Monthly Archives: July 2015

Elect Tribal Officials Who Have Integrity

RST Constitution

By Vi Waln

The Primary Election on the Rosebud Reservation will be held on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Voters will choose several candidates to appear on the General Election ballot in August. There are ten tribal council representative seats open, as well as the four constitutional officer positions.

Technology has changed the way candidates are able to campaign. It has also helped tribal voters stay informed. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has been broadcasting tribal meetings on Channel 93, which can be accessed by several local residents who subscribe to cable services. Meetings are also live streamed on You Tube.

Candidates running for office were offered an opportunity to create a 60 second campaign advertisement. Those videos can now be viewed on the Tribe’s You Tube page. Archived videos of past council meetings, as well as a candidate forum, can also be accessed.

The ability to watch tribal council meetings live is appreciated by many. Elders and other people who often have no way to attend a tribal council meeting, but have access to cable television and the internet, can now watch their legislators conduct business. This is one advantage to having the meetings live streamed.

There are also disadvantages to watching televised tribal council meetings. For example, recently the tribal council approved a motion which would result in a cut in the amount of per diem they are paid. A cut in pay for elected officials is an issue which many tribal voters seem to favor.

However, there are tribal council members who have allegedly taken per diem advances all the way to the end of their term. This means they are not receiving a check for attending meetings anymore. So, while the motion to take a cut in pay looks good for the incumbents who are running for re-election, the reduction in per diem will only affect those tribal council members who are not maxed out in pay advances.

It’s a good campaign tactic to let your constituents believe you are taking a cut in your $40,000+ per diem rate, when in reality certain council members are not losing any of their pay at all because they have already received it in advances. The misleading of tribal voters by motions which only affect certain council members is one disadvantage to watching live streamed meetings.

On the other hand, another advantage to watching these televised meetings is tribal voters often get to see the true nature of their representatives. For instance, when the motion to take the cut in pay was discussed on the council floor, one tribal representative talked about how he didn’t feel it was fair that only they should have to accept a reduced per diem. He stated the tribal program directors and other employees should also take a cut in pay.

Just because the tribal council cannot seem to manage their money doesn’t mean they should be cutting tribal employees’ pay. The cash flow problems the tribe currently faces is not the fault of the program directors or employees. There are many program directors, as well as tribal employees, who have worked hard to complete either a Bachelor or Masters Degree.

Some tribal directors have also become very skilled at managing their program money. They have learned to plan for budget or end of fiscal year shortfalls. They should not be penalized for the inability of the tribal council to manage their own budgets. It’s not fair.

Another area tribal voters could think about before going to the polls next week is how well the tribal council has adhered to the Constitution. This document is what governs the entire Tribe. Our rights as tribal people are supposed to be guaranteed under the RST Constitution and Bylaws.

Still, the tribal council violated our constitutional rights earlier this year when they voted to remove a tribal president, who was elected by the people. I realize there are differences of opinion on this action and what is done is done. I’m not taking anyone’s side.

But, after studying the Constitution over the past several years, I still cannot find where the tribal council has the authority to remove a constitutional officer. As far as I can see, the authority to remove a tribal president is limited. The tribal council can remove one of their own members, but only the people who voted a president (or vice-president, treasurer or secretary) into office can petition to have him/her removed. The recall process should have been followed.

Another violation of our Constitution recently occurred when a Tribal Judge ruled in favor of a candidate whose eligibility to run for office was challenged. The Judge overruled the Election Board’s decision to disqualify this candidate from running because of a felony conviction on his criminal record. Does the Tribal Judge’s action open up future elections for convicted felons to run for office?

Tribal voters must be very careful when going to the polls on July 23. I will not be voting for any candidates who may further violate my rights as outlined in the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Constitution & Bylaws. I will also not be voting for any candidates who are not eligible to be on the ballot because of their criminal record.

Our children deserve to have people of integrity elected to the governing body of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Let’s not disappoint them.

