President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe addresses the National Congress of American Indians in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 23, 2019. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

President of Oglala Sioux Tribe faces legal crisis amid coronavirus pandemic

President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe is being accused of driving while intoxicated and verbal assault, according to charges made public on Tuesday.

According to a criminal complaint filed in tribal court, a tribal officer pulled over Bear Runner in his pickup truck early Saturday morning on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The officer noticed Bear Runner was exhibiting slurred speech, glossy and bloodshot eyes, and a strong odor of alcohol emanating from his breath. Bear Runner also appeared unsteady on his feet, the complaint reads.

A copy of the criminal complaint in Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Julian Bear Runner, filed in tribal court on May 5, 2020.

The officer administered a blood-alcohol test, finding Bear Runner had blood-alcohol content of 0.107 percent, far above the legal limit on the reservation. According to tribal law, any person who drives and is found to have a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content or higher is considered intoxicated and in violation of motor vehicle laws.

The complaint also describes an alleged incident that occurred in Manderson, a community on the reservation, involving Bear Runner. A tribal officer contacted a male who told the officer that Bear Runner told him he was going to “beat his ass.”

A tribal prosecutor charged Bear Runner with verbal assault as a result of the incident.

Bear Runner could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

On Sunday night, he issued a statement, admitting to having been arrested over the weekend but declining to say what charges he was facing.

“First and foremost, thank you to everyone for the overwhelming show of support through the tough time,” he said. “As a tribal member I am afforded due process through the courts that every one of us is entitled to. At this time I am not able to comment on anything alleged against me.”

A May 2, 2020, screen shot of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Corrections and Department of Public Safety website showed Julian Bear Runner in the system on that day. His name no longer appears in the online portal.

Bear Runner said the tribe’s government will continue functioning as usual, including continuing its COVID-19 response efforts.

“I want to assure the Oyate that I remain committed to the work that I have taken on to keep the Oglala Oyate safe and prosperous,” he said. Oyate is the Lakota word for people..

“I will continue to move forward with the health and wellbeing of my Oyate and your best interest in my heart,” Bear Runner continued.

“Most importantly, I want to encourage everyone to continue to remain unified with our efforts in strengthening our communities, defending our sovereignty and standing shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity. Wopila,” he said, using the Lakota phrase for thank you.

Rapid Result COVID-19 Antibody Testing for President Julian Bear Runner. The tribe is developing a plant that allow the tribes to conduct these tests with the assistance of professional healthcare personnel at approved sites around the reservation.

Posted by Oglala Sioux Tribe - OST on Friday, May 1, 2020
Oglala Sioux Tribe: Rapid Result COVID-19 Antibody Testing for President Julian Bear Runner

Statement from President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, issued May 4, 2020.

"When our people vote on whether to allow alcohol onto our homelands, my vote will be NO" Thank you to the Horse Nation, riders and support. No to Alcohol on March 10, 2020 (7am-7pm mst)

Posted by Julian Bear Runner, Oglala Sioux Tribe President on Monday, February 24, 2020

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