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Poor Bear Plaintiffs: Deal with SOS Not Enough to Protect Jackson County Indian Voting Rights

The plaintiffs in the Poor Bear v. Jackson County lawsuit concerning equal voting rights for Indians said they wouldn’t back down. Now they have filed their formal response to the county’s effort to dismiss the case. Recall that Jackson County inked a deal with the Secretary of State last month to provide a satellite early-voting station for the mostly Lakota residents of Wanblee in the next four election cycles. The plaintiffs say that agreement does nothing to make up for Jackson County’s previous violations of Indian voting rights, provides no guarantee of those rights in future elections, and is really just a trick to keep the court from dropping the hammer on them:

…Defendants violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by limiting in-person absentee voting to a single location, located disproportionately farther from Indian populations than from white populations. Having engaged in limited affirmative discovery, having produced not a single expert report in response to those of Plaintiffs, and having refused to participate in a court- ordered settlement conference, Defendants seek to escape the jurisdiction of this Court, alleging that an eleventh hour resolution to place a satellite office for in-person registration and in-person absentee voting on the Pine Ridge Reservation for a limited number of federal elections somehow renders this case non-justiciable. Simply put, Defendants’ actions are too little, too late.

Whether viewed as an issue of mootness or of ripeness, Defendants’ opening of a satellite office—for a limited time and for federal elections only—does not affect the justiciability of this case one whit, because:

  • Plaintiffs are entitled to judgment on liability for the established violation of the Voting Rights Act by Defendants;
  • Plaintiffs are entitled to remedies, including federal monitoring and pre- clearance of future changes in election procedures, for the established violation of the Voting Rights Act by Defendants;
  • Defendants’ purported plan is limited, voluntary, and unguaranteed, and does not address Defendants’ continuing failure to provide equal access to in-person registration and in-person absentee voting for Plaintiffs in non-federal elections; and
  • Defendants’ plan is for a limited time and not binding on future County Commissions [Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Second Motion to Dismiss, Poor Bear et al. v. Jackson County et al., Case No. 5:14-cv-05059-KES,filed 2015.12.21].

Indeed, the memorandum of understanding between the Secretary of State and Jackson County says nothing about school board elections, which happen separate from the June primary, special elections, or any odd-year elections. It makes establishment of the satellite early-voting stations contingent on the availability of Help America Vote Act funds, which seems odd, given that the Voting Rights Act doesn’t say, “Give Indians equal voting rights if you have the money, but if you’re short on cash, go ahead and discriminate.” I’m pretty sure the Voting Rights Act stops at, “Give Indians equal voting rights.

The big remedy the plaintiffs seek is pre-clearance, meaning Jackson County would have to submit any changes to its policy on conducting elections to the federal Justice Department for approval. Given Jackson County’s past conduct, the discriminatory nature of which the county has never refuted, pre-clearance seems to be a reasonable requirement to ensure that Jackson County amends its ways and affords its Lakota residents equal access to the polls.

Update 12:48 CST—Related Reading: But watch out, gentle readers: criticize Jackson County for stepping on equal minority voting rights, and Ted Cruz will say you’re just some liberal do-gooder trying to boss country folk around:

Q: Hillary Clinton has criticized Alabama’s closure of more than 30 drivers license offices. She’s called it ‘a blast from the Jim Crow past’ and a violation of civil rights. What’s your reaction to the issue?

Cruz: “It’s not surprising to see a Democrat like Hillary Clinton coming in and attacking states, particularly Southern states. Frankly, it’s a bigotry from the Democrats. They look down on the southern states like we’re a bunch of hicks. Look, I’m from Texas and Hillary Clinton is not a big fan of my state either. We don’t need more politicians from Washington looking down on us like a fly-over company. We’ve had 7 years of a President who looks down on the American people. Hillary Clinton thinks we’re just a bunch ignorant rubes and we need to be governed by what she deems as moral and philosophical betters. I think that’s complete nonsense. I believe in the American people. I believe in the common sense values [Ted Cruz, interview with Emily DeVoe, WKRG-TV, Mobile, Alabama, 2015.12.21].

Sure, Ted. But when American people don’t apply common sense to voting rights, they do need to be governed by better oversight, law, and the Constitution.



  1. Craig 2015-12-23 13:12

    I think Cruz set a new record for the highest number of tired political cliches in one response. Yet he didn’t even respond to the actual question/issue and didn’t bother providing his opinion on the subject at hand.

    He is clearly a politician, but I’m saddened there is an area in our nation where he is considered the best choice on a ballot.

  2. mike from iowa 2015-12-23 13:33

    Every Alabama county with at least 75% majority Black pop had their license station shut down. Not a single county with at least 75% white pop had their’s shut down.

    Hope the plaintiffs get every thing they seek from the county. Time to slap the cuffs on wingnut miscreants.

