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Tim Giago: Taking stock of Election Day 2006

Posted by request of Tim Giago, Nanwica Kciji. � 2006 Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.

How many of you breathed a deep sigh of relief when the last political advertisement gradually faded from the screen of your television set?

What a horribly nasty political campaign this has been. In South Dakota the �Morality Gestapo� in the South Dakota Legislature, tried to push their religious agenda upon the rest of us with a law to ban all abortions without exception for a pregnancy brought about by rape or incest. It went much too far and the Referred Law 6, as it appeared on the ballot, saw 56 percent of the voters reject it.

Tom Katus, a longtime leader of the Democratic Party in South Dakota, defeated the most outspoken advocate of banning all abortions, Elli Schwiesow, with 53 percent of the vote in State Senate District 32. Schwiesow made the abortion ban the keynote of her campaign. Heads more sound and sane saw this law as an infringement on the rights of women.

The sad episode of this assault upon the rights of women was the solitary decision of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council to not only emulate the wrongheaded lawmakers of the South Dakota State Legislators, but to go against the cultural, traditional and spiritual values of their own history to do so. In the process they made a mockery of tribal traditions when they impeached a truly great leader, the first woman ever to serve as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Cecelia Fire Thunder.

Was it because she stood up for the rights of women or was it because she is a woman? Comments by Lyman Red Cloud, the great-great-great grandson of Chief Red Cloud, would suggest that it was because she is a woman. He said that women should not be elected as president and that it was the job of men. Mr. Red Cloud is, apparently, not schooled in the history of his own people.

Lakota women were always looked upon as the teachers and nurturers of the young. They were highly revered and often the tribal leaders sought out their ideas and suggestions. And here is the real sticking point: Lakota, Dakota and Nakota (Sioux) men never, and I mean never, dared to enter into that private world of the women when it came to child bearing. This was an area that was strictly taboo to the men. Women made their own decisions and choices when it came to having children.

Bruce Whalen, an Oglala Lakota, a Republican and a born again Christian, also made abortion the focal point of his campaign to unseat U. S. House of Representatives incumbent, Stephanie Herseth (D-SD). Herseth soundly trounced him as she took 69 percent of the vote.

On the Pine Ridge Reservation things were so unsettled that the tribal leadership could not even conduct a simple election. They have had 72 years since the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 gave them the power to conduct free elections to learn and yet they could not get it right. The Election Board rejected the top vote getter in the Primary Election, Alex White Plume, and the acting president after the ouster of Fire Thunder, thus opening the door for Fire Thunder to run against 4-time president, John Yellow Bird Steele. Steele won in the General Election on November 7 by a two-to-one margin. That still hasn�t settled the issue as White Plume has appealed the decision of the Election Board that removed him from the ballot for having a felony conviction some 32 years ago, a conviction that was later reduced to a misdemeanor. The reduction of his sentence still runs contrary to tribal election rules according to the Election Board. The Tribal Council will be meeting this week to make a final decision. Will a new election be called or will the Council allow this one to stand? Let�s hope they get it right for a change. But stay tuned.

While we are speculating let�s take this one step further. How many Indian people across America would like to see former U. S. Senator Tom Daschle named as Secretary of the Interior? Now here is a person who, more than any other non-Indian in America, with the possible exception of Stephanie Herseth, truly knows and understands the many complexities in Indian country. He knows most tribal leaders in America by their first names. There are few issues in Indian country that he does not know about. But more than that, he is neither sympathetic nor empathetic to the multitude of problems facing American Indians. Instead he is pragmatic, fair-minded and understanding. What better qualifications to serve as the one person most responsible for the ills or gains of the Indian people?

In Indian country the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. While the rich tribes are squandering away their millions on boxing matches and women�s basketball teams, and then crowing about the few thousands they are donating for charitable organizations, the poor tribes are still living two and three families to a house, the worst health care in America, schools that are still lined with asbestos, unemployment rates that are at 70 to 80 percent and the earliest death rate of any other race of people in America.

In the long run it makes one wonder if it really matters which political party is in power. As a rule, neither party seems to care and if they do care, they seem to not have the means to make a difference.

Abortion should never have been the centerpiece of this election. Humanity and compassion for those less fortunate should have been in the mix somewhere and education, healthcare, and civility should have rounded out the mix.

