President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe addresses the National Congress of American Indians in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 23, 2019. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

President of Oglala Sioux Tribe admits arrest during coronavirus crisis

President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe admitted to being arrested this weekend, though he declined to say what charges he is facing.

“First and foremost, thank you to everyone for the overwhelming show of support through the tough time,” Bear Runner said in a statement released on Sunday night.

“As a tribal member I am afforded due process through the courts that every one of us is entitled to," he continued. "At this time I am not able to comment on anything alleged against me.”

Statement from President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, issued May 4, 2020.

Bear Runner acknowledged being arrested on Saturday by Oglala Sioux tribal police.

“As of today I have not been arraigned and so I am not able to speak to any charges made against me," he said in the statement the following day.

He assured citizens that the tribe’s government will continue functioning as usual, including continuing COVID-19 response efforts on the second-largest largest reservation in South Dakota.

Rapid Result COVID-19 Antibody Testing for President Julian Bear Runner. The tribe is developing a plant that allow the tribes to conduct these tests with the assistance of professional healthcare personnel at approved sites around the reservation.

Posted by Oglala Sioux Tribe - OST on Friday, May 1, 2020
Oglala Sioux Tribe: Rapid Result COVID-19 Antibody Testing for President Julian Bear Runner

“I want to assure the Oyate that I remain committed to the work that I have taken on to keep the Oglala Oyate safe and prosperous,” Bear Runner said. Oyate is the Lakota word for people.

“I will continue to move forward with the health and wellbeing of my Oyate and your best interest in my heart,” he said.

“Most importantly, I want to encourage everyone to continue to remain unified with our efforts in strengthening our communities, defending our sovereignty and standing shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity. Wopila,” he said, using the Lakota phrase for thank you.

A May 2, 2020, screen shot of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Corrections and Department of Public Safety website showed Julian Bear Runner in the system on that day. His name no longer appears in the online portal.

This weekend, social media was abuzz with reports of Bear Runner’s arrest.

A woman who described herself as his aunt offered words of support to him.

“We are all human. You don’t know the backstory,” she said. “But please don’t forget no one is perfect. Even Leaders.”

Officials at the tribe’s jail and police department declined to comment about his arrest, however.

A man who answered the phone at the tribe’s Justice Center on Saturday and declined to identify himself confirmed Bear Runner was at the jail but wouldn’t say why he was incarcerated.

“I can’t release that information,” he said. “At this time, he is awaiting to be arraigned or bonded out.”

"When our people vote on whether to allow alcohol onto our homelands, my vote will be NO" Thank you to the Horse Nation, riders and support. No to Alcohol on March 10, 2020 (7am-7pm mst)

Posted by Julian Bear Runner, Oglala Sioux Tribe President on Monday, February 24, 2020

Clem Crazy Thunder, an Oglala Sioux tribal citizen and former drug and alcohol counselor who lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation, said Bear Runner deserves a second chance.

“People make mistakes,” he told Indianz.Com. “This coronavirus epidemic has made everybody live on the edge. Before you make any assumptions, let the process play out."

"Everybody is entitled to a fair and just legal system," Crazy Thunder said. "Some jobs are stressful and there aren’t a lot of options to cope in a healthy manner. Pray for those who are suffering, including those in our leadership.”

But Oglala Sioux artist Patrick Joel Pulliam, who lives in Pine Ridge, said the tribe must hold its leaders to a higher standard. He said the lack of accountability within the tribe’s leadership impedes any real social and economic progress on the reservation.

“It’s very, very disturbing and even heartbreaking,” he said. “There’s a moral standard we have to have for our leaders, and a legal one, too.”

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