American Indian tribes for decades have been able to tell federal prosecutors if they want a death sentence considered for certain crimes on their land. Nearly all have rejected that option.
Tribes and legal experts say the decision goes back to culture and tradition, past treatment of American Indians and fairness in the justice system.
…“Our beliefs, that I was raised with, say that no one has a right to take away a life except the Creator. Period,” [Blackfoot tribal member Theda] New Breast said. “End of story.”
Congress expanded the list of death-penalty eligible crimes in the mid-1990s, allowing tribes to decide if they wanted their citizens subject to the death penalty. Legal experts say they are aware of only one tribe, the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma, that has opted in [Felicia Fonseca and Russell Contreras, “,” AP via Washington Post, 2017.08.21].
That Blackfoot belief about life and the Creator sounds pretty Christian.
American Indians resist the death penalty even though they are twice as likely to be victims of crime than we trembling, “hang ’em high” white folks… and 57% of the violent crimes and 80% of the sexual assaults against Indians are perpetrated by whites.
Fall River and Oglala Lakota counties will provide early voting at satellite centers in western and southern Pine Ridge for the full 46 days of voting in the 2018 primary and general elections.
Tripp County will provide early voting at a satellite center on the Rosebud for nine days prior to the primary and general elections.
Dewey County will open a satellite voting center on the Cheyenne River Reservation for nine days prior to the primary and general elections.
Jackson County will open a satellite voting center in northeastern Pine Ridge for nine days prior to the primary and general elections.
Buffalo County will open a voting center on Crow Creek for nine days prior to the general election.
Why are Tripp, Dewey, Jackson, and Buffalo counties offering their economically and geographically disadvantages Native populations only a fraction of the early-voting access that other South Dakotans enjoy just by their good fortune of living closer to their county courthouses? Because that’s all their county commissioners asked for… and don’t come asking for more explanation:
Krebs said county commissions decide what they want to offer, and the HAVA board acts on their requests for funding. At publication time, email and phone efforts to reach Buffalo County commissioners for a comment on their decision-making process had proven unsuccessful. The commissioners “do not have offices,” said an unidentified woman who answered a phone number on the county’s website; she hung up abruptly when she learned the call was from a representative of the media [Stephanie Woodard, “Native Voting Rights in South Dakota—We Do the Math,” Indian Country Media, 2017.08.01].
As of the end of June, the state had $9 million in HAVA funds on hand, including $2,395,000.06 in HAVA funds designated to individual counties. Buffalo County auditor Elaine J. Wulff requested $2,100 to open the Crow Creek satellite voting station on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for three weeks in October 2018. Multiply that request by 10.2 to get a full 92 satellite voting center operating days (46 primary, 46 general) at a cost of $21,500, and we could fund the six satellite voting stations for seven elections, through 2030, for a total cost of $1 million, one ninth of the HAVA funds South Dakota has on hand now.
Hot off the Mac—the latest Dakota Free Press Podcast!
In lucky Episode #13, conservative blogger Ken Santema sits down with this liberal podcast to talk about his run for the Aberdeen school board.
But first, co-host Spencer Dobson and I discuss Trump’s budget war on Indians, Big Oil’s mercenary war on pipeline protestors, and the Koch Brothers’ war on democracy (with free pizza!). Then we hash out Billie Sutton’s status as a Blue Dog and newly declared candidate for Governor.
Below are resources for this week’s conversation. If you like what you hear, ring that Blog Tip Jarand help us fill the Internet with more great South Dakota podcasts!
Trump Budget Hates Indians (Noem not Helping) [01:43]
Summers reports that the Trump budget would cut the Interior Department, seat of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, by 12%. The Trump budget would axe grants for after-school and summer youth programs and AmeriCorps. Plus—or perhaps I should say minus…
…at $2.488 billion, Trump’s request for the U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs budget alone is a $300 million cut from Obama’s FY 2016 budget, which was the last full year appropriation (we have since operated on continuing resolutions). Trump’s proposal also cuts more than $50 million for the Indian country housing programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and zeroes out $8 million from the BIA budget for housing. For the Indian Health Service, Trump’s budget eliminates roughly $150 million [Kevin Washburn, “Trump Proposes Hundreds of Millions in Cuts to Federal Appropriations for Indian Country,” Indian Country Today, 2017.05.25].
If the proposed budget passes, Medicaid, the national and state program that covers low-income individuals, could see its budget cut by $610 billion over the next 10 years. Mark Trahant, a journalist, academic and member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes who has covered NA/AN affairs for 30 years, is concerned.
“In Indian Country, more than half of all Indian kids who go through Indian Health Service have their insurance through Medicaid,” he said. “Thirteen percent of Medicaid is Indian care.”
The budget would eliminate programs like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income households pay to heat or cool their homes. In 2016, 150 tribal groups and more than 43,000 Native households received LIHEAP funds [Cecily Hilleary, “Trump Budget Calls for Cuts to Native American Health Care, Housing,” VOA News, 2017.05.25].
