Students from the Wolf Creek School can be seen in handcuffs as they are held by Oglala Sioux tribal police at the Pine Ridge Hospital on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on February 8, 2018. Indianz.Com altered the courtesy photo by blurring the juveniles' faces.
Education | Law | National

Lakota grandmother shocked after students are arrested and handcuffed by tribal police

'This is not how they should treat our children'

Pine Ridge students arrested for alleged drug trafficking

By Kevin Abourezk
@Kevin_Abourezk

An Oglala Sioux woman said her grandson was among 13 middle school students who were arrested and taken to a hospital in handcuffs Thursday morning after officials on the Pine Ridge Reservation said they were buying and selling drugs.

Janne Rodriguez, 55, said she learned of the students’ arrests from her daughter, who called her at work around 11 a.m. Thursday. Her daughter told her a group of students had been taken to the Pine Ridge Hospital, an Indian Health Service facility, after school officials learned one or more of them had been selling pills to the others.

She said two of the students, including her grandson, are seventh-graders and 11 are eighth-graders. She said her grandson would not have been involved in buying or selling drugs.

Rodriguez said she drove to the hospital to meet her daughter and found the students sitting in a waiting room. “Every one of those kids was handcuffed,” she said.

A woman who answered the phone at the Wolf Creek School – which is just east of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, just off U.S. Highway 18 – referred an Indianz.Com reporter Thursday to the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Department of Public Safety.

Mark Mesteth, interim police chief for the tribe, declined to comment on the students’ arrests Thursday, saying he didn’t have enough information to share.

“We are still investigating it,” he said.


Rodriguez said an officer at the hospital Thursday told her and her daughter the students had gotten into trouble because of drugs.

By then, other parents and grandparents had begun arriving at the hospital, and an officer told the students’ relatives to leave the waiting room.

“They separated the parents from the kids,” she said.

The officers then began taking individual children into the emergency room to get their blood drawn to test them for chemicals in their blood, she said.

“They did that without the consent of the parents,” Rodriguez. “That really concerned me.”

The officers wouldn’t allow parents to be with their children, she said.

Rodriguez said she and her daughter began calling officials at Wolf Creek School but received information that seemed to conflict with information they were being told by officers at the hospital.

Students from the Wolf Creek School can be seen in handcuffs as they are held by Oglala Sioux tribal police at the Pine Ridge Hospital on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on February 8, 2018. Indianz.Com altered the courtesy photo by blurring the juveniles' faces.

The officers eventually took the students to a juvenile detention center and said they planned to charge the students with drug-related offenses. She said all of the students were being held without bond.

The tribe's attorney general planned to meet with relatives of the students on Friday morning to discuss the situation, Rodriguez said.

She said the parents should have been allowed to talk to their children before they were taken to the juvenile detention center.

“Now we can’t seem to get through to (the juvenile detention center) to ask them about the charges,” she said. “They just have violated the rights of these children.”

She said she and other parents and grandparents are considering legal action against the school and the police department.

"We want to make them aware this is not how they should treat our children," she said.

This story is tagged under: