Grass Roots Oyate
January 16, 2000
Until we Win
Assistant Secretary of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs
March 24, 2000
Let me preface my remarks by stating that I sincerely believe that you have been mislead concerning the situation here on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
In our conversation in which you refer in your letter of March 23, 2000 you stated that the Bureau of Indian Affairs would not become involved in internal Tribal affairs. Your letter directly contradicts this statement. Your statements and threats have greatly inflamed the situation to the point that violence and bloodshed may be a foregone conclusion, despite my best efforts to prevent such a tragedy.
I am the elected President of the Oglala Sioux Nation. I am empowered through my election by the People of the Oglala Sioux Nation, and it does not matter if that fact is recognized by the Department of the Interior. I have not been suspended by the Tribal Council. My so-called suspension has not been brought before the Tribal Supreme Court and been upheld as you erroneously state. The Tribal Council did meet illegally and my attorneys have filed a Notice of Appeal in the Oglala Sioux Nation Supreme Court on this matter.
As a sovereign nation, the Oglala Sioux Tribe reserves the right to govern itself without interference from the federal government. Since the 1868 Treaty that our People made with the United States Government, the Lakota have not enjoyed the same rights under the law that others take for granted. When our civil rights are violated we cannot receive help from federal agencies such as the Department of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and even the Department of Justice. These federal agencies consistently inform us that "Tribal Sovereignty" precludes them from protection our rights when they are being violated by a Tribal entity. We are unable to protect the rights of our own members when they have been violated by the Tribal Council or its actions. The lack of legal remedies is what has led the Grass Roots Oyate (people) to occupy the Tribal Building in Pine Ridge.
This is not a political battle between Harold Salway and the Tribal Council. It is the struggle of the People of the Oglala Sioux Nation against a corrupt and powerful Tribal Treasurer. This Treasurer has used his office to corrupt and control the Tribal Council, providing them with illegal and unethical personal loans and allowing them to spend far more funds than their budget line items contain. In turn, the Tribal Council allows the Treasurer to remain in office even though eight out of the nine districts on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have passed resolutions seeking his removal.
Another indicator that the Tribal Council is not representing the will of the people is that four of the nine districts on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have passed resolutions seeking removal of their representatives from the Tribal Council, but the Council refuses to act on those issues. The tribal Constitution states that the Tribal Council shall be the sole judge of its members qualifications, meaning that Council members can only be removed by Tribal Council action. The Councils failure to address this issue proves to illustrate that they are not acting in the best interest of the people that they were elected to represent.
Oglala Sioux Tribal members do not trust the Bureau of Indian Affairs to do what is in our best interest. Your agent on this Reservation, Robert Ecoffey, is biased through his personal friendship with the Tribal Treasurer, Wesley "chuck" Jacobs. Mr. Ecoffeys daughter is a close personal friend of Jacobs wife Jennifer, and is constantly by her side.
Robert Ecoffeys failure to address the obvious procedural inconsistencies in the Tribal Councils latest and illegal actions has destroyed any credibility that the Bureau may have had with the people. By relying on this man for your information, you risk escalating the situation into another armed conflict.
I have never, at any time, ordered the Tribal Police to carry out any order solely on my authority as Tribal President. On March 22, 2000 a Tribal worker tried to leave work with the entire Tribal payroll and signatory stamp. I signed criminal complaints for Theft of Tribal Property and the police attempted to arrest her, but she was allowed entry to the Pine Ridge Agency building and was never arrested. Any information that you may have received stating that I had ordered any arrests or other illegal actions by Tribal workers is false, and by inferring this in your letter you have defamed me personally and professionally.
If you truly wish to help bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict, I suggest that you come to the Reservation yourself. Only then will you see the true nature of the problems that plague our corrupt Tribal Government. As the so-called "trustee" of the Oglala Sioux People you have already failed to uphold the rights of Tribal members and by pursuing your present course you may become an unwitting accomplice in a continuing criminal action.
You are not on notice. Do not attempt to resolve this crisis with threats of economic sanctions or a loss of services to the Oglala Sioux People or all of our efforts in finding a peaceful resolution will surely be lost.
Harold D. Salway