S. Dakota Republican accuses Common Core of contributing to Native American deaths

South Dakota state Rep. Elizabeth May (R) [YouTube]
South Dakota state Rep. Elizabeth May (R) [YouTube]
By Arturo Garcia, RawStory.com

A South Dakota lawmaker made the bizarre claim on Tuesday that Common Core educational standards was partly to blame for a rash of deaths among Native Americans, Think Progress reported.

“We’ve buried eight kids down on that reservation in the last week,” state Rep. Elizabeth May (R) said. “We need to sit up and pay attention. I’m not naive enough to think the Common Core is what’s causing all of this, but it’s part of the effect. We’ve got teachers down there who have just quit teaching it.”

May did not mention any specific cases or even name which of the state’s nine reservations where these deaths occurred. She said she had spoken to an unidentified “Indian educator” who opposed Common Core but had not been able to discuss the issue with lawmakers.

Indian Country Today Media Network reported last week that five Oglala Sioux teenagers had committed suicide on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation over the past two months. However, the curriculum was not cited as a possible reason for any of the deaths. Yvonne DeCory, who works with a tribal suicide prevention program, mentioned bullying, poverty and “tenuous family relationships” as factors.

“Being a teenager is hard,” DeCory said. “Being raised by your great-grandma because your parents aren’t around, that’s a hard life. You don’t stay young long on the reservation. You have to grow up pretty fast.”

May made her remarks as legislators debated revisiting a bill that would have repealed Common Core within the state. As MSNBC reported earlier in the day, the state spent $4 million to implement it and is slated to begin testing based on the standards next month. The bill had failed to advance in the House Education Committee a day earlier.

“This is a very emotional topic — especially for me,” May said. Despite her efforts, however, the effort to bring the bill back to the House floor was defeated.

Oglala Sioux Want to Vote on the Rez

By LACEY LOUWAGIE, Courthouse News Service

RAPID CITY, S.D. (CN) – Oglala Sioux claim in court that Jackson County, S.D., is obstructing Native Americans’ right to vote by refusing to set up a voter registration and balloting site on the remote Pine Ridge reservation.
Thomas Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and three other tribal members sued Jackson County and its Board of Commissioners on Sept. 18, in Federal Court.
Reservation residents have to travel at least 27 miles to the county seat in Kadoka to register and vote, which is twice as far as white residents travel, according to the complaint.
Poor Bear asks that Jackson County set up a satellite voting office in the reservation town of Wanblee.
Lack of transportation compounds the problem.
The Census Bureau reported that nearly one in four Native Americans in Jackson County has no access to a vehicle, but that every white household does.
According to the Oglala Lakota Nation website: “Many people walk to reach their destinations,” but distance between communities and harsh South Dakota weather often make this difficult or impossible.
“What we filed on Thursday really isn’t anything new – it’s just happening in a different way,” plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Rappold said in an interview.
“The record speaks for itself in how the state government has tried to make the right to vote inaccessible to Native American people.”
In 2004, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier detailed South Dakota’s long history of voting discrimination in a 144-page opinion in Bone Shirt vs. Hazeltine , which claimed that South Dakota redistricting diluted the impact of Native American votes.
Before 1924, Native Americans could vote only after “severing tribal relations,” Schreier wrote.
Even after the 1924 American Indian Citizenship Act gave Native Americans full citizenship rights, South Dakota continued to ban them from voting or holding office until the 1940s.
Native Americans in the part of the Pine Ridge Reservation now in Jackson County could not vote until 1983, because people from “unorganized counties” – counties attached to other counties for judicial purposes – were forbidden to vote.
South Dakota’s Help America Vote Act task force supports the measure to place a voting office on the reservation, and has even reserved funds for Jackson County to do so, the complaint states.
Nonetheless, minutes from a County Commissioners’ meeting in June this year, cited in the complaint, state: “This would be an additional expense for Jackson County.”
Jackson County Auditor Vicki Williams, a defendant in the new case, declined to comment on the county’s position.
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Southwestern South Dakota encompasses 11,000 square miles and spans three counties – Bennett, Shannon, and Jackson. It is home to more than 18,000, of which 88 percent are Native American, according to the 2010 census. The nationally famous Badlands of South Dakota also lie on Pine Ridge Reservation land.
About 39 percent of Native Americans live below the poverty line in Jackson County, which is nearly twice the percentage of whites, according to the Census Bureau’s 2006-2010 American Community Survey.
“Due … to the disparity in socio-economic status and the history of racial discrimination, Native American election turnout has historically been very low in South Dakota,” the complaint states, though South Dakota voter turnout is high overall.
Poor Bear wants Jackson County ordered to establish a satellite office on the reservation before the November elections, which will include gubernatorial candidates and constitutional amendments.
He claims there is “no justification” for not opening the satellite office, and that “the cost and burden on the county to designate a satellite office will be negligible in comparison to the irreparable harm that plaintiffs have already suffered, and will continue to suffer, as a result of the violation of their statutory and constitutional rights.”
Attorney Rappold, of Mission, S.D., said, “If we’re successful, and there are similar issues in other areas, this case would be something to tell the local folks: ‘You need to make sure you are doing things properly.'” 

