Grass Roots Oyate
January 16, 2000
Until we Win
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GRASS ROOTS OGLALA LAKOTA OYATE
***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
April 19, 2000
RED CLOUD BUILDING, PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION, S.D.
GRASS ROOTS OYATE DECLARE INDEPENDENCE; APPOINT GENERAL COUNCIL!
On April 18, 2000, the Grass Roots Oyate, a large contingency of traditionalists, gathered for a mass meeting in Pine Ridge Agency to declare their sovereign immunity and appoint traditional governing body, under the guidelines of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and their independence from the oppressive I.R.A. (1934 Indian Reorganization Act) form of governance.
As a record number of Oglala Lakota elders and traditionalists from other reservations filed into the Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge Agency, there was an overwhelming sense of hope and determination in the air. The Grass Roots Oyate contend that the I.R.A. system, forced upon indigenous nations in the early 1930s, was the U.S. governments attempt to assimilate Native Americans into the "white society". Many traditionalists have referred to the I.R.A. as a slow, silent form of genocide of native people. Grass Roots spokespeople addressed tribal members with words of encouragement and provided a history lesson on inherent treaty rights. They stated that, " the present IRA government is a long train of abuses and usurpations against the common people and they have established an absolute tyranny over this great Oglala Lakota Nation." One elder agreed by stating, " Enough is enough! While the United States is considered the "richest" nation in the world, our people are living without food and indoor plumbing. The BIA knows this and they continue to push this IRA system."
Traditional General Council Formed
A 28-member panel has been established to administrate the transition to a traditional form of governance. The panel, officially referred to as the "General Council of the Grass Roots Oglala Lakota Nation", includes elders from various "tiospayes" (extended family community) that will be headed up the Tribes Chief, Oliver Red Cloud. Traditional law dictates general consensus on major issues. It will be the responsibility of the General Council members to take proposed issues back to their respective tiospayes for approval.
Red Cloud, who has led the 93-day occupation of the Tribes administration building, is the great, great grandson of the famous Oglala Chief Red Cloud. Speaking in his native Lakota language to the General Council, he stated that, "The Oglala Lakota have withstood harsh diversities forced upon them by the Europeans. The only constant we know is change. The return to traditional law will take time, but this change is our destiny. We must work together and regain our trust in one another, because we are all related. It is the only hope we have to protect our spirituality and language for our takoja (grandchildren)."
Tribal President Resigns From IRA Government
Oglala Sioux Tribal President, Harold Salway, sat humbly before the General Council and solemnly pledged to remove himself from the IRA system and walk with the traditional people to a better way of life.
General Council Seeks Court Order To Freeze Tribal Funds
The first action taken by the General Council was to file a petition to the Tribal Court to freeze all tribal funds in an effort to safeguard them from further misappropriation and embezzlement by IRA officials. Preliminary audit findings of the Tribes 1999 General Fund shows a lop-sided view of the Tribes assets vs. liabilities. The report shows that the Tribes FY99 ended with an asset deficit of $-1,453,615.00 and liabilities of $482,663.00. In late 1999, the IRA Tribal Council had sought to obtain a bond bailout of $8 million dollars to pay off a previous bond and give the Tribe additional working capital. Although the 1989 bond was ushered in without general tribal consensus, concerned tribal members refused to allow for another bond bailout. According to the Grass Roots Oyate, that is when the people started raising questions about spending and accountability. When the Tribal Treasurer Wesley C. Jacobs and members of the Tribes Finance Committee refused to make financial statements public, the Grass Roots Oyate was formed. Since the occupation of the Red Cloud Building began, IRA officials have been in a spending frenzy, helping themselves and their families to the oyates money.
When the Tribes Head Judge, Patrick Lee was informed that elder members of the Grass Roots Oyate were planning to hand-carry the petition to the Court House, Lee granted administrative leave to all court employees, locked the building and left for his home in Rapid City, SD. Dismayed by Lees actions, the Grass Roots Oyate reminded the large crowd that Judge Lee was elected through the IRA system and will not be a part of the traditional "wakinconzas" judicial system.
Tribes Attorney General Ousted From Reservation
The General Council passed a resolution to fire IRA-appointed attorney Richard Erie and demand his removal from the reservation. Upon General Council approval, members of the Tokala Society began searching for Erie, who was reported to have been seen in Pine Ridge Agency. He fled in his vehicle, with Tokalas and Tribal Police in tow. He was apprehended as he attempted to seek refuge in Kathy Ecoffeys office at the tribal hospital. He and his wife were escorted off the reservation. Grass Roots Oyate question why Erie would run to Mrs. Ecoffey for sanctuary. Ecoffey is the wife of the BIA Superintendent Robert Ecoffey. Superintendent Ecoffey has repeatedly stated that he has no allegiance to Erie, Jacobs or the Tribal Council and contends that he has no conflict of interest.
Blatant Civil Rights Violations Occurring
Since the onset of the occupation, there appears to be a national media blackout on the historic events taking place here. IRA Tribal Council members have attempted to ban the Grass Roots Oyate from speaking on the Tribes radio station, KILI FM radio. Recently, a national radio program called "National Native News" refused to report on Grass Roots actions, citing that, "the Grass Roots Oyate had no authority to form a traditional government." Grass Roots media coordinator Dale Looks Twice stated, "This is a blatant form of censorship. Media organizations have no right to editorialize reports and should remain impartial."
Through trials and tribulations, the Grass Roots Oyate remain unified and strong. They have gained international attention and support by using non-violent methods to effectively change their governance system. They appreciate all of the support they have received from around the world and encourage other indigenous tribes to unite with them in their struggle for sovereignty.
For further information, please contact Floyd Hand or Media Coordinator, Dale Looks Twice at (605) 867-5303.
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