The Johnson Holy Rock Building on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is named for the late Johnson Holy Rock, a former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Photo by James Pendleton / U.S. Department of Agriculture
Elders say we are headed for a deep ravine
Friday, October 9, 2020
Native Sun News Today Columnist

For the 42nd time, elections are here again. Local candidates are vying for several seats on the “Tribal” Council, the “tribal” executive committee, and some district government positions.

As voters and candidates, we must realize that we have been casting votes for more than 8 decades with very little improvement. I have to guess that most are pushing to make our reservation a better place to live.

Sadly, a few of our candidates want to get in to seek revenge or to put their relatives to work. Older “career” politicians want to get back in for another two years of financial bliss and limitless travel. Most are simply eager to win a position so they can enjoy the power and prestige that comes with it. Not to beat down anyone, most are unaware of the history of this government system. Most have never ever governed people.

One of our current representatives actually “disappeared” for about 18-months and then made an appearance in time to vie for another 2-year term. Our other representative was abruptly subjected to personal innuendos and then publicly chastised. Meanwhile, our existing needs at the district level remain unchanged.

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

There are certain needs and conditions in our district that are repeatedly passed over. It’s time we, as voters, get involved by proactively participating in district and community level government planning and assisting our elected officials. We have to use the power of the vote and take part in this government. We must look at our situation in a practical sense because this system is all we have to work with.

For example, we have a 50-unit HUD housing site in Oglala that has been in shambles since it was constructed in the mid-1970s. It is too easy to push it off on the housing program and that is what has been happening.

I suggest working with the program to install paved streets, lighting, landscaping, etc. If residents want a beautiful place to live, isn’t it better to take a proactive stance and work of it?

The trailer court (Belt Village) has been an eyesore for many years but it is finally looking up. The unchecked weed growth could very well be indicative of a defeatist attitude toward life. I am reminded of the unknown author of this quote, “Your mind is your garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.” I know the majority is very capable of growing flowers.

The simple act of cutting and removing weeds from the sidewalks and gutters in the Oglala area has a lifting effect on the community. The day-labor project is worth every penny. Of course, there are those who only exist to hurt people and they will be around forever. We must learn to pull weeds and water the flowers.

We have living conditions in our district that hinder our desire to be treated with dignity and to be governed equitably or even to be truly self-governing. For one, we have a same small (but loud) group in the district needlessly rebuking and punishing our elected officials without making an effort to help. If these people have some unresolved childhood traumas they need to address, I suggest they do it quick.

We must learn to be part of the solution(s). Most of us know that our elected officials cannot fix our situation by themselves but together we can improve our chances of solving our problems. We can take control of our situation (s) and participate in this system, whether we like it or not. We must grasp the power of the vote and use it to help ourselves.

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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

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