Bringing the disenfranchised Oglala Lakota back into the TribeBy Native Sun News Today Editorial Board
nativesunnews.today The Tribal Council of the Oglala Sioux Tribe will be setting up meetings through the end of December across the reservation to talk about revisions to the OST Constitution. There are approximately 20,000 OST members living in the Black Hills, land claimed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe, in Rapid City, Box Elder, and surrounding communities who have no standing as recognized tribal members. They are not allowed to participate in tribal politics or to vote. Why have they lost their status as legal members of the tribe? Present Tribal Council members will say it is because they live off of the reservation. Do they? The OST has never relinquished ownership of the Black Hills. In essence the Lakota people living in the Black Hills are living on lands claimed by the OST. How can they be living “off of the reservation?” The Tribal Council should acknowledge the fact that they can’t have it both ways, and we have written about this in the past. Perhaps the time will come when the OST is in a court of law arguing the merits of their case involving the Black Hills. The question will be asked: “Why do you not recognize the Lakota people living in the Black Hills as citizens of the Pine Ridge Reservation?” And of course the answer to that question would be immediately recognizable by the jury. If you do not recognize your own people living on the land you claim then you have no claim to the land they are living on. That does not mean we agree with that assumption but it is an obvious conclusion a jury would make. Many of the Lakota living in the Black Hills have allotted lands on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Decisions made by the Tribal Council has a direct impact upon their lives also. And yet they have no voice when it comes to participating in tribal elections. They cannot nominate a candidate to run for the tribal council or president of the tribe and so they have been totally disenfranchised. It is the contention of many Lakota living in Rapid City that if changes are made to the Constitution of the Oglala Sioux Tribe a provision should be made the would make Rapid City the 10th District of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Most major tribes in the United States have made an exception for their members living in communities off of the reservation that allows their member to participate in tribal elections and they live in communities off of the reservation not claimed by their tribes. The Sioux San Hospital located in Rapid City is used by members of all the tribes in this region. They are not denied services there simply because they do not reside in Rapid City. For those Lakota, Dakota and Nakota living in Rapid City they have never willfully given up their citizenship as members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud, Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, or Standing Rock, and what is more they are still counted on the rolls of those tribes when the leadership is seeking funding. As a matter of fact as the discussions go on for changes to the OST Constitution one of the meetings should be held in Rapid City so that the Oglala Lakota members of the Rapid City community will be able to sit in on the meetings as duly enrolled members of the tribe. It is the only fair thing to do. Disenfranchising tribal members is wrong and probably illegal.