Monthly Archives: January 2014

A violent mind sets violence into motion

First, I want to offer my condolences to the families of Ben Clifford Jr. and Calvin Kills In Water, Jr.


Ben was a Grandpa. Calvin was a Dad. Each came from a large extended family and many relatives mourn their premature passing.


The violent murders of an elder and a young man are tragic. Many of us wonder if the way their lives were taken could have been prevented.


Accused murderers BillyRay and Riley McCloskey are brothers. Both are in their early 20’s which is normally a time we look forward to a life full of promise. These young men now sit in a federal jail awaiting trial for second-degree murder.


36 year old Crystal Red Hawk helped the McCloskey brothers try to cover up their crime. She is also in federal custody awaiting trial on accessory after the fact.


The federal justice system is predicable. The accused will remain in custody until their scheduled trial date of March 11, 2014. I sincerely hope they are not released on third party bond. I would not feel safe if any of them were to return to the Rez.


All three will be appointed an attorney, who will visit them in jail to discuss their case. At some point the government will offer a plea bargain. The appointed attorney will go over those documents and will most likely advocate for the accused to accept the plea bargain. 


Most tribal people indicted for a federal crime will accept the deal offered and enter a guilty plea to their charges. This might result in a lighter sentence than if they had gone to trial and been found guilty.


Second degree murder cases are not ones which will put someone away for life. Even when a defendant goes to trial and is found guilty the sentence could be anywhere from 10-20 years, depending on sentencing guidelines.


Ben Clifford, Jr. was 76 years old. Calvin Kills In Water was 33 years old. Perhaps a jail term of 109 years, without the possibility of parole, is a fair exchange for their deaths.


Yet, Calvin left behind small children who will grow up deprived of their father. Ben’s wife is now a widow. It isn’t fair to them. Many lives were changed. Forever.

A plea bargain will most likely see these people be released from jail at some point. Most of tribal members who serve time usually wind up coming home to the Rez.


Personally, I would be in favor of establishing banishment laws on the Rosebud Reservation. Violent murderers should not be able to live on our homelands. Our young people and elders deserve to be safe on their own Rez.


Yet, even if we advocated for our tribal government to enact banishment laws against our own tribal members, where would they go upon being released from jail? They have to go somewhere. Other people will be at risk from convicted murderers living nearby.  


A violent mind often sets violence into motion. No matter where they live.


A vicious cycle for sure

I have many people who will inform me about what is happening around them. I appreciate the information they provide because it gives me something to think about. When I think about something long enough, I usually put it to words here to share with all of you.


When we hear the word bully, many of us tend to visualize a mean kid at a local school who will strong-arm other students into getting what he/she wants. We have to stop stereotyping our school children as the major bully figures because we have adults with much worse behavior.


Bullying is a learned behavior. The mean kid on the playground learned how to be mean from someone, right? Most of his or her actions can be traced back to a specific adult. And it might not be a parent.


We all know of at least one adult bully. On the Rez they are really prevalent. Many have developed excellent intimidation skills over the years. They are used to getting their way, even if it means acting violently in order to do so.


The bully is also in the workplace. Whether you are employed with the tribe, the federal government, a local school or a private company, you will most likely witness some form of the bully in your workplace.


Is it a bullying tactic to manipulate someone? I believe it is, especially when the one manipulating is doing it for some sort of personal gain. I saw this behavior in a workplace recently where some employees manipulate their co-workers and the system for financial gain. That’s an example of a corrupt system, which might be addressed in a future column.


The 1934 Indian Reorganization Act created the modern day tribal governments, which are patterned after the other political systems. Tribal governments consist of constitutional officers and tribal council representatives; along with an array of committees, commissions, boards and a treaty council. Most members are elected while several are appointed to these bodies.


These are the people who make decisions affecting all of us living on the Rez. Our lives could be changed by one simple motion. Or not. And the people who get their way on these councils, boards and commissions often resort to their bully skills to get what they want. Especially where it concerns money.


Many of those who sit on these councils, committees, boards or commissions receive a stipend for attending meetings. Or there might be travel money involved. In any case, money always seems to bring out the bully tactics of these so-called officials.


It’s not right to bully people into tears to get your way. Real Lakota leaders do not operate that way. The staff are there to help, not for you to pick on because your check isn’t ready.


On the other hand, sometimes the only way to get a bully to back off from you is to bully them right back. All of a sudden they are the victim!


A vicious cycle for sure.

Future of Parmelee Youth Club uncertain

PARMELEE, SD – The closure of a local youth club is being proposed after officials received several allegations against the Site Director, who was suspended and is being recommended for termination.


Lisa Shott has been employed as the Parmelee Site Director for over six years. She was emailed a memorandum informing her of an administrative action resulting in her “suspension from the Boys and Girls Club of Rosebud as the Site Director of the Parmelee site, effective immediately, pending board approval of termination from the site.”


The memorandum is dated January 2, 2014 and signed by Chief Professional Officer (CPO) Tori Whipple along with Chief Volunteer Officer (CVO) Burdette Clifford. Several alleged complaints are listed as reasons for the suspension. Yet, according to the document the “complaints have not been put in writing.”


