ROSEBUD, S.D. - Community involvement in all issues of tribal government, information, financial accountability, deliverance of services to the people and preparation of future leaders are part of the new agenda for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Newly elected Rosebud Sioux Chairman Charlie Colombe, known throughout Indian country as a businessman, takes the lead of the large land based Rosebud Sioux Tribe and has inherited a number of problems along with much potential.
"I feel like I took a drink of water out of a fire hose," Colombe said. "And I'm not thirsty anymore."
Colombe put his hat in the ring twice before for tribal chairman and a few weeks ago he succeeded. Right out of the chute Colombe had to deal with financial woes that have put the tribe in debt over the years; a controversial business plan that includes a hog farm that has divided the reservation and complaints that the tribal government was not responsive to the people.
"There will be no more spending two or three years on an issue that is not palatable to the people."
Colombe brought up the hog farm, and a former attempt to create a waste dump on the reservation as issues that have cost the tribe in financial resources.
"We have many bright people. We will create an alliance with Sinte Gleska University and the BIA and we will do training in-house," Colombe said.
"We have a great University, second to none and they have people with expertise."
Colombe sat on the Sinte Gleska board of directors for eight years in the 1970s and also was on the tribal council in the same period.
The new administration will join at least two students from Sinte Gleska and one tribal council member to provide research and information to the council member. There are 20 council members in the Rosebud governmental body. It will provide assistance to the council who have had no personal support in the past. The program will also get students majoring in tribal law, government, accounting or other majors such as social issues to learn from the process and become the tribal leaders
"We should have some educated young people and after a year's work 40 new ones will take over. These people will be the councilmen's tools, and will give the students a hands-on approach to the operations of a $50 million dollar government or corporation. We plan this to be a great success," he said.
Because of his business experience Colombe is used to making quick decisions. He admitted that could get him into some trouble because in tribal government there is a need for discussion, which takes more time.
Colombe's administration will take the information process to the people very seriously. During a brief interview, he emphasized the connection between information to the people and their involvement in government.
He said the government would streamline the services to the people, but at the same time follow the constitution and by-laws of the tribe while keeping the integrity of the resolutions and ordinances passed by the previous council.
"We want to make sure the services are reaching the people."
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has had its share of financial problems. Former Tribal Chairman William Kindle took the responsibility on his shoulders for financial overspending and large debt.
Colombe was told in early December that the programs were overdrawn by $488,000. "I was informed that we were some 57 days overdrawn."
The former businessman set up a program fund line-of-credit and will borrow $1 million that will act as a buffer for the programs and will only be used when necessary. It is not an actual loan, but is available when necessary to offer a cushion for a program's expenditures.
To prevent any further problems, Colombe's office, the bank, the tribal treasurer and tribal monitor will oversee the expenditures.
"It's a diagram that puts all programs in a position to serve the people."
To maintain more accountability, Colombe has selected four people with special experiences to serve as a cabinet. He said it may be the first such cabinet in Indian country.
The four will deal with business, legal, legislative issues, health, education, welfare and information. The cabinet is a collection of high-powered people. Steve Emery, attorney, was the former attorney general of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; Webster Two Hawk, former Rosebud Tribal Chairman, will serve as liaison to the tribes. Calvin Iron Shell and Robert Moore will fill out the cabinet. Moore served on Sen. Tom Dachle's, D-S.D., staff.
The cabinet and the administrative office will also ensure that routine audits of programs and finances will be complete.
Colombe said the tribal council would not be a rubber stamp for his agenda, but also said he has to abide by the constitution and he will come into controversy with the council at times. He said as long as they all have the same goals they will find success.