  3. leslie 2015-12-23 13:51

    This is horsdepower. 900 member law firm (i had dealings w/them in 80s). reviewing co-counsels’ sites, this EB5 ditty appeared at Dechert Price Rhodes:

    With Its End in Sight, EB-5 Survives!

    By Jonathan Castellanos on December 22, 2015
    Posted in Commercial Mortgage Finance, Financial Reform, Regulatory

    In an uninteresting turn of events last week, Congress has passed the Omnibus Bill, which contained a provision extending the EB-5 program until September 30, 2016, with no other changes to the program. As previously discussed….Congress has decided to “kick the can down the road” for another couple of months.

    Although the temporary solution is not the result many had hoped for, there is one group of people that appear to be quite ecstatic: real estate developers….

  4. jerry 2015-12-23 18:26

    Frankenstein needs to be beaten like the monster she is. She brought all of this on as a protagonist that should be taken to the wood shed. Wilson sounds like she is a complete idiot that is only fit for office in Jackson County, but there should have been some kind of oversight to prevent these two knuckleheads from going ahead with it. Wilson, Frankenstein and the rest of the Jackson County officials need to not only obey the law, they need to put that law into writing for the future. I would like to see Jackson County file suit against Frankenstein for damages.

  5. Paul Seamans 2015-12-23 19:48

    Three cheers for Poor Bear. Jackson County’s response comes only after realizing that the Feds would probably become involved. SOS Krebs tried to find a compromise but it was just to late.

  6. leslie 2015-12-23 20:19

    I would think sos’s office and ag’s office could have substantially Influenced these county decisions, or did, but wasting $$ for political policy (e.g. bengazi, swift boating, bush v. Gore, and sd medicaid expansion 3 yr. delay) are what gop teaches, and young lawyers like smith fighting weiland’s petition are just currying favor w the ruling party. imo

  7. Spike 2015-12-23 22:48

    I read bearcreekbat comments in the 11-19 post about Ms. Frankenstein just doing her job advising her client, doing the best to represent them, earning a living, getting a niche skill ( fighting Indian jurisdiction and rights is definitely lucrative, high profile and most needed in the Pierre comedy club view, particularly in western SD) I respect his views and opinions, BUT as a native I think it’s just plain ugly that the Secretary of the SD GOP is the attorney for Jackson County. Yuck.

    This is not about some perceived jurisdiction threat (oh I could be wrong maybe?) This is about some poor and under served american people being able to vote. Native children seeing a polling place in Wanblee might come away with a positive impact, we can’t have that.

    Remember when the Sheriff stopped by the Pine Ridge voting place? Just to stop by… yeah right.

    It’s good that Frankenstein and associates as well as Jackson County, might get a little taste of their own medicine. Sometimes necessary as aptly stated by Cory to Cruz.

    Course, the billable hours will continue to grow, in fact I’m betting after this filing Sara n Jackley might blow the bugle and a good ol boy organization might step in to try to rescue these racists. The legal and political network out there that co-habitates against indian rights has many powerful tenacles. There’s always been money and political gain in that racket.

  8. Porter Lansing 2015-12-23 23:24

    Alan Dershowitz said Ted Cruz was the most brilliant law student he’d taught at Harvard.

  9. leslie 2015-12-25 12:28

    luckily cruz has no personality

    sara is a lot like erin whatever her name is pay day lender CEO, and Lisa whatever her name is pay day lender shill.

    but so are most of the 30 some republican attys general of RAGA, the republican association devoted to taking voting rights away from democrats, raising sea levels and protecting what the confederate flag has become.

    she will likely be our next attorney general if i had to guess. it would be good for her firm. and if she doesn’t pursue politics, she’ll dump these shennanigans after her practice matures and blossoms into millionaire status. imagine krebs and frankenstein running a republican state in the world of 2020. wow, but yuk, really. years of feminism progress wasted for capitalism.

    hillary will cut their legs off. herseth could be back. wasserman-schultz, feinstein, boxer and pelosi will make a humanitarian difference in the world.

    sara and NRA, not so much.

  10. mike from iowa 2015-12-25 14:19

    You can come out from under your desk now,Jerry. The last nukular weapon from the evil Russkies wiped everyone out. This was just a test. Been there and done that.

  11. jerry 2015-12-25 14:49

    As you are from Iowa, Teddy is now number 1 in your state. How can you be so sure that I can now safely come out from under the desk? Your state is as bad if not worse than this one when it comes to those freaks. I choose to remember Joe McCarthy’s look alike and sound alike, Ted Cruz, as someone to keep a wary eye on. I guess you have not gotten the word that Putin is now in with with republicans so they are not the evil Russkies of the past. They swoon over the dude when he takes his shirt off. Republicans are sexually repressed people that behave more and more like Muslims regarding women.

