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

Ivan Star Comes Out: Why are the travel expenses of OST so outlandish?

Native Sun News Today Columnist

It appears that during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Oglala Sioux Tribal Council members were paid a stipend for attending their scheduled meetings. This was a topic in discreet community discussions but I don’t hear it with our younger people. Those subdued conversations of long ago actually present a good discussion point as we venture into the 21st century.

A common dispute has been that paying stipends to the “tribal” legislature is regressive and we have to keep up with the ever-changing modern world. We’ve endured under this oppressive Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) constitution for 85 years now. I have to ask, “Why are we among the poorest counties in the country?” I say this “tribal” government has not been very productive.

In view of our long-standing and unusually high unemployment rate(s), I think it makes a whole lot of sense to pay stipends, at least until the “tribal” council addresses and improves our below poverty level existence. Although the 1936 IRA constitution places economic responsibility completely on the shoulders of this council, it is unqualified and incapable of such endeavors.

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

I was asked about those standing committee meetings in Rapid City. I said they are expensive. The committee presidents should be capable of getting business done according to committee directives and be the ones to travel. An entire committee does not need to travel together. I know existing committee members are skilled or experienced in individual areas. But, as a whole, they’ve proven incompetent.

Committee meeting agendas are a complete mystery until after the minutes are printed and made public. Currently, as in the past, most of the council members sit on the “tribal” finance committee. Obviously, they have a deep desire to control money. I recall the 1981 education committee had only five members while nearly the entire council was on the finance committee.

In 2017, in a Native Sun News article, Jeff Whalen publicized “tribal” budget numbers indicating a massive travel total of $875,000 for the council and executive officers. Nearly half had exceeded their budgeted amount and “enacted” more money into their travel accounts on top of their annual salaries totaling more than a million dollars in one year.

What should be common knowledge now is the historic fact that a majority of our elected officials took advantage of the federally-sanctioned “tribal” government system. As a result, nepotism and cronyism, among other corrupt government activities, ran within this circle of “elite” elected officials.

Not everyone is so corrupt though. We have a handful of principled elected officials. They pay for their committee meetings out of their salaries. Some of these elected officials gave their travel expense money to their respective districts to help address the needs of their elderly, sick, and destitute. Appallingly, this small group is often ridiculed and/or ignored for their stance on equality and ethics.

It appears that the insubordinate politicians in power are oblivious to the people’s needs. I, as a voter-resident, have been managing to make ends meet with my fixed-income, which is a task in itself. I remain grateful for the fact that my representative’s travel money helped me on at least one occasion.


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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.

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