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'OST never legal'

On April 13, a Rapid City Journal article was titled, ''IRA basis of tribal government for over 70 years.'' On April 24, the headlines stated ''OST voids vote on constitution'' with a subhead: ''Tuesday's election falls short of required turnout by 18 people.''

Unfortunately, the Rapid City Journal didn't cover the original votes cast back in 1934 and 1935 to determine if the Oglala Sioux Tribe wanted an IRA form of government. If the Journal had covered those elections, the headlines would have been, ''Oglala people vote against IRA form of government.'' That is what happened.

The introduction of my book, ''Testimony for the Innocent,'' which came out 10 years ago, is about the Oglala Sioux tribal government and how it was put into place. Pages 8 and 9 speak directly to the creation of the Oglala Sioux (IRA) tribal government. [It states:]

''The Wheeler-Howard Act, or the Indian Reorganization Act, as it is more commonly known, was passed on June 18, 1934, and quickly went into effect. Section 16 of the Act stated: 'Any Indian tribe, or tribes, residing on the same reservation, shall have the right to organize for its common welfare, and may adopt an appropriate constitution and bylaws, which shall become effective when ratified by a majority vote of the adult members of the tribe, or of the adult Indians residing on such reservation.''

From my understanding, a majority vote means that 51 percent of the eligible voters must approve.

''... The U.S. government forced an election. There are numerous accounts of the voting. One account states that on Oct. 27, 1934, elections were held at the Pine Ridge Agency to determine if the Oglala Sioux people would live under a constitutional form of government. Of the total voting population of 4,075, only 1,169 or 28.7 percent said yes. This clearly was not a majority of the voters. While the Oglala Sioux Tribal Constitution states that it was adopted on Dec. 11, 1935, by a vote of 1,348 for, and 1,041 against, but it fails to mention the total voting population.''

Some issues arise from these two discrepancies. First, why were there two elections held - one on Oct. 27, 1934, and another one more than a year later on Dec. 11, 1935? Secondly, assuming the total voting population in 1935 was still 4,075 as it was in 1934, then the 1,348 votes cast for the IRA government in 1935 was still not a majority vote. There would have had to be 2,078 votes in favor of establishing an IRA form of government. There wasn't a majority that voted in favor.

This entire process [of voting] was in contradiction with Lakota culture. Traditional Lakota culture taught that all the people had to agree before something as major as a form of government could be determined. If there was not enough participation, then the issues would be dropped. Therefore, almost half of the people chose not to vote at all.

For years, elders would say the Oglala Sioux tribal government is illegal. It was only after researching the actual voting numbers that their words were proven true. The next question is: How do you change an illegal government?

- Charmaine White Face

Manderson, S.D.