Effects of the Crack in Jurisdiction on a Reservation
A few years ago, a 14 year old Indian girl was statutorily raped and groomed by a wealthy white rancher in his late 40s who worked as a bus driver at a state school on an Indian reservation. When she stated her Indian father had physically abused her, the school immediately called the police and state social services. Although the child was taken away for one evening from the father, as she feigned suicide, the psychiatrists at Rapid City Regional West Hospital immediately released her to the custody of her single father who had raised her from an infant. She admitted to lying after being taken to the hospital. Who groomed her to lie?
When a request for an investigation of this statutory rape was given to tribal, state, county, and federal officials by family members, only one county deputy sheriff responded. All he could do was take the report because it was out of his jurisdiction. The child admitted to her grandmother and uncle that she was having a relationship with the wealthy white rancher since she was 14 in the school bus garage and at his home when he hired her to clean his house and her father to do ranch work. He always claimed to be a friend of the father. The father believed him.
All of the employees of the school knew the child was being sexually abused in the bus garage where this wealthy white rancher worked. How he could be working there when so many other unemployed Indian men needed work is an illustration of the 'good ole boy' system that operates on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Although all of the employees knew this abuse was occurring, not one employee reported it. They are bound by law to report any suspected child abuse, but no one reported this abuse when it was one of their fellow employees, a wealthy white rancher. Yet they immediately reported when the false allegations were leveled against the Indian child's Indian father. Did they not once consider that the wealthy white rancher was coaching this child to say and do what she did?
It is also interesting that the wealthy white rancher bus driver bragged to his fellow employees that he was not going to be charged by his friends in the US Attorney's office. And, sure enough, he never was. Was there proof? He impregnated this child when she was 16 years old. He got the father out of the way by being friends with the public defender who was supposed to defend the father on false charges. The father was sent to prison for three years for defending himself. The judge used the child's false allegations to claim he was a violent person. While he was gone, family and friends tried to protect the child but she would run away with the aid of the wealthy white rancher.
Many people benefitted by having the father out of the way. How many people did this wealthy white rancher pay off so he could continue his predatory habits? The BIA Superintendent? The BIA employee who tried to kill the child's father? The federal Public Defender? The US Attorney? Even the judge?
This is a true story. The wealthy white rancher has joint custody of the baby, but won't pay child support to the now 18 year old mother whom he physically abused until she left. Police and court records prove this.
The school operates under the Shannon County School Board. Oh, yes, the School Board also knows about all of this but have done nothing to any of the employees for "not reporting." Should the School Board have reported it? Are they not responsible adults? Don't they care about the long-term effects this has on a child? Should any one of those people be on a School Board since they obviously don't care about the long term effects of statutory rape on innocent victims? Yes, victims plural. The girl who was impregnated and the child that was born are victims, not to mention the parent, grandparents, and other relatives.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says this is not under their jurisdiction as it is a state school. The South Dakota Social Services Department says it is not under state jurisdiction as it is on a federal Indian reservation. So it is convenient for all the enforcement agencies that child sexual abuse at a state school on an Indian reservation can go unreported. It is not in any of their jurisdictions. Their actions show they do not care what happens to children. This is one of those gaping cracks in a corrupt system that contributes to the hopelessness, powerlessness, and despair that is everyday life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
Charmaine White Face (65) is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and a former teacher, current writer and organizer. She can be reached at email@example.com