Prairie Voices: Interview with Standing Rock chair

Dorreen Yellow Bird of The Grand Forks Herald interviews Ron His Horse Is Thunder, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for her "Prairie Voices" feature. His Horse Is Thunder talks about the challenges facing the tribe, including a high rate of suicide and loss of traditions, culture and language.

Q: You've been Standing Rock tribal chairman for two years. How do you look at your position? Are you more like the king of a small kingdom or a chairman of the board?

A: Most definitely like the chairman of the board. The tribal chairman's powers are limited. The power to get things done actually lies within the tribal council.

As chairman, you are a consensus builder. You may have ideas you want to implement in terms of making the reservation better, but you can't just dictate it and say this is how it's going to be. You have build consensus with the tribal council to convince them that your ideas are worth trying.

Q: What are some of the challenges you've faced so far?

A: Standing Rock does have an unfortunate record in terms of having the highest number of suicides of any Indian tribe in the lower 48 states.

Q: What do you think makes the Lakota people more susceptible to suicide?

A: One thing is this: As Lakota people, we were one of the last tribes to relocate to reservations. We were one of the last to fight the U.S. government. We were considered hostile Indians. Because of it, we faced more persecution of our culture and beliefs."

Get the Story:
PRAIRIE VOICES: Between two worlds (The Grand Forks Herald 9/16)