  12. mike from iowa 2015-12-25 14:58

    Putin is also a black belt in several martial arts. Maybe he will knock off a few wingnuts that cozy up to him. Long time until the election and Cruz will stick all of his feet in his mouth and prove to be dumber than Ivana Kuturnutzov,

  13. jerry 2015-12-25 16:02

    Obama is black and will belt him with 11th dimensional wizard chess games. Belting Frankenstein and Wilson is and should be a priority for Poor Bear. These people cannot be trusted and the racism they tried to invoke, must be silenced for good in the same courts they forced this issue on.

  14. leslie 2015-12-25 23:20

    I wonder if there are sanctions under the federal voting rights law the federal judge could impose against Jackson County for wasting everybodys’ time.

    the same kind of law firm advises the chamberlain school board too, no doubt, btw.

  15. mike from iowa 2015-12-26 07:29

    jerry-wingnuts all have black belts is ass-chewing the poor,the disabled,the elderly,minorities,Native Americans,etc.

  16. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-26 10:06

    While I understand the need for more polling places on the rez, two are not enough, Mr Poor Bear is suing his own people to. For those of you wanting to stick it to whitey remember this. The Jackson County Courthouse doesnt have many people working there but there are at least three that are enrolled members of the tribe. Every department in Jackson County has an enrolled member except the SOs office, neither the sheriff or his deputy have any native blood as far as I know. The Jackson County road superintendent is an enrolled member of the tribe. Some of those people are going to loose their jobs if you go after money because there is no money to get.

    There are many challenges for counties that are contiguous to both the state, and a reservation. Some are perceived by either the state, the tribe, or the counties, and some are real. While most of you are willing to talk about voting rights, nobody wants to address the elephant in the room, money, or lack of it. Here is just one example, trust ground.

    Dont get me wrong, if I could have put my ground in trust I might have thought about it to. First, by putting that ground in trust they will never have to pay property taxes on that land. If they operate smart, they will never pay any income tax either. Like I said that would be a nice option.

    Where the problem comes in is the lack of, scratch that, no funds to service the roads that cross trust ground. While the feds pay for roads on federal ground, they expect the county to pick up the tab of those trust ground roads. In the last twenty years that amount is equal to $1.4 million a year, or just about $30,000,000 in todays dollars.

    In that time while the people paying property taxes have recieved fewer services every year they have been overcharged by $30 million to pay for those trust ground roads. Somebody is paying a lot of money for services that they will never be repaid for by anyone. Thats right, there are a lot of people hanging from the tit supplied by the tax payers of Jackson County. That $30,000,000 would have maintained a lot of tax payers roads but was mandated to be used to keep those roads on trust ground travel able.

    If you are truthfull here, none of you would put up with this in any of the counties you live in that are not next to or a part of a reservation. That isnt an option in Jackson County, its a mandate that the taxpayers just have to deal with.

    I have known about this for many years but there was an article in the RCJ last year that explains part of that problem.

    There are way more angels to this story then what appears on the surface. The inequities dont all roll in one direction, but you never hear about these other things, I wunder why?

    It seems that most of the people that post here have very little knowledge of the dynamics of living in a county that is part of a state, with both tribal, ground, trust ground, and federal ground. What you think you know would be equal to a thimble dumped in the Missouri River.

    While you talk about the devide between those that have native blood with those that dont, it would only be fair to address those problems from both sides for a real picture of who is screwing who. From this persons view, it looks like those people with ground in trust have the real taxpayers bent over and are doing them from behind.

    The Blindman

  17. leslie 2015-12-26 10:25

    good post dithmer

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-26 15:45

    Remember, Bill D., that county money wasn’t really an issue in this case. Federal HAVA money was available all along to promote equal voting access for Wanblee’s mostly Lakota residents.

    If there are systemic issues causing a lack of tax revenue that in turn cause Jackson County to be unable to guarantee equal rights and services for all of its residents, then yes, we need some bigger reform. Jackson County needs more jobs and more money.

    But Jackson County might also need fewer commissioners flipping the bird at equal voting rights.

  19. Paul Seamans 2015-12-26 16:20

    While I sympathize with Jackson County on not receiving property taxes on trust land the satellite voting stations would have been funded by federal HAVA money and still Jackson County drug their feet. Jackson County could have made it easy on theirselves and now it appears that they will have the feds looking over their shoulder for some time into the future.

  20. Spike 2015-12-26 18:09


    Stick it to Whitey?

    Hurting “our own” people?


    Trust lands and federal lands are leased and use by plenty of non native Jackson County residents. Natives own land not in trust and pay taxes also Bill. And millions come into that county and surrounding area by way of the tribe and its members. We can debate this forever.

    Saying “you” “real taxpayers” are having done to you what you profanely state by the natives is the kind of retoric that nauseates me. I know as much about this as you and its a lot more than a thimbleful. State the facts Sir, and save the insults please.

  21. BIll DIthmer 2015-12-26 18:19

    Ok Spike tell me w hat I’ve said that isnt the truth.

    The Blindman

  22. Spike 2015-12-26 18:21

    Fix the problem? Who Dithmer? The natives? Talk to Rounds, Thune and Noem. Save the toilet mouth when you do it. It’s unbecoming of a gentleman like you.

