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New Oglala Sioux tribal council takes oath of office

KYLE, S.D. ñ Following more than a month of election problems, ballot confusion, and attempts to void the election and start over, a new Oglala Sioux tribal council was sworn into office on Pine Ridge.

Newly elected OST President John Yellow Bird Steele presided at the first tribal council meeting of the new term, and one of the first actions was to revise and upgrade the election ordinance, fill the standing committees and the executive committee.

ìWe need to have structure and we have business that needs to get done,î Steele said. He then called the meeting of the new tribal council, which was elected by tribal members on Nov. 7, to order.

The history-making swearing-in ceremony was the beginning of Steeleís fifth term in office. He is the only president to have been elected to five terms. He served only two consecutive terms.

Before the council took control it was not certain which governing body ñ the outgoing White Plume administration or the new Steele administration ñ would be allow to take charge of the tribal government.

Former President Alex White Plume, whose name was removed from the ballot just six days before the election, had attempted to call the general election null and void; he also attempted to extend the term of his administration and the council, and had set a new election date.

A new election board was chosen to oversee a new election, but White Plumeís actions were declared illegal by legal advisers and newly elected council members because it was argued that he did not have authority to set a new election, void the old one and extend his term in office.

Legal counsel advised the new council and Steele that the tribal constitution supported their efforts to be sworn in and start the business of running the government.

Steele said he had not been in contact with the BIA over the controversy, and that he was not sure which tribal government the federal government would recognize, but emphasized the new government was legal.

ìThe committees are not meeting and doing business; everything is at a standstill, it seems, so I would like to get some resolutions to give structure into tribal government,î Steele said.

Steele mentioned the controversy over the election, but also said he didnít know all the facts because he was not involved and was not one of the decision-makers.

ìI thinks itís imperative of this council to find out, and to educate, those people that did make those decisions and why they made them and what happened here during this past election; and not only for those decision-makers, but for the people across the reservation,î Steele said.

He said the people across the reservation, and he himself, need an answer. The constitution, he said, states that an administration term will be for two years, which ends on Dec. 5.

ìIn the history of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, no administration had extended their own terms of office; no one has the authority to extend their own terms of office, thatís it,î he said.

White Plume had attempted to extend the term of his administration until a new election was held.

Steele told the new council and the room of supporters that the chairman of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Commission, Phil Hogen, an OST member, threatened to pull the gaming license of the Prairie Wind Casino if there were no government in place.

ìWhat other agencies out there are going to make the same decision in looking at the Oglala Sioux Tribe? Two years of the Fire Thunder/White Plume administration up, no authority to extend their terms, the new government not sworn in, all relationships with the Oglala Sioux Tribe could be terminated.

ìTo prevent this we must move forward,î he said.

Of the 16 members of the council who took the oath of office, 10 are new members.

The council was sworn in by tribal Judge Sidney Witt, who the week before had been suspended by the old executive committee ñ an action, he said, which was not legal.

ìI was suspended because they thought I would swear in the new council. Judges have special protection. The motion to suspend me had no legal authority. It has been a hectic month,î Witt said.

The council passed two resolutions quickly and smoothly as their first order of business, but when it came to forming the membership of the six standing committees, Steele lost his bid to limit each council member to two committees. His argument was twofold; he said overlapping committee meeting times could mean one committee could not have a quorum, another reason was to give council members time to meet with the districts.

The council, by a 13 ñ 3 vote, passed a resolution allowing members to become members of all committees. Steele said that he would allow this move, but could bring it up at a later time if needed.

At the time the council was being sworn in, an election was taking place in the Wakpamni District to select two council members. That district was ordered to redo the election because of a glitch in ballot wording. Those council members will be sworn in when the results are certified.

During the controversy, the old council added a new election board without removing the old election board. The new council voted to allow the old election board to remain as the official authority over the district election and tabulate the results. It is up to the tribal council to certify the election results.

Before the swearing in, Indian Country Today asked Steele if everything had been settled and the controversy over. He replied ìnoî without elaborating.

