The Pine Ridge Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Photo: James Pendleton / U.S. Department of Agriculture
Incompetence in government planning leads to public mistrust and skepticism
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Native Sun News Today Columnist

The Ikce Wicasa (Natural Man/Human) co-existed amicably on the North American continent. They maintained a balance of all creation by taking only what they needed for food, shelter and clothing. They developed a nature-based system of laws and a spirituality that has prevailed into the 21st century. I can only imagine their contentment.

Then the colonizer came and wreaked discord and death on the native inhabitants. 300 years later, that pristine world our ancestors maintained for millennia is also dying. Today, geographically separated, Lakota people endure an uncertain existence on the remaining pieces of our once vast treaty territory, the Great Sioux Reservation, most of which congress “appropriated” illegally.

On and around the Pine Ridge Reservation, we cope endlessly with racial intolerance. Under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, government corruption permeates our reservation experience. I know this is hard to swallow, but the IRA constitution actually advances greed and selfishness upon its elected officials. The result is an inhibition of a person’s logic and sympathy.

Consequently, human rights are denied in terms of physical and mental integrity, safety, and life. The IRA’s voting criteria does not satisfy democratic principles but it has yet to be proven in a court of law. Having endured this oppressive system all of my life, I want an equitable government that will allow my grandchildren and their children to live respectably in a free and fitting community.

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

A common definition of community does no justice for our existence on our homeland, “A community is a group of people who share things in common, who work together towards a common purpose which they care about and who care deeply about each other.” Instead, as a reservation community, we struggle endlessly (to no avail) to bring about need-based, favorable, and equitable, changes to our existence.

Recently, the United Nations (UN) defined community development as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” Our ancestors were living this lifestyle centuries before the UN was established in 1945. Today though, the notion wherein our ancestors were nothing more than “merciless savages” roaming the plains aimlessly is firmly established.

To the contrary, our ancestors developed complex communities and called them tiospaye (extended family groups). All tiospaye members worked together to enhance, improve, and maintain the many logistical tasks involved. An overriding principle permeated their activities. They understood that whatever they did would impact their descendants “seven generations” into the future.

A tremendous amount of planning went into maintaining a flourishing tiospaye, like the detailed coordination of moving camp to hunting and harvesting to maintain an adequate food supply for the harsh winters. There were hundreds of tiospaye each with the task of maintaining healthy sanitation measures. Disease and pandemics were unheard of until the Europeans arrived, nor were homelessness and poverty.

What is planning? Modern scholars have pointed out the fact that because we plan our weddings, vacations, and even the day, that it is in our DNA. So, if it is a natural process, why haven’t our “tribal” government officials engaged in any type of developmental planning? I am alluding to planning that involves development strategies and methods for the districts.

One looming deficit today is that our Oglala District Executive Committee is extremely limited with its powers. The “tribal” council absolutely controls our meager district allocations. Like the council, individual district officials are educated or have expertise in a variety of areas, but as a committee, it is not qualified to perform the specific detailed work involved with community development.

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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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