Oglala Sioux vow to stop Keystone XL on the ground if Obama won’t say no

Chief Phil Lane Jr. (left) participates in the Vancouver signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands Projects. Photo courtesy of Phil Lane Jr.
Chief Phil Lane Jr. (left) participates in the Vancouver signing of the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred From Tar Sands Projects. Photo courtesy of Phil Lane Jr.

By Erin Flegg, Source: Vancouver Observer

In the latest in a series of announcements escalating resistance to oil and gas development in North America, the Oglala Sioux nation and its allies have committed to stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on their territory if Obama approves the project.

In response to the US State Department’s environmental report that says Keystone wouldn’t increase the country’s carbon emissions Oglala Sioux president Bryan Brewer, along with organizations carbon emissions, Owe Aku and Protect the Sacred, released a statement declaring they will stand with the Lakota people to block the pipeline. The statement, seen by many as a significant step toward approval, sparked solidarity action across the US on Monday.

Moccasins on the Ground is a grassroots direct action training organization, and trainer Debra White Plum of the Lakota Sioux nation said the group has been working toward this moment, giving nations the skills they need to defend their land, for years now.

The training is available to anyone who invites the group onto their land, and it consists of four days of training in areas such as knowing your rights, blockading and self-defence, first aid and social media. White Plume said a large part of the impetus for offering the training is the size of the territory at risk. Tribes can be several hundred kilometres away from each other, often making quick help hard to come by.

“This way a community can do whatever they need to do when threatened and they’ll have the skills right here, and that’s really important out here where we live,” she said. “We want this non-violent, direct way that everybody engaging in across the country to be successful,” she said. “But if it’s not and if the final door is closed, then that’s why we’re doing the training.”

The organization has toured the United States and has received requests for training from several nations in Canada. She said the political process has left the people with little choice.

“Every door has been closed through this process. Court decisions have been made that favoured the corporations and there are a few cases here and there where the landowners are still asserting their rights under American law.” But if the government can’t be counted on to uphold its own laws, she said, there’s nothing to stop them violating indigenous treaty rights.

“As red nations people we have seen the federal government violate treaties clear to this day.”

The violation of the treaties—in the case of Keystone it’s primarily the Fort Laramie Treaty between the American government and the Oglala Sioux—is the key reason Phil Lane says it’s unfair to call direct action by indigenous people civil disobedience.

“It is not civil disobedience. This is simply acting out of an aboriginal legal order to stand up for what is right. It is standing up for an ancient aboriginal legal order that has never been extinguished.”

