Monthly Archives: August 2013

Welcome to the 137th Annual Rosebud Fair, Wacipi and Rodeo

Congratulations to Byron Wright (Treasurer Elect), Julie Peneaux (Secretary Elect) and Mike Boltz Sr. (St. Francis Council Rep. Elect) who were the unofficial winners of Rosebud’s Election on August 22, 2013.

I am always happy to see new faces in my tribal government. Yet, I know most of you are not happy with the way tribal government functions. It is a system which is never win/win, someone always loses or gets left out. I remain hopeful that a true Lakota leader will emerge from the Seventh Generation to re-write our entire Tribal Constitution in a way which will benefit us all.

A revised document reflecting true Lakota virtues could be proposed to the tribal council at any time. If all twenty communities worked together through the Community President’s Association to bring a resolution containing a revised Constitution to the tribal council it would have to be acted upon. A new Constitution could be put to a ballot through Article IX of the current RST Constitution, which reads in part: “It shall be the duty of the Secretary of Interior to call an election on any proposed amendment, upon receipt of a written resolution signed by at least three-fourths (3/4) of the membership of the Council.”

On a more celebratory note, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is sponsoring the 137th Annual Fair, Rodeo and Wacipi this week. Many people look forward to this time of year as it is a time for us all to enjoy ourselves. There are many activities scheduled to happen.

I especially want to welcome all of our tribal members who live off the rez along with other visitors to the Rosebud Reservation for this annual celebration. Many of our relatives travel long distances to return home for this celebration. It will be good to see them again.

Every August I write about the origins of Rosebud Fair. Yet, there are historians who disagree with the timelines I present surrounding the reason for our celebration. Still, as I have come to understand the history of my own people, the Sicangu Lakota maintain that our very first tribal celebration was held in late summer of 1876. This occurred when the Sicangu Lakota Oyate learned of the June 25 annihilation of General George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry. A welcome home victory celebration to honor many Lakota warriors who had fought in the Battle of the Little Big Horn took place here on the Rosebud. Our Lakota Akicita carried home the personal flag of the fallen General Custer along with several troop guidon flags.

Francis White Bird, Sicangu tribal member and Decorated Vietnam Veteran, had replicas of the captured flags made several years ago. A ceremony was also held at Fort Meade in Sturgis to dedicate the flags. The flags are carried in the grand entry at the Rosebud Wacipi held every August. When the replicas were first brought to Rosebud, White Bird gave a history of how they came into the possession of the Lakota people and talked about the origin of the celebration. The Lakota descendants present that day were proud to be part of a waktegli waci or victory dance.

In the book, The Sioux of the Rosebud, Anderson and Hamilton describe the Fourth of July festivities in 1897 where “The celebration lasted for six days…On July 1 the Indians went to the fairgrounds… one mile north of the Rosebud Agency and set up their great circle of tipis…on July 6 the Indian police held a drill followed by a…reenactment of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. This event should not have required much coaching, since almost every Indian present over twenty-one years old had been at the original battle in 1876.”

When I was a small child I remember a large building which once served as a display area for the tribal fair. Garden produce, canned goods, handmade clothing, drawings, beadwork, quillwork, plus other arts and crafts items were judged at the fair. The displays were organized according to the districts of the Rosebud Reservation.

My late Grandmother often reminisced about how the celebration was when she was a child. The people of Rosebud knew it was fair time when a steady procession of horse-drawn wagons would arrive from all directions. Several people from the different reservation districts would come to the agency a few weeks in advance to prepare the camping area by building shades and outhouses. They would also build the arbor for the Wacipi and prepare the rodeo arena. All of this was volunteer work.

Families would travel with essentials and food to last the whole time they were camped. Our people were so self-sufficient and depended only upon themselves. They did not expect anyone to provide for their basic needs while at the fair. Wagons were loaded with clothing, bedding, tipis, poles, canvas tents, firewood, and tools; along with cooking and eating utensils.

The families camped according to the district they came from. It was a very organized circle, with everyone respecting each other and their camping area. There was no running water as we know it today and families had to haul their own water in wooden barrels. Many of us cannot comprehend packing enough food to last throughout the entire fair. Back when my late Grandmother was a child she used to tell me about how her mother would pack dried meat, biscuits, boiled potatoes, and home canned fruit for the family to eat while traveling and camping.

On the first day of the fair, there would be a morning charge. Many young men and women would mount their horses for a long charge through camp. It would be great to see someone bring back this tradition to remember our ancestors who fought at the Little Big Horn.

