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Pine Ridge

Occupation Peoples

Grass Roots Oyate

January 16, 2000

Until we Win

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GRASS ROOTS OGLALA LAKOTA OYATE

Red Cloud Building, P.O. Box 150, Pine Ridge, SD 57770

Phone (605) 867-5303 Fax (605) 867-2115

 

May 10, 2000

Mr. Bruce Babbit
Secretary, U.S. Dept.
Of Interior
Washington, D.C.

Dear Secretary Babbit:

We are writing to further apprise you of the cycle of corruption that has become commonplace here on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Before you dismiss this matter as merely "internal tribal conflict", understand that this situation involves employees of the United States government. On May 5, 2000, we filed a petition with the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s office to file criminal charges against the Oglala Sioux Tribal Treasurer, Wesley C. Jacobs and an Oglala Sioux Tribal Councilman, Gerald Big Crow. However, other key players in this particular conspiracy included the BIA Superintendent, Robert Ecoffey and Gary Ruse, president of the Tribe’s primary bank – First National of Gordon, NE.

This scheme involved utilizing monies from the Indirect Cost Fund, federal program monies, to purchase land for Mr. Big Crow. As you will see on the attachment, a BIA worker refused the initial payment, as they do not accept checks. Therefore, Mr. Big Crow went to the First National Bank at Gordon and had Mr. Ruse turn it into a cashier’s check. While Mr. Ecoffey knew that federal money was being illegally converted for this personal land purchase, he authorized the transaction anyway. This particular land purchase was paid in five partial payments. It goes without saying that Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Big Crow are embezzling from the Tribe, but this evidence clearly shows that Superintendent Ecoffey is involved.

The whistleblowers that exposed this information has been threatened to be terminated. We believe that they have immunity under the federal Whistleblower Protection Act.

In recent weeks, Superintendent Ecoffey has attempted to censor a grass roots newspaper called the "Black Hills People’s News". Since the occupation of the tribal building began on January 16th, this free newspaper has provided tribal members throughout this reservation with accurate, updated information concerning the conflict. Because of it’s unbiased, straightforward approach at reporting, Superintendent Ecoffey has attempted to not only censor what is put into the paper, but to attempt to "fire" the paper’s editor. What Ecoffey didn’t know was that the Black Hills People’s News is not a federal program, it is a privately owned enterprise with the utmost integrity. Therefore, Superintendent Ecoffey revoked their lease from the Tribe’s old hospital building. If Superintendent Ecoffey wants to control independent business owners, why doesn’t he deal with the non-Indian ranchers on the reservation that assault elder tribal members?

Further, we are very concerned about Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Big Crow’s ongoing meetings with representatives from Senator Daschle’s office; White House representatives, etc. in an attempt to receive federal program monies, including Circle Project Fund and an Agriculture Loan. Based on recent findings in the preliminary audit report, federal program monies have been grossly misappropriated by the current tribal administration. Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Big Crow do not represent the Oglala Sioux Tribe, they represent their own interests. They will stop at nothing to secure large federal grants while they are still in office.

With the United States currently experiencing record low unemployment rates and the strongest economy in decades, how is it that the Oglala Sioux Tribe receives over $120+ million per year and remains poverty stricken?

We are grateful that Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover is committed to bringing accountability to our tribal government through his promise to finance a full forensic, five-year audit. As you are aware, the audit process is in full swing. FY1999 is complete and we are encouraging the Department of Interior to finalize a contractual agreement with Mr. Jaime Arobba to conduct the remainder of these audits. The elders, the Grass Roots Oyate as a whole have put their faith and hope in Mr. Arobba to verify what we already know is true, the corruption is deep and widespread and must stop.

We would appreciate your assistance in bringing Superintendent Ecoffey to task on his involvement in illegal land transactions on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Recently, Ecoffey was quoted as saying, "…the train to justice is rolling, there are no stops; no one gets off or on at this point…" What Superintendent Ecoffey failed to foresee is that he is not above the law either and that people will no longer conceal his transgressions.

We would appreciate a response from you concerning an investigation into this matter.

Sincerely,

 

Oliver Red Cloud, Chief
Oglala Lakota Band
Great Sioux Nation

Cc: Dean Cycon, Esq.
Honorable William J. Clinton, U.S. President
Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover
U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno
Senator Tom Daschle, South Dakota
Senator Tim Johnson, South Dakota
Senator Ben Knighthorse-Campbell, Chairman Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs

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