Just as the US and Canada and any other sovereign nation has the right to enter into legally binding treaties, so do First Nations. When a treaty such as the one between the Sioux and the American government is broken by one of the parties bound by it, Lane said a third legal party is required to resolve the situation. Because the governments of the United States and Canada are handling the administration of the treaties they themselves have broken, Lane said it’s impossible to expect justice from them.

What direct action resistance against Keystone looks like will ultimately be up to the Obama administration.

“What’s going to happen if he chooses to give in to the oil companies and their allies is he’s going to empower the rising of indigenous people everywhere on Mother Earth,” he said. “This will be another final violation people aren’t ready to take.”

Ottawa-based Idle No More organizer Clayton Thomas-Muller added that it’s crucial to remember that opposition to Keystone XL was initiated and pushed forward by indigenous people. And what’s more, that much of the progress made has been thanks to the indigenous peoples who have demanded recognition of their rights, namely consultation.

In December of 2011 at the annual White House Tribal Leaders Summit, indigenous leaders, including former president of the Rosebud Sioux nation Rodney Bordeaux, presented President Obama with Mother Earth Accord, a document stating indigenous opposition to Keystone XL. The document was endorsed by numerous nations from both sides of the border, NGOs, landowners and the NDP party. Thomas-Muller said it’s the only such document that was delivered into Obama’s hands directly.

“It was only through native rights-based framework being used by indigenous organizations and networks that provide that unparalleled access to the state department and White House,” he said.

He traveled to New York City on Monday night to speak at one of more than 300 actions across 44 states this week. He read a statement written by Debra White Plume and spoke on behalf of Idle No More in Canada.

So many people have been preparing for this moment, he said, and are now coming together for a final push.

“Moving forward, we have a very short timeline. Within the next couple of months we will see a variety of very direct messages like the one we heard from Bryan Brewer of Oglala Sioux nation.”

Oglala Sioux says shutdown could lead to furloughs, suspension of aid, prisoner releases


Daniel Simmons-Ritchie Journal staff

October 10, 2013

The partial government shutdown will force the Oglala Sioux to release prisoners, furlough hundreds of tribal employees and suspend heating assistance to elderly tribal members still struggling after Friday’s blizzard, the tribe warned Thursday.

While the Oglala Sioux has already said the shutdown would severely impact its members on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the statement is the first time the tribe has officially criticized Congress and fully described the shutdown’s impact.

“It is a devastating situation, not a political debate,” President Bryan Brewer said in the statement. “Our people suffer the worst poverty in the country. It is unthinkable to have to close programs, stop services and turn people out of their jobs. In an area with 80 percent unemployment, furloughs are a humanitarian disaster.”

The shutdown was caused after House Republicans, including U.S. Rep Kristi Noem, R-S.D., declined to pass a resolution to fund the government unless Democrats weakened or delayed parts of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Democrats have refused to make concessions over the law.

The tribe’s statement warned that more than half of the tribe’s programs are affected by the shutdown: a USDA food distribution program would be terminated, a suicide prevention program would be cut, emergency programs for homeless veterans and homeless youths would be suspended and a lack of funding from the Department of Corrections would force the tribe to release prisoners.

In addition, the tribe added, an energy assistance program for low-income people has been cut, which will imperil some of the tribe’s most elderly and vulnerable members who are still recovering from Friday’s blizzard.

The statement said, lastly, that Brewer and other tribal members are in Washington this week to press Congress to reopen the government.

“We need Congress to do its job,” Brewer said. “Fund the government.”

At present there is no clear sign when that might happen. House Republicans have passed a series of bills to reopen certain services, like national parks, but Senate Democrats have rejected those bills, arguing that Republicans should reopen the entirety of the government.

South Dakota’s Republican delegates, Noem and U.S. Sen John Thune, have issued repeated statements this week that those House bills show that Republicans are trying to end the shutdown.

Democrats, including U.S. Sen Tim Johnson, argue that the easiest way to end the shutdown would be for House Republicans to pass a resolution, with no extra policy provisions, that would fully fund the government.