Tribal Economic Development Task Force Meets on Rosebud

Tuffy Lunderman (RST Vice-President) and Wizipan Little Elk (CEO of REDCO) give a presentation on Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi to the Tribal Economic Development Task Force. The 600-acre site is owned by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and designated for a resilient community development project. Photo by Vi Waln.

Tuffy Lunderman (RST Vice-President) and Wizipan Little Elk (CEO of REDCO) give a presentation on Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi to the Tribal Economic Development Task Force. The 600-acre site is owned by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and designated for a resilient community development project. Photo by Vi Waln.

By Vi Waln

MISSION – A task force created by the South Dakota House of Representatives met here last week to hear presentations by the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes.

Members of the Tribal Economic Development Task Force opened their meeting with a presentation by Clark Guthmiller of the US Department of Agriculture at the July 10 meeting. Also addressing the Task Force were Wizipan Little Elk, Chief Executive Officer of REDCO (Rosebud Economic Development Corporation) and Blaine Little Thunder, Eagle Nest Council Representative from Wanblee.
“We would love working with REDCO on getting some grant money for Rosebud,” stated Guthmiller. He shared information on available funding opportunities in the areas of Rural Business/Community Programs, Rural Housing Programs and Rural Utilities.

REDCO currently operates ten businesses on the Rosebud Reservation. They employ 32 people, most of which are tribal members, and generate $6 million in revenue every year. Current priorities in economic development include (1) land/agriculture, (2) renewable energy, (3) technology and (4) financing.

REDCO is currently working on developing the Tatanka Fund, which will be a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution) serving the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. A loan project is also being developed for tribal members to apply for financing for business endeavors. A third project is the Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi. The 600-acre site, where the Turtle Creek Crossing Grocery Store is located, is designated for a resilient community development project.

“The old model in agriculture has always been to lease out our land at dirt cheap rates and watch others get rich,” stated Little Elk. “We have to do something different. Rosebud has 1600 acres available to farm, but no people to operate combine equipment. We need to get some of our folks training to operate heavy equipment.”

Little Elk also presented several recommendations to the Task Force in the areas of tribal economic development legislation, taxes and intergovernmental agreements, existing government spending, business incentives and relationships, grant funding, and investing in education and work force development on the reservation.

“When the Tribe wins, the State wins,” stated Little Elk. He urged the Task Force members to consider using tribal businesses, such as Sicangu Office Products and Sicangu Program, to purchase goods the State is already using. “There are advantages to partnering with the Tribe,” he said.

“The reservations are a pass through area for a lot of money,” stated Tuffy Lunderman, Rosebud Sioux Tribe Vice-President. That is, even though the tribe has an unemployment rate of 80%, there is still a lot of money that comes into the reservation through employment, retirement and social service programs. Most of that money is spent off the reservation and doesn’t cycle back to the local tribal economy.

“Imagine what your body would do if you lost 86% of your blood,” stated Michael LaPointe, a Rosebud tribal member. “86 cents of every dollar leaves the reservation and doesn’t return. If that money turned here, like it does in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, we would have three quarters of a billion dollar economy.”

“So often government is just not the answer,” stated Representative Don Haggar. “We sell ourselves short if we don’t acknowledge what is happening in Indian Country. We brag about South Dakota having a low unemployment rate, but we forget about the 80% unemployment on the nine reservations.”

“Lots of times we hear the State doesn’t care about what happens on the reservations or that the reservations don’t care what happens with the State, but that’s just not true,” stated Representative Elizabeth May.

“We can only go up from here, that is where the Tribe and REDCO are looking,” stated Little Elk. “It is embedded in our culture to have high standards and we have to return to that. We are intent on pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but we need help getting a pair of boots.”

Representative Haggar, who serves as Chair, sponsored HB 1213 to create the Tribal Economic Development Task Force during the 2014 Legislative Session. The group was formed to work at improving economic development strategies on the nine Indian Reservations in South Dakota. Other Representatives who serve on the task force are Elizabeth May and Mike Verchio. Senators Jim Bradford, Craig Tieszen and Bruce Rampelberg are also members. Steve Emery, Secretary of the SD Department of Tribal Relations, along with Mark DeVries and Kathy Tyler are also members of the task force.

