Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe flip flops on impeachment

The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Garfield Steele

Steele impeached on Council turnaround
Council votes not to impeach Steele, but decides the next day to impeach him
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News
Managing Editor

PINE RIDGE — After a day of contentious testimony and passionate speeches the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council defeated a motion to impeach Garfield Steele, the Wounded Knee District Representative. The council then turned around the next day and ruled that he was impeached.

During the special session of the council that was convened to determine if Steele had violated the very same ethics code that he had authored and pushed through tribal government, the governing body of the Oglala Nation voted 8-5 with 1 abstaining in favor of impeaching Steele. However the council fell 1 vote short of the needed nine, to remove Steele, or so it seemed. Steele’s brother Kevin Yellow Bird Steele excused himself from the process and Dani Lebeaux abstained from the vote.

The next morning the Council decided that when Dani Lebeaux abstained from voting the threshold for votes needed to solidify the impeachment fell to 8 instead of 9 according to the Council citing Robert’s Rules of Order. Steele had shown up to the council meeting on Wednesday under the assumption that he would be back to work.

The vote was prompted after Amber Sierra, a 27 year old tribal member and state certified official, filed an official complaint against Steele for his actions at an elementary girls basketball game that Sierra said left her “fearing for her life”. At the basketball game where Steele’s daughters had been playing, Sierra alleged that Steele had conducted himself in a way that was both “intimidating” and unbecoming of a Tribal Councilman.

As the day began the Council was briefed on the findings of the tribes Ethics Commission by Denver American Horse, head of the commission. American Horse detailed the commission’s investigation procedures and their findings which resulted in a recommendation that Steele be removed from office.

After his presentation American Horse was grilled by several Council members including Lydia Bear Killer about the legality of their findings and if the commission had obeyed its own procedures. American Horse answered questions from the council for over thirty minutes.

Both sides were allowed time in front of the Council to present their side of what happened. During Garfield Steele’s time he reiterated allegations that he made in Native Sun News two weeks ago that the commission was tainted by political ties and the lobbying of the family. He would then use a chalkboard to display his version of what took place that night at the game. He was then questioned by members of the council about his role and some of the statements that he presented to the Ethics Commission.

Amber’s time in front of the Council was spent with her detailing how she felt on the night of the basketball game and with her also providing a detailed recantation of how she remembered the night in question. She did not field questions from the council. She was followed by her grandfather Benjamin “Tuff” Sierra, a former legislator of the tribe.

Multiple community members spoke out on the issue including Debra White Plume who supported Steele and Doris Respects Nothing who opposed the reinstatement of Steele.

The council would go in to executive session and then return to vote on the impeachment. Due to the wording of the tribal constitution, 2/3 of the council would need to vote in favor of impeachment for the motion to remove Steele. Believing there were not enough votes to remove Steele from office, Jacki Siers and Larry Eagle Bull Sr. chastised the Council for what they said was a failure of the body to bring about change and continuing to protect one another.

Councilman Bernie Shot With Arrow said that the vote should be by simple majority and not the 2/3 required by the constitution. Eagle Bull would assert that there was two sides to the council and that those who had been in office for a long time were not in line with the vision of change that he and several of the newer members had campaigned on.

However, the decision to follow the Robert’s Rules of Order prevailed in this case and Councilman Steele was impeached.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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