Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe sets swearing-in for leaders
The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk. All content © Native Sun News.

PINE RIDGE, SOUTH DAKOTA — The time for swearing in is here. The time for swearing at is past; maybe.

Outgoing President Theresa Two Bulls was expected to call a special meeting of the Tribal Council on Tuesday to get the Council to vote for a new election.

But despite her efforts to thwart the election she could not get a quorum. This paves the way for the inauguration to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 7. John Yellowbird Steele and Tom Poor Bear will be sworn into office as the new President and Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

According to figures released by the Office of Secretary Rhonda Two Eagle on Nov. 8, 2010 for the office of Presidency John Yellowbird Steele (1849) defeated incumbent Theresa Two Bulls (1773). For the office of Vice-Presidency Thomas Poor Bear (2111) defeated Myron Pourier (1508). Last week the Oglala Sioux Nation Supreme Court denied a request by outgoing President Teresa Two Bulls to have the Oglala Sioux Tribal Election Commission invalidate the Oglala Sioux Tribe 2010 General Election.

The OSN Supreme Court heard the complaints filed against the election commission on Saturday Nov. 20 and released their decision on Wednesday, Nov. 24.

Two Bulls had argued that conduct of the 2010 General Election run and operated by the Commission was so fraught with irregularities and violations of the election code that it merited a new election and had asked for removal of the election commission.

Chief Justice Michael T. Swallow and Associate Justices Marshall, Jones and American Horse denied Two Bulls challenge because she failed to provide supporting documentation for the 13 allegations of impropriety of the election process.

“The petitioner failed to substantiate her claims with the Commission and the violations of the law do not in and of themselves invalidate the November 2, 2010 elections results,” the court ruled.

“While it may be true that violations of the Election Ordinances occurred, this court finds and holds that such violations do not rise to the level of ‘shocking the conscience’ or affected the outcome of the election” the Justices said. “The membership is entitled to a fair election process, not a perfect election.”

They cited the Crystal Eagle Elk v. OST Tribal Council wherein the court held that due process violations must “shock the conscience” in order to be actionable as basis for their decision.

Two Bulls had also argued that the Election Commission Chairman Francis Pumpkin Seed did not meet the age limit guidelines as set out in the ordinance.

The justices also ruled that, “Although Mr. Pumpkin Seed was not 35/30 years of age; the OST Tribal Council must also share responsibility for allowing him to be on the Commission. They selected him. The Election Ordinance vests authority over the Commission in the OST Executive Committee. The Executive Committee is empowered by law to regulate the conduct of Commission members. Mr. Pumpkinseed has been suspended by the Executive Committee pending a hearing before them. That process is authorized by the election ordinance and must be followed.”

Amid the ongoing controversy, the Commission had moved ahead with election protocol and had certified the 2010 General Election results and sent out letters notifying winning candidates of their certification.

“The Election Commission will continue to move forward in a respectful manner until such time the Commission is allowed due process or the new Yellowbird-Steele/Poor Bear Administration is sworn in. The OST Election Commission wishes each winning candidate good luck with their future endeavors and thanks to each and every person involved with this successful election and smooth transition to electronic voting,” the commission issued in a statement last week.

Pumpkin Seed said he and the other commissioners including their legal advisor conducted business as usual because they had not yet received any complaints or been served any formal notice of action from the Executive Board.

“The statement about a new election released by the President’s office has not been considered by the OST Election Commission based upon statements or allegations of persons who have lost in their reelection bid. The Supreme Court of the Oglala Nation had held and heard testimony from Teresa Two Bulls and a decision will be rendered Wednesday November 24, 2010 those orders will be respected and followed by the Election Commission. As to any complaints filed against the OST Election Commission including Francis Pumpkinseed, Illa Lone Hill, Sandra Old Horse and Steve Hawk the OST Election Commission of this time and date have not received any complaints and or subsequent actions of the OST Executive Board, the Election Commission is entitled to due process as mandated by Tribal and Federal Law,” the press release from the OST Election Commission stated.

“The election is pretty much done. We have pretty much moved ahead with everything. People who lost their election bid are trying to get the whole election overturned. There is no possible way that the tribe has $30,000 to conduct a new election,” Pumpkin Seed said.

To date he said the election has cost the Oglala Sioux Tribe a total of $160,000.

“To add on more cost to that is just not feasible. It’s not those who are asking for a new election that are going to suffer, it’s the people of the tribe that are going to be suffering,” he said.

Also being sworn into office on Dec. 7 will be: Pine Ridge District Representatives: Irving “Irv” Provost, Ella “John” Carlow, Robin Tapio; Eagle Nest District Representatives: Jim Meeks, Ruth Brown; LaCreek District Representatives: Donn Fire Thunder, Craig Dillon; Pass Creek; Representatives: James Cross, Elaine Martinez; Medicine Root District Representatives; Austin Watkins Sr., James “Toby” Big Boy; Oglala District Representatives: Paul Little, Deborah J. Rooks Cook; Porcupine District Reps; Troy “Scott” Weston, Beverly A. Tuttle; Wakpamni District Representatives: Sonia Little Hawk Weston, Debbie Blue Bird; Wounded Knee District Representatives: Kevin Yellowbird Steele, Kathy Janis.

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at: