Thursday, October 29, 2020

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Tribal reform reaches epic proportions

Being an avid reader to further educate myself on Lakota Nation issues and concerns, it is remarkably noticeable of the thread of commonality about Lakota issues and concerns in written and oral commentary throughout social media outlets specifically focused on Lakota society.  I offer this week’s Op/Ed after reading these following articles;

“We are a broken and scattered people. How do we rebuild?” – Victor Swallow – Native Sun Times (NST) Columnist  Posted in; and NST article Candidate Brings Tribal Tradition to Campaign in South Dakota – Faith Spotted Eagle –

The CRST tribe is irreparably damaged and we are divided amongst ourselves that will require an astronomical paradigm shift to bring about change to tribal government dysfunction and resurrect stability of our sovereignty rights as enrolled tribal members.

Our instability and an unsustainable life as a Lakota society are rampant with dysfunction, discord, desperation, destruction and devastation.

The common denominator that bonds us as Lakota people is our enrollment number based on blood quantum regardless of full blood or mixed blood status.

However, dividedness is another common denominator to our failure as Lakota people, which is a systemic trait of generational poverty.

All demographics of CRST exhibit generational poverty traits of frustration, anger, bitterness, distrust, desperation and destitution as Lakota people. These traits are contrary to our Lakota value system.

Generational poverty is accelerated and is more prominent with each passing generation if the cycle is not broken. Generational poverty must be acknowledged, understood and aggressively eradicated.

In addition to providing constructive criticism and fully realizing the desperate desire to “fix” our issues and concerns as quickly as possible, outlined below are steps for consideration towards a short term start up plan of rebuilding on Cheyenne River that are designed to bring unwanted and quicker attention to those in question.

Prior presentations to the embodiment of our tribal government from their constituents, specifically our elderly, are often met with resistance, disregard and disrespect. There is no assurance that their voice is honored, heard or enacted upon. In light of that fact, consider other viable options such as:

• Initiate tribal reform by referendum vote for change.

• Initiate ‘Recall Action’ of your District Councilman, Tribal Chairman, Secretary, or Treasurer.

• Establish a non-partisan, internal Auditor and/or “watch-dog office” to monitor for fraud and abuse with the authority to initiate appropriate personnel action or legal action on findings of waste, fraud, and abuse of Federal and Tribal Funds.

• Actually apply the consequences of criminal indictment, imprisonment/fine, and expulsion from further participation, for life, as an elected Tribal Representative, Tribal Employee, and/or Contractor for offenses of fiscal mismanagement and abuse.

• Educate all Tribal employees of the “whistle blower” program provisions for all Federally funded tribal grant or contract programs.  This would empower a Tribal Program Employee to report fraud and abuse to the Office of Inspector General that could instigate a federal investigation or potentially expose further malfeasance.

The intent is to call attention to federal funding malfeasance by elected tribal representatives and officials with oversight responsibility as the Executive Branch of tribal government and prevent sanctions against federally funded tribal programs that are engaging in fiscal misconduct and of questionable delivery of services.  Recognizing collaboration is essential, other options for consideration are invited.

The options listed above for consideration can and have been conducted throughout Indian country with various tribes ranging from embezzlement to internal tribal government infrastructure investigations of improprieties of “white collar” crime and tribal government offenses. Those types of investigation was a part of my career as a tribal Internal Auditor collaborating with a host of tribal and federal law enforcement agencies, the U. S. Attorney General and tribal Attorney General offices. 

The long term plan would be to develop a strategic and comprehensive rebuilding plan for the CRST tribal membership with a generation succession plan.

Challenges and opposition impacts must be recognized as well. They are:

• Ancillary impacts will be deep and wide, i.e., family and relatives of tribal government representatives, generation divide, ideology differences, life choices, proprietorship, natural resources, Lakota society ideology, etc. 

• Tribal Constitution manipulation can be expected by alleged perpetrators of tribal government malfeasance

• Time, expense and commitment will be extensive

• Corrupt and deviant opposition will occur and will impact all demographics on our reservation, our communities and people who inhabit our checkerboard land  base and jurisdictions

• Outside influence from nontribal members will be prominent but secretive

• Our own worst enemy will be ourselves without a clear sense of direction and leadership designation

• We will inherit unwanted and unneeded notoriety if our efforts lack in strategic planning

• Any effort identified to bring about change is not a quick “fix it” solution

• This should be an intellectual young generation movement spearheaded by our elders

• Civility and cooperation is essential to building collaborative consensus and stability

We must also recognize that our pool of potential replacements and future elected tribal government representatives are tainted by generational poverty and lack mentorship. That behavioral cycle must be broken or we risk the relapse of our collective efforts towards change for the betterment of our Lakota people regardless of full blood or mixed status.

In summary, one constant attribute; Honesty – Wowijke, must be skillfully and tactfully included for balance and harmony in the blending of our traditional Lakota value system with the contemporary governance structure of an IRA tribal government.

Dividedness is our risk. The inability to avoid the pitfalls of dividedness will be the downfall to our intent and desire to bring about change for our people today and future generations.

Our goal as Lakota people should be to recognize and avoid the centuries old and European colonializing philosophy of; “divide and conquer.”

So yes; “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” –

-Sitting Bull-

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