Throughout my life, I have followed my grandfather's teachings and I have sought to serve my people, honor our 1868 Treaty and promote true tribal self-government. I served for more than 11 years as Tribal Attorney for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, where I am enrolled. I have served as Chief Justice of the Oglala Sioux Supreme Court, where my aunts and uncles live, and for the past two years, I have served as Director of the Sicangu Policy Institute of Sinte Gleska University at Rosebud, the home of my grandfather.
Over the years, our Tribes and our Lakota people have faced many challenges, hurdles and roadblocks on our road to economic recovery and self-determination. Tragically, many of these barriers have been laid in our path by the State of South Dakota under the leadership of Bill Janklow, first as Attorney General and then as Governor.
I remember the day that the Supreme Court decided the Rosebud v. Kneip case that diminished the boundaries of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. My grandfather was sad. He said to me, "Today, they stole from our Lakota people again." As state Attorney General, Bill Janklow argued the case against Rosebud. As governor, Bill Janklow presided over the state's push to diminish the Yankton Sioux Tribe's reservation boundaries in South Dakota v. Yankton Sioux.
Throughout his career, Bill Janklow has developed state executive branch policy to fight our Sioux Nation tribal governments and inflict suffering and punishment upon our people at every point.
Janklow Fought Against our Treaties. The Constitution of the United States, treaties, and statutes recognize Indian Tribes as governments. Yet, Bill Janklow put together a team of Indian fighters in the State Attorney General's office that has fought against tribal self-government at every step from tribal courts to tribal license plates. Janklow refused to honor the United States' guarantee of tribal self-government in our treaties.
Janklow Fought New Trust Land. South Dakota fought the Lower Brule's trust land acquisition near Oacoma (the site of the Tribe's original BIA agency). As a result, the Secretary of the Interior changed its regulations on trust lands. Now, based on Janklow's anti-Indian policies, every trust land acquisition by every Indian tribe in America can be held up by state and local government lawsuits.
Janklow Stopped Tribal Welfare Programs. On welfare reform, Federal law required South Dakota to offer tribes a chance to contract welfare programs on our reservations, but Bill Janklow refused to make state rnatching payments. If Janklow had his way, Lakota people would be the only ones in South Dakota that do not receive state dollars for welfare assistance and we have unemployment rates as high as 80 percent!
Janklow Fought Indian Gaming. Janklow limited our tribes to 250 slot machines while the State operates 7,000 video lottery terminals. Then Janklow demanded cash payments from our tribes if we wanted to increase our machine numbers. Is it moral for Janklow to try to take money from our tribes when the poorest counties in the United States are located on our Sioux Reservations in South Dakota?
Janklow's Family Made Money from Our Elder's Suffering. Janklow knows that our Lakota people suffer the worst health care and health conditions in the state. Yet, to protect the for-profit nursing home system, which his family owns part of, the state of South Dakota has refused to allow Federal medicare dollars to be spent at nursing homes on our reservations. Our elders suffer far from home, so Janklow's family can make a buck. Is that humane policy?
Janklow's Team Fought Against Tribal Children's Nutrition Programs. The Attorney General's staff that Janklow hired demanded that our tribes waive our sovereign immunity before we could receive Federal pass-through dollars for early child care nutrition programs. To prove a point, Bill Janklow's boys were ready to cut off food to pre-school kids. What kind of state government is that?
As Lakota people, we now have a shining moment to stand-up and fight for our people, fight for our treaties and our land, fight for our elders, and fight for the future of our children. We all need to vote.
Bill Janklow doesn't know it, but Custer is dead and its time to stop fighting Indians. Your vote can end Bill Janklow's Indian fighting days!
Vote and start a new day for our children! You'll see me at the polls with my wife and my girls, standing in line behind my grandfather.
Steve Emery is a Harvard Law School graduate and is currently the director and legal council of the Sicangu Policy Institute of Sinte Gelska University in Rosebud, S.D. He is a member, former attorney general and tribal attorney for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.