Regional & Local Briefs

Regional and Local Briefs: July 2014
Monday, July 07 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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PINE RIDGE, S.D. – The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council suspended President Bryan Brewer following allegations that he acted without the council's approval on two occasions and mishandled a $5,000 check.

The council voted 10-5 on June 24 to suspend Brewer until July 17, when a hearing is scheduled to determine whether he should be reinstated or impeached, Councilman Garfield Steele said. Brewer will be given an opportunity to defend himself at the hearing.

"I support the president," Steele said. "I support a lot of things that he's done. He's done good things and the reason why I voted to accept this was to allow him to give his side of the story."

Steele said the complaints against Brewer allege that he signed over the tribe's power of attorney in order to approve bonds without the council's consent, that he approved health benefits for the tribe's former casino manager without the council's consent, and that he mishandled a $5,000 donation a business made to the tribe. Steele did not say what Brewer is alleged to have done with the money.

A tribal judge will oversee the July 17 hearing, with the eventual decision on Brewer's future left to the council. It would take a two-thirds vote of the 19-member council to remove Brewer from office.

Regional and Local Briefs: June 2014
Monday, June 09 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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MORTON, Minn. – Over 7,000 descendants of self-identified “loyal Mdewakanton Indians” filed suit in Minnesota federal district court on May 20 to reclaim a 12 square-mile portion of land in Redwood, Renville and Sibley counties.

If successful, the Lower Sioux Community, along with nearly 100 other residents of the area, would be removed from their homes and possibly required to pay damages to the plaintiffs for trespass. Denny Prescott, Lower Sioux Community President said, “these individuals are not a tribe, nor do they represent the interests or values of the Lower Sioux Community.”

Members of the council said they had not heard much about the lawsuit until it had been filed and they read about it in newspapers. “We’re not sure what land they are specifically talking about,” tribal council member Gary Prescott said, adding that no map of the area outlined in the lawsuit has been provided to them.

With land in three counties making up the description in the lawsuit, many entities and individuals have been listed as defendants, including the Lower Sioux Community. While the lawsuit lists the Lower Sioux by name, Denny Prescott said neither the council nor the community as a whole have officially been served in the lawsuit. Nonetheless, the council is gathering information in anticipation of being served with the lawsuit, and that, Denny Prescott added, is going to mean significant expense for the community. Once the tribe is served, it has 30 days to respond in writing to the claims in the lawsuit.

In the 1850s, a treaty signed between the United States and members of the Mdewakanton tribe in Minnesota established what is known as the Lower Sioux Community and its homeland in the Redwood area. Initially, the commitment to the tribe was for a 10-mile wide strip of land on either side of the Minnesota River, but over time that land was taken away from them. It was in 1934, as part of the Indian Reorganization Act, when the current Lower Sioux community reservation, which is made up of just over 1,700 acres, was established.

Regional and Local Briefs: May 2014
Thursday, May 01 2014
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WALKER, Minn. – On April 18, agents from the Minnesota Department of Revenue intercepted and seized a shipment of cigarettes from the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska bound for a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe gas station in Walker.

According to the department, the delivery was stopped in St. Cloud and contained 281 cartons – 2,810 packs – of cigarettes that had been manufactured in Nebraska and sent to the Minnesota band, unstamped and free from the state's cigarette tax.

In a statement, Leech Lake officials called the incident “the Good Friday Seizure,” calling it “yet another attack on Native American rights. The Band sees this seizure as an attempt by the state to implement its unfair taxation plan on the lands of the Leech Lake Reservation, this time resulting in the unfortunate economic isolation of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe.”

If the shipment made it to its destination, cigarettes would have sold for $3.50 a pack.

For the state, the seizure was an issue of tax fairness and is withholding the state tax equity revenue it normally splits with the tribe for its sale of other state-taxed items like sales, gas and alcohol until the band agrees to start selling state-taxed cigarettes again. Losing that shared tax revenue could cost Leech Lake $2 million or more a year, Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said.

Ten of the state’s 11 tribes agreed to sell only state-taxed cigarettes, Frans said his department has worked with Leech Lake for years to try to reach a similar deal. Leech Lake Chairwoman Carri Jones said in a statement the tribe tried to work with the state.

“Every time the Minnesota Department of Revenue requested a meeting on this issue, we came to the table to meet in good faith to offer innovative and creative solutions, which were consistently turned down by the state,” she said in the statement. “We were hoping that by engaging in good faith negotiations we would avoid the drastic measure that Gov. Dayton’s administration took on Easter weekend.”

