2018-06-07 / Voices

The Difficulty of Introducing Change


The proposed changes to the Oglala Sioux Tribal Constitution are being suppressed by those who oppose them.

While public statements from politicians can contain half-truths, my own personal sources have told me that the issue that has caused the most division amongst Oglala Sioux Tribal council members is the requirement that those elected to council possess more than a high school diploma.

Last week, the council had an opportunity to put the proposed changes to a public vote, but instead tabled the issue for 60-days. The decision to postpone the vote is now forcing supporters of the changes to scramble and gather 4500 signatures to force the matter on to the November ballot. There are two versions of this story, one printed in LCT this week and another that came out last week from another publication.

The fervor over the content of each news story is fueling a debate that should be had every year. I understand those who back both sides of the issue. These conversations help to further the interests of our nation. They show our youth how the process plays out, and we all witness the deficiencies of our institutions.

Putting all personnel and political issues aside, a discussion about the education requirement is an important one for all tribalnations to have.

Most people are aware that I support a requirement. For me the answer is easy, I would prefer that those who are handling millions of dollars on our behalf, have some sort of credentials to show that they are competent to understand the material.

One response to my line of reasoning is that access to education is a privilege. This is true. For some people the option to seek out classes or further their education would require some sort of sacrifice. For me, I think that those who have already made those sacrifices to pursue their degrees should be rewarded for it.

I know that there are plenty of tribal citizens who can handle these tasks who do not have a degree. We all know somebody like that. However, as we have learned in the past, the absence of an education requirement for tribal council members has resulted in the election of completely incompetent people in some cases.

What most people fail to realize is that the Oglala Lakota College is very accessible and provides quality educational opportunities to those who take the initiative to better themselves there. We encourage our youth to pursue their educations in the hopes that they return home to improve the lives of their people.

Having some sort of way to verify that they do have working knowledge of basic economics and tribal-governance from the start. There shouldn’t be a 10-month period wasted each election cycle while new people learn the ropes.

We are all entitled to our opinions on these issues. That is why it is important that those who oppose this effort allow the people to vote on it.

Brandon Ecoffey is the former editor of Lakota Country Times and an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Oglala Lakota nation. He is the founded of Bad Face Consulting and cohost of The Bad Face Consulting Podcast presented by Native Hope. Search for the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher Radio, and other places where podcasts can be found.

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