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Native Sun News Today Editorial: Rumors of corruption are flying at Pine Ridge

Rumors of corruption are flying at Pine Ridge

By Native Sun News Today Editorial Board

There are always rumors floating around the Pine Ridge Reservation and with the social media in full swing these rumors can be spread all over the Internet whether they contain one iota of truth or not.

But the old saying “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” is probably applicable here.

Since many of us at Native Sun News Today have been in the newspaper business for more than 20 years, many coming from the newspaper that started on the Pine Ridge Reservation, it is only predictable that some of the rumors about graft and corruption would fall at our doorsteps.

In a recent blog a former candidate and near winner of the OST Presidential race, Bruce Whalen wrote, “The Pine Ridge Reservation isn’t poor; it’s just poorly managed.” And Whalen has a powerful point. Millions of dollars pour into the coffers of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and all of the different programs on the reservation every year. But those dollars are not only poorly managed that are often manipulated in such a way that the poor get nothing and the manipulators get plenty.

We have a new administration now serving the people of Pine Ridge. Scott Weston is the new president. The former treasurer, Melanie Two Eagle, who attempted to expose the corruption in the previous administration has been blackballed from holding any job on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

In actuality, Pine Ridge is a small place and whistle blowers risk everything when they step forward to expose corruption because those engaged in corrupt activities have all of the power and the whistle blower is at their mercy. Two Eagle knew she was risking everything when she stepped up and now she is paying the price. This is not the first time we have seen those attempting to expose corruption end up jobless and with no hopes of ever working on the reservation again.

Think about what Bruce Whalen said. “The Pine Ridge Reservation isn’t poor; it’s just poorly managed.” It seems there are two classes of people on the reservation, those who have and those who have not. Our newspapers have been covering politics on the Pine Ridge Reservation since 1981 and any story we wrote about corruption back then could just as well be written today.

It seems that the only economic development taking place on Pine Ridge is being led by a person who does not work for the Tribe: his name is Nick Tilsen. His Thunder Valley organization near Sharp’s Corner is doing things the Tribal Government should be doing and we commend Tilsen for his efforts because he is doing it without any financial assistance from the Tribe.

Entrepreneurs like Tilsen and Karlene Hunter, co-founder of Native American Natural Foods, should serve as consultants to the Tribe’s wing of economic development because they are business people with a proven track record. The Tribe needs to start turning for help to some of its own.

We have been trying without success for six months to get an interview with President Weston so we could ask him some hard questions about his plans for the future of the Tribe. What is he doing now to improve the conditions on the reservation that would create jobs and opportunities for the people? What is he doing to quell some of the rumors we are now hearing about corruption within his administration? Why has the OST set aside $840,000 ($35,000 apiece) for travel for the 19 members of the Tribal Council and 5 members of the Executive Committee? All of our readers would like to know the answers to those questions.

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Note: This editorial appears in the Native Sun News Today and is reprinted here with permission.

Copyright permission Native Sun News