Strong Heart Warrior Society: Oglala Tribal Council Snubs Elders Again
PINE RIDGE, South Dakota – The ongoing effort to get accountability for a series of physical and psychological abuses against Lakota elders on Pine Ridge continues to be stalled by Oglala tribal officials who fear investigations into years of graft and corruption within tribal government.
Following the most recent revelation of elder abuse in the Porcupine Elderly Meals Program, elders have met regularly with the traditional Strong Heart Warrior Society in order to explore ways to get accountability. Even tribal officials that have voiced support for the elders are now back tracking, likely out of fear of retaliation by corrupt families and officials.
Porcupine District President Virgil Bush and Porcupine Representative Scott Weston announced a hearing for the elders on February 21st – but the hearing never happened even though elders had gathered to attend. The meeting has reportedly been delayed to February 28th though activists are skeptical.
“Tribal government has always eroded its position,’’ explained Strong Heart Warrior headsman Duane Martin Sr.. “You cannot tell community members you are upholding policies and procedures but then deny elders due process.”
The truth depth of corruption within the Oglala Tribal Council, as well as its cultural separation from traditional elders and the Lakota people, is becoming clear to those even outside of Pine Ridge.
“So we have become our own worst enemies, we don’t listen to what our elders have to teach us,” added Martin.
Pine Ridge elders, many of whom count Lakota as their primary language, have made complaints and filed grievances to the best of their ability. But the tribal council is playing a cat and mouse game of delay and denial, saying the elders fate lies solely at their discretion. Elders and activists point out that Council member Deborah Rooks-Cook still remains in her council position despite her admission she pushed and threatened elders with a gun at a secret council meeting.
The Strong Heart Warrior Society points out the corruption in the tribal government is a reflection of the distrust, dishonesty, and cultural genocide that has been brought to Pine Ridge and other reservations by white colonization and Christianity. Nearly ¾ of the Lakota people have lost their language, and the traditional language is on the verge of extinction in Pine Ridge. Few bother listening to the traditional elders – which is part of the cultural system that keeps elders healthy, engaged, and valued.
“We never take the opportunity to listen to the elders anymore – to hear them,” Martin said. “They get upset and angry – into stress modes – then they get sick, some of them die.”
The Strong Heart Warrior Society is calling upon all people who support Lakota elders, Lakota sovereignty, and accountability to send letters to tribal council officials as well as to the U.S. Department of Justice and President Obama demanding a full-fledged investigation into the corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs supported Oglala Tribal Government.
“The laws of the Oglala Tribal Council don’t belong to our people, but to White America. Only by taking on traditional Lakota customary law can our people be truly sovereign and free.”