  23. bearcreekbat 2015-12-26 18:36

    Perhaps it makes sense to tax the churches, but tribal land, I think not – primarily because of the promises made (and sometimes unfortunately violated) by our federal government in the 19th century. While that is a long time ago, we have never amended Article VI of our Constitution that states “. . . all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” Whatever your views, that is a straightforward fact that is hard to dismiss.

  24. BIll DIthmer 2015-12-26 18:39

    In other words as long as the money keeps flowing towards the native all is fine.
    “Trust lands and federal lands are leased and use by plenty of non native Jackson County residents.” Just as land that is taxed, so what.

    “Natives own land not in trust and pay taxes also Bill. And millions come into that county and surrounding area by way of the tribe and its members. We can debate this forever.”

    Of course I know that but it doesnt affect the money that the tax payers, all of them, have paid out over the years for the free ride. Remember, its the nativ e s that are getting the use of that tax money, there are no w hite people that have trust ground. Sales tax does nothing to fix this problem. But then you dont really care about that do you?

    Lets see a real name Spike, . Then you can lecture me about my language, u.til then, take a flying leap.

    The Blindman

  25. Spike 2015-12-26 19:04

    Mr. Dithmer,

    I know anything I say won’t change your opinion. N bearcreekbat and his statement means nothing.

    Indian lands are historically leased for less. Fact. But crop subsidy payments and profits match “your” land. I’m saying some “taxpayers” have done well off this trust land.

    What does your 1.4 million a year figure represent sir? Educate me please.

    I’m not lecturing you about your toilet mouth. I’m asking you politely. My father was a blind man.

  26. BIll DIthmer 2015-12-26 19:46

    I misread alright it was $1.07 million a year. But that is still over twenty million worth of work on trust ground roads. How could you even believe that is fair?

    The Blindman

  27. BIll DIthmer 2015-12-26 19:48

    Read my link Spike.

    The Blindman

  28. jerry 2015-12-26 20:16

    Mr. Seamans, you are correct. I understand Mr. Dithmer’s predicament. As I gather, he is a land owner in Jackson County and does not want any blow back from a lawsuit to increase his taxes. You point out the fact that by having the polling place would not have cost Jackson County one penny, but they did not do it. Mr. Dithmer says that there are many tribal members in the Jackson County commissioners office. It seems kind of strange to me that they could not go against Wilson in a battle that could not be won at the expense of the county. How can that be explained?

  29. Paul Seamans 2015-12-26 21:09

    Bill Dithmer, I read your link to the RCJ article. It explains a lot of Jackson County’s financial troubles and that there is no simple solution. If Gov. Daugaard is pushing to have the federal government pick up more of the costs of the IHS maybe he could do something similar for improvished counties.

    I have never understood why Jackson County annexed the former Washabaugh County to the south. Jackson County surely realized that the additional tax revenue wouldn’t cover the additional expenses. Could you shed some light on this?

  30. Spike 2015-12-26 22:16

    Roads maintenance in checkerboard land ownership counties is a problem in many rural reservation areas. Not just unique to Jackson county.

    There are federal regulations that allow for the reimbursement to county and city fire departments that fight fires on trust land. Those regulations allow for cooperative agreements to be in place for that suppression. Fire departments in these agreements are compensated at good rates and this has created common ground as a community. Also BIA fire departments willingly go onto taxed land to suppress fires without any expectations of being reimbursed by the county.

    Unfortunately no such regulatory authority exists for road maintenance. Although I know of instances where agreements have been worked out between county, BIA and/or tribal roads programs.

    BIA funded roads also serve deeded (non-trust) landowners too. The construction and maintenance of those roads is not imposed on the local property taxpayers. But they benefit from the road also. I would venture that there are a few tribally maintained roads in Jackson County.
    Some of the funding for those tribal roads on Pine Ridge comes directly from the US Department of Transportation.

    I certainly didn’t mean to offend Mr Dithmer. Road maintenance is not a good situation I agree , but it’s not a case of Indians flipping the bird at Whitey or bending someone over. It’s more a case of the federal government not fulfilling it’s trust responsibility. IMHO.

  31. BIll DIthmer 2015-12-27 06:38

    There are no BIA fire departments on the east side of the Pine Ridge. And there is no BIA road crew on the east side of the Pine Ridge. Why would anyone complain if that were so and those things got taken care of.

    Wanblee. Was given new equipment to fight fire about twenty years ago, but it never saw any service before it was stripped of anything of value. Now for any fire either Long Valley, Green Valley, or Kadoka fights the fires in Wanblee.

    Read that link again. We know that 80 percent of the taxes go to education. If you read Jackson Counties budge, that doesnt leave much for those other things. Now take that roadwork I was ralking about and the money is stretched pretty thin that those tax payer are shelling out.

    I no longer own land there, but I have a lot of friends on both the Pine Ridge, and the Rosebud.

