Dana Lone Elk: Oglala Sioux Tribe goes back on its word on vote

The following column by Dana Lone Elk appears in The Lakota Country Times. For more news, subscribe to the Lakota Country Times today. All content © Lakota Country Times.

Dana Lone Elk

Native votes matter, or do they?
BY Dana Lone Elk
Lakota Country Times Columnist

It has been nearly two years since the world had its eyes on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The vote to lift the century old alcohol ban was not only historical because it lifted the ban, because it divided the tribe, and because it sparked more debate than any vote of the past.

It was historic because it brought 3,521 people out to vote. The vote did not go without controversy, it was said some polling places did not open on time, people were turned away and not given the right to vote, there were not enough ballots, etc. The vote, despite it’s controversy was huge and everyone knew it.

Despite the debate, everyone agreed it was a vote.

Until now.

Now, the vote is being called a poll to see if people “would want it.” According to tribal council it was never called a vote, although I specifically remember it being passed off as a vote. Tribal council says it was a motion to have a referendum.

In fact such media and New York Times, The Washington Post, and even the Associated Press called it a vote, reported it as a vote with no protest from the tribe. Pictures of the polling places have signs put out by the election commission that clearly say “Oglala Sioux Tribe Alcohol Referendum Vote Official Ballot.” People who voted had to register at the polling places, which usually means a vote.

So how can we say your vote counts or matters when tribal council can take that vote away? It’s like they held the ballots out in front of the people and then pulled them away like bullies and said “just kidding, fooled you!” I mean as much as we preach against bullying, this seems like bully tactics to me to not take your own tribal members rights seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, I was torn on the vote. I didn’t think the ban being lifted was a good thing because the laws for having alcohol were not set in place, however to take that power and money away from Whiteclay to help our own people would have been.

But I didn’t live there so I didn’t vote, but I did encourage people to vote, no matter which way just vote because native votes matter, they should anyway. Because of the Native vote it is no longer Shannon county but Oglala Lakota County. However the ban on alcohol is such a subject that brings out so much passion in the people, because 100% of the tribal members are affected by it, that no one realizes their basic civil liberty and right to vote is being pissed on by the tribal council.

Maybe next time the tribe decides to do a “poll” they should call it that. Instead of making people leave their homes to take part in a “poll” they should walk to their houses and poll them.

If the right to vote by a tribal member is not taken seriously by our own tribal council, what’s next? They going to start controlling what tribal members can and can not read next?

Oh my bad, that already happened.

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