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Native Sun News: Payday loan story stirs squabble at Pine Ridge





The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.


A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Raycen Raines, with the backing of the Wakpamni Lake Community, fires back at Al Jazeera News.

Raines strikes back at Al Jazeera
By Karin Eagle
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY— In a recent article written by the Al Jazeera America News, and reprinted by Native Sun News, Raycen Raines, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST), was described as a “rogue tribal member” intent on dragging the Oglala Sioux Tribe into nefarious business deals.

Now, the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where Raines acts in the capacity of a consultant, is blasting back through a legal filing in the OST court system.

In a written response to the Al Jazeera article, the Wakpamni Lake Community sent the following statement to Native Sun News:
“Over the last several days the Al Jazeera News article, critical of economic development in the Wakpamni Lake Community on the Pine Ridge reservation garnered attention in the tribal community and abroad.

The article has many flaws, and quotes from people who have no idea how our tribal business operates.

Contrary to the article painting Wakpamni Lake Community as somehow uninformed, we believe our economic developments are revolutionary, and have the potential to significantly enhance the reservation economy at the community level.

All of our businesses, including our online lending businesses, are owned by the Community Tribal Government.

Mr. Raines is an Oglala Sioux tribal member, a Wakpamni Lake Community member, and a consultant that assists us greatly in our creative efforts at self-sufficiency. He does not deserve the uninformed and false criticism in this article.

Essentially, Wakpamni Lake is facing a fear campaign, because it is trying new things. The agents of the status quo of little to no economic development on the reservation feel threatened by these new ideas.

Earlier this week, we filed a motion in tribal court to enjoin Ms. Catches the Enemy from any additional libel/false statements. We would like to share that court filing so that our side of the story is accessible to the public.

Let it serve as a rebuttal to this fear campaign and any news outlets such as Al Jazeera that have been duped into becoming the mouthpiece for biased parties.”

Native Sun News spoke with the Al Jazeera America writer who wrote the story “One tribe said no,” Nick Nehemas. He stated that in regards to the TRO/Injunction filed by the WLCC, it appeared that the petitioners believed that the article’s content was based solely on the statements made by Catches the Enemy.

In fact, according to Nehemas, the article was written based on information garnered from “thousands of documents” including copies of the contracts with the payday lending business.

Nehemas stated that some of the information obtained was through emails between Raines and other board members.

The filing is quite lengthy, so Native Sun News shares the WordPress link to the court filing in its entirety: Wakpamni Lake Community Responds to Al Jaazera News Inaccuracies.

Portions of the filing for Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation (WLCC) Board Members, Raycen Raines, et. Al vs. Arlene Catches the Enemy (AKA Tammy Whalen), dated June 23, 2014, include a list of the petitioners.

Petitioners include Geneva Lone Hill, President, Wakpamni Lake Community (government); President, Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation Debbie Blue Bird, Board Member, Wakpamni Lake Community (government); Board Member, Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation Lanita Palmier, Board Member, Wakpamni Lake Community (government); Board Member, Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation Wilma Standing Bear, Board Member, Wakpamni Lake Community (government); Board Member, Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation Raycen Raines, Consultant; and Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation Sandy Two Lance, President, Wakpamni District (government).

The filing includes a request for relief in the form of A Temporary Restraining Order/Injunction against Ms. Arlene Catches the Enemy (aka Tammy Whalen) of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Office of Economic Development. The purpose of the restraining order is to prevent Catches the Enemy from making any additional false public comments or statements against any of the Petitioners, particularly with regard to their economic development projects.

Seeking a Temporary Injunction is the first step in obtaining a Permanent Injunction against Ms. Catches the Enemy. The applicable law for a permanent injunction can be found in OST Law and Order Code, Chapter 2 Civil Court Section 20.24 – Preliminary Injunctions.

Another part of the filing includes the statement being made for a claim of Tortious Interference of Business, which occurs when false claims and accusations are made against a business or an individual’s reputation in order to drive business away. It is a common law claim, inferred into most UCC codes by the court.

“Ms. Catches the Enemy’s false public statements are immediately, significantly and negatively affecting our business relationships. Several of our Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation partners are considering withdrawing their investments. If this occurs the damage will be irreparable.”

The statement further states that “The only real source of income our community has is our private economic development companies. If Ms. Catches the Enemy is not stopped, all of our community revenue may disappear. Neither the Tribe nor the District have sufficient resources to meet our needs.”

Further into the filing is a citation from the OST Criminal Offense Code under Criminal Defamation, Section 564, which states “It shall be unlawful to knowingly and with malicious intent communicate to any person orally or in writing any information which one knows or should know to be false and tends to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation of any person, or which portrays or casts any person in a false light. An injurious publication is presumed to have been malicious if no justifiable motive for making it is shown by way of defense.”

The WLCC believes that Ms. Catches the Enemy’s false public statements are significantly damaging Mr. Raines reputation.

