OWYHEE — Terry Gibson is following in the political footprints
of his father.
The 41-year-old was recently elected as chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute
Tribal Council. His father, Benson Gibson, who is now deceased, served
as a tribal council member for over 30 years, including many terms
Gibson said he beat candidate Nancy Egan "not because I went
out and did a lot of campaigning, but because I won the popularity
"People know me," he said. "And elections here –
unlike state municipalities – are more likely based on popularity."
Gibson served on the tribal council since 1997 and has replaced former
incumbent Marvin Cota, who opted to step down as chairman after a
three-year bout in politics.
"My father kept the tribe intact," said Gibson, who returned
to live on the reservation to ranch after injuring his back while
attending University if Nevada in Reno. "I want to do the same."
Gibson, who has worked as the tribe’s health director, compliance
officer and natural resource director, said three issues pushed him
to run for chair.
"One important issue is to encourage our youth to experience
their own religion and spirituality instead of being pushed into different
religions," Gibson said.
Gibson said as tribal chairman he will focus on establishing more
hunting and fishing agreements with the federal and state governments.
"I will try not to pay a lot of attention to national issues
and rather focus on tribal issues," Gibson said. "I’ve
educated myself with all the issues and one thing that’s important
is getting enough water to the ranchers."
He also plans on improving the tribe’s health care facility.
"People are really banking on me to fix this thing," he
Another issue Gibson will attempt to resolve is reducing the number
of Natives who ditch college and return to the reservation because
of being burdened with prejudice and stereotypes.
"Kids go to college and other students refer to them as ‘wagon
burners’ or ‘chief,’ and many of them can’t
take it," Gibson said. "It’s hard for them to blend
and because of that many come back to the reservation where they slip
into alcoholism, depression and eventually…suicide."
Gibson said he is concerned about the alarming number of suicides
on the reservation.
"My largest concern is the high amount of unemployment, which
leads to violence, domestic disputes and drug and alcohol abuse,"
Gibson said since in the early 1970’s that high suicide rates
could be blamed on "extreme poverty" and "the isolation
"People just didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,"
Although Gibson’s braided long dark hair and brazen tanned facial
features resemble a Shoshone-Paiute tribal member, his gene pool is
a combination of French and Native American. His father, Benson Gibson,
was Shoshone-Paiute. His mother, Antoinette Gibson, is from a northern
region in France. The two met in 1957 when Benson – stationed
at a French U.S. Air Force base – met Antoinette in a hospital.
(front) and Angela Gibson
"My father was a champion boxer and my mother was a nurse,"
Gibson said. "My dad had busted his fist during a fight and my
mother was the one who took care of him."
After serving in the service the couple returned to the reservation
to set up home.
Gibson recently married Debbie Gibson, his mate of over 20 years.
The two have five children, including an eight-month-old boy Kaden
they recently adopted.
"I love kids," Gibson said. "There’s usually
always around eight-to-ten kids at my house at one particular time.
I think children may be enough."