Native Sun News: BIE looks into Cheyenne River complaints

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman Native Sun, News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Jerry Farlee


CHEYENNE RIVER, SOUTH DAKOTA -- The federal Bureau of Indian Education sent private investigators to the Cheyenne River Reservation Feb. 27-29 to collect eyewitness accounts in an inquiry into complaints about the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte (CEB) school system.

Two interviewers held individual meetings with tribal council members, school employees and parents and grandparents of students in the system, according to those who volunteered testimony.

“They were trying to see where the school’s at and conduct a review,” parent Ryman LeBeau told Native Sun News.

Interviewer Vincent Kaniatobe did not answer a request for information about the process. The interviews were a response to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s appeal for a BIE assessment of the circumstances surrounding recent and ongoing complaints in the public educational system operated under a joint agreement between federal, tribal and state governments.

CRST Chairman Kevin Keckler Sr. confirmed he is the only tribal government official authorized to address media questions about the inquiry. However, Keckler said he was unable to assemble information about the inquiry in time to meet NSN’s publication deadline.

The fact-finding mission occurred less than a month after an eighth-grade teacher resigned amidst allegations brought to the tribal council that she punished students for speaking their Lakota language.

School district Supervisor Ed Slocum declined to comment on an informed source’s statement that the teacher was given the choice of resignation or termination.

“She did resign,” Slocum said. But, he added, “Those personnel issues are classified.”

Slocum noted that the inquiry into the school system does not pertain to him “because I don’t work for the BIE whatsoever.” The upper elementary and junior high schools that he supervises are a state-funded portion of the school system.

The Lakota language incident inspired one critic to comment: “This cannot happen on our own reservation in our own homeland; this is not acceptable,” and another to call for a petition to the tribal council and school board to “get rid of these racist teachers.”

LeBeau said, however, “There are plenty of things people are mad about, not just the language issue.” He cited “a lot of complaints on Dr. (Nadine) Eastman and how the BIE school is being run.”

Concerns include: two high-ranking school officials’ association with a convict, cultural bias, nepotism, favoritism, interagency conflicts and the funding requisites of the federal No Child Left Behind program.

Eastman has been the supervisor of the BIE portion of CEB schools since 2009, when she implemented and defended a controversial dress code that has been repeatedly modified in the wake of strident opposition.

CEB’s parent involvement coordinator, Connie Knight, said she visited with a contracted interviewer about school challenges and, “I reported that (Eastman) and Dr. Cherie Farlee disrespect our government-to-government relationships, and they do not cooperate with our tribe.”

“I told them how (Eastman) bullies and (misuses) authority since she got here,” Knight said.

When contacted about the BIE inquiry, Eastman said, “Oh, we can’t talk to any newspeople, sorry. Thanks for calling.”

Farlee, who is the BIE line officer at Eagle Butte, sent out a memorandum inviting school employees to take part in the inquiry. She said all information about federal government involvement has to be obtained from the BIE’s Washington headquarters.

The BIE is a part of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. The BIE’s public information officer, Nedra Darling, said she would try to obtain and transmit the information requested on the Cheyenne River Reservation schools “assessment”, but she had not produced the information at press time, citing a director’s absence as the reason.

On the same day the interview sessions concluded, Farlee’s detractors launched a petition drive to oust her and three other school and community figures who submitted letters to federal court in the 2011 conviction and sentencing of prominent community member Jerry Farlee for sexual contact with children.

“We need to clean house from the top,” said petition promoter Candace Ducheneaux. “That means the doctor, Cherie Farlee. She is the one who hires these racist people and allows them to treat our children like this, then keeps them on in spite of what we want,” she said.

“Mitakuyapi: We ask you in a most humble and sincere way to please join us in seeking justice and safety for our Lakota children by signing the attached petitions that call for those officials who begged for leniency for convicted child molester Jerry R. Farlee to be immediately removed from their positions of public trust and authority,” Ducheneaux said, in posting the petition online.

Jerry Farlee was formerly an active community member and the Eagle Butte Habitat for Humanity director before his indictment and confession for sex crimes, revealed in an FBI investigation. He founded Cheyenne River Ranch Outfitters, which provides outdoor experiences for Boy Scouts and other youth groups.

Cherie Farlee said she had not seen the petition at the time she spoke with NSN.

A letter of introduction to the petition states: “A ring of sixty loyal supporters have offered praise and protection for self-styled reservation guru and convicted child molester Jerry R. Farlee. At his trial in Pierre, S.D., on January 4, 2011, Farlee’s followers wrote letters of support to a federal judge asking for mitigation of sentence for his conviction on two counts of sexual contact with children. Subsequently, Farlee received 10 years and one month in prison and, with parole, could be back among our children in eight years.”

