Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Native American Journalists Foundation, Inc.
October 21, 2008
It is said prior to every election that this is one of the most important elections of our time. And then the voters go out and re-elect the same old politicians. Change?
On November 4, 2008 the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are looking at new choices. Neither of the top two candidates has ever served as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Russell Means, commonly known as an Indian activist, and Theresa "Huck" Two Bulls, the current South Dakota State Senator, former Vice President of the Tribe and four-time elected Tribal Secretary are facing off for the office of President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Russell Means, a convicted felon, was pardoned by former South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow thus setting him free to run for public office. He is best known by tribal members for his often outlandish actions in promoting the American Indian Movement. If elected president there are those who fear that he will take the Tribe in a direction that would jeopardize federal funding for the many tribal programs by his non-conformist approach to solving problems. But then again, maybe that is exactly what the OST needs at this stage in their history.
For example: The gaming compacts issued by the State of South Dakota to Indian tribes limits the number of gaming devices in their casinos to 250 regardless of the size of the tribe. Most Lakota find this to be an infringement upon their sovereign rights. Means is not afraid to challenge ignorant, and yes racist, laws such as this. In fact, there are many things that need to be shaken up on the Pine Ridge Reservation and it will take a person of extreme courage and confidence to get it done. Means has never been at a loss for courage.
"Huck" Two Bulls is the most experienced lawmaker of the two. She was working alongside of OST Attorney Mario Gonzalez on the Black Hills Claims Settlement 28 years ago. She knows Indian law and Indian politics. Above all she is honest beyond doubt and dedicated to serving the people of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Two Bulls has never backed down from a fight and is more likely than not to follow the letter of the law when making decisions that have a direct impact upon the future of the tribe. Serving as Secretary of the Tribe for 4 terms has allowed her to sit in at most Tribal Council meetings and to take the notes of the meetings, but more than that it has allowed her to get one of the best educations on tribal politics and history than any candidate in the past.
The first woman ever elected to serve as President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Cecelia Fire Thunder, was impeached by the Tribal Council. Some fear that this action could cost votes for Two Bulls. Gender discrimination is not out of the question in this election.
Perhaps the pundits are right and this is one of the most important elections in the history of the Tribe. Means has spent most of the last 20 years making movies in Hollywood and some were very good movies, while Two Bulls has been working long and diligent hours at home on the reservation trying to improve the lives of the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Theresa "Huck" Two Bulls will make every effort to keep the waters calm, while her opponent, Russell Means, may generate a tsunami. The differences between the two candidates are definitive and quite clear. Once again the future of the Pine Ridge Reservation is in the hands of the people.
Among the young Means is very popular because of his movie career. He has also made headlines with strong comments intended to shake up the white race. The turnout for the Primary Election was unusually weak for the Pine Ridge Reservation and a large turnout in the General Election should favor Two Bulls. However, no one can read the minds of the voters and we will know what the people were thinking on the morning of February 5, 2008.
I wish both candidates the best of luck.
(Tim Giago, Oglala Lakota, is from the Pine Ridge Reservation. He is the recipient of the H.L, Mencken Award for Journalism, The Golden Quill Award for Outstanding Editorial Writing from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and the Honor Award for Distinguished Services to Journalism by the University of Missouri School of Journalism)