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
‘You guys failed to protect me’: Oglala Sioux Tribe falls short on impeachment vote
Young Lakota man details two incidents involving President Bear Runner
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Indianz.Com

Despite an emotional plea from a young Lakota man, leaders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe failed to impeach President Julian Bear Runner during a more than five-hour hearing on Monday.

While a majority of the council members present wanted to remove Bear Runner from office, the recorded vote wasn’t enough. The tally fell a couple of votes short of the two-thirds majority of the entire 21-member council – at least 13 votes – required for impeachment.

“You guys failed to protect the youth,” the young man told the council as the outcome became clear. “You guys failed to protect me.”

Motion did not pass to impeach President Bear Runner. 11 for impeachment, 5 against and five not voting. There needed to be a 2/3 majority vote to impeach.

Posted by Oglala Sioux Tribe – OST on Monday, September 14, 2020

The decision came after a complaint was filed against Bear Runner by Dana Richards Weston, the mother of Richard Weston, an 18-year-old Oglala Sioux man who claims he was coerced into having oral sex with Bear Runner when he was only 17 years old in one incident. In a second, he said he was coerced into having sexual intercourse with the tribal president when he was 18 years old.

Richard Weston told the tribal council on Monday that he was 17 on February 10 when Bear Runner picked him up at his home near Porcupine, South Dakota, to take him to Pine Ridge, location of tribal headquarters, where the two were going to meet the tribe’s spokeswoman. He said Bear Runner drove him to a water tower near Wounded Knee and parked his pickup.

Bear Runner then coerced him into allowing him to give the minor oral sex, Weston told tribal leaders.

“After that, I kept to myself because I was ashamed because of what happened,” Weston said, fighting tears. “I kept that from my mother and everyone else. The only other person that knew was Julian.”

Listen in on KILI radio 90.1 FM or online at www.kiliradio.org

Posted by Oglala Sioux Tribe – OST on Monday, September 14, 2020

He said Bear Runner kept contacting him afterward, sending him messages using Snapchat, an application that allows users to send messages that are deleted shortly after they are opened by the recipient. Because of the app’s self-deleting feature, Weston said he was unable to provide copies of the messages – including nude pictures that Bear Runner had Weston send him – to the tribal council.

He told the tribal council that on June 17 he again had sex with Bear Runner after the tribal president gave him a ride to Rapid City, South Dakota, and paid for a hotel room for the two of them. Weston said he had argued with family members earlier that night, and Bear Runner had offered to let him stay at his home.

But later, Weston asked Bear Runner to drive him to Rapid City so he could stay with his sister there.

When they got to the hotel room, Weston said Bear Runner took off most of his clothes of got into bed with Weston and began hugging him. The young man said Bear Runner convinced him to have sexual intercourse with him.

“He convinced me to say yes,” Weston said. “He said no one would find out.”

But afterward, Weston felt ashamed and left the hotel room. He said Bear Runner sent him a text message asking if he was coming back to the room. Weston then asked him to give him a ride a mall where he could meet his sister.

Bear Runner then drove him to the mall, gave him money for food and left, Weston said.

“I felt violated,” Weston said. “I felt disgusted with myself.”

Screenshots presented to leaders of the Oglala Sioux Tribe during a special session show messages between Richard Weston and Karin Eagle, a spokesperson for the tribe. In the messages, Eagle arranges for Weston to be picked up President Julian Bear Runner on the morning of a February 10, 2020, hearing at the state capital in Pierre, South Dakota.

During Weston’s testimony Monday, councilman Beau Little Whiteman asked the presiding tribal judge Sarah Harris if Weston’s testimony could be heard in executive session. He pointed to the sensitive nature of the proceedings, which were carried live on KILI Radio and broadcast by KOLC-TV.

But Harris said tribal law doesn’t allow testimony to be heard during executive session in an impeachment hearing.

Weston’s mother, Dana Richards Weston said her son suffers from a learning disability and was groomed by Bear Runner over several months.

“I thought he was trying to help, but it turned into something else,” she said.

She said she didn’t know about her son’s sexual contact with Bear Runner until Weston posted the allegations on his Facebook page.

Her son told her: “I couldn’t hide it anymore mom. It’s bothering me too much.”

She said her son is currently living in Virginia and is taking online counseling classes, in addition to being a first-year college student.

“It’s going to be hard for him to speak but this needs to be heard,” Dana Richards Weston said. “There’s other kids out there that need to speak up. This could be anybody else’s kid in the future.”

In his defense, Bear Runner asked the tribal council to dismiss Richards Weston’s complaint so a tribal court could adjudicate a cease and desist order that Bear Runner filed, alleging defamation of character against him by Richards Weston and her son.

He said he deserves due process as any regular citizen would receive in such a situation.

And he defended himself against the allegations made by Weston, denying he had sex with Weston during the two incidents that he told the tribal council about.

Posted by Muffie Felipa on Monday, February 10, 2020
Photos shared on social media from a rally that took place before the February 10, 2020, legislative hearing in Pierre, South Dakota.

