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Pine Ridge

Occupation Peoples

Grass Roots Oyate

January 16, 2000

Until we Win

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March 23, 2000

Red Cloud Building, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota:


In a letter today to Oglala Sioux Tribal President Harold Salway, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Kevin Gover, advised that he does not recognize Salway as the Tribe’s president, nor does he recognize his state of emergency.

Gover, who met with suspended Tribal Treasurer Chuck Jacobs and tribal council members earlier this week, is attempting to micro-manage our sovereign nation, according to Grass Roots Oyate spokespeople. Although Gover claims to want to work with, "…any and all of the Oglala people, who desire a resolution of the current crisis at Pine Ridge," the Grass Roots Oyate feel that this is untrue. They stated that they have repeatedly requested that Gover investigate the widespread corruption that has plagued tribal government for decades. Further, tribal members have forwarded letters to Gover asking him to come to Pine Ridge and hear testimony from the tribal members. The Grass Roots Oyate stated that the U.S. has a trust responsibility to the Tribe under the active 1868 Treaty at Fort Laramie. However, they question whether or not Gover, a federal employee, has any authority to scold Salway and compromise his character and integrity. The Oglala Sioux Tribe, a sovereign nation, must deal directly with the U.S. President, Bill Clinton on further issues. In a statement today, Salway stated, "In Gover’s letter, he assumes that other federal agencies will support his position. This statement is undermining the integrity of our sovereignty, our treaties."

Additionally, Gover stated that, "…we are prepared to withdraw BIA funding for the Tribe’s Public Safety Commission and the Public Safety Program…" In a separate statement to the press, Gover stated that he may rescind other non-compliant federal programs on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Grass Roots Oyate contend that this is not as a result of their takeover of the Tribal offices. This is a direct result of Jacobs’ and council members’ gross mismanagement of federal program monies. Further, they said that it is common practice for Jacobs to co-mingle federal program monies into the Tribe’s general fund to cover exorbitant expenditures made by him and the Finance Committee.

The Grass Roots Oyate consider this letter a minor setback, and if anything, a blessing in disguise. They feel that this gives them an open invitation to bring federal charges against Gover and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for their failure to uphold their trust responsibility to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. These actions could prove to be a landmark case against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Tribal elders stated that they would pray for Gover to come to his senses and rescind his remarks tomorrow.

The BIA appointed auditor Jaime Arroba, along with federal agents, have visited the Tribe’s administrative offices for the past two days to confiscate financial records for fiscal years 1995 to present. Arroba will begin an audit of the 1999 Indirect Cost Fund in the next few days. His preliminary findings of the 1999 General Fund audit have been in the hands of the BIA Superintendent Robert Ecoffey for over one week. To date, he refuses to release any information to the tribal members. Orraba assured the Grass Roots Oyate that his final report would be issued in the next few days. The Oyate will seek a federal subpoena under the Freedom Of Information Act if Ecoffey does not make the report public.

Meanwhile, the Grass Roots Oyate remain confident that tomorrow will bring renewed hope for a better way of life. In a regular evening meeting, one elder stated, "The sacred Cannupa (pipe) continues to guide the Oyate on the path to truth and justice. Look how far the Lakota have come. Mr. Gover cannot intimidate us." "We must stay focused on our goals to remove Jacobs and reformulate our government," said another. Tribal members are actively working on reformulating the Tribe’s governance system, with the assistance of constitutional attorney Dean Cycon, to bring in a more culturally based government to better serve all the tribal members, not just a select few.

The Grass Roots Oyate took peaceful control of the Red Cloud Building on January 16th, 2000 in an effort to bring attention to the widespread corruption that has plagued this reservation for decades. Among their nine demands, they are seeking a five-year, full forensic audit of all governmental fund types, a referendum election to recall council members, the permanent removal of Jacobs from all tribal government positions, and an audit of the BIA Land Office. They represent a vast majority of the Pine Ridge Reservation, those that are too afraid to speak up, fearing retribution and years of oppression. After 67 days, they contend that they will remain until their demands are met.

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


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