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News from the Great Plains

New Army helicopter named after the Lakota

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - A new helicopter, the Lakota Light Utility or UH-72A, was given the name ''Lakota'' to honor the determination and strength of the Lakota people in the defense of their homeland. The Lakota will fly in most states across the nation.

Joe Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota chief, along with other Lakota leaders from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations, was present at the Dec. 11 ceremony that christened the new, smaller helicopter.

''We're pleased that you honor our tribe by naming this helicopter 'Lakota,''' Red Cloud said. ''You are not only honoring our past; you are recognizing that we are still here, joint partners in the heritage of the promise of America.''

More than 300 Lakota helicopters will be distributed to Army National Guard units to be used with other government agencies and in homeland security operations.

The UH-72A Lakota is a commercial aircraft designed to conduct light general support tasks in permissive, noncombat environments.

Tex Hall's petition heard in tribal court

NEW TOWN, N.D. - Former Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Chairman Tex Hall petitioned the tribal court to ask that a new election be conducted. Hall, two-time MHA Nation chairman, lost his bid for a third consecutive term to Marcus Wells Jr. Hall claims that Wells illegally attracted voters to his campaign by using vouchers and incentives from the tribal casino, Four Bears.

A tribal judge, Terry Pechota, from Rapid City, S.D., has yet to rule on whether enough evidence exists to move the matter to a full hearing.

Wells denies any wrongdoing, and the tribal elections board dismissed Hall's complaint for lack of documented evidence.

New plan could weaken Yankton Sioux voice in local government

YANKTON, S.D. - Charles Mix County, home of the Yankton Sioux Reservation, may find itself in court again after voters decided to increase the number of county commissioners from three to five.

Bryan Sells, of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, said the organization has considered blocking the new plan.

The first American Indian to serve as a county commissioner was elected when it was a three-commissioner panel. Increasing the number of commissioners would dilute the influence that the one American Indian commissioner will have; and that, according to a large number of Yankton tribal members, would make it a racist move.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol approved a redistricting plan for the county that would create one district with a large number of American Indian voters.

Sharon Drapeau ran unopposed from the new district with an American Indian majority in the November election.

Sells said the change is considered a discriminatory move, one that is backward, from one out of three seats to one out of five, which would leave the American Indian population with a weaker voice in county government.

BIA recognizes new Oglala Sioux Tribe president

PINE RIDGE, S.D. - The BIA has recognized the John Yellow Bird Steele/William ''Shorty'' Brewer administration of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Steele was elected president and Brewer vice president on Nov. 7; they took the oath of office on Dec. 5.

The former administration, led by Alex White Plume, who assumed the role of president after the impeachment of his predecessor, Cecelia Fire Thunder, was reluctant to relinquish control of the tribe.

White Plume declared the general election null and void, and ordered a new election. His name was removed from the ballot because of a felony conviction from the 1980s that came to light after a background check was ordered.

When Steele and the tribal council took the oath of office, it was not certain which government would be recognized by the BIA, as the bureau remained neutral in the tribal dispute.

The tribal election board of appeals declared the general and primary elections null and recommended new elections. The tribal elections board and the tribal council moved ahead with the general election.

Both men went to work in separate offices in the tribal building the day after Steele and the council were sworn in, each claiming to be in control of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

White Plume, as president, ordered a new primary election for Feb. 13 and a general election for March 20. The tribal courts could rule for a new election or uphold the recent election results.

Healthier menus featured at Treasure Island Resort and Casino

WELCH, Minn. - Diners at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino on Prairie Island in Minnesota will be treated to healthier food and snacks in all five of the casino's restaurants.

Treasure Island has made the move to zero trans-fat cooking oils, citing ''staggering statistics'' on heart disease and obesity.

Resort management made the decision in the wake of the New York City Board of Health's approval of a ban on cooking oils containing trans fats in city restaurants and similar actions taken at other locations and restaurants across the country.

''We are unwilling to compromise our guests' health for economic reasons,'' said Allan Kronberg, director of hospitality at Treasure Island.

''I would choose our new oil for my family at home, so I will do the same in our kitchen at Treasure Island.''