LINKS
2017-07-13 / Front Page

President Weston Sits Down With LCT

*EXCLUSIVE
BY NATALIE HAND
LCT CORRESPONDENT


OST President Troy “Scott” Weston supports economic development from within the Tribe by promoting Lakota entrepreneurs. He is pictured here greeting SD Senator Mike Rounds. Photo by OST. OST President Troy “Scott” Weston supports economic development from within the Tribe by promoting Lakota entrepreneurs. He is pictured here greeting SD Senator Mike Rounds. Photo by OST. PINE RIDGE —On any given morning, Troy Samuel “Scott” Weston is up before sunrise. Weston, the current president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is, at the heart of it all, a cowboy first and foremost.

“The chores have to get done first. I wake up each morning around 4:30 a.m. to tend to ranch work before I head to the office,” stated Weston.

This strong work ethic, coupled with a family legacy of leadership, made Weston a popular choice to lead the OST. Weston’s father was a political leader in their home district of Porcupine and brother Marlin “Moon” Weston was a multiple-term tribal council representative.

Weston notes that he waited 3 days before deadline to take out election petition, following daily phone calls from tribal members encouraging him to run for tribal president.

“I was a two-term tribal council representative from 2010-2014. I was content to return to ranching full time. But my mother requested that I run for office and I couldn’t say no,” added Weston.

The crux of Weston’s campaign was to “create a process for change”. Earlier this year, Weston hosted the first Economic Summit as a catalyst for change.

“This summit, which will be an annual event, was to help our people understand that they have power. The event was a platform to share ideas for entrepreneurs and build infrastructure to create stability. We provided resources for these entrepreneurs to learn to write for small grants and technical support for financial stability,” stated Weston.

Weston noted that a day of the summit was devoted to strategic planning with OST district service center staff members. Plans were created according to each district’s specific needs, giving them tools to assist in supporting new business opportunities for their members.

“We have to break the cycle of holding out our hands for hand-outs. The federal budget is being cut and there will be nil or nothing in some areas. We have to prepare for that,” noted Weston.

U.S. President Trump, who has refused to meet with Weston, has a controversial new budget which, if passed by Congress, proposes significant cuts to social service and tribal programs that will have a deep impact on tribes.

“We know for a fact that our housing program is facing a $1.2 million cut, the roads program will see a $1.5 million cut, and our education program will be effected immensely. We will be fighting for our share of the money, with the assistance of our OST Credit Finance Director, Courtney Two Lance, who was voted in by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association to provide technical support on federal budgeting policies. Two Lance is a huge asset for the OST,” added Weston.

Weston acknowledges that the treaties with the U.S. are the basis for the fight to support tribal programs.

“We have treaties and they are constitutional law. This isn’t what we believe is owed to us, but what is our inherent rights as treaty tribes,” noted Weston.

Noting that the federal budget is based on U.S. census numbers, tribes tend to be grossly underfunded because census numbers are inaccurate, according to Weston. The OST recently approved a census initiative brought by Oglala District Council Representative Dr. Tina Merdanian. According to Merdanian, her model ensures that the census will be coded to maintain confidentiality for households, to ease families’ concerns about sharing information.

As the Tribe braces for federal budget cuts, they are shopping arounds ideas to provide economic development for the reservation. The Obama-era Promise Zone designation has propelled the OST into the spotlight and provided a platform for the Tribe to gain access to resources.

However, some of the Promise Zone initiatives being proposed, including mining and the legalization of alcohol, are highly controversial and contradict traditional philosophies, according to some Oglala elders at a recent community gathering.

“We will fight that tooth and nail. Our tribe is not engaged in mining. I have not seen the Promise Zone initiative proposal on zeolite mining. The Wounded Knee District has been pushing it. There needs to be more study done on this type of mining and we need to be very mindful of how we proceed. Will this open a door to uranium mining? How will it affect the environment? We have always protected our natural resources” stated Weston.

The legalization of alcohol remains a tenuous notion on Pine Ridge.

“This issue must be brought to the people in a referendum vote. I will go with whatever the people tell me. If the vote doesn’t happen by end of fiscal year, it won’t happen until next year and the issue will run into the new administration,” added Weston.

Weston also noted that he is opposed to unnecessary off-reservation meetings because of the expense and a perception of distrust amongst the tribal membership.

“The Council is governing body of the Tribe. I have made recommendations to them to keep meetings on the reservation. We are accountable to the people. When I do have to travel, it is to fight for federal appropriations for our tribe,” stated Weston.

Weston is undecided if he will seek a second term as tribal president. But, as he notes, this job is just like ranching, there is always work to be done.

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