Tribal Stimulus? South Dakota Sioux Left In The Cold

(Central Connecticut State University)

“They're out there melting snow and keeping a look out for any water they can use.”

“Schools have been out of session for a week and will likely be unable to open their doors for at least another week.”

“These events are showing just how painfully inadequate our emergency response capabilities are.”

In the midst of one of the worst winter storms in memory, the members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are struggling for survival. Located roughly 200 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Reservation is home to 10,000 residents who have been without electricity and potable water for days. Worse still, the storms have critically damaged what little energy infrastructure the Tribe did have, making restoration of power and heat even more difficult. Freezing rain and wind have snapped off wooden power poles carrying the transmission wires. “Because of one ice storm, we had over 3,000 downed electrical lines and mass power outages," said Tracey Fischer, chief executive and president of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a national nonprofit working on economic development in Native communities.

The problems from a lack of power in winter are compounded by the lack of running water. Although much has been said regarding the federal stimulus package and its components designed to assist Tribes with needed infrastructure, the Cheyenne River Tribe has for years asked Congress for funds to restore its ancient water system, which is decades overdue for an upgrade. The total cost would be about $65 million, but so far no allocation of federal funds has been made for the project.
 

National Native American Law Student Competition, 18-20 February In South Dakota

On February 18-20, 2010 the University of South Dakota School of Law will host the National Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) Moot Court Competition, in conjunction with a scholarly symposium co-sponsored by the South Dakota Law Review and the USD NALSA chapter and with the biennial Dillon Lecture on Indian law. The symposium represents the first time the annual Law Review Symposium has been combined with the NALSA Indian Law Symposium.

Student teams from across the country will participate in the National NALSA Moot Court Competition. Teams already registered include the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Colorado, Columbia University, Gonzaga University, University of Hawaii, University of Iowa, Kansas University, Lewis & Clark University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, University of New Mexico, University of North Dakota, University of Oklahoma, Stanford University, University of Tulsa, UCLA, University of Wisconsin, and William Mitchell College of Law.

The appellate problem for the competition has been drafted by USD Professor Frank Pommersheim, an internationally recognized Indian law expert who sits on several tribal supreme courts. It will involve issues of free exercise of religion in Indian Country. Judges for the Moot Court Competition will include members of the tribal, federal, and state judiciary and lawyers with expertise in Indian law. The Dillon Lecture will be presented by Professor Matthew Fletcher (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center of the Michigan State University College of Law. Professor Fletcher is a co-author of the leading national casebook on federal Indian law and a judge and consultant to tribal supreme courts.

Sponsorship opportunities are available and the funds will be used for the expenses of the National NALSA Moot Court Competition and NALSA Indian Law/South Dakota Law Review Symposium, including the original Donald Montileaux artwork and permission to use it for the Moot Court Competition materials; a graduate assistantship; additional staff support; honoraria for the Dillon Lecturer and Symposium panelists; travel expenses for Symposium speakers and Moot Court judges; meals for judges and competitors, including the Jackie Bird family program for the Friday night dinner and a Saturday night awards banquet; awards and prizes; and miscellaneous supplies and facilities cleaning costs. Any donations in excess of the expenses will be added to the NALSA scholarship endowment, which provides scholarship assistance to tribally enrolled students who attend the University of South Dakota School of Law.
 

Ghosts of Pine Ridge: AIM Murder Trial Postponed Again

(photo: AIM-Arizona Chapter)

The violent events associated with Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge, and the American Indian Movement (AIM) have proved to be among the most haunting chapters in modern Native American history. A recent court decision ensures this controversial book will remain open longer still, as U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol has delayed again the trial of two men charged in the slaying of a fellow AIM member 33 years ago.

John Graham and Richard Marshall were scheduled to stand trial Feb. 24 in Rapid City, South Dakota on charges they committed or aided and abetted the first-degree murder of Annie Mae Aquash on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. Ms. Aquash was among the militants who occupied the village of Wounded Knee in a 71-day standoff with federal authorities in 1973, that included exchanges of gunfire with agents who surrounded the village.

Arlo Looking Cloud, a Lakota who was living homeless in Denver, was convicted in 2004 for his role in the murder and sentenced to life in prison. He is now stated to be cooperating with the government in its case against Graham and Marshall, leading to their indictments. Witnesses at Looking Cloud's trial said he, Graham and Theda Clarke drove Ms. Aquash from Denver in late 1975 and that Graham shot her as she begged for her life. Prosecution witnesses accuse Marshall of providing the handgun and shells Graham used to killed Ms. Aquash, allegedly on orders from AIM leaders who suspected she was a government informant.

Graham has denied the killing but acknowledged being in the car from Denver. He was scheduled to stand trial in October, but the indictment was dismissed because it didn't show that either Graham or Ms. Aquash belonged to a federally recognized Tribe – a prerequisite for federal criminal jurisdiction. Graham descends from the Tsimshian Tribe in the Yukon and fought his extradition from Canada for more than four years. He was extradited in December 2007 after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to review his case. Ms. Aquash was a member of Mi'kmaq Tribe of Nova Scotia.

The trial is being delayed because Marshall's attorney filed a motion in January requesting at least another two months to prepare the case, stating that the trial likely will include testimony about AIM, Wounded Knee, the 1975 slaying of two FBI agents and other events. Judge Piersol’s ruling states: "The Court agrees with counsel for Marshall that this case presents complex legal and factual issues. The crime involves multiple defendants and allegedly occurred as part of a wide-ranging conspiracy arising out of the AIM movement of the 1970s." For those whose lives and families were shattered by the blood that was shed more than 30 years ago, the ghosts of Pine Ridge are about to rise once again.