    I was Secretary for the Long Valley Fire Department for ten years. In that time we were well compensated for fighting fire on indian land. That money came mostly two years from the dates of those fires.

    The Blindman

  32. jerry 2015-12-27 09:07

    Maybe the solution would be for annexation. Either annex Jackson County and Bennett County with Oglala Lakota County or annex Jackson County with Haakon County or Pennington County. It is clear that there are too many county seats in the state and they should be consolidated. Maybe by doing so, there could be better solutions for all of the counties involved. As economic impact zones, maybe they would then qualify for federal assistance. Or simply annex it all back to tribal ownership and demand BIA receivership. The lands could then be assessed for their current worth in dollars and a buy back could be done by the federal government.

  33. Spike 2015-12-27 09:12

    Bill, thanks for your service with Long Valley Fire department. I know that area is as rural as it gets and the fire departments are much appreciated and needed there. Hopefully those payments get there in a more timely manner now.

    So what’s the solution? Or is there one? Did the lack of money for a polling station truly trigger this lawsuit? Why not sue over the lack of federal funding for country road systems within reservation boundaries if that is the problem. Tribes have fought under the BIA/USDOT reservation roads formulas to get adequate funding for all local reservation roads.

    The trust lands that are not taxed are not owned by the tribe or individual indians. They are owned by the U.S. Government and held in trust for their “benefit”. Once again, the US Congress through its inadequate commitment to and lack of understanding of tribal infrastructure, is creating poverty, local animosity and frustration.

    Have a great day.

  34. leslie 2015-12-27 09:33

    jerry. you have the answer. it can be done fairly but the haves will covet (i can’t believe i am using this word–(C) sibby) the wealth and resources and the view.

  35. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-27 10:08

    Jerry, I doubt that any of those things would wor. Bennett County went bankrupt because there just wasnt enough taxable property in the county to pay all the bills. Jackson is close on Bennett County’s heels in that respect. OLC doesnt have hardly ant taxable property, why would anybody want to go with them. I dont think you would have to much support from any of those other counties for that same reason. Why would they want the added problems from these other counties?

    The Blindman

  36. jerry 2015-12-27 11:07

    The lands have become an infinite value, they always have had that. By combining all of these lands together, they could make the case of tribal ownership. That would then fall under the jurisdiction of the BIA to maintain the roads and to provide the education requirements for those that live in the boundaries. There would be no tax involved only the lease of the lands at more of a market rate than the BLM lands that surround the place presently. The increased lease land money would go into infrastructure to create jobs and a future. In other words, it would transfer the wealth derived from the lands back to their original occupants to maintain and keep the land. The land would have no ownership, it would be as it once was.

  37. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-27 11:38

    Jerry, except not all that ground is tribal. Some is federal and a good portion is private property. How would you resolve that conflict?

    The Blindman

  38. jerry 2015-12-27 12:19

    Manifest Destiny as a benchmark would be the way to solve the issue. The land would be purchased at a pre-determined price from the landowners. Case in point would be the Keystone XL or the other pipelines that have crossed property, and how they came up with the value of the land. The land would then be put into a conservatory type status for the landowner to live out their days on this ground and then it would go into receivership. While being the stewards of this ground, the process of utilizing chemicals would cease and only grazing would be allowed. Tilled ground would be no tilled into native grasses at no expense to the former stewards. Sounds pretty workable to me.

  39. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-27 12:38

    That’s funny!

    The Blindman

  40. jerry 2015-12-27 12:48

    And possible!

  41. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-27 12:50


    The Blindman

  42. grudznick 2015-12-27 12:56

    Lotta money in letting that land lay there, Jer?
    Seems like a lot of getting something for free to me. How do all the services in the county (and I’m all for combining counties, all for it indeed) get paid for by reducing the taxes collected?

  43. jerry 2015-12-27 13:28

    The land would not be laying there, it would be utilized as it is now, without the crop subsidies though. The federal government is paying for the tilled land to basically operate in the red as the prices for grains are not profitable. Make it into grazing lands all to avoid that taxpayer drain.

    What was the reason for annexing Washabaugh County in the first place? If there is a problem with it, why not put it back as unincorporated so they could be annexed into Oglala Lakota County.

  44. Spike 2015-12-27 21:31

    Mr. Dithmer,

    On another but related subject, in the 80s my brother was traveling the long valley Norris road . He came across a “pink” light on the other side of the south fenceline. He was with his wife and stopped. He got out of his car and walked toward this light. He said it was about the size of a home freezer. He wanted to go closer but his wife made him come back. It stayed there as they drove away.

    This gentlemen and his kind wife are as honest and pragmatic people as there are on this earth. You have a uniquely tremendous mental and spiritual insight into that beautiful area. You ever experience that unusual energy or hear of such a story? I would appreciate hearing what you think.

  45. leslie 2015-12-27 22:07

    love it jerry, condemn non-indian land within reservation boundaries. public purpose. more Indian lawyers and politicians, if you ask me.