Ms. Shott was recently elected President of the Parmelee Community. One complaint alleges that she is “doing Parmelee community activities.” The memorandum also states her time should “not be spent doing things for the Parmelee community.” She denies doing community work while on the job at the youth center.


The Parmelee Boys and Girls Club also has an Advisory Board. This body is in place to make recommendations to the Board of Directors which oversees three club sites on the Rosebud Reservation. Special meeting minutes of the Parmelee Advisory Board reflect an approved motion to “oppose administrative action proposed by Tori Whipple and Burdette Clifford on the suspension and termination of Lisa Shott.”


The minutes of the local advisory board also show an approved motion to hold a grievance hearing for Ms. Shott. Yet, the Employee Manual of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rosebud does not have language affording their employees any type of due process.


“The decision is final,” stated Tracy Harrison, referring to the suspension and termination. She spoke at a public forum held in Parmelee last week. Harrison is a physician assistant at Rosebud Hospital and was appointed to serve on the Board as the Parmelee area representative.


Several other people also spoke at the public forum which was held to address the issues the local site is now facing. Other Board members who attended the forum included Burdette Clifford, Lois Antoine, Naomi Good Shield, Leo Campbell, Dion Reynolds, Dr. Gail Mason and Marianne DeCora. They heard Parmelee residents speak to activities and staff at the youth center.


“The rules and regulations are so vague they can be taken one way or another, the Boys and Girls Club is here to build the community,” stated tribal legal advocate O.J. Semans, who also spoke at the public forum. “The fact that management can make decisions like this is wrong and the Board is saying they support this without listening to one community member.”


“There are kids from the community who were told to leave the building,” stated Lila Young.


The site serves at least 75 families and has 132 enrolled children. Furthermore, the memorandum addressed to Ms. Shott states the site is being recommended for closure. 


 “My grandkids come here and I never was told about them being asked to leave,” stated Carmen White Horse. “Where else are our kids going to go?”


“Some of the adults will not allow their children to come here but they sneak in anyway,” George Guerue said.


Another meeting will be held between the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors and the Parmelee Advisory Board on January 28 to further discuss the concerns. Ms. Shott informed the community the site would remain open and she would be volunteering her services until issues were resolved.


A young girl stood up at the end of the meeting and asked “Can we have our Lisa back?”


Rosebud still has a Meth problem

ROSEBUD, SD – The manufacture and use of the illegal drug methamphetamine, or meth, is still a very real problem on the Rosebud Reservation, according to tribal officials.


Meth is a synthetic, man-made drug which affects the central nervous system. Users can smoke, snort or inject methamphetamine.


When a meth user first gets high, the rest of their time is spent chasing the feeling they got from that first high.


“No matter how bad you feel, you can feel good for several hours after doing meth,” stated Rich Winter who spoke at a recent meeting of the Community President’s Association. He admits to being a former addict. “Your whole life can disappear quickly. It is a mental screw up. I don’t know anyone who was on meth who didn’t fall from their current status.”


When someone is using meth “I can tell,” stated Lori Walking Eagle. She is the Youth and Family Specialist for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Meth Initiative. “I can see it in their aura and facial expressions. I want to give hope. We need some hope out there. People need to know that they can stop.”


She also mentioned the fact that meth users emit a distinct stench. Meth users will have a chemical smell coming off their body either while they are using or after.


According to Walking Eagle, some young people in their early twenties incarcerated in the Rosebud Jail recently admitted to being meth users. One said that his relatives called him a “meth head.” He had a job, an apartment and some nice material possessions. Yet, his meth use caused his life to quickly spiral downward. All of his money was soon being spent on meth. He pawned all of his things and finally began robbing homes to sell stolen goods in order to buy more drugs.


There is also speculation that the group of people who murdered a young man and an elder south of St. Francis on Christmas Eve were high on meth.


When she was initially hired, Walking Eagle stated she saw only a few official reports about meth on Rosebud, yet the information coming from the streets told a different story. The word was that young people were coming from Mission to St. Francis to do meth. Most people are afraid to talk about the problem.


“I want whatever we do to complement whatever the federal agents are doing,” she said. “Law enforcement have to have certain elements in order to build a case, which might include surveillance and interviews. People who test positive for meth risk a felony indictment.”


The problem with obtaining accurate numbers about the number of users are due to several factors. For instance, the symptoms of meth use or withdrawal mirror those of mental illness. Emergency room visits by addicts who are in withdrawal will report depression or they may be suicidal or even homicidal. Medical staff may treat them for mental illness because a drug screen might show up negative due to the substance leaving their system quickly.


Most reports of meth use in the local area come from the larger communities of St. Francis, Antelope and Rosebud. There are also reports of meth being made in mobile units as they are driving onto the reservation from Nebraska.


One goal of the RST Meth Initiative is to create a video of local tribal members who admit to being meth addicts. This is one way to make the problem more real for our people.


