Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sicangu Lakota Firefighters: the modern day Tokala

The raw powers of Wakinyan, Tate and Peta often remind humanity who is really in charge.


The fires which burned thousands of acres on the Rosebud Reservation helped me to reflect on many things. Even though the fires were started by lightning and no one is to blame for the size of the blaze, there were still a lot of accusations of who was supposedly at fault. Many people showed their genuine selves while the fire burned. Their masks were melted away by the heat.


We should appreciate it when people show their true selves. I don’t appreciate fake people. They are the ones who will act really super nice to your face while bad-mouthing you behind your back. An extreme crisis situation always forces people to show their real motives.


On Rosebud we have a Fire Department which is managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In June 2012 there were many tribal members who completed the rookie firefighter camp held at Ghost Hawk Park. I was very proud of all our young people who toughed out this difficult fire training. You have to be strong in order to be a firefighter.


A firefighter must certainly be in excellent physical condition. Fires are hard work. Many times people who fight fire must walk several miles a day to work on containment. Not everyone is cut out for this kind of work. An individual must have extreme physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength to become a fire fighter.


A firefighter has to be mentally and emotionally sound. It doesn’t do a fire crew any good to have unstable people trying to fight a fire. If your mind isn’t strong, you have no business on a fire crew. Fires have a life of their own, witnessing a huge inferno will definitely work on your mind and emotions. It’s easy to panic when you don’t have a firm handle on your own thought process.


Firefighters have to work as a team. There are many people on my rez who flatly refuse to cooperate when it comes to teamwork. What would have happened if there was no teamwork on those fires we had here on the Rosebud? They probably would still be burning out of control if there was no leadership or teamwork within our fire crews.


The people who dedicate their lives to fighting fires are trained for a reason. They are out there to do a job. It only hampers their efforts when there are untrained people getting in the way. When curious onlookers arrive on the scene of a fire, it complicates the work the fire crews are there to do. Not only do they have to work to contain the fire, they must also worry about the safety of onlookers or untrained volunteers. It must be doubly stressful to have to take into consideration people who do not heed the advice of trained fire fighters.


During the fires on the Rosebud Reservation, I received emails, texts and telephone calls about some of the things which were happening out there near the fires. Some of the information I received was appalling. It is pretty immature when adults criticize the men and women assigned to fire crews. It’s even worse when people refuse to get out of the way of firefighters.


The Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team arrived to help with the fires burning on the Rosebud Reservation on July 21, 2012 at 6pm local time. The teams which worked very hard on containing the fires on Rosebud were part of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Nearly 600 people worked to contain the blaze.


Incident Commander Joe Lowe told departing fire crews, “Firefighters on this incident have been humble professionals and have done an outstanding job, we have come together with local fire fighters and I am proud of the work we have all done.”


Many of us on the Rosebud Reservation are also proud of the hard work all the firefighters devoted to containing the fire. I hear lots of tribal members constantly criticizing our First Responders. Many people do not stop to think what life would be like without the firefighters, police officers and emergency medical staff who put their lives on the line every single day for us.


But everyone has their own internal problems I suppose. That is, most of the people who insult other people are basically insecure. They believe it will somehow help them to feel better if they put someone else down. Insults are also directed at other people to take attention off of personal issues. When you are busy insulting others, you have no time to work on your own problems.


Sometimes people who always seem to be angry insult other people because they are really not mature enough to come up with any other way to handle their internal rage. So, they will try to start a fight or to try to make the other person feel bad in some way. I have learned that the only way to handle an insult with class is to completely ignore it. Just walk away.


When the person insulting you is someone you care about you might confront them with the truth. Let them know you believe need to change their behavior. Of course this might make them even angrier, but at least you gave them something to think about.


So, I want to let all of the firefighters know that they did an excellent job with the Longhorn Complex fires. To contain a blaze spanning 43,639 acres of brush, grass and timber in rough terrain is quite an accomplishment, especially when weather conditions made the job extra difficult.


