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Pine Ridge

Occupation Peoples

Grass Roots Oyate

January 16, 2000

Until we Win

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March 21, 2000



Oglala Sioux Tribal President Harold Salway issued a notice requesting the Tribal Council attend a mass meeting with the people to address issues that have plagued the Pine Ridge Reservation for years. The meeting, scheduled for March 22nd at Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge Agency, will be only the second time in nearly two months that the Grass Roots Oyate will meet with members of the Tribal Council.

Nearly two weeks ago, Salway declared a "state of emergency" for the Pine Ridge Reservation. Attorneys for the Grass Roots Oyate stated that Salway has an inherent right to make such a declaration in a crisis situation. To date, suspended politicians continue to conduct business with no regard for their constituents. Further, U.S. Attorney Ted McBride has informed the Tribe’s Public Safety Department that he will pursue federal warrants for any officer attempting to arrest or remove elected/appointed officials from the reservation. Grass Roots’ spokespeople stated that McBride’s threats are unfounded and that he has no such jurisdiction over such matters. It has been widely reported that McBride has a long-standing relationship with Robert Ecoffey, BIA Superintendent at Pine Ridge Agency, an unassuming agitator in this crisis, says Grass Roots’ spokespeople. The Grass Roots Oyate stated that earlier this week, suspended tribal council members and the suspended tribal treasurer flew to Washington, D.C. to meet with Assistant Secretary of Interior, Kevin Gover. Traveling without authority, at the tribal members’ expense, this trip appears to be a last ditch effort by these so-called "renegades" to garner support from Washington officials. Gover had requested that Salway attend the deliberations in D.C., but Salway refused the invitation by stating that, "…Mr. Gover should come to Pine Ridge and hear testimony from the grass roots people; this is not a president vs. council issue; this is a people vs. council issue…"

The Grass Roots Oyate took peaceful control of the Tribe’s administrative offices on January 16th in an effort to protect financial records until a full forensic audit could be done to prove the people’s allegations against the tribal treasurer and members of the tribal council for gross misconduct and mismanagement of tribal funds. To date, the Grass Roots Oyate have had some success; a forensic audit of the Tribe’s 1999 General Fund is complete and they are preparing to begin an audit of the 1999 Indirect Cost Fund next week. Among their nine demands, the people are requesting an audit of the BIA Land Office, and permanent removal of Wesley "Chuck" Jacobs as tribal treasurer.

Additionally, the Grass Roots Oyate are working with constitutional attorneys to effectively reformulate their governance system to one that better "reflects the Oglala Lakota". The current system, implemented in 1934 by the Secretary of Interior, has been called a "slow, silent form of genocide" for Indian tribes. The efforts of the Grass Roots Oyate have prompted other reservations to take a hard look at their own corrupted tribal governments and initiate change. Indigenous nations across the Northern Hemisphere are monitoring the situation at Pine Ridge. Grass Roots spokespeople encourage these nations to stay strong and unite with them for change.

Importantly, they have effectively awakened a tribe that has lived with the day-to-day fear of hunger, homelessness, and despair. After decades of oppression, many tribal members say that they are somewhat like a victim of domestic abuse, constantly beaten down and stripped of their dignity and self-esteem. That is why, they say, they have remained quiet for so long about the gross mismanagement of tribal funds. Further, many traditional tribal members have refused to participate in the IRA election process, fearing they would lose their sovereignty rights. Therefore, they say, the same people are voted into office year after year. Whether it is the prophecies of the White Buffalo Calf Woman or the beginning of a new millennium, it is uncertain what exactly drove these proud people to stand up and fight for the very issues their ancestors fought and died for – land and freedom.

For further information, please contact Floyd Hand, or Media Coordinator Dale Looks Twice at (605) 867-5303.


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