That’s probably more bullet points than a tribal organizer has time to recite to any Lakota voter she’s trying to recruit. But keep that list handy. We Democrats can’t promise to solve every problem in Pine Ridge in other indigenous communities. But we can promise to go to Washington and stop Trump from passing anti-Indian budgets that would devastate basic services to the tribes.
Want to help the Democratic Party implement the 50-state strategy and organize big American Indian participation in the 2018 election? Then apply to be a tribal organizer for the South Dakota Democratic Party this summer!
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
Oglala Sioux Tribe
Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Yankton Sioux Tribe
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate
Sioux Falls and Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
These are just part-time positions—ten hours a week for twelve weeks, $15 an hour—but you’ll do important work getting your neighbors onto the voter roles and motivated to make meaningful change in our politics in 2018. Here’s what SDDP says it’s looking for:
Preferred Applicants will be SD Tribal members living in the community where they will organize
Develop a professional work relationship with tribal community members and leaders as the key stakeholders
Represent the South Dakota Democratic Party in a professional manner
Work with Statewide Field and Communication Directors on a weekly, or as needed, basis
Handle voter tracking through the My Voter and My Campaign functions in VoteBuilder. Training will be provided to all hires on VoteBuilder.
Register 30-40 voters per week. Continue to develop and refine voter contact goals.
Mobilize consistent volunteer and voter registration efforts. Each community organizer will recruit a “Circle of 10.” Each Tribal Community Organizer will work with these key volunteers, and mobilize this team through the “Summer of Resistance” and continue this relationship throughout the 2018 election cycle, especially for early voting and GOTV efforts.
Promote the message of the national Democratic Party and the South Dakota Democratic Party to tribal communities.
Once training is completed, organizers should spend the 10 hours per week roughly divided in the following manner: 6 hours/voter registration;1 hour conference call with statewide leaders and trainers; 1 hour volunteer recruiting and training; and 2 hours community outreach attending events, meeting leaders, and distributing contact information. This could include school visit, attending pow-wows, local tribal council meetings, visiting tribal headquarters, IHS facilities, etc.
SDDP wants tribal organizers to start June 5. They’ll take your application letters and résumés via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, Perez’s opponent for chair and now his top deputy, said the intent is to help local Democrats manage everything from rallies, town halls and neighborhood meetings to registration drives and voter database improvements.
“We’re asking them to engage neighbors not just in this whole mess about Trump but on what kind of vision we have for our country,” Ellison said, adding that he and Perez are talking regularly to many of the independent groups on the left.
Party leaders hope to use the anti-Trump groundswell to improve voter turnout, and swing elections back in their favor.
Initial recipients of the funds include Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, Kansas and South Dakota. Those states span the spectrum of Democratic fortunes: Massachusetts is a liberal bastion; Michigan is a presidential battleground; Arizona is nearing swing-state status; Kansas and South Dakota are Republican strongholds [“DNC Funds ‘Resistance Summer’ in Hopes of Harnessing Trump Opposition,” AP via Fox News, 2017.05.17].
A source familiar with the South Dakota Democratic Party tells Dakota Free Press that South Dakota Democrats will raise matching funds and use the DNC dollars to register voters, mobilize volunteers, organize local teams, and boost voter turnout among our American Indian neighbors. The effort will include hiring seven organizers part-time over the summer based in five reservation communities and in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.
Related: In other organizing, the South Dakota Democratic Party is hosting a Summer Issues Caucus at Augustana on June 9 and 10. That Friday afternoon and evening, Democrats will discuss seniors, women, youth, and LGBT issues. Saturday morning and afternoon, Dems will discuss rural and small business, veterans and military, Native Americans, and diversity. The caucuses are free; Saturday lunch is a measly $7!
KOTA-TV notes that Governor Dennis Daugaard lost his appeal of the Bureau of Indian Affairs decision to place the Pe’ Sla grassland in the middle of the Black Hills in federal trust for its tribal owners, the Rosebud, Shakopee Mdewakanton, Standing Rock, and Crow Creek Sioux. Pe’ Sla manager Joe Buck says he’s happy the tribes can get on with developing the land… for buffalo and spiritual uses, not for the casino some folks suspected would end up in the heart of the Hills:
“This is where all the stars and everything align at the center of the universe,” said Joe Buck as he stood atop Flag Mountain looking down over the sacred tribal land known as Pe Sla.
Four Sioux tribes purchased the 2,300-acre parcel in 2012 for about $9 million. Buck says he’s honored to have his job as he works to restore the land .
“We want to preserve this area in its natural state and bring back to Buffalo and the spirituality in our youth through camps and keep it as natural as possible,” he said.
When the tribes first purchased the former Reynolds Ranch there was concern about commercial development – particularly concern over placement of a casino.
