Grass Roots Oyate
January 16, 2000
Until we Win
|Until They Win
Upon completion of a careful study of the press releases to learn just what has been occurring at Pine Ridge, it is inconceivable that there would be those who do not support the Grass Roots Oyate in their actions. It is clear that they represent the silent majority, even to an outsider. What most of the members of the OTC (Oglala Tribal Council) have been doing is unconscionable in their quest for their own betterment, not that for the good of all who they represent. Is it a result of the IRA (Indian Reorganization Act of 1934)? Or is it just plain unadulterated greed? Or could it be a combination of the two? What ever the case, one name continually crops up, that of Wesley "Chuck" Jacobs. His actions since the peaceful occupation on January 16, 2000, clearly demonstrate his guilt as well as his attempts to cover it up. The BIA hasn't even chosen the ones they should to support, leaning more toward the OTC in spite of their illegal meetings, attempting to oust the Grass Roots Oyate from the Red Cloud Building. This won't happen. This can't happen. Read on and make up your own minds.
The Grass Roots Oyate have been occupying the Red Cloud Building since their peaceful takeover on January 16, 2000. Since then they have faced much but have stood strong in their convictions. What are some of the obstacles they have faced? Several stand out though there have been others. These standouts include the actions of Wesley "Chuck"Jacobs, OTC Treasurer; Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Kevin Gover; and BIA Superintendent Robert Ecoffey. First and foremost is Jacobs because of threats and attempts at the removal of the Grass Roots Oyate. He alone is responsible for the phone service being cut off in the early days of the occupation though he tried using another name in the order (Vincent Brewer of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court System). There have been physical threats against the 100 or so men, women and children who make up the Grass Roots Oyate as well as any of those of the skeleton crew who have tried to go in to work. Later there were death threats as noted on January 29, and a bomb threat on February 2. Also, illegal OTC meetings have been called by Jacobs, even after his suspension from duties as Tribal Treasurer. These have resulted in attempts to use outside law enforcement to remove the Grass Roots Oyate as well as cause protests against them in the early days by others on the reservation. Another source for their problems are those actions threatened by Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Kevin Gover. Apparently Jacobs and his cohorts swayed Gover to support them and the renegade OTC on a trip they made to Washington, D.C. As a result, economic sanctions were threatened around March 23. Earlier Gover refused to recognize the state of emergency called by Salway, OTC President. There were also rumblings of a landmark case against the BIA in Gover's threats of economic sanctions, involving the removal of funding from what was termed "noncompliance government programs" and BIA funding for such agencies as the Tribe's Public Safety Commission and Public Safety Programs. Ecoffey is another name which continues to surface throughout this ordeal. He has used scare tactics in his attempts to remove the Grass Roots Oyate, refused to recognize the state of emergency, denied charges that he is biased towards the OTC, and revoked funding for the Tribal Police supposedly because of alleged narcotics sales and lack of follow-up, not because of the takeover of the Red Cloud Building. He has also withheld publication of the draft of the first audit completed.
So why did the Grass Roots Oyate occupy the tribal offices of the Red Cloud Building?
It was through a strong desire to make things right for the people of Pine Ridge. They
came to protect the files ultimately which will prove Wesley "Chuck" Jacobs'
culpability of gross mismanagement of tribal funds. They also came to take a stand against
corrupt OTC members. Initially only a few of their demands appeared in a Press
Release. As reported in a release dated January 31, they
1. The Oglala Sioux Tribe Council
representatives created an over expenditure of their budget
The Grass Roots Oyate have accomplished some of what they set out to do by the six week mark: the suspension of Jacobs as well as the 13 Councilmen noted as charged above, and the commencement of a partial audit.
In spite of the suspension, Jacobs continues to use tribal funds as he sees fit, and acts as if no suspension is in place. He has withdrawn money so he and others could travel to Washington D.C. to speak with Gover. He has continued to call illegal meetings, most of which have been aimed at removing the Grass Roots Oyate from the Red Cloud Building. He is still ignoring the elders and others instead providing for himself and a select few. Jacobs has also been quoted as saying, "'...if I go down, they all go down,' referring to the Tribal Council." He has tried to protect his retirement earnings and himself. Furthermore, he has tried to take credit for actions for which he is not responsible in an attempt to make himself look good. One such example mentioned was expecting to acquire appreciation for the firewood which was sent to the Prairie Island Dakota Reservation in Minnesota, something which Salway did. He has also tried to blame Salway for the takeover of the Red Cloud Building.
In the meanwhile, the Grass Roots Oyate have experienced some positive actions in terms of their occupation. First of all, the FBI began confiscating records soon after they took over the administrative offices of the Red Cloud Building. The FBI came the day after the occupation to take testimony, and confiscated the first of the financial records to be seized on January 17 and 18. It was difficult to retrieve files from Jacobs' office which was strongly secured. They confiscated more records as noted on February 8. On March 8, subpoenas were issued by agents from the Office of the Inspector General, which resulted in the confiscation of Housing Authority Payroll Records. As a result of this, more charges against the Council and Jacobs are expected.