  46. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-27 23:41

    Spike, what your brother saw was the Black Pipe Light. There were a bunch of sightings of things like that all during that decade in that part of the country.

    I myself never saw the light, but it wasnt because I never tried. The sightings became so plentiful one summer that there were UFO parties about every weekend somewhere south of Norris on a hill above the Black Pipe. I was to two of these myself. One on uper Black Pipe where Jerry Paterson owns the ground now, and one down between where Johnny and Eva Mae Lininbrink lived and the head quarters of the Grass Ranch. As far as I know these lights were never seen by anyone looking for them, only by those that werent.

    I had a couple of good friends that claimed to have seen it east of the correction line hill on the Norris Long Valley road, south of the road on Black Pipe where Jackson County kisses Mellette on Maxine Allards place. If it hadnt been for the fact that they both liked to drink, a lot, and back that with window pane and cocaine, they might have been more credible.

    There were a couple of big fires that year and one was west of Hee Dog Dam. We could see the glow in the night sky from our place about twenty miles as the crow flies. We drove over to see what was going on and found about a hundred cars parked on the hills on the west side of the dam. The rumor got started that it was the light that caused the fire, but later they said it was broken glass and dry grass.

    I have had two real life experences with things that couldnt be explained, but they had nothing to do with the light. One east of Norris about 8 miles on the old Sammons place. I wrote a song about that one called Only A Few Can Hear The Drums. It meant several sleepless nights back then.

    The other was at the Cedar Butte Store. It involved an old indian setting in the back of a car. There was never any words said, but I could hear him just like there was.

    Enough of that. I never heard anyone call the light pink but it sure could have been. There was even talk about cattle mutilations about then if I remember right at Evon Blieghs, and that would have been just east of where Black Pipe turns north.

    If you really want to experience something, spend the night on Cemetery Butte east of Corn Creek, or Eagles Nest south of Wamblee. You can find out a lot about yourself at either place.

    The Blindman

  47. Paul Seamans 2015-12-28 09:35

    Bill Dithmer, Spike
    The discussion about strange lights bring to mind an atmospheric phenomena that I have observed a few times. When conditions are right distant objects are magnified and raised higher. I have observed this about four times in the daytime and twice at night. One night, through my binoculars, south of Draper I could observe cars driving down the streets of White River. A distance of at least 25 miles. A close neighbor at times could see the Vivian Schoolhouse on the hill, a distance of 15 miles. Another neighbor could see Chamberlain at times, a distance of 50 miles.

    Back when the Rapid City Journal was worth reading they had a local meteorologist who wrote a column. He explained this phenomena and had a name for it but I forget what it was. I think it had to do with temperature inversions. Your talk of strange lights could be related to this.

  48. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-28 09:44

    ” I have never understood why Jackson County annexed the former Washabaugh County to the south. Jackson County surely realized that the additional tax revenue wouldn’t cover the additional expenses. Could you shed some light on this?”

    Paul, at the time we were told that the state was trying to do away with all the unincorporated counties. Of course it didnt work because Shannon County remained that way. Believe me, not everyone was happy with that arrangement at the time including me.

    When this all happened Washabaugh had over $160,000 in its road department along with the equipment. It was a lot of money at the time. That money became part of the Jackson County general fund. The then Washabaugh County school district was treated in a similar fashion.

    Although Jackson was the logical place for us to land, because we had used their courthouse all that time, it was still hard to take. We felt like stepchildren from then on. It really wasnt Jackson Countys fault, they were also told what they had to do.

    I dont think SDs governor has enough power to take on the feds let alone the buracricy that is the current BIA. Both of those money wells are pretty much dry so the added funds asked for would just be thrown in the trash. They might be printing money but none for those purposes.

    Paul there are no easy answers. What Jerry wants to do will just make things worse, not better, unless you would be willing to live with even fewer services, and of course those people that own land would never agree to any forced buy out like that without a lot of cash changing hands that would help ease the pain of loosing their legacy.

    If there are no taxes, whatever county it would become would be a nanny county and would never be tolerated by either the rest of the people in SD or the federal government. I dont think anybody understands all the laws that would have to be changed or made just so that could happen. Unless someone can come up with a new way of making money it will never happen.

    Look at it this way. The feds and by extention the BIA wont fund all their policies now, what makes anyone think that would change?

    One of the reasons we sold the ranch was because I saw these things comming. And by the way the tribe tried to buy it and were willing to pay a little more. Unfortunately, they wanted title right away, but couldnt guarantee we would see the money for several years. We had two other offers on the table from people that had the money so we sold.

    There is only one thing that will fix the problems on the Pine Ridge, jobs. Unfortunately those on the council would rather see kids in coffins then do what they know has to be done, create jobs. Untill they can do that one thing absolutely nothing will change, the numbers of suicidal kids at risk will just continue to grow. Prosperity is the only long term answer both for those living on the reservation and those on the edges.

