Native Sun News Today: Oglala Sioux Tribe questions loss of federal funds

A sign on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Jimmy Emerson

800 Oglala Sioux to lose General Assistance money
Tribe responds to termination of day-to-day survival funds
By James Giago Davies
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

PINE RIDGE –– On March 20, the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) Executive Committee passed a resolution, 17-39XB, that demanded “an immediate consultation between official representatives with decision making authority from the BIA Central Office, BIA Aberdeen Area Office and Pine Ridge Agency, to resolve the tribe’s concerns and demands in this resolution.”

On March 8, Acting Pine Ridge BIA Superintendent John Long, sent a memorandum to Pine Ridge Agency on the subject of General Assistance. Long’s memorandum informed the Tribe, “The BIA Social Services General Assistance Fund will be depleted on March 30, 2017, at which time all general assistance cases will be closed due to lack of funds.”

Long went on to inform, “Clients will be able to reapply for general assistance as soon as funds become available,” although this will be of little comfort to the 800 Oglala Lakota clients who rely on the funds for day-to-day survival.

Tribal Attorney Mario Gonzalez, a leading expert on Sioux treaty rights, who drafted the resolution, stated that, “The general assistance grants are continuing benefits under the 1877 Black Hills Act.”

Gonzalez wrote that, “The 1877 Black Hills Act confiscated the Sioux hunting rights and provided that, in consideration for the hunting rights confiscated by the Act, the ‘United States does agree to provide the said Sioux Indians with subsistence rations, or the equivalent thereof’ which shall continue until the Sioux Indians are able to support themselves.

Gonzalez reasoned, “Thus, the BIA subsistence grants are not government largess or welfare, but are the equivalent rations that the BIA is obligated to provide tribal members and their families on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.”

Gonzalez also explained that in the 1980 Supreme Court Black Hills Case, the court ruled that one of the principal provisions of the 1877 Black Hills Act was that the Sioux would relinquish their hunting rights in the 1868 Treaty “unceded territories,” in exchange for subsistence rations, or the equivalent thereof, for as long as they would be needed to ensure Sioux survival.

OST President Troy Scott Weston said that he expects other Sioux Tribes to join in the OST’s request for government-to-government consultations, and pointed out that the resolution states that the “BIA must make any carry-over funds available, or make cuts to other non-essential funding for the Aberdeen Area Office, or Central Office to make funds available, to fulfill the Federal Government’s legally assumed obligation and responsibility to provide BIA subsistence grants to tribal members and other Indians residing on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,” and to fulfill its trust responsibility to protect tribal members in the rights of person and life, “instead of leaving such persons and their families to starve without adequate income to acquire food, as well as other necessities of life.”

An OST Council meeting will be held on March 28 at the Oglala Brother Rene Hall in Oglala, where Resolution 17-39XB will be discussed.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: 800 Oglala Sioux to lose General Assistance money

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