Oglala Sioux will decide on reservation alcohol sales

Denise DePaolo, KSFY.com

An 1832 act of Congress prohibited all alcohol in Indian Country.

Today, Pine Ridge is the only South Dakota reservation that remains dry. Despite that status, alcoholism and alcohol-related crime run rampant.

Recently, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council decided that the people should vote on whether to allow sales on the reservation.

For some, the issue is about tradition. For others, it’s about maintaining sovereignty. And for others yet, it’s about ending the steady flow of money over the border to a tiny town called White Clay, Nebraska.

White Clay – population approximately 14 – is an unincorporated town located a couple miles from Pine Ridge – the largest community on the reservation of the same name.

Alcohol is White Clay’s big industry – really, its only industry – and many Oglala are angry.

“It’s committing slow genocide on our people,” said tribal member Olowan Martinez.

More than four million cans of beer are sold in White Clay’s four liquor stores each year – mostly to tribal members. Meaning the money is leaving not only the reservation, but the state.

Now, in a special election August 13, the people will decide whether to allow alcohol sales on Pine Ridge.

Tribal Vice President Tom Poor Bear doesn’t think that’s enough time.

“I don’t feel we’re ready for it. I feel there’s a lot of questions to be asked. We need to regulate it right to begin with. We need to change a lot of laws within our tribal code that surround alcohol.”

Part of Poor Bear’s concern involves allowing outside government in.

“You know, my biggest concern on this is I really feel we really need to do our homework in depth, and we really need to do some research. Because what I’m afraid of is state jurisdiction. We are a sovereign nation. And we’re going to be buying this alcohol – if it is legalized – from the state. We probably have to get an alcohol tax, which violates the treaty, because we’re a tax exempt people. Is State Patrol going to be allowed to patrol our reservation highways?” asked Poor Bear.

Many make the argument that the only way to stop hemorrhaging money into White Clay, and stop other problems that come with alcohol is to take the power back and eradicate what many consider a parasite.

“They’re just sucking us. Capitalizing on the disease that we have. White Clay is just…we’re in the belly of another little monster,” said Poor Bear.

For some, that means the tribe selling its own alcohol and using revenues toward treatment and prevention programs. For others, like a group of tribal members camped at the border since April 30, the solution is a return to traditional ways – saying no to alcohol under all circumstances.

“There are many issues facing White Clay, but personally for us here, the main goal we’re trying to achieve is changing the mentality of our nation. If we teach a ten-year-old today that alcohol is the enemy, and any time their parents bring it into their home, they know there’s an enemy in their home,” said Martinez, who is part of the months-long protest.

When asked about the example set by other tribes that have legalized alcohol, perspectives differed.

“We don’t want to join the rest of the sell-out tribes, by allowing alcohol or the state in. That’s out of the question for many of us. We’re the only nation that defeated the U.S. government, and we will never forget that,” said Martinez.

“I’ve been to other reservations that aren’t dry reservations. Like our neighbors to the east, the Sicangus – the Rosebuds – they do sell alcohol there. I do go to Rosebud a lot, and I don’t see the White Clays on Rosebud. Where you see empty cans, empty bottles. Their reservation’s really clean,” said Poor Bear.

And while opinions differ on the alcohol question, tribal members KSFY News spoke with acknowledge that the Oglala people must be the ones to answer.

“I don’t think we should dictate to our people how they should live their lives,” said Poor Bear.

“We know it’s not going to pass. Because when we set our camp up, we went to ceremony, and the spirits aren’t gonna have us put our camp here and give up our lives to break our hearts in the end,” said tribal member Misty Sioux Little.

Off-sale liquor licenses were first issued in White Clay during the 1970’s.

Today, more than 90-percent of crime in and around the tiny town is alcohol-related.

Oglala Sioux Tribe president arrested in White Clay, Nebraska

Oglala Sioux president Brian Brewer being harassed before arrest. Photo: Intercontinental Cry
Oglala Sioux president Brian Brewer being harassed before arrest. Photo: Intercontinental Cry

Levi Rickert, Intercontinental Cry Magazine

WHITE CLAY, NEBRASKA – Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer was arrested today [June 17] in White Clay, Nebraska.

It was not immediately known what he is charged with at press time. He was reportedly taken to Rushville, Nebraska for booking, according to Toni Red Cloud, public relations director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, who talked to the Native News Network just after the arrest.

Several dozen Oglala Sioux tribal members were in the border town of White Clay to protest the sale of alcohol. The protest began as a walk into White Clay. A sheriff deputy asked the crowd to allow a beer truck through the road.

When the protesters did not move fast enough, security and police officers moved. One deputy began shouting at President Brewer and pointing his finger in the president’s face prior to President Brewer being arrested.

White Clay, Nebraska, is just over border from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It is a small town of 14 people, but sells almost five million cans of 12 oz. beer annually.

Last week, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council on Tuesday, June 11, passed a resolution that allows for a referendum to have tribal citizens living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to decide if sales of alcohol should be legal.

President Brewer was threatened with arrest when he led some 100 tribal members in a protest at White Clay in March, 2013.

[Of all the protesters, ] only President Brewer was arrested.

Tribe votes to allow members to decide whether to legalize alcohol

This 2005 file photo shows Pine Ridge police officers Mirian Laybad (left), Sgt. Oscar Hudspeth and Lt. Mitch Wisecarver confiscate cases of beer at a checkpoint just north of Whiteclay. (Lincoln Journal Star photo)
This 2005 file photo shows Pine Ridge police officers Mirian Laybad (left), Sgt. Oscar Hudspeth and Lt. Mitch Wisecarver confiscate cases of beer at a checkpoint just north of Whiteclay. (Lincoln Journal Star photo)

June 12, 2013

By KEVIN ABOUREZK / Lincoln Journal Star

The Oglala Sioux tribal council voted Tuesday night to allow the tribe’s members to decide whether to legalize alcohol on the tribe’s South Dakota reservation.

“Let’s hear the voice of the people,” said council member Robin Tapio during the council’s meeting in Oglala, S.D.

Tribal President Bryan Brewer said he doesn’t support legalizing alcohol on the reservation, at least until the tribe develops a plan to address the likely increase in crime that would occur after legalization.

“That alcohol that’s coming on the reservation is killing our children, killing our people,” he said.

The vote to allow the tribe’s members to decide whether to legalize alcohol is closely intertwined with efforts to stop the flow of beer from the Nebraska village of Whiteclay, which is about a mile south of Pine Ridge, the tribe’s largest village.

Last year, four beer stores in Whiteclay sold the equivalent of 3.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer, according to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.

The tribe’s reservation, about the size of Connecticut, has struggled with high alcoholism rates for generations, though alcohol has been banned there since 1832. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation makes up all of Shannon County, S.D. — the third poorest county in America, according to the U.S. Census.

Pine Ridge legalized alcohol in 1970 but restored the ban two months later, and an attempt to allow it in 2004 died after a public outcry.

A date for the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s members to decide whether to end the alcohol ban hasn’t been decided.

On Friday night, the tribe also voted to create ports of entry at every entry point onto the reservation, starting with the entry from Whiteclay. The tribe hopes the ports of entry will allow it to stop alcohol importation onto the reservation.

Brewer said he is planning to visit Lincoln soon to talk to Gov. Dave Heineman and other state officials about ways the state of Nebraska can address alcohol sales in Whiteclay. On Tuesday, he told his tribe’s council that he plans to protest Whiteclay alcohol sales on Monday morning and invited council members to join him.

“If we close up Whiteclay, it’s not going to stop the liquor on our reservation,” he said. “But we’re going to send a message to our young people: We do not want this.”

Council member Larry Eagle Bull said he expects crime and substance abuse will spike if alcohol is legalized.

“It’s going to peak but then it’s going to come down once our people get educated about alcohol,” he said. “The people have to have a voice.”

Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or kabourezk@journalstar.com.