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Pine Ridge

Occupation Peoples

Grass Roots Oyate

January 16, 2000

Until we Win

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Mr. Harold Salway
Oglala Sioux Tribe P.O. Box H
Pine Ridge South Dakota 57770

Dear Harold,

I am extremely disappointed to learn that, despite our conversation yesterday and my remarks on KILI radio, you continue to issue unlawful orders to tribal law enforcement officers. Perhaps you did not understand my remarks. What follows, sir, must be very clear to you; you course of conduct exposes you personally to significant legal risks.

You are the elected President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. However, you have been suspended by the Tribal Council. Your suspension has been upheld by the Tribe’s Supreme Court as a lawful exercise of the governing powers of the Tribal Council. Therefore, you have no authority whatsoever to order any tribal employee to do or not do anything. Accordingly, the Department of the Interior does not recognize you as having any powers of the Tribal President. Under Tribal law, those powers are not lawfully vested in Mr. Wilber Between Lodges, the Tribe’s Vice-President. Following their usual practice, I am confident that other agencies of the United States, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will agree with Interior’s position on this issue.

Because you may not lawfully exercise any powers of the President during your suspension the Department of the Interior does not recognize your so-called "Declaration of the State of Emergency," nor will any other agency of the United States recognize it. President Clinton is aware of the ongoing crisis at Pine Ridge, and I am authorized to inform you that the White House does not recognize your so-called "State of Emergency." You have misrepresented the President’s position and my position concerning this mailer, and I will therefore send copies of this letter to all affected Bureau of Indian Affairs Offices, to the federal Departments named above, to the United States Attorney in Rapid City, and to the news media, so that there can be no misunderstanding of our position.

Any tribal employees, particularly tribal law enforcement officers, who act on your orders, do so without any of the authorities and immunities of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Therefore, if they should again carry out your orders, they will face liability for any wrongs they may commit, both civil and criminal, under the laws of the Tribe and of the United States. Moreover, we are prepared to withdraw BIA funding for the Tribe’s Public Safety Commission and the Public Safety Program should tribal law enforcement officers not follow the chain of command established by the Tribal Council.

The Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the United States all hope for a prompt and peaceful resolution of the current crisis at Pine Ridge. We will work earnestly with any and all of the Oglala people who desire a resolution of this conflict and progress for the tribal community. However, as the trustee of the Oglala Sioux people, the United States will not stand by and watch you and your supporters violate the rights of tribal and American citizens. You are now on notice. Do not repeat y our attempts to give orders to tribal law enforcement officers. If you do, both you and they will be held accountable to federal authorities.

Sincerely,

 

Kevin Gover
Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs

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