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Letter to the Editor

[Editor’s note: This letter has been edited for clarity and shortened to more closely conform to our word count for Letters to the Editor. Below is the first half of the letter. The full, uncut, letter can be found at www.westrivereagle.com/articles/vivian-high-elk-ARPA/. The second half of the edited letter will run in next week’s paper.]

To:  Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman, Council & Executives

From: Muriel Vivian High Elk

Date: January 6, 2022

cc:  BIA Superintendent, BIA, Aberdeen Area Office

Secretary of Interior

I am Vivian High Elk, a tribal member. I am not, in any terms, a legal person or an advocate. I am an Ikceya winyan, a common simple woman here to address CRST Council for many of our people.

I do not have expertise, skills, or the upper hand to make a difference. But I’m here as a tribal member, elder, and the voice for many of our people, to address you: Chairman, Executives, Tribal Council, listening public, phone calls, those on virtual live stream, and supporters.

I’m representing the elders, youth, children, and many tribal members who live off the reservation who wish to be here but can’t due to the lack of transportation, jobs, and housing. I support them.  They are forced to move off the reservation and can’t be here to support those that are here.

Their enrollments were used as part of the count to get the ARPA money.

We are here to demand $3,000 ARPA funds for all CRST members living on and off the reservation, immediately.

ARPA is for the benefit of the tribal members through the pandemic. But so far, since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, only the tribal executives and Tribal Council member’s families have benefited from all the COVID-19, CARES ACT, and ARPA funds received by the Tribe.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman announced on public radio that a second payment would be issued before Christmas and that’s what we came for.

On Tuesday, December 7, 2021; during the regular duly-called Tribal Council session; tribal elders and other tribal members attended the meeting to request the second payment, but Tribal Council failed to approve a second payment.

CRST Council had discussions on ARPA during the few days they met in the first week of December 2021. Many of the discussions held during Council that week seemed to keep us in limbo; with many terms that seemed to be obstacles set by council and their attorneys who don’t seem to want to give another ARPA payment to tribal members.

On December 10, 2021, the young people, elders, and other tribal members marched through the streets of Eagle Butte, rallying council. Throughout the week, we gave interviews on the local radio and on Facebook livestream to bring awareness to this stand that the elders, youth and tribal members are taking to Tribal Council for a second payment from the American Rescue Plan Act monies.

On December 13, 2021, the elders and tribal members again came to address Council, but CRST Chairman Harold Frazier and his CRST Council adjourned.

All the different times we’ve been to CRST Council, we were given a statue-effect. Council sat motionless with no discussion or motion to support us, their constituents who stood in the winter cold.

Instead, we were given a cold shoulder. There was no kind of emotion or empathy for us, like we weren’t heard or are nothing to them, that we didn’t matter. There was no kind of discussion as to what we addressed. Nor was it even mentioned that we were there all those days to demand an ARPA payment for hardship.

One of the obstacles put out there by attorney Mark Van Norman was that he made a call to the Department of Treasury which is an “obstacle” to us. We want to see the transmission of that call and have Tribal Council to provide us with that. We also need to pursue a request for a federal warrant for his phone call to the Department of Treasury, for a transcription on what the conversation was he held with them, what he said or talked with them about.

Attorneys wait for “updates/guidelines”, buying time for Tribal Council, before disbursing any more cash assistance. They claim they have to go by the current guidelines Attorneys like Mark Van Norman are trying to buy time for council.

A Department of Treasury Representative I spoke to a few days ago told me that their “guidelines” are already on their page.

[Editor’s note: The guidelines list six different targeted relief funds and can be found at home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/coronavirus/assistance-for-state-local-and-tribal-governments.%5D

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