Buck says the tribes plan to bring over a hundred buffalo to Pe’ Sla… and we’re all welcome to visit:
“We want our neighbors to be comfortable with us as well as us to be comfortable with our neighbors,” he said. “Keep an open mind and an open heart and keep moving forward. If anyone ever wants to come out and see what we’re doing out here, you’re more than welcome to come see what kind of project we have going” [Huntington, 2017.03.24].
Governor Daugaard’s appeal of the BIA decision did not challenge the religious and cultural significance of Pe’ Sla to the tribes. Governor Daugaard’s appeal hinged instead on technical arguments about the authority of the BIA to grant trust status to land held by multiple tribes, including one tribe, the Mdewakanton, outside the jurisdiction of the regional director issuing the ruling. In his December 2, 2016, decision, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts found all of the state’s arguments without merit.
On the no-multiple-tribes argument, Roberts found the Governor’s reading of the Indian Reorganization Act “cramped”:
The State contends that Section 5 of the IRA only authorizes the Department to acquire land in trust on behalf of a single tribe, which precludes the Regional Director from acquiring Pe’Sla for the Tribes. The State cites to language in Section 5 providing that “title to any lands or rights acquired pursuant to this Act … shall be taken in the name of the United States in trust for the Indian tribe or individual Indian for which the land is acquired.”
The State’s cramped reading ignores other language in Section 5, which authorizes the Secretary “[t]o acquire . . . any interest in lands . . . within or without existing reservations . . . for the purpose of providing land for Indians.” The IRA’s reference to “any interest” encompasses partial interests. The reference to “Indians” is not limited to one tribe or one individual Indian. Indeed, the Department accepts and holds land into trust for multiple tribes and its decisions to do so have not been disturbed by the courts. The purpose of the sentence from Section 5 quoted by Applicant is to clarify that the land will be acquired in trust; the IRA also makes clear that the Department may hold land in trust for multiple tribes. Here, the Department will hold the individual interests held by the four Tribes in trust for each Tribe [Lawrence S. Roberts, decision on South Dakota appeal of BIA decision, U.S. Interior Department 2016.12.02].
The state argued that the Shakopee Mdewakanton can’t be part of the trust decision because they did not vote on whether to accept or reject the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934. Roberts found that the tribe, formally organized in 1969, succeeded the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute Dakota bands, who signed treaties with Uncle Sam as early as 1805. Roberts cited multiple precedents for application of federal law to the Shakopee Mdewakanton before and after the 1934 passage of the IRA.
Roberts rejected the jurisdictional argument against the Shakopee Mdewakanton, saying statute gives the Great Plains Regional Director responsibility for all BIA activities within his region, the Dakotas and Nebraska, regardless of whether a party involved in that activity happens to be located outside that region, like the Minnesota-based Shakopee Mdewakanton. Roberts also rejected South Dakota’s argument that the trust status illegally recognized a new tribal government: Pe’ Sla is in trust on behalf of the applicant tribes, not the intertribal group they have formed to manage Pe’ Sla.
Dakota Rural Action along with various tribes will be holding a “peaceful protest” against the Keystone XL Pipeline in front of the Hughes County Courthouse in Pierre Wednesday morning
According to Dakota Rural Action Community Organizer Tamra Brennan, the rally is in regards to a hearing that will be held in the courtroom involving a lawsuit against the Public Utilities Commission for approving the Keystone XL pipeline to run through the state. The rally begins at 11am.
The leader of the Standing Rock Sioux is urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his push for completion of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.
Tribal spokeswoman Sue Evans says Chairman Dave Archambault requested a meeting with Trump in a letter sent Wednesday, warning that relations between the new administration and the Native American community have “gotten off on the wrong foot.” It’s not clear if Trump has received the letter [link added; “Tribal Leader Asks Trump to Reconsider Pipeline Action,” AP via Bismarck Tribune, 2017.01.26].
Now, with U.S. President Donald Trump in office and oil prices rising, their frustration is fueling a renewed push to streamline approvals for drilling and mining on Indian reservations.
Clearing regulatory hurdles for a single project on tribal lands can take as many as 50 steps, compared to a half dozen for oil wells on private property. The process can take three times as long to complete, according to tribal leaders, lawyers specializing in Native American issues, oil company executives and federal regulators.
…Back in Fort Berthold, MHA Nation Councilman Fred Fox said he felt it was time for Washington to hand more responsibility for tribal lands back to the tribes. They should not be managed as U.S.-owned “public lands,” he said, but rather as sovereign Native American nations.
“We have ancestors that owned these lands,” he said, looking out over a snow-covered settlement in the White Shield section of the reservation. “Let us collect our own taxes. Let us create economic viability for our people. Let us create the regulatory system” [“Red Tape Chokes off Oil Drilling on North Dakota’s Reservations,” Reuters via WDAY, 2017.01.27].
Hmm… pipeline protestors, you may have a case that the President is breaking the law with his order on the Dakota Access pipeline. But you may need to move your water-protection protests upstream and challenge the fellow tribal members who see a different path to cultural reawakening through the money they can make producing the Bakken oil that the Dakota Access pipeline would carry.