PINE RIDGE, S.D. - The Oglala Sioux tribal government is illegal and is run
by non-Indians, claims a group of chiefs who claim descendancy rights to
govern the Lakota Nation.
The Na'Ca Itahcan Omniciye (Chief's Society), or Oglala Na'Ca, alleges that
the Indian Reorganization Act governments in place on most of the
reservations of the great Sioux Nation are unlawful.
The 1934 act was passed as a means of land consolidation with and an end to
the termination movement that, according to critics, pushed American
Indians out of the mainstream and made them a problem.
The Oglala Na'Ca, patrilineal descendants of chiefs and headsmen, have
resurfaced with the intent of claiming their rightful place as governors of
the Sioux Nation. Many reservations in South Dakota have Na'Ca groups that
are working together.
They have planned meetings scheduled with congressional leaders and state
officials, and intend to take their case into the international courts and
the United Nations.
The argument is that the IRA governments are federally chartered
incorporations, making them corporations, not governments.
"The Aboriginals need their Aboriginal rights restored. We need to go back
further than the treaties and the rights we had before they [whites] came,"
said Dwayne Good Face, a Na'Ca member from the Lower Brule Reservation.
The Na'Ca argue that with the acceptance of the IRA form of government,
sovereignty was lost for the nations. Their argument alleges that
everything the tribes do is subject to approval by the Department of
Interior, and that that is not sovereignty.
"The BIA tells Congress a lie; they are creating the problem so they can
exist. We have taken care of ourselves before the treaties," Good Face
The Na'Ca issued a reminder that the Lakota were sovereign from time
Bernard In The Woods, a member of the Na'Ca from the Cheyenne River
Reservation, said he and others fought the IRA government reform from the
"The House of Representatives and all subsequent laws since 1871 have
abrogated the treaties and the Constitution. The House has no power to
amend treaties. It appropriated the money, but said that all the laws of
the United States had power," In The Woods said. "They pushed the
Constitution aside." The U.S. Constitution established treaties as the
supreme law of the land.
The purpose of the rise of the Na'Ca is to return to a stable life and
governance as it was before the treaties. They don't want to live the life
of past centuries, but govern with the spirituality and lifeways of the
Lakota. The elected and appointed people now in the tribal government, the
Na'Ca claim, illegally hold their positions - and if they distribute
federal funds, they are embezzling money.
"The entire land base has been sold by non-Indians; health services are
utilized and governed by non-Indians; food rations are going to
non-Indians. Commodities are the only thing the full bloods have," said
Joseph Cross, a member of the Oglala Na'Ca.
"We need a change to the full blood way of life."
The Na'Ca definition of full blood is a male who can trace descendancy to
one of the chiefs or headsmen. Should a person have a non-Indian or white
father, grandfather or great-grandfather, they cannot claim full blood
status, according to the organization. "Just look at the names," they said.
Francis He Crow, an Oglala Na'Ca, traces his ancestry back to the 1600s.
The group claims the full bloods have been relegated to back seat, or
lower, status and claim to be victims of genocide.
Recognition and enrollment of tribal members is now accomplished by the
tribal government's enrollment offices. The Na'Ca claim only they have the
right to decide a person's enrollment.
The Na'Ca cite numerous laws and acts that, they claim, have not been
amended or superseded by other laws. Those laws, they argue are federal and
were not written by them but still give them as full bloods the right of
"What my grandfather said, we go by his words. He made his mark on the
treaty," In The Woods said.
He Crow has worked with the Na'Ca Itahcan Omniciye for more than 15 years.
He said they tried to get federal attention in 1974; and then came the
American Indian Movement. "They put the headsmen in the back seat. In 1977
we tried again; we sent in two resolutions but they were not accepted, and
in 1989 we tried again. Most times the requests and resolutions were
carried by non-Indians who didn't have the interests of the Na'Ca in mind,
"We want to bring back the old tribal council and tribal government, now
that we are finally organized," He Crow said.
The organization has 12 members on the council, including the pipe keeper
who leads the workshops or meetings and four planners or decision-makers.
"We make our own laws, natural laws. It is a sacred organization. We don't
have presidents," He Crow said. "The spiritual and the government go hand
The organization is not universally accepted on the reservation. There has
been a rift between the full bloods and others for years. Occasionally in
the local newspaper on Pine Ridge, a letter addressed to the Na'Ca will
invite them to leave the reservation if they don't like it.
The opposition does not deter these men and women.
"This is all done as full bloods who have retained the right of power,"
Cross said. "The mixed bloods created this mess; it is not our fault. We
have to stand up. We are not benefiting from our treaties," he said.
The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie is a covenant between the federal
government, the tribal chiefs and headsmen and God, they assert.
"The councils violated that treaty and disrespect the Canupa [pipe]," Cross
The Na'Ca want to be recognized by Congress as a viable governing council,
contending that the IRA government on the reservations convinces Congress
to ignore them.
They have attracted the attention of Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. A meeting will
be organized with him and with the attorney general of South Dakota. They
were unsuccessful with former Sen. Tom Daschle and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.