To define leadership in today's world can be summed up by how many votes a person gets during an election, it can be looked upon by how educated an individual is and what their qualifications may be to hold a position of leadership.
Traditional Lakota leadership is simply based upon the integrity of the individual, along with their bravery and courage in the protection of their people.
We have lost so much in the traditional values of leadership on our tribal lands today. Our ethics have drifted too far off the path of honesty and honor traveled by our ancestors.
In our Lakota way if any person committed a crime against his or her people, they were not allowed to hold a position of leadership or responsibility. This was our tradition but that tradition has changed so dramatically that some tribal governments have lost the true meaning of Lakota leadership and traditional values and, in some cases, forsaken their own people for the individual greed of the corrupt official.
Today, on many reservations, we have convicted felons running offices, running for tribal council or sitting on tribal council. Some have committed murder, manslaughter, rape, assault, embezzlement, drug trafficking ? the list goes on.
One man, convicted in federal court for embezzling tribal monies, your monies, from his program, served time then returned home and was rehired by the tribal council into that very same job he stole from in the first place.
Yet another convicted of murder is an executive director for his tribe.
Another man assaulted a police officer and now he is allowed to run for tribal councilman.
These stories can go on and on and when they are addressed in council, tribal leaders always have their unorthodox excuses as to why these guys are allowed to hold offices. Some tribal governments use sovereign powers as their excuse, saying felony records don't apply on the reservation. In some ways this is true, but it also makes our tribes look like they are allowing this unjust hiring of convicted felons to happen just so some leaders can provide their cousins and relatives with a high-paying jobs right out of prison rather then hiring an educated, qualified tribal member.
If tribes want to reflect true 'sovereign responsibility' they must run our tribes with the honor and integrity that our great chiefs did in the past. If they don't recognize the criminal records of the ex-cons, who are working for the tribes right now, then why do they allow them to get arrested and convicted in federal court in the first place?
In my opinion, their criminal records show they are a threat to their own people. And the responsibility of our tribal governments should be to protect the people, especially our women from the threat rather then turning a criminal past into a sovereignty issue, protecting them through sovereign immunity in federal court just so they can weasel their relatives with a criminal record into a high-paying tribal job.
Sovereign immunity protects our right to govern our people through the traditions of our individual tribes. For example, if it's a tradition to have an elder speak in tribal court, then it's our sovereign right to do so.
But on the other end of the spectrum, to protect the murderer or thief under sovereign immunity is a joke on our people and our traditions.
Our people didn't have the tradition of allowing a man who murdered one of our women lead our people, nor do we have a tradition of placing a thief in charge of our staples. So then why do some tribes claim to have the right to employ felons in high positions or allow them to run for tribal offices when it never was our tradition to do so?
If you, man or woman, stole from the people or committed an act of extreme violence toward one of our members or law enforcement and was convicted of it, then you should not be allowed to hold office, run a program or vote.
The only reason I can see that these convicted felons can get so far up the ladder of our tribal leadership and employment is because they have a crooked relative as tribal president or in tribal council or both.
This type of corruption makes a mockery of our traditions and jeopardizes our tribal sovereignty. Our tribes are funded on federal dollars and until we can become self-sufficient we should apply total and complete integrity in the management of these funds We should apply this integrity to our self-sufficiency anyway.