Native Sun News: Oglala man's business dealings under scrutiny

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

Raycen Raines

The many faces of Raycen Raines
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

PINE RIDGE — Recent news reports surrounding the dealings of entrepreneur, tribal economic development specialist, and owner of multiple incorporated businesses on the reservation, Raycen Raines, has fueled speculation and rumors of what exactly the fairly new tribal member is up to.

After Native Sun News ran a series of reports and an interview with Raines, the paper was approached by multiple sources from across the country requesting that it look further in to the story as well as some of the claims made by Raines in an interview done with NSN.

According to official records Raycen Raines, was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation the son of William Ballard and Evelyn Clifford. He would leave the reservation while still a young child. He would go on to live in the Pacific Northwest where he would join the Navy, earn some education at the San Diego City College, play in a band, and eventually become an insurance salesman in Oregon. During the course of his career Raines says that he has earned enough experience working with economic development in Indian Country that he has earned the title of “tribal economic development specialist” despite not having completed a formal post high school degree in any related field.

Raines said that bringing development to Indian Country is something that you can only learn through firsthand experience and that he tries not to speak about himself even though he “could be the keynote speaker at every economic development conference in Indian Country.”

Around 2009 Raines began corresponding with tribal members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as he sought to become enrolled in the tribe. In 2011, Raines, who was then known as Raycen Ballard gained enrollment in the Oglala Sioux Tribe and would legally change his name to Raycen American Horse Raines. Raines has told people that the reason he took on the name American Horse was that it was something that his biological father contacted him when he was 18 and would later tell him that his family was from American Horse creek on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and that he had familial ties to the American Horse family.

Raines said that he had worked to get enrolled earlier in life but was not in a position in life to find housing or employment on the reservation until around the time he was enrolled.

Prior to changing his name however, Raines would go by a number of different aliases including Raycen A. Ballard, Raycen A. Horseballard, and Raycen C. Rummell. Raines would operate American Horse Consulting, his most recent business venture prior to moving to Pine Ridge under the name Raycen A. Ballard but says that the number of names that he has had in his life can be easily explained.

He says that his original name given to him when he was adopted as a child he kept until he was 18 and taught who his biological father was that he decided to change his name to from Rummell to Ballard. He would then have a falling out with his biological father and instead of going back to his original adopted name he created the name Raycen American Horse Raines.

Once on the reservation Raines would quickly make inroads with the Wakpamni community, many of whom have steadfastly defended him from recent attacks. He would also develop relationships with other investors from around Indian Country and some in tribal government. Raines has continually claimed that he can bring sustainable economic development to the reservation without the tribe needing to take on any significant financial risk.

“I am trying to introduce private enterprise to the community. That is my primary goal,” said Raines.

In 2011, Raines, representing Raindancer Resource management, approached the tribe with several economic development projects designed to spark growth including: the acquisition of Saigon National Bank, the pursuit of Housing and Urban Development grants, small business development, and a wind farm. Each of the projects were intended to capitalize on the sovereign status of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and according to claims made by Raines would require little to no investment from the tribe.

The projects however were not approved by the necessary agencies within tribal government and the bank acquisition was labeled high risk by the tribes’ consultants. Since that time however the businesses operated by Raines have been licensed by the tribe’s revenue office and operate within the legal parameters of other businesses on the reservation.

Raines would also receive opposition from the Black Hills Sioux Treaty Council who claimed that Raines’ projects were designed to “commandeer, not only Tribal assets, but also private Tribal members’ allotted land assets.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribal court would rule against Raines’ companies and prevent the tribe from legally doing business with Raines. The suit was eventually dropped however and the Treaty Council did not pursue the matter further.

At the time Raines had submitted a list of several associates of Raindancer Resource Management. The list included Valerie Red Horse, a woman who has been questioned by other sovereign tribal courts for failure to deliver on goods and services while working for tribes. Raines however defends her track record and said that Red Horse was the person who trained him to be an investment banker.

