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Lakota Country Times: Tribal attorney tapped for state position

Tatewin Means being sworn in as deputy state’s attorney for Oglala Lakota County by Judge Craig Pfeifle. Photo courtesy Peggy Sanchez

Tatewin Means sworn in
Deputy States Attorney/Oglala Lakota County
By Tom Crash
Lakota Country Times

PINE RIDGE -- Oglala Sioux Tribe Attorney General Tatewin Means was sworn in as deputy state’s attorney for Oglala Lakota County by 7th Judicial Circuit Judge Craig Pfeifle on December 1, 2015.

“This represents a great opportunity to better protect individual tribal members, our reservation communities and the Lakota Nation,” said Means.

“The state has had jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians on the reservation since 1881 as a result of U.S vs. McBratney but the results have been hit or miss," Means added. "Now with a deputy states attorney right on Pine Ridge and regular information from both Oglala Lakota County deputy sheriff Rex Conroy and officers of the OST Department of Public Safety, we’ll be able to do a better job of holding non-Indians accountable for any criminal actions; the office’s authority is to prosecute crimes by non-Indians against other non-Indians and non-Indian victimless crimes.”

After graduating from Rapid City Central high school, completing an environmental degree from Stanford University, a masters degree from Oglala Lakota College and a law degree from University of Minnesota, Means, a single mother of two, settled into the attorney general’s position at Pine Ridge.

Oglala Sioux Tribe Attorney General Tatewin Means. Photo courtesy Peggy Sanchez

According to Means, the state’s attorney for Fall River, Jim Sword and state’s attorney in Bennett County, Ken Orrock first approached her about the position.

"I ran it by the president’s office, talked to public safety and members of the law and order committee, because it increases our sovereignty by better holding non-Indians accountable," Means said.

"We get complaints all the time from Indian landowners about problems with non-Indians, in our schools, we’ve seen non-Indian administrators obstructing justice, non-Indians guilty of DUI’s or child neglect and abuse or child sexual abuse," Means added.

'These complaints will come through my office for prosecution, not here but through the state system," Means concluded. "Prosecution of tribal members is not under the jurisdiction of the deputy state’s attorney’s office, the same for extradition of a tribal member for criminal charges off the reservation, extradition issues are still decided by the tribal president and the council."

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Wendell Yellow Bull, an Oglala Lakota County commissioner, served as the emcee for the ceremony. John Long, Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent in charge, and Judge Pfeifle gave opening remarks while Ramon Bear Runner gave a welcome address for Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellow Bird Steele.

Over the past year, Means has served on state panels looking at child sexual abuse prevention and juvenile justice reform.

"This position gives us a voice in the state system, it can be strategic, we could make inroads in working for change in the state system," stated Means.

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