    The Blindman

  49. leslie 2015-12-28 09:46

    south of Marfa and alpine tx there are rumored such lights seen, and not much exists south of there until 70 miles deep in big bend on the rio grande. beautiful desert wilderness that at 3 a.m. is a sight to behold “kissed in early march in the coming heat”.

  50. leslie 2015-12-28 10:04

    a knew a great city attorney who knew city/county law and politics in the state like the back of his hand. there are many countys and citys. a search for these answers is likely possible.

  51. Paul Seamans 2015-12-28 10:13

    Bill Dithmer,
    I really do appreciate your take on this. I also agree that counties do not want to consolidate because they will be treated as the stepchild.

    I do have hopes that things on the reservation are showing change. At the PUC hearings on the Keystone XL this summer there were three tribes that had real good lawyers and were intervenors as was ICOUP and Indigenous Environmental Network. There were also individual native people as intervenors. Our strong showing at the PUC hearing will make Indian people realize how important it is to be involved in state governmental activities.

    I also am impressed with the Rapid City Community Conversations on racial divide. I gather that they are making some good progress. I agree that jobs are the main problem on reservations. There is some work being done on solar energy. After so many years of being beat down I think that there is progress being made in some areas.

  52. leslie 2015-12-28 10:33

    SDCL ch. 7-2 has some 20 sections on consolidation procedure. there may be ARSD sections too, and supreme court cases interpreting past consolidations, or an attorney general opinion or two. locals like dithmer may know the back story best and the instigating politicians and their lawyers and accountants and commissioners and sheriffs, register of deeds and states attorneys and mayors and ranchers and others will know where the skeletons are, cloaked in politics–what else!

    in this state, the administration will always be looking to out-maneuver the Tribes.

  53. BIll DIthmer 2015-12-28 11:25

    As far as I know, there is only one person still alive that was a county commissioner when this took place and thatt would be Bob Holcomb. He ran the gas s tation and post office in Long Valley for many years and was respected and liked by everyone, natives and whites as like. He also was a commissioner for Jackson County when that deal went through.

    Bob is in his nineties now but he is still sharp and would be a great listen for anyone wanting the truth about what w ent on then. He wouldnt do this on the ph, but if you were willing to t a lk in person he would be glad to tell you what he knows. Let me know if you need an introduction.

    The Blindman

  54. Spike 2015-12-28 13:23

    Mr. Dithmer,

    Thanks for the good Black Pipe Light history. I will tell my brother about it. Your facts about the need for jobs is very true. Should be a #1 priority.
    That with education and training.

    I’ve read your comments for years. I personally just joined in after Wismers embarrassing loss and Pat Duffy passing.

    I remember reading a post you did several years ago about the mystery of Pass Creek, hearing Black Crows Sundance drums and the sacred relatives you made of many people in that area. You mentioned the song in that post. The edge of the Badlands is a place that is hard to explain. That post revealed to me your understanding and compassion for all. I respect that and understand your frustration with the lack of services in that area. We all want people to live well and children be protected and nurtured.
    BIA or Indian Health Service will NEVER be able to adequately provide those improvements described here. Pine Ridge is challenging, but it also presents some unique opportunities for the people to improve their community.

    It’s very frustrating to see the counties vs tribes problems in rural areas. The lawyers have made a lot of money. N will continue to do so.

  55. Bill Dithmer 2015-12-29 11:57

    Thankyou for your consideration Spike. This is just for you.

    I dont know if this will help anbody or not, but for me it has to be said. From the time I was very small I looked at the lands that we lived on or near in a different way then most of the people around me. It was never fueled by what could be done with those lands but the health of the land itself and how it was being treated by the people that walked on it.

    From the beginning it was about a feeling that I would get when I came to one of these places, and then as I got older it was a realization that it was a sense of inner peace. There are many places like that on the Pine Ridge, I’m going to tell you about just one, Eagles Nest Butte.

    The first time I climed the butte under my own power was when I was six years old. Our little one room school at Plainview, a mile east of our house always took a field trip in the late spring to Eagles Nest. Untill about fifteen years ago I averaged one climb a year, sometimes more then one. It was always a surprise to me that while everyone enjoyed where they were, nobody seemed to understand that what they were standing on was a part of both physical and natural history. It was just an outing to them. At the time I didnt understand that I was seeking answers to questions that I still didnt know how to ask.

    Before you can begin to get a grasp of my inner workings it might help to have a physical description of the Nest.

    It isnt big, roughly three hundred feet high and mayby a mile from one end at the bottom to the other. But other then its sister to the south Buzzard Butte, it is the tallest piece of ground around for miles.

    When you drive around the base you begin to see things that look out of place. First, while the south side is mostly dirt, the north face has that same dirt but also shows the very edge of the badlands and something unique, pummus. Thats right there are big old pummus boulders all over the north side.

    It is the top that grabs most peoples attention. There was a fire lookout up there that stayed pretty much in one piece. You would see twenty kids going both directions on those steep steps.