Tribal representatives include Task Force Vice-Chair Roxanne Sazue (Crow Creek), Steven Sitting Bear (Standing Rock), John Yellow Bird Steele (Pine Ridge) Sarah Zephier (Yankton), Chuck Jones (Lower Brule), Harold Frazier (Cheyenne River), Anthony Reider (Flandreau), Tuffy Lunderman (Rosebud) and DelRay German (Sisseton Wahpeton).

The meeting was broadcasted live by RST Channel 93. An archive of the meeting can be viewed online at Tribal Economic Development Task Force on You Tube. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, August 28 and will be held in Sioux Falls. Presentations from the Yankton and Flandreau Sioux Tribes will be heard. For more information on the Tribal Economic Development Task Force, you may call Roxanne Hammond, Attorney for the SD Legislative Research Council, at (605) 773-3251.

Our Most Valuable Resource is Our Children

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Our children, teenagers and young people are the most valuable resource we have. We call them Wakanyeja, a term which denotes their sacredness. I pray for the families who realize the importance of Lakota children and nurture them. I also pray for the Lakota families who are controlled by their addictions and don’t seem to care whether or not their children even have food to eat.

Regardless of how you treat your children or teenagers, they are the future of the Lakota Oyate. They will soon take our place and will be expected to lead our tribe into a better future. How they are treated by the adults in their lives will certainly determine the future of our tribe.

Today, there are many young people living on our Rez who have no guidance. The lack of guidance was recently apparent in how our young people handle fireworks. For example, fireworks are dangerous but it didn’t seem to stop many of our misguided young people on the Rez from aiming live rockets and artillery shells at one another, as well as cars and homes, throughout most of last week. What leadership skills can we expect from our young people who grow up without guidance?

Now, our young people are gathering in the nation’s capital for an historic conference. President Barack Obama was touched by the young people he visited at Standing Rock during the Cannonball Flag Day Wacipi in June 2014. As a result of his visit with those Hunkpapa Lakota teens, he launched the General Indigenous Initiative at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference.
He created this initiative to focus on improving the lives of our disadvantaged youth by helping to remove the barriers which may hinder their opportunity to succeed. Through new investments and increased engagement, the initiative proposes to take a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential.

This week, the White House is hosting the first-ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, DC. This conference will provide Native American and Alaska Native youth from across the country an opportunity to interact directly with senior Administration officials and the White House Council on Native American Affairs. President Barack Obama is providing our young people with a once in a lifetime experience.

Several young people from Rosebud are part of a larger group from throughout Indian Country who will experience this first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering. Nearly 1,500 young people from across Indian Country are expected in the nation’s capital to participate. The gathering will run from July 9 through 14 at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel. The agenda will feature several nationally known keynote speakers, more than thirty workshops, a cultural exchange night, talent show, youth dance and an awards banquet.

The group from Rosebud has a very busy itinerary. In addition to attending the White House Tribal Youth Gathering, the young people from Rosebud plan to visit the National Museum of the American Indian. They are also planning to tour Georgetown University. Their agenda also includes a side trip to Pennsylvania, where they will visit the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, a boarding school where many Native American children were sent during 1879-1918.

This trip to the nation’s capital will be the first time some of our young people have traveled such a long distance away from home. This will be an important experience for them to remember. I hope many of our young people going to this gathering will use this opportunity to speak out to government officials about their needs here at home. I encourage them to speak up to the officials they will be meeting with to convey the many areas where essential needs are currently unfulfilled. They will be speaking for all of us, including their younger siblings and extended family members.

It’s good our young people are getting some exposure as to what happens in Washington, DC. Perhaps it will motivate them to begin studying how the federal government operates now, so they can be prepared to move into positions of leadership when they are adults. It is also my hope this experience will motivate them to run for office here at the tribal level when they are adults, so they can do something different with our own government.

I pray our children will grow up into responsible adults and help to make their own Rez a better place to live.