PINE RIDGE, S.D. - A select group of Lakota, including some members of the
Na'Ca Itahcan Omniciye (Chief's Society) or Oglala Na'Ca, met with two
county states attorneys and sheriffs with legal documents showing that
non-tribal law enforcement has jurisdiction on the reservation rather than
the full bloods.
The chiefs met with the county officials to establish a protocol and an
understanding of the treaties and federal laws that govern the Lakota,
according to the full bloods.
At issue with the Oglala Na'Ca is the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which
it claims is illegal. The Oglala Sioux Nation became an IRA tribe, but
according to the Oglala Na'Ca the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and
subsequent congressional acts name the Na'Ca as the officials who should
govern the tribe.
"We need your office to help Congress recognize the illegality of the IRA
government," said Fred Sitting Up. The members of the Oglala Na'Ca are the
descendants of chiefs and headmen. "There has been a jurisdictional issue
since 1934," Sitting Up said.
A House resolution passed in 1959 dictated that the secretary of the
Interior Department prepare a roll that would only contain the names of
those who by lineage are descendants of the chiefs and headsmen who signed
the 1868 treaty. This law, accompanied by other laws with similar rules, is
the basis for the Oglala Na'Ca claims.
Jurisdiction, specifically the pursuit of individuals who commit crimes off
the reservation and flee to the boundaries to avoid arrest and possible
prosecution, was a main focus of the meeting.
The Oglala Na'Ca said that since most of the people on Pine Ridge, Cheyenne
River, Lower Brule, Standing Rock and other reservations cannot provide
proper family trees, they should be subject to the laws of the state and,
therefore, subject to arrest on the reservation. That is contrary to
"Eighty percent of the people on Pine Ridge are non-Indian," Sitting Up
In one case, an Oglala tribal member won a lawsuit after a Fall River
County Sheriff's deputy pursued him onto the reservation for a traffic
violation. The courts threw out what he said to the officer while within
the boundaries of the reservation.
The Oglala Na'Ca said this particular man was non-Indian and that he could
not provide a proper family tree. They asserted that the tribal government
could enroll members into the tribe, but that is not legal. Only the chiefs
can determine who is a tribal member, they said.
"We are descendants of full bloods and we are governed by [the non-Indian]
people on our reservation. For years no one listened to these men: that was
disrespectful," Sitting Up said.
Law enforcement from both counties agreed that a change the Oglala Na'Ca
proposed would be beneficial to them when arrests or protection orders had
to be made. Lance Russell, Fall River County states attorney, said the
problem is Indian law.
"It has changed so much. They change the rules on you. The federal
government has done a disservice; there are laws all over the place," he
Public law, cited by the Oglala Na'Ca, gives the power of governance to the
full bloods. They argue that non-Indians, or those who cannot trace
heritage to the chiefs or headmen, are illegal and have no power on the
The laws set by the Oglala Na'Ca would allow all law enforcement to arrest
any non-Indian, by their definition, on the reservation. They too said they
wanted the criminals taken away and arrested, so this agreement would be
beneficial to both parties.
Fall River County Sheriff Jeff Tarrell said he would have to abide by the
present laws until the federal courts rule on the case presented by the
Oglala Na'Ca. "The court says we have no jurisdiction."
Russell suggested finding a lawyer who is versed in Indian law to file
their case in federal court. "There is no legal precedent that tells me I
can do what you want," he said. "There needs to be a lawsuit filed in
federal court that says someone violated your rights and the treaty rights.
We need a federal court to tell us."
If an arrest is made and the person claims full blood status, the question
from law enforcement has been how to tell whether they are; ask for the
family tree, the Oglala Na'Ca suggested. If they can prove patrilineal
descendancy from the chiefs and headsmen, they are Oglala.
"If you are successful, we would dearly love to go on the reservation to
arrest criminals," said Pamela Hein, states attorney for Bennett County.
Bennett County was originally part of the Pine Ridge Reservation and is
situated between the Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations; Fall River County
provides many county services to Shannon County, which is on the Pine Ridge
Reservation, but is not incorporated.
"I want things to be right. We are governed by laws since 1987 that we are
forced to follow," Tarrell said. "What you are facing is a situation that
will make a huge change."
The laws used to back up the Oglala Na'Ca arguments have not been
superseded, according to Sitting Up and Joseph Cross, also a member of the
"If I can get a hand on these laws, anyone can," Cross said.