KYLE, SD - An Oglala Sioux Tribal Council meeting in the Medicine Root district was quickly recessed Tuesday, March 11, after suspended Tribal Chairman Harold Dean Salway entered the room escorted by two elderly Lakota women.
The elders, Mildred Thunder Bull and Emma Waters, flanked Salway as he took a place near the head table at the meeting. As Salway stood, looking to be recognized, 60 to 70 of the chairman's supporters became raucous and began to disrupt the proceedings.Medicine Root District Councilman Manuel Fool Head quickly moved to recess the meeting. On a vote of 9 to 4, the council went into recess and a majority of the council members began to exit the building.
A number of Grass Roots Oyate members and supporters from the occupied Red Cloud Building entered the meeting with Salway. One eyewitness said Salway's entrance resembled an attempted coronation. Salway took the microphone and turned to Vice-Chairman Wilbur Between Lodges, who had been presiding, and said, "Wilbur Between Lodges, do you recognize me as tribal president?"
Salway put the mike in Wilbur's face and Wilbur said, "Yes, you are the tribal president,'" Fool Head said. "Harold pulled the mike back and Wilbur went on to say, "But the tribal council suspended you.' But nobody heard that."
Another eyewitness said, "It's the same misuse of words that Harold did with Kevin Gover. They basically cut Wilbur off and didn't include the rest of it."
"He (Salway) talks about not wanting to insult anybody, but he insulted Wilbur Between Lodges," Fool Head said. "Wilbur's a respected tribal member, he's a past tribal president, he's a veteran. What they did was despicable."
Five councilmen stayed to listen as Salway spoke to the crowd, mostly of his supporters. Salway said it was good to be back as president.
The following day, former tribal president Joe American Horse, asked by Between Lodges to help mediate the situation, spoke on KILI radio with a plea for reconciliation.
Because the council did not present charges within Salway's 20-day suspension, the elders who escorted him into the meeting said they believed they were officially reinstating him. Council members at a secret April 13 meeting in Rapid City said they did not recognize that move as a reinstatement for Salway.
The jobs of 59 police officers are at stake because of the turmoil the tribe is undergoing. The council met in secret in order to resolve some of the issues that will prevent the Justice Department from pulling funds from the Circle Project that pays the salaries of the officers.
The council finally achieved a quorum by midafternoon and did not conduct any business before press time.