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2018-01-11 / Voices

Support Our Own

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
OGLALA LAKOTA

While doing research for our cover story (Heinert Responds To Being Callled “Pochahontas”) I was forced to dive in to the comment sections of some of the state’s political blogs.

I am a big fan of Cory Heidelberger’s site called the Dakota Free Press. His blog is probably the only one in the state that has any appreciation for the unique political status of tribal-citizens. I also spent some time going through Pat Powers’ blog Dakota War College. His content is written with a conservative slant, but he pulls no punches in who he chooses to hold accountable.

What I did see in these comments was a concerted effort by some readers to undermine the status of our Lakota legislators. Often times, people had the audacity to say that individuals like Kevin Killer, Shawn Bordeaux, and Troy Heinert. All three of these individuals have significant ties to their tribal-nations and have done work within their own communities to bring about positive change.

These three individuals were raked over the coals for their unwillingness to go along with a republican motion that would have asked the State Tribal Relations Committee to conduct an investigation into the Gear Up fiasco. These legislators provide reasoning for why they chose not to cross the aisle and back the effort to have this specific committee subpoena individuals to testify. The democrats on the committee backed the chairman of the committee, Troy Heinert, and said that the subpoenas and the investigation would quickly be dismissed by a judge. Thus making the entire effort a waste of time and tax payer dollars.

Now, Mr. Heidelberger wrote on his blog that “from a purely political perspective, Democrats have everything to gain and nothing to lose from backing these subpoenas. But yesterday, again, four Democrats on the committee dedicated to state-tribal issues said nope, we have better things to do than try digging further into this instance of corruption in a crown jewel in state-tribal education efforts that, as federal investigators have established, resulted in Native schools losing money.”

While I absolutely respect what Heidelberger does, I disagree that this committee is the right entity to conduct this investigation.

As we all know, the state, along with KELO, has done everything in their power to scape-goat Stacey Phelps as the main culprit in the Gear Up scandal. This is despite that factual evidence that shows that officials within state government were negligent in their duties, as Scott and Nicole Westerhuis fleeced students and communities across South Dakota. The details of their transgressions will be on full display as Dana Hanna is sure to bring them to light in his defense of Stacey Phelps. This defense should blow the lid off of the rampant corruption within state government. The state has tied itself to the nonsensical charges it has brought against Phelps and these inquiries will expose other wrong doings. This is the job of law enforcement. Those who sit on the State Tribal Relations committee should be focusing their efforts on issues that they can impact.

When I was growing up, we were not taught to pay much attention to the happenings in state government. What took place within South Dakota politics normally didn’t seem to change the lives of those of us living on the reservation. These days are different. There are individuals in state government who are voting against the interests of Lakota Country with one hand, while pretending to be our saviors with the other. These people are dangerous. Multiple times during my research for the cover story I came across comments from South Dakotans saying that the republicans were the only ones fighting for Lakota children. Are these people insane? The GOP run government in this state has opposed any progressive idea meant to improve the lives of Lakota Country. They have stood against everything from the legalization of marijuana, to ICWA, to our voting rights.

Shawn Bordeaux, Kevin Killer, and Troy Heinert are engaging with the enemies of Lakota Country on a daily basis, while non-tribal-citizens sit back and accuse them of not standing up for our people. When election time rolls around again let’s remember to support our own.

*Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Oglala Lakota Nation. He earned his education at Dartmouth College and founded Bad Face Consulting in 2016.

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