A sign on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Hamner Fotos

Jeffrey Whalen: We are living in third world conditions in America

OST Primary Election: Tuesday, October 9
Think before you vote!
By Jeffrey Whalen
Native Sun News Today Columnist

We are nearing the Primary Election for the Oglala Sioux Tribe which is due to occur on October 9, 2018 and the polls are going to be open at various locations across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation from 7 a.m., thru 7 p.m. It’s time to sharpen up your pencils and place that check mark next to the candidate of your choice. But before you do, ask questions and think hard about sorting out the empty and uninformed responses.

More than several good, solid questions need to be asked of all candidates about virtually anything concerning the economic conditions here on Pine Ridge. For instance, the Oglala’s have been operating on a budget that has not been balanced in years. There must be a six (6) million dollar difference between income and spending and spending always outweighs income. For instance, if a tribal budget is suggested by the treasurer at 12 million dollars, but that treasurer can only come up with 6 million dollars in income, a good question to ask is where, exactly is the prospective council candidate proposing to make up the difference and get the budget balanced?

In that scenario, all the council members should question the treasurer and tell he/she to go back to the drawing board to BALANCE THE BUDGET. Spending should never exceed income. And income should never exceed spending where additional income should be placed into a line item where it is in savings or reserved for a specified purpose. Doing so will achieve a balanced budget.

Historically, when the treasurer provides their monthly report to the tribal council, almost nobody on the council understands what is being presented to them. They just see a bunch of numbers in columns and rows which represent little to nothing to them. Once the council gets a binder full of accounting information placed in front of them, they will almost always motion to pass the treasurers report without even looking at the reports contents.

Jeffrey Whalen. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Think about our economic conditions on Pine Ridge. I don’t need to elaborate on that because we all know what is happening here and I don’t think any of us are very proud of it. Now think about why the economic conditions are so desperate here and recall that our constitution’s preamble requires the tribal council to promote general welfare of our Oyate.

There is a whole plethora of constitutional requirements for the tribal council to adhere to such as in Article IV Powers of the Council, Sec. 1 at (d); to advise the Secretary with regard to all appropriation estimates…prior to the submission of such estimates to the Bureau of Budget and Congress. At (f); to manage all economic affairs… And at (g); to appropriate for public purposes of the tribe, any available tribal council funds. And at (h); to levy taxes… at (m); to regulate the conduct of trade… at (o); to charter subordinate organizations for economic purposes, and finally at (w); to adopt laws protecting the health and general welfare of the tribe and its members.

These quotations from our Constitution are important economic requirements and are subjects that should be asked about when the candidates try to secure your vote. If they don’t know the answers to these questions, then think about why our economic conditions are terrible and also think about the candidate’s inability to answer economic questions reasonably.

In my OPINION, the reason why we are living so poorly is directly related to the elected tribal council’s inability to understand basic economics and basic budgeting. Again, think of why they motion almost immediately, to approve the treasurers report without even looking at the contents? They do this because they don’t understand it and want to get past it as quickly as possible. The ultimate result of these horrible, uninformed actions by these elected leaders are directly connected to why you, the reader, and I, are living in third world conditions right in the heart of America.

We don’t have good negotiators, we don’t have a majority of council reps who understand budgeting. A lot of them haven’t read the Constitution. We don’t have good, sound financial decisions being made on the council floor. All of this is because most of the elected leaders do not understand budgeting. The final nail in that coffin is when the majority of council motions to approve a treasurer’s report that is not balanced and is severely one sided in favor of huge spending over profits.

Let’s switch gears and get down to the nitty gritty. Of the tribal President candidates, I would speculate that only three individuals would know about budgets. In the order that they are presented in the Oglala Election Commissions spreadsheet, Dr. Richard L. Zephier, Frank Means and Bruce Whalen are the only highly educated individuals who without any doubt, would understand the budgeting process.

There are three (3) other candidates who are former tribal presidents, Theresa Two Bulls, John Steele, Sr., and Joe American Horse. Each one of those former Presidents did not show that they are capable of balancing the budget or addressing the economic atrocity that exists here. Julian Bear Runner is a newcomer to the race.

I cannot comment on Julian’s experience or education simply because I haven’t seen or heard him speak as of yet. The budget is important to consider when you are making your decision on who to nominate for President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.


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Contact Jeffrey Whalen at Jeffrey.whalen2@gmail.com

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