Grass Roots Oyate
January 16, 2000
Until we Win
Current Pine Ridge Weather
GRASS ROOTS OGLALA LAKOTA OYATE
Red Cloud Building, P.O. Box 51, Pine Ridge, S.D. 57770
Phone (605) 867-5303 Fax (605) 867-2115
Honorable William J. Clinton
Dear Mr. Clinton:
I am writing to you as a full-blood descendant of Bad Hand, Red Cloud, Poor Elk, Little Crow, and Man Afraid of His Horse, original signers of the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty with the Sioux. I hold my grandfathers in high esteem for their courage, honor, and fortitude. They lived in a time when actions, not words, spoke volumes. The Oglala Lakota Sioux maintain this belief 133 years later.
Upon your visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, you witnesses first-hand how the United States has failed the true First Americans. Understand we do not hold you responsible. This disparity took decades to create. However, we do believe that the solution lies within your administration.
Since January 16, 2000, a group of women, elders, men and children have maintained a presence within our Tribes administrative offices in an effort to bring attention to the corruption and mismanagement that had plagued our Tribe since the 1930s. Through our investigation and financial auditing, our worst fears have been confirmed. Past and present elected/appointed officials have embezzled millions of federal funds allocated to the members of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Moreover, the BIA has known of this and sometimes participated in these illegal activities.
Under the provisions of our active 1868 Treaty, authored by the United States, Article I is clear and concise on the issue of "offenders against the Indians". It states: " If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington City, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained. If bad men among the Indians shall commit a wrong or depredation upon the person or property of any one, white, black or Indian, subject to the authority of the United States, and at peace therewith, the Indians herein named solemnly agree that they will, upon proof made to their agent and notice by him, deliver up the wrong-doer to the United States, to be tried and punished according to its laws "
Therein lies the problem. The "agent", as mentioned in our Treaty, refers to the modern day BIA Superintendent. Our "agent" is Robert Ecoffey, Jr., an enrolled tribal member of the Oglala Lakota Band. Mr. Ecoffey, under the direction of BIA Area Director Cora Jones, has gone to great lengths to suppress the findings of our investigation. Mr. Ecoffey represents a textbook example of the term "conflict of interest". He has repeatedly put himself in compromising positions with tribal government officials and has participated in illegal land transactions. In telephone conversations with Ms. Jones, she has adamantly stated that she does not recognize our active treaty with the U.S. and has further stated that she is the final decision making body on issues concerning our reservation.
Additionally, one of your own staffers has made it increasingly difficult for us to pursue justice and accountability. Lynn Cutler has used her position to effectively silence our progress by refusing to forward documentation through your office. We had planned to bring a group of treaty elders to Washington, D.C., along with the original sacred piped used at the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty signing. Ms. Cutler issued a statement to media stating that she will not allow the Grass Roots Oyate to meet with you or Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit. She has attempted to minimize our efforts and declared our crisis a simple "law enforcement issue". Mr. President, I can assure you that this will not be resolved by forcibly removing the occupiers from the building. Under the guidelines of the current I.R.A. constitution that governs our reservation, we are vigorously working to make fundamental changes that will hold our leaders accountable and better serve the membership at large. We have recruited a well-known constitutional attorney to assist us in these efforts.
You have been quoted as saying " as President, I have worked very hard to honor tribal sovereignty and to strengthen our Government to Government relationship we can and we must honor it today and into the new millennium " In order for us to act as a truly sovereign nation, we must be treated as such. We request to negotiate directly with you, Secretary Babbit or Secretary Albright on issues facing our nation moving forward.
We understand the complexity of your government system. However, we can no longer be delegated to subordinate federal employees. We respectfully request that you authorize your Chief of Staff to bypass Ms. Cutler and forward our correspondence to your office directly. We look forward to a meeting in the short term to discuss the future of our nations.
Floyd L. Hand, Jr.
Cc: Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs