FROM THE ARCHIVE
Indians mobilize to defeat white leaders
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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2002

Frustrated by what they viewed as racism by the local law enforcement, Sioux tribal members have mobilized to unseat the leadership of Bennett County, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The activists enlisted three Indian candidates for the county commission. In the June Democratic primary, they all beat their white opponents.

They also enlisted another Indian candidate to run, as an Independent, against Sheriff Russel Waterbury, who is accused of being heavy handed. Waterbury -- whose wife and daughter are enrolled -- has hauled in hundreds of tribal members under outstanding warrants.

The show of power surprised the white Democrats. "Indians -- they're not known to be able to run anything," outgoing commissioner Ed Risse, who lost the primary, told the Journal.

In response, the white Democrats asked the federal government to intervene, citing the federal employment of two of the candidates. Francis "Sonny" Ruff ended up dropping out because he works for the Indian Health Service while Gerald Bettelyoun stayed in the race but had to quit his IHS job.

"The people that are running are probably not even half Indian," Risse was quoted as saying. The Journal refuted the suggestion.

Get the Story:
Indian vs. White Politics Roils Quiet Dakota County (The Wall Street Journal 10/31)

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