This takeover of the Red Cloud Building was the last resort left to the Grass Roots
Oyate since they had exhausted all other avenues to remove the corrupt Council members
from office. Also, they came to put a halt to "long-term gross misconduct and
mismanagement of federal funds allocated to the members of the Tribe" as reported in
the Press Release of January
27, and to protect the financial files in the office. From the beginning they
have been supported by others on the reservation, such as the Tribal Police, the Seven
Fires Council (traditionalists from the seven bands of Sioux), and other tribes observing
their actions, hoping to learn from them how to deal with the corruption on their
reservations. During this occupation they have also decided not to make payments accrued
by the OTC or their salaries. They base these actions on an oath Council members
take to uphold the Oyate Constitution. Article I,Section 7 was cited as the cause. It
states: "It shall be the duty of the tribal council and each member thereof to
promote the general welfare of the Sioux of this reservation and to carry out the
provisions and purposes of this constitution and by-laws." Another article
stated from the Oyate Constitution was Article IV, Section 1:
Both of these provide sound reasoning for the Grass Roots Oyate's actions regarding these payments. On top of all this, Salway called a state of emergency on March 10, deeming it necessary "'to safeguard the sovereignty of this Nation in the face of immediate danger brought by serious financial and administrative mismanagement and malfeasance by certain officers and members of the Tribal Council, resulting in the freezing of all federal program funds, and for other just causes.'"
In spite of the constant attempts to thwart the work of the Grass Roots Oyate by Jacobs, Gover, and others, they have stood firm on their right to act as they have. Repeated over and over throughout the Press Releases is the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, giving them immunity. This supersedes the present tribal government, especially because of the rampant corruption present. The present tribal government is based on that as stipulated by the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, admittedly which was formed as "a slow, silent form of genocide." It also makes tribes depend on the government while oppressing them at the same time. The Grass Roots Oyate want to return to a more traditional government which is more amenable to the needs of all the people of Pine Ridge, not just a select few in power. They want a 21 member Council. According to the description in a Press Release dated February 11, this system would "reaffirm and reestablish the alliance and allegiance to one another. The council is governed by an appointed headsman from each tiospaye (extended family). Decision-making shall be determined and conducted according to traditional Oglala Lakota customs and laws. "This would bring them back to living a simpler way of life where there would not be the present existing generation gap. Plans are already being made to revamp the tribal government in Pine Ridge. Already Dean Cycon who is a constitutional attorney has agreed to offer his services to aide in accomplishing this goal. This process should begin in the next couple weeks.
As time passes during this peaceful occupation, more have felt free to come forward to talk with those occupying the Red Cloud Building. Some included are the youth of the reservation. This was reported on February 24. Some of the opinions that they voiced included their concern about the mismanagement of funds as seen on the financial ledgers, the hardships they face on the reservation, and the fact that some turn to gangs as a result of the hardships faced here. They also voiced a concern about wanting to learn the traditional ways, something which seems to have been cut off due to the present form of government. All on the reservation know that they can go to the Red Cloud Building and not be turned away. This became evident on February 28 when the Grass Roots Oyate began hanging the "eagle feather and prayer flags of the six direction colors" instead of the US flag, knowing that the elders could feel at peace while in the Red Cloud Building. This made it known to everyone that no one need go hungry or without when entering the Red Cloud Building. Also it is responsible for bringing a sense of peace to the Press Release.
Towards the end of March, statements of fact were made public. The information presented was rather disturbing though expected. Some examples of the information released from the March 28 Statement of Facts include information about the audits, money paid out to Council members as well as amounts of over expenditures of the 1999 budget apparently which was not monitored too carefully. The facts from March 30 provide even more information regarding the results of the audit, noting that a draft was made public this day. All of this must have Jacobs thinking because it was after this was made public that he admitted to some financial problems regarding tribal funds on April 5. Still it appears that he was issuing money to different individuals after admitting this.
Yes, the Grass Roots Oyate have been justified in their actions. Even though many obstacles have entered their path since their peaceful occupation of the Red Cloud Building on January 16, 2000, still they have persevered, standing strong in their convictions. The evidence found in the audits completed on the confiscated financial records have demonstrated their right to stand up against corruption at all levels, and demand justice for all. They continue to provide a model for other tribes to follow while combating the same kind of problems. They do have the right to challenge the rampant corruption. They do have the right to stand up for their people. They do have the right to initiate change for the welfare of all. They have taken on the responsibility to uphold their values and beliefs. They have stood up for all. They stay in the Red Cloud Building with no weapons other than that of prayer. They have said all along that they will remain until Jacobs is removed and a new government is formed. They will meet their goals. The Grass Roots Oyate are to be commended for their hard work, and for the risks they are taking for the good of all in Pine Ridge. They are on the road towards a new beginning which will positively affect all members of the tribe. They will win.