Jim Kent: An Oglala Sioux takeover in January 2000
"Chief Red Cloud once said "we do not want riches, but we do want to teach our children well."

I thought of those words last week while visiting Lakota elder Marie Randall - 89 years old and still going strong. We sat at Crazy Horse School, in the village of Wanblee, discussing the takeover of the Red Cloud Building by the Grass Roots Oyate (People). That happened 10 years ago on Jan. 16, 2000.

Members of the Oglala Sioux tribe had spent months demanding accountability from their tribal government for its enormous debt and for what they saw as catering to the few at the expense of the many. Beginning with a Walk of Accountability the previous September, grass roots people from across the reservation had gathered at local community halls and outside the tribal offices in Pine Ridge with one primary question: where's the money going?

In an environment with massively high unemployment and poverty, and the social ills that are their consequence, the Oglala people were perplexed by the tribal council's proposal to float an $8 million bond to pay off its debts. Debts the tribe had carried since 1989 and which dated back before the bailout bond it acquired in that year.

The tribal treasurer's unwillingness to offer information regarding the interest and payment terms for the bond was, of course, a red flag. But this attitude of non-disclosure didn't surprise the Grass Roots Oyate, who'd already discovered how well their elected representatives had been living while elders did without heat and children went hungry."

Get the Story:
Jim Kent: Lakota values can apply to everyone (The Rapid City Journal 1/21)