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2017-07-13 / Voices

It’s Time To Include The Youth

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
EDITOR • LAKOTA COUNTRY TIMES

The other day I was being interviewed by a writer from The Atlantic and we started talking about the difference in the political ideologies of the current OST council and the younger generations. Although, I doubt what that what we talked about will be included in the article I was grateful for the thought exercise we had.

The current council has proven to be conservative. Much like past councils the constant difficulties of finding funding for our tribal programs has resulted in a cautious approach to many issues.

During the last administration an election was held concerning the legalization of alcohol and the voters opted to approve that measure. Proposals surrounding the legalization of marijuana or hemp have received overwhelming support from the public on social media. Yet, it is highly unlikely that either will gain traction over the next couple of years.

With the closure of Whiteclay it may be smart to take a wait and see approach to alcohol legalization, but it would be nice to have some sort of official position taken by tribal government on the matter.

In order for our tribal government to become more progressive the age requirement for elected officials needs to be struck down. Our young people are becoming more and more educated and they now possess troves of knowledge regarding sovereignty, nationhood and our treaty rights. The internet has changed things for our young people and the efforts by our local schools to teach culturally relevant courses has paved the way for them to lead.

It is hard for any elected politician to cede power. That is the nature of large institutions. The status quo serves those in control. That is why it would take an extraordinary amount of political courage for something like this to be introduced by a sitting council member. This wish is likely a pipe dream. So what is the other option? One possibility is to create a seat on the Oglala Sioux Tribal council reserved for a representative of the newly formed OST youth council. The seat would need to have all the powers of an elected official —minus the salary.

The reason why it is so important that we start to include our youth in tribal government is that our youth feel disenfranchised. They feel that their views are not represented at the negotiating table and thus feel no reason to invest themselves into the very matters that will impact them for their entire lives.

For as long as I can remember there has been an effort by people to undermine tribal government. It is time for OST to start reversing that trend by bringing the youth back to the table. Let them grow up in a society where they feel valued by our elected officials so that they can one day contribute their own ideas and innovations to our political discussions.

Let’s hope that one day our legislators will recognize the value of listening to our children.

*Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

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