Editorial: Oglala Sioux Tribe should allow voting for all members

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Questioning the right to vote in tribal elections
By Native Sun News Editorial Board

Today is one of those days when we scratch our heads and say, “Where does time go?”

Doesn’t it seem that we were just holding an election at Pine Ridge and watching John Yellow Bird Steele beat the pants off of President Bryan Brewer? Yes, it is hard to believe but the next Primary Election at Pine Ridge is less than six months away.

Rumors are already circulating and we hear that Ryan Wilson is considering a run and that Bryan Brewer will also try it again. But that is just the beginning because after all is said and done there will probably be 6 to 10 candidates running for the office of President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

One time Senator Jim Abourezk said, “There are only two jobs I would never want: One is President of the United States and the other is President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.” Makes sense to a lot of people.

John Yellow Bird Steele is serving his sixth two-year term as OST President. That is unprecedented for the Oglala Sioux Tribe. We have had two-term presidents such as Dick Wilson who defeated Russell Means in his second run for president. Gerald One Feather was one of the truly great Oglala leaders and is the man largely behind the creation of the Oglala Lakota College which started off as Oglala Community College in the beginning.

We also recall when the present President of Oglala Lakota College, Tom Short Bull threw his hat in the ring for the presidency of the tribe. He ran into a problem when it was decided he could not run because he was born off of the reservation. Now here is a man who is the descendant of an Oglala chief and he was told he did not qualify to run.

There was a time when someone born off of the reservation was listed as “NE” or Non-enrolled. Short Bull fought against that unfair law and got it repealed. But there are still many Lakota that were born off of the reservation during the time when that rule was law who were never considered enrolled members of the tribe and it has had an impact upon their descendants as well.

It would be a monstrous task for the Enrollment Committee to go back into the records and correct this dreadful error. Perhaps it can be done. It means that the children of these Lakota would see a change in their blood quantum. For example, if a Lakota woman was listed as Non-enrolled the blood quantum of her children would not include her degree of Indian blood. If she was full or even one half, her children would not have been able to claim her degree of Indian blood. This happened many times and there are still Lakota men and women who are denied this legal right.

Many of the enrollment records have now been placed on computers so perhaps it would be possible to go back into the records and adjust blood quantum for posterity’s sake.

As we started to say with the upcoming elections just around the corner the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council should begin to re-consider the idea of allowing tribal members, especially those tribal members that are land holders on the reservation, the right to vote in the upcoming elections.

If they live in Rapid City which is in the Sacred Black Hills of the Lakota it would be like saying the tribe no longer claims the Black Hills if it denies its members living there the right to vote. Either they are on tribal land or they are not.

Think about it.

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(The Editorial Board of Native Sun News can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com)

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