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Primary candidates top 100 on Pine Ridge

PINE RIDGE, S.D. – It certainly is not lonely at the top for candidates who want to become president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe – 12 people have filed petitions for that position and are on the ballot.

The primary election will be held Oct. 3 and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 7.

There are many issues on the Pine Ridge Reservation, including past financial problems; a recent movement toward the separation of powers; the tribal courts have come under fire by both the tribal council and former justices; and the usual issues such as housing, economic development, health care and law enforcement.

One of the most contentious issues of the past year was the South Dakota abortion ban. Former President Cecelia Fire Thunder, who had survived two previous removal attempts, was ousted when she proposed a women’s health clinic on the reservation.

The abortion issue came to Pine Ridge, much as it did across the state of South Dakota.

Fire Thunder, who was impeached from office in June, has filed complaints in tribal court and the tribal Supreme Court claiming she did not receive due process in the impeachment procedure.

She was reinstated by Tribal Judge Lisa Adams, only to be removed again the next day after the tribal council filed another motion. Fire Thunder has not been given a re-hearing in tribal court.

Some of the people who supported Fire Thunder’s removal as president have filed petitions to run for president themselves. Also, frequent contenders have filed petitions to run for the office, including Fire Thunder.

She did not pursue the tribal Supreme Court case, but instead decided to run for re-election.

Former president and current presidential candidate Harold Dean Salway was also removed from office; he was never afforded a hearing after his removal.

John Yellow Bird Steele, who placed third in the primary two years ago and served as president for an unprecedented four terms, is back on the ballot.

Alex White Plume, current OST president who replaced Fire Thunder, is seeking election. White Plume was elected vice president in 2004.

First-time council member Will Peters is on the ballot. Peters was one of two councilmen who introduced the motion to remove Fire Thunder.

Also on the list of presidential hopefuls are Eileen Janis, current vice president who was appointed by the tribal council to replace White Plume; Dennis King, former tribal vice president; Larry Swalley; Gary Lays Bad; Robert Benson; and Joyce Sun Bear.

The vice presidential field consists of five candidates: Wayne Weston, Frederick Cedar Face, Melanie Two Eagle, Louis Winters Sr. and William “Shorty” Brewer.

Twenty-two people are vying for three council positions from the largest of the nine districts, Pine Ridge Village.

Nearly 80 candidates vying for tribal council come from the remaining eight districts.

The primary ballot this year contains one of the largest lists of candidates in recent years, according to tribal officials.