In closing, I do want to say that I have attended Rosebud Fair for many years without having to overdose on alcohol. When you stop buying booze you will have more money to spend on treats for your family, children and grandchildren.

I encourage you all to have a sober, safe Rosebud Fair.

Do not be intimidated

Several years ago I was involved with a man who was believed to know something about certain crimes which were under the jurisdiction of the federal government. He was questioned several times by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agents. Two of those federal agents also visited me at work to question me.


I am not easily intimidated. One of those agents had come all the way from Quantico, Virginia because the case involved a suspect who had committed crimes in several states (the perpetrator was eventually caught and jailed). The other agent was a local guy out of Pierre and one I recognized as the dude who came into my yard to peer inside my house windows on one occasion.


When the agent informed me he was from the Behavior Analysis Unit (a place made famous through a weekly television series), I made a conscious effort to remain open in terms of body language as I had nothing to hide. The case under investigation did not involve me. Still, I noted how he carefully observed my non-verbal reactions to his questions. And even though I did not give much away in terms of body language, my voice remained very sarcastic.


At the end of the interview, he judged me as “hostile.” I asked him if he could blame me considering all the grief the organization he worked for had brought to my people. He just laughed arrogantly and stated that he was “from the new FBI where things had changed.”


Well, nothing much has changed in terms of the jurisdiction the federal government has over Indian Country. The federal government took jurisdiction away from certain tribes in the 19th century as a result of a murder case on the Rosebud Reservation.


“The Major Crimes Act (U.S. Statutes at Large, 23:385) is a law passed by the United States Congress in 1885. It places 7 major crimes under federal jurisdiction if they are committed by a Native American against another Native American in Native territory. The crimes which fell under federal jurisdiction were:

Murder, Manslaughter, Rape, Assault with intent to commit murder, Arson, Burglary, Larceny.


“The act was passed in response to the Supreme Court of the United States’ affirmation of tribal sovereignty in their ruling in Ex parte Crow Dog (109 U.S. 556 (1883)), wherein they overturned the federal court conviction of Brule Lakota sub-chief Crow Dog, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of principal chief Spotted Tail on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Dakota Territory. The Court reasoned that the ability of the tribe to deal with such an offense was an attribute of tribal sovereignty that had not been specifically abrogated by an act of Congress.


“The Major Crimes Act reduced the internal sovereignty of native tribes by removing their ability to try and to punish serious offenders in Indian country. The theory underlying it was that Indian tribes were not competent to deal with serious issues of crime and punishment. The constitutionality of the Major Crimes Act was upheld in United States v. Kagama (118 U.S. 375 (1886)), a case in which two Indians were prosecuted for killing another Indian on a reservation. While the Court agreed that the prosecution of major crimes did not fall within Congress’s power to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes, it ruled that the trust relationship between the federal government and the tribes conferred on Congress both the duty and the power to regulate tribal affairs.”


This legislation has had a major impact upon our people. Recently, I attended a federal court sentencing hearing wherein the judge stated there was no single victim involved in the crime committed by the defendant – the actual damage had supposedly been done to the United States Government. I thought it ridiculous to attempt to depict the US government as a victim! What about the Indian people victimized by that same US government?


Also, I’m not a lawyer. But I do have a word of common sense on answering questions during FBI interrogations – never let them intimidate you! I believe I can speak for many of you who wonder why it is a crime for someone to tell lies to a federal agent but it is not against the law for them to lie to you. Double standards usually breed corruption.


Have any of you experienced an interrogation by federal agents where you were taken to another jurisdiction (like the next county over) to be questioned? Did your interview take place in one of those SUV’s with dark tinted windows in an extremely isolated area out on the prairie? Did the federal agent become highly agitated when you refused to answer questions? Authority also breeds ego and many lack integrity when they are performing their duties. In my personal opinion, the entire law enforcement and court systems – whether they be tribal, state, county or federal – are corrupt in many ways.


Furthermore, in terms of the number of Indian people sentenced to prison, the argument always surfaces about how much influence historical and/or intergenerational
trauma has had on the fact that so many of our people are behind bars. For instance, it is believed that some people commit crimes because of the atrocities our people experienced a long time ago. Others are victimized as children and grow up to be adult offenders.


I do believe it is a fact that historical trauma continues to affect us. Yet, it is also up to us to begin the healing process. Intergenerational trauma is not going to magically disappear. We must take the first steps on our healing journey.


And what about the contemporary trauma being inflicted by the unscrupulous interrogation tactics used by federal agents? Please learn how to deal with people who are paid to intimidate or bully others.


Personally, I believe it is an individual form of protest to NOT be intimidated by federal agents. I pray for these people daily. They desperately need it.