“This damage is causing him immediate direct harm, and therefore harms us, our community and our corporation as Mr. Raines is our community member and our corporation’s business consultant. These statements are now being replicated all over the internet, the damage being caused to his reputation and ours will be irreparable if it is not stopped.”

Ms. Catches the Enemy’s “motive” for this continuous libelous campaign, according the WLCC, is to protect her job by discrediting Mr. Raines and their community economic development endeavors.

Also claimed in the actual filing is the claim of ongoing harassment, both personally and professionally by Catches the Enemy against Raines: “In 2011 the Tribe considered hiring Mr. Raines and his business partners to conduct economic development for OST instead of Ms. Catches the Enemy’s OST Office of Economic Development. Since then, Ms. Catches the Enemy has pursued aggressive efforts to discredit Mr. Raines. Unfortunately her limited understanding of business and her fear of creative economic development ideas have resulted in a series of very public false-statements that are not only libelous, they are personally and professionally harmful.”

“We have held off filing anything against Ms. Catches the Enemy in the past in an effort to stay above the fray of nasty tribal back biting. But yet another very public very false news article was published last week in Al-Jazeera on June 18, 2014 based on a series of interviews with Ms. Catches the Enemy.”

In direct response to the allegations made by Catches the Enemy in the Al Jazeera article, the WLCC has made the following statement:

“One of our Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation businesses is online lending. Ms. Catches the Enemy has strong opinions against on-line lending, to which she is entitled. But at the heart of the issue is that Ms. Catches the Enemy fundamentally does not understand business or economic development and her false statements are taken as factual because of her position with the OST Office of Economic Development Office and the Wakpamni District Office of Economic Development.”

“Due to her position with the OST OED, her false statements also give the impression that the Oglala Sioux Tribe does not understand business and they may eventually harm the Tribe’s own business opportunities. We have been left with no alternative. Ms. Catches the Enemy’s false statements, personal vendetta against Mr. Raines, and efforts to destroy our tribal community business efforts must be stopped before the harm is irreparable.”

During an OST Economic & Business Development Council Committee Meeting on September 16, 2011, the subcommittee preliminarily voted to hire Mr. Raines and his team of business experts to handle the Tribe’s economic development.

This vote was also essentially a vote of “no confidence” for the OST Office of Economic Development (OED) and set in place, according to the WLCC, the ongoing chain of events and constant and aggressive personal libel and harassment by Catches the Enemy.

Shortly after being shut out of the OST E&BD Committee Meeting and receiving a clear vote of “no confidence,” Ms. Catches the Enemy decided to take her complaint public. She wrote a public letter, not to the Committee or the Council, but to the Lakota Country Times. The letter, dated October 5, 2011, made statements that the WLCC feel were attempts to discredit Raines. The Lakota Country Times apparently published the letter without considering its libelous content.

In the filing, the WLCC further explains why they believe Catches the Enemy continues with her ‘vendetta” against Raines.

“At the end of March 2014 Ms. Catches Enemy ran into Mr. Raines at a tribal economic development conference and her public discrediting campaign was reignited. Since that time, Ms. Catches the Enemy has been pushing the OST Tribal Council to investigate Mr. Raines, which really means an investigation of the Wakpamni Lake Community economic development efforts.”

“As such, the OST Tribal Council now has false information about Mr. Raines and our corporation. The Wakpamni Lake Community has sent a letter to the OST Chairman and Council demanding a special Council meeting on these issues before any discussions or actions be taken.”

“In addition she participated in yet another interview for public news article with extensive false information about Mr. Raines and our businesses. On June 18, 2014 Al-Jazeera America produced a sensational and false article based on interviews with Ms. Catches the Enemy.”

The following are some of the line by line statements or allegations made by Catches the Enemy in the Al Jazeera article and the rebuttal of the WLCC as outlines in the actual court filing.

Al Jazeera: “Despite the tribe’s refusal, Raines went ahead and set up an online payday business anyway.” WLCC: “These statements are completely false and misleading. They lead the reader to believe Mr. Raines set up his own online lending business. This is false. Mr. Raines was brought in as a business consultant by the Wakpamni lake Community. The Community created its own corporation. Their corporation has an online lending company.” Al Jazeera: “Catches the Enemy had no idea Raines had set up the lending companies without the tribe’s approval.”

WLCC: “As stated above, Mr. Raines did no such thing. These are Wakpamni Lake Community companies. But more importantly, Ms. Catches the Enemy leave the impression that the Community should have somehow checked in with her, and somehow they broke some rules.”

Catches the Enemy does not have any authority to oversee any private enterprise on the reservation.

