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

Ivan Star Comes Out: Sometimes it's good to air out our dirty laundry

Sometimes hanging out the dirty laundry needs to be done

By Ivan Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Most of us were formally educated on state and federal government by the 7th and 8th grade. However, not one voter was formally educated on this so-called “tribal” government. A few of us learned about “tribal” government via active participation. The federal government failed to educate us on their new form of government. Therefore, I say with confidence that we are not completely to blame.

An adult voter is at fault only when he or she uses the system for personal gain or refuses to learn or ignores the particulars of this system. I see that most rely on prior actions using them as guides to operate government. “My grandpa did it this way” or “everybody else is doing it.” As responsible voters, we have must heed our duty to learn about this Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) constitution.

The “tribal” constitution has been amended four times since 1936 but its preamble remains intact. Although Oglala District’s constitution was rendered dormant in the 1997 amendment, its preamble was very similar to the OST’s preamble. Initially, this is the only virtuous provision in these constitutions and if we could adhere to them, our home land could be a much better place for everyone.

As such, the Preamble in the Constitution of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) states, in part, “… in order to establish a more perfect organization, promote the general welfare, conserve and develop our lands and resources, secure to ourselves and our posterity the power to exercise certain powers of home rule not inconsistent with federal laws and our treaties…”

One of the things people must understand is that a preamble, in any document, does not carry the force of law. In other words, a preamble is merely informative. For instance, the U.S. Constitution’s preamble has been interpreted as a brief introductory statement of the constitution’s fundamental purposes and guiding principles. It is not law.

Anyway, I was asked to be present at a “district meeting” on the evening of January 10, 2018 at our local Oglala Elderly Meals Program building. My name was not on the agenda so I was not sure as to why my presence was needed. So, as president of our school board, I prepared to answer questions regarding our school and patiently waited and watched the proceedings.

People were beginning to leave when I was given the floor. Then I had to endure a weak and pointless spasm by a loud, angry, and disruptive attendee. Now, my preference is to leave things as they are. However, in view of the seriousness of what I had witnessed that night, I decided to bring our situation to the forefront with the intent of stimulating optimistic change.

First, I witnessed the very same “district meeting” proceedings back in the mid-70s. Back then, a “quorum” was established by counting the people that came to the meeting and used their affiliation with the communities to establish a “quorum.” Then those people made motions and voted. I still don’t know where or how this popular but questionable practice originated.

Here we are, some 40-plus years later, I witnessed the exact same thing. Even after Article VI of the “tribal” constitution was amended in 1997, district officials continued conducting their meetings using this mysterious protocol. Basically, the community members believe they are adhering to their district constitution which in actuality has been superseded by the new Article VI.

Anyway, since the type of meeting was not clarified or declared, I couldn’t determine if it was a town hall type or a formal district constitutional meeting. I assumed that it was a confusing combination of both. Anyway, I did not participate in the lively motion-making and voting by those present.

A few people will be upset with me for airing out our “dirty laundry” but it has to be done. The confusion that reigns over district government must be halted. This grave deficiency renders our district government weak and ineffective.

Our district is directly under authority of Article VI of the “tribal” constitution, which means we are no longer a constitutional government, not since 1997. Accordingly, we have a district executive committee representing the entire district as one and not a District Council which would be comprised of community representatives.

As a district, any authority and power we may have had under the constitutional system has been eroded to almost nil. I am still hearing elected officials declare that the Tribal Council can do whatever it wants. And the sad truth about such a statement is that it is the truth. Even after four amendments, the constitution still grants Tribal Council with absolute power.

Although we get to vote in our Oglala District Executive Committee, they are directly under the authority of the “tribal” constitution. Our district executive committee members are not included in the OST’s budget so they are not compensated for their service. They have to do their district committee work at their jobs during regular work hours, if they are employed.

We must come together as only a group of decent humans can and build a path that leads to freedom and contentment for our grandchildren. As for now, our district is severely lacking as far as the “general welfare of the people” goes.

Our appalling dependency, a dysfunctional government wherein a politician can buy power, and justice can be manipulated, are serious deterrents to our “prosperity.” Yes, we push education for our youth and a few do acquire their degrees but they are ignored for relatives or friends. We must not forget that as recently as 2009, we had a Lakota family living in a cave along the banks of the White River.

We certainly can do without the senseless antipathy, spitefulness, chaos, and confusion. I understand this “tribal” constitution was written by greedy men who were solely interested in “Manifest Destiny,” or colonizing indigenous people. I don’t hear anyone questioning the fact that a large part of the “tribal” constitution regards our treaty lands. Congress controls our lands via the Tribal Council.

Lastly, our district should move to town hall meetings, also referred to as forums. They are a way for local and national politicians to meet with their constituents, either to hear from them on topics of interest or to discuss specific upcoming legislation or regulation and to discuss local issues, plans, and controversies.

A town hall meeting demands the best of speakers – in both content and attitude. If both are first-rate, the interaction can be an enriching experience. If not, the meeting can be a calamitous place for presenters and listeners alike. A good meeting must include timed allotments for speakers and allow for one speaker to speak at any given time to avoid further confusion.


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Sometimes hanging out the dirty laundry needs to be done
Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at P.O. Box 147, Oglala, South Dakota, 57764; via phone at 605-867-2448 or via email at mato_nasula2@outlook.com.

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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