    That tower was at the pinical and to the north was the biggest stretch of open ground. If you walk to the east you will find a vision pit, to the west you will find trees with, now, thousands of ribbins and little bags of tobacco tied to their branches. I could lie here and say that I felt the spirit of those that came before me but that wasnt the case at all, it was something completely different then that.

    The butte holds many memories for me. One of those involves a friend and his Cub. I got a call one morning when I was in my early twenties by a man who will remain nameless. He wanted me to fly with him for a couple of hours before the air started heating up in the summer heat.

    He put it down in front of the house and we first headed south along Pass Creek to the high hills that are north east Bennett County. Then he turned to the west and headed towards Buzzard. We never flew very high and by the time we went around the west corner of Buzzard Butte we were less the 500 feet off the ground. When we approached the Nest he got below the rim and we made a slow circle around it. We had just gone by the tower when he tapped me on the shoulder and yelled, “do you think there is room to land this thing up there?”

    I have landed with him in some pretty short spaces but not that short. We made our approach from the northeast, by the rag on the tower it was just right to head into. There was good uphill run to land and not a lot of space. We hit a little hard but not bad and he was grabbing as much dirt as his brakes cold hold and finally we stopped.

    It wasnt until we got out that I realized we had run out of room at the same time, working the oversized tires just barely between two rocks. We picked the tail up and pulled it back turnned it around, and I held on while he got back in, started the motor and held the brakes. It was then that I started to understand the perdicument we were in, a real short runway.

    There is nothing more exciting then the feeling of a plane that just doesnt have enough speed to lift off in the space it has. We dropped off the north side about sixty feet before we hit the bottom of the air pocket and started back up. It was a year before I could make myself get back in a little plane.

    In all I’ve spent four nights on the top of the butte. Two of those times were timed with a full moon, one was a foggy but warm night, and then there was this one.

    There were four of us. We had spent the afternoon fishing at the dam north of the house and had planned to camp there. We had just stopped fishing to eat when the conversation started on the Nest some fifteen miles away. All of us had been there before but for some reason none of us could could stop talking about it. It was then that someone had the idea that we should repack the atvs and camp on Eagles Nest Butte, and so it began.

    We put all the camping suplies in the back of my six wheeler and headed west. It was late spring and there was an energy in the renewal that happens every year at that time. It took us a while to get there and we were climbing the old rutted out jeep trail as the sun was going over the west rim.

    First we got camp set up and cooked some burgers on the colman and started looking around. The vision pit had seen recent use and there was a new tarp covering it, but nothing else had changed. The tower was no longer climb safe but it was sure handy to hang things on. It wasnt until it started getting dark that we realized there was just a sliver of a moon already going down. That is when the magic that is Eagles Nest started.

    When you are on the top, you can see town lights all over. Kadoka to the north, Martin to the south, Wanblee just to the north a few miles and Belvidere east of Kadoka. There were dozens of farm lights in every direction and you could see cars on 44, 73, the Norris Long Valley road, and part of the Corn Creek road going north. We talked about what it would have looked like a thousand years before.

    When complete darkness came we were already “in the mood,” so when the Milky Way started to show it was special. It hung down and reminded us how it got its name.

    There was zero humidity, and the night air had a chill but the stars were putting on a show. For about six hours we set and talked. It wasnt our normal conversation but talk about where we were and the people that came before us. At one point someone said they could look down and see stars. I know it was only an optional illusion but it seemed real.

    It was that night that I finally found what had been so illusive in my head. It was that night that I realized that I had the same feeling when I was on Pass Creek, Down in one of the badland basins, setting on one of the other buttes, or fishing on the Big and Little White rivers. It wasnt spiritual, but it was a piece of mind. Its as if the conflicts of the day would disappear while I was at any of those places, it was tranquility.

    If you have a good imagination, you can feel the peoples that were here a thousand years before us. You know they used the Nest for the safety of the people, and for the same use as the tower was for.

    Spike, Only A Few Can Hear The Drums is about those places and feelings. You can take a hundred people to the same place, but very few will feel the connection to the past.

    While I understan the dire need for commercialization on the Pine Ridge, I find my heart and my mind at odds with one another. My mind says there must be tourism to start the process of rebuilding the tribe. But my heart refuses to except the encroachment of more civilization on the places I love. I’m sure there are many elders that feel the same way.

    There doesn’t seem to be a way to build the future without killing a little of the past along the way. It will take a clear mind for the ones that will be making those decisions. Right now there should be a sign on every road onto the Pine Ridge. It should read the same on both sides. “FAILURE TO ADMINISTRATE.” There has been a bunch of that going on for far to long on both sides of the line.

    Maybe some of these places should be left as they were meant to be, without the problems of those that would come there. It will be a fine line that must be walked to protect some of these natural monuments, but doing nothing isnt even an option.

    For most people these places are just a name on a map. For a few like me they are much more the that. The argument between my heart and my mind continues.

    The Blindman

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