KYLE, S.D. ñ Following more than a month of election problems, ballot confusion, and attempts to void the election and start over, a new Oglala Sioux tribal council was sworn into office on Pine Ridge.Newly elected OST President John Yellow Bird Steele presided at the first tribal council meeting of the new term, and one of the first actions was to revise and upgrade the election ordinance, fill the standing committees and the executive committee.ìWe need to have structure and we have business that needs to get done,î Steele said. He then called the meeting of the new tribal council, which was elected by tribal members on Nov. 7, to order.The history-making swearing-in ceremony was the beginning of Steeleís fifth term in office. He is the only president to have been elected to five terms. He served only two consecutive terms. Before the council took control it was not certain which governing body ñ the outgoing White Plume administration or the new Steele administration ñ would be allow to take charge of the tribal government.Former President Alex White Plume, whose name was removed from the ballot just six days before the election, had attempted to call the general election null and void; he also attempted to extend the term of his administration and the council, and had set a new election date.A new election board was chosen to oversee a new election, but White Plumeís actions were declared illegal by legal advisers and newly elected council members because it was argued that he did not have authority to set a new election, void the old one and extend his term in office. Legal counsel advised the new council and Steele that the tribal constitution supported their efforts to be sworn in and start the business of running the government.Steele said he had not been in contact with the BIA over the controversy, and that he was not sure which tribal government the federal government would recognize, but emphasized the new government was legal.ìThe committees are not meeting and doing business; everything is at a standstill, it seems, so I would like to get some resolutions to give structure into tribal government,î Steele said.Steele mentioned the controversy over the election, but also said he didnít know all the facts because he was not involved and was not one of the decision-makers. ìI thinks itís imperative of this council to find out, and to educate, those people that did make those decisions and why they made them and what happened here during this past election; and not only for those decision-makers, but for the people across the reservation,î Steele said.He said the people across the reservation, and he himself, need an answer. The constitution, he said, states that an administration term will be for two years, which ends on Dec. 5.ìIn the history of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, no administration had extended their own terms of office; no one has the authority to extend their own terms of office, thatís it,î he said.White Plume had attempted to extend the term of his administration until a new election was held. Steele told the new council and the room of supporters that the chairman of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Commission, Phil Hogen, an OST member, threatened to pull the gaming license of the Prairie Wind Casino if there were no government in place.ìWhat other agencies out there are going to make the same decision in looking at the Oglala Sioux Tribe? Two years of the Fire Thunder/White Plume administration up, no authority to extend their terms, the new government not sworn in, all relationships with the Oglala Sioux Tribe could be terminated.ìTo prevent this we must move forward,î he said.Of the 16 members of the council who took the oath of office, 10 are new members.The council was sworn in by tribal Judge Sidney Witt, who the week before had been suspended by the old executive committee ñ an action, he said, which was not legal.ìI was suspended because they thought I would swear in the new council. Judges have special protection. The motion to suspend me had no legal authority. It has been a hectic month,î Witt said.The council passed two resolutions quickly and smoothly as their first order of business, but when it came to forming the membership of the six standing committees, Steele lost his bid to limit each council member to two committees. His argument was twofold; he said overlapping committee meeting times could mean one committee could not have a quorum, another reason was to give council members time to meet with the districts.The council, by a 13 ñ 3 vote, passed a resolution allowing members to become members of all committees. Steele said that he would allow this move, but could bring it up at a later time if needed.At the time the council was being sworn in, an election was taking place in the Wakpamni District to select two council members. That district was ordered to redo the election because of a glitch in ballot wording. Those council members will be sworn in when the results are certified. During the controversy, the old council added a new election board without removing the old election board. The new council voted to allow the old election board to remain as the official authority over the district election and tabulate the results. It is up to the tribal council to certify the election results.Before the swearing in, Indian Country Today asked Steele if everything had been settled and the controversy over. He replied ìnoî without elaborating.