Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux Tribe needs more educated leadership

July 28 is the primary election for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST). There are ten positions on tribal council up for election. The election will include the tribal secretary and treasurer jobs. All candidates will be elected at large. The General Election is scheduled for August 25.

Last week there was an election on the Yankton Reservation. I received reports from grassroots Ihanktonwan people about alleged corruption surrounding payments taken by Yankton Sioux Tribe (YST) officials. There was even a lawsuit filed by tribal members. But of course it was thrown out of tribal court. I doubt you will find a tribal court on any rez in this country willing to rule against tribal government. Remember, the elected officials hire most tribal court judges. Apparently, the dismissal is being appealed.

I also read a news article online which quoted an attorney making disparaging remarks against an Ihanktonwan elder. Lawyers are hired to work on behalf of the tribe. But some attorneys prefer to defend corruption. There are attorneys who have amassed a fortune off the backs of our tribes. It might cost less money to put the attorneys in charge of tribal government since they make a majority of the decisions anyway.

I was also told that in the July 21 election for the YST there was confusion over identification cards presented by voters. On July 22 the YST Business & Claims Committee allegedly met to remove the election committee. The vote was 4-4 and the Chairman supposedly broke the tie to retain the election committee. Now YST is supposed to have a new election. What?

If educated people would run for office on our Indian reservations then perhaps things would change. Or maybe being educated doesn’t really make a difference. I’ve seen most political candidates, educated or not, undergo a complete personality change upon their election to office. Maybe they change because when one is an elected tribal official there is easy access to substantial amounts of money.

First, there is the salary/per diem. Second, there are cash bonuses given for a variety of occasions. Last year the RST council members each received a $300 bonus for Rosebud Fair. I’m not sure what the justification for the bonus was but they all took it. When do we get our bonuses for being enrolled tribal members?

Third, elected tribal officials travel, often quite extensively. If conditions improved for all of the people because of the endless trips it wouldn’t be a problem. However, conditions remain the same for elders and youth. This happens on nearly every Indian reservation in this country.

I saw a report earlier this year showing a breakdown of the money for tribal council travel. Some individual travel costs added up to several thousand dollars. It was obvious which tribal council representatives did not go on the trip but spent the money because they were the ones who had to pay it all back. One tribal council representative paid back over $3,000. Yet, tribal directors have been fired for doing the same thing with travel advances!

One online unabridged dictionary defines the word “integrity” as: “an uncompromising adherence to a code of moral, artistic, or other values: utter sincerity, honesty, and candor: avoidance of deception, expediency, artificiality, or shallowness of any kind.”

I realize that the tribal council budget includes line items for travel. Budgets are supposedly there to justify the trips. I know I am not the only tribal member who doesn’t see the point of an entire delegation going to one conference. The reality is many of our youngest and oldest tribal members are suffering without basic necessities while their tribal council representative is flying to Las Vegas, Nevada on tribal business.

In 2009, Jim Kouri, “the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, [and who] has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country,” wrote a very interesting piece. It states in part:

“Psychopathy is a personality disorder manifested in people who use a mixture of charm, manipulation, intimidation, and occasionally violence to control others, in order to satisfy their own selfish needs. Although the concept of psychopathy has been known for centuries, the FBI leads the world in the research effort to develop a series of assessment tools, to evaluate the personality traits and behaviors attributable to psychopaths.

“Interpersonal traits include glibness, superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, and the manipulation of others. The affective traits include a lack of remorse and/or guilt, shallow affect, a lack of empathy, and failure to accept responsibility. The lifestyle behaviors include stimulation-seeking behavior, impulsivity, irresponsibility, parasitic orientation, and a lack of realistic life goals.

“Research has demonstrated that in those criminals who are psychopathic, scores vary, ranging from a high degree of psychopathy to some measure of psychopathy. However, not all violent offenders are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are violent offenders. If violent offenders are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.

“While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government.”

In closing, I encourage all tribal members to vote in the election. The people who vote still have the power to change things even though it doesn’t seem like we do. I hope the ten representatives who are elected to the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council will do something radically different. We elect you to office. We deserve the best. Please work hard to change our quality of life.

Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She is Editor of the Lakota Country Times and can be reached through email at vi@lakotacountrytimes.com.

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