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

Ivan Star Comes Out: A domineering and condescending constitution governs our people

Enduring a condescending and domineering constitution

By Ivan Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s constitution grants its Tribal Council absolute power and authority to govern. So why do we have satellite governments in each of our nine districts on the Pine Ridge Reservation? Fact is these district committees are established by Article VI of the “tribal” constitution which grants them acquiescent powers. Most have accepted this situation without protest.

Every two years the officers of these 4-member Executive Committees are elected respectively by the voters of each district. Districts are where the voters struggle with their wants and needs, yet they are granted a limited and isolated voice. The Tribal Council wields absolute power over the districts. If we are to be a democracy, this power source and authority to govern should come from the voters.

Although the district executive committee members are elected by the voters in each district, voter participation has always been low. Voting numbers in our district had always been far below the odd federal voting requirement, “majority of 30 per centile of all eligible voters.” In other words, far less than 30 percent of the district voters take part in these biennial elections.

Even so, district committee candidates are required to take out a petition and submit to a drug test and a background and take an oath of office as tribal officials yet they are not paid check every two years. Tribal Council candidates and members must meet the same requirements yet they receive a salary with paid travel expenses.

A copy of the Oglala Sioux Tribe's constitution and the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. Photo by James Giago Davies / Native Sun News Today

Then they spend the next two years conducting “district meetings” to exercise their limited powers. The only funds in their district coffers are those granted and controlled by the tribal council via their financial accounting system. Districts governments are utterly dependent under Article VI of the constitution.

I’m not condemning our district officers, rather I am pointing to the enervative nature of Article VI which governs district governments. I believe our executive officers deserve better. After all, they are in a position to represent district voters on a daily basis. District meetings are held in the evenings to accommodate those holding full-time jobs. Otherwise, mostly retired or unemployed hold these positions.

Some attention must be directed toward the overall district government system before ant changes can be made. I, for one, made several attempts to help our past Oglala District executive officers to establish a more viable system for the people. Also, I presented to the Grey Eagle Society (twice) and the Crazy Horse Planning Commission (once) on different occasions.

Within a 10-year period, I made several attempts to provide district-level government and relevant historical facts to the voters in my home district. It appears no one is interested in learning about this “tribal” government system and its related facts, like Manifest Destiny, our Fort Laramie treaties, and the origin of the U. S. Constitution, to name a few.

The current constitution reform effort is progressing with a few minor setbacks of course but that is to be expected. My contention at this point is for voters to focus on Article VI with intent to strengthen all nine district governments. People are denied their inherent right to self-government. Sad to say, our executive committees are subservient organizations when it should be the Tribal Council.

If this is to be a truly representative government, the 50-plus small communities across the reservation must have a tangible voice in their government. Each of the ten communities in Oglala District once had a constitution to conduct community affairs. The district had one too. Actually, these constitutions had great potential in terms of equality.


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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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Ivan Star Comes Out: Transforming our tribal constitution into a genuine indigenous document (April 27, 2018)