If you know of someone who you suspect is using or making meth, you can fill out a Suspicious Activity Reporting Form. This form can be submitted anonymously to authorities. The form is not limited to reports about meth. You can report other suspected drug use also.


Other staff members of the RST Meth Initiative include Kevin Swalley, Sr. and Jordan Rahn.


For more information you may call Lori Walking Eagle at (605) 856-8743.

Family members seek justice and accountability for recent murders on the Rosebud Reservation

I am going to devote several columns to the fact that violence is extremely prevalent on the Rosebud Reservation. We need our law enforcement and tribal government to step up and increase efforts being made to afford us all a safer community. What are your ideas? Please email me at

Thank you and please be safe, Vi Waln


Dear News Outlet,

I wanted to tell you about my uncles murder (Ben Clifford) that occurred a few weeks ago near Saint Francis, SD (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) and Calvin Kills in Water, Jr. who was also murdered alongside Ben (who was dedicated to his young son he left behind).
We are a caring, loving, hardworking extended family. Ben for many years worked at the Iowa Beef Processing plant and was since retired and moved to White River, but was still helping with the RST Ambulance Service who gave Ben a certificate of appreciation and attended his funeral. Ben would attend my soccer games in Sioux City and bring a package of hamburger that he could get at a discount. Ben used to spend time with Leonard Crow Dog’s parents. Leonard Crow Dog spoke at Ben’s funeral about Ben, about Leonard’s own son who was murdered, and about how difficult it is to live as an elder in the increasingly violent neighborhoods.
After the funeral, we had a family meeting. Ben’s brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephew met, to discuss the investigation and arraignment this Wednesday (January 15) in Pierre, SD of the people who committed the crime.
This is not a straightforward case, because it took the legwork of Ben’s daughter and son-in-law to get us this far and lots of opportunities to collect evidence was botched.
The people involved were not just one-time offenders by accident, but violent people with a criminal history and Ben trusted he could give them a ride because he is an elder and thought that would mean something according to the way he was brought up.
As family members, there is only so much we can do because we drove from across the Midwest to attend the funeral, but we are going to help support the family nearby who can travel to Pierre and represent us in bringing a voice for Ben and his family. This is not like Chicago where the courthouse is a short drive away.
I am calling the news outlets. My mother (Sarah Clifford) and other family members will be there this Wednesday. We want to see if we can help bring attention to this crime and make sure the criminals responsible do not fall through the cracks because of apathy from the tribal and federal judicial systems and public safety systems.
At the meeting, we discussed how we want (1) justice, and (2) accountability by the public safety and judicial systems in pursuing this crime and (3) safer communities particularly for our elderly who are afraid to travel by themselves – just to go to the post office for example.
I am not really the best person who can give all the details, but I can direct you to all the family members who were at the meeting who can help answer questions for any reporter who wants to help us keep a spotlight on this crime and the circumstances surrounding it both before and after.
Best wishes,

Culture has nothing to do with it.

As some of you may be aware, Sinte Gleska University (SGU) was placed on probation by the North Central Association Higher Learning Commission (HLC), effective October 31, 2013.


There is a link on the SGU website which will take you to the HLC site where you can download the Public Disclosure Notice which was issued, along with a letter addressed to the SGU president. SGU must file a monitoring report by February 1, 2014.


SGU was put on probation because they are out of compliance. The monitoring report must outline steps SGU will take in order to come into compliance with the areas of Assumed Practice in which they were cited for.


Many of us hope SGU will share with the general public the monitoring report they are required to submit next month by publishing it in local newspapers. Tribal members are the real stakeholders in SGU and we all deserve to know what is going on with the university.


In 1996 I was elected to serve a 5-year term as an at-large member of the SGU Board of Regents. I watched from the inside how the institution operated during my term as a board member. It’s interesting to note the issues which SGU is out of compliance with today are some of the same areas the Board of Regents believed needed improvement during my term.


In May 2001, the SGU Board attempted to take the appropriate steps to begin addressing the issues which SGU faced back then. That is, the SGU Board believed the lack of leadership and financial accountability was detrimental to the institution. The Board approved a motion to terminate the SGU president’s contract.


Unfortunately, the SGU president was a member of Rosebud’s tribal council in 2001. Thus, his termination by the SGU Board was brought to the council. After several public meetings, all of the board members were removed by the tribal council. A new Board of Regents was appointed. This was done through RST Resolution 2001-155.


Consequently, the SGU by-laws were also revised and subsequently approved by the tribal council. The by-laws contain several detailed paragraphs outlining which tribal members are qualified to run for election to the Board. According to the language of the by-laws contained in the SGU self-study report, there was supposed to be an election in 2005.


Yet, with the exception of the student representative and perhaps the staff representative, there hasn’t been an election for SGU Board of Regents positions since 2000.


People who listen to Rosebud’s moccasin telegraph are hearing talk about how the current problems are due to cultural differences between SGU and the HLC. This is an excuse as some of the current problems existed during my term on the Board. The current problems go back to many years of financial mismanagement and lack of leadership.


Culture has nothing to do with it.