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Native Sun News: Shooting of dogs presents jurisdictional mess

The following story was written and reported by Evelyn Red Lodge, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Children witness shooting of family dogs on Crow Creek
Non-Indian crime becomes jurisdictional mess
By Evelyn Red Lodge
Native Sun News Correspondent

HARROLD, SOUTH DAKOTA –– Two dogs were allegedly shot and killed by non-Indian ranchers in front of children on the Crow Creek Reservation earlier this month, according to their family members.

Jurisdiction issues resulted, and no child endangerment charges are filed as of yet, and no criminal charges have been forthcoming.

A 10-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl witnessed the murder of family dogs on reservation land, just blocks from their homes, according to three Crow Creek Sioux Tribe members from the Big Bend District. The three members wonder why the alleged non-Indian shooters have land on the reservation.

The alleged shooters are said to be Mary Hattum and a Caucasian ranch hand. Mohammed Hattum is said to be Mary’s husband, who also occupies the land adjacent to the Big Bend community.

The two family dogs are said to be heroes in the eyes of the owners. Owner Leatrice Seaboy, who lives in the tiny community, said that the dogs had protected her home from burglary, vandalism and protected her children from “drunks” as well.

Seaboy decribed the condition of the 1-year-old puppy as having its face blown off and shot at close range.

Additionally, Seaboy described the bigger dog as having been shot in the back at close range and ended up with injuries that left him paralyzed as she went to check on him. All the while children and adults cried for their family members. She said that Love, the bigger dog, was only able to move his eyes to acknowledge the family was there.

The county where the incident happened is Hughes County. Native Sun News contacted Hughes County Sheriff Mike Leidholt about the issue. Leidholt told NSN that this was a jurisdictional mess and that a deputy went out to the scene.

Janice Howe, who is a sister to two of the complainants, said that the Hughes County deputy took statements from all parties.

However, Howe said the evidence should have been taken by tribal police who were at the scene shortly after the shootings occurred. She said the evidence should have been sent to the United States attorney general because it is a federal crime when tribes and states cannot evaluate jurisdiction. She said that the tribal police said they could not take pictures because the camera battery was dead.

Additionally, Howe said tribes cannot prosecute non-Indians for crimes committed on Indian land. Leidholt said he did hear about the issue.

“It’s one of those unfortunate situations where it’s a jurisdictional mess,” he said. “The victim is Native American. I don’t have jurisdiction. My deputy went down there and did some preliminary stuff and called me, and there’s nothing we can do about it with jurisdictional issues because (the incident) was on the reservation.”

Howe described the Hattums as being “pitiful” when they came a long time ago to the Crow Creek Reservation as Muslim Canadians.

“The Hattums came from Canada and were very … poor,” she added. “Land was given to them. And they kept buying or were given land. According to our treaties, they should not even have any (reservation) land,” Howe said.

She said this is not the only disrespect she has been shown by the Hattums; she also accuses them of cussing at children in front of Howe’s home and spinning road materials into her home when driving without regard to the children.

“When my nephew was over there by himself, when the sheriffs and the police came, and the Hattum farmers were trying to say that these young children were drinking,” she said.

According to Howe, at the time of the shooting incident, the Hattums said: “They had a powwow there. Look at this. Beer cans laying in the ditch.”

She said the box for beer cans “was old. They set it there. That woman, Mary Hattum, set it there.” Seaboy also explained what happened that day.

“I didn’t see anything, but I got a call from my two daughters and they were crying that our dogs were shot,” she said. “That lady (Mary Hattum) just came up and shot them in front of my daughter. One of my daughters is 20 and the other is 15. They said our dog Love was still alive, so I went to check. He could not move, and he was shaking. She shot him right in the back.”

She continued, “So I got in the car, and I went up to the Hattums. A white guy asked me if I needed help, and I asked him who shot my dogs and he said, ‘I did. A $600 calf is worth more than a dog.’ So I told him I am Native American, and dogs are part of our families.”

“I didn’t know the whole story about what my (10-year-old) nephew saw at that point.”

“First, they told me up there that the boy was with the dogs, and they were on the Hattums’ pasture and accused my dogs of chasing cows. So that guy who shot the dog called Mary (Hattum) to come put the dog out of its misery cause it wasn’t dead,” said Seaboy.

“The road is on tribal land, and their land is on tribal land. We keep hearing they don’t know who has jurisdiction. That white guy was trying to say my nephew carried the dog from their field to the ditch. I told the Hughes County deputy to take a picture of my nephew because if he carried that dog, he would have blood on him. There was no blood on him,” she said.

“The (shooters) moved the dog and covered the blood with dirt,” said Ethel Left Hand Bull, the mother of the 10-year-old boy. “I got a call from Leatrice asking if I knew my dogs were shot. I said, ‘(My son) just came in the door. I will ask him.’ I asked him what happened. He said, ‘I thought it was a firecracker, but they shot the dogs.’ I found out our 10-year-old was about 20 to 25 feet away from the dog when it was shot. The dogs always go with him walking because there could be snakes on the road.”

Left Hand Bull continued, “We drove over to where our mailboxes are. The smaller dog named Junior was laying right there in the approach. His face was all gone. He is a medium-size dog about 1-year-old. Black. My boy said a grey truck pulled up, and (the Hattums) shot the dog on the road at the approach. They weren’t on the other side of the fence. That dog could never have made it from the Hattums’ land over to the approach the way it was.”

Brandon Sazue, chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, said in a telephone interview: “We are talking about child endangerment here when children are 20 to 25 feet away from gunshots.”

Calls to the Hattums seeking comment went unanswered.

In addition, messages left with the tribal police department were not returned.

(Contact Evelyn Red Lodge at

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe member Leatrice Seaboy’s dog Junior was allegedly shot in the face and killed by non-Native American ranchers recently near Harrold on the Crow Creek Reservation. PHOTO COURTESY/LEATRICE SEABOY

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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