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Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe addresses youth suicide

Tiger Brown Bull may be young and new, but he is more than ready to help move the Oglala Sioux Tribe forward. Photo courtesy Michigan State University

Brown Bull says tribe is prepared to fight suicide in the long run
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE— The Oglala Sioux Tribe is preparing to fight the battle against suicide well into the future, according to the tribe’s Executive Director.

At the age of 30, Tiger Brown Bull is not well acquainted with the world of tribal politics and he hopes to keep it that way.

“I try to stay out of the political side of things and focus on doing what I am supposed to be doing,” said Brown Bull.

A graduate of Little Wound High School, Brown Bull also graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors and just recently left law school at Michigan State University to take on the daunting job of managing the day to day operations of one of North America’s most highly populated tribal nations.

As Executive Director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Brown Bull is responsible for the day to day operations of more than 80 tribal programs and nearly 1000 employees.

Although Brown Bull has been in the position for less than a year, he says that the current management structure of the tribe needs to be improved in order to make the tribe more effective at delivering services to its citizens.

“Right now we have 87 programs that are under my responsibility,” said Brown Bull. “We are working on taking all them and compartmentalizing them under specific parts of tribal government.”

In November, news reports surfaced that the funding for OST’s most prominent suicide prevention program was set to be discontinued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Misinformation in the articles created a narrative of the tribe lacked the preparedness to continue its battle against suicide.

Brown Bull took issue with the coverage and says that the reports were misleading as the tribe is proactive in its efforts to take on the monumental challenge of stopping the scourge of suicides.

“There were reports that made it seem like we weren’t prepared but we knew in early October there was a chance that the funding for Sweet Grass would be discontinued,” said Brown Bull. “We are prepared to continue to step up our efforts against suicide and we have been putting together a strategic plan that will pool the resources we already have in place and to use our current programs to make up any difference in services had Sweet Grass not been granted the emergency extension.”

Since the first reports surfaced stating that the Sweet Grass Project would be discontinued, a one-year extension was granted by SAMSHA allowing the program to continue its work. Brown Bull says however that if the program had not been granted the extension the tribe was still prepared to continue to battle the epidemic.

“We have a number of programs that have suicide prevention work written in to their grants,” said Brown Bull. “When the state of emergency was declared by President Steele we should have brought all these programs together to figure out how we could pool our resources and work together. That is what we are doing now.”

In addition to tweaking tribal government to allow for programs to work together, Brown Bull says that multiple grants have been acquired by the tribe that will put in place the managerial infrastructure to sustain the tribe suicide prevention efforts for the next several years.

“We have an (Administration for Native Americans Grant) for $800,000, we have a MSPI grant in the amount of $100,000, SERG grant for $425,000, a Telehealth grant totaling $975,000, and a SERV grant that awards $125,000 to each of our schools,” he said. “Our people are so used to us being reactive and we want to change that by being proactive by establishing a strategic plan that will lead us on a better path going forward.”

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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