A copy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe's constitution and the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Photo by James Giago Davies

Native Sun News Today: Oglala Sioux Tribe asks citizens about constitution

OST Constitution reform comes to Rapid City

Scheduled tribal meetings turnout has been light
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

RAPID CITY—Were you to ask every enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) whether OST Constitution reform and revision is important, the response would be an overwhelming yes, yet all the district meetings on the reservation proper, and one meeting held in Rapid City at the Howard Johnson, were sparsely attended.

“I don’t think they published the meeting (well enough),” noted Lakota publisher and journalist Tim Giago said. “I’m hearing complaint after complaint only three to four people showed up.”

These meetings ran the length of a day, they were well organized, with eats and big screen presentations, and a point-to-point examination of the issues at hand. If people arrived late, they were periodically updated where the discussion had been, and where it was going, and resources and experts were made available. An OST press release reads, “The Constitutional Reform is still going full steam ahead into the new year. The proposed plan is to hold a referendum vote in June to approve changes that the task force draws up. It is imperative that people attend these meetings.”

At each of the reform meetings an OST Constitution Reform Initiative Survey was handed out. The June referendum will focus on the result of this survey, and even if you have not filled out this survey, familiarizing yourself with the eighteen questions on the survey will give you a clearer understanding of the Constitution structure and where reform might be needed.

The OST Constitution was approved on January, 15, 1936, two years after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act established our present form of tribal government. The Constitution was amended in 1969, 1985, 1997 and 2008. The entire Constitution is available and easy to locate at the OST website. The survey questions begin with the preamble, and each of the eighteen questions are identically presented. For example, the first, is the preamble. The question is asked: “What is it about the Preamble:


The preamble is small, just 72 words, and yet, even here, there were two things people wanted to change. “We, the Oglala Sioux Tribe…” It was suggested this be changed from Sioux to Lakota. “…in recognition of God Almighty and His Divine Providence…” It was suggested referring to a more traditional spiritual reference, like Tunkashila, might be in order.

These are the other seventeen survey question topics.

Current concerns noted at many of the meetings are: changing the nine districts listed in Section 3 of Article III. Should these districts be decreased, or increased, by adding off reservation districts? Section 1 of Article VII - Elections is also an issue. Only tribal members who have resided for one year on the reservation can vote. A large percentage of the more educated, accomplished, informed and capable members live off the reservation. This leaves them no voice in tribal elections and minimal voice in tribal affairs, and logic dictates their contribution would be vital.

Term limitations were also discussed, so that career politicians cannot readily impose cronyism or nepotism. Staggered terms also helps prevent cabals of self interest. Finally, allowing all eligible voters to vote for every candidate, not just in their district, so that candidates cannot rely on running unopposed, or on their friends and relatives guaranteeing a win.

Both Giago and OST attorney Mario Gonzalez point out that petitions can be filed by enrolled members to amend the Constitution.

“We have just as much power to do amendments as anybody else,” Gonzalez says. According to CFR, title 25, Chapter 1, subchapter F, Part 81, of federal guidelines, he is correct. The electorate need not rely on the elected official to effect Constitutional revision. Procedures are in place for tribal membership to impose Constitutional reform, even over the obstruction of an uncooperative tribal government, that meets their collective criteria.

Giago draws an overall positive from the interest in Constitutional reform: “I think everybody is on the right track. They’re looking at term limits in office, separation of powers, and not overlooking the 20,000 people living in Rapid City, many who are tribal land owners who are being disenfranchised.”


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OST Constitution reform comes to Rapid City
James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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