Jeffrey Whalen: County blames financial failures on tribal citizens

The Bennett County Courthouse in Martin, South Dakota. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

Bennett County pointing finger at the wrong people
By Jeffrey Whalen
Native Sun News Columnist

The Bennett County Commissioners are trying to figure out a way to get more money into their coffers and are blaming the large population of Oglala Sioux Tribal members and their trust land status for funding shortfalls.

Last week I was told that the Bennett County Commissioners passed a resolution basically indicating that the county was going bankrupt. The alleged reason is that the county claims that they cannot support the Native American population and are experiencing shortfalls in funding due to the fact that the county land base contains trust property which cannot be taxed by the County government. On the face of it, the resolution seemed to be written to avoid as much interpretation as possible that might be seen as racist. But all of us Oglala’s know that race is the intended target of the resolution.

The county is trying to get the federal government to provide additional funding to their county and site an 1831 U.S. Supreme court case called Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia as their justification. But the county didn’t elaborate at all on any history of that court case and how it became law. To put it short and bluntly, the White folk’s numbers were growing due to an increase in population and subsequent migration into Native territory. They started demanding additional lands for themselves and the Presidents at the time, Monroe, Adams and Jackson had executive policies which actively took the historical Cherokee lands away for the use of White folks. This is the process that started forcing the removal of tribes to other lands beyond the Mississippi.

According to a book written by William C. Canby Jr., American Indian Law “In A Nut Shell” 5th edition, pg. 16, second paragraph, …”the attempts of Georgia to extinguish Indian title within the state gave rise to the Cherokee Cases, perhaps the two most influential decisions in all of Indian Law. The state of Georgia had given up western land claims in return for a federal promise to extinguish Indian title to lands with Georgia, but the state tired of waiting for federal action. Between 1828 and 1830, Georgia enacted a series of laws that divided up the Cherokee territory among several Georgia counties, extended state law to the divided territory, invalidated all Cherokee laws, and made criminal any attempts of the Cherokees to act as a government. To combat these actions of Georgia, the Cherokees brought an original action in the Supreme Court, Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia.”

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