The Tokala were members of an ancient society who were known for their bravery in defending the people. The Tokala would commit themselves to a fight to the death if need be. I view our Sicangu Lakota firefighters as the modern day Tokala. Firefighters are our heroes!


Bordeaux, Scott chosen as unofficial winners of tribal president race

ROSEBUD, SD – Unofficial results show incumbent Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux will face Cyril “Whitey” Scott for the top seat on Rosebud during the General Election next month.


Bordeaux received 787 votes while Scott picked up 593 in the primary election held in 21 communities on the Rosebud Reservation.


Incumbent William “Willie” Kindle will face Oliver J. “OJ” Semans for the position of Vice-President. Kindle received 1,477 votes. Semans got 358 votes.


Incumbent Scott Herman will face Calvin “Hawkeye” Waln, Jr. for the tribal council seat from Antelope Community.


Incumbent Royal Yellow Hawk will face Mary F. Waln for the tribal council seat from He Dog Community.


Incumbent Webster Two Hawk, Sr. will face Fremont Fallis for the tribal council seat from Horse Creek Community.


Incumbent Patricia “Patti” Douville will face Rose Two Strike Stenstrom for the tribal council seat from Ring Thunder Community.


Rosebud Community will elect a new tribal council member this time around. Richard “Tuffy” Lunderman will face Stephanie C. Sully in next month’s General Election.


Incumbent John Swift will face Patsy Valandra for the tribal council seat from St. Francis Community.


Incumbent Delano Clairmont will face Alvin Bettelyoun, Sr. for the tribal council seat from Swift Bear Community.


Incumbent Kathleen High Pipe will face Philimon D. Two Eagle for the tribal council seat from Upper Cut Meat.


Incumbent Arlene Black Bear will face Brian Hart for the tribal council seat from Corn Creek.


Incumbent Todd Bear Shield will retain his tribal council seat from Bull Creek Community because he ran unopposed.


A reservation wide General Election is scheduled for Thursday, August 23, 2012. Qualified tribal members who have registered to vote will have the opportunity to cast their vote to select a president, vice president and all tribal council representatives.


For more information please call the Election Board at (605) 856-2373. Their office is located on Main Street in Mission, just south of the City office in the building which formerly housed the Mission Medical Clinic.





Longhorn Complex Fire at 95% containment, officials advise residents not to enter burn area

Rehabilitation Efforts Continue on the Longhorn Complex Fire

St. Francis, SD– Today crews continued to patrol, mop up, and rehab the fire line. Rehabilitation efforts include the repair of dozer line, fences, and gates. Fire crews will be working until midnight tonight on the last night shift of the Longhorn Complex and continue day operations tomorrow.

While addressing firefighters this evening at briefing, Shane Del Groso, Incident Commander Trainee, said, “We’ve come a long way this past week. The fire doubled in size and firefighters were able to endure extreme heat and intense thunderstorms. Thank you for continuing to be adaptable in these situations. More importantly, you have made a difference in a lot of lives.”

Entering the burn area is not recommended as many hazards are present following a wild fire. Trees with weakened root systems can become uprooted with little or no warning. Islands of unburned fuels remain within the fire perimeter and pose a risk to non-firefighters. Residents may expect to see and smell smoke over the next several days.

Thunderstorms are predicted with the possibility of dry lighting. Firefighters remain available to support Initial Attack should any new fire starts arise.

Containment of the Longhorn Complex remains at 95 percent. The fire is currently 43,639 acres. The Longhorn Complex includes the Iron Shell Fire (38,617 acres), the South Crazy Horse Fire (3,372 acres), and the Longhorn Fire (1,650 acres).

Road closures have been lifted on the Longhorn Complex Fire as of 12:00 p.m. today. BIA 30 and BIA 5 into the Spring Creek community and on BIA 30 at the intersection with BIA 5, and on BIA 5 at the intersection with BIA 501 are now open. Residents, and those travelling in the fire area, are urged to use caution as emergency vehicles and firefighters will continue to be working in the area.

