Former United States Senator Jim Abourezk once said, “There are only two jobs in this country that I would never want: president of the United States and president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.” The man knew of what he spoke!
Theresa “Huck” Two Bulls was elected president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe by majority vote over Russell Means less than six months ago. She still has one and one half years to serve. But it may come as no surprise to anyone who knows the politics of the Pine Ridge Reservation that there is now a concerted, though minority, effort to impeach her.
Former President John Steele, the longest serving president in the history of the Indian Reorganization Act government, left the tribe in a terrible financial mess. To top it off, his administration failed to pay a construction contractor a debt of more than $1 million. That chicken came home to roost after Steele left office and landed right in the lap of the Two Bulls administration. She and her council fought it in court and lost because they entered the scene just a little late. Two Bulls and her Tribal Council fought a good fight in court, but the deck was stacked against them and they lost.
With the threat of forfeiture of the tribe’s finances hanging in the balance, the Two Bulls administration had no choice but to pay off the debt. This is apparently one of the charges to impeach her. One of the sad parts of this threat of impeachment is that those Lakota that compiled the 96-page impeachment document have not once, not a single time, come into the office of President Two Bulls to air their concerns nor to make an effort to find a peaceable and equitable way to settle them. Instead they are busy attacking her for things over which she or her council had no control.
And let’s make that point very, very clear. President Two Bulls is not an island. She is surrounded by a Tribal Council that was also elected in a Democratic election in November 2008. That council was also elected to work for the people of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and to assume the responsibility, along with President Two Bulls, Vice President Shorty Brewer, and the Executive Committee, of serving all the people of the tribe. If President Two Bulls is to be charged with offenses that would lead to her impeachment, it is only fair that the entire Tribal Council also be held accountable and charged right along with her. But then again, it is this very Tribal Council that would vote on her impeachment, and that appears to be a huge case of conflict of interest.
In her own defense, President Two Bulls, in speaking of her Tribal Council, said, “We are a team. We are working together to solve all of the problems we inherited from the previous administrations. Some people are angry because we are not dancing around the problems, but instead we are taking them head-on.” She has said repeatedly that she has an “open door” policy, and any member of the tribe who believes she is doing something wrong or has a solution to do things differently is invited to come through that open door and talk to her face-to-face. “My door is always open, and I can’t figure out why those people bringing these charges against me have never come to me to openly discuss their grievances,” she said.
Could the gender of President Two Bulls have anything to do with it? We can all recall the impeachment action taken against the only other female president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Cecelia Fire Thunder. A health specialist, Fire Thunder was roundly criticized because she was solidly pro-choice. When the State of South Dakota got into its annual drive to take away a woman’s right to choose, she spoke out against it. This was her personal belief. It had nothing to do with the way she governed the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and yet there were those who saw this as a threat and, in the minds of many, acted undemocratically and irresponsibly to impeach her.
One solid supporter of Two Bulls, in shock over the petition seeking to oust the president, said, “Is it because she is a woman?”
Is it? We cannot answer that question. But what we can answer is that President Two Bulls and her Tribal Council have not been in office long enough to address the multitude of problems they inherited. Shouldn’t they at least be given a chance? Why is there such haste to bring this administration to an end? And would the naysayers please tell the Lakota people which MALE president served without fault or error. And despite their errors, how many MALE presidents have been impeached?
In our humble opinion President Two Bulls and her Tribal Council should be allowed the opportunity to do their jobs without having to look over their shoulders in fear of a mob seeking to lynch them. Remember that there are already hounds at the heels of President Barack Obama, and he has hardly had the time to clean up the terrible mess left to him by the George W. Bush administration. Ironically, President Two Bulls finds herself facing the same dilemma. Like Obama, Two Bulls knew the tribe was in very bad shape financially, and she ran for the president’s job, as did her council, for that very same reason: to hopefully clean up the mess and make life better for the Oyate.
She was elected by the people, and if she is to be removed from office, let the people decide, not a group that does not have the courage to sit down with her and her council to openly discuss their grievances. Let the majority that elected Two Bulls and this council speak.
It is apparent that Senator Jim Abourezk knew the politics of the Pine Ridge Reservation and found the presidency there as daunting as that of the United States.
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the publisher of Native Sun News. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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