Lakota Country Times: County in South Dakota accused of racism

Martin serves as the seat of Bennett County, South Dakota. Native Americans represent 48.3 percent of the population in Martin, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

Bennett County Statistics Wrong
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

MARTIN -- When Bennett County passed a resolution to create a mechanism to request from the federal government as a result of the presence of trust land within the county and the high numbers of Native Americans using county services, the statistics used to prove the these points may have been fudged according to the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies.

Dr. Craig Howe, director of CAIRNS, has requested that the Bennett County commissioners rescind their resolution.

"Besides adopting a needlessly aggressive tone towards American Indian people whose families have lived in the area for generations before the establishment of Bennett County, CAIRNS conducted research into the claims made in this official resolution and found an alarming number of faults, inconsistencies and misleading statements," said the organization on its website.

The line by line rebuttal to the resolution has been presented to the Bennett County Commissioners and includes a number of claims that that the facts used to pass the motion are false.

The basis for Bennett County's claims that the federal government is " responsible for all Indian peoples wants and needs" is based off an inaccurate reading of one of the cornerstone cases in all of federal Indian Law. The case of Cherokee Nation v Georgia found that tribal-nations were in fact "domestic dependent nations". This wording has been interpreted to mean that tribes are sovereign but have given up certain rights like the ability to create currency or assemble a standing army in exchange for the protection of the federal government and some services.

Dr. Howe explains that the "case had absolutely nothing to do with the federal government being responsible for the wants and needs of Indian peoples," as claimed by the Bennett County resolution.

The rebuttal from CAIRNS also included graphics that show that the amount of taxable land in the county has actually increased over the years.

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One particularly outrageous statement included in the resolution read "the federal government encourages Indian people to live here with subsidized housing and social programs in spite of the limited opportunity for employment. Most Indian people with marketable skills find employment in the county; however, unemployment at 7% is normal and many people are not looking for work."

The statement that seems to based in perception and not factual reality was blown out of the water in the rebuttal.

"This statement is racist. It also is blatantly ignorant of the fact that the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties stipulated that what is now Bennett County was Indian land and only American Indians could be residents. When Pine Ridge Reservation was established in 1889, all of this land was Indian land and its residents were overwhelmingly Indian.And when Bennett County was established in 1912, the land and its residents were overwhelmingly Indian. Indians live here because it is their ancestral home- land and their treaty land, not because the federal government encourages them to live here," wrote CAIRNS.

To read the entire rebuttal please visit

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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