Regional and Local Briefs
Friday, April 04 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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RED LAKE, Minn. – More than 30 Red Lake candidates filed for seven seats on the nation's council by the close of filing on March 15.

Positions up for election on May 14 are four district representative and three council officer positions, including tribal chair, secretary and treasurer.

After completing and passing a criminal background check, the candidates will be certified as candidates in April. The May 14 election may also include a possible run-off election to be scheduled 60 days after a counting and challenge period is complete, potentially in late July or August.

A candidate receives a majority of 50 percent plus one, they will be declared winner, however if a candidate does not reach a majority of votes, the run-off election will be formally scheduled.

Tribal chair candidates include: Floyd “Buck” Jourdain, Kathryn “Jody” Beaulieu, Ron Lussier and current tribal treasurer Darrell G. Seki, Sr. Incumbent Don Cook, Sr. filed for reelection as secretary, along with candidates Rochelle "Chelle" Kingbird, Judy Roy, Sam Strong and Jim White.

Among candidates for treasurer were Michael Barrett, Annette Johnson, Lee Lussier, Jr., Glenda J. Martin and Cheryl Schoenborn. Red Lake will have a new treasurer in May because of Seki's candidacy for chair.

Little Rock Representative William "Billy" Green did not file for reelection, triggering an election for that district. Those filing for that seat include, Adrian Lee Beaulieu, Katherine "Spears" Dudley, Christopher Jourdain and Robert "Charlie" Reynolds. Tribal council candidates for Ponemah District include incumbent Gary L. Nelson, Sr. and challengers Clifford C. Hardy and Eugene Perkins.

Red Lake candidates include incumbent Roman “Ducker” Stately, challengers David F. Desjarlait, Deanna K. Lasley, Donovan M. May, Roberty L. May, Martin “Mott” Parkhurst and Robert “Bob” Smith.

Julius “Toady” Thunder seeks reelection as the Redby District representative with challengers John W. Dudley, Matt Sayers, Clayton Van Wert and Thomas "Jambi" Westbrook.

Group wants more Indian teachers on reservations
Friday, October 15 2010
Written by Tom Robertson,
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About 100 of the nation’s best recent college graduates in fields such as law and business will be teaching this fall at schools on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations.
But only a few of Teach For America’s short-term teachers will look like the students in their classrooms. The organization hopes to change that with new movement to serve more Native American students and recruit more of them to teach.
“When a student is able to see a bit of themselves in the teacher ... it’s just a different level of connection,” senior recruitment director Patrick Herrel said.
Teach For America is in its seventh year in South Dakota. The organization recruits high-achieving college graduates from fields outside of education to teach in a high-needs area. Some remain in education, but most leave after their two years are up.
The 2010-11 school year marks the beginning of TFA’s Native American Initiative. By 2015, the group aims to increase the number of Native students served each year from 11,000 to 56,000. Officials say corps members who teach on reservations leave as advocates who understand the challenges those children face.
At the same time, recruiters are building relationships with tribal officials, college faculty and professional organizations in hopes of drawing more Native American graduates into TFA.
Nationwide, TFA will place 24 new Native American teachers next year, nearly double last year’s number. But only three of those 24 decided to teach at a reservation school - two in New Mexico and one in South Dakota at St. Francis Indian School.
Herrel said that because TFA recruits nationally, they’ll find college students who grew up on an Oklahoma reservation and feel no connection with particular tribes in other states. Still, TFA officials would like to see more Native teachers choosing reservation schools.
Catherine Pozniak, TFA South Dakota’s executive director, said it can be inspiring for reservation students to sit in a classroom with a TFA teacher who also is Native American.
“Teachers who share an identity with their students can be very positive role models for what’s possible for them,” she said.
With the help of a grant, the University of South Dakota is working toward that same end by offering scholarships to minority students who want to become career teachers.
Todd County Schools Superintendent Margo Heinert said TFA provides good teachers but she prefers to hire locals looking to start a career.
She first looks to area tribal colleges when hiring because those teachers tend to stay longer. She then recruits at job fairs before looking to TFA to fill open teaching positions. Todd County will have six new TFA staff next year, down from 15 last year.
Despite giving priority to graduates of schools such as Sinte Gleska University, Heinert said Todd County’s teaching staff is only about 25 percent to 30 percent Native American. She likes the idea of TFA be bringing more Native teachers to her district.
“It would be great,” she said.

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online.
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