A sign on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Jimmy Emerson

Jeffrey Whalen: It's past time to take our tribal government back

Money, money: Who’s got the money?

By Jeffrey Whalen
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Recently I wrote an article on travel which included a spread sheet about council travel expenditures and who was overdrawn. You, the reader, may have come to the conclusion that laws have been violated by the council and executive members.

The article caused quite a ruckus on the tribal council floor and in one meeting, the council session had to be terminated early because of all the arguments that were going on. One of the council members motioned to have all of the excessive travel paid back but the vote on council floor was defeated by the very council representatives who committed the crimes. To me, this vote was unethical because some council reps who were in violation of the Constitution and Penal Code should never have been allowed to vote.

Let’s talk about the Constitution and Penal Code. The OST Constitution and By-Laws in Article IV., Salaries., Sec. 1., states; “…no council shall enact any ordinance increasing the salaries or per diem expense payments of councilmen during the existing term of office.” So, we have a violation of the tribal constitution which by the way when a person violates the constitution, there is no defense for the violation. Because the Oglala Constitution basically prohibits the council and executive board from increasing their travel and per diem in their existing term of office, they cannot legally overdraw their travel budget without violating the law.

What about Embezzlement? In the Oglala Law and Order Code at Chapter 9, Penal Code, Sec. 75., it addresses Embezzlement and states; “Any Indian who shall, having lawful custody of property not his own, appropriate the same to his use with intent to deprive the owner thereof, shall be deemed guilty of Embezzlement and upon conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to labor for a period not to exceed six (6) months, or to a fine not to exceed three hundred and sixty dollars ($360.00), or to both such imprisonment and fine, with costs.” When some tribal council members and the treasurer exceeded their travel budget and violated the Constitution, it is strongly possible that they also violated the Penal Code in Sec. 75 called Embezzlement.

Jeffrey Whalen. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Several administrations ago, the council members racked up over $500,000 in motel stays and food consumption at the Prairie Winds Casino. I wrote about that and the Casino General Manager at the time publicly disputed my article claiming that it was not true. Shortly after that, the same Casino General Manager went to the tribal council and requested that he be allowed to “write off” the motel and food court expenses. Guess what? The very tribal council offenders who racked up the half million-dollar charges were all allowed to vote on the write off and were never required to repay the over expenditures. The General Manager and tribal council of the time were all heavily involved in criminal activity. But nothing was done because the feds always have the opinion that the tribe regulates itself.

Look at the Oglala Sioux Tribal Law and Order Code, Chapter 21, Freedom of Information, Sec. 3., where it states; “It is the official policy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe that all tribal members shall have access to all tribal records, including, but not limited to, resolutions and ordinances, tribal minutes, all transactions involving tribal loans, descriptions of tribal lands, the leasing, exchanges of Tribal lands, and records regarding the tribe and any tribal contractor as permitted by 25 CFR Section 271.48. This shall include records maintained by-the OST Council, Tribal Secretary, Tribal Treasurer, all Council Committees, all tribal programs, district governments and non-profit chartered organizations. The basis for this policy is that all tribal members have property interests in the tribe and as owners of these interest have a right to review these records.”

If you want records, ask for them. By tribal law and if you are a tribal member, they must provide all records to you. Then take those records to your district and vote to take criminal action against your respective representatives who have been violating tribal law and use the law to control these people. Some folks might want to take more aggressive action like holding protests and such in front of the tribal building. If you chose to do that, please keep in mind that you have to obtain a license to protest and you must do so in a peaceful manner.


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The current tribal treasurer is the biggest violator of them all concerning travel expenses. He is spending money that does not exist. If there is a tribal budget of 12 million dollars and we only generate 5 million in revenues, then where is the money coming from to support all the illegal expenditures? Are they printing it? That’s a separate crime in-itself. Are they so ignorant of accounting practices that they simply don’t know any better?

Why would the council keep re-electing a treasurer who does not possess a college degree in accounting or business or economics or anything else for that matter? Why has the treasurer been allowed to keep working when his girlfriend was caught with drugs in a tribal vehicle that was assigned to the treasurer? Last term, the treasurer was involved in a wreck in Rapid City with his girlfriend while using a tribal vehicle. Again, nothing was done and here is why. The treasurer, by the authority of the tribal Constitution, is the sole custodian of tribal funding. The treasurer keeps his job by appeasing certain tribal council members with the Oyate’s money.

The power of the tribal treasurer is strong because they are the sole custodian of the tribe’s money and under a corrupt administration, the strength is easily seen by continued corruption with no restrictions, sympathy, shame or even guilt for that matter. A recent YouTube video proves this.

During the council session where they were discussing council travel over expenditures, the treasurer scolded the council reps saying that they should have seen this coming and need to police themselves. The majority of council members drooped their heads in shame and said nothing. Not one council representative recognized that the treasurer was the biggest violator of the travel line budget. How can the council police themselves when the treasurer cannot police himself?

The treasurer is ultimately responsible for all of our tribal money by virtue of the tribal constitution. The treasurer and his cronies should all be held ultimately responsible for white collar criminal activity and they should be tried in a court of law, convicted and incarcerated for Constitutional and Penal Code violations.

There are too many suicides, higher poverty, higher crime, too much sorrow, no self-esteem, no accountability and it all is rooted in the evil that is being disseminated toward our people here on Pine Ridge by the alleged leaders. The fun and games are over, it’s time to take our tribal government back.

Contact Jeffrey Whalen at Jeffrey.whalen2@gmail.com

Related Stories:
Jeffrey Whalen: Leaders of Oglala Sioux Tribe overspend travel funds (January 31, 2018)