Al Jazeera: “… Catches the Enemy said a tribal court had issued a temporary restraining order in early 2012 against Raines, preventing him from doing business on the reservation, and that the order had been served upon him with his attorney present.” WLCC: “Ms. Catches the Enemy knows full well that the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council dropped the case based on her falsehoods, and apologized to Mr. Raines. She purposefully left that information out of her statements to leave the impression that the claim had somehow been valid.”

Al Jazeera: “…in January 2012, Raines made his pitch to the Wakpamni district…”/”the Wakpamni district board refused”/”Raines kept making the loans anyway.”/”The lending company therefore operates without the tribe’s official sanction.”

WLCC: “Everything about these statements is false, misleading, and extraordinarily harmful to our businesses. Ms. Catches the Enemy was at one meeting. She has absolutely no idea what has occurred since then.”

Al Jazeera: The company “does not share any profits with the tribal government. “The tribe has no ownership in that business,” confirmed Bob Palmier, director of the tribe’s revenue office. That means the company does not have a legal affiliation with the Oglala Sioux….”

WLCC: “These statements are harmful, false and misleading. The profits of the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation go to the Wakpamni Lake Community government. Of course they do not go to the Tribe; it is not the Tribe’s company. Of course the Tribe has no “ownership” in our business, because it is our company.” The Wakpamni Lake Community government has “no legal affiliation with the Oglala Sioux”? Then who do we belong to? Shall we secede and join the Rosebud Sioux Tribe?”

Summing up the entire complaint is a statement of confidence by the WLCC for Raines, describing one of the efforts that he has made on behalf of the Great Plains area tribes through the WLCC.

“In addition to all that our Corporation has done for us, Mr. Raines has made sure that we reinvest a significant portion of the profits into tribal economic development for the rest of the Oyate as well. In particular, he has founded and organized the Lakota art, culture, and performance company Lakota Ways.”

“Lakota Ways has become one of the largest private employers on the reservation by creating a platform for local artists, OLC fine arts/Lakota studies students to bring their talent of Lakota Arts and Culture into private enterprise within the Tourism and Education sector.”

“It is a private enterprise without assistance from the Tribe, Federal, State, College, or Church. It is overseen by Tribal Elders and authenticated by the Oglala historians.”

In concluding the filing the WLCC offers a final statement in seeking the TRO/Injunction against Catches the Enemy:

“If the Tribe chooses to employ Ms. Catches the Enemy at the Office of Economic Development it is clearly their choice. But as she does not understand the fundamentals of economic development or business, her public statements about Mr. Raines and about our community economic development efforts are incorrect, inaccurate, false, libelous, and are significantly harming our successful economic development efforts.”

“We respectfully request a court order enjoining Ms. Catches the Enemy from any further libelous and false comments against Mr. Raines, the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation, or any of our economic development projects before we lose all of our hard earned progress and all of our business partners.”

Also concerning Raines is a recent resolution passed by the OST tribal council that establishes the fact that Raines does not have the authority to sign any contract with any outside party on behalf of the OST.

The resolution was created in response to the allegation made by Pine Ridge Village representative Irv Provost in his complaint against OST President Bryan V. Brewer. One of the complaints made by Provost was that Brewer had authorized Raines to contract with an outside interest on behalf of the tribe.

In a conversation between Native Sun News and Raines, Raines explained that Brewer had asked him to look into the possibility of a Tribal Economic Development (TED) bond. This request was made at the time when Brewer was president-elect, not having been sworn in as yet.

“He asked me to look into the possibility of the OST qualifying for a TED bond, which is not an amount of money given to the tribe, but a set of enticements for businesses to bring their industry to the reservation.”

What was signed by Brewer was a document required by the Department of Revenue that would allow them to communicate with Raines directly about the qualifications needed for the tribe to seek a TED bond. There was, according to Raines, never any authority given to him by neither Brewer nor the OST council to sign any contract with any outside interest.

On a side note, Jim Czywczynski, the landowner of the historic Wounded Knee site on the Pine Ridge Reservation has stated that he had nearly almost made a deal with Raines on the purchase of the Wounded Knee land.

In early 2013 Czywczynski made the announcement of his intention to sell the land at Wounded Knee, and an additional tract of land at Porcupine Butte, in a package deal for $4.9 million.

According to Raines, a private donor was willing to put up $3 million dollars for the purchase of the land so that it could be returned to the OST and developed by the tribe. Raines contends that Czywczynski would not come below his asking price and Raines was not able to raise the offer any higher. There have been no further negotiations between the two parties.

In a statement made to Native Sun News by Czywczynski, he scoffed at the idea of his turning down the $3 million dollar offer. “He never had a private funder that offered 3 million,” stated Czywczynski “Do you think I would have turned that down? No way.”

Native Sun News is committed to following not only the court proceedings initiated by the WLCC filing, but also to delve into the community itself and the efforts that they are claiming are leading themselves towards less dependency on federal and tribal program monies. Watch for more news in upcoming issues.

(Contact Karin Eagle at staffwriter@nsweekly.com)

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