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Ivan Star Comes Out: Let's scrutinize the Indian Reorganization Act

Filed Under: Opinion | Politics
More on: elections, ira, ivan star comes out, native sun news, oglala sioux, south dakota

Ivan F. Star Comes Out. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Harkening back to Mark Twain’s famous quote about politicians
By Ivan F. Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer, wrote, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often – and for the same reason.”

I believe this is applicable to the current national political situation. However, we must think prudently before applying Mr. Twain’s quote to “tribal” government here on the Pine Ridge.

Well, there are a few “tribal” politicians who qualify for Twain’s quote. But, most of us have relatives that are in government, law enforcement, and education. If anyone is to be scrutinized and bashed, it should be the voter and the federal law known as the Wheeler-Howard Act of 1934 (Indian Reorganization Act - IRA) and its constitution.

The law and the constitution are inanimate. The manner in which they were deployed by man remains questionable as well as the voting population’s inaction. We reason are in this needy and dependent state is “not because of the acts of evil people, but because of the appalling silence of good people” (Martin Luther King, 1963) on the home land.

For sure, we cannot instantly return to the original Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) system of government. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the old system come back, too. However, the obstacles, from the federal government as well as the Oceti Sakowin descendants themselves, are overwhelming. Specifically, we do not know how to come together, much less to work together… anymore.

Meanwhile, we continue to survive under the paternalistic congressional law known as the IRA. It was also called the Indian New Deal shadowing President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic recovery plan. However, Pine Ridge has not experienced economic success as promised in 1935. Socio-economically, we are still experiencing the Great Depression of the 1920s.

Traditionally, if tiospaye leaders disagreed with a measure before them, they simply stayed away from any gatherings called to address the issue. This occurred during the election for the IRA clearly indicating that it was precluded in the hearts and minds of the majority. Nonetheless, the few that did vote were counted. The fact that this event was obscured by the government is proof of its own dishonesty.

The government’s hazy activity did not begin there. For one, the IRA’s voting bloc was reduced on June 15, 1934, to “Total votes cast shall not be less than 30 per centum of those entitled to vote.” The “Indian” voters of the time were not aware of this amendment. Despite its questionable election procedure, Congress adopted the IRA, “as is,” on June 18, 1934.

In other words, the participating voters on the Pine Ridge (and 6 other reservations) did not meet the amended “30 per centum” rule. Although the Majority Rule principle was met, only 28.7% voted in the election to adopt the IRA, even with a large number of non-Lakota men voting in the election.

Almost immediately, a constitution was drafted and promoted on the Pine Ridge and the other scattered territories of the Great Sioux Reservation established with the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. The December 14, 1935, Secretarial Election met the condensed voting requirement and the constitution was approved with a vote of 1,304 to 1,041 on January 15, 1936.

This political shadiness appears in a local 1935 newspaper ad. “Think Wisely! How can we succeed without a constitution and by-laws under the Indian Reorganization Act? If you vote NO – Dependency! Incompetency! Powerlessness! Landless! Homeless! Continued poverty! If you vote YES – Organization! Credit! Industry! More Land! Better homes! Prosperity! SUCCESS!”

The ad continues with, “Ask your children which they prefer, future prosperity or continued poverty! Shall they profit or shall they suffer! Let them decide how you shall vote on December 14, 1935.” The only identify marking on the ad indicates the Shannon County News (1930-197?). The paper was also known locally as the American Indian and Eyapaha Wakokipesni (Fearless Crier/Announcer).

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Harkening back to Mark Twain’s famous quote about politicians

(Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at PO Box 147, Oglala, SD 57764; 605-867-2448 or via email at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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