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Fire Thunder reinstated and removed once more

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. – Oglala Sioux Tribal President Cecelia Fire Thunder was reinstated as tribal president by Oglala Sioux Tribal Judge Lisa Adams on July 17, but the judge rescinded her decision the next day.

Fire Thunder filed a complaint in tribal court asking for an injunction against the tribal council for removing her from office, as she argues, illegally.

At a July 18 press conference, Fire Thunder said she was fighting her impeachment because the people who elected her were important and deserved her fight to retain her seat as president.

Fire Thunder asked that she be reinstated until such time as a formal and lawful impeachment can be brought against her. That hearing is scheduled for July 28 and the change in Adams’ decision does not change that date.

The tribal council impeached Fire Thunder from her presidency on June 29 after a hearing that Fire Thunder said violated her civil rights.

The strongest and most determined of Fire Thunder’s adversaries, Councilman Will Peters, was present at the press conference called by Fire Thunder. Peters said he and other council members had Adams rescind her order because, as he said, it is not legal procedure to file an injunction against the tribal council.

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Fire Thunder’s attorney, Robert Grey Eagle, said that the rule referred to temporary restraining orders and not permanent restraining orders. The request for an injunction filed by Fire Thunder asked for a permanent restraining order.

Tribal council members who voted against Fire Thunder claimed the justification for her removal was centered on a proposed women’s health clinic that her detractors claim was an abortion clinic.

In the complaint, Fire Thunder stated that her civil rights were violated because she was not given an evidence from the council so she could prepare her case, she was not allowed an attorney and the council vote was improper and not according to the tribal constitution. She stated in her complaint that a two-thirds majority of the council, not of the quorum, was needed to remove her. The council impeached her on a nine to four vote with 13 council members recorded as present. The council has 18 members, which Fire Thunder claims requires that 12 votes are needed to meet the two-thirds vote requirement.

She also claims that the council removed her from office on June 29 and a complaint, as is required by the tribal constitution, was not filed until three days later. The complaint, according to tribal law, is required to be filed first.

The complaint also stated: “That your Plaintiff’s removal was allegedly based upon her actions as a private person and not as an elected President in violation of the OST Constitution.

“That your Plaintiff’s removal from office was purportedly based upon her expression of free speech on a issue that she had the right to express her opinion on under the Indian Civil Rights Act and the OST Constitution and insofar as her removal was based upon her exercise of free speech it was unconstitutional and in violation of the Indian Civil Rights Act.”

Peters and Councilman Garfield Steele, who filed the original complaint against Fire Thunder, argued at the June 29 hearing that the tribal council should have been informed of Fire Thunder’s decision to start a women’s clinic and that she needed council approval to do so.