Indianz.Com > News > ‘They want to see change’: Voters of Oglala Sioux Tribe elect new leaders
Kevin Killer: Revolutionize Sovereignty
‘They want to see change’
Oglala Sioux voters choose Kevin Killer for president, Alicia Mousseau for vice president
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The newly elected leaders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe are already facing the first crisis of their administration following the weekend arrest of the outgoing president, who has previously faced accusations of drunkenness and sexual harassment.

On Saturday night, Rapid City police were called to Cheers Sports Bar & Casino after Julian Bear Runner, the sitting president, allegedly fought with a private security guard at the bar. Police arrested Bear Runner for failure to vacate and took him to the Pennington County Jail, according a statement from the police department.

The department referred further questions to the Pennington County State Attorney’s Office, which could not be reached for comment.

Last week, Bear Runner lost his re-election bid to challenger Kevin Killer, a 10-year South Dakota state legislator. Reached recently by Indianz.Com, Killer said he is ready to go to work on December 1, when he and newly elected Vice President Alicia Mousseau take office.

Like so many tribal leaders, they will face spiking COVID-19 cases on the sprawling Pine Ridge Reservation in southwest South Dakota. On Tuesday, the tribe announced 65 new cases and 144 total active cases.

Killer, 41, said he supports continuing the reservation mask mandate, despite the fact that non-Native communities all around and beyond the tribe’s borders don’t have such mandates.

And he raised the specter of further reservation-wide lockdowns.

“When lockdowns are needed, we need to really consider that,” he said. “Mentally those are really stressful on people.”

He said he will focus on educating reservation residents about the need for additional lockdowns.

Killer said he decided to run for tribal president after having a spiritual experience that convinced him to do so.

After eight years in the South Dakota House of Representatives and two in the state Senate, Killer said he felt like he had certain skills and experience that could benefit the Oglala Lakota people.

“I have gifts to offer people as well because of my experience and basically because of what I learned in the legislature,” he said.

He said he also decided to slow down after seeing his own father die of a heart attack caused by stress and diabetes at the age of 53.

He said he was proud of his work in the South Dakota Legislature, including his efforts to educate new senators about tribal issues. When he was first elected, decisions on tribal issues were usually decided along party-line votes, but after several years of educating state legislators about Native issues, many of those policymakers began demonstrating deep respect for tribal sovereignty.

Indeed, the state Senate president and lieutenant governor now know certain Lakota phrases, Killer said.

He said he’s confident the remaining Native legislators will be able to ensure their colleagues continue to respect tribal sovereignty.

As tribal president, Killer said he plans to work to be proactive about ensuring the state of South Dakota and the federal government respect the tribe’s sovereignty. And he plans to ensure Lakota youth are given a voice in decisions affecting the tribe.

He said he plans to establish a youth council out of his office that he will regularly attend.

“I think people will start to take it serious,” he said.

Last week, South Dakota approved the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, a vote that likely will impact tribal communities.

Killer said he plans to begin researching the way tribes in other states where marijuana use has been legalized have established marijuana commerce.

“We need to start thinking about that because there is demand there,” he said. “We just want to be sure we’re doing it in a good way, in a legal way.”

He said he will focus on rebuilding citizen trust in tribal government and fulfill residents’ hopes.

“They want to see change,” he said. “Hopefully we will be able to do that.”

Alicia Mousseau. Courtesy photo

Newly elected Vice President Alicia Mousseau said she is looking forward to finally being able to serve her people through public service.

Mousseau earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science from Creighton University in Omaha and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Wyoming.

She now works for the University of Montana’s National Native Children’s Trauma Center. Prior to that, she worked for the University of Colorado doing research.

She also serves on the board of directors for Red Cloud Indian School and for the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Research Review Board, which requires her to examine proposed research projects.

She said she hopes to establish a reservation training and research center. The tribe should conduct its own research into the impacts of COVID-19 on the reservation, Mousseau said.

“It would be awesome if we could do our own research,” she said.

She said she is also interested in initiating efforts to begin helping tribal citizens heal from trauma and implement restorative justice programs. She said it will be important for tribal leaders to lean on the tribe’s many skilled and talented residents in order to accomplish those efforts.

“There’s a lot of good people doing good things in our community,” she said.

As for the current tribal president, Julian Bear Runner, she said she hopes he receives support for his personal issues.

In May, Bear Runner was accused of driving while intoxicated and verbal assault after a tribal officer pulled him over in his pickup truck. And in September, Bear Runner barely survived an impeachment vote after a young Lakota man accused him of coercing him into have sex with him when he was 17 and later when he turned 18.

“I do hope that he receives help,” Mousseau said. “It seems that he needs help for sure.”

And while she and Killer will be facing many difficult challenges, including fighting the spread of COVID-19, she is hopeful they will be able to protect their people and improve their lives.

“I’m just very excited for this new team,” she said. “We have a lot of lessons learned.”

“I’m excited to get to work.”