“Farlee testified to and was convicted of sexual contact with two of his granddaughters beginning when they were six years old and lasting over an eight year period. Yet, 60 people, several of them prominent residents of our Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation communities, want Farlee set free to continue preying among our innocent young Lakota girls.”

“Three courageous young Lakota women stood up to protect and defend themselves and their little sisters against the evil monster who violated their bodies and spirit, while countless other victims cried out from the shadows. These three sacrificed their peace, privacy and family harmony to make this reservation safer for all of our children and grandchildren. Yet, our children are still vulnerable to Farlee’s wickedness as many in his ring who openly supported this confessed child molester are still in positions of public authority over and easy access to our Lakota children.”

“Some Farlee followers who support his sexual predation of our Lakota children are two high ranking CEB school officials, Dr. Cherie Farlee (his aunt), who oversees all reservation schools and students and her ex-husband, Don Farlee (his uncle), principal at Tiospaye Topa in LaPlant, S.D.; IHS Physician Dr. Scharayard Gray; former West River Eagle editor and present (United Church of Christ) minister Pauline Webb; and Eagle Butte City Policeman, Norman Schuler.”

“Mitakuyapi, apparently these people think that it is acceptable for Jerry Farlee to terrify, violate and rape little Lakota girls who are barely out of their infancy. They have betrayed the public trust and authority that we have given them and seem indifferent or oblivious to the threat Farlee poses and thus they constitute a danger to the spiritual, mental, physical and cultural well being of our Lakota children. Furthermore, as paid guardians and protectors of our children, these people should be well aware that the recidivism rate (the frequency of additional sexual crimes after being caught) among sexual predators is very high.”

“Studies among incarcerated sex offenders show that child molesters remain at risk to reoffend long after their release and that, (when) given polygraph tests, 23 men revealed an average of 175 victims each. Still, these public officials would allow Jerry Farlee free rein among our Lakota children.”

“Farlee’s followers as educators, health providers, ministers and law officers should be guided by these facts in all their decisions, whether public or private, and be ever mindful of the message their actions send to our people, especially our children. Yet, they support a confessed child molester as opposed to our Lakota children who are in their care and control and at their mercy.”

The petition can be accessed at

Cherie Farlee said she “did not ask for leniency” in the letter she sent to the court regarding her in-law.

“I would never support anybody doing that kind of thing,” she said, “I’m a citizen with some integrity, and this is a family thing.

“He’s my ex-husband’s nephew and he’s done two very good things to help me in my life, so that’s what I wrote in my letter,” she said.

“That was a personal thing done on personal time,” Farlee added.

The letters are confidential court records. However, at least one letter-writer has publicly stated that her submission was not in support of the defendant but in support of protecting potential child-abuse victims.

One of the petitions asks the tribe and the BIE for remotion of Cherie Farlee’s former husband, Principal Don Farlee, Cheyenne River Indian Health Service physician Scharayard Gray and the Rev. Pauline Webb. The four petitions are similar to the one calling for the removal of Cherie Farlee, which states:

“We, the members the Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe and supporters, fearing the endangerment of Lakota children, demand the immediate removal of Dr. Cherie Farlee as CEB Education Line Officer and from any position of public trust and authority permitting influence over and access to our Lakota children. Dr. Farlee wrote a letter in support of mitigation of sentence for confessed and convicted child molester Jerry R. Farlee at his sentencing trial in federal court on January 4, 2011. Thus demonstrating extreme bad moral judgment and lack of regard and respect for the spiritual, mental, physical and the cultural well being of the Lakota children that have been entrusted to her care. Dr. Farlee has violated the faith and confidence that the Lakota people have placed in her and United States Bureau of Indian Education to provide a quality education in the safest learning environment possible; to manifest consideration of the whole person, taking into account the spiritual, physical and cultural aspects of the person within family and tribal contexts; and to be a person of good moral character.”

At press time, more than 30 people had signed the petitions against the Farlees, with 18 signatures against Webb, and 20 against Gray – with many signers stating their reasons. One concerned community member both acknowledged Cherie Farlee’s positive contributions and demanded an apology from her.

“I would say her actions seem to say that she valued the comfort (Jerry Farlee) gave her over the pain endured by multiple children at his hands,” said Carmen O’Leary. “I just cannot condone supporting a pedophile by someone I had admired and thought was a positive role model in our community.”

“Often, it is the aftermath of abuse and the attitudes of others that lead victims of abuse to substance abuse, depression and all the other life-sucking problems that follow. Anyone contributing to that mayhem cannot be supported,” O’Leary said.

“I wish they all would apologize publicly to the victims rather than continually justifying their actions,” she said.

“Help us comfort and support those who are wronged instead of the support we (have) seen given abusers for their behavior. Exploiting innocent children is never okay.”

(Talli Nauman is the Health & Environment Editor for Native Sun News. Contact her at

Join the Conversation