But Bear Runner admitted that he picked up Weston the morning of February 10 to give him a ride to Pine Ridge to meet the tribe’s spokeswoman, Karin Eagle, who planned to take Weston with her to Pierre, the state capital, to take part in a rally and a legislative hearing on a bill that would have penalized doctors for providing puberty blockers and gender confirmation surgery to transgender children under age 16.

The South Dakota Legislature failed to pass the bill.

Bear Runner said he had picked up Weston around 5:30 a.m. that morning and got him to Pine Ridge shortly after 6 a.m., meaning he wouldn’t have had time to engage in sexual activities with Weston. Weston had claimed he and Bear Runner didn’t make it to Pine Ridge until almost 8 a.m., and he offered a screenshot with the tribal council showing he sent Eagle a text message shortly before 8 a.m. saying they were almost to Pine Ridge.

If the allegations could be considered by a court, Bear Runner said he could subpoena video surveillance footage from Big Bat’s Convenience Store in Pine Ridge, where he and Weston met Eagle shortly after 6 a.m. on February 10.

And he said if he and Weston hadn’t arrived at Big Bat’s until almost 8 a.m., Eagle and Weston wouldn’t have been able to make the three-hour drive to Pierre, South Dakota, in time for the legislative hearing. In a Facebook post later that morning, Eagle shared video footage of her speaking before the state Legislature.

The hearing began at 10 a.m. Central time in Pierre, or 9 a.m. Mountain time in Pine Ridge. An archived recording indicates Eagle delivered a statement on behalf of Bear Runner at around 11 a.m. Central time.

Karin Eagle delivers a statement on behalf of Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner at around 1:01 into the archived audio from the February 10, 2020, legislative hearing in Pierre, South Dakota.

In regard to the second incident, Bear Runner also admitted to picking up Weston on June 17 and driving him to Rapid City to a motel, but he said the two men never had sex.

“I was tired and having a hard time staying awake as I had not slept in almost 24 hours,” Bear Runner said. He told the council he had spent most of the prior day focusing on a wildfire on the reservation.

He said he awoke at about 10 a.m. the next morning to find Weston gone. Later, Weston knocked on the hotel room door and asked Bear Runner to drive him to the mall. Bear Runner took him to the mall and gave him $20 for food before driving back to Pine Ridge.

Bear Runner criticized the tribal council for allowing Richards Weston to file a complaint on behalf of her son and based on her son’s “false” accusations on Facebook.

“This means that from this point forward anybody can falsely submit a complaint from Facebook accusations on any elected official and the same action will be taken,” Bear Runner said.

He said the tribal court has schedule a September 22 hearing to consider his request for a cease and desist order based on his claim of defamation of character.

woundedknee
A sign at Wounded Knee, a community on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Eagle also testified before the council Monday, saying she received a text message from Weston at 5:53 a.m. saying he and Bear Runner were near to the water tower by Wounded Knee and would be to Pine Ridge soon. She said they arrived at Big Bats at 6:05 a.m. that morning, confirming Bear Runner’s account of the morning.

Cameron Cedric Young Bear, a tribal citizen, also spoke in Bear Runner’s defense, calling the accusations against his nephew unfounded. He said Bear Runner gave Weston a ride because it was the right thing to do.

“A man’s credibility, a man’s heart, a man’s livelihood, a man’s way of life is in front of you,” he said. “We’re Lakota people. We don’t do this.”

Several tribal council members questioned Weston and Bear Runner.

Councilwoman Lydia Bear Killer asked Weston why he didn’t report the incidents to law enforcement.

Weston said it was difficult for him to talk about the incidents for a long time and that he was a minor during the first incident.

Councilwoman Nakina Mills asked him if he believed Bear Runner had committed a crime of corrupt conduct, a crime of gross incompetence, malfeasance or a misdemeanor, referring to tribal ordinance related to possible reasons for impeachment of an elected official. Weston said he believed Bear Runner had committed each of those offenses.

Councilwoman Cora White Horse asked Bear Runner if he had committed any of the crimes that Mills asked Weston about, to which Bear Runner said he hadn’t.

She said it shouldn’t be up to the tribal council to determine Bear Runner’s guilt or innocence.

“There has been no convictions,” she said. “No one has been charged in criminal court.”

Posted by Daily Updates from Oglala Sioux Tribal Councilwoman Nakina Mills on Monday, September 14, 2020

At a meeting on August 24, the tribal council voted to accept the complaint against Bear Runner and suspended him without pay. It was his second reprimand this year.

In July, Bear Runner was suspended for 30 days in connection with COVID-19 directives he issued on the reservation. He returned to work in early August.

Immediately following his earlier suspension, Bear Runner shared some personal information. In a post on social media, he said he had “recently come to terms” with his bisexuality.

In early May, Bear Runner acknowledged he had been arrested by tribal police. He was charged in tribal court with driving while intoxicated and verbal assault.

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