“Valerie hits the bull’s eyes 9/10 times and the one time she messes up her career is (marked),” said Raines. “Indian Country is the hardest place in America to bring economic development,” he said.

Raines would convince several members of the Wakpamni district who operate the Wakpamni Lake Development Corporation to support his efforts to start a pay day loan business and secure permission from them to capitalize on the sovereign status of reservation land to establish the business and to be free it from state regulations and taxes. Raines would then split the profits from the loans with the community. According to him the land that tribe owns is free of state regulation and a prime spot for a lending business that could bring revenue to an impoverished community

Raines has also started the American Horse Tribal Development company which according to online records operates out of a home in Batesland, S.D. He would also help create the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation that now legally owns an Online Pay Day loan service. The business operates on the reservation without the approval of the tribal government however, several members of the Wakpamni community claim that the business does not need the permission of tribal government to exist. The privately owned business operates under the authority of a community development corporation that is independent of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and has legal authority to conduct business.

Much of these developments were covered in the news by Nicholas Nehamas for Al-Jazeera America and found to be largely accurate by Native Sun News. However, recent developments within the both the District and the Wakpamni Lake Corporation were not included in the story and are notoriously difficult to stay up to date on as certain technological limitations and poor information sharing are common occurrences on the reservation.

After the report by Al-Jazeera came out and Native Sun News published an interview with Raines, accusations of shoddy reporting were tossed out as several sources on opposite sides of the issue accused both networks of failing to capture the complete truth.

In a rebuttal of the Aljazeera piece the Wakpamni Lake Community Corporation (WLCC) said, “The article has many flaws, and quotes from people who have no idea how our tribal business operates.

“Contrary to the article painting Wakpamni Lake Community as somehow uninformed, we believe our economic developments are revolutionary, and have the potential to significantly enhance the reservation economy at the community level. All of our businesses, including our online lending businesses, are owned by the Community Tribal Government.”

Native Sun News also received a letter from Arlene Catches the Enemy that challenged the paper to better fact check reports prior to printing them.

The WLCC has since filed a suit against Arlene Catches the Enemy claiming that statement she made has damaged the pay day loan company and they are seeking a restraining order against Catches the Enemy. In a report by the media giant Al-Jazeera, Catches the Enemy, is quoted multiple times voicing her opposition to the pay day loan company. The WLCC claim that her statements and the reports did not accurately portray the pay day loan company or the Wakpamni community.

In a response to the suit filed against her in tribal court, Catches the Enemy, denies making any false statements that damaged the company.

In her response to the suit, Catches the Enemy “refuses to make comments on the overly broad, unintelligible and ambiguously vague ramblings referring to 'false public statements' alleged…and categorically denies any false statements, thus Respondent hereby demands strict proof thereof.”

The filings by Catches the Enemy did include information about the company that exposes some of the inner workings of the payday loan site. Although payday lending companies often operate within the borders of the law, the outrageous and morally questionable practice of charging excessive interest to customers has been labeled predatory by experts.

Raines however says that the lending industry is something that is inevitably coming and that the company does not loan to other tribal members or residents of the state of South Dakota and does not feel the lending that the company is doing is predatory.

Customers of the online payday loan company started by Raines can expect to pay an annual percentage rate of 782.00% and a daily interest rate of just more than .021%, meaning that if an individual borrowed $25.71 they would be required to pay back $325.71 if they miss the first scheduled payment that is due two weeks after a loan is taken out..

Catches the Enemy included charts from in her legal response to the request for restraining order filed against her.

Catches the Enemy would also note in court documents that the company had received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau as a result of the short duration of time it has been in operation, 13 complaints filed against it, and a failure to respond to 6 complaints filed against the business. The small sample size of complaints made on the business may help explain the F rating that is fairly difficult to receive.

NSN will continue to follow the case as it works its way through tribal court.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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