Our children deserve a tribal government which is free from corrupt individuals

It is election eve on the Rosebud. Even though I do not have much faith in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, it is the government which my tribe operates under. Sadly, it is the only form of government we have. Until the people rise up and re-write the constitution we are governed under, nothing will change.


I have been going to tribal council meetings pretty regularly for the last 10 years or so. I have learned a lot just sitting there watching them conduct business. I strongly believe a prerequisite for running for any office in tribal government should be to attend at least a year of tribal council meetings. The tribal council members who have served many terms are quite knowledgeable about tribal government. They know the system and this can also make them very dangerous.


Tribal members do not realize we are all put in great danger whenever there is a tribal council meeting. The tribal council is the governing body of our reservation. They hold power over all of our tribal programs. Their meetings often get emotionally charged and they approve legislation which hurts people. Some of them say they are voting the wishes of the people but there are times when the people are wrong, in my opinion. It is not a good practice to stand behind the people when the people are wrong.


Some of the current candidates who are running for office are only thinking of themselves. They need your vote. They do not want your vote because they want to help the people, per se. They need your vote so they can remain in the position they are in. They are serving in a job which pays an extremely decent salary. They also have unlimited access to pay advances, tribal loans, free travel and a free smartphone.


Some of them need more than what I just listed above. Some candidates have personal vendettas against tribal employees. They need to get back into office to carry out those agendas. There are candidates who want very badly for certain tribal employees to be fired. This isn’t right. But that is the history of tribal politics; sometimes you lose your job simply because someone doesn’t like you. And that person who doesn’t like you is usually related to or married to or buddy-buddy with the tribal council member or tribal president who can fire you from your job.


In May 2012, the tribal council voted “to terminate the Chief of Police for a lack of leadership and that the police department have a review done and that the Police Commission/Judiciary Committee start the process of restricting.” This very ambiguous motion carried by a vote of 8 for, 4 against, 4 not voting and 4 absent. This action plunged the most crucial arm of the tribe into instant uncertainty. And it was all due to politics.


I saw a department head disciplining the employees because they needed to be put in line. Many tribal members believe the police department is corrupt. But I also know that people who work within the law enforcement system on Rosebud believed the Chief of Police was dealing with corruption by taking proper action.

She was simply doing the job for which she was hired to do.


Consequently, the grievance committee determined that she was within her authority to take action, which included the termination of some police officers, so the integrity of the police department could be maintained. She was reinstated to her job.


Now, the representative from Rosebud Community, who is now running for tribal president, is still headhunting for the Chief of Police. Today at the tribal council meeting he suggested that the grievance committee didn’t know how to do their job and needed to meet with the tribal council. It was also suggested that the grievance committee needs training. What a slap in the face for the members of the grievance committee, who are appointed to their positions by the tribal council.


If the members of the grievance committee needed training, the tribal council should have provided whatever education they deemed necessary to the members at the time of their appointment. When a committee, board or commission makes a decision which the tribal council does not agree with, right away the tribal council determines that the committee, board or commission needs more training.


In my opinion, it is very self-serving to use your influence as a tribal council member to micromanage and attempt to extend your legislative duties to those which belong to the personnel manager and or grievance process. It also seems as though the character of the members of the grievance committee is being called into question. What is the point of having a grievance committee when their decisions are subject to being overruled by the tribal council?


I have often wondered why tribal council appoints those committees, boards and commissions to serve underneath them. Everything is fine and dandy until one of those committees, boards or commissions takes an action which irks the tribal council. Then the tribal council will (1) call members of the committee, board or commission into a council meeting and ask them what the heck were they thinking when they made that decision or (2) remove the entire committee, board or commission and appoint one which will make only the decisions favorable to the tribal council.


I know this for a fact because I was once Chairperson of a commission and I was called in to an executive session of a tribal council meeting to explain why a certain action was taken. Another time I was a member of a Board which was removed by the tribal council and replaced with a new Board.


In closing, I am still not sure who I am going to vote for in tomorrow’s election. How does that saying go? Sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils.

Our children deserve a tribal government which is free from corrupt individuals.