Cheryl Andrews-Maltais has been re-elected as chairperson of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) tribal council, staving off a challenge from Aquinnah Cultural Center program director NaDaizja Bolling.

Ms. Andrews-Maltais received 151 votes to Ms. Bolling’s 127, according to official results shared with the Gazette Monday.

Originally scheduled as part of a general tribal membership meeting Sunday, the election was held via mail-in only voting and results were tabulated and announced at the meeting, Ms. Bolling wrote in a text message to the Gazette.

Part of a newly formed coalition of tribal council candidates, Ms. Bolling was aligned in her candidacy with Linda Coombs, Camille Madison and incumbent Kristina Hook-Leslie — each running for general tribal council seats — and Kayla Darcy (Manning) for tribal council secretary.

But Ms. Andrews-Maltais held off the challenge in a tight election that saw significantly higher voter turnout than the chairperson race in 2019, despite there being no in-person voting.

In a statement provided to the Gazette Monday evening, Ms. Andrews-Maltais said she was honored to be re-elected to her fifth term as tribal chairperson. 

“I am so grateful to have the confidence and support of my People,” Ms. Andrews-Maltais said in the press release. “Their continued support energizes me and makes the hard work and long hours all worth it."

Ms. Coombs, Ms. Madison and Ms. Hook-Leslie were each elected to the council, according to official results. Nefertiti Jette was elected as secretary, defeating Ms. Darcy (Manning), 143-130, according to Ms. Bolling.

Ms. Bolling said that she was proud of her campaign team for its honesty, creativity and inclusivity, and was thrilled that three members of her slate were elected to the tribal council.

"We shook things up with this campaign," she wrote. "I did not win the Chairperson race, but three of the five members of our slate won their seats, so it's still a victory in my eyes."

Ms. Bolling said that she would keep working to improve relations between tribal members, tribal government and the Island.

"I will continue to be actively engaged in Wampanoag cultural education and in creating opportunities to build our community stronger," she wrote.

Tribal elections have historically been held in-person at tribal headquarters off Black Brook Road in Aquinnah, but the tribe switched to mail-in voting during the pandemic. A hybrid in-person and mail-in election was originally proposed this year, but an announcement posted to the tribal website, citing logistical issues, stated the election would be mail-in only.

The tribe used a New Mexico-based third-party voting company to conduct the election. The company opened the ballots on Island Sunday with tribal chief Ryan Malonson and tribal medicine man Jason Baird present.

Ms. Andrews-Maltais has served as tribal chairperson since 2016, spearheading its pursuit of gaming rights and the development of a casino. The project has since stalled, after a federal court ruling required the tribe to obtain state and local building permits before construction. 

In a recent interview prior to the election, Ms. Andrews-Maltais said her focus was now on leading the tribe through the end of the pandemic and developing an off-Island, satellite building in New Bedford, among other things. The Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe has approximately 1,200 members, 300 to 400 of whom live on-Island. 

With her re-election, Ms. Andrews-Maltais will be the longest-serving tribal chairwoman since the tribe earned federal recognition in 1987, the release stated. 

"Being able to look back on accomplishments that will have elevated the lives and well-being of our Tribal Community and Indian Country as a whole is so rewarding. I am so grateful to have a position that allows me the privilege to do something that I love,” Ms. Andrews-Maltais said. "“I simply cannot express how much it touches my heart, that my supporters came out to support me, so I could continue to support them."

Updated to include a statement from Ms. Andrews-Maltais. Noah Asimow contributed reporting.