Grass Roots Oyate
January 16, 2000
Until we Win
Current Pine Ridge Weather
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2000
RED CLOUD BUILDING, PINE RIDGE AGENCY, SOUTH DAKOTA:
On the flagpole outside the Oglala Sioux Tribal (OST) offices, an eagle feather and prayer flags of the six direction colors have replaced the United States flag. Traditional Lakota people believe that when you hang these sacred items outside your "home", you are inviting in the hungry, needy people. It is believed that through these prayer flags, you will always have food to feed those that come through your door. The Grass Roots Oyate are firm believers in this philosophy. For the first time in many years, Lakota elders feel at peace when they enter the Red Cloud Building and they know that they will not be turned away hungry or needy.
For 43 consecutive days, the Grass Roots Oyate have maintained peaceful control of their Tribe's administrative offices. Their future looks brighter with each passing day, as tribal officials continue to violate the constitution they swore to uphold. Indeed, the Grass Roots Oyate have much to celebrate. In just under six weeks, the traditionalists have successfully forced the suspension of the alleged ring leader, Tribal Treasurer Wesley "Chuck" Jacobs; thirteen of the seventeen Tribal Council Members have been suspended without pay; and a partial audit of the Tribe's financials is underway.
However, the Grass Roots Oyate remain cautiously optimistic. Like victims of domestic violence, the people of Pine Ridge live with broken promises from the abusive I.R.A. politicians. Suspended OST Council Members continue to conduct illegal sessions, thus being labeled the "renegade council". While the four remaining Council Members are still officially in office, they are not exempt from charges of gross misconduct and mismanagement of tribal funds. The Grass Roots Oyate contend that they have no personal grievance with the individuals they are accusing. Tribal officials have been asked to be honorable and resign from their positions. To date, none of the officials have agreed to step down. Therefore, the group believes that criminal prosecution may be their only resort in removing them.
An audit of the Tribe's 1999 General Fund, being conducted by Arroba & Associates is partially completed. Mr. Arroba assures the Grass Roots Oyate that if there is criminal fraud or embezzlement, he will find it. Arroba, well known in Indian Country, has a reputation for making tribal officials accountable for their illegal actions. As expected, the Grass Roots Oyate issued a resolution today to OST President Harold Salway demanding a full forensic audit of the 1999 Indirect Cost Fund. Overall, the group is requesting a five-year audit of all governmental fund types.
This evening, a group of graduate students from the Oglala Lakota College visited the Red Cloud Building to observe and offer their support. For their class "assignment", they will be looking at the current system of governance on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They will be exploring ways of addressing the conflicts that arise when the system of governance is called into question. The students' professor suggested that the college host a public forum to address these issues and begin processes of community-based healing.
Meanwhile, inside the tribal office, a candle continues to burn at the altar in the circular meeting room. The sacred cannupa (pipe) at the altar has brought the truth out in all those that stand before it. The Grass Roots Oyate, representing grandmothers, children, women, grandfathers, contend that they will remain in the Red Cloud Building until their demands are met. They took peaceful control of the building on January 16, 2000 and have declared their sovereign immunity in the building under the guidelines of the 1868 Treaty at Fort Laramie.
For further information, please contact Floyd Hand or Media Coordinator, Dale Looks Twice at (605) 867-5303
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