the meeting.

“Thank you, Mr. Miyasato,” replied Chairwoman KathyHope Erickson.

Miyasato’s resignation came in the middle of the meeting, following a debate about the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance.

The Council was set to approve the ordinance after its third reading. It was sidetracked, though, after tribal citizen John Duncan commented on the need to emphasize Native preference.

“If you get one Native guy on a job, he’s probably going to make $80,000 a year. That’s a lot of money,” Duncan said in support of Native preference, “but if you don’t get that, he’s not going to get [that money].”

The Council debated Duncan’s comments and decided against approving the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting.

Benjamin Miyasato resigned from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Tribal Council at its monthly meeting. (Emily Russell/KCAW)

Benjamin Miyasato says his resignation wasn’t in direct response to the tabling, but he still expressed his frustrations about the process.

“That’s supposed to be fixed before it gets to council, it’s not supposed to be brought up at the council. You’re wasting our time, you’re wasting the public’s time,” Miyasato said.

There are issues behind the scenes that the public and the tribal citizens are not aware of, Miyasato explained. Now, he said, he feels like he can speak more honestly about what he calls an “abuse of power” within the Council.

“I won’t be muzzled. There is this thing they have about not speaking ill about your fellow councilmembers,” Miyasato explained. “It, to me, goes against the right of freedom of speech.”

Miyasato was elected to the Tribal Council five years ago. He also served on the Sitka Assembly for three years before resigning his assembly seat last year to run for Mayor.

According to its election ordinance, the Tribal Council has the authority to appoint a new Council member to fill any vacancies and must do so within 30 days of a council member’s resignation. The newly appointed member will serve the remainder of the term of the council member who vacated the seat.

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska will hold its annual meeting for tribal citizens is this Friday from 6-8 pm at Sheetk’a Kwaan Naa Kahidi.