(McClatchy News Service in Washington, DC distributes Tim Giago�s weekly column. He can be reached at P.O. Box 9244, Rapid City, SD 57709 or at Giago was also the founder and former editor and publisher of the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today newspapers and the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. Clear Light Books of Santa Fe, NM ( published his latest book, �Children Left Behind�)

More Tim Giago:
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Tim Giago: Termination a dirty word in Indian Country (10/10)
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Tim Giago: Culturecide started with innocent children (09/19)
Tim Giago: Indian people mark 500 years of terrorism (9/11)
Tim Giago: Lawsuit challenges church on abuse (9/6)
Tim Giago: Day of reckoning for Oglala Sioux Tribe (8/29)
Tim Giago: Tribes giving up their sovereignty (08/08)
Giago retires as editor and publisher of magazine (8/4)
Tim Giago: States looking for ways to take from tribes (8/1)
Tim Giago: Religion invaded Native America (7/25)
Tim Giago: Daily screw ups in tribal governance (7/18)
Tim Giago: Happy Birthday to Van Cliburn and me (7/11)
Tim Giago: South Dakota tilting further to the right (7/3)
Tim Giago: Americans still the invaders in Iraq (6/27)
Tim Giago: Tribal colleges in Bill Gates' backyard (6/21)
Tim Giago: Gaming brings new wealth, new problems (6/13)
Tim Giago: 'Oz' author called for genocide of the Lakota (6/6)
Tim Giago: Too much uncertainty in gaming (5/30)
Tim Giago: Deny gaming to newly recognized tribes (5/23)
Tim Giago: Congratulations to the class of '06 (5/16)
Tim Giago: Rich tribes should help poorer tribes (5/9)
Tim Giago: Fighting substance abuse at Pine Ridge (5/2)
Tim Giago: Censorship in the mainstream media (4/25)
Tim Giago: Brainwashing on Pine Ridge Reservation (4/18)
Tim Giago: The growing pains of tribal sovereignty (4/11)
Tim Giago: Indians most affected by immigration (4/4)
Tim Giago: Little attention for Native American Day (3/28)
Giago: Oglala Sioux president on state abortion law (3/21)
Tim Giago: The road to true tribal sovereignty (3/14)
Tim Giago: The basketball miracle of 1936 (3/7)
Giago: Real problem in South Dakota is race relations (2/21)
Tim Giago: Yes, Virginia, Indians do pay taxes (2/14)
Tim Giago: Gas-guzzlers, Indian cars and the Big Three (2/7)
Tim Giago: Lions, Tiger, Bears and Indian mascots (1/31)
Tim Giago: Christians and Muslims still at war (1/24)
Tim Giago: Bush started Iraqi war over 'dark lie' (1/17)
Tim Giago: Fire Thunder out of limbo after 66 days (1/10)
Tim Giago: The Olympics of Indian basketball (12/20)
Tim Giago: BIA schools turned abused into abusers (12/13)
Tim Giago: Fire Thunder shakes up establishment (12/6)
Tim Giago: Della Warrior steps down from IAIA (11/29)
Tim Giago: Deloria gave Indian people a voice (11/22)
Tim Giago: Indians never forced religion on others (11/15)
Tim Giago: Exposing false medicine men (11/8)
Tim Giago: Government ignores Indian health problems (11/1)
Tim Giago: Indian newspapers revise history (10/25)
Tim Giago: Two friends make journey to spirit world (10/18)
Tim Giago: Politicians need to know Indian law (10/11)
Tim Giago: Doors opening to Indians in South Dakota (10/4)
Tim Giago: 'Indian' myths and misconceptions (9/27)
Tim Giago: Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina (9/20)
Tim Giago: NCAA loses its spine on mascot policy (9/13)
Tim Giago: The Indian 'scandal sheet' phenomenon (08/30)
Tim Giago: Indians became refugees in own land (8/23)
Tim Giago: Censor tribes for supporting mascots (8/17)
Tim Giago: New addiction takes over in Indian Country (08/02)
Tim Giago: Tribes trade sovereignty for dollars (7/26)
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Tim Giago: South Dakota press censors Indian writers (05/10)
Tim Giago: White lawyers growing fat off tribes (04/26)
Tim Giago: Gay marriage debate killed Democrats (4/19)
Tim Giago: It's time for wealthy tribes to think Indian (04/05)
Tim Giago: Wealthy tribes don't need federal funds (03/31)
Tim Giago: Gaming leads to addiction, crime (03/22)
Tim Giago: Discrimination in the media and advertising (03/08)
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Tim Giago: Bush probably still against Indian gaming (01/25)
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Tim Giago: Racism continues in South Dakota (11/30)
Tim Giago: Should we listen to Osama bin Laden? (11/23)
Tim Giago: GOP moral values will hurt Indian Country (11/09)
Tim Giago: Indian reformists stamped out tribes (11/02)
Tim Giago: I'm not a racist and I haven't seen NMAI yet (09/29)
Tim Giago: Eastern tribes are African-American (09/15)
Tim Giago: Indians have cause to fear Republicans (07/21)
Tim Giago: Casinos create culture of 'us' and 'them' (06/30)
Tim Giago: Boarding schools cause of many ills (06/14)
Tim Giago: 'Real' Indians don't fight over money (04/05)
Tim Giago now plans to run for Senate as independent (03/31)
Tim Giago: Indians pay no taxes, and other myths (01/26)
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Giago: Gays were highly respected by Sioux Nation (09/22)
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Giago: State should refund tax money first (08/06)
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