Problems facing the Oglala Sioux Tribe are overwhelming
PINE RIDGE RESERVATION – In November, Bryan Brewer was elected as the new president of the Oglala Lakota Nation, in early December, he took office, chaired the first tribal council meetings of the new administration, in mid-December juggled his new tribal duties with coordinating the Lakota Nation Invitational and in late December was involved in a one vehicle car crash outside of Red Shirt that put him in the hospital and eventually a wheel chair until hip replacement surgery two weeks ago allowed him bto graduate to a walker – earlier this week Bryan looked back on his first six months as tribal president and ahead to the many challenges facing both him, his administration and the tribe as a whole.
“We’ve had two 10 month babies killed in the last month, one of the babies was both physically and sexually abused and recently we had a first grader that wanted to commit suicide, she had been physically and sexually abused, she had STD’s; people have to help stop the problem, we need to stop relying on someone else to do it, we need safe houses in each district where our children can go to seek refuge, LOWO is overwhelmed and they tell me we’ve lost close to 4,000 children who have been removed from families over the years, many adopted out, we say children are sacred but we aren’t doing a good job of protecting them; we need to have the tribal council look at the laws, look at how we can better protect the children,” said Bryan Brewer Monday in his office during an interview live on KILI Radio, “we are faced with cuts in federal spending, the sequestration earlier this year and additional cuts coming, we need to be more efficient wite joe resources we have, our goal is to protect the jobs we have and maintain as many services as we can in the coming weeks and months.”
Brewer feels that the tribe is too crisis oriented, if we are going to make better use of our resources, we need to plan for the future, we’ve had one meeting of our health commission, we are planning a housing summit, we would like to have a constitutional commission with representatives from a variety of areas across the reservation, the IRA form of government has problems, maybe we need to incorporate more traditional elements of government, added Brewer; tribal members tend to look at the tribe for help with everything, its really hard to have to tell people that no, we don’t have enough resources to help you, how do we get more tribal members to plan ahead, like start planning for and preparing for the coming winter now?
“We need treaty people involved, we’re trying to set up an office or building for treaty people but we have about nine different treaty groups and we really need a more unified voice,” said Brewer, “we need treaty representatives in Washington DC, that educational process never ends; we also are planning a retreat for the council and executive board for August 14-16 funded by the Bush Foundation.”
There seems to be no end of the many things that need to be done; finding the resources and the time to deal with the many issues facing the tribe is the challenge; some of the other ideas brought up by the tribal president included: shutting down Whiteclay, looking at the possibility of creating a Port of Entry that exercises the tribe’s sovereignty with inspections of vehicles entering the nation, setting up weigh scales; forming a holding company staffed with business people that would work at viable strategies to develop and create businesses, jobs, help with infrastructure needs that would require the council to stay out of the way and let the professionals take the lead; continue to take necessary steps to keep XL pipeline from happening and if it is approved initiate steps at Bridger and Rosebud, the closest points near reservation land; submit a final land buy-back plan to the Bureau to move that project ahead to the actual purchase of land and find additional resources to buy back deeded land to continue the process of re-building the reservation’s land base.
“We have 60 tribal programs and if we’re going to minimize the loss of jobs and services, we need to have a quality executive director, we’ve asked John Haas to return to the position,” said Brewer who is now sporting a walker and is looking ahead to the day that he’ll be able to get around with a cane then to be able to walk freely again, “all of us need to be more accountable, we need to take a stand against bootleggers and drug dealers, we need to provide the needed support to keep our students in school and put a dent in the high dropout rate, basically we need to step up and protect our land, our water and our children.”